What is Love?

Water
“What is love, baby don’t hurt me, don’t hurt me, no more.:” –Haddaway
I’ve heart a lot of opinions about love in my lifetime and I would sum up our world’s definition of love as relationships void of pain. But is a relationship void of pain really full of love?
After a difficult ministry season my wife and I went on a quiet retreat. I had experienced great conflicts, unfair accusations, and was held in resentment by people close to me. While normally pretty resilient, I was beginning to crumble inside. I spent time in prayer asking God to immerse me in His love and give me the courage to continue in these difficulties. It was then I found myself singing an old hymn.

The Love of God is greater far than any pen or tongue can tell.
It goes beyond the highest height and reaches to the lowest hell…
To write the love of God above would drain the ocean dry.
Nor could the scroll contain the whole though stretched from sky to sky…
The love of God so rich and pure, so measureless and strong,
it shall forever more endure, the saints and angel’s song.

He reminded me that responding to the love of God would guarantee that people would hate us (1 Jn 3:13), and that to continue in this loving relationships with Him by faith I might feel abandoned by Him from time to time (Job 13:15). His loving plan for my life might even involve painful experiences (2 Co 12:8). Dr. Henry Cloud points out in Boundaries in Marriage that “ just because someone is in pain doesn’t necessarily mean that something bad is happening…. (Is it) pain that leads to injury? (Or is it) pain leads to growth?” I realized the pain I was experiencing was not leading to permanent injury, even the fact that it led me to cry out to God was indicating it was pain that was leading to my spiritual and relational growth!
I prayed that He would cast me so far into the oceans of His love that I couldn’t swim back to my flesh even if I tried. I prayed that He would plunge me into the depths of His love so far I couldn’t swim back up to the surface of earthly resentments even if I was tempted to.
In “The Lego Batman Movie” the Joker is trying to convince Batman that he is the villain Batman hates the most. Batman says to Joker: “I see what you’re trying to do. You’re trying to entrap me into a relationship.” Joker says to Batman, “Do you realize, [in all these years], you’ve never once said, ‘I hate you, Joker.’? Listen to this, ‘I hate you, Batman.’ Now your turn.” And Batman replies, “Me too.” To which Joker replied, “I am not going to be part of a one-sided relationship any longer!” I sat there considering whether you can hate without acknowledging love? Can you be an atheist without acknowledging there is something not to believe in?
The Bible doesn’t define love as the absence of pain. Infact, Jesus willingness to experience a painful crucifixion is His demonstration of love for us. “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life.”  Sounds painful to me!  The Bible defines love as the absence of fear (1 John 4:18).  So while love may involves pain, we don’t have to be afraid of the pain.  Love covers a multitude of pains!

for more articles by this author see http://www.choosemercy.org

Advertisements

Does Your Anger Show What You Value?

Wont start.jpg

I think these past two weekends we have received more snow than all last winter.  Unfortunately I’m also responsible for two driveways as we’re in between houses.  I have a snow blower at one and was shoveling the other when a dear friend offered me a second snowblower.  When the high was -2 degrees I had trouble starting both.  I pulled and pulled on the start cord until a bad word formed in the back of my head.  You know you’re having a hard time when you break a sweat trying to start in -15 wind chill.  I was tempted to take a few swings with a shovel to the snowblower but used better judgement.  Why?  Because that snowblower is worth alot to me so I don’t have to shovel! The showblower’s value to me determined how I would treat it.

When I get together with an accountability friend we both agree we get angry with closest to us the most.  It would be easy for us to blame and think it’s just because they’re annoying, but is that really what’s going on?  But why are the people we’re closest too that ones that make us the most angry?

One explanation may be because they are so close to us they hurt us the most.  Another may be because they know us so well we can’t hide how we really feel from them.  Another may be because we have so much history we get irritated quicker.  I have thought all these.  But then the snowblower pushed me too far and I was aware of how much I value it.

When was the last time I valued my wife and kids?  How about my coworkers?  Those I serve with at church?  The Bible says we should, “Honor one another above ourselves.”  -Ro 12:10. I realize I treat people at restaurants well because I don’t want them to spit in my food!  How much more should I value my family, my coworkers, and those I worship with?  Jesus death and resurrection places great value on every person, whether a believer or not.  I guess the stuff I get mad about shows me I have my values a little mixed up from time to time.  Hopefully you’re not like me!  http://www.choosemercy.org

 

 

Cleave This Christmas

married-christmas-card

 “I don’t want a lot for Christmas, there is just one thing I need.

