love

The Israelites: A Special Kind of Love

Over the last two years, the love of God has perplexed and overwhelmed me. I mean, like really. How can anyone love me that much and invest so much in me, and continually welcome me back when I fail and miss the mark time after time? How can someone love me past my pain and my insecurities, past my faults and disloyalty, past my wicked heart and my selfish ways? For real. A love so deep that vows to restore and heal. It’s interesting that the Spanish word for ‘deep’ is profundo, which looks a lot like the English word ‘profound.’ The idea of profound is something that goes beyond one’s normal thinking and understanding. Therefore, God’s love is so profound that it goes beyond our finite comprehension. His love is so unique and so pure that nothing can separate us from His love; it is unconditional, specifically to those of us who surrender our lives to Him. In the Bible we see words like everlasting, eternal, true, perfect, and never failing used to describe His love for His children. How insane is it that I can always count on God to love me and hold His arms out no matter what. Granted that does not give me the right to take that love for granted or assume the Lord won’t show tough love when necessary, hence the Israelites.

Throughout the various studies and readings, especially in the Old Testament, the depth of God’s love is demonstrated by His commitment to the Israelites, His chosen people. Reading through the prophets, the lives of their kings, and even when they first came out of Egypt, the Israelites were trippin. Just in a book like Hosea, one of the tribes were accused of having a spirit of prostitution. What?! Furthermore, good kings were few and far between, for most of the kings of Judah and Israel were terrible and got progressively worse from one to the next, and the people tended to follow the leadership. God on so many occasions threatened them in many ways and claimed that He would turn away from them, and He often made good on His word, and as I read His words in Scripture, I imagine His fed up, rolling His eyes and smh face, so much that I wouldn’t be surprised if He cussed them out on multiple occasions (no He didn’t, let me be clear), because the Israelites put their God through so much crap for centuries. My brother wrote a poem some years ago called, “Thank God I’m not God,” or something similar and that poem is ridiculously accurate just looking at the relationship between Yahweh and the Israelites, because I know for a fact that if I was God, I would have walked away and never looked back.

But that’s why I can’t be God.

Even though the Lord disciplined them, sometimes severely – they were wilin’ – they never had to wonder if God loved them, because He was slow to anger and His anger did not last long, and He always reminded them of who they were and of the covenant He made with their fathers. He was quick to restore and to redeem and desired to bestow His awesome favor upon them when they got their lives together. (There were many good years in between the not so good.)

The more I read, the more I study, the less I understand the love of God. It’s so…indescribable. How can a God that big, love little ole’ me that much? I have nothing to offer Him that He needs or could make His living better or more meaningful; He needs to depend on me for absolutely nothing, but I need Him just to write this blog. He has every reason and right to be distant, short-tempered, and arrogant, but in His flawless character, He chooses to be jealous for my love and chose to give His life in order to prove to me how much He desired me and wanted to have a relationship with me. I am on the verge of tears writing this, because I am just considering how great His love really is and how undeserving of it I am, but His love is mercy and grace, just as it was with the Israelites, for as He chose them to be His people, He chose me before time began to be His daughter, just like He chose you to be His child. He loves you and He loves me because He said He would. Be you for a purpose and bask in the big, strong, special kind of love that will carry you through the fires and deep drowning waters of your life, even if you set the fire or jumped in the pool yourself.

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Enemies

You can’t live a life of any type of significance without making enemies, or haters, if I may use that word. Now using these terms, I am not talking about people that legitimately just don’t like you or people that just don’t care for you as a person, because not everyone meshes well with everybody, you learned that in pre-school. We each are drawn to different types of people, and the people you hang with may not be my cup of tea. These people are not your enemies. Rather, enemies are those who seem to be on an assignment to destroy your life or disrupt your road to fulfilling God’s purpose for your life, and the scary part is that they don’t always show their true colors right away, and some we don’t recognize before it’s too late, because their maneuvers are very subtle. Of course, the Enemy and all of Hell’s demons become your enemies once you surrender your life over to Christ, but I don’t want to talk about them specifically.

