A Special Kind of Love

God is love, but He is a special kind of love. He isn’t the hearts and flowers love found in romance novels or Valentine’s Day cards, but He does understand our need for such love. He is covenant love, and that is unlike any other love. I can miss experiencing covenant love if I allow myself to get tangled in my own desires, but I can know the depth of its beauty when I trust God with all of my heart. He will never force His love upon me because that would destroy His very nature, but He does give the perfect example of covenant love in His Son, Jesus Christ.

No one loved Jesus more than the apostle John, so a great place to get an idea of covenant love is by looking at what he says about it in John 3:16-17

“For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.” (NLT)

The two verses together give a beautiful definition of covenant love that even my little third-grade Sunday School class could understand. When I ask if their parents would die trying to save them, they gave a resounding “YES!!” in unison. They also agreed that their parents would risk their lives for others. Several had fathers who were law enforcement officers or soldiers, so the idea of putting your life on the line for someone else was familiar to them. My next question was no less confusing. When I asked if their parents would offer up the lives of their children to save someone else. Their “NO!!” was even louder than their earlier “YES!”

I told them I, too, would risk my life to save others; my son was at the top of my list of those I would die for, and they were on it, as well. I made it very clear that there was nothing for which I cared enough to give my son’s life. They completely understood and marveled that God could love them enough to give up His Son’s life to save them.

Verse sixteen is the most familiar in the Bible, but verse seventeen is just as powerful. God not only loves us more than we are capable of understanding, His Son didn’t come to judge us. He came to save us. That’s covenant love in a nutshell. There is a special Hebrew word for such love-hesed. It is the word used beautifully in Isaiah 54:10.

“For the mountains may move
    and the hills disappear,
but even then my faithful love for you will remain.
    My covenant of blessing will never be broken,”
    says the Lord, who has mercy on you.” (NLT)

To love with God’s loyalty is not possible for a mere human being, but Jesus did it beautifully. His precious love encourages me to try, and that trying is what walking in God’s kingdom is all about. Christ’s love reflects His Father’s love and puts all other love into perspective. Romance is great, and brotherly love is powerful. Our hearts need all kinds of love to grow as God desires, but covenant love is necessary if I want to walk in His kingdom now.

Covenant love isn’t in all our relationships. It is very special and should be cherished and nurtured when found because it is a sweet taste of heaven. I thank God for allowing me to experience such love; it changes everything. Covenant love isn’t an easy love to embrace and can easily be lost. God knew how difficult it would be for us, so He sent His Son and His Holy Spirit to help us experience its wonder.

Christ’s precious love comes from God, the Father, and the seeds He planted over two thousand years ago in His Son’s heart still flourish in those willing to let them take root in their own hearts.

Memorials and Sticky Notes

I can’t imagine seeing Christ transfigured with Moses and Elijah standing next to Him. Peter’s desire to build memorials is a natural response to his being taken completely off guard. Jesus understood his fear and appreciated his desire to honor Him, but I’m sure He was also frustrated by his lack of understanding.

Jesus asked the disciples not to say anything about what they saw. I imagine that wasn’t very hard for them to do. They didn’t understand what they saw, so I don’t think they were anxious to explain it to others.

Six days later Jesus took Peter, James, and John, and led them up a high mountain to be alone. As the men watched, Jesus’ appearance was transformed, and his clothes became dazzling white, far whiter than any earthly bleach could ever make them. Then Elijah and Moses appeared and began talking with Jesus.

Peter exclaimed, “Rabbi, it’s wonderful for us to be here! Let’s make three shelters as memorials—one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” He said this because he didn’t really know what else to say, for they were all terrified.

Then a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my dearly loved Son. Listen to him.” Suddenly, when they looked around, Moses and Elijah were gone, and they saw only Jesus with them.

