Archive for the ‘Relationships’ Category

What is “True Love”?

Friday, April 22nd, 2011

“Set me as a seal upon you heart, as a seal upon your arm; For love is as strong as death, jealousy as cruel as the grave; its flames are flames of fire, a most vehement flame. Many waters cannot quench love, nor can the floods drown it. If a man would give for love all the wealth of his house, it would be utterly despised.” Song of Solomon 8:6,7

What is “True Love”?

We live in an age when the word “love” is used very easily—too easily! Much of the time we are using the term for something completely trivial—a car or a drink; casually—”love you” as expressed at the end of a conversation that has no actions to back it up; or to describe lustful feelings. But real, sacrificing, adoring, “other-centered” love is greatly sought after, though rare. Sometimes the word “love” is even used to manipulate and take advantage of other people.

Fortunately, there is such a thing as true love. In Song of Solomon such a love is found, and the suggestion is made that love can become so precious that all the money in the world could not induce a man or woman to give up that love. It is interesting that in that book, one finds a progressive expression of love: “My beloved is mine and I am my beloveds” (Song of Sol. 2:16); “I am my beloveds and my beloved is mine” (Song of Sol. 6:3); and finally, “I am my beloveds” (Song of Sol. 7:10)—note the last expression where the love is completely other-centered.

In 1 Corinthians 13 we  are reminded that “true love” goes beyond actions, even factoring in what motivates our love, for it states  it is possible to think we are showing love by giving all that we have, and even allowing our bodies to be burned, but still not have love—apparently because our motives are self-centered (1 Cor. 13:3).

What is the secret? Love comes from God! (1 John 4:8) and when we have godly love, it becomes the kind of love that is recorded and remembered ever after.

Apparently there are times when human beings experience the “true” kind of love, as attested to in the following notes written by John Newton to his wife Mary, who recognized that his relationship with her was a gift from God. Friends from an early age, and married after his conversion, he idolized her, and constantly wrote to her when he was separated from her. Read carefully, notice why he believed they enjoyed such a close relationship:

“You will not be displeased with me for saying, that though you are dearer to me than the aggregate of all earthly comforts, I wish to limit my passion within those bounds which God has appointed. Our love to each other ought to lead us to love him supremely, who is the author and source of all the good we possess or hope for. It is to him we owe that happiness in a marriage state which so many seek in vain, some of whom set out with such hopes and prospects, that their disappointments can be deduced for no other cause, than having placed that high regard on a creature which is only due to the Creator. He therefore withholds his blessing (without which no union can subsist) and their expectations, of course, end in indifference . . . ”

“I consider our union as a peculiar effect and gift of an indulgent Providence, and therefore, as a talent to be improved to higher ends, to the promoting of his will and service upon earth. And to assisting each other to prepare for an eternal state, to which a few years at the farthest will introduce us. Were these points wholly neglected, however great our satisfaction might be for the present, it would be better never to have seen each other; since the time must come when, of all the endearments of our connection, nothing will remain, but the consciousness how greatly we were favored, and how we improved the favors we possessed . . .”

“He formed us for each other, and his good Providence brought us together. It is no wonder if so many years, so many endearments, so many obligations, have produced an uncommon effect; and that by long habit, it is become almost impossible for me to draw a breath, of which you are not concerned. If this mutual affection leads us to this fountain from which our blessings flow, and if we can regard each other, and everything about us, with a reference to that eternity to which we are hasting, then we are happy indeed.”

“The path of few peoples through life has been more marked with peculiar mercies than yours. How differently has he led us from the way we should have chosen for ourselves! We have had remarkable turns in our affairs; but every change has been for the better; and in every trouble (for we have had our troubles) he has given us effectual help. Shall we not then believe, that he will perfect that which concerns us? When I was an infant, and knew not what I wanted, he sent you into the world to be, first, the principal hinge, upon which my part, and character in life, was to turn and then to be my companion. We have traveled together near twenty-six years; and though we are changeable creatures, and have seen almost every thing change around us, he has preserved our affections, by his blessings, or we might have been weary of each other. How far we have yet to go, we know not . . . . If our lives are prolonged, the shadows of the evening, old age, with its attendant infirmities, will be pressing upon us soon. Yet I hope this uncertain remaining part of our pilgrimage, will upon the whole, be the best; for our God is all-sufficient, and can make us more happy, by the light of his countenance, when our temporal comforts fail, then we never were, when we possessed them to the greatest advantage.”

