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Tag: love

Love: as simple as it gets

by Mindy Kiker

Simple Love by JLHopgood
Flickr.com_6816878933_eab6c660b1_CC BY-ND

Everything in the Christian life pivots on the events we celebrate this time of year. Jesus was born, lived a sinless life, and offered Himself as a perfect sacrifice to set us free. Am I the only one who feels uncomfortable that Jesus had to suffer torture, scourging, mocking, and finally a slow, brutal death?

Why couldn’t He destroy the grip of sin and death with some fire power? I personally like Peter’s approach, when he hauled out his sword to defend his Messiah and cut off the soldier’s ear. All of me cries out, “Yeah, Baby, don’t let them take you without a fight!”

Can you tell that God’s ways are not my ways? If I were designing the redemption of humanity, I would have sent Jesus to earth to create His kingdom through a political revolution. Wouldn’t it have been impressive to lead a fiery revolt against all the other nations of the world and establish a physical kingdom for God’s chosen people?

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A Love-Sized Hole

by Mindy Kiker

Image by Jay Joslin
Flickr.1136261527_57561d94cb_CC BY NC ND 2.0

Love can be confusing–a powerful force responsible for the pleasure and pain of life. Loving means opening a doorway to the joy of belonging, but also to the agony of betrayal or loss. If you do not love, you will not hurt, nor will you truly be alive. At times, this deep urge that God has written into our hearts for connection and intimacy with others feels like a trap or a quandary. Read the rest of this entry »

First Love

by Rob Dunne

Image by Heart Bible
Flickr.com_6287240997_53ff1460da_CC BY ND 2.0

“But I have this complaint against you. You don’t love me or each other as you did at first!” Revelation 2:4

My wife Kellie and I have been married for over seven years. Most people will say that the honeymoon period is long since over. I disagree. Every morning, I look forward to waking up next to her. After a long day at work, I anxiously await seeing her when I arrive at home. I cherish the time we spend discussing the events of our respective days. On these cold winter nights, lying close to one another at the end of the day is warming and comforting.

Maintaining intimacy doesn’t come easily – Kellie and I put work into our relationship. For instance, we have a weekly date night. Once a week we sit down and ask each other questions from a book entitled, “The Navigator’s Council”. Though the questions are the same each week, they often spark interesting and thought provoking conversations. Spending time with each other in these ways strengthens our intimacy.

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Repentance: Feel the Love

by Mindy Kiker

Image by Jason Watson Flicker.com_deviantmonk_8khVEE-4P7_CC BY-ND 2.0

Image by Jason Watson
Flicker.com_deviantmonk_8khVEE-4P7_CC BY-ND 2.0

Love your enemies, do good to them….Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Luke 6:35-36

Love is tough. It’s gritty and glorious. I struggle to love people when I’m disappointed in them, or in myself, or with life in general. Sometimes I come across less like a lover and more like an accuser. You don’t want to know me when I get into striving mode with a long to-do list and a tight time schedule with little margin. I inevitably start to feel the strain, but instead of dealing with my own heart before The Lord, I like to start first by blaming others:

It’s the kids’ problem–they’re so disobedient. Why did I have so many children?

It’s my husband’s problem–he’s not at all helpful. Why didn’t I stay single?

It’s my many obligations–why didn’t I say “No!”? What was I thinking?

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Consider the Serpent

by Mike McKinniss

For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it (Luke 9:24, ESV).

Consider the serpent.

He has but one instinct: self-preservation. Survive and produce progeny—that is his one and only goal. But mostly, it’s about survival. It’s about himself.

Look at him, flicking his tongue through deviously curled lips. Always in search of his next meal, the snake is never satiated. A gluttonous beast.

The serpent roams the forest floor alone. Ever solitary, he has no companion, desires no companion. But for fleeting utilitarian encounters with the opposite sex—and this only to preserve his line—he would eternally be a low-lying island.

Oh, the serpent is not indifferent to the rest of the world. He is not solipsistic. But to the snake, every other living thing, if it is not food, is an enemy. See how he curls himself up in a tangled thicket—the only embrace he will ever receive. It is protection the serpent seeks.

The serpent is driven by fear, and so must protect his life at all costs. Fear compels him to cast a slitted eye toward every creature. Wary of all, the serpent is intent on grasping tightly to his own life. He has no room in his heart for anything save himself.

Now he slithers in the dust, for his fear has brought him low.

But you are no serpent.

