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Tag Archives: love
You think I hate you. Maybe people have told you so or maybe someone who claims the same faith as I has hurt you. I don’t know the specifics, but I’ve heard you say it. You think I hate you because of who you are. You say you were born that way and cannot change. In a since you’re right. We are all born sinners, and without the sacrifice that Jesus made for us, we cannot change.
I hate what you do, but not for the reasons you might imagine. I hate it for the same reason that God does. I hate it because I love you. I hate it because it will ultimately destroy you. All of us have a tendency to pursue things that we think will make us happy but that God knows to be death to us. Sexual sin of any sort is particularly destructive. It corrupts the relationship that God intended to be the foundation of all that He would show us of love. All of the loving relationships that spring from it show us aspects of the loving relationship that He wants with us. From our parents and from our children we learn of the Father’s love. From our spouses we get the smallest taste of what He means by calling us His bride. He is jealous for us and has a right to be so. He gave it all for us. That is why he hates sexual sin and especially homosexuality. It corrupts the best gift he gave us for understanding and experiencing all of the love that He has for us.
Because we’re all born sinners, often these relationships don’t measure up to the standards He set. Lovers fight. Parents abuse their children. Sexual sin is not the only way we ruin the beautiful things that God gave to us. Perhaps your experience has been thus. For me to speak of love as I have rings hollow for you. It grieves me to know this, and I want you to know that it grieves God too. He did not intend it so, but we made our choices ad did those who came before us.
Right now the country is divided over the meaning of marriage. You may be one of those fighting to be allowed to marry someone of the same sex. We stand opposed, suddenly finding a zeal for “traditional marriage” that too many of us don’t exhibit in our own lives. If you are aware of the statistics, we must seem hypocritical to you. Traditional marriage is not just one man and one woman, but one man and one woman for life. We leave out that last part. The divorce rate among so-called Christians is no better than among those who are not. I think that statistic is skewed by those outside the faith who never marry in the first place, but it is perception we’re dealing with here. We don’t treat marriage as particularly special, so why are we upset because you want to do it too? It’s not an unreasonable question, and I’m ashamed to have to answer it. The best answer I can offer is simply that we are wrong not to place the same value on marriage as God does. I’ve already said that we all start out sinners, but once we make the decision to follow Jesus, things should change. If they don’t, we need to examine ourselves to see if we are really what we claim to be.
But we still must make a stand. My hope is that by this letter you understand why we feel so strongly about it. I do not hate you. I love you. So does Jesus. He wants to free you from the destructive lifestyle you have chosen. He wants to show you what real love is. No human substitute will ever be its equal.
All of us know it. Some of us have conquered it. Others it rules. It can protect us, or it can stop us at every turn. It can be guided by reason or slay all reason in its path. A step becomes a precipice. A mouse becomes a lion. No one wants to be pitied, but there is nothing so pitiful as one imprisoned by insubstantial bars of unreasoning fear. Woe to those who would help such a one. Like a wounded animal who cannot distinguish between friend and foe, he or she will strike out at these kind souls and no one will be the better.
What is the solution? It has been said that faith is the opposite of fear. Maybe that is true. Certainly if one trusts in God he need not fear, but I believe that something else comes first. John the disciple says that “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear…” (John 4:18.) Yes, I’m robbing the context a little and I generally don’t like to do that, but I think the point I want to make is safe. Trust begins with love. That same passage says that we love God because He loved us first. We learn to trust him because He took the initiative.
When we observe someone who is trapped in fear, we need to first show them love. It’s going to be hard and it’s going to take a long time. But over time we will begin to build trust and then maybe we can start to deal with the issues at the root of the fear. I write as if I know something about this. These are reflections based on observation and trying to walk through my own life in a way that is pleasing to Yahweh. I’ve had limited experience trying to put them into practice. We’ll see what I think of them in a few years.
This Sunday I am preaching at Bartimaeus Baptist Temple and I’m going back to my favorite subject. I talk about it a lot, but this time I will try it from a different
and I hope more meaningful perspective. I don’t think there is another
word in the English language that is so abused. We love our spouses.
