on the topic of love

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I have to rant. This is a topic that  just pushes my buttons. (Maybe i’m called to dispel this horrible lie, i’m not sure…)

I have heard it from the mouth of preachers time and again, that love is not just an emotion it is an action. Love is a choice. The choice to do what is good, and right, and kind, and true, no matter the circumstance. Love is your way of giving back to God, your way of proving you really believe. Love is your conscious effort to be a god-follower.

I cannot tell you how much this aggravates me, because this is not true. Not even a little.

Love is an emotion. Love bubbles up from deep within your heart where your heart is bent towards someone. Love is an turning of the heart towards the object of one’s affection and the outward display of that love is an action. True love cannot be seen without action, but that does not make that action love. If i do an action without the love that is supposed to motivate it, i am a tinkling brass, a clanging cymbal.

Action without the heart bend, is just that, action. It is simply a conscious choice to do what is right. And doing what is right, or good, or kind, or noble, is always a good thing to do. But the purpose of the commandment was love, from a pure heart, that isn’t pretense. The purpose of the command is that you realize you need Jesus, because it is hard to fall in love with a world that hurts you, but that is exactly what you need to do in order to really live this thing out.

Do all the right actions all day every day. Do them because you are supposed to do them. But when you do them without love in your heart, you begin to wear down. You begin to get grumpy, and selfish, and angry, and you wonder why you’re doing what you’re doing. You have to remind yourself a billion times that it is what you’re supposed to be doing and that it is the right thing. Eventually you burn out because nothing is sustaining you.

Do all the right actions all day every day. Do them because you are supposed to do them. And when you do them because you just love people, because you just Love God, because you just want to see good released in this world for Jesus, you change. Things change. You are energized. When you see the fruits of your love that you pour out, when you see the affect you are having on the world around you, it energizes your love. You get more energy to love more. Your love runs deeper, truer, more passionate.  The clanging cymbal is gone and the melodies of heaven begin to ring out.

I once heard a preacher say ‘A lover will out work a worker any day.’ And that is the way God designed it. You prophesying, working, serving, striving, they all fail. They all fade away. But love, true love, Never fails. True love, deep passionate, emotion motivated love-service, never fails. IT is always fruitful.

True love does no harm to its neighbor, that is why love fulfills the law. That is why love is so strong. That is why love never fails.

getting real going low

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i started this blog as a way to stay connected with the ladies who attended a women’s conference i hosted and organized a few years back. The conference went well and for the first event i have ever hosted that wasn’t specifically church sanctioned, we had a good turn out. Ladies were encouraged and God was present. Obviously that is not why i am blogging.

i was wrong.

i was wrong for doing exactly the thing that i told people not to do. i was trying to build a kingdom instead of delivering one that already existed. Ridiculous, i know. But in the interest of getting really real, it is what i was doing. i wasn’t doing it consciously of course. i did not plan the whole thing with the conscious plan to make it all about me, and what i wanted. i didn’t plan the event so that people would listen to me, worship me, and want me to lead them. None of those things happened anyway.

My plan the entire time was simply to declare the gospel truths to a group of women. I wanted to deliver messages of grace, and hope, and healing. Those things were accomplished very well i see. Looking back however i notice the sin in my own heart creeping out and trying to grasp at what i considered, and what the world would declare is greatness.

The more followers you have on social media, the greater you are. The more congregants you have, the greater you are. The more _____________ you have the greater you are. And that is WRONG.

i was reminded the other day that Jesus declares that greatness looks more like self sacrificing, co-suffering love, than big churches and huge successful ministries. Don’t get me wrong, a lot of times those big ministries do a lot of good and help a lot of people. But not everyone can be the CEO, and Pastor of a mega-church, or even a semi-mega-church. In fact, most people will never rank on any “greatness” scale the world concocts.

i fell prey. i was doing what they all do. i started building my “following” and assembling my “people”, and i don’t want to do that anymore. My flesh is crying out “Look at me!! Listen to me!! I have something to say!! You want to hear what i have to say!!”  all because that is they way the world thinks it should go. But i was not created, gifted, and anointed to be like the world.

Do i have something to say? Hell yes! Do i want you all to hear it?! HELL YES! Is building a new church, gaining a following, creating a false influence and parading around as if i am the bomb.com the way to do it? HELL NO!!!

