Unlike Us

Love Without Limits

Two things that I know I lack, which demonstrates to me just how amazing God is. He is slow to anger. I am not. He is rich in love. Mine has limits. We could never invent a God like this one because we could never conceive of Him. And yet this is the One who sent His Son to die for us. “God demonstrates His love for us in this: while we were enemies, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) Something to think about today.

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Summer of Love

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“Summer is for Lovers” or so the saying goes. I first met my wife during the summer. Maybe it was the humidity, or maybe it was the sweat stinging my eyes, we managed to fall in love that summer long ago. The summer romance is a staple of movies and media that try to capitalize on the season and desires of young people to get together.

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. (1Jn 4:7-8)

We know that “God is love” and that all true love must begin with God. If it is truly love, then it is from God. This love comes from a specific Greek word, “agapae”, which closely defined means “sacrificial love” or love which freely sacrifices itself for the  sake of another without expecting reciprocation. This is the kind of love encouraged throughout the New Testament, and echoes the kind of Love which God expresses in the Old Testament, “hesed” or as it is often translated, “loving-kindness”. This should make us wonder if some of the things we “love” are truly worth the word we apply.

Some people love chocolate. I like to add peanut butter to that list. But neither chocolate, nor any food, can provide the kind of response required in love. Some love certain media figures or celebrities, though they will have no chance of ever meeting them or having those feelings reciprocated. We may adore and elevate nearly anything, but if there is no real response, can it really be love?

We must be careful to distinguish real love with its evil opposite, lust. Lust translates the Greek word “epithumia” and is often translated as “evil desire” or “covet”. Lust sees and wants. Love sees and desires a relationship. Lust takes for itself what it wants, without thinking about the other. Love gives and gives before the other gives back. Lust uses up and throws away when it is done, making even people disposable. Love values and upholds others, making them indispensable, even if no one else values them.

Lust is the beady eyes hovering over the computer screen downloading and viewing, demanding even new images of pornography to fill the eyes with pictures and the mind with fantasies without consequence.

Love is the elderly couple who long after the wrinkles and age has set in, still hold hands and gaze into each other’s eyes. Love is sitting at the bedside, seeing past the brokenness, the sickness and the age, and still being passionate for your mate. Love is watching your children slip into bad decisions, but still welcoming them home when their world has caved in. Love is still giving them enough room to work things out for themselves, being patient with them.

Love is in the God who sends His own Son, though all on earth are His enemies, and hate Him, to live and die for them, dying for their sins so that after His death, burial and resurrection, some would respond in faith.

God made us to love. He made us to look outside ourselves and to work to please others, especially God, in a self-sacrificial way. Jesus tells us:

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. (Joh 15:12-14)

Who do you truly love? Who is indispensable to you?

Love Makes the World Go ‘Round

IMG20086Literally. The Psalmist says, “He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap; he seats them with princes and has them inherit a throne of honor. “For the foundations of the earth are the LORD’s; on them he has set the world.” (1Sa 2:8) The Lord Himself who spoke the universe into being, set the world on the foundations of the earth. And when He pronounced DAY and NIGHT, He set the world in motion, alternating its face toward the light.

The very purpose of our existence seems to be love. God made us because He desired, not out of want or need, but for His good pleasure to make beings who could love Him, who would admire all the great things He has done, and call upon the Name of the Lord. For love, God made the world and everything in it. For love of the creature that He would create, that He knew would reject Him, and for whom He knew He would send His Son, whom we know as Jesus Christ, into the world. And it is for love that Jesus will come again to take His own home with Him and establish a New Heavens and a New Earth.

When you think about God’s love, or even better, feel God’s love for you, how do you respond? Do you ever feel enveloped by God’s love for you or wish that you did? God’s love for you cannot be measured. Remember, He made the whole universe, and it stretches beyond our understanding. And all of this so that you would one day gaze up into the heavens with the wonder of a child, inspired by the God who made you. “The heavens declare the glory of God.” We respond by saying, “How great is our God!” Our love for God is expressed through prayer, worship, gratitude, obedience, and witness. If you’ve been feeling far from God lately, check your discipleship in these areas.

