Incorruptible Love

1454516-bigthumbnailGrace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ with incorruptible love. (Ephesians 6:24)

We need to love Jesus with incorruptible love—love that is strong, vibrant, hopeful, undying, and life-altering. We’re going to love something with that kind of passion and strength, because we were created to love. God is love, and we’re created in His image, so that pursuit of love is in us. But if we love anything other than God Himself, the love is corruptible. We can actually even love God with corruptible love by skewing the truthfulness of His love when we return it to Him. But at least living His love gives us the potential to love with an incorruptible love.

Whatever we love most sets the trajectory of our lives. We glorify what we love most. We treasure what we love most. Whatever we love most gets the primary focus and goals.

Is it money? Then you’ll focus on decisions that impact how much money you make and what you can do with it.

Is it children? Then you’ll focus on decisions that determine best education, environment, provisions, activities, etc.

Is it career? Then you’ll focus on decisions that lead to the most success, experience, and position.

Is it pleasure? Then you’ll focus on the entertainment and personal enjoyment value of everything you do.

Is it comfort? Then you’ll focus on decisions that minimize risk.

These things aren’t bad things, but they don’t deserve your incorruptible love. That kind of love is reserved for God and God alone. Skewed focus leads to skewed outcomes.

So what can you do if you uncover a misguided weight of love? You can blame whatever it is that you’re trying so hard to love. It’s not measuring up. The results aren’t what you expected. But blaming isn’t going to help. After all, you shouldn’t be surprised. Just because you’re displacing love doesn’t mean God is going to honor your selfish desire to shift it from Him.

Or you can blame yourself. But self-loathing and shame aren’t going to be productive. You’re never beyond the reach of God’s love and correction. You could widen the circle of blame to include the world. “The world is against me this week.” “Do you know what’s wrong with the world?” (Fill in the answer: economics, liberalism, conservatism, world leaders, sports, men, women, and so on.) But you’ll end up cynical and empty.

Or you can reorient and reprioritize your life toward God. We need to be fully yielded and surrendered to God. Only He is intended to be the primary object of our love. Only His love is incorruptible. That means, only in our relationship with Him can we actually live out incorruptible love authentically. Why try anything or anyone else?

Accept.

Dear God, convict me of any area of my life in which I’m not loving well. I want You to be my priority. I know that doesn’t mean ignoring everything else in my life. That’s not Your will. But I don’t want to mis-assign value that is only intended for You. Encourage and challenge me through every situation and relationship today.

Seek.

How does the trajectory of your love reflect God’s love?

How do you need to redirect your love today?

Know.

He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it. (Matthew 10:37-39)

Love Without Seeing

The proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:7-9)

Believing in something we see doesn’t require faith. Believing something we don’t see requires faith. As we are faithful, we believe God, who we do not see. Sure, we see evidence of Him. We can know Him without seeing Him. We can have confidence that all His promises will be fulfilled, because who He is includes a faithfulness that cannot be broken.

Faith bridges the unseen world with the seen. The one who has faith is in the seen world; the one who is faithful and is the object and provider of faith is in the unseen. Faith gives eyes to the heart. And that’s how love without seeing and faith without seeing are tied together. They can’t be separated.

Although we have not seen God, we love Him. We have faith in Him, including His love, because love is His character. Although we don’t see God, we believe Him. And our faith includes love. Faith isn’t something of our heads; faith involves everything about us, including our hearts.

We don’t draw a straight line between faith and love, determining faith came first and provided access to, trust in, and respond to God’s love. Faith isn’t a requirement for God’s love. It exists whether or not we acknowledge or accept it. God’s love always has been, is, and will be, because God is love, and He always has been, is, and will be.

Also, love doesn’t have to precede faith. Our faith continues to grow and our understanding, acceptance, and expression of God’s love grows alongside each other. They weave in and out and blend together because they are never mutually exclusive. We have faith without seeing, and we accept and give God’s love without seeing. We don’t need to see or understand everything in order to live it out loud.

Consider these Scriptures that refer to sight.

