fires

My Prayer for you today…..Love

 

The world eagerly flaunts its misguided perception of love. Sitcoms feed gullible seekers a steady diet of unrealistic dreams and a list of demands to bring into their relationships. While the world relentlessly presents it’s weak and whimsical definition of love, we tend to miss the most important aspect behind true love. The vitality & power of love is not found so much in what Love does, but rather in what it does not do.

I Corinthians 13:1-8a

 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love,

I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.

And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge,

and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.

If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned,

 but have not love, I gain nothing.

4Love is patient and kind;

love does not envy or boast;

it is not arrogant or rude.

It does not insist on its own way;

it is not irritable or resentful;

 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.

 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends.

I found it interesting that this famous section on love begins by listing a host of admirable, even desirable actions, abilities, and gifts followed by a shocking revelation. In the midst of suave, flowery, romantic speech and the ability to say and do all the right things, love can be glaringly absent.

You mean I can take a meal to a neighbor I secretly despise, or put a new roof on for a couple I care nothing about and it means nothing? I can tell my spouse everything is ok and even dish out a kiss or two yet despite all my actions and professions, love can be missing?

Yup, in the midst of all that pomp and clanking, there can remain an emptiness and void where love should dwell but isn’t. Doing doesn’t guarantee loving!

If you think  the idea of love being absent in the midst of noble actions and sacrificial giving, a paradoxical concept, then  read on! Next in the chapter comes a mind-boggling list of how love is powerfully demonstrated during “inaction.”

Love is demonstrated when envy is an exiled and unwelcome guest.

Love is present when a boasting heart is consumed upon the altar of humility and grace.

Love is the absence of arrogance.

Love raises its gracious head when rudeness bows in subjection to the feelings of others.

Love voices it’s true intention when it calls out passionately in constant purposeful yielding to the desires of others.

Love resides unshaken, faithfully pressing onward while riding out the never-ending swells of unpredictable human emotions, weakness, and reasoning.

Love removes itself from the presence of all actions, attitudes, and situations that would make it a bedfellow with the enemies of its soul.

Love has no finish line, no expiration date, and no exception clause.

Love is endless, abounding, and nonnegotiable.

Jesus had compassion on the crowds and preformed many signs and miracle. He healed, fed, taught, and rescued thousands but I think His greatest demonstration of Love came during those sacred moments of silence when he stood unshaken before his accusers and as he hung willingly upon the cross. Truly, only the God of the universe could have kept silent while those He created beat Him!

As a kid I played out how I would have handled the crucifixion. I would have popped off that cross, and showed the crowd who I really was. I would have struck the pharisees down with gruesome and painful diseases. I would have given that unbelieving pompous crowd gawking at my nakedness and shame a momentary glimpse of the Heavenly Host straining at the ready to exact judgment upon them. I would have preformed an amazing lightening show and topped it off by spinning Jupiter on my finger.

This is everything I would have done!

Yet Jesus did something mysteriously more powerful than any action. He demonstrated His love by doing  nothing. He was led like a lamb to the slaughter and he never opened him mouth. He endured suffering silently without returning condemning upon His inflictors, when reviled He did not revile in return.

He demonstrated the depth and height of His love by silence and something even more unpredictable, death.

And herein lies the secret of love.

Love is death. It is quiet yielding and sacrifice. It is silence in the face of unjust accusation. It is willing brokenness for the sake of the broken and needy not the deserved. This is such a different image than the one hollywood hawks. Love is often absent in the getting, doing, giving, being, to busy to stop crowd, for any emotionless, selfish, warped, unloving, sick person can do these things.

This is Love

John 15:13
Greater love hath no man than this,

that a man lay down his life for his friends.

1 John 3:16
Hereby perceive we the love of God,

because he laid down his life for us:

and we ought to lay down our lives

 for the brethren.

