Thoughts on Love

As we come near to Valentine’s Day, my thoughts turn to love. What is love?

Scripture has much to say on this subject, defining several degrees of love. One that comes to heart today gives definition in the fact that “God is love” (1 John 4:8), and we are called to love as He loves. From this I understand that love begins within. True love comes from who we are, and therefore is undisturbed by what people do or don’t do. When love flows from my being, I will find it easier to keep on loving others, despite insult, making 1 Corinthians 13 easier to follow.

Then I think of the passage in Ephesians 5, where the husband is encouraged to love his wife as Christ loved the church. How did He love the church? Through giving Himself for it, nurturing it, and cherishing it.

Jesus gave His life for those He loved. To give oneself fully to a relationship requires compromise: meaning I have to be willing to give up what I want and have for the sake of those I love—and vice versa, by the way. Jesus died to self to come to this life as the Lamb of God: giving up all He had before in order to come to this life in flesh; show us how to love, live for and honor God and each other; and then to give His life for us, leading us then to do the same in giving our all to God.

That was His first act of love toward those who would be the people of God. But He did not completely neglect Himself while here. He often drew apart from the crowds for a little self-care and time with the Father so as to replenish His stores for giving into the lives of those He loved enough to die for. We, too, must take care of ourselves if we expect to have any supply to give into the lives of others.

Jesus nurtured those He loved. He encouraged their spiritual growth, called them up higher in their thinking, and did all He could to help them be the best person they could be. Nurturing others we love in this same way is vital to a love relationship. Love desires the best good of those loved and encourages them to be and do their best. Love sees the potential wrapped up in the person and nurtures it, calling for it to come forth and live.

Jesus also cherished those He loved. When we cherish something or someone, we do all we can to treat them right, as one we treasure. We also do all we can to protect them from harm, destruction, or loss. Love treasures, cherishes, and protects.

When asked which was the greatest law, Jesus rightly said that loving God is the greatest, followed by loving others as we love ourselves. Love fulfills the law, for love will always keep God first, having no other gods before Him, honoring His name in word and deed. Thus love of God does the things He requires of us, beginning with keeping the Sabbath holy, giving honor to parents, protecting life, honoring the marriage bed as holy; love will give and not steal, it will build up by speaking truth in love and not tearing down others through false witness, it rejoices over God’s blessing toward others without being envious and jealous and covetous.

True love never fails, because love will always see the potential and work to help the one loved reach that potential. Love will not keep a tally of hurts, spouting them off at every opportunity, but love will always be open to starting anew, leaving the past in its grave to go forth to improved relations.

Love always seeks the greatest good for the one loved, therefore faith, love and hope are seen together in the relationship that withstands the test of time and the growth of individuals.

Before ending this note on love, we must realize that if we are to love our neighbor, Jesus’ response to the question posed makes clear that for us to truly know how to love others, we must first know how to practice all that love is toward self. That means that to love self properly, we cannot focus on and add up all our flaws and failures, but must maintain hope of better and encourage our own success toward becoming our better best. It means cherishing oneself enough to value ourselves in ways that lead to us being protective over the things we want to maintain and work to shore up the areas of our being that need improvement. Being “love” will cause that flow to touch all we are in relationship with, beginning with God and self. As they say, “I better like me because I am the one person I cannot get away from.” Love of oneself works toward being able to like oneself and causes us to become one of our most faithful supporters.

When we can first love God, then rightly love self as an outflow from our relationship with God, then we will have what it takes to know how to truly love others. The greatest valentine card we can give to God is to be love as He is love, and to let that love flow to all in our sphere of influence, from our glance in the mirror every morning, to “the least of these” we meet every day.

And lest we forget!

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:43-48, NASB).

I perceive this call to perfection as meaning that we are to be who we say we are in truth; not putting on a façade of Christlikeness or godliness, but truly being as He said He is: “I AM who I am. I’m just me.”

For other insights on love, read: 1 Corinthians 13; Romans 12; Colossians 3.

For this Reason

“Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Rise up early in the morning and stand before Pharaoh and say to him, “Thus says the LORD, the God of the Hebrews, ‘Let My people go, that they may serve Me. For this time I will send all My plagues on you and your servants and your people, so that you may know that there is no one like Me in all the earth. For if by now I had put forth My hand and struck you and your people with pestilence, you would then have been cut off from the earth. But, indeed, for this reason I have allowed you to remain, in order to show you My power and in order to proclaim My name through all the earth. Still you exalt yourself against My people by not letting them go’”’” (Exodus 9:13-17).

As I read this passage, I see two reasons that respond to questions I have often heard God’s people ask in time of trouble, “Why does He leave us here? Why not just kill us now?”

