I am back from Seattle, and finally back in the groove. I had an incredible visit with my son, his wife and my granddaughters. It was hard to leave! In honor of Valentine’s Day, be blessed my God’s love! ❤️
For God is love. (1 John 4:8)
No hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us. (Romans 5:5)
In the introduction to my book, I quote John 3:16—“For God so loved the world.” What exactly does that mean? Does our definition(s) of love help us understand that verse? I am pretty sure they don’t. First Corinthians 13:2–8 is often considered the love chapter. It is used in many a marriage ceremony. It says:
Though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. Though I do bestow on my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing. Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil, does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things. Love never fails.
Do you love like that? I know that I don’t.
But God does! God is always a gentleman; He does not force Himself upon us. We have free will so that we will come to Him under no duress. The book of James can be a tough epistle to read. He says what he means and means what he says. In his fourth chapter, he speaks against pride, worldliness, and judgmental attitudes. But he also says, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.”[i] God’s love is kind, is not rude, rejoices in the truth, and bears with us because “God has loved you with an everlasting love; He has drawn you with loving-kindness.”[ii]
In our language, love can be used in many ways. I love the shirt you’re wearing. I love that paint color that’s on your walls. I will love you forever and ever. That movie was great—I loved it. In Greek there are three words for love. Eros is physical love, such as sexual desire. Philos is esteem and affection in our casual relationships, such as a friendship. Agape is based on a deliberate choice of the one who’s loving rather than the worthiness of the one who is loved. This love is unconditional, giving, and selfless. It is a love for the long haul.
This kind of love rejoices in the blessings others receive. It does not involve pride or self-glory. It does not seek its own reward. This love sets aside our own plans and agendas for the good of another. Agape love is not easily angered, nor is oversensitive. This love is not short-tempered toward other people’s words or actions. This love is not blind, so when we recognize problems and failures in others (or ourselves), we do not lose our faith in the possibilities of what they (or we) might become. This love never gives up, and it believes we can change our lives for the good. Agape love continues unabated to build up and encourage others. “Greater love has no one than this, then to lay down one’s life for his friends.”[iii]
And this is how we know that God loves us. “By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us.”[iv]
How do we grow this kind of love within us? I think this is a good answer:
Whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. The things what you learned and received and heard and saw in me (the apostle Paul), please do, and the peace of God will be with you.[v]
Not only did Jesus die for our sins, but He also made a way for us to enter into God’s presence so that we can develop an agape love for Him and receive it from Him. “Therefore brethren, having boldness to enter the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh.”[vi] The earth trembled when our loving God placed the sins of the world on Jesus for you and me. If that is not love, I don’t know what is! “And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up his spirit. Then behold, the veil of the temple was torn into from top to bottom, and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split.”[vii]
Before Jesus died, the Jewish custom was that once a year, a priest would go into the Holy of Holies (a specially designed room of the Jewish temple behind the altar separated by a very heavy, thick tapestry) and pray for the deliverance of the people from their sins once a year.
But now we can enter into God’s presence without a priest into the Holy of Holies and speak to God personally through our prayers. That is pretty amazing! I feel so humbled by Jesus’s death, which allows me to enter into a personal relationship with the God of the universe.
When we love another person, we want to spend time with him/her, we listen intently to the other, and we can experience his/her love for us. It is the same with God—we must spend time with Him, listen intently to His voice through His Word, and experience His love through the Holy Spirit. Any other relationship we enter into, or voice we listen to, or experiences that are not centered on God are counterfeit, even with our spouses and family members. When we love God fully, we can love others fully. When we have a right relationship with God, we can rely on His Word (Jesus[viii]) and the power of the Holy Spirit[ix] to guide us and empower us to love as He loves us.
In Mark 6:45–52, we see Jesus walking on the water toward the disciples, who were in a boat traveling to the other side of the water heading to Bethsaida. Let me take apart the scriptures:
- He made His disciples get into the boat (v. 45)
- He sent them away (v. 46)
- He saw them straining at rowing, for the wind was against them (v. 48)
- He came to them (v. 48)
- He talked to them (v. 50)
- He went into the boat (v. 51)
- The wind ceased (v. 51)
What a beautiful picture of His love. He sends me into the storm, sees my struggle, comes to me, talks to me, is in the circumstance with me, and the storm ceases. Perhaps my circumstance doesn’t cease, but the storms in my thoughts and emotions cease when I allow Jesus to “come into the boat” with me. I don’t know about you, but I long for Jesus to be with me through the struggles of life. His peace, joy, and love allow me a safe haven in the midst of the worst storms that come against me.
God’s love doesn’t make sense to our finite minds, especially when we feel like things are not going the way we think they should. I for one get very impatient and try to run ahead of God. But I know His delay or answering my prayers with a no is always for my best. “My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, Nor detest His correction, for whom the Lord loves He corrects, just as a father the son in whom he delights.”[x]
Father God, how can I ever thank You for Your love? How can I ever thank You for the sacrifice of Your Son? I can only offer myself as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to You.[xi] You desire that I love You with all my heart, with all the understanding, with all my soul, and with all the strength, and to love my neighbor as myself, which is more than all the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices of old.[xii] And “thanks be to You, who gives me victory through my Lord Jesus Christ.”[xiii] You are El Shaddai, the God Almighty;[xiv] You are Elohim, Creator, Mighty, and Strong;[xv] You are El Olam, the Everlasting God.[xvi] And yet You love me. It is too wonderful and amazing sometimes to comprehend. “Show your marvelous loving kindness by Your right hand, oh You who save those who trust in You from those who rise up against them. Keep me as the apple of Your eye; hide me under the shadow of your wings, from the wicked who oppress me, from the deadly enemies who surround me.”[xvii] Father, You tell me that I should “glory in tribulations knowing that tribulations produce perseverance, perseverance, character, and character, hope. Your hope does not disappoint because Your love has been poured out in my heart by the Holy Spirit who was given to me.”[xviii] I pray that “the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer.”[xix] In Your Son’s precious name, amen!
[i] James 4:8
[ii] Jeremiah 31:3
[iii] John 15:13
[iv] 1 John 3:16
[v] Philippians 4:8-9
[vi] Hebrews 10:19-20
[vii] Matthew 27:50-51
[viii] John 1:1
[ix] Galatians 5:22-23
[x] Proverbs 3:11-12
[xi] Romans 12:1
[xii] Mark 12:33
[xiii] 1Corinthians 17:57
[xiv] Genesis 49:24
[xv] Genesis 17:7
[xvi] Psalm 91:1-3
[xvii] Psalm 17:7-9
[xviii] Romans 5:3-5
[xix] Psalm 19:14