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Posts Tagged ‘love’

First of all, there IS no “secret” to a long and happy marriage. What I’m gong to tell you here is no secret at all.

Compatibility is hugely important. But it’s not enough.

Communication is absolutely critical. But it doesn’t necessarily lead to an enduring marriage.

Caring is crucial. People flourish when cared for – but that’s not the whole story.

Put aside the Hallmark cards with all the gushy romantic sentiments (I’m not against romance, by the way). When undesirable items are hitting the fan, here’s what it comes down to:

Commitment.

  • Loyalty when the grass looks greener elsewhere.
  • Staying put when illness (mental or physical) creates ongoing distress.
  • Self-sacrificing endurance when covenant promises override convenience.

Like all long-married couples, my wife and I have had plenty of challenges. Two imperfect and broken human beings navigating through life will always have rough waters to get through.

But with all of our flaws, we’re commited. And because of all of our flaws, we need to be commited.

Commitment fuels self-giving love, it drives (even uncomfortable) communication, it provides a firm foundation when everything around – including feelings – is being shaken.

My wife knows what a mess I am. She sees my high-maintenance insecurities; she knows my quirks and short-circuits and uptight-ness and imbalances. And, like her mother before her (and my mother before me), she sticks by her man. Not with starry-eyed reality-denial. But with loving, loyal commitment.

A man can tackle just about anything if he knows his wife is WITH him for the long haul.

(And does it ever help to have a sense of humor!…that was the first thing that attracted us to each other, actually. A shared, warped sense of humor. Which has helped keep us sane throughout).

So, a word of advice to my sons. There are millions of pretty and charming women out there, gals who can turn your head and make your heart beat faster. But when it comes to a marriage partner, look for a family and personal track record of commitment. Loyalty lasts long after beauty fades.

That’s one not-very-secret secret to a long and happy marriage.

SandyW_34y

(of course, sometimes beauty doesn’t fade at all!!!)

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(a meditation on the book of Colossians, chapter 1:3-8)

As Paul begins his letter to the believers in Colossae, he does so with a heart of thanksgiving – because stuff is happening in that church! This isn’t some building with a sign “Christian Church” in front of it; sterile on the outside and sleepy on the inside. No, this is a group of people where God is actively at work. Gospel fruit is coming forth. Paul is encouraged because there is abundant evidence of supernatural life:

We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints,because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth, just as you learned it from Epaphras our beloved fellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf and has made known to us your love in the Spirit.

Here we see depicted the true evidence of the hand of God in a gospel work.

There is faith in Jesus Christ. Note: the Scripture no where validates faith in faith. Nor are we to have faith in one of a buffet line of possible deities. Paul, the apostle of Jesus Christ (see our previous study on verses 1 and 2), sees that the gospel message has turned former pagans to the one true Savior, Jesus Christ.

There is love for the saints. Throughout the New Testament, one of the hallmarks of a true gospel work in the heart of men and women is holy, sacrificial love. Of all of the fruits of God’s supernatural work, a surpassing love among formerly selfish people shines brightest. This comes about by the indwelling of the Spirit of God – it is more than human affection.

There is hope for the future. Paul here is underscoring the objective hope of a resurrected future for all believers; but that message of God-secured hope also births a subjective sense of hope in the heart of the Christian.

There is increase. The gospel is not some set of dogmas, embraced but without any real effect. No, the work of Jesus Christ bears fruit; growing fruit, increasing fruit; wherever the gospel is embraced. Lives are changed.

There is truth. In our day, people love to separate “spirtuality” from truth (capital T truth). Paul knows of no such thing. The message of the gospel is specific, and a messenger such as Epaphras is considered faithful because he has not only embraced the truth, he is accurately teaching it to others.

We will always be surrounded by a culture that wants to use God-words (grace, love, truth, jesus, spirit, etc.) divorced from God-meaning. Those empty forms of belief or religion will never bear gospel fruit, because they deny gospel realities. No church is even close to perfect, but where the Spirit of Jesus dwells, we’ll see the evidence Paul describes above. The gospel is not mere words – it is power.

Transformation and orthodoxy and fruit-bearing all dwell together in the living church of Jesus Christ.

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The essence of the Christian faith can be found in this amazing sentence:

“For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” (Colossians 1:13-14)

Genuine Christianity includes belief in Christ, joined to a personal and ongoing experience of Christ’s deliverance of us. It’s not an abstract set of dogmas. It’s an unfolding story of escape.

