Hard To Love…

Handwriting - Love

(FreeImages.com/BobSmith)

I was grumbling in my bathroom today that some people are so difficult to love.  I immediately heard the Lord speak back to my heart: “Love isn’t about you.”

Talk about a readjusted perspective!

It can be very difficult to love some people.  Love though isn’t about the person doing the loving (us).  Love is about the person we are loving.  

If “love” is about us, it’s not love.  It’s selfishness.

Ouch!

Agape love is the purest and most authentic form of love because it doesn’t expect anything in return.  It’s not given based on the recipient’s worthiness or likability.  It can’t be limited or withheld based on an infraction.

Love just pours itself out without any thought of itself.  Love is never about self.  Love is about the other person.

The following passage in Scripture reaffirms that love is the strongest character quality and emotion of all:

1 Corinthians 13

13 If I speak in the tongues[a] of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,[b] but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

I was thinking that fear is a very strong emotion, but notice how love is more powerful than fear.  Love is truly the “trump card.”

1 John 4:18

18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.

Why The Name?

Hello My Name Is

(FreeImages.com/blogmonkey)

Why is it that the name of Jesus holds so much power?

Sitting in church this morning (1/15/17), I was thinking about this — that the name of Jesus itself holds so much power.  I considered: “Why?”

What is it about the name?

The name Jesus means Jehovah Saves.

No other name has or ever will be able to save anyone from their sins.  That’s the power of His name!

His name means release — freedom from all that entangles the soul and spirit and the sound of the clanking of shackles as they hit the ground…

His name means the sound of peace — peace that  transcends down into the soul and that has no contingency upon the things that surround its environment or circumstances.

His name is the sound of joy — sound that reverberates in sound waves from absolute release and ecstasy of spirit.

His name is the sound of death melting away and the explosion of “true” life!

His name is the full expression of the Father’s heart as seen in Jesus, the Son — the sound of absolute, unconditional love.

Philippians 2:9-11

Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Acts 4:12

12 Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

When you study Jesus, you either hate Him because He is the diametric opposite of selfishness, greed, and pride (human nature) or you love Him because you see a heart of love that always seeks to give, heal, save, and restore.

What we often forget is that by knowing Jesus, we know the Father.

So often, God The Father is perceived as cold, removed, harsh, but in reality, Jesus reveals what the heart of God is like.  He is forgiving, healing, life-restoring, impartial, just, humble, truth-speaking, and willing to sacrifice His best for us!

John 14:7

The Father Revealed

“If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him.”

John 14:9

Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?

John 8:9

Then they said to Him, “Where is Your Father?” Jesus answered, “You know neither Me nor My Father. If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also.”

John 10:38

38 but if I do, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, that you may know and believe[a] that the Father is in Me, and I in Him.”

John 16:3

And these things they will do to you[a] because they have not known the Father nor Me.

Luke 10:22

22 All[a] things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.

Matthew 11:27

27 All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.

As we consider the name of Jesus may we be challenged to examine what the name of Jesus means to us personally?

His name is the dividing ground because it reveals what’s in our hearts and forces us to make a choice.  It is a choice to identify with a name that never sought the popularity of public opinion nor to gratify selfish desires but who calls us to Himself.  He calls us to Himself in a way that means we need to let go of the self-motivating disguises for being religious or the self-serving reasons for turning away and following our own pursuits.

Jesus means we simply come as we are — in all of our brokenness and woundedness.  We leave it all behind — every sinful pleasure and every selfish ambition, and we enter into the life and inheritance, promised and fulfilled in Jesus!

Save

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Am I Narcissistic?

No idea what the ladies was like, but I just thought these were more or less the coolest sinks I've ever seen.

(http://www.everystockphoto.com/photo.php?imageId=47486&searchId=fbe322a89bc0ba531c3f0050e3935f28&npos=134)

When you see narcissism in the title of an article, does it immediately attract your attention?  Do you wonder if perhaps you might have those tendencies?  Maybe because someone, something, your conscience, God has prompted this awareness that perhaps there might be something to it in relation to you.

The definition for “narcissism” is the following:

nar·cis·sism
ˈnärsəˌsizəm/
noun
noun: narcissism
  1. excessive or erotic interest in oneself and one’s physical appearance.
    synonyms: vanity, self-love, self-admiration, self-absorption, self-obsession, conceit, self-centeredness, self-regard, egotism, egoism

    “his emotional development was hindered by his mother’s narcissism”
    antonyms: modesty
    • Psychology
      extreme selfishness, with a grandiose view of one’s own talents and a craving for admiration, as characterizing a personality type.
    • Psychoanalysis
      self-centeredness arising from failure to distinguish the self from external objects, either in very young babies or as a feature of mental disorder.

Narcissism is an extreme form of self-absorption and self-obsession.  It is classified as an actual personality disorder: NPD (Narcissistic Personality Disorder).

Selfishness though is what leads to the downward spiral into narcissism.  Selfishness is something towards which all humans have a tendency.  What is “selfishness”?  According to dictionary.com, it is the following:

[sel-fish]
adjective

1.

devoted to or caring only for oneself; concerned primarily with one’s own interests, benefits, welfare, etc., regardless of others.

2.

characterized by or manifesting concern or care only for oneself:

selfish motives.

Narcissism isn’t a word that any of us want to have associated with us.  Yet, I believe its main cause, selfishness, is something that all of us can struggle with at times — some on a large scale and then others perhaps on a lesser scale.

When we look at our motives, truly look at them — why we do the things we do — we find that often our actions are prompted more for self-gratification, avoidance of that which would “hurt” ourselves, escape, self-fulfillment. 