You are not made for fear. You are not made to cling and protect, to scratch and claw for your own existence. You are not designed to use others for your own benefit alone, to regard the world as existing for your sole benefit. The fear and solitude of the serpent’s life is not yours.

A child of God, you are made for love.

A voice you were given. A voice to reveal the innermost parts of yourself and to share your secret thoughts. Likewise, two ears hang on either side of your skull to listen to another’s story and so commune with the world. Moreover, a heart beats within your chest, a heart that longs to swell within the embrace of another.

You are made for love, and a life of love desires to stretch itself, to touch all the world—not to overpower and subsume, but to know and to be known. Love longs to serve the world.

But to live so is to risk, for a serpent lies in wait. Strike he will, often without warning or provocation. And he may, with a flash of fang and a shock of pain, inject poison into your veins. To live from love is to open yourself to death.

Die you may.  Nay, die you will. But when you live from a place of love and seek not to preserve yourself, when you reject fear and its solitude, you live as you are created. Vulnerable you may seem, yet you live and you die in the safest place on earth. For the life of love rests in the arms of the resurrecting God of love.

Love, and you will rise to new life, while the serpent remains on his belly.

A Life Well Lived

by mymorethanme

Seven years ago my husband and I gave away most of our belongings, packed our Ford F-150 pickup with necessities and said goodbye to friends and family. We drove to Nashville with our two young boys, following God on a grand adventure. Overflowing with faith and hope we joyfully followed God’s leading, tearfully longing for home, yet excitedly expectant for what lay ahead.

Our Nashville years were nothing like what we had anticipated. We knew John was being called to attend a ministry school, but we learned quickly and acutely we were going to have to let go of all our preconceived expectations. God is an unconventional teacher who does not merely nudge us to think outside the box; He will, if allowed, obliterate the box.

“Wisdom that emanates from God is found only in dying to all things…” Jean Guyon

Sadly, in just seven years, forgetfulness, like a fog, has settled in. (How many times did God admonish the Israelites to remember?) Looking back I now recall how God sustained us in our wilderness. How he met our every need as we lived on faith following only Him. We had no steady or secure source of income, no health insurance, and no home to which to return. We had God and He was more than enough. He met our every need in countless, astounding, miraculous ways. We were blessed to be able to report multiple accounts of His goodness, grace, mercy, provision, and love.

Lately I have (again) been tussling with expectations. I know God is beckoning me into a time of stirring growth and destiny, and while this is exhilarating, it also leaves me feeling apprehensive. I battle what-ifs in regard to an ongoing health issue. I question my worth in receiving the funds necessary for this venture.  I wonder if I’ve really got what it takes to be who God made me to be. To top it off, I find myself overly concerned with others’ opinions (or my own opinion of myself).  

You see, at thirty-seven, I only have twelve credits left to complete my bachelor’s degree. Shouldn’t I resume this long standing, oft-interrupted pursuit? Shouldn’t I, “the student”, the one who in high school was accepted to Syracuse University early decision and with endless, lofty career goals, finally finish this remaining semester and get my stinkin’ degree already? Yes, I believe I should; and I believe one day I will. However, God’s timing and ways are not mine, and neither is His logic.

Moving our young family to Nashville, letting go of our apartment and business, and our plans and dreams for our future to follow God to who knows where for who knows how long seemed ridiculously irresponsible. Yet, while it was the most difficult move we ever made, it was also, by far, the most wise and fruitful.

We all spend our lives on something. Time, like money, is invested. What drives our passions, plans and pursuits? Is it pleasure? Comfort? Security? Recognition? Acceptance? Avoidance of pain or rejection? When all’s said and done, what will we have lived for? What will we have lived from?

I used to live for and from myself. Years ago God saved me from drug and alcohol addiction, eating disorders and other self-destructive behaviors. I no longer live with debilitating depression or anxiety, and when I am at peace in God’s presence I no longer fear rejection or strive to please man. I have found true pleasure, comfort, security, and acceptance in knowing and being known by God. Today I choose to live for and from Him, for and from Love. I don’t do it perfectly, but this is my lofty goal now–the only goal in which I have found myself truly filled, satisfied and alive.

So once again I am letting go. I will remember to remember. I am not living for me or for man, I am living for Love. The return is eternal and impactful beyond measure. More of Him and less of me means more in me to give to you and Him. My life is not my own, it’s His; and His is mine. This is the life I choose. This is my life well lived.

