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Posts Tagged ‘love’

end

There’s been so much talk about the end coming – today’s the day right? – that I got to thinking about what the Bible does say about it.

Most of us know what it does not say.  It does not say when Jesus will return or when the end of all things will come.  The Bible actually makes it very clear that no one knows when – not even Jesus.  So no matter how good your prediction sounds, Bible believers know someone is most definitely a false teacher very quickly when one picks a date and tells everyone the end will happen.

The Bible does give us some information concerning signs of the end times.  I am certainly no scholar, but I do want to look at just one verse concerning this issue.  It is Matthew 24:12.

And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold.

I woke up with this particular verse repeating in my mind.  As I began to meditate on it and consider what it means, I made some practical connections for us today.

If we start with the idea that God created us to love and that people innately want to love and be loved and then read this verse, the first lesson we find is that unreciprocated love has a dangerous potential to grow cold.

In other words, as the Bible tells us, the greatest gift God gave to His people is love, and, as Jesus said, loving God and one another sums up the whole of God’s law.  Therefore, when people fail to love one another rightly that is the point at which his law is broken. So, lawlessness = lovelessness.

Obviously, lawlessness can manifest in many different ways – lying, stealing, killing, avoiding, hating, bullying, adultery, revenge, jealousy just to name a few –  but the root of all lawlessness finds its origin in lovelessness.  Jesus taught this just two chapters before he began his discourse on the end of all things.

 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” ~Matthew 22:36-40

Paul, the greatest evangelist who ever lived, taught it to the erring, works-trusting, self-sufficient, false gospel believing church of Galatia.

14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” ~Galatians 5:14

The root of all lawlessness is lovelessness.  If men do not love God and others, they will care nothing for obeying God or man’s laws because those laws are founded upon and rooted in love for God and one another.

That brings us back to our verse – Matthew 24:12.  Because men do not love enough to obey the laws of God and man, the result of their transgression will be a diminishing of love in those they injure.  If one person is trying to love God and love his neighbors and he is continuously hated, treated poorly, cheated, robbed, slandered, etc., for doing just that, the Bible says his love is bound to begin to decrease and grow cold.  In our day and age we called it being jaded.

Therefore, the love of many will grow cold due to the lack of reciprocated love.

I have been studying the law God gave his people in Exodus in detail for many months now.  It is extensive and strict.  But Jesus comes along and says, “Love.”  All of the law can be summed up in one action: love.

If you love God, you will obey him.  Whether God says work hard at your 9-5 and provide for your family each day or he says sell everything and move to Iraq to preach the gospel, love will obey.  Whether he says pray in front of the church or pray with the stranger in front of you in line, love obeys.  No matter what the command, love obeys.  If you love your neighbor, you will treat him fairly.  Whether your neighbor is kind, hateful, old, young, black, white, successful or disabled, you will love and serve him the same.

Jesus told the most religious men of his day – the ones in charge of the synagogues and teaching the people about God – he told them this:

Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. ~John 8:42

If God were your father, you would love me.  It really is that simple, folks.  Stop worrying about the end times.  STOP!  Start worrying about love.  And I do not mean love that ignores sin and fails to rebuke and admonish others.  I mean real love.  Love that is willing to be hated for the sake of justice and truth.  Love that obeys God no matter how difficult and personally dangerous it is.  Love that does not have to make excuses for why it cannot forgive and be reconciled.  Love that covers a multitude of sin.  Love that lives.  Love as the Bible defines it.

Then we will be a people whose love grows rather than a people whose love grows cold in the darkest last days of this world – whenever they may be. AMEN.

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The Secret to Life

friend

She’s small and often shy.  She flies up to the clouds and sits with the sun whenever unimportant words are spoken.  She gazes off.  She runs away.  All her life she waits for an opening in the conversation.

He’s strong.  He’s loud.  He gets his matter-of-fact bluntness and good judge of character honest.  He’s street smart.  He falls in and out of fury over that which is most important.  He drives every conversation.

She’s small.  He’s strong.  She’s shy.  He’s loud.  She flies.  He’s blunt.  She gazes.  He’s street smart.  She runs.  He falls.  She waits.  He drives.