Even our “love” can be very self-motivated. That’s why when our relationships start requiring more work then pleasure, interactions become “ugly”.

Our parenting can be motivated out of what we “get” from our kids — the fulfillment they give us.

Watch out though when those “sweet” little cuties rebel or publicly act in a way that brings humiliation.  Watch out when there is more work involved then self-gratification.  That’s when we see our true motives and heart revealed.

God has a way of gently convicting me when self begins to take precedence.  It’s always humbling to see the ugliness of ulterior motives, the insincerity of prideful accomplishments, the judgmentalism of self-centered “righteousness” and religion.

A lot of “good” things can be accomplished with nice-sounding labels but with a heart that is full of selfishness at its core.  Because these things are “good” things they may look attractive, receive approval, and even appear to be blessed for a time.

But the things “sown” in the flesh will ultimately reap fleshly results.

Self-centered religion does not glorify God.  It seeks to glorify self, to establish self as the god who is “good enough”, a “moral” citizen, accepted by all.

The truth is we have no merits, no true righteousness, no pure motives, no sacrificial love, no selflessness, except in Christ.

It is impossible to not seek to please or worship self without the all-consuming Gospel power of grace.

It is Christ alone and His grace at work in our lives that convicts and compels us to look outside of self, to serve in joyful abandonment of self, and to find the freedom that comes when we are no longer chained to the all-consuming ugliness of the god of self.

We can do all kinds of things to attempt to avoid being consumed by narcissism.  We can fool ourselves into thinking we are selfless when we do good works, but if we do them to avoid confronting the true state of our hearts, then self is still our god.

It is God alone who can reveal the true intentions of our hearts.  His Word and Spirit have a way of “cutting” through the pretty words, the artificial works, the commercial-worthy smiles, the accolades, the religious phrases to the true conditions of our hearts.

In a time-suspending, illuminating moment, God has a way of removing our blinders.  He does it not to shame us but to bring us into freedom — freedom from the imprisoning, debilitating clutches of self. 

Freedom from self enables us to serve others with sincerity.  Freedom from self frees us from preoccupation with our own needs, hurts, goals, passions in order to be able to truly see the hearts, wounds, needs of others.  Freedom from self humbles us enough to be able to respond to others with forgiveness and grace.  Freedom from self gives us the courage to do what is right rather than to live in fear of others.

As humbling and convicting as it may be, let’s allow God’s Spirit to remove our “blinders” and to purify our hearts so that we can be free to live a life that is God-centered and not self-centered.

What My Marriage Is To Represent

Most of us wives are familiar with the passages in Scripture that instruct us concerning our roles in the marriage relationship. In spite of my knowledge of these passages, I still found myself challenged and convicted when I read over some of these passages again. A good friend loaned me the book, Becoming A Woman Who Pleases God. This book addresses many issues, but right now, I am reading the section on The Primary Reason Marriage is Significant to God. Anyway, the book reminded me again that our marriages are to represent the relationship between Christ and the Church. I find that sometimes I have a hard time submitting but want to demand my own rights. This passage was convicting because I realized that so long as Jonathan isn’t asking me to sin — something God would never require of us in our relationship to Him — my response to my husband is to parallel the Christian’s response to God: honoring God in all areas of my life (obedience to Christ). It is easy to react to the thought of submitting to our husbands because we live in a society where everyone demands his rights and doesn’t want to yield to someone else’s rights. Our society is selfish, at best. My natural inclination is to want my own way, but that is not God’s way nor the best for me. Neither is it what brings me true joy and peace. An unhappy person is one who has everything the world says will bring happiness and success; yet, finds these “trappings” only bring limited happiness or temporary pleasure.

The book I already mentioned states some excellent quotes. Here is a quote from the book:

“God’s expectation is that husbands and wives will develop an enduring love by keeping their eyes on the ‘marriage’ between Christ and His church (2 Cor. 211:2). After urging both husbands and wives to see their distinct roles defined by the relationship between Christ and the church, the apostle Paul wrote: For we are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones. For this reason, a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.’ (Eph. 5:30-32) These expectations of God offer great promise for a marriage. They are expectations that lift us above ourselves and call from us the kind of love that has its source in God. These expectations form a basis for the covenant that is at the heart of marriage.”

The book also quotes a Gary Thomas in saying the following: “To spiritually benefit from marriage, we have to be honest. We have to look at our disappointments, own up to our ugly attitudes, and confront our selfishness. We also have to rid ourselves of the notion that the difficulties of marriage can be overcome if we simply pray harder or learn a few simple principles. Most of us have discovered that these “simple steps” work only on a superficial level. Why is this? Because there’s a deeper question that needs to be addressed beyond how we can ‘improve’ our marriage: What if God didn’t design marriage to be ‘easier’? What if God had an end in mind that went beyond our happiness or comfort, and our desire to be infatuated and happy as if the world were a perfect place? What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy? …Your marriage is more than a sacred covenant with another person. It is a spiritual discipline designed to help you know God better, trust Him more fully, and love Him more deeply.” Wow! Great thoughts and exhortations!

Comment: There is a Scriptural basis for getting counsel for a marriage where there are problems. Being selfless doesn’t mean we ignore problems that need to be dealt with. Ignoring problems is not for our husband’s best interest either. We are to help each other become all that God has called us to be. I believe that the above passage though is a great encouragement to be more selfless, submissive, and serving to husbands that are trying to honor the Lord yet are imperfect (meaning not perfect so they occasionally do something selfish too, etc…).