Tag Archives: love

Powered Up by Hope

Why is it that some people complain all the time, while others seem to boost the spirits of those around them?  Why are some folks suspicious and grumpy and others just seem happier on the inside?  One of the differences is an attitude of hope, a joyful, optimistic expectation of good things coming. 

But what is the best object of hope?  I’d say it’s heaven.  Paul once told some people he had heard about their “…faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven and that you have already heard about in the word of truth, the gospel.  –  (Colossians 1:5)

Don’t misunderstand: these were no Pollyanna types with saccharin-sweet, vapid smiles, aimlessly drifting through life by pretending things would be better in heaven.  This was no “pie in the sky, by and by” crowd.  These were people bearing up under the harsh realities of vicious persecution.  But with hope from which their faith and love sprang forth!

So, how could they, or we, know that hope for heaven is anything more than wishful thinking?  Jesus tells us, in the strongest and simplest terms, that’s how..  Speaking of heaven, He said,

“…if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you.”  –  (John 14:2b)

That is my favorite line in the Bible.  Jesus didn’t lie to people, fostering false hopes.  One of His trademark expressions was, “I tell you the truth!”  Following Jesus comes with real hope, hope for eternal life in heaven.  If it wasn’t so he would have told us.  And hope just makes everything else better.

Taproot – Part 3

Are you afraid to love, believing it will constrain you?  Certainly some neurotic relationships constrain us, but these are not real love.  Real love releases false constraints, setting us free to be all we really are.  That is the kind  of love relationship God wants for us with Himself (See: previous two posts).

It seems counterintuitive: How can submitting to a relationship with someone else, making a commitment, result in more freedom?  Picture those flying suits people wear to jump from high cliffs and soar.  It is strapping oneself into the tight bonds of the suit that allows the freedom to fly.  Additionally, unless they fully commit and jump, they will not fly but fall.  Love works like that, especially love mutually extended between you and God. 

You can see the relationship between love, commitment and freedom in the following two quotes from Jesus.

“Jesus replied, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.”   –  (John 14:23)

The word, “obey,” makes us cautious and reluctant, but it is that commitment that leads to freedom.  The Father and Son come and “make their home” with us.  This happens with the life of the Holy Spirit in our souls.  The word for “make their home”, also translated as “abide” is used in this saying of Jesus:

To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to (literally, abide or make your home in…) my teaching, you are really my disciples.  Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”  –  (John 8:31-32 with my added note)

It is the love commitment of making one’s home in the teachings of Jesus, the ways of God, that causes us to soar in freedom.  Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10b) 

If you are standing at the edge of that cliff, worried that loving God will inhibit you or constrain you, do not hesitate;  Go for it!  Fully commit and watch how this relationship of love spreads your wings.

Taproot – Part 2

We have all been hurt by love, at least by what was called love.  So when we hear, “God loves you and wants to be joined with you in a love relationship” (see previous post – Taproot – Part 1), we may put our guard up.  But God’s love is nothing like the human distortions of love.

For example: When humans say “I love you,” most of the time they mean, “I want you.”  But God’s love is not selfish, it is otherish, youish (my spellchecker has just melted down…).  God’s love, His desire to be close with us, is motivated by what would be most beneficial for us.  If you are thinking that’s like giving us cod liver oil, think, “… what would be most wonderful for us.”

Compare the consequences of the separation from God, told in Genesis with the consequences of reconciliation, portrayed in Revelation. 

After separation:
To the woman he said,  “I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children.  Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.”
      To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat of it,’ “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life.  It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field.  By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground,  since from it you were taken;
for dust you are and to dust you will return.” –  (Genesis 3:16-19)

After reconciliation:
He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”  –  (Revelation 21:4)

By inviting us to be united with Him in love, God desires to restore everything to the way He intended, for our blessing.  There is no need for us to guard ourselves from God’s love.  We will never be hurt by it, only blessed.

Taproot – Part 1

What does God want from us?  Actually, it’s what He wants for us.  It’s love.  God loves us; He wants us to really know that love and respond in kind.  His desire is for us to be in a love relationship with Him.  But what does that look like? 

Let’s start with this: He wants us to be with Him.  Love works best when lovers are together.  In the first few pages of the Bible, the humans doubted God’s love and broke the togetherness they had with God.

