Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Lord...Help me love like You

I spend alot of time thinking about what it means to love like Christ. It's such a small statement, but so difficult to truly live. I wrestle with my flesh all of the time when it comes to dying to myself and truly loving others as I've been called to love them.

Jesus said, "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." - John 13:34-35

It's a command. Love one another as I have loved you. If we claim the name of Jesus, we don't have a choice about this one.

As I was thinking about it this morning, I came across a really familiar verse that struck me afresh.

"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, 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." - I Corinthians 13:4-8a

This is a tough list. I've always known that. But, somehow it challenged me anew this morning.

Love is patient.

How often do I lose my temper? How often am I short with someone? How many times have I felt like the Lord was slow in bringing about His promises? Every time I failed to love.

Love is kind.

Sarcastic? Yes, sometimes I am. Sharp? Unfortunately, yes. Oblivious to the needs of those around me? Too often. And, every time I failed to love.

Love does not envy.

Ouch. Green-eyed monster. "I wish I had what she has". "I wish I could go to this place or do that thing". And, every time I failed to love.

Love does not boast; it is not proud.

How many times have I needed a pat on the back, so I boasted of my accomplishments? How many times have I felt the need to be recognized, so I made sure people knew what I had done? Every time I failed to love.

Love is not rude or self-seeking.

Too often I have put my own needs before the needs of the ones I was called to love. Too often I have thought of my own best interest and not the best interest of the Kingdom. Too many times I have let my tongue rule me instead of the other way around. And, every time I failed to love.

Love is not easily angered and it keeps no records of wrong.

Whoa. Keeps no records of wrongs? Forgives AND forgets? Difficult to anger and quick to forgive? Lord, teach me to live that way because every time I get angry and hold a grudge, I fail to love.

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the Truth.

Have I ever taken pleasure in someone else's pain? Have I ever been secretly glad that they "got what was coming to them"? Do I rejoice in truths that convict me and correct me? How many times have I failed to love in this?

Love always protects. Love always trusts. Love always hopes. Love always perserveres. Love never fails.

Do I fail to protect the ones I love? Do I fail to stand up for them? Do I withhold my trust? Do I lose hope? Do I fail to perservere? Do I give up to easily? Every time I do, I fail to love.

Some of that hit me harder than other parts. Love keeps no record of wrong. That's hard for us humans. It's natural for our flesh to hold onto things, not to trust again, and maybe even rejoice when someone "gets their due".

I have been really angry today. I've been deeply wounded. People that I love are in pain. The reasons seem foolish and weak to me. It exhausts me. It makes me weep. It breaks my heart.

But, love always hopes. Love always perserveres. Love never fails.

What if Christ had given up on me? What if He had decided that we weren't worth the pain? What if He held our past wrongs against us?

I shudder at the thought.

And, so I set my mind on the thing that are before me. Lord, help me to forgive as I struggle in my flesh. Lord, give me wisdom. Thank you for loving me enough to correct me and show me Your light. Make me more like You. Shine through me so that others may come to know You and the hope, life, and light that You bring.

Verses about Anger

I found this collection of verses warning about anger this morning. I'm wrestling with some and needed to go to the scriptures. I thought I'd share them here.

Verses warning us about anger
Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret-it leads only to evil (Psalm 37:8).

A fool shows his annoyance at once, but a prudent man overlooks an insult (Proverbs 12:16).

Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing (Proverbs 12:18).

A wise man fears the Lord and shuns evil, but a fool is hotheaded and reckless (Proverbs 14:16

A quick-tempered man does foolish things, and a crafty man is hated (Proverbs 14:17).

A patient man has great understanding, but a quick-tempered man displays folly (Proverbs 14:29).

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger (Proverbs 15:1).

A hot-tempered man stirs up dissension, but a patient man calms a quarrel (Proverbs 15:18).

Better a patient man than a warrior, a man who controls his temper than one who takes a city (Proverbs 16:32).