My prayer for you today my husband is a prayer for us both. My prayer is for love. Jesus love drove Him to the cross to be broken. Those precious, nail scarred hands now break us daily that we might also love. May the Lord fill our hearts with an understanding of His love for us, and may that precious gift flow from our own hearts as an unquenchable stream of love for others. May we lay down our lives together in these battles we fight together hand in hand. Let us be silent together, raising up feeble hands and weary knees yielded to His purpose and plan for our lives. May we die spiritually together each day and as we live to die, may we discover with more intensity and satisfaction than the day before, the joy that comes from sacrifice, the purpose that comes from pain, and the power that is unleashed through our weaknesses. Your path is mine David, your calling is my calling. Ours is a sacred dance, beauty displayed among chaos. I praise the Lord for the gift of you and for your Love. I praise the Lord for calling us to be his and for allowing us to run this race together. Amen

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A to Z: Overcoming Through Love


Love

Love is not an emotion.

Love is consciously choosing what emotions

I    allow    to   rule   my   heart,   soul,   spirit,   &   body.

Love  is not  given because  the  other  is  worthy,

Love is poured out because it was given to me

When I wasn’t worthy.

This is love

1If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love,

I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.

2And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge,

and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love,

I am nothing.

3 If I give away all I have,

and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love,

I gain nothing.

4Love is

patient and kind;

love does not envy or boast;

it is not arrogant 5 or rude.

It does not insist on its own way;

it is not irritable or resentful;

6it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.

7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

8Love never ends…

I Cor 13:1-8a (ESV)

It is easy to display love, when others love you in return, but what happens when your heart is wrenched from your chest, ripped in two, and dropped at your feet? When you have been betrayed, crushed, rejected, insert your hurt here, how can you be expected to endure, believe, hope, and bear your pain while dishing out love in return?

I found myself struggling with this thought a few years ago when someone I loved hurt me in a way I never thought possible. In my stunned pain, sorrow, and grief, I never stopped caring, but my hurt made believing that the pain could ever stop long enough for the damaged pieces of my heart heal, seem impossible? I would never have dreamed of walking away from this relationship, but how was I supposed to bear the burden of my pain without insisting they feel, carry, or pay for what they had done? How was I to hope for healing and restitution when it seemed I was doing everything to make things right, while they went on with life, as if nothing had ever happened? How was I supposed to endure through my sorrow while they remained oblivious to how broken and hurt I was? Was my love really expected to never falter or fail?

I still loved this person, but it wasn’t a healthy, vibrant, enduring love. I went through motions, said the right things, declared I had forgiven, but for all my actions, I gained nothing. Our relationship was not repaired, my heart was still broken, and I was dying within. On the outside everything looked normal, but inwardly I was nothing loveable. I was angry, fearful, suspicious, and proud! I went through the motions and actions so no one thought less of me, but my actions were meaningless. I was not demonstrating true love. I was a loud, clanky, noisy, FAKE cymbal!

As I sat on the couch one morning, in desperation, I cried out to the Lord for mercy. I needed Divine intervention and power to break free from the bondage that was slowly sucking away my life. The Lord heard my cry and He broke my heart. It was not a merciless destruction, but rather a tender, and loving fracturing of a sick heart by a Master who understood exactly what had to be broken before it could be healed.

One image He brought to my mind was the picture His Son hanging broken, bloody, forsaken, and unrecognizable on the cross. When did I love you Jody, He asked? You loved me before I was knit together inside my mother’s womb Father. How much goodness, righteousness, and holiness existed inside you when my Son hung on the cross for you Jody? None Father, I was entirely sinful and lost with nothing inside me worthy of your love or regard. Did I require perfect love from you before I demonstrated and gave my perfect love to you my proud child? I choked back sobs as I thought through I Corinthians 13 and the vivid picture of His love in action on the cross. He bore all things, believed all things, hoped all things, and endured all things as he hung on that wretched tree. His Love NEVER failed. He never wavered, never hesitated, He never considered getting down, weighting his actions against my worthiness.