God allows things to happen in our lives that cause us—and especially those who refuse to believe—to know that there is no one like our God in all the earth. He keeps us alive when we think “we should surely be dead by now”, in order to show forth His power and in order to proclaim His name throughout the earth.

Now what is God’s glory? Exodus 33:18-19 tells us in God’s own words: “Then Moses said, ‘I pray You, show me Your glory!’ And He said, ‘I Myself will make all My goodness pass before you, and will proclaim the name of the LORD before you; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show compassion on whom I will show compassion.’”

Even when hard times come to us, God’s purpose is to reveal Himself as Lord of all and to make His glory evident in the earth. Why? So those, whose hearts are pliable and open, can see His glory, believe His Lordship, and turn to follow Him.

If you are still alive, He has power to reveal to and through you. If God could not still reveal Himself to and through you, you would lay down and die under your load.

Then we see that the best way to weather the turmoil that can rise up when God is making a point in the earth is to die to self-will and self-exaltation. I put a word up yesterday that hit my heart in the thoughts of the day: “Rest all worries and woes at God’s precious feet. They are thorns to us. But they are crowns to Him.”

Worries either weigh us down, often making us dysfunctional, or when faced without first laying them at His feet, they lead us to self-will as we try to deal with them and self-exaltation, making us our own god. Laying them at His feet removes them from our head, and places them under His Lordship. Laying our worries at His feet crowns Him as Lord over them and over self. Truly laying them down at His feet bows us to His authority, giving Him opportunity to direct our path and to empower us to deal properly with any situation. And often time, when we lay them down, refusing to give rule to worry, He just nails that thing to the footstool being made for Jesus’ feet, and writes, “It is finished!” across that plank (Hebrews 10:13).

“I will send all My plagues…so that you may know that there is no one like Me in all the earth.”

At just such a time, when God was threatening to destroy obstinate Israel and begin a new people for His possession through Moses, Moses requested of God, “Now therefore, I pray You, if I have found favor in Your sight, let me know Your ways that I may know You, so that I may find favor in Your sight. Consider too, that this nation is Your people,” laying the problem at God’s feet. And God said, “My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest” (Exodus 33). Lordship accepted.

God’s glory is revealed in our day to day lives when we surrender all to Him, trust Him with the details, and see Him move to reveal Himself as Lord in our situations. So bow down with that load, lay it at His feet, and “Only believe” that you will see the power, provision and presence of God (Luke 8:40-56).

The “As God” Principle

Scripture Reading: Exodus 6-7

“Now it came about on the day when the LORD spoke to Moses in the land of Egypt, that the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, ‘I am the LORD; speak to Pharaoh king of Egypt all that I speak to you.’ But Moses said before the LORD, ‘Behold, I am unskilled in speech; how then will Pharaoh listen to me?’

“Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘See, I make you as God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron shall be your prophet.’” (Exodus 6:28-7:1, NASB)

As I have probably shared before some time ago, I was getting ready to go to lunch with a friend one day. Just before heading out the door, I took that one last glance in the mirror and was shocked to see coke-bottle eyes behind my glasses. “What’s up with my glasses today?” I thought to God’s ear. He instructed my heart to go in peace and not worry about it.

Sitting during lunch, my friend was having a very difficult time with past issues of life and current situations. I felt the strong Spirit of the Lord pouring forth encouragement through me to her, and she was intently listening. Suddenly I realized she was staring at my eyes, following them everywhere they went. Thinking surely their hugeness must be distracting her, I ducked my head. Immediately I heard in my spirit, “You get that head back up and look her in the eye.” Which I of course did, jerking back as a soldier comes to attention with such a stern order from their commander and chief. Lunch went well and as I climbed into my car thinking of what a strange experience that was, I glanced in the mirror to see that my eyes looked normal behind my glasses again. “Hum. Wonder what that was all about,” I querried.

The following Sunday I sat next to my friend in Sunday school. As the teacher was closing up the session, my friend said, “I just have to share something. Darlene and I had lunch this week and God mightily used her to encourage me so greatly. But the awesome thing was that I saw God in her eyes!”

Sometimes God wants to use us to reveal Himself in physical, visible ways to those around us. He makes us “as God” to them for His purposes. It can be an awesome experience and will often challenge our own sense of insecurity and inadequacy. That is what Moses was coming into in this passage; his sense of insufficiency was being challenged. Often times, as God tried to do with me as I glanced in the mirror that morning to see my Little Rascals coke-bottle eyes staring back at me, God will warn us that He is about to use us to reveal Himself. But God did not stop there with Moses as He continued his heads up message:

“You shall speak all that I command you, and your brother Aaron shall speak to Pharaoh that he let the sons of Israel go out of his land. But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart that I may multiply My signs and My wonders in the land of Egypt.” (7:2-3)

Have you ever had a time when one person in your concentric circles was constantly challenging your stance as a believer or coming against you to get their way? It can be difficult to stand our ground and keep believing God when facing the hard heart of man. Sometimes their hard heart is a result of their hard life. But as we see here, sometimes it is the work of God, desiring to reveal Himself through the challenge. As said in the previous Blog, God used the stubbornness of Pharaoh to show His own might, and in doing so, to show the people who worshipped many gods the impotence of their gods.

