Saturday, December 10, 2011

Elijah and the Widow

There was a famine...
    throughout the land.
All hope was lost...
    in the desert sand.
The constant voices...
    of hunger cries.
Without food to eat...
    they all would soon die.

There was this widow...
    in Zarephath.
Soon to be blessed...
    along life’s path.
She stood at the gate...
    gathering her wood.
When she heard a man speak...
    from where he stood.

Please bring me water,
    to drink from a cup.
And a morsel of bread,
    so that I may sup.
She spoke to Elijah...
    and here’s what she said.
As the Lord God lives,
    my son goes unfed.

Look man of God...
    I’ll tell you no lie.
I'll prepare a meal...
    and then we shall die.
I have a handful of flour...
    and a little bit of oil.
These sticks in my hand...
    are the fruit of my toil.

Then Elijah said to her,
    “You have nothing to fear.
    God knows your need...
    He’s seen your tears.
Go make the bread...
    and bring it to me.
God will do wonders...
    a blessing you’ll see.
"

Here’s what will happen...
    to your flour and oil.
He’ll give the increase...
    none of which will spoil.
An endless supply...
    until He sends rain.
His blessings endure...
    The Lord will sustain.

She chose to obey...
    giving God’s word a try.
The flour remained plentiful,
    the oil never ran dry.
When God says to you...
    "Hear what I say.
You’ll walk in faith...
    When you choose to obey.
"
                                Poem written by MTJ
Note: This post is linked to Spiritual Sundays (hosted by Charlotte).Spiritual Sundays

Friday, December 2, 2011

Now I Can See!

The man was blind,
    he could not see.
Was it just his sight…
    which stole his liberty?
Who would answer,
    his most urgent need?
What words would take root
    as life-giving seed?

The disciples asked Jesus,
    who was it that sinned?
Was it mother or father,
    that did him in?
It was neither of them,
    who blinded his eyes.
But that men would learn,
    let God be their guide.

Then Jesus spit,
    on a small lump of clay.
Rubbed it on the man’s eyes
    and said....“Hear what I say.
Go now and wash,
    your eyes in the pool.
You’ll regain your sight,
    and become God’s tool.

The man obeyed Jesus,
    and washed off the mud.
Cleansing his eyes,
    removing the crud.
He opened his eyes,
    at first...all he could see.
Were men who appeared,
    as though they were trees.

He regained his sight,
    as Jesus had said.
To those who doubted,
    here’s just what he said.
I once was blind,
    but now I can see.
I saw a man named Jesus,
    who set my life free.
                                Poem written by MTJ

Spiritual SundaysNote: This post is linked to Spiritual Sundays (hosted by Charlotte).

Friday, November 25, 2011

Who Is My Neighbor?

All his money stolen,
    he laid there by the road.
A bleeding Jew was robbed,
    and now...
    his story must be told.
Left for dead, he lay there...
    no shoes upon his feet.
What will happen,
    to this man...
    lying in the street?

A priest came by,
    and saw him.
But gave no comfort,
    or aid.
Crossing to...
    the other side.
He left him...
    where he laid.

A Levite soon...
    would come along.
He looked...
    for just a while.
But gave no thought...
    to helping him.
Not even...
    a comforting smile.

But then a certain man...
    would come.
And when he saw,
    this Jew
He looked...
    with great compassion,
    and...
    he knew just what to do.

He bandaged up...
    the wounded man.
And placed him,
    on his steed.
He headed towards...
    a local inn.
Not finished...
    with his deed.

Before he left,
    the next day.
He spoke...
    instructive words:
Please, care for...
    this man...
    I’ve helped.
And when I...
    come again.
I’ll pay you all...
    the charges for...
    his stay here...
    at your inn.
"

Jesus asks...
    this question.
To all...
    who are set free.
"Which of you...
    is neighbor to...
    the helpless ones...
    you see?
"

Do likewise as...
    the Samaritan.
Show mercy...
    to those in need.
Teach others who...
    do not know.
True love...
    reveals our deeds.

                                Poem written by MTJ

Note: This post is linked to Spiritual Sundays (hosted by Charlotte).Spiritual Sundays

Friday, November 18, 2011

Do You Care Lord?

Do You care Lord?
Do You really care?

Yes, I care about you...
    the life you live,
    your acts of love,
    and the things you do.

I care about the orphan child
    who cries herself to sleep.
I care about the elderly man,
    whose voice was once so deep.

I care about the widow,
    who feels so all alone.
I care about the homeless ones,
    who have no house or home.

I care about the unemployed,
    the ones without a job.
I care about the thieving ones,
    who prey on those they rob.

I care about the things you say,
    and will you say what’s true.
I really care, my child I care...
I really care for you.
                                Poem written by MTJ

Spiritual SundaysNote: This post is linked to Spiritual Sundays (hosted by Charlotte).