I want to encourage you to love. There is a tightrope of love that God treads on as He relates to us, balancing His love on the one hand and His justice on the other. We will see our very creation conditioned on love for our Creator. May we turn to the great love God has expressed to us through His Son, so our response to that love is as disciples of Jesus Christ.

Calling a Spade a Spade

Several years ago, I used to listen faithfully to Dr. Laura Schlesinger on the radio, who had a unique way of describing the situation of a couple who chose to “live together.” What a nice and sanitized way to put it, “live together.” Taken on its own, it lends itself to an understanding of two individuals who have chosen to “live” only to do it “together.” There is an implied bond of mutual respect and admiration. We are “living together,” as two oxen might be “yoked together,” or two co-workers “working together.” There is no longer any moral sting with “living together.” Dr. Laura had it right. There is nothing holy or sacred or even special about “living together.” Call it what she called it, “shackin’ up.” Or call it what the Bible calls it, “fornication,” or worse, “adultery.”

You shall not commit adultery. (Ex. 20:14)

If a man seduces a virgin who is not engaged, and lies with her, he must pay a dowry for her to be his wife. (Ex 22:16)

For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality [in some trans., “fornication”], that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God. (1 Th 4:3)

Sexual immorality (defined simply as any sexually pleasurable activity outside the context of marriage, Clinton was no exception) is not the will of God and earmarked for certain judgment (Jude 1:7). I am aghast at the number of people who feel no shame, and even feel comfortable taking this particular fire into their bosom, imagining it will not burn them. “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.” (Gal 6:7) What is the deception? That they know better than God. Did God, as a cosmic killjoy, decide one day that he wanted to take away fun and made it a rule to only have sex with one woman for a lifetime, and only then when you have made a formal commitment to one another? Do you honestly think God is like that? This from the same God who made the sunsets, the starlight, sex, and a host of other fun things. Can God be both the maker of fun things and the cosmic killjoy?

Oh I know the arguments. There’s the “let’s see if we like each other well enough to get married” argument. What a load of bull****. If you didn’t like each other, you wouldn’t have decided to fornicate in the first place. And the question isn’t, “Can I live with her the rest of my life?”, but “Can I live without her the rest of my life?” Couples who fornicate are statistically much more likely to split up or divorce than a couple that first marries and then lives together because marriage is the safety net. It is the commitment that is the fall-back position. When people get to a point where they can’t stand each other, marriage says, “work it out.” People who are not married don’t “work it out,” or at the least don’t feel compelled to, and kids or not, they will split. Married people do, and they draw deeper together for their labor. Marriage is work, don’t let anyone fool you. But the work is what makes marriage stronger, and it will always be stronger than fornication. In marriage, you don’t have to pretend, so the other person “won’t leave.” Marriage allows for openness and honesty in a way fornication never can for its nature. Fornication just can’t compete with real marriage.

Then there is argument that “Mom and Dad never got along. I don’t want to live like that” argument. Live like what? If your parent’s marriage was so poor, answer the following questions: Did you ever see them in love? Did you ever see them spend time together just talking? Did you ever see them struggle together, rather than apart? Did your parents solve their problems together, or use things like alcohol to get them through? Your parents’ marriage broke down because of them, not because of you. Your marriage will work because you will avoid their mistakes. You will work on marriage, because you will have a church in your community that will support you. You will have a God that promises to support you and uphold you when times are tough. You will have a great marriage if you care for your spouse like you say you do.

Then some might say, “I just want to have sex, (sow my wild oats) before I settle down.” Those oats have a way of sprouting inconveniently. Sex without responsibility? Yeah right! People who just want to “have sex” end up being parents. You have to ask yourself the question, is the person I want to have sex with the same person I want to look across the courtroom at when we are in a custody hearing? TV and Movies depict sex without consequences. That’s a lie. Even married people will tell you that. Sex always has consequences. It brings children into a world that is either not prepared for them (unwed mother) or doesn’t want them (ending in either abortion (child murder), or regular child abuse). Unmarried sex does hurt other people. God weeps for those children. These precious innocents that by His miraculous power have been brought into the world enter a world of heartache, of grandparents fighting over custody, or parents who pass off their kids to anyone who wants them (even child molesters). Drug-addicted moms selling their five-year olds over the internet for drug money???!!! THIS HAS GOT TO STOP!!!!!