They love.  No matter what, they love.

She’s zealous.  He’s zealous.  They both have a fire that rages against all odds and opposition.   She’s inconsistent.  He’s inconsistent.  She fails.  He fails.  She cries.  He cries.

They love.  No matter what, they love.

She hurts.  He hurts.  She’s bitter.  He’s bitter.  She prays.  He prays.  She forgives.  He forgives.

They love.  No matter what, they love.

She rides on.  She wades through an ocean of pain.  Her white dress is tattered, wet, and dirty.  Still, she sings.  She searches.  She learns.  She loses.

He waits.  He wavers.  He wonders.  He moves on.  He heals.  “Onward,” he commands, “knock loudly upon yonder’s door.”

She rides. He waits.  She wades.  He wavers.  She sings.  He wonders.  She searches.  He moves.  She learns.  He heals.  She loses.  He commands.

They love.  No matter what, they love.

The secret to life is not winning.  It is not pleasure or pain or wisdom or knowledge.  It is not favorable circumstances or power or position or wealth.  The secret to life is love.  Knowing so allows us to love the men who hate and expel us with the same tenderness we do our own children.  Let it be said of me that no matter what men may do to me, I will refuse to love them any less.

No matter what, love them anyway.  For that is all that matters in all things at all times.

For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love. ~Galatians 5:6

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us

Twenty years.  That’s how long Mr. Rodeheaver and I have loved each other.  Today is our 17 year wedding anniversary and I could not be more in love.

There were many years where I could not have imagined our marriage being what it is today.  I can say with all honesty and without exaggeration that it is better now than ever before.  This is the result of a faithful God and a faithful husband.

I spent the past week cleaning the house.  School is out – homeschool, that is, where mom is always home but never able to get anything done – and cheer season is over.  Finally, I had time to do all those jobs I never get around to.  Cleaning out drawers, closets and bookshelves, scrubbing floors, baseboards, and walls, and, my personal favorite, throwing away everything that isn’t nailed down.

House cleaning is not my favorite job.  There are only two reasons I clean: 1. I can no longer function due to the chaos happening around me 2. My husband told me to.  If it was not for Mr. Rodeheaver’s consistent reminders about doing “my job” I honestly might be featured on the next episode of “Hoarders.”

It is because of my husband’s unwillingness to overlook or ignore sin in my life that I have grown in the areas that are most difficult for me to find success in.  Because he neither fears telling me the truth nor accepts any nonsensical excuses I make that keep me from being better, I have no choice but to grow.  He understands my potential and he accepts nothing less than my best.

Twenty years is a long time to be learning something.  Most would have given up instructing and encouraging me a long time ago.  Love never fails, though.  Tim’s faithfulness to me extends far beyond dinners out and depositing paychecks.  Tim’s faithfulness to me is often found in his consistent correction in the things I figure out how to continuously fail at.  Housecleaning is just one example.  We can also add cooking, planning, spending, and eating, just to name a few.

If I am honest I would have to say I fail a lot in almost every area of my life in some way.  We all do.  Fortunately life is not a competition against anyone besides ourselves.  If I am better today than I was yesterday, that is progress.  It is a reason to celebrate.  It does not mean I won’t regress and fail again tomorrow.  It means I have victory today and I have a faithful voice to correct me again tomorrow, if need be.  I can think of no greater blessing.  Faithful love instructs, encourages, corrects, and forgives.

If any one of those elements is missing, I would be hard-pressed to call it faithful love with any amount of confidence.  Things I would call it may be idolatry, selfishness, fear, or resentment.  These are what love is not.

Idolatry.  Idolatry worships.  When we make someone an idol, we only encourage and forgive.  Idolatry lacks the ability to instruct and correct appropriately.

Selfishness.  Selfish relationships only do what is best for self – not the other.  They may instruct, encourage, correct, or forgive, but all things are done only in one’s own interests depending on which manipulative action will give them – not the other – the most satisfaction.

Fear.  Fear is not found in true love.  The Bible says,  There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” One who fears in a relationship will never correct or instruct appropriately.  They may not encourage or forgive, either, depending on what kind of fear they are entertaining.