“The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps” (Proverbs 16:9).

edited caleb walking 2

Learning to be loved

by mandyade

LoveisintheAir_SusanaFernandezhttps://www.flickr.com/photos/susivinh_CC BY-ND4.0

LoveisintheAir_SusanaFernandezhttps://www.flickr.com/photos/susivinh_CC BY-ND4.0

Peter was famous for asserting his love and commitment to Jesus, even when he couldn’t live up to his vows. Peter was deeply loved by God, but Peter did not place his significance on how much he was loved, but on how much he loved.

Peter saw himself as the man who loved Jesus, his identity was in his own love and commitment to the Lord, after all he had left all to follow Jesus. Peter’s human love and strength became Peter’s source of significance, which would become Peter’s downfall.

It was only when Peter’s love was put to the test that he realized that human strength is a bubble, a foolish place to put ones identity and significance. I believe it was during the time of Peter’s triple failure that he realized there was something wrong with his thinking.

John was very different to Peter. He saw himself as the man who was loved by Jesus. He identified himself as the ‘beloved’ one and he spoke of the times when he lay on Jesus breast. The most significant moments for John were not the moments when he was performing well, but when he discerned God’s love. This is who John was because this is how John saw himself, John came into agreement with God about who he truly was; God’s beloved.

When John’s and Peter’s love was tested Peter ran away (because human strength alone is not enough). John remained at the cross and even inherited Jesus’ mother because John was not living by the strength of his own love but by the strength of another’s unfailing love. John had tasted how to live from love, not for love. For John understood that he was already deeply loved and all his significance came from how God loved him.

We are all Christ’s beloveds, but only those who believe it and place their identity on it will live in that position.

 

 

 

So This Is Love

by mymorethanme

bros7

My two rowdy boys were outside playing after school with their friends, our neighbors. A fence divides our property from theirs. Johnny was running from our side of the fence (the grassy side) while Gabe was running from our neighbor’s (the driveway side). Not seeing the other one coming they crashed head-on at full speed, each thrown to the ground by the force of the impact. Gabe’s grinding asphalt landing was grittier than Johnny’s grass cushioned fall. Both of Gabe’s knees, his arm, shoulder, and chest took a bloody beating. He jumped up and raced home, adrenaline pumping, face and lips a gray-white ashen pallor, feeling nauseous and close to passing out. Johnny followed, slowly limping behind, helped by his friend, chest aching, unable to clearly speak with the wind knocked out of him. He managed to squeak through tears, “I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt him. It was an accident. I’m so sorry. It was my fault.”

Gabe forgave Johnny immediately. “Johnny, it wasn’t your fault. We were both running. Like you said, it was an accident.”

The next morning at breakfast Gabe, terribly stiff and sore, with bandages covering leaky, oozing, gooey wounds, brightly piped up, “Hey Johnny, I’m glad I was on the driveway side. I’m glad it wasn’t you!” Our ever-competitive, spunky youngest responded, “What, you’re saying you’re tougher than me?” Gabe gently replied, “No, I’m just older than you and can handle the pain better. I’m glad to take this so you don’t have to.”

I am always blown away when I see Jesus in my sons. And I am always amazed when love and joy are extracted from pain and suffering.

Jesus left the comfort and security of His heavenly home, becoming one of us to become one with us. He took on flesh to be torn apart so we would never have to be apart from Him. He became the sin and darkness He so despised so we could become the glory and light in His Father’s eyes. He emptied Himself, He gave His all, He poured out His love–and it was His call. He wasn’t coerced; He was willing to die. He chose suffering–to be the least, the last, the lowliest–and He told us why.

“I’m glad to take this so you don’t have to.”

Love is a costly choice. It did not come from a posh store and it is not wrapped in glitter and gold, perfectly packaged under a six-foot spruce. It came from a poor stable, wrapped in rags, birthed through tears and pain under a starlit, not so silent night. It is not easy, comfortable, self-preserving, or safe. It is hard, disturbing, sacrificial, and risky. It is peace past calm, joy beyond happiness. Its reward is not recognition, fame, or fortune. Its reward is itself. It is not an it. It is a Him. He is Jesus. Immanuel. God with us.

And He is Love.

Love Me

by Dawn Aldrich

“Your unfailing love will last forever. Your faithfulness is as enduring as the heavens.” Psalm 89:2 NLT

“I need someone to love me!” she shouts impatiently from her princess toddler bed.

“I’ll be right there,” Mama reassures her, “as soon as I lay your baby brother down.”

Oh isn’t that the cry of everyone’s heart? Toddler princess or not, we selfishly desire love–an all-knowing, unfailing, soul-deep love. We crave attention, reassurance that our existence matters; that who we are in this great big world makes a difference to someone

Mama finally arrives and kneels beside her bed.