For we walk by faith, not by sight. (2 Corinthians 5:7)

While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:18)

He said, “Go, and tell this people:

‘Keep on listening, but do not perceive;

Keep on looking, but do not understand.’

Render the hearts of this people insensitive,

Their ears dull,

And their eyes dim,

Otherwise they might see with their eyes,

Hear with their ears,

Understand with their hearts,

And return and be healed.” (Isaiah 6:9-10)

We don’t need sight to believe, and we don’t need sight to love. We love because God gives us His love. We love others because we love Him. We love because He created us in His image, and because He is love, we have His love instilled in us.

Accept.

Dear God, I want to love because You love me and give me the guidance and strength to love, not because I try to love in my own understanding and strength. I believe You. I believe who You are and who You say I am. I believe You can do anything and everything You say You can do—and You will. I will step out in full dependence and trust in You. I will love You with Your love. I will put no conditions on Your love, separating what I see and understand and what I don’t. I am Yours.

Seek.

How have you experienced the interdependency of faith and love?

How have you struggled with love without sight and understanding?

How will you live God’s love our loud today even when you don’t see the reason or completely comprehend the purpose?

Know.

As Jesus was approaching Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the road begging. Now hearing a crowd going by, he began to inquire what this was. They told him that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by. And he called out, saying, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Those who led the way were sternly telling him to be quiet; but he kept crying out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” And Jesus stopped and commanded that he be brought to Him; and when he came near, He questioned him, “What do you want Me to do for you?” And he said, “Lord, I want to regain my sight!” And Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has made you well.” Immediately he regained his sight and began following Him, glorifying God; and when all the people saw it, they gave praise to God. (Luke 18:35-43)

“To Mother” Day

flowersMother is most commonly used as a noun. It’s a name, an identity, a role. But it’s more…and less. The noun isn’t required as much as the verb is. I’ve seen a lot of women mother, some who could technically claim to be a mother and some who couldn’t. Look around and notice the mothering going on around you. Here’s a glimpse of what I’ve noticed. Thank you to those who mother.

To mother is to mourn the loss of the child you were supposed to adopt while consistently praying for him…and the mom who changed her mind.

To mother is to celebrate the life of your child regardless of how long you got to hold her…or even if you never got to hold her.

To mother is to wait and wait and wait, enduring months and years of scrutiny and paperwork, just for the opportunity to adopt.

To mother is to sleep beside a child…or lie awake beside a child…as you make sure tubes, needles, and other medical equipment does its job.

To mother is to say goodbye too soon, knowing a part of your heart will never return, yet trusting God’s purpose in the beautiful life you shared.

To mother is investing in the life of someone who calls someone else “mom” but longs for someone who loves with compassion and discipline.

To mother is to consistently learn about someone as she grows, not keeping her in a stage where she no longer is.

To mother is to question, listen, and speak only when necessary, trusting God to know when each of those moments and situations are.

To mother is to take care of someone, regardless of the age and expectations of the relationship.

To mother is to share…because none of us can do it all, and God never intended it that way.

To mother is to accept you don’t have all the answers. You’re learning and growing right alongside those you are mothering.

Each of us only has one biological mother, but if we’re limiting ourselves to be mothered by only one woman, we’re missing out. And if we’re only mothering those who can biologically claim we are their mothers, we are missing out, as are the people around us.

Celebrate this Mothers Day by mothering. Transform Mothers Day into Mothering Day. Relationships are worth the effort.

Fervent Love

PureLoveATAbove all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. (1 Peter 4:8)

Love covers a multitude of sins. Love repeatedly forgives. Love covers all transgressions. It leaves no gaps. It heals all wounds. It provides for all needs. Because it is who God is. He knows how important love is and instructs us to keep fervent in it. He knows the potential and power love has, and He doesn’t want us to miss any of it.

Keeping fervent indicates a commitment to intensity. It’s not just about fervency but also the abiding in it. We are to keep fervent. We must be intentional. We must pursue love for one another.

And if we don’t?