Resentment.  Resentment is when a person only corrects and instructs but never encourages or forgives.  Resentment is not a characteristic of true love.

Faithful love instructs, encourages, corrects, and forgives.  Love is not idolatry, selfishness, fear, or resentment.  If I am honest, I would have to say that over the course of our marriage, I have fallen prey to all of these things which are not love at one time or another.  Thankfully, true love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things.  Thankfully, I have a husband who sent this message to me first thing this morning:

text

Love covers a multitude of sins.  We fail but love never does.  Keep loving no matter what else happens.  I will leave you with a few verses from the song we chose as ours in May, 1997 and has been true of our lives:

Better than I was
More than I am
And all of this happened
By taking your hand
And who I am now
Is who I wanted to be
And now that we’re together
I’m stronger than ever, I’m happy and free

Oh, it’s a beautiful thing
Don’t think I can keep it all in
And if you ask me why I’ve changed
All I gotta do is say your sweet name

It’s your love
It just does something to me
It sends a shock right through me
I can’t get enough
And if you wonder
About the spell I’m under
Oh it’s your love

~Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, It’s Your Love, May, 1997

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Beauty-and-the-Beast1

Beauty and the Beast has been my personal favorite Disney story for many years now.  If you know my husband, it’s easy to see why I identify.  Kidding! Ok, maybe just a little truth there.

The truth is, about 20 years ago, we both started out as beasts.  It was nothing but the Lord who has made us more like the Beauty and less Beastly to one another over the course of time and trials.

A lot of reviews have already been written about this long-awaited real-life remake.  Rather than do that, I just want to focus on one particular aspect that many might miss if they are not paying attention.

Belle is trying to reason through how the living objects in the castle must feel about their sentence of not being human again.  She says something to the effect of, “I can see why he (the beast) deserved this, but you – you did nothing wrong.”

It is at that point that Mrs. Potts pipes up like only a talking tea kettle can do and, from my perspective, speaks the most important line of the entire movie.  She quickly responds without even a second to bask in the expected hesitation, groveling, or self-victimization and says, “You’re right deary, we did nothing…” (when the beast was but a boy grieving over the loss of his mother and became the victim of an abusive, self-absorbed father.)

There is so much to learn from the attitude that Mrs. Potts’ character displays in that one single exchange.  Here’s what we can take from it and perhaps teach our children:

Firstly, no matter what your circumstance or how desperately unfortunate it is, you must never think of yourself as a victim.  A victim mentality will always hurt you.  Personal responsibility and owning up to our own failures in all circumstances is the key to being a person of character.

Next, if it is clear that someone else has been dealt a very difficult hand, we must consider their stressors over their responsibilities and act appropriately towards them.

For ourselves, we overlook the reasons we have to claim a victim status and rise up responsibly.  For others, we look for those same reasons and empathize when they act irresponsibly.  We do not compare circumstances, ever.  We do not compare reactions, grief, or evaluate and/or determine how any other person should be dealing with their own circumstance from an emotional standpoint.  The most important thing to do is serve them.  That’s what Mrs. Potts does.  That’s what her child does.  And, while they do not always agree with or even obey the beast in his unkind and ridiculous demands, they always seek to serve and help him in ways that are beneficial to him.

Finally, Mrs. Potts’s profound statement teaches us the often neglected truth that what we do not do is just as damaging as what we do wrong.  She says, “We did nothing…” (when this little boy’s whole world fell apart.)

That was an admission of guilt – a taking part in the making of a self-centered, unkind, now cursed, beast.  What we do not do for those who we know are suffering and being abused right before our eyes is what will convict and condemn us right alongside them if and when they become beasts in their own right.

Again, this idea does not erase personal responsibility for the beasts of the world.  Each man is wholly responsible for his own actions, always.  What this perspective does is it helps us to understand and own our personal responsibility toward those in need – namely children within our sphere of influence – before they morph into individuals who kill, steal, and destroy just like their teachers.

In other words, we do not get to dislike and avoid people we do not prefer and then turn around and blame them because they are bitter about it.  Our job is to see only our own faults and look past the faults of others in as much as we possibly can and love and serve them despite those faults.