I don’t care about the presents, underneath the Christmas Tree.

I just want you for my own, more than you could ever know,

make my wish come true, oh all I want for Christmas is you.” -Mariah Carey

In Ephesians 5 the Bible says the relationship between a husband and a wife is a direct representation of the gospel relationship between Jesus and His bride, the church.  Recently my wife and I have asked, “what does Jesus desire for our marriage?”

In Genesis 2:24, Matthew 19:5, and Ephesians 5:31 the Bible uses the action word “cleave” as the verb for marriage.  What does it mean for couples to cleave?  The word cleave means to cling to, join closely or glue one thing to another, focusing on interfacing, reciprocal relations.  And how are they to cleave?  The Bible says in 1 Thessalonians 5:23 that we are made up of three parts, a spirit, a soul, and a body.  I believe in the marriage relationship we need to cleave spiritually (spirit), cleave relationally (soul), and cleave physically (body).

Cleaving to our spouse’s spirit may be the hardest hurdle.  We need to pray together daily and sit in church together regularly.  In a 1997 Gallup poll by the National Association of Marriage Enhancement, less than 1% of couples that pray together daily experience divorce.  Cleaving to your spouse may look like praying out loud together once a day. And if it is hard for you and your spouse, you’re not alone, I’ve read that 92% of couples that call themselves Christians don’t pray together (FamilyLife Survey, USA)! The old adage is true, a couple that prays together stays together.  Ed Stetzer suggests also that couples who attend church together only have a 10-15% divorce rate.  For those of us in church leadership positions, it’s especially important we’re praying together with our spouse at home and being intentional to sit together in church regularly.  How are we doing cleaving spiritually?

Cleaving to our spouse’s soul, their mind and emotions, may be the first one we notice needs attention.  Spending time enjoying one another is important, and we can alternate doing one another’s favorite things.  Healthy communication is essential.  Carve out time every day to connect together relationally.  This can be asking, “How are you doing today?  Schedule a date once a week to sit across a table from one another and reconnect.  One lost art of soul cleaving in Scripture is to “bless them” verbally, exhort, or give a benediction.  The Bible says to encourage one another daily.  If you would like ideas to encourage your spouse, see www.choosemercy.org and search “Encourage Daily.”  Jesus calls the Holy Spirit the Advocate, and Satan the accuser.  In order to cleave to one another’s soul’s our communication needs to include blessing, encouraging, and yielding.  We will have a hard time cleaving to accusing, resentment, and contention.  Finally if one of you always has to be right or in control, cleaving to one another relationally will be especially hard.  This is why the Bible asks all of us in Ephesians 5:12 to Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.  How are we doing cleaving relationally?

Cleaving to our spouse’s body only protects our marriage from Satan’s attacks.  1 Corinthians 7:5, says to married couples, “Do not deprive one another (physically), except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.”  That begs the question how long is a limited time?  In Exodus 19:15 Moses asked the people to obey God and consecrate themselves for three days with no marital relations.  In 1 Samuel 21:4-5 David asks the priest for bread for his men to eat and the priest says they can have the consecrated bread if they have kept themselves from women.  And David replies, “Of a truth women have been kept from us about these three days, since I came out, and the vessels of the young men are holy.”  While three days may be a biblical suggestion, whatever you and your spouse agree is a “limited time,” please be intentional about cleaving together physically, holding hands, hugging, kissing, and pursuing intimacy.  How are we doing cleaving physically?

Some years ago when my wife and I were in a difficult time of unemployment, a dear mentor couple gave us great advice.  They told us that in the dark seasons of life when you have no money and you don’t know what God’s plan is, you can still cleave to one another.  It’s free.  And it’s biblical.  May we be intentional about obeying God’s call for married couples to cleave together.  Let’s Cleave this Christmas!