He was not asking me to do something new, He was asking me to give the exact same gift that had been given to me, Love Without Fail. I could heal, forgive, bear up, endure, believe, and hope by loving as He had loved me.

Unconditionally, Selflessly, Completely, Sacrifically!

I had been given a choice and an ability to deny feelings of anger, fear, suspicion, hurt, and bitterness. I was empowered with the ability to choose to overcom with real, true, genuine love! Not the hollywood, 50/50, until you hurt me, until it stops working, unless the fuzzies go away, unless someone better comes along, kind of love! He was asking for the selfless, bloody, bruised, broken, glorious kind of love that breathes life into every being it comes into contact with.

With His stripes I was healed.

For His love covered a multitude of my sins.

Through His love I have earned to overcome and love.

The Purpose of Pain

Why Is There Pain?

Have you ever heard a story that goes something like this?

While getting dressed one morning, a woman in perfect shape notices a seemingly insignificant mole on her skin that doesn’t look normal. Although she can’t remember the last time she had any health concerns, she schedules a Dr. Appointment to get the sore checked out. The woman’s life is shattered a few days later when she is informed she has melanoma. The disease has spread throughout ther body and though she appears healthy and feels fine, the prognosis is grim, she is dying.

Death is cruel, but a disease that eats at the body, silently stealing the precious life of the unsuspecting victim seems even more ruthless. No normal human enjoys pain. Our first reaction when we feel it is to recoil away from its source. The Creator made us this way as a means of physical preservation. Though pain is unpleasant, it becomes an alarm that captures our attention demanding change. When our physical bodies suffer, we immediately want to know what is wrong and how we can fix the problem. Without pain, our bodies would be broken and overcome before we ever had a chance to live. In this bizarre sense, Pain is a blessing.

In medicine, pain is approached in a methodical manner. Doctors look at symptoms, environment, and other factors to determine its source. They don’t simply treat the pain, they search for its origin.

When I broke my wrist, I told the Doctor I was playing basketball, was fouled making a jump-shot, and then broke my fall with my hand, which had absorbed the impact of my body when it hit the ground. With that information gathered, my pain was no longer the focal point. The Doctors focus shifted to the source of my pain, a bulging, disfigured, purple, swollen wrist. The doctor did not try to rid my wrist of the blue hue by applying makeup. He did not use a knife to cut the grotesque bulge away. He did not simply hand me medicine to make my brain and pain receptors oblivious to the discomfort. His job was to go as deep into the anatomy of my wrist as possible pinpointing the source of the pain, so he could fix what was wrong. In my case it was a broken ulna. Once the diagnosis of a break was made, a splint was not put on my foot, balm was not rubbed on my chest. The doctor did not sever the nerves in my wrist and arm so I could not sense the pain caused by the break. The goal was not to rid me of the pain but to deal with its source. The wisdom of the Doctor reasoning was this, “Fix the break and eventually you will get rid of the pain.” My wrist was straightened, the bone was set, and my entire arm from elbow to knuckles was wound inside a protective cast to protect and keep it immobile. I was given a sling, a list of do’s and don’ts, and four weeks later I walked out of the Dr. office with a weak, but perfectly healed wrist.

What Do I Do With My Pain?

Have you ever been held captive by any of the emotions below? Do you relate to any of them right now?

Lonelinees, Fear, Rejection, Sadness, Betrayal, Confused, Discouraged, Insignificant, Invisible, Rejected, Unimportant, Misunderstood, Angry, Worthless, Guilty, Forgotten, Powerless, Weak, Terrified, Skeptical, Violated, Taken Advantage of, Imprisoned, Unloved, Unwanted, Untrusting, Cynical, Cheated…..

All these are pains that torment our souls. As Beth Moore illustrated in her book, “Get Out of that Pit”, sometimes these pains are the result our own sinful actions. Sometimes they are wounds viciously inflicted at the hand of another. Other times they are the result of innocent decisions we have made.

