Fervent Love

pureloveblogAbove 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.

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.

Love Without Seeing

pureloveblogThe 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.

 

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.

Love in Community

pureloveblogLet 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.

 

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.

News Love

pureloveblogI 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.

 

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.

Love of Money

pureloveblogFor 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.

 

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.

Perseverance with Truth

pureloveblogPrescribe and teach these things. Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe. Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching. Do not neglect the spiritual gift within you, which was bestowed on you through prophetic utterance with the laying on of hands by the presbytery. Take pains with these things; be absorbed in them, so that your progress will be evident to all. (1 Timothy 4:11-15)

“Why won’t they listen?”

It’s frustrating to say something and be either ignored or attacked, and it happens even when we’re speaking God’s truth. Sometimes the attacks get personal. People tell us we can’t possibly know what we’re talking about. We’re too young, too old, uneducated, misinformed, naïve, and so on. We want to teach because sharing is part of God’s love, but what happens when people don’t listen?

NEWSFLASH. Not everyone reads the Bible. Not everyone believes the Bible is God’s Holy Word. Not everyone even believes God exists, and if they recognize any glimpse of God at all, it’s often a “Googled” god, where they’ve picked and chosen what they want to believe to be true about God. When we share with others who seem disinterested or antagonistic, let’s remember that it’s not comfortable to become humble, admit you’re not in control, seek and accept who God is, trust Him, dig into Scripture and be changed by it, and obey God and His Word. Change is uncomfortable and inconvenient.

We can’t assume that just telling people what’s in the Bible is going to convict them to change their lifestyles. I’m not saying we shouldn’t share what’s in the Bible. We need to share whatever God says we’re supposed to share. We can only know what and when and with whom to share by knowing God ourselves. We can sometimes know the content of His Word well enough to quote it with verses appropriate for just about any situation, but that doesn’t mean God’s Word has permeated our lives and is pouring out of us. God’s Word only permeates our lives and pours out of us as we study and read it through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, then live it out loud with the same guidance. We live God’s Word out loud…and sometimes we use words.

God’s Word tells us we’re not going to be understood by everyone in the world, so why are we surprised? We feel isolated and ignored, misunderstood and mistreated, but the reality is we’re often playing a game of Sardines. In case you’ve never played, it’s a bit like Hide-and-Seek, but one person hides then everyone else searches on their own. When someone finds the hider, they stay hidden in that same place together. More and more people are added (and packed in as sardines) as they each find the original hiding place. The goal is for everyone to be found, and they end up together.

Of course, God doesn’t intend for us to stay in the dark, and He doesn’t intend for us to live isolated lives, even in groups. We meet God in his Word,  then live it out loud in the world. Meet with others to study and worship, then live God’s truth and biblical community out loud in the world.

Don’t expect the world to change. Let God be in charge of you; invite Him to change you. He’s in charge of the world, and He can change it in whatever timing He wants.

Dear God, when I get frustrated with the way other people respond to me sharing God’s love and truth, I know I am counterproductive. I get paralyzed or angry or defensive, and I don’t reflect You through the process. Convict me anytime I stray from Your will. I don’t want this to be about me. I only want to honor You. When I teach, whether in words or through actions, remind me Your teaching is always about learning. The only way people will learn through my teaching is if I am yielding to You fully. Even then, I understand each person has the choice whether or not to obey, including the people with whom I’m sharing. Thank You for taking my humble attempts to share You and using them in a way people can receive. May all my words, attitudes, and actions point directly to You.

Location of Love

pureloveblogThe grace of our Lord was more than abundant, with the faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus. (1 Timothy 1:14)

Love is found in Christ Jesus. It’s important to know, because without knowing where something can be found, we don’t know where to look. God doesn’t uncover every mystery, but this is one He wants us to know. He longs for us to know where we can find love, because He wants us to live it out. And we find it in Him, in Jesus. God doesn’t play hide-and-seek with us. He wants to be found. He wants to be in a growing relationship with us and that requires intimacy.

We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth. We will know by this that we are of the truth, and will assure our heart before Him in whatever our heart condemns us; for God is greater than our heart and knows all things. (1 John 3:6-20)

Jesus demonstrated sacrificial love with perfection when He “emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:7-8)

Love, in order to be God’s love, isn’t limited by feelings and words but must be demonstrated through actions. Jesus lived love out loud by speaking words of comfort, speaking difficult words of truth, meeting people’s physical needs, healing people who were sick or injured, and more. But His greatest demonstration of love was His willingness to die a horrific death on a cross. His death was unjust in order to justify others’ lives. His death was the most sacrificial demonstration of God’s love ever. Jesus is our perfect example of love, and it is through Him we live love out loud. It is in Him we find love.

We have hundreds of opportunities to demonstrate God’s love every day. We start by choosing God. He’s present where you are, where you’ve been, and where you’re going. He’s not silent, so you won’t have trouble finding Him. But maybe you don’t want to find Him—or You want to find Him when it’s convenience to you, but there are times and situations that are easier to keep to yourself. Maybe you’d rather worship your right to choose. God will allow your choice. He loves you too much to force you to love Him. You likely don’t realize how much He loves you and is passionately pursuing you, mainly because you don’t want to see and acknowledge him. Choose your god of choice over God, and God will painfully let your choices play out.

But He loves you and wants more for you. He wants Jesus for you. He wants love—His love—for you. And He’s not just saying or feeling it; He’s demonstrating it.

 

Dear God, I don’t want to play hide and seek. I know it’s just a charade. No more hiding for me. Thank You for seeking me. I am seeking and finding You. Thank You for Jesus and His amazing demonstration of love. I will step out in faith and live love out loud to honor and praise You.