There is Nothing Without Love

1 Corinthians 13:1-3 makes it very clear what happens without love. Nothing!

If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.” NASB

Without love, I am nothing. Paul makes it clear, as did Jesus before him, that love is all that truly matters in this world. Without it, nothing makes any difference. God is love, and if we don’t have the level of love He desires, all our efforts miss His mark. Paul’s description of love is a beautiful one that shows a deep love for God and for others. He implores the church at Corinth to see the point of love.

The point of loving is getting closer to God. Each time I rock Mylah to sleep, read with Lillyann, talk with a hurting friend, or participate in any act of love, I feel a connection to Christ’s heart. The smallest act of love is a thousand times better than the greatest effort done out of obligation. Whether indebted or beholden, it all amounts to less than nothing without love.

The world has replaced love with lust and obligation, and the results are obvious all around. Love begets love, and that makes a difference in me and the world. True love wants nothing in return, and that spurs me on as nothing else can.

Living with my sweet grandbabies has taken love to a new level, and I’m amazed at all they are teaching me. Whether watching them sleep or showing them ways to love one another, I grow closer to them and to God with each act of love. Living with someone allows love to manifest in the mundane, and it is in the everyday that God loves for us to love. He, nor we, need extravagant gestures. Hearts and flowers flounder, but good night kisses and morning hugs last a lifetime.

Mylah asked about mommy and daddy as she was drifting off today. I told her that mommy was at school and daddy was at work. I added that Gigi’s right here. She smiled that beautiful smile of hers, played with my hair and closed her eyes. That’s love. Lillyann snuggled next to me and whispered while she was falling asleep. I looked at her sweet, sleeping face, and my heart just melted. That’s love.

I’m learning about love from two very adept teachers. The girls love with abandon, and that’s the way we all love until we learn the world doesn’t always appreciate that kind of love. I believe in the miracle of Christ’s precious love, and I have hope for the world because it does belong to God:)

The God of Hope

Love and hope are inseparable. God’s love offers hope that leads to joy and peace beyond description. Romans 15:13 is a sweet blessing that fills my heart each time I read it.

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” NASB

Only the power of the Holy Spirit can bring the love, hope, joy, and peace of God. There are many substitutes in this world, but none compare to what God has to offer. I forget the Spirit and head out on my own sometimes and find myself lost and alone. When I am not feeling connected, I know the problem is love. I belong to the body of Christ and that means loving God and others. I can try to worship Him on my own, but it just won’t work. I can try to worship with others without loving them, but that will also fail.

Christ says this about love in Matthew 22:36-40.

Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” NASB

Love isn’t negotiable and neither is being a part of His body. I am, and always will be, whether I like it or not. I can try to separate myself from other believers, but it is as futile an act as an eye deciding to take off on its own. “We are one in the bond of love” as the beautiful hymn says, and I cannot love or fully live without being connected to others.

I love being in a house filled with the sounds of love. The girls bless me each time they come running to my room to say good morning or good night. My heart is right at home here, and the lessons in love just keep getting better. This week’s have gone straight to my core and hurt deeply, but God is faithful to bless, heal, and stretch my heart a little with each lesson:)

Wholeness and Holiness

The scriptures this morning are about being one, and the lessons this week have been about wholeness. Holiness and wholeness go hand in hand. 1 Corinthians 12:12-13 are beautiful verses that describe the oneness God desires.

“For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.” NASB

The image of drinking from one Spirit struck me this morning. Sharing a drink with someone is very intimate, and I don’t usually drink from the same cup as others. The scripture clearly says that we were made to drink of one Spirit. God made us for the intimacy of oneness, and holiness is about experiencing the unity Paul describes.

Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and God are all one, and it is His desire for us to be one with Christ and so become one with Him through the Holy Spirit. The church is a poor example of oneness, and I know that breaks God’s heart. As we are apart, so is His heart. It is humbling to realize that I have the power to break the Creator’s heart, but I know I do. So do we all, and that should cause us to lay aside differences and come together.