As they went back down the mountain, he told them not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. (Mark 9:2-9 NLT)

I’ve build my share of memorials for God and find myself at a loss for words in His presence, but I cannot imagine seeing what the disciples saw. Jesus had told them of His coming death and asked them not to mention His transfiguration until He had risen from the dead. They remembered His words when He rose, but they forgot them when He was arrested.

It’s easy to get lost in the heat of the moment, and the disciples were lost in the transfiguration and the arrest. My senses fail me, and my heart falters in the face of love. I suppose that will only increase when I see God in heaven, but I will be transformed myself by that time. I ramble when I’m nervous and can relate to Peter. I would probably ask Jesus, Moses, and Elijah if I could get them something to eat or drink.

Words are not necessary in God’s presence. I won’t be stuttering and stumbling over what to say because I won’t have to say a thing. God knows I am like a middle-school girl on Valentine’s Day when it comes to expressing my love for Him, and that only makes Him love me all the more. One day, I will come to the place of no words. Until then, I’ll continue to babble and build.

The little girls have been making Valentine’s  with precious hearts and scribbles on them all week. I treasure each and every one. Those sweet pink sticky notes are like my attempts to tell God how much I love Him. I’m learning that words, gifts, cards, flowers, and chocolates are not as powerful as a warm embrace and sweet “I love you.” Being still and taking in His presence is the best way of all to express my love for Him. I think Peter would say, “Amen!” to that sister!

Heart in the Sand

Love That Listens

Love is on the hearts and minds of many this week as Valentine’s Day approaches. Paul talks about love in his first letter to the Corinthians, but he isn’t talking about Valentine’s Day love. Agape isn’t about romance; it is something much deeper. Valentine’s is more about lust and who gets the biggest bouquet, the best chocolates, the most expensive card. That isn’t the love Paul had in mind.

If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. (1 Corinthians 13:1-7 NLT)

Lust is anxious, jealous, boastful, and definitely keeps score. It doesn’t last and offers little hope. There is no shortage when it comes to lust because it depends upon excess. It breeds and spreads like a wildfire when ignited, but agape develops slowly over time and lasts into eternity. There is nothing more precious in this world or the next.

Our world loves lust, and that creates an environment that revolves around wanting what others have. I no longer want just what I want, I want what I think you want too. Many tears and much blood have spilled as a result of the wanting lust inspires. I’ve fallen prey to lust, but I’ve also experienced agape. Feeling the joy of having someone hear my heart and love me no matter what is changing me beautifully. Being embraced and loved as I am is allowing me to become more than I imagined I could be, That’s the power of love that listens.

Love changes my wants, and that was the sweet message God had for me this morning. I used to dread Valentine’s Day and buy myself a box of chocolates or a bouquet of flowers to help ease the pain of wanting what I thought I was missing. This year, I’m celebrating agape and plan to enjoy the week with my sweet little granddaughters and my loving friends. My heart is filled to overflowing with love that listens, and it doesn’t get any better than that.  I’ll share some chocolate with the girls and help them make cards, but I won’t be pining for what I’m missing because I’m learning that what I have is so much more than what I used to want.

Heart in the Sand

Childlike or Childish?

This morning after breakfast, Lillyann reminded Mylah that it was Valentine’s Day. Her excitement was contagious, and little Mylah asked, “What is it??” Lilly quickly responded, “It’s a day we love people and eat candy!!” Mylah shared her sister’s glee, and I grinned from ear to ear. I love children, and I suppose that’s why I’ve never really grown up. Growing up is important, and spiritual maturity isn’t an easy process. God’s lesson this week was a sobering one, so I think He put Lilly’s wisdom in the path to lighten up the learning.

In 1 Corinthians 3:1-4, Paul does not mince words. God didn’t mince any this week with me either. Paul is frustrated with the Corinthians, and it shows in his admonition to them.

