Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Love is Free Will

You know what I think the greatest, hardest, and most confusing topic in the Bible is?  None other than free will.  Great because it allows love to survive and emanate through the choice that was given to us, hard because it allows for the choice to go against what we wanted, and confusing because it gets super theological with the omniscience quality of God and knowing our choice before hand (which I will not go into because I claim absolutely no scholarly ability to even breach that subject). 

If we had no choice to love, if we were forced to act in a certain way, then love would cease to exist.  Love, as with any choice, relies on the ability to choose the opposite, just as like if everything was red, then color ceases to exist, or if everything was light, then darkness ceases to exist.  The fact is that God created us with a choice, a choice between right or wrong, between good or evil, between loving Him back or turning away.  And yet, because God created us with the choice to love, he displayed the highest and most perfect form of love.  The type of love that would die for people even while they were yet turning away from Him.

Can you imagine that?  Imagine having a friend.  You have expectations that the friend will love you, that they will be loyal and trustworthy, that they will be gracious and forgiving through any experience.  It would be nice if that was just automatic...but then you wouldn't have a friend, you would have a robot.  Now let's say, for one reason or another, the friend decides to leave you.  Well, that sucks.   And then that "friend" starts doing everything you want them not to.  They mock you, they gossip about you, you name it, they do it.  Double Suck.  And then one day, a while down the road, you see your old friend walking in a store when all of a sudden he is faced with a gunmen, and you immediately react by running and protecting him and taking the bullet.  That almost never happens.  The act of sacrifice by itself we call heroic, the act of sacrifice for a "friend" who betrayed you like that is down right astounding, unbelievable.  Would you do it? Would you honestly do it? All though it is a very simplified example, that is what Jesus did.  And the greatest mystery is that He did it for everyone, even knowing many would continue to mock and turn away from Him. 

On a different, but similar note, break-ups can be hard.  Given that the break-up wasn't a truly mutual decision and that one person was hurt by the choice, a lot of hard decisions begin to happen.  I have been there.  Most of us have.  Initially, it is hard to leave the situation.  Everything inside of you wants to do everything possible to change their mind, to make them truly love you again.  After all, people always say, "If you want it, go get it".  But then you are left with a problem that I found well-stated from an unknown source,

"There is no convincing in love. If it doesn't come naturally from somebody, don't try to force that person because all you will end up with is failed expectations of a life that you thought you wanted."  

Common sense would have you believe that the greatest form of love you can show is to fight for the relationship and get it to work, to get them to love you back.  But it's not.  The root source of that choice is selfishness.  Choosing what you want and what would be better for you.  The greatest and hardest act of love to choose in that instance is to let them go, because in that moment, you are choosing what they need and want above what you need and want, you are giving them the choice to love you and respecting their choice not to, and that's exactly what love is.  Love is putting someones choice above your deepest desires and then continuing to love them through anything.  Through silence.  Through fights.  Through heartbreak.  Through rejection.  Through lies.  Through anything.  

That does not mean that you view it as "if it's meant to be, it will be", which implies you are waiting (cause after all, to you, it's meant to be) or you are placing a higher value on that relationship than any other.  That also does not mean that you continue to work behind the scenes with the expectation that they will love you back.  NO.  It means that you work every day to learn how to live out a 1 Corinthians 13 love to everyone that comes into your life, even those who have broken up with you or who hate you and not just the people you want to love you back.  

That is soooo hard.  It has probably been my biggest lesson in the last two years.  Over and over again, God keeps pointing to this subject through mentors, through His word, through sermons and podcasts, and even through the very people I wanted to love me.  Loving someone enough to put their choice to leave you above what you want is single-handedly the hardest choice ever.  And God did it for every. single. person. 

A picture from a hike in Canada that re-awed me on the God that created this


Monday, June 2, 2014

Love is Overwhelming

Have you ever had someone do something super thoughtful and surprising for you? Maybe you got a huge bouquet of flowers!!!! I can't say that I have but I am sure that some of the girls reading this might be able to relate. For the guys out there, maybe your wife made you the most magnificent dinner without telling you! I mean who doesn't like surprise food? Or maybe a bunch of your friends decided to throw you a huge surprise birthday party so they packed a color wheel of streamers and balloons into your house and took your breath away with a flip of the light switch. It's small moments like that where you feel overwhelmed with love. Someone, maybe a wife or husband, a boyfriend or girlfriend, just a normal friend, a parent, a brother or sister, went out of their way to think about you and make you feel special. Think of one idea of your own where you felt overwhelmingly loved. Just pause and think. Did you get one? maybe a few? I'll show you a couple I have thought of in the last few weeks.