No matter which emotions oppress and crush your heart, there is a reason for the pain, and there is a liberating hope and power at your disposal. It does no good to bury the pain, or to distract ourselves from an oppressive emotion. We can not swap out relationships, activities, and pursuits to find freedom. This pseudo releif from our pain is only a temporary respite. This season of quietness will only last until the disease we have ignored grows larg enough to destroy even those things capeable of still bringing joy, pleasure, and happiness.

When our hearts are broken, our spirits overwhelmed, and our emotions smothering us in a pit we can’t escape, there is but one thing to do, run to the Great Physician. Fall into the arms of your Abba Father, your Daddy. There is a purpose in the pain. There will be an end to the sorrow. Beauty will arise from the ashes. Pain screams there is a problem and the pain demands action.

Over the next few weeks I would like to focus on the topic of pain, it’s source, its purpose, and its cure. I know so many single women struggling with loneliness and the fear they will be alone for the rest of their lives. I am overwhelmed by the number of wives reeling and incapacitated by the pain of betrayal. Our churches are filled with brothers and sisters so weary from battle they wonder if there will be anything left, anything worth fighting for.

Merrit from Livesimplylove, will be joining us in our series about overcoming pain, and I am excited about other guests who have graciously agreed to share on this blog. If you are struggling with loneliness, fear, rejection, loss, or any other pain please feel free to ask questions. If you have been through a dark valley and the Lord has brought you through would you consider sharing your story or insight? If you have blogged on this topic please leave a comment with a link to your site. If you wouold like to guest blog on this topic please let me know and I will put you on the schedule.

My February giveaway will include some amazing books I have read which focus on overcoming the pain in our lives. Stay tuned for the start of the giveaway.

As you go, consider this promise, from God, the Righteous, the True, the Faithful.

Isaiah 43:2
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;

and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;

when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,

and the flame shall not consume you.

Let nothing be lost!

 

John 6:8 “Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost.”

 

This verse intrigues me. The setting presents Jesus surrounded by a throng of people, most are not true believers, but those seeking entertainment in the form of miracles, and perhaps some even looking for a handout of their own. This crowd came needy and left needy. An opportunity of a lifetime stood in front of them yet their physical needs and selfish desires blinded them to this moment. They wanted miracles and they received one, but their response clearly showed their shallow thinking and spiritual blindness.

 

The Son of God stood in their midst, but instead of asking for eternity, they vainly grappled to secure a king to rid them of the tyranny of Rome, a momentary and temporal predicament. It would be akin to a billionaire offering a blank check only to have the recipient spend it on a pack of gum. So very needy yet so very blind to their true needs and the power and ability of the one who stood before them.

 

So Jesus performs a miracle, a shadow of what He had come to do, he fed their bodies. With bread and fish he met their basic physical need, but He yearned to give them water so that they would never thirst again. They wanted freedom from occupiers who threateded to take their physical bodies and earthly lives, while he offered salvation from that which would take their eternal souls and spirit.

 

Jesus knew their hearts and he knew within moments of feeding the crowd sadly he would be forced to flee from their midst. He had come, not to reign on a mortal throne of man, in a mortal and fading kingdom, but to reign over all the universe in heaven above and in the earth below for all of eternity. Before they made their attempt to crown an earthly king, he made a decree in their midst, “Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost.”

 

Why did he command his disciples to do this? Twelve basket were collected, one for each disciple perhaps? Or was there a deeper meaning?

 

Jesus Christ had performed a great miracle and its meaning and purpose had fallen on deaf ears, blind eyes, and dead hearts. “That nothing may be lost.” Did he want to keep the leftovers of his blessing and purpose ladden miracle from being discarded like worthless trash and trampled under their unworthy feet when they departed after realizing they were to receive nothing more from His hand?