Newton’s sentiments are an encouraging reminder that true love is possible this side of heaven to those who make God the center of their relationship!

Ultimately speaking, the greatest manifestation of real love was the love expressed when Jesus died on the cross, which eventually led to the resurrection that is celebrated in so many churches this weekend.

Read more from John Newton at path2prayer.com

Sin is No Respecter of Persons

Sunday, October 17th, 2010

“Do not let this thing displease you, for the sword devours one as well as another.” 2 Sam. 11:25

The Bible often presents lessons by pairing up stories, or pairing up people. 2 Sam. 9 and 10 speak of kindness received and kindness rejected. 2 Sam. 11 reminds of Jesus’ warning to watch and pray, and shares the sad story of David succumbing to temptation in a careless moment, and successfully covering up his sin at the expense of Uriah, a wonderfully loyal soldier and husband.

1 Sam. 11 opens with Israel at war. Directing the battle were David’s commanders; within the army were disciplined and loyal soldiers. David surprisingly chose to remain at home.

David, who survived the attacks of Saul, endured the rigors of the wilderness, overcame shortcomings so far as associating with the enemy went, and was so wonderfully generous to Mephibosheth, suddenly took a spiritual tumble of epic proportions: he committed adultery with Bathsheba and got her pregnant; then  worked to cover up the unbecoming event, eventually resorting to having Uriah killed in battle. He even later took Bathsheba as his wife and thought no one would know.

I don’t think David planned any of the things that took place, they just happened. I don’t think we necessarily plan the mischief we get into; it just happens. For David there was first the unguarded moment, then the furtive lingering glance, then the foolish inquiry, then open seeking, then sinning. Various desperate attempts to cover up the deed followed, culminating in the successful bloody coverup!

Unfortunately for David, Uriah was so faithful and so committed to the urgent demands of the battle going on, that he refused to tarry with his wife, preferring to sleep at the door of David’s house. So David finally had Uriah placed in a vulnerable position in the battle, where David knew he would be killed; soldiers died in combat all the time, no one would know otherwise—at least that is what he thought.

Thus when a messenger reported the battle’s outcome and the death of Uriah to David, David’s self-absorbed response was: “Do not let this thing displease you, for the sword devours one as well as another.”

Of course it was David who was not displeased, and he was right: the sword kills indiscriminately. But he forgot that sin is also no respecter of persons, and indiscriminately devours and brings down a person—even a strong person—as easily as another.”

Here are some things that strike me.

(1) Only some of our enemies appear in human form (Eph. 6:12). David may have mistakenly thought that with Saul dead and the Philistines quickly submitting to his armies, he was going to be free of enemies, and accordingly gave himself permission to let his guard down and stay in Jerusalem. Sadly he failed to realize that his GREATEST enemy was unseen, and was busily working to bring him down. That unseen GREATEST enemy is working against us too.

(2) Satan has many ways of getting us to tumble spiritually (1 Peter 5:8). What he cannot accomplish by way of difficulty, he will seek to accomplish in other subtle ways that we don’t anticipate. It isn’t a matter of whether he will try to bring us down, it is only a matter of when and how he will try. David was undoubtedly not anticipating such a temptation when he was wandering on the rooftop.

(3) We must always be on our watch (Matt. 26:41).  Great Christians uniformly had quality time with Jesus EVERY day. Every day they sought to serve God wherever they found themselves; every day they sought the Holy Spirit’s protection against Satan’s wiles. We must do the same.

(4) Strong men and woman are no match for temptation in unguarded moments, if they are not watching and praying (Prov. 7:26)—which begins with the unguarded look or the unguarded thought (James 1:15). This is frighteningly true. We overtly see this in Samson and David, but it also played a role with Solomon the wisest man who ever lived.

(5) We are just as vulnerable in good times as in bad times, perhaps even more vulnerable in good times since we tend to let our guard down (Luke 17:27-29). The latter may not seem to make sense, but I believe it to be true.