I’ve said it before, but it bears saying again. Satan loves individuals, and God loves unity. I pray that we all will truly hear the words spoken to the church at Corinth and know that they apply more today than ever before. So much division exists in the body of Christ that He becomes an unrecognizable pile of pieces.

What a beautiful world this would be if all Christians came together as one! It would truly be His Kingdom come, and His will would be done in a way that would make us all wonder what took us so long to figure out that being whole is much better than being broken. Our brokenness is healed by the wholeness Christ affords. Thanks be to God:)

Vast Difference!

There is a vast difference between knowing what is right and the need to be right. God made that difference very clear yesterday with the cliff I came close to falling off! The scriptures this week had the crowd ready to toss Jesus over the cliff when He didn’t say what they wanted to hear. I didn’t like what He had to say to me and came close to slipping over the edge myself as I backed away from Him.

Evil has a way of disguising itself as good. It’s Satan’s greatest power, and my need to be right and desire to be loved brought me to a place of decision yesterday. A friend reminded me as we prayed together that I know what is right, and God reminded me again this morning. I do know what is right and what is good, but I am a stubborn and willful child who refuses to obey.

Disobedience breaks the heart and keeps the body from the wholeness God has in mind. The most difficult lessons are those which reveal sin for what it is. I chide myself for living up to daddy’s expectations when I see my stupidity. I don’t like to use the word he used to describe me on a daily basis, but it was the word that came to mind as I took inventory and prayed. God didn’t use it, but I did.

He loves and comforts me when I see my own mistakes with an attitude of true repentance, and loves me all the more when I decide to turn from them and heed His lessons in loving. Lust and love are not the same. Wanting what I want rather than what He wants is lust. Love is many things, but wanting isn’t one of them.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 has also been in my path this week, and I know that wasn’t a coincidence.

“Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”NASB

I have taken and twisted those passages much in my life, and it has caused my heart to be broken over and over again. Yesterday, I looked at the brokenness and asked God to help me pick up the pieces. He had a better idea in mind. He asked me to leave those pieces at the cross and let Him give me a new heart, one held together by the sweet, powerful glue of His Holy Spirit.

I’m all for fixing things that can be fixed, but I also know that God knows best when it comes to hearts. I’ve tried for decades to repair my heart, but it only gets worse with each patching. I’m always left feeling less that what He desires, and that hurts deeply. Yesterday, I felt worse than ever and did not like what I saw. I know I must see myself as more before I can be who He wants me to be and have the love He has in in mind for me.

I’m ready to let Him have those pieces and accept the whole heart He has for me. Obedience is the key to wholeness and holiness, and I trust Him to help me find the joy that comes as a result of that obedience. My heart’s in good hands, and that’s just where it belongs. I feel like His beloved and cherished daughter, and that’s a new and wonderful feeling. A vast and beautiful difference from what I was feeling yesterday. Joy does come in the morning:)

Bedtime Story:)

The girls came knocking on my door this evening with their bedtime books and mommy and daddy in tow. Lillyann yelled, “Wake Up!” It was only 7:30, so I had to grin as I headed for the door. They ran in squealing at the top of their lungs. There is nothing like a good bedtime story to set the stage for a great night’s rest, and God knew I needed the interruption.

The day was a hectic one that left me worn and weary. I was away from home today and missed being with the girls. I needed the tough aerobics workout and a hot shower, but I needed the Lillyann & Mylah fix more:) The sweet time with them was a beautiful reminder of the love God provides for me. My heart needed the reminder today.

I was off track for a while today, but God got me back where I needed to be with the help of His two sweet assistants. They hadn’t been in Gigi’s room since it was all put together, and they loved it. They took note of the new decor and then immediately plopped right down in the middle of the floor. I had to laugh since I refer to it as my sanctuary. I had been praying and meditating before Cookie, the German Pointer, made a surprise visit earlier in the evening! I’m glad they all came calling!

