Category Archives: Love Defined & Applied

Transparent, Transforming Love

There are many things, negative and positive, that motivate us to try to change: guilt, fear, anger, pride, a desire to be healthy or to improve at something, etc. Operating under those motivations may work for awhile, but sooner or later we’ll burn out and give up. Think of how many New Years Resolutions last less than a year.

 

On the other hand, once we’ve experienced Christ’s unconditional love for us–accepting us as we are and being willing to forgive and help us–we are motivated by a desire to please Him. When I am motivated by my love for Christ and my desire to be close to Him (and I know I can’t feel close to Him if I’m feeling guilty), then I sincerely call upon His power and strength to help me accomplish my goal or resist temptation. If I’m mad at myself for being a certain way, the change doesn’t last long. But when I realize how much God loves me and desires to give me victory over my weaknesses, then I respond in gratitude and thanksgiving and humility–realizing I’m unable to change myself, but thankful that God’s ready, able, and eager to do it. All He needs from me is my love and cooperation.

 

It isn’t enough just to intellectually know the love of Christ. We must experience it. We must learn to be honest and vulnerable with God, with ourselves, and with others. We need to face our sins and confess them to God and trustworthy people. The only way we can experience unconditional love is when we see someone accept us as we are–with all our flaws. But people can’t express that love to us until we’re willing to reveal our weaknesses–those sins that cause our pride to feel embarrassed, or fearful of rejection. It’s ironic that we can’t experience genuine acceptance until we’re willing to stick our necks out and risk rejection. That’s where faith comes in: believing God won’t hand us more than we can bear.

 

We do need to exercise wisdom in who we choose to open up with. They should be people who have proven themselves trustworthy in keeping private information confidential. But even the best humans are not perfect, and they may fail us, so we must also be willing to forgive them when they do.

 

I praise God for Jesus, who is always faithful, and He understands me better than I understand myself! I love the tender way He reveals my sins to me. I am thankful because I know He is only doing it to help me, not to hurt me. I know He still accepts me and honestly forgives me, and He isn’t even disappointed because He already knows every sin I’ll ever commit. I’m the one who gets disappointed in myself because my pride keeps thinking I’m doing better than I am, and it’s surprised, hurt and embarrassed when I fall flat on my face.

 

When someone is confessing a sin, we should just listen. We shouldn’t make any value judgments about whether it’s a big or a little sin. If it bothers their conscience, it is a sin for them, even if we don’t see it as a big deal. Just encourage them to get right with God through confession and repentance and pray with them and for them. We are all called to be holy because God is holy. Thankfully, God doesn’t expect us to do it on our own. If we have given our lives to Christ, we have His Holy Spirit to guide and empower us. Hallelujah!

 

Overcoming Selfishness

One way to battle selfishness is to remember that God’s love is always considerate of others. I am often very blind to my own selfishness. Once God opens my eyes, I’m appalled at how blind I was.

 

One example of my selfishness is related to our disabled son’s helpers. At times, I would send them text messages or emails whenever an idea came to me, even if that was when they weren’t on shift with our son. God convicted me of selfishness and gave me a better solution. Now, when an idea comes to me that I don’t want to forget, I write it down and then send it to the helpers when they’re with our son.

 

Another way to help myself overcome selfishness is to ask my husband’s opinion of my ideas. It’s a lot easier to see other people’s mistakes than it is to see our own. So, if I invite my husband to give his in-put, and humbly listen, I can reduce the number of mistakes that I make.

 

In conclusion, it is now my goal, when I’m making a decision, to ask myself (and my husband) if I’m being considerate of others. God considers the needs of everyone involved. I need to do likewise.

Reflecting Christ’s Love

Jesus said, “…Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35, NIV. The emphasis is mine.)

 

How does Jesus love me? First of all, He sacrificially gave His life for me even before I loved Him. And now that I’m His child through faith in Him, He forgives all my sins when I ask Him to, and He understands all my frailties. He looks past all the junk in my life and sees and encourages my potential. He’s patient with me and gives me truth in small doses, as I’m ready. He’s sensitive to my moods and feelings. He addresses my questions patiently and calmly. He doesn’t argue over non-essentials. In fact, I’ve found that when I get argumentative about anything with Him, He just becomes silent until I’m more receptive. Meanwhile, He continues to intercede for me. That’s a good role model for me to follow when someone gets argumentative with me. Be quiet but continue to compassionately pray for them!

 

Jesus said the way people will know we’re His followers is by our love for one another. Before we reach out to non-believers, we need to search our own hearts. How are we doing at loving difficult to love people? Anyone can love a person who’s nice to them. We don’t need Jesus for that. His supernatural power is seen when we genuinely love those who aren’t nice to us or have personality traits we don’t appreciate. Jesus told us to “…take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. “(Matthew 7:5, NIV) When we find ourselves being critical of someone, that’s a good time to ask Jesus to shed His light on our own hearts. I want Jesus to use me to help others, but first I have to allow Him to cleanse my own heart. It is my daily prayer that He will reveal my sins to me and cleanse me of them.