This isn’t a problem of other people. Our neighbors have this problem. There are households in our community of people dwelling in the same house without the benefit of marriage. I place the offer before you, since I am empowered to do something about it. Stop the fornication. Stop the Sin. I will happily perform a ceremony of marriage for any unmarried couple in this community, and I will even do it for FREE if money is the problem. But you must have the marriage license in hand. Either that, or MOVE OUT!

Let us end this problem in our community. Let us return the stigma to fornication that it deserves. “Living together” is not acceptable in decent society. “Living together” is fornication. It is sexual immorality. It is certain pain and confusion for the innocents born into them and the grandparents who must stand by and watch, like watching a train wreck. It is a challenge against God and His Word, and God will not stand for it. “Do not be deceived. God is not mocked.”

Love Is In the Air – Put on your facemasks!

IMG20022Love is again on the collective mind. In TV ads, magazines, the newspapers, they are all in on the fun! This is the time of year when jewelry sales are up, flower sales are up, card sales resurge from their New Year lull. Heart-shaped candy and chocolates make their appearance. Men and women start to look at one another fondly again, even if their married. We’ve come a long way from the feast of St. Valentinus, second-century Christian martyr. His greatest connection to the modern “holiday” is that he helped poor girls get married by tossing a dowry through their window. His greatest act of love was dying for his faith in Jesus.

Of course, that doesn’t stop the modern world from taking full advantage of yet another Christian memorial. Oh we try and put a good spin on it, turning it into a day to celebrate marriage and real, authentic love between married couples, but we end up making it another Christmas, the one day a year we celebrate a Christian virtue when we ought to practice it every day. Is Valentine’s Day the only day you buy flowers for your wife, or make that special meal for your husband? Can you count on one hand the number of times a year you make your mate feel special?

God thinks a lot of the gift he has given to married couples. In fact, one whole book of the Bible is dedicated to the relationship a husband has with his wife, written by the second wisest person who ever lived. It is also the one book in the Bible some believe is written like a drama, an art form made popular in Greece at the time. It is the Song of Solomon. Even a casual reader will notice that this is not your average holy book. It is at times sexually explicit, but always God-honoring. (Take for example the husbands’ description of his wife in Song of Solomon 4:1-7 and then the wife’s description of her husband Song of Solomon 5:10-16 – try these for romance) God intended for the intimate relationship between men and women to be kept sacred, holy, and honorable. He says in Hebrews 13:4, “Marriage must be respected by all, and the marriage bed kept undefiled, because God will judge immoral people and adulterers.” It is only in the “marriage bed” where intimacy is permitted, hence God’s judgment on everyone else.

God takes sex seriously, and for God’s holy people, this gets more difficult every day. The media gets it. Sex sells. And they attempt to associate sex with practically everything they can get away with to sell their products. It’s harder for men today because men are attracted much more to images of women. It’s getting more difficult for wives to compete against the retouched photos of supermodels hawking the latest sets of tools, sports cars, or “free” sex online. Because of a man’s visual proclivity, he must work to relate to the real woman in his life, who thrives on communication and relationship. She needs him to talk to her, which he can’t do when his thoughts are enslaved with images.

We live in an age where true, lasting marriage is the exception, rather than the rule, and though thousands of dollars are spent on marriages, marriage itself is harder and harder to afford. Now more than ever we need the “old hands” at the marriage game to mentor the young couples, to teach them how to keep their marriages from falling apart. Our society stands or falls on our ability to keep marriages thriving. Divorces cause irrevocable damage in the hearts of children and families. Even our President is a child of divorce. Would life have been different for him if his parents stayed married? Marriage is easy, but divorce is easier. God hates it (Malachi 2:16) because it destroys his intention for the marriage: godly offspring (Malachi 2:15). If the children of each succeeding generation are less godly than the last, what will happen to a nation as a whole?

We need to restore the biblical definition of love, for our marriages’ sakes, and for our children. We need to restore the place of Love, because it has been usurped by a poor substitute, Lust, or what the Bible calls “envy”. And, with the Scriptures in hand, we will discover those answers.