Posts Tagged ‘fellowship’

Love is a Verb

Posted: February 5, 2015 by liftyourvoice1 in Godly Manhood, Godly Womanhood
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agape loveValentine’s Day is right around the corner and with it a plethora of pink, teddy bears, and heart-shaped everything. On this designated day, people make a special effort to let others know they’re loved (and others desperately wait to hear confessions of love). But why must this be designated to one day? And why must it be romantic love? Can’t we love everyone everyday with God’s love, a love that’s beyond the material and commercialized? What is real love?

When I look up “love” on dictionary.com, these are the top three definitions:
1. a profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person.
2. a feeling of warm personal attachment or deep affection, as for a parent, child, or friend.
3. sexual passion or desire.

The Greek language has four words for love:
– eros (romantic, sexual love)
– agape (brotherly love, charity)
-philia (friendship love)
-storge (natural affection as of parents for their children, also a less common word for “love” than the first three)

If you note the definitions of “love” listed above the Greek, you’ll see that #1 could be eros or agape, #2 is philia, and #3 is eros. Also, note that love is described by other nouns, namely“affection,” a “feeling,” and a “desire.”

Is love affection, a feeling, or a stirring passionate desire? Our society portrays it as such, and it’s terrifying. I would feel utterly heartbroken if my husband told me he had strong feelings of affection or desire for me. Likewise, if my closest friends or family members said they had warm feelings for me I would cry rivers. “Why?” you ask. Because that kind of love is changeable and not based on a commitment. That kind of love says “I love you for what you do for me,” “I love you when you’re attractive,” or “I love you when you make me happy.” I’m blessed because my husband, close friends, and family love me with God’s love, agape love. Agape love is not based on performance of the receiver of love nor the feelings of the giver.

“Tell me more about this agape love,” you say. Of course! In my brief search, this is what I’ve unearthed on the topic:

“Agápe means love: esp. brotherly love, charity; the love of God for man and of man for God. Agape is used in the biblical passage known as the ‘love chapter,’ 1 Corinthians 13, and is described there and throughout the New Testament as brotherly love, affection, good will, love, and benevolence. Whether the love given is returned or not, the person continues to love (even without any self-benefit). Agape is used by Christians to express the unconditional love of God for his children. This type of love was further explained by Thomas Aquinas as ‘to will the good of another.’”

Sorry, that was long…phew! But it was so good I had to include it all. Did you notice the key words? Unconditional, wanting good for others, given without self-benefit. This kind of love is extraterrestrial. It’s from heaven above, and its existence on earth only happens when people let God fill them with this love. You have to be possessed by God’s Holy Spirit to love this way because human nature cries “me first.”

Close relationships reveal whether you’re possessed with selfish or God’s love. Marriage opened my eyes to the depth of true, godly love and my lack of this love for others. Real love hurts and doesn’t come naturally. Real love doesn’t lay down requirements or conditions. Real love forgives even when pride rears its ugly head. Real love is daily, practical, and in the little things. You know the phrase, “the end justifies the means?” Well, when it comes to love, the end is all about the means. It’s all about the in between, the small details.

Here’s some personal examples:

Love is when my husband takes the day off from work to take care of me when I have the stomach bug and have thrown up all over the bath tub. (True story. May it never happen again!)

Love is when my best friend drops off food, unasked and secretively (well she tried, I caught her), from Panera on my door step when I was home caring for my husband.

Love is when I ran my car into a bench and banged up the side door pretty badly, and instead of chiding me, my dad just hugged me and let me cry. He extended grace instead of punishment. (He then proceeded to buy a new car door for me and then paint it to match the rest of the car.)

I’m so blessed to be loved this way. And I’m reminded to love others this way, even though it is so hard. You may be thinking “Isn’t marriage about passion and desire?” Well, yes. But it can’t survive on that. A good marriage is founded on God and a commitment to one another; otherwise it will fail because people fail.

Love is a choice. Love is a verb. It’s about what you DO for others, not about what you receive.

I could write an entire book on this topic, but I’ll leave you with some food for thought: “Love is when the other person’s happiness is more important than your own.” ~H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

I challenge you this Valentine’s Day, and every day, to share agape love with others. Be God’s hands and feet. Be filled with His Spirit. Be love.

