Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Love is Tough

"Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful." Proverbs 27:6 nkjv

We've all been there.  A friend wrongs you or someone else, does something against God's Word, maybe even abandons your friendship.  What do you do?  Do you sit there silently and pass it off like nothing happened; The world will go on.  Friendship is all about tough love.  If there is no tough love, there is no friendship.  I recently had to show tough love on a friend and found out their view of the friendship wasn't as faithful as mine and lost that friendship.  It hurts, but in the end I have to know I did the right thing.  Tough love is not easy, hence the name.  But for an example of someone who usually perfects the impossible, let me tell you a story. 

There once was this rich young dude who ruled in some land.  When he sees the crowd following around this guy named Jesus, he RUNS up and falls flat to his knees and asks how he can get to heaven.  The guy thinks he's pretty good, confident in the answer he thinks he'll expect.  Jesus lists off some of the commandments written in the Old Testament, leaving off the first part of the great commandment quoted earlier in the gospel.  The dude feels even better now! "I have kept all of those since I was a wee little one!" he blurts out.  But then comes Jesus' right hook if you will.  He shows a perfect demonstration of tough love.  Only Mark records this minute detail,

"Jesus looked at him and loved him. "One thing you lack," He said.  "Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.  Then come, follow me." Mark 10:21 niv

Did you catch that? I bolded it just for you.  He loved him.  He looks into the dude's heart, sees where it lies, where he is struggling, and calls him out with a rather tough commandment to ultimately love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind (Luke 10:27).  The dude becomes sad and walks away, I imagine, with shuffled feet and a lowered head contemplating all he owns and what that statement means.  We ultimately don't know how the man responds.  Sometimes tough love takes time to sink in.  Who knows, maybe after this, the guy walked home to his kingdom and was like, "I'm tired of all this, I'm going to follow Jesus" or maybe it was just a little too hard for him to let go.  After that, it is up to him to respond.  

I can imagine me in that story playing the role of tough lover.  I'd have been like, "WOW, you've kept all those commandments? come be my friend! Oh I know you are still a little distant from me in this large area, but I'll look over it because, hey, your mostly there and I am always looking to not run away my friends"  And that is why I don't play that role.  

I'm reminded of a loving Father who is love, and yet at the same time completely just.  I'm reminded that I mess up all the time in my life.  I forget God.  I don't talk to Him.  I run away from Him.  I go against His commandments.  But the Lord, being the Good Shepherd He is, follows me every time I scurry away, lovingly disciplines me by keeping me over his shoulders, and bonds with me until I am ready to return to the flock.  

"My son, do not despise the Lord's discipline, and do not resent his rebuke, because the Lord disciplines those He loves, as a father the son he delights in" Proverbs 3:11-12.  

If you have a friendship that needs a little tough love, maybe bitterness is growing after a wrong was done to you, maybe you witnessed a friend do something hurtful or inappropriate to another friend or person, GO and demonstrate your real love for the friend by confronting the situation and showing tough love.  You might lose a "friend".  But if you look over it and pass on like nothing happened, do you really have a true friendship in the first place? True love stands up for integrity, righteousness, forgiveness, etc.  Do you?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Love is Personal

I want flowers! I don't want flowers! JUST GIVE ME CHOCOLATE! I want a card! I want a life-size teddy bear (saw that on tv)! I want a date night! I don't want to celebrate! I just want something creative from my significant other! Happy Valentines Day. If Ive learned anything from hearing girls talk to each other during this holiday, its that each one celebrates, or refuses to celebrate, this holiday differently and personally. Every relationship is tuned to those in the relationship. You always do things for the other person to make them feel cherished, unique, loved. (Hopefully not just one day out of the year.) If love in a relationship is not personal, I can tell you matter-of-factly, the relationship will fail, or be miserable. I was watching "Up All Night" on tv the other day during it's valentine day special episode. One couple on the show was having their first celebration of the day. The lady, who knows how to do nothing practical, cooked a meal for the first time and served it over romantic lighting and table decorations. All she wanted was to be rewarded or noticed, but the guy had other things on his mind and wasn't paying attention. . . and things went awry from there. The other couple who was well practiced in years ate Chinese food in front of the television reminiscing about years of graffiti art or tattoos displaying their love. While the first relationship was thoughtful, it wasn't personal, and while the second relationship was personal, it had lost it's thoughtfulness over the way. Both. Are. Lacking.

This is supposed to be "the day of love" so I figured I had to write something about "true love". That only makes since, right? I mean after all, love with a wife, husband, boyfriend, girlfriend, dog, cat, horse, computerized phone technology, etc, is great (except maybe that last one) but love with an everlasting bridegroom is so much more! We are always on God's mind. He is always thinking of ways to show us His love in a unique and creative manner. How can you beat the creativity of someone who created the universe?!? And then Jesus came and died sacrificially, not expecting anything in return, for everyone, and yet for each person in a separate, personal way.

I have this dream or vision or thought or whatever you want to call it. I imagine you have all seen the footprints poem. At the end of that poem, the Lord explains that when there is only one set of footprints in the sand, that is when He is carrying us. I always imagine this day at the beach, probably the Oregon Coast because it seems a little overcast which just makes the water look that much cooler, and there I am, 6 maybe 7 years old, playing in the water, running around. And then a man. . . no, my father. . . walks up and picks me up and lifts me up on his shoulders. He then begins to run around and spin in circles (remember how fun that used to be?) He walks me up and down the beach a ways pointing things out: the hue of the ocean, the size of the hills and mountains, the density of the forest. It's like the greatest Valentine's day times 12. . . . . thousand. . . . . . billion. . . . . . you know what, let's just forget the number. And then He points out in the distance over a forested hill and there is a beautiful city which I can barely just make out. He lets me down off His shoulders, points in the direction, grabs my hand, and waits for me to take the first step in that direction. It is one of my most personal, intimate moments with my bridegroom.

Guys! (and girls, although you were included in that highly generic term.) OUR GOD IS A PERSONAL GOD. AND HIS LOVE IS AN INFINITELY PERSONAL LOVE! He could never love you any more than He does right now. And He definitely couldn't love you any less. He's like a Giant teddy bear filled with chocolate, holding heart shaped balloons and flowers, singing a song! Take a moment and breath that visualization in. And then imagine the stars, the moon, the mountains, the oceans, the tides, the flowers, the lakes, the forests, the deserts, the atoms, the human body, the animal kingdom, water, ice, water vapor, heat, light, reason, etc. etc. etc. And that love so vastly displayed, came and died for all the things you and I have ever done wrong, and instead gave us everything He ever did right. And not only that, He rose again, promising to always be with us, pointing us over the hill to the city in the distance, grabbing our hand to always be with us, and providing the power and energy to keep us going after each step.

Each person has their own connection with the Lord. He is the hope to the hopeless, the father to the fatherless, the joy to those in moments of sorrow, the defender and supported to the widow, always interceding on our behalf at the right hand of the father. Whatever you are going through, or whatever life circumstances dealt you, remember that God is always with you; His love is always there! It's infinite, sacrificial, but most of all,