The kingdom of God does not ride into town on the Thoroughbred.  The kingdom of God quietly slips into town on the back of a donkey. It isn’t found in the megaphone of evangelical fanfare, it is found in the humility of breaking bread house to house.

i have just kept asking myself  over and over, “Can we just let Jesus ride a donkey again?” Can’t we just be the unlikely Jesus that prays over His meal in public, and offers prayers to His waitress? Can’t we just be the unassuming Jesus that offers kindness to the impatient customer we must wait on? Can’t we just be the Word made flesh the way our Savior portrayed our Father?

Why do we need cathedrals and stadiums filled with people in order to have church….to be the church… What good is another conference, or “revival week” if the folks who attend go home to no friends, no electric, or no food, or debilitating sickness? What good are all these things if we don’t actually embody Christ.

Again, all those things have their place, and they all do some good for a lot of people. But as a whole, overall, we have a generation of christians thinking to be great they must have power, influence, and position. And we have a generation of christians gaining the whole world, but what of their souls?

I am going low. I am going for greatness. I am forcibly rending the worlds view of greatness from my mind and i am replacing it with a picture of what true greatness is.

Greatness is waking up at 2 am with patience in your heart and talking to your loved one who is just having a crappy time at life. Greatness is giving up your whole weekend to serve and love your family despite your own wants or needs. Greatness is stopping to see a discouraged person in kroger and offering your encouraging words and prayers. Greatness is laying hands on someone when they tell you they are in pain, or suffering. Greatness is not building ministries, and kingdoms. Greatness is displaying the culture and affection of the kingdom you are already a part of.

Greatness is serving and loving even the hardest cases, with love in your heart because you know God is smiling at them.

i am aiming for heart transformation.

i am aiming for greatness.

Who told you it was your fault

So you’re broken. You get moody, angry, and just plain don’t want to put up with people. Sometimes you’re stressed out and depressed. At times you ignore your phone, your children, your responsibilities. Sometimes you skip church, you forget to pray, and ignore your bible studies. Often you find yourself doing things you know you probably shouldn’t do but you just don’t care.

It’s not your fault.

Most pastors, preachers and religious people won’t tell you this. They will pin your perceived spiritual shortcomings upon your own failings and sins. They will tell you that it is your fault that you weren’t disciplined enough, prayerful enough or faith filled enough. This is a LIE and I’m sorry they are lying.

The truth is it is not your fault.

The moment  you were born you were born with a slave master called “Sin” and it’s hireling  called “Death”. You didn’t’ have a choice. The world you were born into is broken, and there is no good in this world. All that you have been given in this world is sub-par. And all the standards set for you were set so high that there is no way you could attain to them. You didn’t ask to be born. You didn’t choose to live this broken life.

Your sin did not nail Jesus to a cross.

Adam’s sin is the sin that put us all into this mess we are in. The brokenness we are living in is a result of Adam’s sin, which enslaved us all to death. Jesus came not to tell you how bad you are so you could change. He came to get in the same line as you. You know the line. That line where we await our ass-whooping. Being chewed up and spit out by death itself. Jesus came and stood in that line and just when it was your turn for that ass-whooping Jesus stepped in and took your spot.

It was not your sin that nailed Jesus to a cross. IT was Adam’s sin, and Jesus’ choice.

This is the good news. That just in your moment of terror and pain, just when the shit hits the fan, Jesus can be the refuge. He can take your place. He can swoop in like super man and faster than a speeding bullet He can save the day. Jesus knew that you would be born to sin with evil desires that you could not over come. He knew that you were at the mercy of death doing sin’s bidding. He knew. He knew it would not be your fault when you fell prey and fell from grace. It’s not your fault.

He made a way. A way for you to be rescued, restored, renewed. He became impoverished so that you can be made prosperous. He did this because He knew you needed His help. He knew it wasn’t your fault. He knew you would do the best you could with the things you were given, but even your best was imperfect because you were given broken tools in a fallen world. He knew it wasn’t your fault.

It’s still not your fault.

Pastors and preachers may tell you you have a “victim mentality” and that you’ll never go anywhere until you change. But by saying that they are insinuating that you have some super ability to do what no man born has done, except Jesus. By telling you this they cripple you and keep you from actually experiencing true and lasting change. Jesus doesn’t want you to come to Him when you are no longer a victim with pains, weaknesses, and anger. He wants you, the victim, to come to Him the JUST.