We love our families. We love our friends. We love our pets. We love
our stuff. we love good food. Some of us are even blessed that we
could say we love our jobs. Hopefully all of us here love Jesus. What
does that mean? We use the term so loosely that it’s hard to tell.
think that part of the word’s overuse is due to our tendency to
illustrate by exaggeration, but in so doing we have robbed it of its
meaning and power. The Greek language in which most of the new
testament was written used four different words where we have just one.
I hope that you’ll join me as we explore what love is together. In the
meantime, I’ll leave you with this thought from 1 John 4:10.
In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
Here’s my very rough first attempt at a video blog entry. I just wanted to see if I could do it. With practice it could be done better, but I’m not sure if there’s much reason to do so.
21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22 “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23 “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’” (Matt 7:21-23)
I don’t know about you, but when I read that, I can’t help feeling just a little uncomfortable. After all, don’t’ the people Jesus is talking about here sound like pretty amazing Christians? How many people do you know who go around casting out demons and performing miracles in the name of Jesus? How many of them are sane? Don’t misunderstand me. Jesus gave us the power to do those things when they fall within His plan, but I don’t think He has much to do with some of the things we see.
Yet it would seem these folks are really committed. If Jesus would say to them, “I never knew you,” what would He say to me? Never mind the showy stuff. I wonder if I even get the basics right. Do I pray enough? Do I study the Bible enough? How many have I helped to come to Jesus?
I’m so thankful that He is love. He needs all those attributes that Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 13 just to put up with me. The amazing thing is that He doesn’t see it that way. He doesn’t have to try to love us. That is who He is.
I have the pleasure of speaking at our church this week as we’re wrapping up a six week study designed to help us move from being merely fans of Jesus to being true followers. I hope we have come to see that it means we will have to make some changes in our lives. Why? It’s not because we didn’t’ check off all the to-dos in our holy day planner. It’s not that we missed church last Sunday or didn’t put anything in the offering plate. It’s that we haven’t paid enough attention to what He really wants. He may want us to do those other things, but He wants our love first.
When we love someone, we do everything we can to please them. We don’t do it because we’re afraid of what will happen if we don’t. We do it because it brings us joy to make them happy. We sacrifice willingly, and their pleasure is our reward. Jesus loved us so much that He gave His life for us. Are we willing to love Him back that much? It’s a choice we will have to make every day of our lives.
I hope you will join us as we wrap up our study. Even if you have never been there before, I know that God has a message just for you this Sunday. See you there!
Bartimaeus Baptist Temple
6929 Day St.
Dallas, TX 75227
This is the question that lurked in the back of my mind for years. It remains without a definitive answer, but I think the answer is “no.” It is easy to love the loveable. It is easy to love during times of ease and comfort. Most of us are able to show love when love is being shown to us, provided we understand it as such. Jesus said this.
44 “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?” (Matt 5:44-46 NASB)
Love is proven in hardship and conflict. How can we know its depth if it is never tested? The testing may come in many forms. Strife is certainly one of the most common. We are selfish people who tend toward evil means of getting what we want or think we deserve. Another way the tests come is through the choices we make. What happens when we must choose between what we want or need and what is best for those whom we claim to love? I think I would call this the ultimate test, since it is our choices that both illustrate and shape our character and our outlook on life.
There is no greater example than Jesus Himself. From Adam until now we test His love to the breaking point with all the evil that we do, yet “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8.) That He does not simply withdraw His sustaining power from us and thereby terminate our existence is prove of His love. That He goes further and gives us any tangible evidence at all is mercy beyond measure.
I’ve been thinking about this because of something that came up last week. I don’t feel free to talk about it, so I am going to put it in very general terms. Some of you may know about the efforts that Linda has been making to get a treatment done that is helping many sufferers of multiple sclerosis. Having had unsatisfactory results with what we were able to get locally we have decided to travel to a place where they have been doing them regularly in hopes of a better outcome. It is our hope that as living proof she can get something started here for others who are not free to travel elsewhere. Linda has been looking forward to this trip.
Last week I learned that someone very close to me might need a fairly costly medical procedure. Thinking at first that the situation was graver than it appears to be, Linda offered to postpone her own treatment so that we could afford to help. This blew me away. I did not ask for that and was not even contemplating it. If I imagined a test of love, I would have said it was putting up with my moodiness as I wrestled with a number of difficult things.