Learning to love God’s way,
Larkin

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Don’t Be an Island

Posted: September 27, 2014 by liftyourvoice1 in Relationships/Love
Tags: , ,

One perk (of many) with my new smart phone is the awesome Bible app I downloaded. It makes it super easy to read the Bible conveniently and on the go. Generally, when I don’t have a set plan for my Bible reading, I’ll read the Proverb that corresponds with the day of the month. So, I had my phone reading Proverbs 18 out-loud to me, and verse 1 grabbed me: “Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment.” Hmph, I thought. I’ve never heard this verse, or at least this verse put quite this way. Turns out, I was reading the ESV translation, which I rarely do. I switched to the NIV version, my default, and it had this to say: “An unfriendly man pursues selfish ends; he defies all sound judgment.” Is it just me, or do these verses seem to emphasize different things? The second clause agrees, that it goes against sound judgment. But the first part of the ESV states clearly isolation is not good and goes against the desires of God, for man “seeks his own desire” in being a hermit. The NIV uses the word “unfriendly.” Now I’m thinking of a mean and grouchy man when that word is used, perhaps a grouchy man that is selfish, naturally. That makes total sense. But the ESV version really made me reflect. If I isolate myself, I pursue my own selfish desires, and therefore, it is not good, for any emphasis on self detracts from God’s command to love Him and others.

I’ll admit. I espoused George Washington’s international policy of isolationism in my social life, summed up like this: meddling in others’ affairs or making yourself known or making a scene or being assertive was not for me. The books were safe and predictable. And so, I passed through high school with perfect grades, a few close friends, and no social life. And then college happened. SOCIAL LIFE! WOOHOOOO! It was like a drug. Where have you been all my life?! I do believe I went a little over the top my freshman year, always trying to be involved in all the dorm activities, always trying to get “that” boy’s attention (does he like me? do I like him?), finally living the “wild” (in a very clean way) life I never had. It was like I was on fire. I can’t say it was healthy, but, there is a balance. Man, should not isolate himself.

“No man is an island.” How many times have you heard that? Did you know it’s a quote from John Donne’s poem? Here’s the rest of it:

No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thine own
Or of thine friend’s were.
Each man’s death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.

Donne points out that our lives are all intertwined. When one man passes, a part of someone else dies. A life touches another, ignites a soul, makes someone else come alive. It’s powerful.

You know what else is also powerful? The Trinity. God loves relationship, and He Himself is involved in the most loving, giving, and sacrificial relationship of all with the Son and the Holy Spirit, all three in perfect communion. In the beginning, He said, “Let us create…” Who is us? The Trinity. He created man and said it was not good for him to be alone, and once he had a companion and creation was completed after mankind, he said it was VERY good. Not just good.

I realized in this verse, that I am depriving others by isolating myself. Many times I have told myself and others that basically I’m doing myself a favor by not getting close to them. By not opening up my heart and who I really am. But in actuality, this is can be a cover up for my own selfish fears of being hurt. But, I am hurting other people if I do not interact with them. God commands us to love others through actions and words, to grieve with others, to confess our sins, to basically be transparent and forgiving and joyful in others’ successes.

What do I have to give? you may ask. YOURSELF. You’re one of a kind. Why would God make people so different if He didn’t take joy in that? If he didn’t find you and your individual identity important? Share a smile, kinds words, a hug. These are simple gestures that can mean so much. Once I risked deeper friendships, I learned to risk being vulnerable, and in return, people were vulnerable with me. Together, we could encourage one another in Christ. And we then had a deeper friendship. Sometimes you may feel like you’re the only one giving, but don’t grow weary of doing what’s right. God loved to the point of death. You, then, can love others past your comfort zone.

I didn’t understand true friendship til college. My parents loved me and cared and cried with me. But to have true friends is priceless. I remember when I went through a painful break-up I hid myself in my room, very distraught, and would not come out until my roommate came back. I wouldn’t talk to anyone else in the quad area we shared, I only wanted my roomie. When she came to the door, I greeted her like a blubbering leaking faucet as I garbled out the bad news. I went to hug her, then realized, she was crying! I was confused, and asked why she was crying. I don’t remember her exact words, but she let me sit on her lap and bawl my eyes out. I am so blessed to call her my friend. I didn’t need words then, or explanations or analysis of the scenario, just empathy. Her tears and comfort were more than enough.

Now that I’m out of college and married, I’ve grown to realize the great importance of anti-isolationism. My immediate family doesn’t live here. My husband is my family. My friends are my family. I am there for them, so that in turn, they are there for me. I’m always so grateful when a friend is willing to do a favor for me or when a friend truly wants to spend time with me because they honestly miss me. I love when one of my girl pals texts me and says “I miss you!” or “We need to catch up!” I love honest and open heart to heart conversations. By not having them all these years, I didn’t just hurt myself, but I deprived others of the joy and love God could have conveyed through me to them in their time of need.

Remember: Islands may seem lovely, but only if they’re vacation spots like Hawaii. Risk being vulnerable. Risk being yourself.