What challenge are you facing right now? Does it come against your sense of ability, giving God opportunity to reveal His ability to and through you? Are you facing a stubborn wall, whether through the hardened ways of another, or through a stronghold set up in your own life? Such challenges are not a time to become discouraged and fall away or cow back. They are a time to press forward in the power God supplies and discover the thing(s) He wants to reveal of Himself.

“When Pharaoh does not listen to you, then I will lay My hand on…” (vs 4).

Every challenge we face is opportunity to go it alone, or to trust in the Lord and see His hand move. And every challenge to our sense of adequacy gives opportunity for God to reveal Himself through us, that others may see His eyes in us. Surrendering self to Him equips us to be “As Gods” being God’s eyes, representing Him in the earth.

Father, You are with us and for us, just as You were with Moses and Aaron long ago. You are the same yesterday, today, and forever. Your desire is for us, and You move in our lives to reveal Yourself in ways that free people from their personal Egypt. Help us to have courage to be Your eyes, Your body, Your mouthpiece, used of You to “be as God” to those who need to see You in the earth. In Jesus I pray, amen.

“Such confidence we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God, who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” (2 Corinthians 3:4-6, NASB)

Under Compulsion

“Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Now you shall see what I will do to Pharaoh; for under compulsion he will let them go, and under compulsion he will drive them out of his land.’” (Exodus 6:1)

I see here the Fatherly example of dealing with the strong willed personality: make life in the things they insist upon so uncomfortable for them that they have a change of heart that changes their path.

The strong-willed child gets stuck on what they want to the point that they cannot see beyond that to care about those around them and the needful things of life. They have to be shown the err of their understanding in ways that tame the child without breaking the spirit. God has a purpose in this life for those strong of will, but they have to be trained to recognize the True God and surrender their will to His. If we as parents fail to train them as a child, God will do it when they grow up. We may think it is difficult to discipline the strong-willed child and give ourselves to the ease of giving in to them, but wait until we have to watch them under the hand of God. That can be even more difficult to watch.

Of course, with Pharaoh God had a purpose here where He egged the ego and will of Pharaoh on. Pharaoh believed himself to be a god. The Egyptians worshipped many gods, including Pharaoh. Each of the 10 things God did in forcing the hand of Pharaoh was to show the people that not only was he not a god, but each plague sent was to show the impotence of a false god served by them, thus revealing the greatness of the One True God of Israel.

From this verse and insights surrounding the story of deliverance I see two potential situations we need to be aware of when dealing with strong-willed people: one is what is God desiring to reveal to me about Himself through the things I see Him doing in His dealings with the hard-hearted. There is something about Him to be known. The other is to realize my need to be very surrendered to God in my own dealings with the person, so I become God’s instrument in helping the stubborn to recognize their need to surrender to Him. It takes a courageous person to care enough about those around them to allow God to use them in helping another get over themselves.

God is still in the business of dealing with false gods and delivering people from their influence. And, like Pharaoh, we and those around us can be enslaved to the most powerful of false gods: our own ego. When finding ourselves being dealt with under compulsion by God, we need to get our heads out of the sands of Egypt and recognize our plight. God loves us where we are, but He loves us too much to leave us here. He deals with us as with sons. When He finds a stubborn issue in our person or life, He is not opposed to turning up the heat in whatever way that is necessary to work the dross of falsehood out of us. The quickest way to relief from the compulsory discipline of God is to realize His hand and cooperate with His purpose. But whoa to the one standing too close to the strong-willed little Pharaohs of life. It can be a fearsome thing to watch when God decides to deliver from false understanding and stubborn strongholds. And whoa to the stubborn of will when God decides to go through them to make a point.

The question we each must ask self today is “Which am I? Am I pliable in the hands of God, surrendered to His Lordship; or am I stubborn of heart? Is there an area of life in which I have not surrendered?” I don’t know about you, but I can immediately see an area I have in my life where I am under compulsion. It is better to choose today to let Him be Lord than to continue in the compulsory discipline of God. He has shown me the way. I must choose to obey. How about you?

(Chart revealing gods attacked: http://www.dabhand.org/Ten%20Plagues.htm ).