This flower is ablaze with color and intricacy and life! Raindrops just watered it and nurtured it for the day which is an amazing feat in itself! Its as if every different flower was made straight from the creativity of God. Hibiscus, Lilies, Carnations, Roses, and each one in a myriad of differing colors!

Or the beauty of a sunset. Those nights where it just takes the oxygen right out of your lungs. God is just up displaying His glory for all to see! With every brush of color, contrast in light, wisp of cloud, touch of rain or dust, it's His design. From sitting on the shore... all the way to the top of the mountains, sitting above the clouds, each sunrise and sunset is hand crafted and unique! Painters try and go out and make beautiful artworks of it, photographers like me try to freeze it in place, others just are content sitting and taking it in, but all are glorifying God through His creation.

And then of course having my family with me over the last few weeks after what seems like an eternity not being all together at once! Being able to glorify God together. That's overwhelming in and of itself. 

And that is just a few examples in the last couple weeks. I can't take enough pictures of God's extravagant artwork as I travel to new places. I'm enamored by the complexity of it all.

But even more than that, I'm overwhelmed by Jesus. Colorful sunsets and bright flowers show a little piece of God's love for us, but it is shown so infinitely more in sending His son, to live the life we needed to, and then to take the punishment we deserved, so that we might gain the life we can only imagine! Freedom. Mercy. Grace. Unfailing Love. All my sins and mistakes and failures and shame were taken onto the punishment of Jesus, for me, so that his blood might make me white as snow, and he sits at the right hand of God interceding for me daily! I saw a picture a week ago, you know one of those quote pictures that are meant to speak meaning into your life, and it said, "He keeps saying that he really loves her, but he keeps on hurting her." I don't know what the intent of the quote was, and probably everyone takes it as a wrong they've felt inflicted by or a love they felt they deserved and didn't get, but I will tell you, I was immediately humbled by the quote. How many times have I confessed that I love God and then went against him? How many days have I gone to church in the morning and then rebelled against him later that day in some way or another. Yet even while I didn't love him, he still loved me. Even when I mess up and hurt Him, or hurt another one of His children, He still loves me and immediately forgives me when I repent. Love like that is overwhelming. It can bring you to tears when you truly feel the weight of it, the freedom of it.

While I have been on these Love Song Couples Getaway trips, I have had the chance to experience some powerful worship moments every morning in spectacular, God-glorifying, scenery. One of the songs I have kept hearing over and over again has a line in it that struck me and is the spark that this post sprung from.
"Because on and on and on and on [Your love] goes. For it overwhelms and satisfies my soul. And I never, ever have to be afraid."

While you are reading this, take a moment to remember the God that loves you. That paints the sky for you to see. That would die for you, that you might have life. That satisfies your soul. Wherever you are, Whatever you are doing, just pause, and talk to God. Take a moment to commune with God. If you are at work and need silence, just sit at your chair right now and close your eyes and be overwhelmed by His love during your day. If you are able to sing, just play the rest of the song that quote is from and take a few personal moments to worship God on your own. It will be the most important thing you do today.

"Your love never fails! It never gives up! It never runs out on me!" You can't exhaust His love. He's not going to one day be like, "Oh sorry, that was the last chance". NO! It never gives up, It never runs out. I hope you had a chance and really took time to worship in your own way just then! I hope that it overwhelmed you!

I heard a great quote the other night that said, "Marking your bible is great, but lets not focus so much on marking your bible as you do letting your bible mark you!" Amen to that. I am so guilty, as I am sure most of you are, of going to church and hearing a sermon that would be great for someone you know. Or reading a Christian living book and underlining quotes that would be great for a spouse, or a significant other, or a friend, or an ex..., etc. My prayer is that you and I wouldn't just read books to gain info, that we wouldn't listen to sermons to pick out meaningful points that would apply to someone else, that we wouldn't read our bible underlining things that sound cool and uplifting, BUT that we would read books, listen to sermons, study our bibles to mark ourselves, to change our lives! Every week, Every day, Every hour. May we take moments to be overwhelmed by the love of God every day, every morning if possible. If you need to, go back even right now and take a break to worship God.

