Awe-Inspiring, Spirit-Empowered, Christ-Like, Extravagant Love Manual

bunch of yellow roses

When it comes to romantic (EROS) love, I am no Dr. Ruth. I only know from very limited experience and hearing about other romantic relationships, that if a relationship is based solely on physical attraction and sexual activity, that relationship is doomed from the start. Even Christians are not exempt from broken relationships and failed marriages when “speed dating” is the norm. Two people have a better start at growing closer to each other when they first become friends and take the time to learn each other’s likes and dislikes, thoughts on important topics, the baseball team they cheer for, etc. Time well spent helps their relationship grow into a sincere caring friendship, in which they put the other person‘s needs before his/her own and by making Christ the center of their relationship. In this kind of relationship, one serves the other without wanting anything in return (AGAPE love). This kind of Christ-centered relationship has better “roots” to grow deeper and even last “until death do us part.”

candles and roses

I will be so happy when Valentine’s Day is over and the stupid commercials STOP! One commercial in particular advertises a four-foot stuffed Teddy Bear as must gift for “your sweetheart.” As if a four-foot stuffed Teddy Bear isn’t kinky enough, the commercial announcer guy says that the $100.00 gift “will be well worth it.” Give me a break! The commercial is promoting this giant Teddy Bear as a sure fire way to get what every red-blooded American male wants. This is so not like what God wants a relationship to be based on. God’s way is not “pay back,” but an Agape love that is giving, self-sacrificial and deep. For instance:

good friday6

“Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates His own [Agape] love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:7-8).

“Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality” (Romans 12:9-13).

elderly couple in love

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should not only look at your own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4).

“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gifts he has received to serve others, faithfully administrating God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen” (I Peter 4:8-11).

“A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense” (Proverbs 19:11).

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It is safe to say that not many of us will be called to physically die for a friend or spouse, but Jesus does say to all His disciples (friends), “If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me” (Luke 9:23). I believe Jesus calls us to deny ourselves by putting others first, before our own wants, desires and needs, in order to demonstrate Christ’s Agape love to the ones we love. How does this look? Let’s go to the “Love Chapter/Manual,” I Corinthians 13, and I will share the areas in my life God is working on:

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“Love is patient” (v. 4a):
What does God want me to do when a friend is telling me a story for the umpteenth time? God wants me to patiently listen. This is hard for me, but God’s love is patient. I am not going anywhere and my friend seems to enjoy sharing that story. The same goes when I am given unsolicited advice. It is so hard for me to respond by saying something like, “Thanks for the tip,” but that is what God is teaching me to do. I am so thankful that God is patient with me!

“…love is kind” (v.4b):
What does God want me to do when a waiter or waitress does not want to talk to me and deal with my cerebral palsied speech? Instead, the server asks the person I’m with what I would like to eat. God wants me to handle the situation in a kind way. Perhaps, I can ask him/her, “What is your name?” Then, I can kindly say, “(Mike or Molly), this is what I want to eat” and point to the item on the menu, to help them not have to deal with my speech. I could also lighten-up the situation by jokingly say, “I‘m in charge of your tip.” To be kind when my natural reaction is to throw up the “DISRESPECTED” card is not easy for me, but God’s love is kind. I am so grateful that God is kind to me.

hummer

“…It does not envy” (v. 4c):
When a friend talks about having something I wished I would have or be able to do ( a husband or go on a vacation or to be able to ride a bike or have box seats to a RED SOX game), God wants me to be happy for my friend and share in his/her joy. But, depending on my emotional state, this is not my first response. Instead, I ask God, “Why not me too?” When the Lord helps me to finally turn my focus away from the things I don’t have and focus on how much God has blessed me, I can be happy and share in my friend‘s joy. This is not very easy, but God is teaching me that real love is not envious.

“…it does not boast” (v. 4d)
When I do something nice for someone, I should not boast about it. It should only be between God and the person and me. As Jesus said to His disciples, “But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. So that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, Who sees what is done in secret will reward you“(Matthew 6:3-4). Doing something to help someone because God’s love put it in my heart to do, does not have to be known by others. If I talk about what I did for someone, my boasting will not be rewarded by God. Boasting has no place in God’s love.