What I am learning is that my wife is of such quality that I wouldn’t be surprised if this didn’t even seem like a test to her. It didn’t’ take her very long to make the decision. I don’t think she knew how much it would mean to me for her to do that. It meant a lot! My love and respect for her has reached a whole new level. I feel like I got married all over again to the most wonderful woman in the world. Upon further consideration with more of the facts in front of us we will continue with getting Linda the care she needs, but I will never forget what she did.
I wrote this little song shortly after Linda and I discovered our love for each other. I always imagined it with a happy folk melody. She the early riser would often have written me something before I got up. I would rush to my computer first thing to see if there was anything waiting for me.
Sleep, it has departed.
I really must get started
For I’m waiting for a letter from my love.
My love, who brings me joy in the morning
My love, who helps me make it through the day
Dreams I have while waking
There is just no mistaking
I’m waiting for a letter from my love.
A simple little letter
It makes the day much better
I’m waiting for a letter from my love.
My love who is the one that I’ve been missing
My love who makes me sing a happy song
My pillow in the floor
I’m running for the dor
For I’m waiting for a letter from my love.
I say a little prayer to
The One who gave me to you
As I’m waiting for a letter from my love.
Oh God who makes such sweet anticipation
Oh thank you for what you have done for me
My morning’s all aglow
For in my heart I know
That I’m waiting for a letter from my love.
When we talk about trust, do we have the same understanding of the word that God does when He says to trust Him? I think not. When we place some level of trust in another person, we believe that they have our best interests at heart. That’s good as far as it goes. That can certainly be said of God. People will break that trust, sometimes with evil intent. At other times it is just the result of imperfection. Since God can neither be dishonest nor imperfect, what can we conclude when it seems that He has broken our trust?
We can trust God completely, but we need an understanding of what that means. I think a more accurate definition of trust might be that the one in whom we are trusting is both able to and committed to do what he says he will do. We cannot trust that God will do what we believe to be in our best interests. We can trust Him to be true to His word and His nature.
My heart is heavy today for reasons I cannot share freely. lest anyone be alarmed Linda and I are fine. These are the thoughts going through my mind right now. This I do know. The Bible shows us over and over again that when God’s people turn to Him and call on His name, he rescues them. I cannot say what God will do specifically, but I can pray. I have seen His grace and mercy in my own life and in those of many i know. I have also seen Him take bad things and make good things from them. Whatever happens, I will trust Him. I am convinced that all may do the same.
However, I must make a point of the truth that this isn’t good news for everyone. Just as we can trust in His love, we must trust in His justice. We have all fallen short of the holiness that is required to live in the presence of God. We all must answer for all of the ways in which we have done so. The only hope for any of us is the sacrifice that Jesus made at the cross. His perfection paid for our sins. If we refuse to believe this; if we refuse to receive Him as lord of our lives, we can still expect that He will keep His word. It is my prayer that anyone reading this who has not yet believed will make the choice now. He does work everything together for the good of those who love him, who are called according to His purpose (Rom 8:28.) It may be that whatever trial you are facing was meant to draw you to Him. There is hope while you live.
What then is to be said to those of us who have believed and yet face evils from which we might have thought ourselves protected? Only that God will keep His word. Whatever this life brings it is only temporary. We may not know what God is doing, but we can anticipate the glorious end which awaits. We can rejoice in His goodness and thus draw others to wonder what gives us such strength. We can cling to our faith and the One who gave it to us. We can talk to Him in prayer and learn from the written word and His Holy Spirit. We can surround ourselves with others who strengthen us when we become discouraged. We can take the love that God has given to us and give it to others. His joy heals the pain.
Those are easy words to say, but to those who are hurting they are little more than words. It is my prayer that God will show me how to put action to them. I cannot imagine the pain that some of my friends have experienced. Though the truth remains the truth, the ways in which we speak and apply it can make all the difference in its effective communication. let love be first.
The things we cannot say become the lies that eat away at what we have, what we want, and who we are.
The fear that we must hide grows stronger inside feeding on life, killing hope, strangling love.
A silent killing rage is kept within a cage biding its time, waiting for chance, destroying all good.
A love afraid to show, for if they know, there is pain; there is loss; there is despair.