for more articles from this author see http://www.choosemercy.org

Wives, Encourage Your Husbands Daily -Heb 13:3

  1. Your desire to lead means a lot to me. -1 Ti 3:1 If a man desires the position of elder, he desires a good work.
  2. I really appreciate that you want to do the right thing. -1 Ti 3:2 An elder must be blameless
  3. You are such a loyal man -1 Ti 3:2 An elder must be the husband of one wife
  4. I like how self controlled and kind you are. -1 Ti 3:2 An elder must be temperate
  5. You do a good job of being rational -1 Ti 3:2 An elder must be sober minded
  6. I’m so glad I married a man with the fruit of the Spirit -1 Ti 3:2 An elder must be a good behavior
  7. It means a lot that you help me have a home to have friends over. -1 Ti 3:2 An elder must be hospitable
  8. I think you’re really wise. -1 Ti 3:2 An elder must be able to teach
  9. I admire your discipline to get up every morning -1 Ti 3:3 An elder must not be given to much wine
  10. I like to be close to you when you’re gentle -1 Ti 3:3 An elder must be gentle
  11. I notice how well you get along with your friends. -1 Ti 3:3 An elder must not be quarrelsome
  12. Our marriage is the best when we’re content. -1 Ti 3:3 An elder must not be covetous
  13. You manage (this) well -1 Ti 3:4 An elder must manage his own house well
  14. Your love means so much to our kids -1 Ti 3:4 An elder must have his children in submission with all reverence
  15. You are a blessing to our church. -1 Ti 3:5 An elder must be able to take care of the church
  16. Its so cool that you’ve been a Christian for ___ years! -1 Ti 3:6 An elder must not be a novice
  17. Your humility brings God’s grace for our family. -1 Ti 3:6 An elder must not be puffed up with pride lest he fall
  18. Thank you for having a good testimony with your work friends. -1 Ti 3:7 An elder must have good testimony with outsiders
  19. I really respect how hard you try to overcome temptations. -1 Ti 3:7 An elder must overcome temptation
  20. Thank you for trying to understand -1 Pe 3:7 Husbands must give understanding to their wives
  21. I have felt so special since the day you proposed. -1 Pe 3:7 Husbands must give honor to their wives
  22. I’m so thankful you know God’s grace for each of us. -1 Pe 3:7 Husbands see wives as coequals in the grace of life
  23. Thank you for praying for me. -1 Pe 3:7 Husbands must be men of prayer
  24. I’m glad we are like minded about Christ. -1 Pe 3:8 be likeminded
  25. I’m blessed by your compassion -1 Pe 3:8 be compassionate
  26. Your love makes me feel special -1 Pe 3:8 be loving
  27. For such a strong man you are tenderhearted. -1 Pe 3:8 be tenderhearted
  28. I noticed how courteous you were. -1 Pe 3:8 be courteous
  29. Thank you for not being insulting or overpowering. -1 Pe 3:8 not reviling
  30. You are such a blessing to me. -1 Pe 3:8 blessing one another
  31. We are blessed because you are such a nice guy. -1 Pe 3:8 inherit a blessing

(see also Genesis 3, Proverbs 5, Ephesians 5, 1 Timothy 3, 1 Peter 3)

Husbands, Encourage Your Wives Daily -Heb 13:3

  1. You have a powerful influence of moral excellence on the people around you –Pr 31:10 Virtuous (powerful influence of moral excellence)
  2. I hold you in high esteem, you are the most important person in my life –Pr 31:10 worth (held in high esteem)
  3. I trust you, you’re the most competent person I know –Pr 31:11 her husband trusts her
  4. You bring so much good into my days –Pr 31:12 you do me good all my days
  5. I appreciate how hard you work –Pr 31:13 work hard with hands
  6. I noticed how far out of your way you have to go to take care of all of us. –Pr 31:14 goes far to provide
  7. Thanks for getting up to care of us –Pr 31:15 rises early to provide for family and others
  8. I wish you didn’t have to make mony, but I’m impressed with how you do it. –Pr 31:16 earns private profits
  9. You are the strongest most steadfast woman I know –Pr 31:17 strength
  10. It makes me feel good when you perceive all is good, we’re going to be fine. –Pr 31:18 perceives all is good
  11. You strengthen me when I know hard times don’t destroy your confidence –Pr 31:18 lamp does not go out in darkness
  12. I love how you extend your hands to give to others –Pr 31:19 hold out her hands to give
  13. Your confidence is beautiful –Pr 31:21 confident
  14. I appreciate how fearless you are –Pr 31:21 not fear
  15. You look really nice today –Pr 31:22 well clothed
  16. I want to be the kind of man you respect and admire –Pr 31:23 respected husband
  17. You are so good at making ______________. –Pr 31:24 sells what she makes
  18. I just wanted to honor you by _______________. –Pr 31:25 strength and honor
  19. I love it when we rejoice together. –Pr 31:25 rejoicing
  20. I think you’re really wise and I appreciate your input. –Pr 31:26 wise
  21. I think you’re a really kind person. –Pr 31:26 kind
  22. Thank you for making our household run so smoothly. –Pr 31:27 watches over household
  23. I appreciate how hard you’re working –Pr 31:26 not idle
  24. You are leaving an incredible legacy. –Pr 31:28 children appreciate
  25. I believe in you and I’m excited about _________ (This part of our future) –Pr 31:28 husband affirms
  26. You are at the head of your class, there’s no one as gifted as you are. –Pr 31:29 excel in them all
  27. Your fear of the Lord is your most valuable quality. –Pr 31:30 fears the Lord
  28. You should praised for ____________. –Pr 31:30 to be praised
  29. I wish everyone knew how good you are at _____________. –Pr 31:31 show off your works
  30. Your gentle and quiet spirit is so beautiful –1 Pe 3:4
  31. Your love for the Lord inspires me to love Him more. -1 Pe 3:1