A home is much better than a sanctuary was a sweet lesson I needed this evening. It was also great to be reminded that I am blessed with a beautiful family:)

Who Are the Poor, Blind, Captive, & Oppressed?

God took me back to Luke 4:14-21 last night and this morning to let me know I am the poor, blind, captive, and oppressed to whom Christ came to preach. I am part of the body of Christ and belong to His church. He is sitting in the synagogue saying to those listening that the Word is being fulfilled right before them.

I don’t like to hear that I am poor, blind, captive, and oppressed. I would rather take those verses and go out and find someone to preach or minister to myself. That’s easier than seeing myself as any, much less all, of the descriptors Jesus used in the synagogue that day. The church was, and still is, guilty of ignoring the teachings of Jesus Christ. Our agendas and programs take the place of worship, and we are just too busy doing His work to notice our own desperate need for Him.

Christ has a simple message, the same one He had for the synagogue. He came that our spiritual poverty could become His abundance. He opens our eyes to Who He is so we can see God and worship Him with abandon. He frees us from the captivity of rules and agendas. He lifts the stress of doctrines and denominations so we can find the unity He so desires.

When it comes to unity, 1 Corinthians 12:12-31 says it best.

“For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.

For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot says, ‘Because I am not a hand, I am not a partof the body,’ it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. And if the ear says, ‘Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body,’ it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body.  If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired.  If they were all one member, where would the body be?  But now there are many members, but one body.  And the eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’; or again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’”

Finding the beautiful unity of one Spirit is impossible as long as we worry about individual recognition, rules, doctrines, denominations, and agendas. If we truly hear God’s Word, with the help of the Holy Spirit, and look to Christ’s beautiful example, it is possible to have the unity Paul describes so vividly.

I have the Children’s Story again this week, so I expected a difficult lesson as I prepared my heart for it. I wasn’t prepared to hear that I was poor, blind, captive, and oppressed, but I needed the humbling message. He knew that better than anyone. Glad He is patient and loving. May I be the same:)

Child’s Play:)

Luke 17:18 and Mark 10:15 say the same thing about entering God’s kingdom.

Luke 17 Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.” NASB

Those verses have taken on greater meaning for me over the past few weeks as I’ve lived with children in a most beautiful way. I love the sound of little excited voices and delight in the sounds of play whether above or beside me:) I’m surrounded by the sounds of love and laughter and love every moment.

Children live in the moment, and I love that they can be playing full steam one moment and asleep the next. I marvel at their ability to change gears and go from one activity to the next. I decided when I first moved in that my living room would be the home’s loving room and went with an invitational design. It’s not innovative, and nothing really matches, but it’s the perfect room for plopping or playing.

I have my desk for studying, a table for coffee and reading, a table for the girls, a big comfortable couch with lots of soft cushions (Lillyann’s favorite thing about the house:), a great rocker recliner that looks out at the amazing view, an old TV that’s sole purpose is to play Mere’s old Disney VHF movies, and a big clear area in the middle in which to play or exercise. I’m sure a design team from HGTV would shake their heads in dismay, but the girls light up when they come in; and that’s all the approval I need.

My bedroom is a beautiful sanctuary, but I find myself staying and praying in the loving room most of the time. I know when the pool is filled, the room will also be filled with folks coming in and going out. Like Lillyann, I can’t wait to jump in! Every sunny day, she asks if we can put water in pool. I love the sweet optimism and eager excitement of children and know God does too. I pray we will all show the same for Him.

If you aren’t experiencing God’s kingdom here on earth, take some time to play with children. Their wisdom is amazing, and their enthusiasm is contagious. God knew that I was ready for the advanced lessons in love Lillyann and Mylah could teach me, so He set up a very special graduate course for me and even put me on an amazing campus designed to help me get the full effect of those lessons. I feel like a kid every time I think of Him, and that’s a good sign I’m heading in the right direction and walking in His kingdom:)