The things we cannot say define our way; words our misdirection; they require correction; cloaking our dismay.
First of all, I do like dogs. I believe God uniquely created them to meet our needs just as he created everything else on this earth. I am amazed by the diversity of things they have been bread and trained to do. I have pictures and statues of them everywhere. I don’t want any of my dog loving friends and especially my own wife to take anything that I am saying personally. These are general observations that do not necessarily apply to anyone I know.
I almost decided not to finish this. I did put it aside for several days. I’ll explain as well as I can why I finally felt free to write it in the first place, but I just happened to see something a few days ago that really got to me. I’ve never quite been able to understand having a deep emotional attachment to an animal, yet watching a video of a complete stranger whose dog was shot right in front of him about did me in. The screaming of the dog and the crying of the man are now stamped in my memory like a very bad dream. I think maybe the Lord let me see that so that I would react with more compassion toward people who are close to their animals. I don’t know that it changes my opinion of how things should be, but it certainly changed my attitude toward the way things are.
When I was growing up, we had dogs at different times, but due to changing circumstances we never seemed to be able to keep one. Like many children, we wanted to have a dog, but usually didn’t do a very good job of caring for it when we got one. I suppose I loved them, but I would characterize it as the kind of affection a child might have for a favorite toy. Yet probably do to the books and television shows that depicted dogs larger than life, I always had an idealized picture of what a dog might be. I wanted the myth more than I wanted the reality. How many animals end up in shelters to be put down for much the same reason?
Even so, I never came to think of dogs as other than animals. The idea of loving a dog or any animal in the same way that we love other people is hard for me to understand. No dog can take the place of a human being. It is incomprehensible to me that anyone would put the needs of a pet over the needs of a family member or any human being for that matter. A pet may be considered a family member only in the broadest of terms. It may be loved and cared for by the family but should never be considered as an equal.
People say their dogs love them unconditionally. I am not sure I believe that a dog is capable of love. I don’t suppose that anyone can be certain of such things. Certainly there are verifiable accounts to be found of dogs doing things that sure look like love to us. I do not claim to know where the line should be drawn between instinctive and emotive behavior. After all, I will concede that much of my understanding of animal behavior comes from the same people who believe that we are nothing more than sophisticated apes. Despite such preposterous pretenders as the Pet Psychic of past television fame, none of us really know what they are feeling or thinking. As I think it through, it’s not unreasonable to suppose that some level of emotional attachment exists, just as a young child who cannot intellectualize what he feels still loves his mother and father. He may continue to love them even if he comes to understand that they do not love him.
I think that what happens between pets and people is often an unhealthy replacement for missing human relationships. Because the creature does appear to offer unconditional love and lacks the capacity to hurt us in the way that another human can, we find it to be a safe way to meet our need. However, it does not meet the need. There is no suitable replacement in the animal kingdom for the human relationships that God designed us to have. As childlike as a dog may be in many ways, it cannot ever be a child. It may perform actions that you interpret as love, but it can never tell you that it loves you in words. It has no real concept of words or the conscious and coherent thoughts which produce them. It does not simply lack the means to speak. It lacks the concept of speech. It can neither substitute for a child nor a real friend. It can only be what it was created to be, a dog. When the unequal relationship between human and dog impairs or supplants the God-given relationship between human and human, something is tragically wrong.
I know of a situation where an unhealthy relationship with a dog destroyed a friendship. I’m not at liberty to disclose the details of that, but I recognized the problem in my own life before it had a chance to become one. It was 1997 and I had just moved to Dallas. I was living alone in an apartment and I had been thinking about getting a dog for some time. This was the first place I had lived where I was permitted. I learned that a local shelter brought adoptable dogs to the pet store a reasonable walking distance from my apartment. I went up to look, but something didn’t feel right. The first week I didn’t bring one home. I had that feeling in the pit of my stomach that usually meant God was telling me “no.” That’s not the answer I wanted to hear, so I rationalized it and went back the second week.
Thus began a mighty tough week. I brought home a chihuahua dubbed Mickey by the shelter, but thinking every big-eared chihuahua in the country is probably called Mickey, I changed his name to Mighty. It kept the mouse theme and I thought it was a great appellation for a little tiny chihuahua. He wasn’t the sort of dog I imagined having. I’ve never really liked them. Most of them I’ve ever known were noisy and neurotic. Mighty was friendly and quiet.