What a great perspective to have.

– Own responsibility no matter how difficult your circumstances.

– Empathize, don’t criticize when others fail.

– Recognize that doing nothing is just as damaging as doing wrong to others.

That’s as true as it can be.

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unhappy-valentine-s-day-t-shirts

We’re having a party!  You’re invited!  Come!  It’s all about love.  Bring your empty box!  Decorate it pretty so we can share love notes with you!

Valentine’s Day never seemed so exciting.  We shopped and we crafted.  We wrote out love notes and we waited in happy expectation.  But somehow, somewhere between Mommy’s phone ringing, baby’s fall breaking, and passing out our love notes to one another, something went terribly wrong.

My 3 older kids were alone in the party room.  I was standing just outside talking about my own desperate need for prayer.  Something happened that I did not witness personally.

Enter: Irate mom.  Irate mom interrupted my tears brimming, baby rocking, broken heart on my sleeve conversation by yelling at me about how terrible my children are and how her precious snowflake was crying because of my monsters.

So I did what any reasonable person would do.  I apologized.  I asked what had happened.  I made them apologize.  I explained to both mom and daughter that it seems my girls may have just wanted to be her friend and didn’t know how to introduce themselves appropriately. My girls sat crying for a long time while their accuser showed no evidence of any personal pain.

When we came home we talked about the love gone wrong party.  I do not presume to know exactly what actually happened.  What I do know very well is my own children.  I know exactly who they are and who they are not.  They sin just like me.  They hurt just like me.  They love just like me.  And they tell me the truth when it really matters.

So what happens when a bully calls you a bully and cries fake tears to get you in trouble?  What happens when that bully has an authority (bully mom) who does the same?  When bully mom singles you out and yells in your pint size face in full view of all your friends?  When bully mom goes on a tirade among all the other authorities yelling about how despicable you and best friend (sister) really are?  What happens then?

Well.  You stand by your apology.  Perhaps you did cause some small injury unintentionally.  Perhaps you did.  And then you sit back and you realize that sincere apologies do not matter to bullies.  You realize that forgiveness will never be extended no matter what you say or do because the animosity is not coming from a place of honest offense.  It is coming from a place of hatred and jealousy; malice and deceit; pride and envy.

 Then you cry.  You sit at the party you so looked forward to and you cry about how you’ve been treated.  You take quite some time to listen to the one who loves you most when she says it is going to be OK because her love never depended on your behavior.  You finally get the courage to wipe your tears and go back to playing with the other kids but when the day is done you go home and you appeal to the one who loves you again.  You realize that there is no place for the likes of you at the next love party because you have learned that there is no love at those kind of parties after all.  You wait, hoping love comes back and loves you, apologizes to you, sits next to you, embraces you, and rights the wrongs it did, or, at the very least, shows you how you have wronged it.

You realize that the truth is, love does.  Love will.  Love reconciles.  Love forgives.  Love lives on after our preferences, our pettiness, and all our imperfections.  Love does and will do all of those things and so, so much more if it is, indeed, love after all.  If not, well, then I need to be more wise and discerning the next time I’m invited to a party labeled “love” to that fact that it may have nothing whatsoever to do with what I know love actually is all about.  I have no interest in fake love parties.  Those aren’t for me and they certainly aren’t for my children.

Love is not something we can celebrate if we are looking for a self-centered pity party over our every whim and want.  Love is messy, painful, sacrificial, and other-serving.  You cannot accuse, fail to forgive, hold in contempt, and wait with binoculars and your detective hat for the next offense just hold onto the upper hand; the control; the selfish benefits of being the boss without the selfless service of being the leader.

Everyone likes to be invited.  Everyone wants to celebrate love because love is the greatest of all things we have been given on the entire earth.  But we cannot invite others to love parties that do not both display and convey true love accurately and appropriately.  If we do, we should not wonder why they won’t ever come back once they figure out how this thing works.  You can’t bait and switch and expect the bait to keep fooling the fish.  Our Lord only gave us two commands.  Two.