 

We may never know what if any meaning laid hidden in these words, yet a lesson can be taken from it. How often do we come to Christ with a need but also a predetermined solution in mind, our spiritual hearts have been darkened by selfish needs and proud hearts? How often do we come to him with a request, yet blind to the true needs our trial has exposed. He stands able and ready to provide an answer propelling us into the midst of His eternal and glorious purpose yet all we seek are bread crumbs.

 

All trials, needs, blessings, and opportunities are for a purpose far greater and more glorious than ourselves. Our neediness is the doorway to God’s glory and power revealed. The means with which He reveals our true nature, condition, and need is also the means with which He accomplishes the purpose of our existence, the revelation and proclimation of His power and His glory.

 

He pursued you when you were dying, desperate and needy. In your sin, brokenness and need, His Glorious love, grace, righteousness, and power broke forth. In Him you found a Savior, an Advocate, a Brother, a new life. Would you now come to him asking for bread? Empty your hands of all expectation. Cry out to Him for spiritual eyes to be opened, that you might see past the flesh and gaze instead into the glories of eternity. You can trust the Lord of the Universe with the when, where, how, and whys. He can provide bread, but do not settle for just crumbs when He has promised to hold back nothing of lesser value than His Son!

 

Your life is no mistake, neither are your present need, trials, and desires. Do not settle for bread crumbs. Do not settle for good. God’s best has been promised. Labor for it, strain for is, press forward, let nothing distract you, or turn you aside. If you can not see it, if your resolution falters, cry out to Him for strength, faith, and power to press on. There is a purpose, there is an end, there is an answer, there is a wealthy plaCe!

 

Psalm 66:12 Thou hast caused me to ride over our heads, we went through fire and throu water but thou broughtest us out into a wealthy place.

 


Two quarters and a lesson

A year ago, our former pastor told a very thought provoking story. I came across a very powerful and unique verse in Matthew 16:23 that seemed to tie right into the story.
The true story goes like this….One day a father took his two children out shopping with him. When they got to the store he noticed they had a petting zoo set up for the children. He dug two quarters out of his pockets and handed one to his son and daughter and told them to go into the zoo while he shopped right outside. Seconds after leaving them at the entrance, he noticed his young daughter trailing behind him. He turned to her and asked why she was not at the zoo, petting the animals with her brother. She looked at him and replied the tickets to get in cost 50 cents so she had given her brother her quarter. This touched the father deeply because he knew how much his daughter loved animals and because of that love, he understood the extent of her sacrifice. He walked back with her to the gate and they stood together watching the son play, pet, and romp with the miniature animals. As he stood there, he reached into his pocket and fumbled with the remaining quarters still in his possession. The quarters, sufficient to buy his daughter her own ticket, seemed to be burning holes in his pocket, but what he did next is not what you would think…..for the father remained where he stood, never taking the quarters out, never offering to buy his daughter her own ticket. He not only was a loving father, but he was also a wise man and he wanted to allow his daughter to experience the joy and the reward of her sacrifice of love. Had he given in to the powerful desire to buy the second ticket, he realized he would have cheapened the value and the price of her precious sacrifice.

As I sat in the pew and listened to the story, a host of emotions flooded my heart. I imagined myself in his shoes with one of my precious children beside me, for whom I would give my very life. A battle began to rage and I experienced a conflict in my soul because, although the wisdom of his decision rang true in my heart, the desire to give “good” to a child who truly deserved a reward would have been hard not to pacify. As I sat there I wondered, would I have made the same choice? I can honestly say, I think I would have given the quarters, and while that may not have been a wrong decision, perhaps in giving the quarters the child would have received the lesser and least valuable of the rewards.