With the vet checkup, food, and supplies plus the pet deposit I dropped $500 on that free dog before the day was out, but I had everything I thought we would need. I still remember the feeling I had sitting in the chair next to the TV with Mighty on my lap. I had a friend. I had something to love. I imagined the beginning of a fulfilling companionship that would last for years and keep me from being alone. We played with the squeaky ball and rolled around in the floor and I had what I wanted.
I knew better. Even then I knew what I was trying to do. I needed a friend. That little dog could never really be the friend I needed. As you might guess, the next few days brought home the reality of owning a dog, particularly a house dog. Due in part to the emotional instability I was experiencing at the time, I soon realized I couldn’t handle it. I wish now I had been able to hang on. The no-kill shelter took him back and I suspect he found a good home, but I’ll never know. I did learn my lesson though. God wanted me to leave room for real relationships in my life and not to substitute anything less.
Eventually I took in another one. When I moved to where I live now I not-so-subtly hinted that I would like to have Savanna, a chow/collie mix that had originally belonged to my sister and was with my parents at the time. I wasn’t sure how attached they were to her so I didn’t want to come right out and ask. I had always liked her. She was sweet as they come (provided you didn’t walk on four legs) and smart. She was an outside dog, though well behaved in the house. She preferred to be outside and wanted me to be outside with her.
By then I was in a very different place in my life. She didn’t come with the same baggage. I enjoyed having her around. I always felt guilty though. Dogs may just be animals, but when we take them for our own we have a responsibility to meet their needs too. It’s even written in the Bible. Proverbs 10:12 says in part “A righteous man has regard for the life of his animal…” My life was just too busy. I worked down town, often had church functions, and spent most of the remainder of my time in front of the computer at home. Most of the time my interaction with Savanna was to go out and fill her food and water bowls. Like the clichéd guilty parent, I bought her toys hoping she would occupy herself with them, but it’s hard to play fetch with yourself. So, when my sister moved back to a place where she could have a dog and was considering one for the kids I told her she should take Savanna back. I did miss her when she left. Every time I walked past the back door where she would stand begging me to come out and play I felt a little pang of sadness.
I believe it was best though at least with the information I had at the time. Dogs are designed as social creatures. They need lots of interaction with either people or their own kind. If you want a well behaved dog around people the former needs to be foremost. I would not have willingly taken on another unless circumstances changed such that I had a need for the dog or the desire to spend the time necessary to treat it right.
But I did. Her name is Tia. She came with the wife. I was actually happy to have her in the beginning. She was the perfect dog for me; someone else’s responsibility yet available to me when I felt like interacting with it. I didn’t really think that way, but looking back that’s what I see. At first I walked her, tried to play with her and establish a bond. The relationship quickly soured. Linda and I had very different ideas about what was acceptable behavior and about a dog’s place in the household. Tia had been a companion and source of comfort to Linda for many hears and neither seemed very willing to make adjustments for me. That isn’t entirely true, but it was hard for me to see it.
Though not able to really understand Linda’s feelings about the dog, I recognized that nothing I could do would change them. I knew that to try to force my preferences on her would only result in Tia being between us long after her life had ended. I didn’t hate the dog. She has some behavioral issues, but she’s just a dog. She can’t have any concept of the emotional tumult surrounding her much less have any responsibility for it. She simply acts like a dog.
I think the Lord was dealing with me on what I really needed to do. As an act of love for my wife, I needed to make a best effort to love the dog. I couldn’t bring myself to do it. The best I could manage was to treat Tia with kindness and not allow my pain and frustration to be taken out on her. Sometimes when she would do something that bothered me I confess I thought about smacking her, but I never did it.
God is gracious. Despite my reluctance to do what I needed to do, He moved Linda to take the first step. A few weeks ago, she agreed to a change I wanted made from the beginning. That issue was the greatest obstacle to me being able to accept Tia and believe that I was really the most important to Linda. We’ve had a major training breakthrough, and my whole attitude has changed. I love my wife more than ever, and I might even learn to love the dog too. I’m certainly motivated to give it a try.