1. Love ME (God)

2.Love each other

If we cannot do that, we have nothing to celebrate, nothing to share, and nothing worth inviting anyone to come and be a part of.

And you know, God has his ways.  He always shows up just when we need Him most.  It just so happened that we were invited to anther love party.  It was last minute and unexpected.  It was hosted by one who had nothing prepared save her heart.  She wanted to love.  She sought to serve.  She gave the little she had to me and my daughters freely without even knowing how hurt we’d been by the last party labeled “love.”  What grace He gives in our time of need.  What a good, good God we serve.

With that, I leave you the words of a wild thing and a king:

” Judith: Psst. Psst. (signals for Max to come over)  What were you doing with Carol just now?

Max: Just talking.

Judith: Oh, a secret, huh?  Let me ask you something.  How does it work around here?  Are we all the same or are some of us better than others or – ?  You like to play favorites, huh, king?

Max: No, I like all you guys equally.

Judith: Don’t give me that.  I can see how it is.  The king has favorites.  That’s really cute.  Do you have a favorite color?  Hey, can I be your favorite color? (laughs)

Max: (imitates her laugh)

Judith: (does it back)

Max: (does it again, with more effort)

Judith: Ahahahaha

Max: Har har har!

Judith: Ahahahahahaha

Max: HAR HAR HAR

Judith: You know what? You can’t do that back to me.  If we’re upset, your job is not to get upset back at us.  Our job is to be upset.  If I get mad and want eat you, then you have to say, “Oh, okay, you can eat me.  I love you.  Whatever makes you happy, Judith.”  That’s what you’re supposed to do!”

~Where the Wild Things Are, 2009, Jonze and Dave Eggers

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water

God had been so faithful to his people.  He did many miracles, signs, and wonders.  He delivered them from their enemies.  He gave them a cloud and a fire.  He gave them an oasis.  He perpetually gave them daily bread to eat.  He gave them rest.  They fought and failed to trust him the whole way but God just keeps on blessing them anyway.

When they come to a place in the wilderness where there is no water once again, you would think they would be inclined to consider all of that goodness.  Matthew Henry reminds that, “Eaten bread must not be forgotten.”  But they do forget.  They were not inclined in the least to consider all the blessings they had been given and were continuing to receive on behalf of God himself.  Once again, the selfish desires and distrust of God and his prophet leads them into severe and serious sin.

When their need becomes great, their quarrels become evident once again.  They indict the prophet (Moses) God had given for their good.  They not only demand that he meet their needs, they malign and accuse him of ill-motives, they actually say, again – this is twice now that this crazy story is spewed from their mouths – that when he delivered them by the mighty hand of God that he did so with the singular intention of murdering them.  How absolutely absurd!

The truth is that that was precisely what they were doing to him.  Because he did not produce and provide what only God could for them, they falsely accused Moses as a result of their ill-motives.  They sought a trial and they wanted to kill him.  Essentially, they accused Moses (twice now) of doing the very (evil) things that they themselves were actually doing to him.

Isn’t it funny how that works?  The guilty turn the tables to make the innocent appear to be what they actually are.

“Many that have not only designed well, but done well, for their generation, have had their best services thus misconstrued, and their patience thereby tried, by unthinking unthankful people…Ungoverned passions, provoked by the crossing of unbridled appetites, sometimes make men guilty of the greatest absurdities, and act like madmen, that cast firebrands, arrows, and death, among their best friends.” Matthew Henry

These people question and accuse God’s prophet and that, in itself, proves that they are actually questioning and accusing God himself.  This was the man he’d given to them for blessing and intercession and deliverance and provision.  In questioning him, they question God, God’s providence, God’s provision, God’s presence, and God’s promises all at the same time.

The most amazing part of this story is not only what God does, but what the falsely accused prophet does.  Moses, who, by the way was a former murderer himself, does not argue with his accusers about their outrageous claims and charges.  Moses goes directly to God.  He cried to the Lord in his desperation and grief.  Moses seeks their good.  He does exactly what God commands and God shows up.  God puts himself on trial.  Instead of making the guilty murmurers stand before him, he stands before Moses!  He tells Moses to strike the rock.  In doing so, he is essentially taking the blow for their gross disobedience.  Not only does God put himself in the place of the guilty, he gives a blessing as he is struck.