(6) We need more prayer, in some ways, when things are going well, than when they are going badly, and some of those prayers need to be “defensive” in nature (Matt. 6:13). When things are going badly, we are highly motivated to pray and ask our friends to pray for us. But when things are going well, we go along on our merry way, little realizing that Satan is quietly conjuring up “designer” temptations that are perfectly suited to our vulnerabilities.

(7) We tend to flippantly respond to spiritual and moral failures and minimize their impact when we are involved (Jer. 5:22), when we would be highly critical of someone else.

(8) There are preferred ways of dealing with our problems. David shows us a bad way; we should choose better ways, which ALWAYS begin with returning to the Lord (Isa. 55:7).

(9) Bad things happen to good people (Job 2:3-6; Heb. 12:1). Even though Uriah was a Canaanite, he was a godly man from what we can tell. Though he probably never understood what went on, God apparently saw that Uriah could witness more through death than through a normal life. There are things we won’t understand until we get to heaven. In the meantime we need to be faithful and obedient, trusting God no matter what is going on.

David’s careless attitude was manifested in his flippant, “Do not let this thing displease you, for the sword devours one as well as another.” I think we are wired from Adam to take a similar attitude to our challenges, and the only thing to combat such an attitude, to say nothing of preserving us from similar foolishness, is a constant connection with God that is only possible as we are reading and praying.

So, how is it going with your daily time? I hope you are lingering and savoring your time with Him every day, if not several times every day.

Father, if Satan was clever enough to bring mighty David down, he is certainly clever enough to bring us down. You warned us about the need to “watch and pray,” and taught us to say, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” Help us to take Your admonitions seriously, and not only pray, but also live those words. Keep my friend in this regard. Put an angel guard around and around all those who are near and dear. Drive Satan far away. Make my friend’s life one of great joy and blessing, for Jesus’ sake, for my friend’s sake, for the associated family’s sake, and for those who, in observing Your radiant joy, will want to know You as well. I ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.

God bless you, Dan

Kindness Spurned

Thursday, October 14th, 2010

“It happened … that the king of the people of Ammon died…. Then David said, ‘I will show kindness to Hanun the son of Nahash, as his father showed kindness to me.” 2 Sam. 10:1,2

Last time we saw how David extended kindness to Mephibosheth, Jonathan’s son who had two lame feet, based on David’s generosity, and not  on the basis of any merit of Mephibosheth.  As a result, Mephibosheth reacquired lands, servants, moved to Jerusalem and ate daily at David’s table.

In the next chapter we find Nahash the king of Ammon dying and David desiring to extend kindness to his son Hanun. But where Mephibosheth gratefully accepted David’s kindness, Hanun spurned it.

I use the word “spurn” because Hanun not only rejected David’s offer, but did so in an insulting and disrespectful, way.

The outcome wasn’t pleasant. The people of Ammon—the Ammonites, quickly realized David was taking the insult personally, wasn’t happy, and sending troops. In response they hired a Syrian army to defend them. Soon, what had started as an effort to show kindness became mortal combat. Lives were lost. Where there could and should have been a positive relationship, everything soured.

What happened?

Unfortunately for Hanun, some of the Princes of his country questioned David’s motives and whispered lies in Hanun’s ears. As a result, instead of welcoming David’s messengers, Hanun shaved off half their beards, cut off their garments in the middle of their buttocks, and sent them away in this most shameful way.

As a result of rejecting David’s generous offer, and adding insult to injury, where there should have been a time of enjoying David’s kindness, Hanun and his people bore the brunt of David’s anger.

We have to wonder what motivated the people who insinuated that David had sinister motives? Lack of power if Hanun and David got along too well? Loss of influence?

As I read this I was reminded of Hosea 4:6: “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.”

In Hosea’s day, the people had prophets and much knowledge.   But individuals claiming to be prophets had misled them, and therefore they came to have “no truth, mercy, or knowledge of God in the land,” Hosea later warned “You shall stumble in the day; the prophet also shall stumble with you in the night.”

Today, God is extending his kindness to you. Will you accept it? The danger is that someone will come along and whisper negative things in your ear like they did to Hanun, and you will reject what was offered in kindness. And the results may be just as negative!