Friday, November 11, 2011

Love Like You

Love Like Jesus

"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another." (John 13:34, NKJV
A new commandment...
    You gave to us.
To love like You.
Love one another...
    love as brothers.
In so doing...
    we love like You.

In the garden...we laid...
    while You knelt and prayed.
Can I love like You?
A little while later...You wept,
    while we...still slept.
Will I ever...
    love like You?

On the road lay a man...
    beaten and robbed.
Some saw him there...
    but just didn't care.
Shaking their heads...
    forgetting what was said.
Love your neighbor as yourself.
That’s loving, like You!

On the way to Golgotha...
    some would laugh,
    while others jeered.
Some would cry,
    and others would cheer.
They couldn’t receive...
A love like You.

You hung on that cross...
    for the hopelessly lost.
It was love in You!
You gave up the ghost...
    witnessed by the heavenly host.
Declaring, the love in You.

You rose from the grave...
    so the lost could be saved.
That’s the love of You!
Filled with Your Spirit...
    I’ll let others hear it.
I’ll love like You!

                                Poem written by MTJ

Note: This post is linked to Spiritual Sundays (hosted by Charlotte).Spiritual Sundays

Friday, November 4, 2011

You Came

Jesus Christ Came
"For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me."(John 17:8, NIV)

Lost and alone.
No home of my own.
But You came.

Sinking, in a sea of sin,
No one there, to pull me in.
But You came.

Trouble circled all around me.
How, could I ever get free?
Until You came?

You came Lord, for me.
On the wings of a dove.
Setting me free,
By the power of God’s love.

What can I do?
In this world without you?
Lord, You came!

Where could I go?
What would I know?
Til You came!

I cannot hide,
This truth inside.
That You came!

You came Lord, for me.
On the wings of a dove.
Setting me free,
By the power of God’s love.
Poem written by MTJ


Spiritual SundaysNote: This post is linked to Spiritual Sundays (hosted by Charlotte).

Friday, October 28, 2011

You Are There

God is There

"If I ascend to heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there." (Psalm 139:8)

In my silence…You are there
In my turmoil….You are there
In my confusion…You are there
In my pain…You are there

When I sleep…You are there
When I awake…You are there
When I walk…You are there
When I sit…You are there

You are there
In my life, in my heart, in my soul

In my home…You are there
In my work…You are there
In my travels…You are there
In my life…You are there

When I pray…You are there
When I worship…You are there
When I listen…You are there
When I follow…You are there

You are there.
In my life, in my heart, in my soul.

Poem by MTJ



Note: This post is linked to Spiritual Sundays (hosted by Charlotte).Spiritual Sundays

Friday, October 21, 2011

I Choose Christ

"And if it seems evil to you to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD."(Joshua 24:15, NKJV)

Some live for money.
Some live for fame.
Some live with heartache.
Others live in shame.
But I choose Christ.

Some live in mansions.
Some live in shacks.
Some live in leisure.
Others break their backs.
But I choose Christ.

I choose Christ,
for the life he gives.
I choose Christ,
for the freedom to live.
There are many choices in this life,
but I choose Christ.

Some folks are happy.
Some folks are sad.
Some folks are confused.
Other folks are mad.
But I choose Christ.

I choose the joy.
I choose the grace.
I choose the Christ.
I'll see His face.
Yes, I'll see His face!
I choose Christ!

I choose Christ,
for the life he gives.
I choose Christ,
for the freedom to live.
There are many choices in this life,
but I choose Christ.


Poem by MTJ


Spiritual SundaysNote: This post is linked to Spiritual Sundays (hosted by Charlotte).

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Sound of Autumn’s Fall

Autumn Landscape, Photograph by Olegas Kurasovas
Autumn Landscape (Photograph by Olegas Kurasovas, My Shot)

As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.” (Genesis 8:22)

I watch autumn leaves gently float down
Their colorful leaves layer the ground
The wind swirls them up as they spin around
Falling again as they touch the ground
I love to hear that lovely sound
The sound of autumn’s fall

The wind moves the trees in a gentle sway
Revealing fall colors this fine autumn day
A mural of colors which seem to convey
A splendor of colors that harkens my way
Colors so brilliant that cry out today
The sound of autumn’s fall

Autumn has come and the leaves now abound
The kids laugh and play as they toss them around
Jumping on leaves they’ve shaped in a mound
A cushion of leaves between them and the ground
We all love to hear that wonderful sound
The sound of autumn’s fall
poem by MTJ

Note: This post is linked to Spiritual Sundays (hosted by Charlotte).Spiritual Sundays

Friday, October 7, 2011

Thoughts and Words

"For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.Eat and drink!he says to you, But his heart is not with you." (Proverbs 23:7)


Thoughts that were too often
Expressed by me through words
Were filled with wrong intentions
Which You too often heard.