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden.  But the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?”  –  (Genesis 3:8-9)

God loves us and wants to be with us, connected by love.  When He announced the coming Messiah, He called Him Immanuel – God with us (Isaiah 7:14).  Jesus came to seek us and make it possible for us to be reconciled to our Father.

Turn from the earliest pages of the Bible to the very end and see this goal of love fulfilled:

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.  –  (Revelation 21:3)

There’s more to this – lots more.  But keep this thought and chew on it: God loves you and wants to be with you.

Just Sayin’

It is a good time for those of us who follow Jesus to remember His example.  In His day, the most highly respected people were the super-religious, the ones who made a lifestyle and outward display of doing everything they thought God wanted them to do.  The least respected people were prostitutes and tax collectors (generally considered to be traitorous and dishonest).  And yet,

“Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you.  –  (Matthew 21:31b)

Make no mistake: it was not that Jesus approved of the things such people were doing.  To the contrary, He had compassion on them, knowing how much they were hurting inside.  He did not condemn them or marginalize them; He loved them and offered them a new way of life.

Whoever you believe are the lowest and least respectable, the type least likely to be welcomed into religious circles, those are the people among whom you would have found Jesus.  When He engaged in angry rhetoric, it was against those who puffed themselves up with religious pride and looked down upon those who were suffering from destructive choices.  If we become known for angry rhetoric against the ones Jesus came to seek and save, we do not represent Him well.

Reconciled

When you are in the doghouse, there’s no use pretending.  A busted love relationship brings down everything else.  You may not be sure what went wrong (especially if you are a guy!), but there’s no denying that the tension needs fixing.  Papering over conflict with smiles and nice talk doesn’t work.  Caving in, going along to get along is worse.  Both attempts are temporary at best and lead to sullen, resentment.  But when someone initiates real repair by doing whatever is necessary to truly reconcile the broken relationship, the results can be exhilarating.

It was God Who took the initiative to repair our broken relationship with Him.  Paul described it like this:

For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in Him (Jesus – See: Seeing the Invisible),  and through him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. –  (Colossians 1:19-20 – with my comment)

Carefully note that it was God Who took the initiative.  And, He did not give in and say, “Let’s just pretend everything is OK now.”  He did everything necessary to truly repair the break.  The sobering, necessary cost was the blood payment for our sin.

Notice also that His act reconciled “all things” to Himself, not the other way around.  When you reconcile your bank statement, in almost every case it is your figures that must be adjusted to match the bank’s record; you change to reconcile to the bank.  God did not lower Himself to adjust to our sinfulness, but reached down through Jesus to lift us up to Himself.

The end result is peace.  Peace is not pretending to get along, it is the absolute, settled, restoration of the way things between us were always meant to be.  Peace wipes out all tension.  God, through Jesus, made this peace.  He took the initiative and He accomplished it.

You know, because you have been there, when your partner makes the first move to reconcile your relationship, it requires a certain humility to receive that act of love.  But if you are willing, you exchange brittle tension for peace and joy.

“All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ … God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation…We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.” (2 Corinthians 5:18-20 – excerpts)

Quotes: The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

 

The Love Test

Do you ever wonder if you really believe in Jesus?  Are you a citizen or merely a tourist in the land of faith?  Since you cannot see faith, and since our minds deceive us (remember that romance in Jr. High?), is there a telltale sign we can look for to assess the genuineness of our faith?  Jesus said if we love one another as He loved us, others would know.

By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” – (John 13:35)

Not Hallmark card love.  It’s the kind of love Jesus extended on the cross, dying to pay a debt we could not.  This kind of love (agape love) is an act of personal sacrifice in compassionate response to a need of someone else, with no expectation of any return.

If you find yourself increasingly moved to bless someone else in his need, not out of obligation or guilt, but out of agape love, this is a telltale sign of real faith. 

As John wrote:
Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.  This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence: –  (1John 3:18-19)

The connection between real faith and sacrificial love is hope.  Not wishful thinking, but confidence in the future.  When we know we cannot lose, loving sacrifice becomes logical.  They could steal from us, hate us, persecute us, sue us or even kill us and it would not change the outcome for us in eternity.  We cannot lose.  Because we have real hope, it is safe  for us to love.  Agape love is a sign of faith because it is extended in direct contrast to the “rules” of the world.

Paul was excited and thankful for the new Colossian believers…

…because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people—  the faith and love that spring from the hope stored up for you in heaven and about which you have already heard in the true message of the gospel. – (Colossians 1:4-5)