When you come to Jesus as a victim you get compassion, you get love, you get justice. You bring your pains and angers to the cross and you see how every single oppressor is punished. You trade your hurts for justice. Knowing this, that no evil deed goes unpunished, and every time you were wronged, hurt, or oppressed in anyway will be fully punished with the fullness of God’s wrath. When you come to Jesus as a victim you get freedom.

It’s not your fault you were hurt. It’s not your fault you were wronged, oppressed or attacked. Its ok now, Jesus knows. He knows you did your best, He knows you tried. Now bring your burdens to Jesus the one who knows it’s not your fault. He will take your pains and the victim will become the victor with authority and power. You will be transformed at the foot of the cross..

 

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Resisting Temptation

Today we have a guest post from a fellow blogger Bri Mcswain. Bri is the home school mother of two children, Chloe 4, and Brennan 1. She has been married almost 3 years to her husband Sean. In her free time she likes to blog and spend time with her family. She resides in Ohio with her family.

 

( The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views held by this blog and are solely the work and beliefs of the author.) 

 

“Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that The Lord has promised to those who love him. When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they’re dragged away by their own evil desires and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. Don’t s deceived, my dear brothers and sisters.” James 1:12-16

When I first surface read these verses I had to admit I was confused. Why would God allow temptation if He can’t be tempted, or isn’t the one who tempts us? But as I kept reading and dug further into the meaning of these verses, it started to make more sense, as things usually do.

God gives mankind free will. Period. God isn’t a tyrant who makes us do what He wants. If that were the case, none of us would want to serve God freely. However, since we do have free will, this is why there’s temptation. We’re free to take temptations bait. It’s a matter of will we or not. When temptation comes along, the court room of heaven is in session. God wants to know where your heart is and if you’re serious about serving him.

Our own desires come up against us daily. Yes, I said daily. That’s why as believers we have to be diligent in suppressing the flesh to make our spirits strong against temptations. For example, my flesh hates it when I work out. If I listened to my flesh all the time, I would never workout, or if I did, I would quit in the middle of my hour long workout. I always have to have the mindset that I’m in a trial and God is proving me, testing my endurance. This goes for any temptation. We have to have the mindset of God testing us so we can suppress the flesh.

In verse 14, the word “enticed” means “lured away from under the rock.” It’s a hunter and fishermen’s term. The enemy knows what our flesh likes and will use that to tempt us. He wants us out from under God’s will. The Enemy will literally do anything to keep you from fulfilling God’s will for your life.

That’s why it’s so important to recognize our weaknesses, so when temptation does come we can say, “No, I’m staying in God’s will for my life and I will not destroy my influence and my relationship with my God.”

We can combat temptations through spiritual weapons such as prayer, memorizing scripture, and just reminding ourselves of God’s work in our life! Once we give into temptation though we risk losing our influence, our anointing leaving and God’s will departing from our lives. God can’t use us if we make agreement with our fleshly desires.

Let’s all be diligent in recognizing temptations, keeping them at bay with spiritual weapons, and staying in God’s will for our lives! When we do this, God can use us for his glory and our influence will dramatically increase!

 

The Pick of the Century

Have you ever watched the show American Pickers? My husband and I love that show! We just can’t wait to see what Mike and Frank and Danielle will do next! Not to mention the crazy things they buy. To us most of the time, it looks like junk. Who would want a rusty broken grill off of a 70 year old car? Yet, for some reason these loveable TV personalities just find the sparkle in every body else’s junk.

Do you have junk? I’m not talking about the scrap metal, bags of trash, broken stuff kind of junk. The kind of junk I’m referring to is the junk you try to hide from every one. You know the what I mean, the anger issue, the secret addiction, or the mounting gambling debt? Do you have a vice that just trips you up all the time? You have tried and tried to kick that dang habit but you just keep coming up short of your goal? Ya me too…

This type of “junk” can seem far from being a treasure. I mean when you watch Frank, that big teddy bear, pick up an old ceramic sign that is chipped,you can see how someone could sand and paint that sign and make it new again. But when you look in the mirror at the aged face that is angry and the wrinkles just prove you’ve been scowling all day, it’s hard to see the value.

Here is where you’re wrong.

God never said “come to me when you’re all cleaned up and I will give you a call”. He said “Come to me when you are weary and carrying a heavy load, and I will give you REST!”. He said “I want you to know my ways are not heavy and what I ask you to carry is light, so learn about my ways.”