So where is all this coming from? Well I have been reading Max Lucado’s book, “Facing Your Giants,” which goes through the life of David, and he pointed out that during the time David was on the run from Saul, there was an incident when he cut off a part of Saul’s garment without him knowing it, and later felt bad about it. The lesson learned is that even though our enemies are our enemies, they still belong to God, no matter what position they are in, whether they are friends, co-workers, parents, ministers, siblings, or even those people you really can’t fathom how or when they became your enemy. For David, Saul’s pursuit was driven by jealousy and envy, which in my opinion is the common determining factor, meaning that people out of their own misery and insecurities do what they can to bring you down with them or try to get over you.

Nevertheless, recognizing who our enemies may be, it’s easy to begin to talk bad about them, build a false sense of pride, and if you let it, you begin to hate them. The problem here is that hating someone the Bible classifies as murder, God vividly says He hates pride, and slander is always condemned in scripture, so obviously, should we get to these points, we need to reevaluate our heart and motives, because if the Lord truly is trying to elevate us and use us in ways that only He can, we must get rid of all these things. If for no other reason, James reminds us not to tear them down, even though these persons are our enemies and may have truly done or said some terrible things, because they, like us, were made in the image of God.

Furthermore, because of that understanding, as Lucado explained, they are still a part of God’s plan especially in your life, which could be to develop patience, mercy, forgiveness, faith, and or love, yet in the same way, He has a plan for them too, for the simple fact that they are alive. This means that even though they are behaving like anything but a child of God, they are not out of reach to be redeemed by God. So with that being said, in dealing with our enemies we should be bearing fruit, honoring God, especially love since we are commanded to love our enemies. Likewise, it got me thinking some more as it relates to how we pray.

If you haven’t discovered this on your own, there are some scary prayers in the Bible, especially by David, that petition the Lord’s judgement and wrath on our enemies. So as a disclaimer, there is a time to pray those types of prayers, but I doubt your life is as insane as David’s so I can’t imagine you having to pray those prayers on a regular basis, just use wisdom with pure motives. On the other hand, because we acknowledge the fact the even our enemies are made in the image of God who still has the ability to change their hearts, our prayers should be more compassionate, because they may be in a spiritual war that they aren’t even aware they are in or deeply struggling in ways we aren’t privy to knowing. Your prayers can truly save their lives, which would make yours less difficult, allowing the possibility of a friend. To put it another way, if how you pray about and over your enemies they pray for you, would your prayers change? This is important to consider because you have been or still may be an enemy to someone.

Bottom line, your response to your enemies can change lives, just let the Spirit of God lead you in dealing with them in whatever your situation may be. It’s definitely something worth mastering, because being you for a purpose will always draw attention and create a response, both positive and negative.

As Momma Put It

In plenty of self-help and therapy philosophies of the world we are told to love ourselves or to love ourselves more, with the books2assumption that certain people legitimately don’t love themselves. Now in theory, that is good thinking, but Biblically, we never hear that, the idea is that we already love ourselves, and if anything, we are told to love ourselves less. But what about those that treat themselves badly (cutting, drugs, drinking, promiscuity, eating disorders, gambling, i.e.)?? Well when you think about it, technically they love themselves enough to try to find an outlet to feel better or no matter how much of a negative behavior it may be, the world’s philosophy is to do whatever brings you pleasure or whatever it is that makes you happy in order to love yourself. I would say that the problem is not that people don’t love themselves, but they don’t know how to do it or they love themselves way too much. Think about it. When a person cheats on their spouse or abuses them, it’s not uncommon to hear “but I do love you.” Now, in actuality, they may really love them, but they were never taught the right way. Am I excusing it? Absolutely not, but making a point.

Long story short, our definition and idea of love toward self and toward others is backwards and so far from the way God intended. So much in so that we are blinded by happiness from what love is. The problem is that happiness is a state of emotion based on a situation, which would explain why people turn over and over again to vices, because that had only a temporary high. In turn, because people are ignorant of how to love ourselves, we are utterly lost in the ability to appropriately love others. So what’s the answer?