Take charge of your own heart, no one elses, and mark it with Gods love. Yearn to find something each new day to learn and apply to your life, to your part in relationships, to your part in your family, whatever community you find yourself in.

Lord, I pray for my heart and for all the hearts reading this that you would be glorified by all of our worship today. We thank you for your overwhelming love, and for the chance to worship you wherever we are. We pray that you would mark our hearts with more of your truth today that we might focus on something we are amiss on and hand it over to you so that your love can penetrate our lives in every way. That is the yearning of our hearts Father. In your powerful, extravagant, and overwhelming name, Jesus Christ,


Thursday, May 22, 2014

Love is NOT Popular

Immediately you are thinking I am a lunatic.  You are saying to yourself, "Love is the most popular thing in our culture Bozo!"  You would have a good point.  I mean, after all, what good movie doesn't have a love story? What song isn't about love? What major Disney movie isn't centered around some fantastical idea that love will save everything? A kiss for sleeping beauty.  An act of selflessness for Anna.  A deep longing for Cinderella to break free of her rags and find true love.  etc. etc. etc.  And there is good reason that love is seemingly so popular in the entertainment industry.  We all want to be loved.  We all want someone to think we are special, to spend time with us, to be there for us.  There is a hole in each one of our hearts that we look to be filled.  We get married to fill that hole hoping our significant other can make us feel like Jasmine and sweep us off around the world! We try to be popular, to say the right things, so that maybe, just maybe, we can feel love and accepted.  But can we be honest with ourselves for a second? That's not love.  That's jealousy.  That's fear.  That's pride.

God doesn't command us to be loved.  He already took care of that part! He commands US to love!  One of my favorite sections in the bible is 1 John 4:7-21.  It is all about what this love stuff truly means.  And in verse 11, John writes,

"Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another."

First off, we are beloved! BELOVED! The word for beloved in Greek is ’Αγαπητοί or Agapetoi which is a broad usage of the word Agapetos, an adjective meaning to be divinely loved.  You might remember it being used when the Spirit of God descends on Jesus getting baptized and a voice from heaven says "this is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased".  John goes on to reference us as 'beloved' 6 times in 1 John.  Its as if he is hammering in a point.  You. Are. Loved.  In Romans 9, Paul references Hosea, and says a rather powerful statement.

"Those who were not my people I will call 'my people,' and her who was not beloved I will call 'beloved.'" "And in the very place where it was said to them 'You are not my people,' there they will be called 'sons of the living God''

Again... You. Are. Loved. 

We don't need to be rescued from a tall tower, or go to the great ball, or have a thousand facebook friends, or have a girlfriend, or be liked.  God. so. loved. us.    ... love one another.  

People are gonna let you down.  It's the hardest truth to learn in this life.  That friend you have at school right now? He/She might decide to start spending time with some person who just moved into town and slowly leave you alone.  That boy/girlfriend you have that treats you so nice and makes you feel cherished? They might not want to be with you anymore.  They might lie and gossip about you.  You might not get invited to a hangout. You might. You might. You might. I am so sick and tired of mights.  You. Are. Loved.  

Everyone wants to believe in love - but when it comes down to actually loving people, love is not popular.  Serving someone's need without any expectation of return is not popular.  Bringing that really awkward guy into your circle of friends and making him feel cherished is not popular.  Making sure your wife has a closer relationship with the Lord than with you is not popular.  

We are creatures of flesh.  We claim to want to love but in our hearts we fight the giant of selfishness.  And then when we don't get what our selfish hearts want, we get depressed.  'woe is me'.   Nobody likes me.  Nobody wants me.  And we fall back into it again.  The fear of rejection.  The pride of entitlement.  The envy that's always wanting what all your facebook friends seem to be getting.  

How do we fight that? How do we not care what others are going to do to us or what this world is going to dish out at us, and instead love one another? We do it by continuously filling that hole with the truth of God's love.  

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Romans 8:31-39

Nothing will separate us from the love of God.  May we remind ourselves of that every morning as we fight the motives of our flesh.  And may we began to truly love one another offering our service, our friendship, our selfless love, and our light of Christ.  Forget being popular, we are more than conquerors! We can overcome our tendencies because He overcame! We can love, because He loved.

There is freedom in that