Peter Saved by Jesus

“…it is not proud” (v. 4e)
It would be easy for me to be proud of my academic accomplishments and rest in my laurels and be satisfied with my past achievements. But God is not finished with the work He is doing in me. He wants me to grow in my love for Him and for my brothers and sisters in Christ. If I boast at all, it should be about what Jesus has done for me: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:8-10). God’s love is not proud of self, but proud of what Christ has done and continues to do for me and through me. I will always be a student of His Word because I have a long way to go and need much more “refining” before God is finished with me.

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“It is not rude” (v. 5a):
When people are rude to me and are condescending to me, I should not be rude to them, but instead pray for them. “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends of you, live at peace with everyone. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:17-18, 21). Jesus teaches, “…Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…” (Matthew 5:44). This is very hard to do in my humanness, but with God’s love and the power of the Holy Spirit, I am learning how to pray for those who are rude to me. Many do not even realize that they are being rude.

“…it is not self-seeking” (v. 5b):

God’s love does not ask, “What’s in it for me?” but, “How can I help you?”. God’s love is not self-seeking.

My desire is to be a person who can help, a person who can listen, and a person who is known for her godly love. I do not want to be known as someone who uses people for her own benefit.

brothers fighting

“…it is not easily angered” (v.5c):
When someone does something “stupid” or treats me as though I am a two-year-old, and especially when I know I am way more intelligent than he/she is, my natural reaction is anger and outrage. This does not help the situation nor does it bring glory to God. Instead, God’s love tells me to “overlook an offense” (Proverbs 19:11) and maybe talk to the person at another time when I am not angry. Ephesians 4:25-26 teaches, “Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body. ‘In your anger do not sin” [Psalm 4:4]: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” I remember a time when I was eating lunch at a friend’s house and one of her friends stopped by. She and I had never met before. Yet, she looked at me and said, “Eating again!?” Obviously, she was teasing and thought I was intellectually limited. I answered calmly, “It’s lunch time,” but I was seething inside. I only mention this because this person and I became very good friends. She is one of my “Scrabble buddies.” When she realized her “mistake” later on, she apologized to me without me having to talk to her about it. If people would just take a little time to listen and talk with physically disabled people, they would quickly realize that our intellect cannot be measured by whether or not we walk or how we walk or by the difficulty of our speech or by our facial grimaces or by our herky-jerky movements or by any other physical characteristic, but by who we are on the inside. If they did take a little time and effort to get to know us, they will discover that we do have a good head on our shoulders. But, even when they don’t, God’s love tells me to not be easily angered. If I had let my anger get the best of me and really blasted my now friend for her preconceived ideas about who I was, I wonder if we would have become friends.

“…it keeps no record of wrongs” (v. 5d):
God’s love tells me to forgive and forget – to wipe the slate clean when a person wrongs me, just as Christ has wiped my slate clean of my many sins. This means that I never bringing IT up again. “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievance you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. It is very difficult to forgive some offenses, but God’s forgiveness freely given to me and His love for me make it possible for me to forgive and love others.

believe god's love 2

“Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth” (v. 6.):
God’s love tells me not to delight in another’s misfortune, even though I think he/she deserves what he/she gets because of the wrongs committed against me. Instead, God’s love tells me to rejoice when he/she repents and turns to God. This is what God wants me to pray for. God’s love helps me to rejoice when people who have wronged me accept God’s Truth. They are no longer my enemy, but my brother/sister in Christ.

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“…It always protects” (v. 7a):
God’s love teaches me to protect others; to protect their reputations and to keep what happens between us just between them and me. And, if someone says something about someone that is not true, I need to set the record straight. And even if something is true, I need to ask, “Would he/she want you to tell this to others?” Ephesians 4:29-31 instructs us, “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, 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.” God’s love tells me not to talk about someone behind his/her back. Instead, “…whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is praiseworthy – think about such things” (Philippians 4:8).

robin and nest

“… always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres” (v. 7b):
God’s love teaches me to never give up on those I love. God’s love teaches me to trust Him with the people I love. I cannot change them, but He can. With God there is always hope. “And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, Whom He has given us” (Romans 5:2b-5). God promises to reward our perseverance: “This calls for patient endurance on the part of the saints who obey God’s commandments and remain faithful to Jesus. Then I heard a Voice from heaven say, ‘Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’ ‘Yes,’ says the Spirit, ‘they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them’” (Revelation 14:12-13). Sometimes, we will see the fruit of our perseverance and prayers for those we love. But, it will be when we finally go to our heavenly rest, when we will fully see the extent of what our prayers have accomplished in those we love. So, let us never give up on our loved ones, but persevere in our love and prayers for them.