I think we all know what happens. We lose our focus on the love of God, we lose sight on His and our love for one another, and we end up in a disoriented mess. Life is going to be messy no matter what, because we don’t live in a perfect world. That’s not God’s plan for us at this time in this life. So, messes are a given. But when we live in those messes in the presence and will of God’s love, when we intentionally live it out loud with others, we find peace in the mess. We respect each other even when we disagree. We forgive each other when we offend. We reconcile instead of retaliate.

We keep fervent in God’s love when we accept His love. We keep fervent in God’s love when we seek Him. We keep fervent in God’s love when we know Him intimately. We keep fervent in God’s love when we are intentional in our relationship with Him. Even keeping fervent requires a commitment.

Everything about God requires commitment. Our relationship with Him is never a secondary option. It’s not a back-up plan. It’s His plan and His priority. We have faith His way. We live His way. We love His way. It’s not because He leaves us out of the equation; it’s because He loves us so much in the relationship. He knows and understands all. He created us and is invested in us. He is God.

He is love.

Accept.

Dear God, You are love. Thank You. Thank You for pouring into me, for loving me, and for helping me experience and live Your love out loud. I am committed to continually seeking You and living boldly for You. Amen.

Seek.

How committed are you to God’s love?

How are you committed to loving others with God’s love?

How fervent are you in the pursuit of loving God and others?

Know.

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. 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. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. We love, because He first loved us. If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also. (1 John 4:7-21)

Love in Community

PureLoveATLet us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds. (Hebrews 10:23-24)

When we encourage one another to love and good deeds, we share truth, build up one another, and hold one another accountable. What is accountability and what are the guidelines for a relationship of accountability?

Common ground. Accountability requires common ground. We can’t hold each other accountable for things we don’t agree upon. It doesn’t mean we have to exactly agree about everything, but if I’m going to hold you accountable, I at least have to meet you where you are, stand on common ground, and understand to what it is you’re asking me to hold you accountable. Common ground is a timing thing, too. We might agree on something but not be willing to make the joint commitment to stand together in a specific season. It might just mean that we’re working on different issues. God has us in different places throughout the seasons of our lives. We don’t live in a linear fashion that can be overlaid across everyone else’s lives. What you deal with today might be something I’m faced with in ten years and vice versa.

Respect. Accountability requires mutual respect. We can’t force someone into accountability. Bossiness isn’t the same as accountability. As much as we want something for someone else, without their willingness, our attempts to “hold them accountable” will just come off as insensitive correction. What we intend for support ends up looking and feeling like control.

Communication. Accountability requires ongoing communication. It can’t be effective in silence, because it’s the encouragement and challenges along the way that fuel accountability. Whether it’s a structured weekly time together or consistent unscheduled “check in” moments, asking and answering questions and inviting conversations along the journey are essential.

Authenticity. Accountability without authenticity is a farce. Transparency is key, because without it, we’re simply playing an ongoing game of charades. Authenticity is “being exactly and actually what is claimed,” and if you’re claiming who you want to be and who you are right now, accountability will support and guide you through the transformation. Without authenticity, any perceived transformation is a smokescreen for the necessary challenging changes essential for growth.

Humility. Accountability invites change, and change isn’t easy. Even when it excites us, we can quickly become uncomfortable as we actually begin to live through it. Change requires self-sacrifice. It requires setting ourselves aside in order to become something better. We die to ourselves in order to gain the better that God has planned. He uses others to help us, but we have to be willing to submit. It sounds harder than it actually is (although it’s certainly not easy). When we share common ground with someone we respect and are willing to authentically communicate with him or her, our ability to be humble becomes much easier.

We all need accountability in our lives. No one person will hold you accountable for absolutely everything, but we all have stuff in our lives—getting rid of junk and fostering healthy growth—that needs encouragement and conviction. God does the best job of holding us accountable, but He brings people into our lives to walk alongside. It’s part of encouraging one another toward love and good deeds to glorify Him.

Accept.