“But for right now, friends, I’m completely frustrated by your unspiritual dealings with each other and with God. You’re acting like infants in relation to Christ, capable of nothing much more than nursing at the breast. Well, then, I’ll nurse you since you don’t seem capable of anything more. As long as you grab for what makes you feel good or makes you look important, are you really much different than a babe at the breast, content only when everything’s going your way? When one of you says, “I’m on Paul’s side,” and another says, “I’m for Apollos,” aren’t you being totally infantile?” (The Message)

Ouch! Those are not easy words to hear, but they are words that are necessary to hear if I am to grow into the spiritual maturity God desires for me. Growing up doesn’t mean losing childlike faith. There is a big difference between being childlike and childish, and Paul is talking about the childish behavior that still plagues Christians. We often look like a bunch of spoiled brats to those outside the faith, and that is a stumbling block when it comes to God’s will for His world.

The clear message this week was that God needs for me to move past milk and get to the meat. Another verse in the path this week was one describing a weaned child sitting on his mother’s lap. I love the image in Psalm 131:2

“Surely I have composed and quieted my soul;
Like a weaned child rests against his mother,
My soul is like a weaned child within me.” (NASB)

A weaned child sits on his mother’s lap with a quiet soul. I’m afraid I’ve been sitting on God’s lap like a hungry infant searching for satisfaction. there is a big difference. I can’t point any fingers at the Corinthians because I’m right where they were. We all are, and I’m learning that seeing and accepting that I have areas which keep me from the joy and love God has in mind is the first, and most difficult, step when it comes to growth. Childlike means understanding I need help and cannot do it on my own. Childish means thinking God should do it for me. They are very different attitudes.

I know God will help me reach the spiritual maturity He desires, and I also know I will kick, scream, and cry along the way. It’s our human nature to want to stay in the flesh rather than step into the spiritual, but Christ left a Helper who will guide my spiritual formation. He is the Holy Spirit and knows exactly what I need.

I plan to follow Lilly’s advice today because I know that Jesus would appreciate her simple wisdom. I think the world would be a much better place if we all loved people and ate candy today. Here’s wise little Lilly looking a bug with childlike wonder 🙂

Lilly:)

“Speak Low if You Speak Love”

In Shakespeare’s play “Much Ado About Nothing,” Don Pedro says to Hero, “Speak low if you speak love,” and that’s the thought God also placed in my heart this morning. Don Pedro is bidding Hero to lower his voice, and it’s sound advice to all who speak of love. Love is serious and lowering the voice is an indication of the importance of the subject at hand. Valentine’s Day is coming up, and I have to laugh as I think of the way love is distorted and twisted on the day. It reminds me of Santa Claus and Christmas. The intentions are great, but love gets lost in both translations:)

God also reminded me of a favorite poet and poem this morning. I used to have my students memorize “A Word is Dead” by Emily Dickinson to help them remember the importance of spoken words.

A Word is Dead by Emily Dickinson

A word is dead when it is said, some say.

I say it just begins to live that day.

Pastor John reminded me this week that the message from 1 Corinthians 13:1-13 is a lot about the way I speak. I hadn’t thought of those passages in that way before, but his message and God’s lesson this morning helped me see the importance of the way I speak about love. I breathe life into each word I speak, and those words take on the life I give to them. So, I should heed the words of Don Pedro in “Much Ado About Nothing” and speak softly and seriously when I speak love. My heart is deeply touched with a tender “I love you” whispered softly in my ear. There is nothing more precious than hearing that Christ’s precious love is for me, and it is best to speak softly when I speak of His love to others and be mindful that I will give life to those words of love.

Valentine’s Day becomes much like Christmas Day as we lose the meaning of both occasions in what becomes a scream fest of who got the most and best flowers, candy, diamonds, presents, etc. The irony is that both St. Valentine and St. Nicholas were humble men with extraordinary meekness who would literally shudder to think of how their names are used today. This Valentine’s Day, try speaking low when you speak love. True love needs nothing more, and try the same strategy in your witness of Christ’s love to the world. Turning the volume down and using a fewer words are what make my loving and praying like His.