“…LOVE NEVER FAILS” (v. 8a)

banana split love

Can you imagine what the world would be like if those who call themselves “Christians” would not be known for what they hate, but be known for how they love – The I Corinthians 13:4-8a kind of love?! It is never too late to start.

box of chocolate

HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY. May God’s Love be with us today and forever. Amen

cardinals

(I was not able to send out a post yesterday because I took time to watch the beautiful snow falling outside my living room picture window. There was also an Olympic hockey game going on, with the U.S.A. winning 7 to 1. I ENJOY (not love) watching the snow, and I also ENJOY (not love) watching Olympic hockey. I also ENJOY listening to Mike Emrick, the voice of hockey, calling the game. Hockey in the morning, a delicious mug of hot coffee, with snow falling outside – All was good in Lydia’s world. I will be taking in the rest of the Olympics, without any blogging interruptions, so ENJOY Valentine’s Day and the time off from reading long posts. I did do a few short ones, so I am improving.

My idea of a perfect Valentine’s gift is already shaped in a heart (kind of).

aromatherapy4The Lyd

Lydia

Awe-Inspiring, Spirit-Empowered, Christ-Like, Extravagant Love

box of chocolate

In the interest of fair play (and to correct a mistake I made in my last post for the “followers” of my blog), let’s look at the definition of “love” at Dictionary.com. Also, let’s try to match each definition with one of the three words used in the Greek language for “LOVE”: “EROS” (a kind of self-love or romantic love), PHILEA (a friendship-type of love) and AGAPE (an extravagant, unconditional, self-sacrificing kind of love):

LOVE (noun):
* a profoundly tender, passionate for another person [EROS and AGAPE if God is involved].
* a feeling of warm personal attachment or deep affection, as for a parent, child, or friend [PHILEA, and AGAPE when godly self-sacrifice is involved].
* sexual passion or desire [EROS, and AGAPE if God is in charge].
* used in direct address as a term of endearment, affection, or the like: “Would you like to see a movie, love?” [PHILEA, and AGAPE when God is in charge].

bunch of roses

LOVE (verb with object), loved, loving:
* to have love or affection for: “All her pupils love her” [PHILEA].
* to have a profoundly tender, passionate affection for (another person) [EROS, and AGAPE when God is the center of the relationship].
* to have a strong liking for; take great pleasure in: to love music [or baseball] [“enjoy” or “appreciate” are better words to use].
* to need or require; benefit greatly from: “Plants love sunlight.” [“need“ would be a better word to use – I know some people talk to their plants, but when was the last time they said, “I love you.”?].
* to embrace or kiss ( someone), as a “lover” [EROS and, AGAPE when God is in the center of the relationship].

box of chocolate

LOVE (verb without object), loved, loving:
* to have love or affection for another person; be in love [EROS, and AGAPE if this is God’s will for you].

(You may do the next grouping, if you wish.)

Idioms:
“for love”
* out of affection or liking; for pleasure.
* without compensation: gratuitously: “He took care of the poor for love.”
“for the love of”
* in consideration of; for the sake of: “For the love of mercy, stop that noise.”
“in love”
* infused with or feeling deep affection or passion: “He is always in love.”
“in love with”
*feeling deep affection or passion for (a person, idea, occupation, etc.); “in love with the girl next door” or “in love with one’s work.”
“make love”
* to embrace and kiss as lovers
* to engage in sexual activity.

believe god's love
In all these definitions of love, the key is to “love one another” as Jesus loves us – with an awe-inspiring, Spirit-Empowered, Christ-like, extravagant love which puts the other person’s needs ahead of our own desires. God made us to have a relationship with Him and with each other. God blesses romantic love that is in a committed relationship called marriage. With Jesus holding the marriage together, with both husband and wife submitting to Christ, their marriage will not be easily shaken, even when the physical attraction is no more, either because of a sickness or disability or whatever else life throws at them. Ecclesiastes 4:12b says, “A cord with three strands is not easily broken.” Jesus is that strong third strand.