“My heart is so full of love, Mama, so I need to love you,” the toddler princess explains. “And, I need someone to love me.”

Isn’t that the way unfailing love cycles? Love fills and spills and fills again – without fail – without fear. Perfect love never fails.

Through reassuring whispers and gentle strokes, Mama’s hands run through her hair until the princess toddler’s breath falls into a peaceful rhythm. Mama’s love expels her fears and sleep comes for perfect love casts out all fears.

“Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear.” 1 John 4:18

If Mama loves her little girl with such perfect love, how much more does our heavenly Papa love us? How perfect is His love for us that casts out fears much greater than the monsters under our princess beds? How much more can he fill our hearts with an everlasting, unfailing love – a love that always satisfies, always fills to overflowing?

Heavenly Papa,

Love me, today. Fill my heart with your perfect love. Fill my heart to overflowing that your love spills onto those around me. Become the object of my love, God, so that when I love, it’s you they see, not me. Amen.

I Thought I Knew What Love Looked Like

by Dawn Aldrich

firstloved

The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them. John 14:21

“Most live life with love gone much unsaid.” These narrated words from a new BBC series pricked my heart as I thought about all the years I withheld my love from my father; repressed my childhood affection from the one who walked away and yet returned with a repentant heart. We’d lost so much time play-acting our roles as father and daughter all those Saturdays of my youth, that when he returned in my college days, I didn’t know what to do. Showing affection was awkward, at least, and risky. I allowed the fear of rejection to build an impenetrable fortress around my heart, keeping everyone at arm’s length, especially my father.

We lived most of the rest of his life with love gone much unsaid until God took hold of my heart about nine years ago. That’s when God pried open my soul and revealed to me my earthly father through His eyes. For the first time, I was able to accept him for who God created him to be and honor all his traits in me without shame. But it wasn’t enough to only ponder these revelations alone. God challenged me to forgive my father face-to-face and to speak my love out loud to him (talk about fear and risk). It took me a long seven months of God working on me to gain the courage to face my father and risk it all, but I’m glad I did.

My earthly father passed over a year ago knowing how much I loved him and forgave him. We left no words unsaid, he and I. I thought his passing restored all lost love between us and ended my father journey, but recently God taught me differently. For I learned that I could not possibly know what a father’s love looked like (or felt like) without experiencing it first. While God restored my love for my earthly father, it was far from that innocent, untainted love between a father and his daughter. My heart yearned for that which was lost from my childhood; a love that now only God himself could restore, for my earthly father was gone.

I stood amongst a few others while the leader of the small group stood on a chair above me, putting me in the posture of a young girl and her father. He then recited my personalized scripture as though God were reading it himself:

I cherish you with an unending, undying love. I pull you near and hold you close with my absolute, dependable kindness. Though your world be shaken and the familiar be removed, still my love for you remains–my boundless, unending, immovable love. My covenant, my word, my promise of peace also remains, for I AM tender, gentle and compassionate towards you, always. (Jeremiah 31:3, Isaiah 54:10 personalized)

In that moment I felt four-years-old again, standing beside my father, protected and encircled in his love. God stirred my heart like never before, lavishing His love on me in such a way words cannot adequately explain. Not only was it a time of restorative love of an earthly experience from my childhood, but more so a present and breakthrough experience of the depth of God’s love for me as my heavenly Father.

Jesus said, “A new command I give to you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13:34 NIV). How can we adequately love another if we have not experienced that love from Jesus first? We can read how Jesus loved and try to love as he did, but we cannot offer the extent of his love unless we first experience it from him. This teaching blew me away (First Loved to Love seminar by Rev. Mark Fee). All these years, I’ve tried to love my father as Jesus had taught me to love and honor him, but I hadn’t experienced that type of father-daughter love from my heavenly Father at all. It hadn’t even crossed my mind to ask for it.

So, how do we love as Jesus love so that we in turn can love others? One way, as Mark Fee teaches, is personalizing love scriptures like I did above. Then, read it aloud several times (I found it most  effective when someone else reads it to me, like my husband) until you can actually feel the Holy Spirit’s presence. Then ask the Holy Spirit to embellish His thoughts regarding this scripture for you personally. Record what He says to you and meditate on that throughout your day. And in addition, love others as God is loving you.

All these years I thought I knew what loved looked like, but God is showing me so much more. He is showing me how high, how wide, how deep is His love. He’s longing to show you, too. Won’t you risk it?

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