 

“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10, NIV) Amen!

 

P.S. The Bible says: “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. (Romans 12:18, NIV. The emphasis is mine.) We’re only responsible for our own attitudes and behaviors, not those of others.

 

 

Love Never Fails

The Bible says that love never fails. (1 Corinthians 13:8)

God’s love is never lacking or insufficient in power. It over comes all things. It extends mercy, grace, forgiveness, and all the attributes described in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. God’s love even overcame death and provided an open door to eternal life, through Christ. God’s love is eternal because God is eternal, and “…God is love.” (1 John 4:8) God’s love will continue forever for all of His children: God’s love for us, and our love for Him and each other.

 

In this life-time, I love others imperfectly, but God continually empowers me to love better. In the next life, I will love perfectly, as God loves me, forever! Hallelujah!!!

Love Perseveres

The Bible says that love perseveres. (1 Corinthians 13:7)

It is relatively easy for me to love people who are nice to me. But I need God’s supernatural power to persevere at loving unkind or annoying people. My natural (sinful) inclination is to give up when the going gets rough. But, by God’s grace and strength, I can persevere at loving those who are difficult to love.

 

God’s love is an action, and an act of the will, not necessarily a feeling. Regardless of my emotions, I can choose to focus on a person’s potential instead of their flaws, and to be faithful in reflecting God’s love to them despite their actions. When God’s love is motivating me, I will seek to understand their perspective. No matter how discouraged I feel, I will not give up on them. I will pray for them and do whatever I can to help them. That does not mean I will always make them happy (I don’t always like how God deals with me, though I know He acts out of love), but I will strive to be a peacemaker, and I will be considerate of their feelings.

 

I can’t always control my circumstances, but, in Christ, I have the freedom and the power to choose my attitude. I access His power by prayerfully surrendering my will to His, choosing to live His way, instead of mine. Love presses on. The reward is a supernatural peace of mind, despite circumstances, and the joy of knowing I’ll be spending eternity in the Lord’s loving presence. To God be the glory! Great things He has done!

Love Hopes

“Morning by morning, O Lord, you hear my voice;

morning by morning I lay my requests before you

and wait in expectation.”

(Psalm 5:3 NIV, the emphasis is mine.)

 

The Bible says love “…always hopes…” (1 Corinthians 13:7)

When our world suddenly comes crashing down on us, or our trials drag on year after year, with no end in sight, it’s easy to lose hope. But when I keep focused on the Lord, rather than my circumstances, hope is restored. I know Jesus is with me in it, and He will not only get me through it, He will bring good out of it! He reminds me that He’s working on my character while I’m waiting for His solutions to my problems. He’s teaching me to surrender my will to His, and to wait patiently, calmly, and expectantly, surrendering all my concerns and anxieties and resting in His love. He’s teaching me to seek His guidance continually and wait for clear answers. He’s teaching me to obey Him (and He allows me to suffer the consequences when I don’t). He’s teaching me to listen carefully and humbly to others and prayerfully consider their opinions. He’s teaching me when to speak and when to keep quiet. (Does the listener have ears to hear? Are they receptive?) If not, it’s best to keep quiet and pray. He’s teaching me to be a peacemaker by treating everyone with respect, regardless of how they treat me. I’m learning to accept being taken advantage of, when God allows that to happen, resting in His Sovereign control. I’m learning to surrender anger and to forgive. I’m learning to apologize quickly when I offend someone. I’m learning to persevere in prayer, especially for the souls of the unsaved, and to be willing to endure unpleasant situations for their sake. God continually reminds me that His ways and His time schedule are very different, and better, than mine. In short, I’m learning to trust Him, believing He’s at work, even when I can’t see it, and to rejoice in expectation and praise Him in faith!

 

Like the hopeful father responding to Jesus in Mark 9:24, I pray,

“I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” That’s a prayer Jesus will always answer!

Love Trusts

The Bible says that love “…always trusts…” (1 Corinthians 13:7)

Since God is the only One who is perfect, He is the only One who is completely trustworthy. (I don’t even trust myself because I struggle with selfishness). When I trust the Lord, it frees me to think the best of people and look at their potential. I can trust Him to give me discernment in dealing with others, and I can trust Him to be working for my ultimate good, even when He allows people to take advantage of me. I suspect that not one loving person who saw Jesus on the cross was able to see the good in that. Yet, the salvation of mankind was in progress.