Dear God, accountability isn’t the easiest thing to foster in my life, because it requires vulnerability. But I want to trust You in that vulnerability. I want to honor You by living life authentically alongside others and inviting honest sharing with others. Help me to honor You in all I say and do, whether You personally convict me or use others to challenge me. I know You provide as I yield. I place myself in Your hands and care.

Seek.

What accountability relationships do you currently have?

How are you growing in your accountability relationships?

What, if any, of the factors in today’s reading are missing from your accountability relationships?

Have you misconstrued accountability in any way?

Are you open to welcoming and ending accountability relationships, both on the giving and receiving end, as God intends and guides?

Know.

Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. (Proverbs 27:17)

News Love

PureLoveATI thank my God always, making mention of you in my prayers, because I hear of your love and of the faith which you have toward the Lord Jesus and toward all the saints. (Philemon 1:4-5)

We are encouraged when we hear about others who are living a faithful life of God’s love. Seeing how God has poured into others’ lives challenges us to trust and live in God’s love more fully. We can praise God because of how He moves in any life, not just ours. Today, take a moment to hear from my friend Gloria, and praise God for the love He provides for each of us.

My childhood was far from perfect. My mother passed away of an aneurysm when I was eight years old, which was just the beginning of the biggest transition of my life. Within 12 months, I found myself with my single dad, soon to be followed by a new step-mom, immigrated to the States, dropped off in the middle of the United States (literally, I was taken to Olathe, Kansas, to live with my maternal grandparents), taken to a school filled with people who didn’t understand a single word I said, and had to say good-bye to my dad who went to go live in Los Angeles. That’s a lot of changes for an eight-year-old in 12 months! I was too young to process any of this as a young child.

The next few years weren’t any easier. I lived with my relatives in Kansas for four years, moved to Los Angeles to live with my dad, step-mom, and half-brother at the age of 13, started new school at the height of puberty, went through many identity crises, and struggled through my relationship with my step-mom throughout high school. Life wasn’t easy: I had many tearful nights as a teenager.  My big saving grace was that God had surrounded me with amazing family members who got me through the very tough, emotionally-charged times. However, I often questioned God about why my life was the way it was.

Fast forward to Father’s Day 1994. I was in college, and a few of us had volunteered to lead kids in a Sunday afternoon program at church. We had decided to do a special project on this Sunday, probably the most popular craft that is done on this day every year: A TIE-card for Father’s Day! We probably thought we were brilliant to come up with the craft. As we passed out the cut out tie-cards, a third grade boy with the cutest chipmunk face you’ve ever seen looked up at me and said, “Teacher Gloria, do you have a dad?” I felt blood rushing to my face. How could we have been so insensitive to this kid?  We all knew that he had lost his dad not too long ago. Our conversation continued:

Me: You know what?  I do have a dad… but you have something I don’t have.

G: What?

Me: You have a mom…. I don’t have a mom.  I have a dad, but you don’t have a dad.  Why don’t we go to that bench and talk?  You don’t have to do this craft…

This conversation with an adorable third grader forever changed the way I interact with kids. That evening, I realized how God used my past experiences to talk to him, and it was even healing for me. The following year, I began an internship in children’s ministry and have been in vocational children’s ministry since. Countless times, I have been able to talk to kids about death, absent parents, stepparents, pain, and the not-so-perfect life! I have become a lot more sensitive to kids who are hurting, and I also learned to share the hurts in my life with the kids I minister to so they can know that they have someone who understands hardship. I’m sensitive to the hurts and baggage kids carry, and I understand that some of these hurts never go away.

I believe that God used my childhood experiences to prepare me for my ministry.  Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would go into ministry to children, but as I look back, I believe God had been preparing me all along.  Now, I can’t imagine doing anything else but to minister to kids and share the love of Jesus with them.

Accept.

Dear God, I am yours. I don’t want to compare my story to anyone else’s. I don’t want to make excuses that I am the exception to Your provision. I don’t want to belittle anyone else because of where they are or where they’ve been even when my intentions are simply to help them. I know that when I disrespect others or even myself, I am disrespecting You because You made us in Your image. I am sorry. I know that You have brought people together in community in order to do life together, including sharing the messy journeys. I want to honor You in the journey, and I want to honor You in the sharing. Thank you for providing for my life through others and in their lives through me. I am humbly Yours to use.