I think most of us can say we have been on both the receiving and giving end of “withheld good” As a parent, I find I am faced with this decision almost every day. An incident happened a while back in which one of my kids misbehaved in Sunday school and then throughout the week demonstrated willful disobedience and disrespect towards me. The kids had been invited to a special breakfast on Saturday with their Sunday school class and my husband and I decided we would not allow the offending child to attend with their sibling. Wow, was it hard dropping just the one child off and leaving behind my chance to get out by myself. It was even harder looking into the eyes of my child as we drove away while she sobbed asking to be able to go. I wanted to turn around, but I realized if I gave in and let her go, the lesson would not be learned and the transgressions would be repeated and left to be dealt with another day. Although my child was very repentant and show genuine remorse, my spirit and my husband counseled me to stick to my guns by withholding the “good” because I loved my child and wanted her to learn a very valuable lesson.

In Matthew 16:23 Jesus said “…..get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offense unto me: for thou savoriest not the things that be of God, but those that be of man.”
These were pretty harsh words for Peter after he “rebuked” Jesus for forecasting his death. While Peter was right to be repulsed by the idea of His Lord’s murder, had his spiritual eyes been open and had he been able to comprehend the eternal ramifications of the willing sacrifice Jesus was about to make, I believe he would have closed his mouth and instead fallen to his knees humbly weeping at the feet of his master as Mary had done days before.

Have you ever found yourself in the shoes of the father, equipped with the ability, and/or power, and strong desire to give? Have you ever had the opportunity to “give” or “do” good but had the spirit prompt you respond with a second choice, the better choice, to “withhold good”?

Have you ever found yourself in the shoes of the girl, faithful and obediently following Christ, yet having a desire, need, or request withheld? Has the anguish of your heart ever been met with the still small voice of the Lord saying “Not now”, “Endure for a while”, or “Trust me”? I know people enduring through unbelievably painful trials in their marriage, work, and life. Their desire is pure and they have faithfully served him and what makes it tough is that they know the Lord could simply utter the words and make it all go away, bringing healing, peace, or restoration. Yet for some reason, in his infinite wisdom and love he withholds the “good” and instead gives just enough strength and grace to endure.

There is a woman I barely know, whom I have never met personally, yet her life, struggles, and testimony has greatly impacted my life and walk with the Lord. I think of her daily and pray for her, that the Lord would reward her faithfulness, her long suffering, and her commitment to the truth no matter the cost, by bringing her out of her present fire and into the wealthy place place he promises awaits her an the end. At the same time, I wonder at the eternal impact her life, struggles, and story has made upon countless women all across the country. Her spiritual growth and maturity, and the wealth of knowledge and insight she is able to share, is priceless. I look at her life and I am reminded and admonished to not doubt when the Lord chooses to withhold the “good” so he can eventually give me something far greater that that which my soul longs for.

My life verse is Psalm 84:11-12
The Lord your God is a sun and and shield
The Lord will give grace and mercy,
No good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly,
O Lord of Host, Blessed is the man that trusteth thee.

He can pour out blessings and goodness like the sun pours down it’s rays, but he can also withhold and in withholding shield and protect us from not just evil but also second best. No matter his decision we know it is made with Love and mercy and it is accompanied with grace to endure.

Psalm 66:12
Thou hast caused men to ride over our heads
We went through fire and through water,
But thou broughtest us out into a wealthy place.

If you are going through a trial where you are simply waiting for an answer He is there. If you find yourself painfully thrust into the refiners fire over and over again as you pray for an end to the hurt, He is there. If you find yourself in a vast and lonely ocean, fighting waves of despair and hopelessness, as you use all your strength just to keep your head above the water, no matter the trial no matter the pain, our Saviour is still there. He stands quietly with us feeling our present pain, understanding our present yearning, and our seeing our present need and he stands there with two quarters is his pocket. As our Lord passes with us through the fire and water, remember he also stands there with us in our future deliverance, our future healing, and our future blessing, and knowing all and seeing all, his hand remains where it rest and he lovingly and with omniscience withholds the “good” so that he can eventually give us of his best.

He who withheld not the most precious gift he possessed, his only and beloved son, will not withhold anything of lesser value. Why settle for just quarters when we can own the entire bank!

Are you willing to let go of the quarters and allow him to give you of his best, when and where he deems it best?