Well, Scripture lays it out pretty clearly. To love appropriately, you must first love Jesus, because he himself is love; it was Jesus that died in our place. Jesus showed love to whoever came his way, and so in loving him by getting to know him, talking with him, spending time with him, and communing with him via his Word, it’s inevitable that you learn to love him. I mean seriously, what’s not to love? And the more we fall in love with him, the more of his love should permeate through us onto others because we will begin to imitate his incredible version of love. Once you’ve met with Jesus, you will never be the same. Once he touches you, it is bound to rub off on someone else. Now, what’s next?

Jesus’ whole ministry was built on love, even loving the least of them. So by following the way of Jesus, we learn to love others, even our enemies and love our loved ones when they are most unlovable. The first of the greatest commandments is to love God, and the second is to love others. Paul in 1 Corinthians gives a whole chapter on what love for one another looks like, and the total of the Mosaic law can be summed up in loving God and loving others. If we are to be disciples, then our love for each other should be our defining trait. It’s a matter of putting others’ needs ahead or considering them more important than your own. It’s easier said than done, but as your love for Jesus increases, so does your ability to sincerely and unconditionally love others.

Looking back at the great commandment, after loving God, you love your neighbor, then after loving your neighbor, you love yourself. Now with many of the commands God gives His people, if you really examine them they are in place to protect us and keep us in good terms. For example, being careful of what you eat, and taking care of your temple, your own body, not participating in sinful acts, or participating in things to get you caught up in bad or compromising situations. If you love yourself, you will consider these things a lot more, because worldly thinking is that following Christ is a matter of all these crazy rules and killjoys, when instead God had our best interest at heart. And if we want to love God back we will love ourselves enough to consider what He says to make us most effective in the life assigned to us. If you don’t believe me, consider all the things He said we shouldn’t do or think and more and more we are falling away, and where has that gotten us? Okay, but so what? I know, I felt myself rambling so I digress and will keep it moving.

To be  you for a purpose, you have to be anchored in love, because anything done without love, no matter how good or noble, is of no value. Therefore, let’s recap, how do we love appropriately? Love Jesus first, then love others, then love yourself. In that order. Jesus, others, yourself. Jesus. Others. You…J.O.Y. Catch my drift yet? The world’s philosophy of love is based on happiness, which is temporary; here one day, gone the next. But, when you follow God’s idea of love, you walk away with an incredible sense of joy, that the world can’t give you, nor can the world take away. My momma taught me that.

Expression

As much as I speak of being yourself for a purpose, there are clearly many things that can mean, and it’s relative to the individual. So at some point you have to consider the standard, meaning what is it that should drive every person’s life that they walk in the glory of God, being all of who God deliberately designed them to be and to what He desires you to do in such a way that only that person can? A verse I am sure I have read previously, I came across again in a devotional and it really struck me.

“The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.”

expression

The context of the passage from Galatians speaks of freedom in Christ, in that there is no longer a reason to try to fit a impossible standard of perfection because of the cross. Ultimately, there is nothing about a person that makes him or her more worthy of God’s grace and His salvation than another; every one is welcome at the cross of Jesus it doesn’t matter who you are. Even before getting to the focus verse, there is the assurance of being able to be who you are at the feet of the Messiah, even if you go against how people perceive or believe you should be. The only thing that counts is your faith in the Lord God who created you that He and He alone can save you, trusting that He knew what He was doing when He created you and that He alone can satisfy you. But when it’s all said and done, what’s the proof?

Love.

Behind the person you are, the way you speak, the things you do or otherwise, it should be backed by love. Paul explained how it is all vain without love. What does that mean? It means accepting others because God accepted you. It means that you see, accept, and love yourself just as Jesus loves you, because he had something special in mind when he made you, and you live your life working toward being all he intended for you to be. It means that you love others, even those that don’t deserve it, even those that don’t reciprocate it. It means you live in the will and purpose of God because He wants to show His love to the world in a way that only you can. It means doing all you can to witness and tell others about their need of Jesus, because one day it will be too late. It means following the great commandment to love others as yourself. It means being a voice for those that can’t speak. It means giving as much as you are able, as often as you are able, understanding God blessed you to be a blessing. It means going out of your way and reaching out to those that society neglects, rejects, or are afraid of. It means loving others when no one else will because you believe in the power of the blood of Jesus to transform a life. Expressing your faith through love is being confident in the essence of who you are enough to liberate others to do the same. Expressing your faith through love is living intentionally to leave or make the world more beautiful and better than it was when you came. Expressing your faith through love is living in such a way that people no longer see you, they see Jesus manifested in your life. It simply means that you love because you love God with all your heart, soul, body, and mind. You love because He immensely and incomprehensibly loves you.