God is not interested in your designer life, your restored personality and your ten steps to freedom graduation certificate. He wants your salvaged, no good, ready for the trash heap life. He desires your edgy, angry, can’t seem to keep my cool personality. And most of all He wants your hands, your heart, your tears, and your ankles that are shackled fast to the past. He wants all of you. The good the bad and the ugly.

God does not look at you and see something broken that isn’t worth anything. How do you think Mike and Frank got their keen eye for perfect junk? They are demonstrating a part of the Father’s heart. God looks over the junk-yard of mankind, and sees the perfect piece of art to add to His masterpiece. He sees you! He loves your wrinkles, and your quirks. He sees the spit-fire attitude and the no-backing-down mentality and say “I love it! I can use that!”. He sees the weakness in your will, which leads you to addiction and says “How better to aid you in leaning on my arms! I’ll use it!”

When you see broken, He sees perfection. He never looks at a broken vase as wasted, He only sees what He will create with the shards that remain, and when God creates things He calls them good.

Don’t look at your flaws, your shortcomings, or addictions, or vices and say “I’m not good enough, Once I stop ‘_____________ing’ I can go back to God”. God wants you, broken pieces and all. He wants the chance to create the most beautiful artwork you’ve ever seen, out of a life of broken things you never imagined possible. God loves to take ashes from a scrap heap, and make beauty. He loves you. You are His pick of the century!

 

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An anorexic sparrow?

Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much better than they?…(Matt 6:26)

Have you ever seen an anorexic sparrow? Have you ever seen a bird that was starving to death? This is ridiculous! It’s so ridiculous it’s laughable. Birds don’t starve to death, and they aren’t anorexic. God takes such good care of the sparrows that you never see a sparrow that looks unhealthy or too thin. He feeds them, and He has promised to feed you.

We encounter need in our life on a daily basis. Need pops up in many forms, more so than just food to eat, or clothes to wear, however, these are the two things the Bible points out in the passage from Matthew. Jesus encourages us that not only does God feed the sparrows but He clothes the lilies, and that He knows your needs. Every need you have has come before the Author of life and He has made a way to provide for you.

He asks us one simple thing. Can you seek God’s kingdom, and His righteousness first, before you even think of seeking the provision for your need?

This is a difficult pill to swallow. Jesus is saying “Think about Me first. Think about making My reign in your heart a priority. Think about Advancing my love to others and declaring My Name first. Think about how I paid for your righteousness by earning righteousness and dying your death. Think about Me first. Think about loving My people.”

I can already hear it. You’re thinking “What?! God wants me to put Him first, and neglect my need?” And no! He does not want you to neglect your need at all. He understand the needs you have and that they are very important to you. It doesn’t matter if you’re 36 and you have bill collectors calling, or if you are 12 and your brother broke your IPod. God knows the need and He understands how important it is to you personally. (Because you might not esteem the broken ipod as being as desperate a situation as your mounting debt is. But to that 12 year old it is desperately urgent and God sees that!)

God has no intention of leaving you hanging, or making you think of Him and forget your need. God is so faithful that He gives you the solution to the problem before the problem even arises. He promises, “Seek first the Kingdom of God and All His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you!”

You are not neglecting your problem by focusing on God and His kingdom. In fact, the very answer you need to get your problem solved is to put it in the waiting hands of the Father of the upside down kingdom. He says forget about yourself and seek me and you’ll get what you need. You see there is a secret no one tells you about the sparrow, and the lily. Two sparrows flying around the sky are not thinking of themselves. They are busily preparing a nest and taking care of their young, the next generation. And a lily growing in a field is not preserving itself it is busy making plenty of food which is stored in its tuberous root for the generation to rise up the next spring and produce a beautiful flower.

You were not made to think only of yourself and self-preservation. You were made to pay it forward. You were created to love, and as you think of God’s kingdom, His righteousness, He takes care of you so you can stay busy taking care of the next generation! Have you ever seen an anorexic sparrow? Never! Because they live to pass on life, and our heavenly Father provides what they need to pass on life.

Faith, the kind of faith that trusts God and seeks Him first, is the very substance that God uses to create the thing you are confidently expecting of Him. That trust in Him is the evidence that He is working and you will one day soon see the manifestation of what you need.

You have never seen an anorexic sparrow because God is faithful, even when you don’t believe in Him.

Marriage is hard work?