 

I will share an example from my life, but I am changing the names to Adam and Joe. When my elderly relative, Adam, needed more help, I began visiting him on a regular basis. In doing so, I discovered that his long time friend, Joe, had been stealing money from Adam for quite a while. The whole story is too complicated to explain here, but I continued to treat Joe kindly and he didn’t know that I was aware of his dishonesty. After Adam had a stroke, the doctors declared him mentally incompetent. Joe then took me and the other three trustees of Adam’s estate to court in an attempt to get custody of Adam. During the court proceedings, Joe slandered me, but he did not win the case. I continued to treat him kindly and I prayed that he would someday have a relationship with Jesus. I hope he saw something of Christ in me. We did not keep in touch after Adam died.

 

When I trust God to be in control of my life, I don’t have to be paranoid or anxious about constantly protecting myself. Instead of worrying about what the other person is up to, I just need to ask God what He wants me to do. That frees me to look for the good in others, even when they’re taking advantage of my kindness. I am free to give them the benefit of the doubt until their actions prove them guilty. And if they are proven guilty, I’m free to forgive them, knowing God is, and always has been, in control.

Love Protects

The Bible says that love protects. (1 Corinthians 13:7)

When love is offended or aggravated, it forgives and is patient and protective. If I’m acting in love, I will protect the other person, even when they offend me. I will not speak negatively about them to someone else. I will keep the offense between the two of us and try to work it out.

 

If I’m acting in love, I will not reveal their weaknesses and offenses to others. (I am not addressing issues that require professional help, such as physical abuse, addictions, etc. I’m addressing situations where someone hurts my feelings or has habits that I find annoying, etc.)

 

If I’m acting in love, I will quietly endure the affronts and impositions, trusting the Lord to work things out. (I may lovingly and respectfully talk to the person about my feelings, but if they do not respond favorably, then love calls me to endure patiently and silently until the Lord changes their heart or the situation.)

 

I have learned that nothing good comes of confronting a person who does not have ears to hear, and it is harmful, not helpful, to say negative things about one person to another. Venting is best done privately with the Lord, or possibly with a trustworthy person who will pray for me and perhaps help me to see the situation from a different perspective.

 

In conclusion, before I speak or act, I should always pray for guidance. I need to let the Lord’s love, not my emotions, direct me.

Love Rejoices Over Truth Not Evil

The Bible says, “Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.”(1 Corinthians 13:6, NIV) This is, of course, referring to God’s standard of truth and evil. We live in a world that has it’s own definitions of truth and evil. So, our first task is to learn from the Bible what God defines as truth and evil. Once we have a clear understanding of what those terms mean, we can check to see if evil truly grieves us or not, and if truth truly delights us.

Before I was a Christian, I never considered myself to be a gossip, but if I’m saying negative things about one person to another just because I’m annoyed with them, that’s wrong. I have actually been guilty of saying negative things about my husband to our children! That can be very destructive to relationships. I ask God daily to reveal my sins to me and help me to change.

Back in the 1980s, I had the privilege of hearing about an amazing act of compassion and forgiveness. An older woman in our church was in a public restroom when a man attempted to rape her. Thankfully, the police got to her in time. In court, she gave the man a Bible and told him she forgave him! She could have rejoiced over the fact that he was being sent to jail, but she didn’t.

Do we ask God to reveal our sins to us (such as gossip or a lack of forgiveness)? How do we respond when He does? Do we confess and repent, or try to justify our actions? Are we thankful when He sheds the light of His truth on our sins? And how do we respond to the sins of others? Do we grieve, or do we look the other way or join in? When someone suffers the consequences of their sins, do we have compassion for them, or rejoice in their suffering?

What are we doing to bring the light of God’s truth to those around us?

These are questions for prayerful meditation. May the Lord reveal the truth about ourselves to us and help us to love like He does.

Love Keeps No Record of Wrongs

The Bible says love “…keeps no record of wrongs.” (1 Corinthians 13:5)

Love gives up its right to be angry and extends grace and mercy, instead. Jesus’ death on the cross is the supreme example of that. If He was willing to suffer and die for the sins I would commit against Him, then I should certainly follow His example in extending grace to others. My mind knows this, but my emotions need supernatural help to live it out. My first reaction, when offended, is to feel angry and want revenge. But with prayer, those feelings can be brought under control and God can give me His perspective on the situation and guide my response. Remembering that I’m not perfect helps me to forgive others.

 

To forgive means I choose to never again mention what the person did to offend me, to them or to others, (unless I have their permission to do so). I choose not to hold that offense against them.

 

In some cases, I may learn from experience that the person is not trustworthy and be aware of that fact, but I still choose to extend grace to them and treat them with respect.

 

Since I do not like people to use my past mistakes against me, I try not to do that to them. Erase the record. Start with a clean slate.