A man of knowledge uses words with restraint, and a man of understanding is even-tempered (Proverbs 17:27).

It is to a man's honor to avoid strife, but every fool is quick to quarrel (Proverbs 20:3).

Do not say, "I'll pay you back for this wrong!" Wait for the LORD, and he will deliver you (Proverbs 20:22).

Like a city whose walls are broken down is a man who lacks self-control (Proverbs 25:28).

Mockers stir up a city, but wise men turn away anger (Proverbs 29:8).

A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control (Proverbs 29:11).

An angry man stirs up dissension, and a hot-tempered one commits many sins (Proverbs 29:22).

You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, "Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment." But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment ... first go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift (Matthew 5:21-24).

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21).

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs (1 Corinthians 13:4-5).

The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions (Galatians 5:19-20).

"In your anger do not sin": Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold (Ephesians 4:26-7).

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you (Ephesians 4:29-32).

Let your gentleness be evident to all (Philippians 4:5).

But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips (Colossians 3:8).

And the Lord's servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful (2 Timothy 2:24).

My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires (James 1:19-20).

Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing (1 Peter 3:9).

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Unmerciful Servant

I've been thinking alot about resentment, bitterness, and hatred today. Writing often helps me sort through my thoughts. I welcome any commentary on this subject.

Last year, about this time, I was really wrestling with forgiving someone. It was a new struggle for me. For whatever reason, in my life, I've not had trouble letting things go or forgiving people (for the most part). Maybe it's because I have a tendency to forget why I'm supposed to be angry, or maybe I've just been fortunate to not have too many situations where forgiveness has been difficult. But, whatever the case, I found myself in a new arena for me - wrestling to forgive.

As a believer in Christ and one who believes the Bible is the ultimate authority on how I should live my life, I knew that hating someone and choosing not to forgive was wrong. But, truthfully, I didn't want to let go and forgive. And, so I wrestled.

I made my way to the scriptures (after some wise counsel from friends) and started to see what the Lord had to say about forgiveness. Here's a link to the verses I read: http://christysolly.blogspot.com/2009/09/verses-on-forgiveness-msg.html

As much as Matthew 6:14-15 shook me, ("In prayer there is a connection between what God does and what you do. You can't get forgiveness from God, for instance, without also forgiving others. If you refuse to do your part, you cut yourself off from God's part"), it was the story of the unmerciful servant in Matthew 18:21-35 that truly broke my heart.

I can't get past it. I can't ignore it. The Truth is painted so clearly there for me.

After all I've been forgiven, who am I to hold a grudge against someone else? After all the grace that has been shown to me, who am I to withhold grace from another? Who am I? Or, more rightly said, who do I think I am?

In talking about this with a friend a couple of weeks ago, a scene from the movie "Fireproof" came to my mind. I jumped over to YouTube to see if I could find it. And, there it was. Please take the time to watch this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GUNGW-KyKFk

It never fails to bring tears to my eyes. The picture painted there is so clear. How can I keep loving someone who rejects me over and over? Christ does it for me. I fail Him all of the time. I can't possibly live up to His standards on my own power. I break His heart all of the time and yet He forgives me, He loves me, He extends grace to me, and He welcomes me back into His arms.

The father in that scene says to his son, "I love you too much not to tell you the truth". I wish we loved each other that well all of the time. I wish we received loved that well all of the time. The truth is that loving someone means being honest with them even when it's tough and when they don't want to hear it. Loving someone means forgiving and erasing the debt as if it were never there. Loving someone means letting go of past offenses.

I am reminded of a story told by Corrie Ten Boom regarding forgiveness. Ten Boom and her family were instrumental in helping Jews escape Holland during World War II. She shares her story in the book, "The Hiding Place". After her release from a German concentration camp, she began sharing her story and the love of Jesus. After preaching one night on how God forgives and we should as well, she stood face to face with one of the soldiers who had tortured her. She had to put into practice what she had been preaching. I can't imagine what I would do if faced with such a situation. I pray that I would have the power to forgive. I pray, that as Corrie Ten Boom realized, I would see that the Lord has forgiven me, He has forgiven the one with whom I'm angry, and it is my responsibility to forgive as well.