 

A new “challenge” is sweeping the time lines of Facebook users everywhere. The “Love your Spouse” challenge has people posting pictures of them and their spouse and adding gushy, love inspired quotes to each picture to celebrate their marriage and the love they have for their spouse. Not too far into the challenge and bloggers went wild, posting blogs about their dissent from social peer pressuring, and their disagreement with the challenge. This isn’t new, it happens daily I’m sure. But one blog shared by a friend of mine really got my attention. It was well written and the person writing it made very good points.

A lot of times marriage doesn’t look like the lovey, dovey pictures we post on our Facebook pages. We never post a picture of the argument we had the night before. We seldom mention the way we are so busy that we meet up at bedtime for a quick “board meeting” of household check lists, before we collapse from exhaustion. A lot of times marriage is far from resembling the smiling pictures we share. Some people obviously feel that we share those gushy pictures in order to “one-up” our Facebook friends, leaving them comparing our “5%” to their “behind the scenes”. This may be true for some, and some people may feel jealous over your picture but here is my thought about the matter.

My husband and I disagree. In fact, sometimes we outright fight. I remember a particular fight that left a chair smashed, a lamp broken, and spaghetti sauce on the wall. (Thank God that was years ago and we usually don’t get that violent anymore….we have kids watching.)  We went through periods of separation. We spent a few years with him working 80-100 hours a week, through the weekends, and just plain tired. We lived through the stress of sickness, and all the while he was doing college and working full time. We’ve had our share of financial problems, and just plain crappy stuff.

Some would say that keeping a marriage together and vibrant during those difficult times was hard work. That marriage itself is hard work and without the hard work your marriage just falls apart. I want to say, despite the arguments and the trials, our marriage has not been hard work. Not one day of it has been work at all.

When you love someone you do not have to work to forgive their indiscretion, or attitude. You do not have to strive to serve them as they are so busy they cannot sit and relax for a single moment of the day. You don’t to think twice about whether what you are doing will hurt them, you know already because you love them. When you actually love someone, not because they make you feel good but because you want to make them feel good, it is easy.

Love makes things easy.

Stop and think about the last time you actually did something for your spouse because you loved him or her. The only reason you did what you did was because you thought of them and thought that what you would do would put a smile on their face? How long ago was that? How often does that happen?

When love, true love, is the center of your marriage, I promise you, marriage is not hard work at all.

Christ reveals this to us in His word when He mirrors the relationship that we as Christians have with Him as being a marriage. Paul goes as far as to say that being married to another human is a direct representation of Christ and His church. And if you know the gospel then you know that Christianity isn’t about hard work, it is about deep love. When you believe in Christ you are saved. When you love Christ you do His work, and obey His commands. When you are in a marriage without love, it takes concentration, effort, and applied focus to invest in the thing between you and your spouse. You must willfully think of the other, plan times alone, willingly yield and withdraw your own opinion or voice to avoid argument. When you are in a marriage with someone you deeply love, you simply love. Love is not selfish, it is not cruel, it doesn’t seek its own way. It supports, it protects, it is humble, and it is easy.

When true love is the center of your relationship, quiet moments together are treasured, and times of distance mean a deepening, and sweetening of the love for the moment you meet again. When you’re in love, would be arguments because times of powerful dialogue that launch you into the heart of your beloved learning who they are in a meaningful way. Love makes you listen well, and throws selfishness out the window. Love makes your marriage look like the sickly, gooey, teenager-y relationship that makes grown men vomit. You’ll have arguments likes “You hang up first”, “no, you hang up first”. Love really does these things.

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe in marriages all over this world people are having to “work hard” at their relationship. Maybe our marriage is an anomaly, a blip on the data that just doesn’t fit or make sense. But 18 years into this crazy contract and my husband and I are still kids that can’t decide where to eat on date night because we are trying to take care of each other. He wants steak, I want burritos, and we sit saying “NO really you should get what you want, let’s have_______”.

Maybe, just maybe, we are not an anomaly, Maybe, we are the ones who have it right. Maybe, like the sweet old couple in the movie with the floating house, who went on adventures, maybe they had it right. If I’m wrong then don’t tell me, because I can’t imagine a marriage to someone where I had to force myself to think of them first. I can’t even dare to think of a time where I would be forced to hold my tongue to avoid a nuclear argument. Marriage shouldn’t be a stifling of one person for the sake of the other. Marriage should be a beautiful metamorphism of two becoming one. Maybe we have it all wrong, but if we do, don’t tell me.

I like love. I like my easy marriage. I like living like a dreamy, crush-stricken teenager.