Seek.

How have you been impacted by others’ stories?

What excites you about sharing your stories, your life with others?

What daunts you about sharing your stories, your life with others?

Considering that your story is really God’s story revealed through you, how will you live and share your life authentically today?

Know.

My mouth shall tell of Your righteousness

And of Your salvation all day long;

For I do not know the sum of them.

I will come with the mighty deeds of the Lord God;

I will make mention of Your righteousness, Yours alone.

O God, You have taught me from my youth,

And I still declare Your wondrous deeds.

And even when I am old and gray, O God, do not forsake me,

Until I declare Your strength to this generation,

Your power to all who are to come. (Psalm 71:15-18)

Love of Money

PureLoveATFor the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. But flee from these things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness. (1 Timothy 6:10-11)

Money isn’t in and of itself evil. What’s being confronted isn’t the money but the harmful desires in our lives. Possessions aren’t evil; our attitude toward them can be. When our pursuit of anything encroaches upon our pursuit of God, we are wandering away. We have choices in our pursuit. We pursue whatever we focus upon, whatever we allow to take space in our hearts.

Anything can get in the way of our relationship with God. And our attitudes toward money can certainly edge into that relationship. We can also use the teachings God gives us about the love of money and consider how we love other things in our lives in similar ways. Let’s not take the easy route and say, “I don’t have a love of money” and discount the lessons He is teaching us. We all have loves other than God, and while they might not all be evil, we certainly need to keep them in perspective, placing our love of God above all else at all times.

We’re in danger when we think we’re the sole reason we have the money we have. It’s part of loving money. The provisions we have, money and otherwise, are because God has allowed them in our lives. When we begin to take credit and ownership where He doesn’t intend for us to have it, we step into pride. God intends our relationship with Him to always include humility.

God’s Word also teaches us not to cling to money when God takes it away or directs us to give it away. If He separates it from us, we aren’t to cling to it like a child throwing a fit in the store because we didn’t get what we wanted. We do the same with many things in our lives, not just money. When we cling to anything more tightly than we cling to God, we cannot fully receive and give as He intends. He wants us to live with our hands and hearts wide open, ready and willing to give and receive as He guides, not as we prefer.

Yet another lesson we learn from Scripture concerning money is that we’re not to show favor to those who have it or mistreat or ignore those who don’t. Money isn’t grounds for favor. Neither is beauty, knowledge, position, experience, family, and many other things we use as a determining factor of who should get our attention and preference.

God teaches us that we’re not to seek wealth. That doesn’t mean that wealth is bad; He just doesn’t want it to be what we seek. That position and focus belongs only to His kingdom. God adds anything of His kingdom into our lives that He wills, but we seek His kingdom. He fills in all the details.

As our love for money grows, we’ll get selfish in trying to protect it. We’ll put it on show. We’ll lie to keep it. We’ll compromise other areas in our lives. Anytime we sin because of our love of money, we betray the heart God has given us to love Him, His righteousness, and truth.

We can’t and shouldn’t ignore money. We must steward well whatever God provides. Ignoring it is mishandling it. God doesn’t tell us to hate money. He says not to love it. Don’t replace Him as the focus of your love with money…or anything else.

Accept.

Dear God, I don’t want to love money. It’s so difficult to avoid the love of money with the constant barrage of pressures to place value of financial status. But I know it’s not a money issue as much as a heart issue. And my heart issues aren’t just about the love of money. Show me any area of my life which I’m rivaling against or alongside You. Nothing and no one compares to You, but I don’t always live that way, and I know I dishonor You in the process. Please forgive me. I am Yours, and I want to grow in Your will and toward Your presence with each step I take, each choice I make.

Seek.

What clues in your life point to a love of money?

What other “loves,” besides money, lesson, overshadow, or distract you from the love of God?

How will you love God above all things in your life today?

Know.

But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:20-21)