elderly couple in love

God also gives us our families and our church families to love with a brotherly/sisterly love; the kind of love that always puts the other person first. While human love is based mostly on feelings, AGAPE LOVE is not based on temporal feelings, but is unconditional and everlasting. God teaches us how to love one another by how He loves us. Psalm 136:1-3 teaches us to “Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good. HIS LOVE ENDURES FOREVER. Gives thanks to the God of gods. HIS LOVE ENDURES FOREVER. Give thanks to the LORD of lords: HIS LOVE ENDURES FOREVER.” Each of the twenty-six verses in Psalm 136 ends with, “HIS LOVE ENDURES FOREVER.” The Apostle John teaches us about God’s love and our love in this way:

brothers fighting

“Dear friends, let us love one another, for [agape] love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed His love among us: He sent His One and Only Son into the world that we might live through Him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and His love is made complete in us. We know that we live in Him and He in us, because He has given us His SPIRIT…God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him…There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment…We love because He first loved us. If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, Whom he has not seen. And He has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother” (I John 4:7-13, 16b, 18-21).

believe god's love 2

So, what does loving our brother or sister in the Lord with this awe-inspiring, Spirit-empowered, Christ-like, Extravagant love look like? We will explore this question next time.

banana split love

May the Love of God Rule in Our Hearts!

The Lyd

Lydia

Awesome, Passionate, Love (II)

me writing

What do these three words really mean? I went to two sources to find out the answers – Dictionary.com for the words “awesome” and “passionate” and “Authentic Community” (by Jim Van Yperen) for the word “love.”

AWESOME: (adjective)
1. inspiring, an overwhelming feeling of reverence, admiration, or fear; causing or inducing awe: “an awesome sight.”
2. showing or characterized by reverence, admiration, or fear; exhibiting or marked by awe.
3. Slang: very impressive: “That new white convertible is totally awesome.”

PASSIONATE: (adjective)
1. having, compelled by, or ruled by intense emotion or strong feeling; fervid: “a passionate advocate of socialism.”
2. easily aroused to or influenced by sexual desire; ardently sensual.
3. expressing, showing, or marked by intense or strong feeling; emotional: “passionate language.”
4. intense or vehement, as emotions or feelings: “passionate grief.”
5. easily moved to anger; quick-tempered; irascible.

LOVE: (noun: “God’s love is everlasting” and verb: “God loves you”)
The three words used for “love” in the Greek language are:
1. “Eros” is a kind of self-love.
2. “Philea” is friendship.
3. “Agape” is generous, self-sacrificing love.

glasses on Bible

As you can see, the words “awesome” and “passionate” and “love” are way overused and sometimes misused. A person can “love” another person and also “love” a car. In Jim Van Yperen’s book, “Authentic Community” (p. 11), he says this about “love”: “In Scripture, believers are called to put away ‘eros’ and put on ‘philea’ and ‘agape’ love by the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus’ command to love one another is ‘agape’ love. We are called to love one another in the same way God has loved us – with generous, self-sacrificing love.”

“A new command I give you: [Agape] Love one another. As I have [generously and sacrificially] loved you, so you must [agape] love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you [agape] love one another” (John 13:34-35).

How did Jesus “generously and self-sacrificially” love us?

Cross

“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates His Own [agape] love for us is this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:6-8).

banana split love

Jesus demonstrated His [agape] love for us by paying the ultimate price for our sins. Jesus loved us extravagantly, even before we loved Him, by dying on the cross, in order for us to be “justified through faith” and “have peace with God” (see Romans 5:1), with ourselves and with one another. Jesus calls us to the same [agape] love for one another. This cannot be done on our own strength, “but because God has poured out His [agape] love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, Whom He has given us (see Romans 5:5b).

banana split with whip cream

Since the words “awesome” and “passionate” and “love” are often misused and misconstrued in today’s English language, I think I will rename my blog post to: “Awe-Inspiring, Spirit-Empowered, Christ-like, Extravagant Love.” This is the kind of [agape] love Jesus wants His believers to have for one another and for the all the world to see and want for themselves.

May the Peace and Joy of Christ fill us with His AGAPE Love!

The Lyd

Lydia