Among other things His kindness includes His daily presence, His Word, the ongoing help of the Holy Spirit, His messengers, His way of doing things, his way of living, his way of relating to others, and of course most of all His gift of salvation—as Jesus put it, “living by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”

In too many cases God’s generous offer of kindness is being rejected. Of course that includes His offer of salvation. But another more subtle rejection prevents God from doing a great work in and through His children: the almost universal rejection of His Word, or at least portions—sometimes it seems like much—of what is in His Word. I find it hard to believe but it is true. In many cases, the things recorded in the Old Testament are supposedly only binding on the people who lived at that time. The prophetic books are either past history, or only speak of events coming in the future. We are left with little that applies in our day—and even that is being watered down.

Wouldn’t you agree that God wasted a lot of time and effort to protect the Bible if only a tiny portion of it applies to our day?

Speaking for myself, I take the whole Bible. That way I don’t have to do any spiritual gymnastics to explain what it means and to whom it applies.

In terms of my personal experience, speaking of prayer and obtaining answers to prayer, it was only when I took EVERYTHING the Bible taught on the subject seriously, that I finally began getting answers.

Notice what Hosea goes on to say: “Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being priest for Me; because you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children.

Could this lack of knowledge explain the declining conditions in society in our day? Could it explain the deplorable state of our families?

So how is it with you? Today God is wanting to show you kindness. You can either accept it, like Mephibosheth, or spurn his offer like Hanun. God wants to show you kindness in giving you the gift of eternal life in His future Kingdom; he also wants to show you kindness in experiencing a transformed life now. Both of those offers come by way of His Word: the Living Word AND the Written Word—regarding the latter, starting in Genesis, which speaks of how the world began, and continues all the way through to Revelation, which explains how human history will close and God’s eternal kingdom will begin.

I hope you will trust God’s motives, accept His gracious and generous offer, continue to move ever closer to Him, and enjoy the rich food that comes when one discovers that “man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”

So did you spend time with God today? Did that time translate into your talking about God with someone else? I hope so!

Father, bless my friend today. Might my friend accept your offer of kindness. Might he or she trust you enough to say “yes” even if everything isn’t necessarily fully understood. Show that You can be trusted. You know the burdens that are being carried today. Take over those burdens, bringing clear and decided direction and help. I ask all of this in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Loyalty

Saturday, October 9th, 2010

2 Sam. 3:38 “Do you not know that a great man has fallen this day in Israel.”

When one thinks about David’s relationship to Saul, one word comes to mind: loyalty Though David had his faults, loyalty wasn’t one of them. He was  completely loyal to Saul even though Saul was continually trying to cause trouble and take his life.

To his followers, David’s loyalty probably seemed misguided at times. More than once they offered to take Saul’s life, but David deferred. Saul was God’s anointed, and David defended Saul at every turn even though Saul was unworthy of that loyalty.

After Saul died, the champion that rose up to defend Saul’s name and honor was Abner. Though he may been misguided at times, yet David recognized in Abner a loyal subject of Saul. As a result, when Abner died, though he had raised up a competing monarch and caused other mischief, David still recognized him as a “great man.”

I wonder, if I was being hounded and my life was in constant danger like David’s, would I be as loyal to the one causing the trouble, even if he were the anointed one in my life? Would I respect others who were also loyally serving that anointed one?

Is this loyalty a matter of obedience or a matter of dying to self? I suspect it is more the latter.

Father, I have great difficulty being loyal. I tend to have negative thoughts about other people before I have positive ones. There are times when I am critical. Sometimes the very fact that they are in anointed roles means I dislike them. Sometimes I also think too highly of myself. Sadly, I forget that you are in charge and working on many fronts, and that though people may seem flawed, yet you have placed them in various roles and are depending on them. This is really hard for me Father. Please help me to think and act in relationship to other people in a way that will honor you at ALL times. Give me wisdom with this as well. Maybe the one reading this also struggles with the same thing. Please do a mind and heart transplant for both of us, so that relationships will not hinder the great work you are wanting to do in us and through us. I ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Have a blessed day!

Dan