Learning to love,
Larkin

Falling Bible

Posted: January 23, 2012 by andreacaresse in Worldliness
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

You may think this a strange title, but you’ll see the meaning behind “Falling Bible” at the end.  It ties into this week’s discussion of “Worldliness,” which is not only an issue that affects our witness to non-believers, but it affects our relationship with God as well.  We as His children can never lose our salvation, but we can lose our fellowship with God.  The more we are of the world, the farther we are from God.   Worldliness is an issue that ranges from everything from daily distractions, to deep-rooted sinful desires that are born from being too attached to what the world desires.  If we are focused and dependent on God, worldliness should be so disconnected from our character that others around us can see a visible difference in the way we live and think.

As Christians, we are called to “be in the world, but not of the world.”   We are meant to be “light and salt in a wicked a crooked generation.”  God has chosen us to be a beacon of light and truth to those who don’t know His name.  One of the most important things to remember is that if we are distracted by the same fallen desires that entice the world, then no one will be able to see any intelligible difference in us, and they will not listen to the Truth that we need to share.   We are the image bearers of Christ.  What the world sees through our lives, they assume is a result of our beliefs in Jesus Christ.  If they look at us and see the same kind of individual as any other secular person, then they can freely suppose that our faith makes no difference and is not important to us.   Our faith in Jesus Christ should be the foundation that we build our actions, beliefs, attitudes, and desires on.  If we allow the world to dictate our values, then all we are doing is allowing ourselves to be “tossed to and fro, and carried about” by everything that’s wrong in the world.

What does the Bible say on the subject? Check these verses out:

“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world.” 1 John 2:15-16

“If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” John 15:19

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2

“Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly—mere infants in Christ.  I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans?” 1 Corinthians 3:1-3

So what exactly do we mean by worldliness?  Think about these typical examples of someone “living of the world”:  A lifestyle of sexual promiscuity; addiction to drugs or alcohol; dancing the night away at raves; viewing pornography; destructive and harmful behaviors towards self or others…. Obviously these things are sinful behaviors that are a result of fallen humanity, but what about these?:  exposing yourself to movies, music, and games that promote acts of sexuality, violence, and profanity: wearing clothes that intentionally and provocatively show off your body; speaking with abrasive language and profanity; joking around with others on topics displeasing to the Lord; being a fan of an artist or actor that endorses actions you yourself don’t approve of; behaving a certain way simply to fit in with the crowd… These can sometimes be more subtle in our lives, hiding in a “grey area,” but they are destructive to not only our witness, but to our own minds…  Now what about these actions?:  Putting friend time before quiet time with God; reading your favorite novel over the Bible; humming that song in your head that you know is displeasing to God; wasting your time on facebook pressing the refresh button instead of doing your homework; chatting with someone online you don’t even know; being disobedient to authority in your life; not reading your Bible or praying because you’re “too busy”; allowing discontent feelings about your life to cause you to be angry with God.   Some of these are just not “smart choices,” but are they “worldliness” issues as well?  I think so, because they are results of us being too overcome with the pleasures of this world that we lose focus on what’s truly important and right in our lives.  So often we think of just “the big sins” (even though all sin is equal in God’s sight) as the definition of worldliness, but more often the subtleties of life are what begin to erode our faith and cause us to slip even further into actions that are no different from a non-believer.

The issue of worldliness goes way deeper than simply how we behave on the outside, but its source is how we think on the inside.  If our hearts are right with God, our actions will prove themselves.  If we are distant in our fellowship with our Savior, then our behavior will reflect that, and we will be vulnerable to the desires of this world.   The beautiful thing about light is that it radiates.  The closer we are to Christ, the more we glow, because we are reflecting more of Him.  But if we are so filled with the distractions of this world and distance ourselves from God, then our light will be muted and hard for others to see.

Last semester my light was muted, quite frankly it was just plain out.  I had lost my focus on my Savior, and instead my thoughts were concerned on this world and all that was either going wrong, or just wasn’t how I wanted.  I can look back to last year and see how a snow-ball affect started in my life.  It began with tiny little thoughts, thoughts about life and how I was dissatisfied with some things.  Slowly those thoughts turned to actions; I didn’t take my fellowship with God seriously.   My heart wasn’t concerned on seeking His face in fellowship; I wasn’t hungry for that one-and-only friendship. There were days when I didn’t want to seek His face at all, but I wanted to seek His hands (what He could give me).  At the time, it wasn’t clear to me that I was doing this, but I knew in my heart that I wasn’t thinking like I should.  I became overly concerned on how busy my life had become, and I found easy excuses for not opening God’s Word.  Either a distraction would come in my way, or a desire would overshadow my thoughts.  There were weeks when I only read perhaps a handful of verses.  And many other weeks when I would “read” without even absorbing the words… my eyes would just follow the lines.  As my fellowship with God distanced, my behavior changed.  Those who saw me on a daily basis detecting this change, often asked me how I was doing with some concern, but the same answer always came, “I’m good.”   Once the fellowship with God distanced, I didn’t have joy during worship.  Convocation, which was in past a great joy for me, became an arduous duty.  I engaged in conversations with others that, in truth, weren’t pleasing to God, and I knew it.  I developed “friendships” with those who weren’t making God their first priority.  My dissatisfaction for life in general grew, and not only did I not have time to read the Bible, but I didn’t have time for anyone else.  My entire attitude became one of self-interest and dissatisfaction.   As my thoughts and behavior worsened I began to dislike who I had become, and instead of running back to God, I sank further into a state of depression and stress.  I wanted so desperately to break free from the unhappiness that had consumed me, but I had no idea where to begin.  Soon, self-pity added itself to the mix, along with being overly concerned with other’s opinions of me.  No one else really knew what I was feeling; they just thought I was “busy.”   But that’s where my concern for the things of this world had led me.  Not only had seemingly harmless worldly thoughts separated me from fellowship with my Creator, but they kept me from being a light to others.  Who can be a light while they are dark on the inside?  Believe me, I’ve tried.   You can’t be a light in your own fleshy strength, it’s just impossible.   Simple daily distractions and concerns had caused me to forget what was truly important in my life: Fellowship with my God.