And, I'm also reminded of some quotes by Amy Carmichael in her book, "If". Powerful and convicting words.

"If in dealing with one who does not respond, I weary of the strain, and slip from under the burden, then I know nothing of Calvary love."

"If I am content to heal a hurt slightly, saying "Peace, peace," where is no peace; if I forget the poignant word, "Let love be without dissimulation" and blunt the edge of truth, speaking not right things but smooth things, then I know nothing of Calvary love."

"If I do not give a friend "the benefit of the doubt," but put the worst construction instead of the best on what is said or done, then I know nothing of Calvary love."

"If I take offense easily; if I am content to continue in a cool unfriendliness, though friendship be possible, then I know nothing of Calvary love."

"If I say, "Yes, I forgive, but I cannot forget," as though the God, who twice a day washes all the sands on all the shores of all the world, could not wash such memories from my mind, then I know nothing of Calvary love."

That's alot to chew on today. I'm sure this will be in "processing" mode for me for the next few days. I welcome any commentary, input or responses.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Something you should know...

So, there's something pretty important that you should know. It's life changing, really. It's actually already something many of you do know, but it's easy to forget and always worth hearing again. So, since it's been on my heart and mind all day, I'm gonna tell you now.

You are so loved.

It's true. And, even though many of you know that you are loved by your parents, or friends, or whoever, it doesn't always feel that way, does it? That's what happens when you are loved by imperfect people. Sometimes we forget to tell people that we love them. Sometimes we fail to show it. Other times, we let it die because of something silly or something we think we should hold onto forever. But, there's a truth that gives me hope even when I feel completely unseen, unloved, and unappreciated by those around me. You ready? Here it is:

"The Lord your God is with you, He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing". - Zephaniah 3:17

Wow.

Take a second. Read it again. Let it sink in.

Wow.

I'd like to paint a little picture of what that verse brings to mind for me. In December of last year, I became an aunt to a precious little baby girl. (Now, I've been "Aunt Christy" to some other babies, but haven't had the privilege of getting to see them that much as they were growing.) One of the joys of my life is when I get to hold her, rock her, and sing her to sleep at naptime. It's just indescribable. She knows me when she sees me and that gives me great delight every time it happens. She trusts me enough to lay her head on my shoulder, curl up in my arms, and fall asleep while I sing to her. It's beautiful. And, it's a tangible picture of God's love.

For those of you who are parents, your joy in a moment like this must only be multiplied. I am not yet a mom, so I can't imagine what that must be like. So, I relate it to the relationship I have with my niece. It's overwhelming.

And, it's true.

God is with us and He is mighty to save. Nothing overwhelms Him. Nothing is too much for Him. Nothing is too difficult.

He takes great delight in us. Can you picture it? Have you ever seen someone overcome with delight? A new mother or father as they look at their newborn child. A child at Christmas who just unwrapped the present for which they've longed. The groom whose face lights up as his bride enters the church on their wedding day. God delights in us like that. But, to a level we can not even imagine.

He quiets us with His love. Peace like a river. The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. The Balm of Gilead. Jehovah Rapha. Healer. Emmanual.

He rejoices over us with singing. The King of the Universe rejoices over you. Words fail me.

No matter what we've done, He loves us.

No matter how flawed we are, He loves us.

No matter how little we love ourselves, He loves us.

Isn't it beautiful?

So, I just thought you should know. I thought you should know that the One who created you, who knows you better than you could ever know yourself, the One who sees you as you will one day be when you see Him face to face, loves you with a love that is overwhelming, perfect, unimaginable, unfailing, and complete.

Take a minute and drink it in. Let it wash over you.

You are loved.

You are loved.

You are loved.