But locked within my mind
Are words that I regret
Of many spoken thoughts
I wish I had repressed.

You also shared Your thoughts
Expressed to me through love
Thoughts which soared in flight
Upon the wings of doves.

Your crafted words I heard
Like sculpted works of art
Words which melted armor
To free my prisoned heart.

poem by MTJ



Spiritual SundaysNote: This post is linked to Spiritual Sundays (hosted by Charlotte).


Friday, September 30, 2011

So I...Sit, Walk, Stand

"But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus." (Ephesians 2:4-7)


My life began

      there

      at the foot

      of Your throne.

I am learning

      the truth

      of who I am

      in Christ.

So I sit.


"I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." (Ephesians 4:1-3) "Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma." (Ephesians 5:1-2)

My journey continues

      on

      in the Light

      of Your truth.

I am blessed

      by Your love,

      grace,

      and forgiveness.

So I walk.


"Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand." (Ephesians 6:11, 13)

My destination lies

      ahead

      in the place

      of Your habitation.

I am clothed

      in Your righteousness,

      the armor of salvation,

      shielded by faith.

So I stand.


Note: This post is linked to Spiritual Sundays (hosted by Charlotte).Spiritual Sundays

Friday, September 23, 2011

Unspoken Words

This post is one of five poems written during the month of September.  Although I've challenged myself to write words that speak  from my heart, I confess that I have (at times) been filled with self-doubt.  I've had to dismiss my anxiety and just put myself out here (so to speak).  In the end, the Lord has reminded me that, I just write, he does the rest.  Thank you for journeying with me this month.




What do you say when
        something, needs saying?
        Words that help
        someone, who’s hurting.

What do you say, when
        words can’t be found?
        See the child, who
        needs nurturing?

It’s not what
        you say, but
        what you do, with
        unspoken words


Unspoken words that soothe
        a scar,
        a bruise or
        a broken heart

Conveying one
        clear thought

I love and care about you.

Arms filled with
       packages,
       eyes almost hidden.
       A day filled with
       shopping and
       running errands.

She reaches her car and
       struggles
       unlocking the door.
       A package falls
       silently,
       to the ground.

It causes a
       domino effect.
       She stands there
       in the silence, as
       frustration mounts.

Others see
       her distress, and
       pass by,
       in the silence
       of unspoken words.

The tear-filled
       eyes
       of a child,
       look upward.

Finding comfort
        in your eyes, and
        the smile on
        your face says,
        unconditional love.

All the time
        you were gone has
        passed.
        Your loving embrace
        says,
        unspoken words.

Revealing a wealth
        of emotions.
        Eyes that comfort,
        a face that smiles and
        a loving embrace.

All confirm...

Unspoken words of love.


Spiritual SundaysNote: This post is linked to Spiritual Sundays (hosted by Charlotte).

Friday, September 16, 2011

Here I Am


Here I am
    needing Your love
    hoping for joy
    waiting in anticipation
    when You make Your presence known.

Here I am
    thinking of Your mercy
    remembering how every instance
    showered me like a morning rain
    with Your infinite grace

Here I am
    smiling at You
    You give me joy
    I cannot contain it
    so I will praise You!

Here I am
    silent before You
    on my knees
    I am in awe
    that You give audience to me

Here I am
    wanting to be more like You
    I hear You say,
    "The harvest is ripe..."
    use me Lord

Via con Dios...

Almighty God and Father,

The aren't enough words to express my gratitude and appreciation for Your love and grace.  How often You extend Yourself and because of You, I am better than I could have ever imagined.  Thank You for Your goodness.  Your love is beyond my understanding!  Hear my prayer today, not because I demand it, but because You tell me to, "Ask..., and to "come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need."  Search me Lord.  You know my heart, my secret thoughts, my deepest concerns.  You give peace when I am troubled, water when I thirst, light when I am blinded, and love when it was undeserved.  I will praise You Lord!  Yes, I will praise You.  I won't wait for the rocks to cry out on my behalf.  Your holiness is revealed and one day I will see Your face.  Thank You for who You are and what You do on my behalf.  With unending joy, I say, "Amen!


Note: This post is linked to Spiritual Sundays (hosted by Charlotte).Spiritual Sundays


Friday, September 9, 2011

You Are God....I am Your's

"See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are." (1 John 3:1) "We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love.  God is love..." (1 John 4:16)

I'm writing my own version of poetry this month.  This one is examines how God touches our life.