 He is the rock.  The rock is Christ.  Christ is the rock upon whom God builds his church.  God builds his church on Christ and those who are willing to forgive when falsely accused, seek God on behalf of the guilty, absorb pain that they do not deserve, and bring a blessing afterward to the very people who sin against God and they.

 That is what God did here.  That is what Jesus did on the cross.  That is what we are called to do in his church.

Kyrie eleison

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son

“Mom, why do we have lips?” asks my oddly inquisitive eleven year old.

“I don’t know. I guess God thought we needed them.”

“But why do we have them?  What are they for?”

“Appearance?  Well, actually they are for kisses.”

Cue awkward face of preteen disgust.  Moms do not talk about kissing.  Moms especially do not talk about kissing when said preteen was clearly asking a purely scientific question and attempting to formulate a very serious hypothesis based upon nothing less than observation and factual information.

But that’s my oldest daughter.  My youngest daughter has different ideas about both lips and kissing.  One year-olds love kisses.  Well, at least mine does…usually.

When I say, “kisses,” she leans her head towards me and waits for my kiss to be planted on the back of her head.  We are still working on the lips part.

Generally, Little Miss Congeniality loves kisses.  The only problem is that she turns her face away from me when I ask for them.  She only knows how to receive kisses.  She hasn’t mastered the art of giving them.

I try to teach her each day.  She is at the point where if I say, “kisses,” and I don’t plant one on the back of her turned head, she looks at me and sticks out her tongue.  “No, Sonny.  Not tongue; lips.”

It is an arduous process wherein her tongue stays out and I resort to raspberries all over her face because tongues are not easily put back away and the cuteness of one year-olds does not allow for any option wherein they do not get kissed regardless of their slowness or complete failure to learn proper methods and techniques.

We usually move on to blowing kisses once the emergent tongue enters the lesson.  She thinks it’s funny to watch me blow kisses but she hasn’t reciprocated yet.  Don’t worry, there will be a two hour video once this milestone is mastered and I am almost certain it will go viral.  I know you can’t wait either.

Babies are easy to love.  Babies are hard to love.  Children are easy to love.  Children are hard to love.  Just like kisses are more easily accepted than they are given by my baby, we children of God often need to be given repeated daily examples of love from our Father before we even begin to learn how to give love back.  We must feel loved and be shown how to give and receive love before we even begin to figure out that it isn’t about turning our head as much as it is about being face to mad about you face.   Finally, we realize it isn’t about turning our head at all.  It is about turning toward the other every time, and never, ever turning away from the ones we love.

We need so very much to be loved, to be shown love, to be adored by one who adores before we can even begin to learn how it is that we can possibly get Mister Slimy Slobber inserted back where he belongs and plant our very own puckered presents upon the proper people.

Learning how to love well does not boil down to a science lesson.  Learning how to love well does not emerge from a self-preserving, safe-staying cocoon of systematic daily lessons on proper lip mechanics.  (Although that may well be additionally necessary when delving into what comes forth from those sneaky pink gates.  In that case, just use emergency mom language: “Zip it, child.”)  No.  Learning how to love well results from being loved well.  It is not something we teach.  It is something we do.

Learning how to love well results from being loved well.  It is not something we teach.  It is something we do.

Brothers, sisters, consider your children.  Think about your babies – the ones you have been so graciously given; the ones you long to be given; the ones who were and are and will be.  Close your eyes and appraise their faces.  Reflect upon your deep, deep love for them, wherever they may be today.

Are you there?  Do you have their picture in your mind?

Now, open your eyes.  That is how God sees you.  That is how your Father loves you.  Go.  Love that much, always.  We are all but children in need of love and grace.

From one sister to all her siblings, please give grace.  I need grace.  We need grace.  Love covers a multitude of sin.  So, here are my hugs; kisses; love.  How I long to embrace you and let my tears fall upon your shoulder!  Written words are my heart on paper saying what my lips never seem to get out quite right. Happy St. Valentine’s Day.  There is much love in my heart for you all.

xoxoxo

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