My life at this point was entirely run by my schedule.  My life was daily planned out before me and any purpose that remained in me was dedicated to staying afloat through my busy days.  Right about this time, I had a project due in art class.  The assignment was to create an image with a hidden meaning, something that made you look twice.   After getting the details on what was required for this work, I did what I do with every project:  I took some time just sitting and thinking, letting whatever thoughts come into my head, and asking God what He’d like me to do.  (Even though my fellowship with Him had distanced greatly, I knew I still wanted to create something He would want… it’s basically the premise behind all my art, and thankfully that part of my relationship still remained.)  So as I sat there thinking, I looked down on the desk and saw my weekly planner.  The pages were open and I could see how distracted and hurried I had become.  I closed my eyes to try and forget what I just saw, but it was still there.  I started thinking about how busy all of our lives are in this world.  We have so many attachments, distractions, senseless worries.  We rush to and fro, never giving God the time of day.  Like Manhattan during rush hour we never get to where we need to go, and we’re constantly feeling late, even if we’re “on time.”  I just sat there and started imagining the blur of traffic lights streaking all around and in the center of it all was my Bible falling away from me.  Its pages were morphing out into everything that was causing a distraction.  As the objects grew the more of the Bible they consumed, and the farther away the Bible fell.  All I could think about was, please, be still and know that I am God.  Stop the worrying, stop the hurrying; just be still.  Below is the final product.

This symbolically represents everything that distracts us in this life on earth; pictures of the worldliness that encapsulates our lives.  Its title is “Falling Bible,” because the more we are attracted to things of this world, the more the Bible falls away from our hearts.

Starting in the top-left, going clock-wise: Cell phone (all the connections and communications that distract us),  Earbuds (the media we allow to enter our hearts and minds that keeps us from hearing the voice of God), Keys (the multiple earthly possessions that we lock away in our hearts as being oh so important), Money (the love of it, or the financial stresses we face), Car (status symbols or objects that we flaunt to others), Ipod (music, videos, games, and internet access that we feed off of on a daily basis), Watch (time, one of this world’s most costly possessions and distractions), and finally an actual page from my planner… the thing that started it all.   The words Be still and know that I am GOD, appear as though they are set in stone, sunk deeply into the Word.  No longer can one’s eyes just skim over the lines on the page, we are forced to read them.  When we are in the midst of the rush of life, these words are a needed food for the soul.

I had many weeks to work on this, and during this time I was able to analyze myself very well.  This wasn’t necessarily the “turning point” for me; I had a lot of work to do to get back to where I had started.  But this project helped me see how distracted I had become; now I had to act on it.  I knew I had to change something, but I had to discover the what and how.  I finally recognized that what was going on inside me was my own doing, and was started by my own thoughts.  I started talking with godly friends and family, I finally genuinely asked God to help me (no longer in the accusatory “why don’t You help me?”  way I had been praying, I made intentional time for God and stopped doing, and just listened.  It took lots of time to unwind everything that had wound itself around my heart.  But Praise God with His help, it happened.

I’ve learned since then, that little distractions in life caused by this world can do a great deal of harm spiritually.  Since then, I’ve also learned what it means to have an “eternal perspective.”  Often during the course of a day I tell myself, “Life is short compared to eternity.”  It makes those life stresses and distractions not matter so much, and it keeps me from becoming too attached to this world.  Remember, we are not here forever.  We are only traveling for a very short time here on this earth.  While we’re here, we are to shine God’s light for the world to see!  To make Him famous, not ourselves.  To shine His light through our lives.  The closer we are to the world, the less the world will see His light.  The closer we are to Him the brighter we shine.