(see also Genesis 3, Proverbs 31, Ephesians 5, 1 Timothy 2, 1 Peter 3)

David Strengthened Himself In The Lord

under-pressure-300x217

As a pastor I spend most of my time in one of two areas.  I serve people suffering weakness, like hospitalizations or financial needs, and I spend time responding to conflicts like  broken marriages and church disagreements.  I was recently encouraged by Dr. Zack Eswine (The Imperfect Pastor) when he shared the story of how David responded to these things in 1 Samuel 30.

In previous chapters David had been fleeing King Saul who was trying to kill him and then he was rejected by the Philistine leaders in 1 Samuel 29 who didn’t approve of him.  In the beginning of chapter 30 David and his men were raided and all their wives and children were taken.  David’s men were so upset they wept till they had no more strength to weep, and then they talked of stoning David.  And the Bible says, “David encouraged himself in the Lord.”  As we continue reading, some of David’s men were so overcome with grief they were too weak to go recapture their wives and children, so 200 of them stayed behind.  Upon reclaiming all the wives and children and plundering the Amalekites, the 400 who went resented the 200 who stayed back and refused to share the plunder with them.

And David, having strengthened himself in the Lord, was able to “manage well with all dignity” (1Ti3:4) and give grace to them all.  Those too weak to contribute were blessed alongside those who worked hard for it.  And those in conflict, who were filled with resentment, were blessed alongside those who had been overcome by love for their families.  May we strengthen ourselves in the Lord and bless those who are weak and those who are angry.

Be encouraged; God’s grace is for you.

Summer Vacation or Family Holiday?

Most of my favorite summer memories involve family vacations.  Camping at Silver Lake, swimming at the sand dunes, John and Diane Windle’s puppets at family camp, bike rides for donuts, the smell of suntan lotion, and M&M Peanuts.  When I was a boy, our family would share a half gallon of cookies and cream ice cream on the boat dock.  Dad would let us finish it all because there was no freezer to keep it!  Anybody for seconds?!

During a high school missions choir trip to England my sister Denise Lane and I made the nicest friends named the Hunter family.  They would come visit us in the US while on “holiday.”  Mr. Hunter was so tall he made my dad look like Barney Rubble, so we called the two of them Fred and Barney.  Watching them race in go carts was hilarious!  But we learned from the Hunters that what we call vacation, the British call “holiday.”

Recently I heard Pastor Stuart Briscoe talking about the need to take a break from time to time.  He challenged us to be intentional about how we spend this time away from our normal routine.  He shared the word “vacation” can mean to vacate or be vacant, to shut off and try to forget.  Maybe we try to live in a fantasy world only to crash back into reality.  “Holiday” on the other hand comes from our Christian heritage, taking time off to remember holy days.

In the Old Testament we see patterns of rest in the requirements of the Jewish Law.  God asked His people to observe seven breaks.  There were daily Selah breaks, a weekly Sabbath, a monthly New Moon day, three yearly week long Festivals, four other Feast days, the seven year Sabbaticals, and the 50th year of Jubilee.

But what grabbed my attention as Pastor Briscoe talked about these “Holy Days” in Scripture was what God asked them to do during these times.  They were to take a break from routine to be intentional about three things: Spiritual Transformation, Family Team Building, and Relaxation.  Or more simply put, a rest to pursue intimacy with God and intimacy with family.  The week-long festivals involved a pilgrimage.  And the Festival of Shelters was basically a camping trip to remember how they lived when God brought them through the wilderness.  A reminder that this earth was not their home, they were simply passing through, and God would provide everything they needed.

I hope you have at least a week of vacation or holy days this year (I think Scripture would recommend three!).  I hope you can leave your home and remember where God has brought you from.  I hope you can travel and be with your spouse and children and parents and siblings.  And I hope you can have time to rest and experience the love and peace and joy that overflows from our relationship with Jesus through His Holy Spirit within us.

Happy Summer Vacations! Or should we say, Happy Family Holidays!