Escape Gospel

I wrote about the in whom we have aspect in this prior post. But let’s back up and look at what this passage tells us about rescue.

1. First of all, note that deliverance/rescue/salvation is not a mere bullet point in a list of orthodox dogmas. “We believe in a; and in b; and in c; oh, and by the way, we believe in rescue; and in this; and that; and the other…” While the Christian faith, like any and every other belief system and worldview (including atheism), includes a series of beliefs, the biblical gospel involves far more that a mental framework. It is founded on an individual and corporate experience of escape – a rescuing from moral and spiritual darkness – performed by the hand of God Himself through Jesus Christ. This is an audacious claim. We don’t adhere to dead truths from a mythical God; we believe in a living and active God who does miracles in people. Darkness-defeating deliverances. Today.

2. Also, the Scripture is very plain about the reality of darkness. It is moral. It is spiritual. It is universal. And it is powerful – such that every single human being is in its grip, and we cannot escape without rescue from a much more powerful God of light and love. The first step in God’s rescuing work is making us realize how hopelessly we are enchained in darkness. We’re not good. We’re not neutral. We’re not filled with enlightened intelligence. And, enslaved in our chains of moral folly, we cannot free ourselves. The gospel is for the hopeless leper; to the self-sufficient soul still in the grip of darkness, it simply sounds like foolishness.

3. We’re not independent operators, as much as we’d like to imagine ourselves to be. We belong to a kingdom, and this is a binary (zero or one) reality. The kingdom of darkness. The kingdom of Jesus. No middle ground, no other choices. Until and unless we are delivered by Jesus, we remain enslaved in darkness. This, by the way, is why people so violently oppose the gospel. It undercuts our arrogance and imagined self-determination right to the taproot. The gospel is astonishingly inclusive – any and all are welcome – but also terrifyingly exclusive. One way to God. Only Jesus can deliver the darkness-shrouded soul. We need a specific cure, not a random medicine chest, for our deadly disease.

4. In the midst of all these hard and uncomfortable truths, love is the answer. Not some wispy ’60’s view of hippie mush-love, but the all-powerful love of the Father for His Son, and His love for us expressed through His Son’s sacrifice for sins. We need redemption and forgiveness first and foremost; and that is exactly what God extends to those in darkness. Cleansing where once was only impurity. Restoration where there was hostility. Healing in the midst of brokenness. Sight where once spiritual blindness ruled. Love is not smooth words afraid to offend. Love breaks chains and makes rescues.

5. The conclusion we draw from this – and it is reinforced over and over throughout the Scriptures – is that mere human moral effort is inadequate. Just adopting orthodox beliefs is insufficient. Taking on Jesus’ name with the lips while retaining a heart in love with the practice of sin is a lie. Real, living Christianity is seen where thankful, delivered, spiritually-awakened people worship the God who loves them, and love other imperfect people within the body of Christ and outside of it.

Do you want to witness the reality of God’s work on earth? Don’t crave signs and wonders in the sky. Look for the people of the great escape. That is the hand of God – and He invites you to come to Him for deliverance. Weak, wounded, broken, scarred, blind, enslaved, addicted, impure, dying – Jesus, the great physician, calls the sick to Himself for healing.

 

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Love-Forward

I remember, years ago, when Chrysler was pushing their new line of cars designed with what they called a “cab-forward” design.

It was an interesting design and marketing approach, but hardly earth-shattering. Love-forward, however, is very radical.

In Jesus’ parable often called The Prodigal Son, a restless and libertine-ish son decides to take his inheritance early, and go off and squander it. In doing so, he rejected his father’s kind intentions and brought shame to the family name. Yet, when he returned, filthy and penniless, his father rushed to him, brushing aside his attempt at penance, and extravagantly poured out love on him, publicly restoring him to favor.

There could have been wrath-forward, but there was love-forward.

The parable, of course, is meant to teach us about God. And when you make a list of God’s many attributes, all of which exist and are expressed in harmonious proportion, the idea that justice or vengeance might well be at the forefront when we squander our time and gifts in a life of God-rejecting sin is very easy to imagine.

But there it is – compassion. Mercy. Love-forward. Not only for the dissolute younger son, fresh from the filth of self-indulgent wastefulness, but also for the self-righteous older brother, who resented the love shown to his comparatively unworthy sibling.

God’s love does not negate or oppose his holiness and righteousness. But we are shown what He extends at the forefront when we return to Him, empty-handed and (finally) honest about our wayward hearts. Even our proud and self-righteous hearts.

I, for one, am glad to find love-forward…

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