Be yourself for a purpose remembering that love is what thing that matters.

Love Tips

Love is something you see all the time. People have different ideas of what it is or what it should look like, specifically as it pertains to romantic relationships between a man and a woman. And recently there were two quotes, for lack of a better term. that really grabbed my attention and I think will help those who are willing to listen.

“The characteristic of love is spontaneity.”

When I read that in a devotional actually, the premise was not so much on romantic, though somewhat inferred, but it was referring to the dynamic of the Holy Spirit’s movement in us. To further my point, how many times has God surprised you, or left you guessing, or made you wait, or told you to do something crazy, or led you way outside of your comfort zone? He does it all that time. Even in the New Testament it speaks a lot about the mysteries of Christ and how mysterious God can be at times, and for me that is much of what keeps me in wonder about God and who He is because, there is so much to Him, I’m on the edge of my seat wondering what He will do next. And the more He reveals Himself to me, the more our relationship deepens and the more I learn about who I am. God is not boring and the lie of Satan is anything otherwise. He never ceases to amaze me.

The same applies for our relationships.

The beauty of growing with another person, the person God allowed you to be with, is that you learn more and more about them, the good and the bad. It’s about the journey that you take together, but it’s those unexpected moments that define the truth of a relationship. So often I hear of marriages failing because it became mundane, someone (or both) got board, or someone (or both) fell out of love, or the other person wasn’t willing to do something different. Am I condoning those reasons? Absolutely not, but I think it speaks volumes as to how God intended us to love out significant others. It should be spontaneous and exciting, even in intimate settings, because it keeps you guessing and excited. That element of surprise does wonders, especially as a female. Spontaneity is where life happens; it’s where you see the depths of another person and allows you to be free to be yourself, and not be afraid to be imperfect. It does require a lot of patience though. All in all, it keeps the attention and focus at home, because time and time again we see that the moment someone else offers something more than the mundane, problems occur. Follow the example of the Holy Spirit and switch it up a bit, and if one thing doesn’t work, well, try something else. The journey is all about the story and the memories created and those times you realized why you fell in love.

However, not all surprises are honky dory.

“Love, a rare commitment to care for another regardless of the response.”

The cross is the perfect example of this. Despite of how we treat him, no matter how unfaithful we are, despite how much we fall, despite the times we reject him, Jesus still chose and chooses to love us, leaving his arms wide open for us to come to him. The truth is that we can try in any form or any way to love God as much as He loves us, but no human mind could ever fathom just how deep, wide, high, and long his love is for us. We could never repay Him for what He has done for us. His type of love is so rare, even in the church. It’s hard to find that unconditional love in any type of relationship, that sincere “I don’t care” kind of love. Granted, that does require wisdom and discernment. Nevertheless, Christ’s love for us will never run out, no matter the type of response we give Him, of course that doesn’t mean act any way you feel or think you won’t be judged, but that is another blog for another time.

As many can attest, those who have been in long relationships, there are those times you were caught way off guard by your significant other. Now, another disclaimer, this is not speaking of the extreme circumstances, but rather those imperfections that sometimes make us question the relationship. But love is all about those growing pains, because real love is not perfect. There are plenty of low points and valleys, but through the grace of God, assuming we are in fact living in His will, we must continue to love. Relationships begin on that eros and phileo type of love, but it lasts only on that agape love, because there will be plenty times you really don’t like each other. However, the commitment you make is to be a light even when the other is being all but pleasant for whatever reason. All in all, it comes down to loving that person, with fervent and intentional prayer, being patient and caring the way God continues to be with you, because that moment we do get back in line, no matter what it takes to get there, the solidarity of the relationship grows and that love reaches such a deep place that will be a testament for the generations to come.

Be you for a purpose and love hard, love deep, and be spontaneous as only you can, and get ready to be amazed by what happens in your relationships and in your life.