My thoughts escape me
   when I consider Your love
My sight fails me
   when I behold Your holiness
My lips humble me
   when I proclaim Your name
My ears silence me
   when I hear Your voice

You love..I am in awe
You shine brightly...I am overshadowed
You speak...I am listening
You are God...I am Your's

When I ask
    You hear my words
When I call
    You answer my prayers
When I cry
    You wipe away my tears
When I  hurt
    You heal my wounds

You love..I am in awe
You shine brightly...I am overshadowed
You speak...I am listening
You are God...I am Your's

In the shadows
    You illuminate my path
In the silence
    You comfort my lonliness
In the confusion
    You direct my thoughts
In the shame
    You forgive my sin

You love..I am in awe
You shine brightly...I am overshadowed
You speak...I am listening
You are God...I am Your's


Father God,

Thank You for loving me when others couldn't.  Thank You for teaching me how to love, how to forgive, and how to live.  Your grace covers my life in so many ways, that I am continually amazed.  You fill me with joy that I cannot describe.


I pray for those who need You in this moment.  Shower them with Your grace.  Speak Your words of healing and comfort.  Some are grieving, some are sick, some are hungry; may we in faith serve those in need through love.  Thank You Lord for all that You are, and all that You do on our behalf.  Amen.

Spiritual SundaysNote: This post is linked to Spiritual Sundays (hosted by Charlotte and Ginger).



Friday, September 2, 2011

I Will...But...


"But He said to him, 'Allow the dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim everywhere the kingdom of God.' Another also said, 'I will follow You, Lord; but first permit me to say good-bye to those at home.'"
(Luke 9:60-61)

I once heard author and lecturer, Ed Cole talk about, The Three T's (Time, Talent, and Tithes). As a Christian man, I've come to recognize that I can easily struggle in one (or all) of these areas when it comes to giving myself to Christ and having my focus elsewhere. When I lose my focus, I forget:
  1. Who Christ is, and
  2. What Christ means to me
The other night, I woke up with this thought on my mind and decided to write a poem on the topic. It is loosely based on the man who chose to follow Jesus Christ but then qualified his commitment by stipulating that he needed to first "say good-bye to those at home." (Luke 9:61)

The poem is titled, I Will...But...

I will
    give my life, to You Lord
But
    its gonna take some time
I
    have so much to do, Lord
The
    choices made are mine
It
    takes a willing heart to say
I
    need salvation now
But
    with these other, priorities
I
    can't decide just how


Not
    only How, but also When
I
    give my life to You
Surrender
    all, my choices made
I'll
    live a life that's true
I've
    put You off, so many times
It
    never seemed to matter
Things
    I spoke, and promised You
Were
    idle words of chatter


And
    now, when I need You most
I
    have no words to say
I
    constantly remind myself
To
    wait, for one more day
The
    waiting isn't hard You see
I

    didn't, count the cost
I
    lived as if, life didn't end
No
    journey to the cross


Today

    The Lord, calls out to me
Come
    closer, draw ye near
But
    I ignore Him

As,
    I often have
His
    voice, I just don't hear.

It
    won't be long
When
    I will see
My
    journey at its end
You'll
    ask me one last question then
You
    put Me off til when?

Lord Jesus,

How often have I said, "Not Now", maybe I haven't spoken the words, but I've thought them. Putting off my time, my talent, and my tithes; I've been guilty of holding back. Lord, I want to be passionate for You! I've been passionate towards others, and for things, but they all pale in comparison to You. Because of You Jesus, I have a gift which I could never earn. I have been saved by grace, the gift of God.

What does it mean to be passionate? To express intense feelings about someone or something.

What does it mean to be passionate for Christ? Lord, You said, "... AND YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH."

Lord, I'm discovering that this is being passionate for You. I want to be consistent in my life by how I live, and what I say; my expression of love for You. I also want to love my neighbor as I love myself. May I never ask, "Who is my neighor?" or "Who is my brother?" May I never forget the price You paid at Calvary for me. May my life serve as a witness to others of the power of God's saving grace. Amen.


Note: This post is linked to Spiritual Sundays (hosted by Charlotte and Ginger).Spiritual Sundays

Friday, August 26, 2011

I Want to Go With You

"As long as I'm alive in this body, there is good work for me to do. If I had to choose right now, I hardly know which I'd choose. Hard choice! The desire to break camp here and be with Christ is powerful. Some days I can think of nothing better. But most days, because of what you are going through, I am sure that it's better for me to stick it out here. So I plan to be around awhile, companion to you as your growth and joy in this life of trusting God continues. You can start looking forward to a great reunion when I come visit you again. We'll be praising Christ, enjoying each other." (Philippians 1:24-26)

I was preparing to leave out of town on business when my granddaughter walked up to me and said,

"I want to go with you granddaddy."

I looked at her wondering why in the world would she want to go on a trip which I didn't look forward to. I thought, if she only knew how much I'd grown weary of leaving home each Sunday afternoon, sleeping in a hotel for the next five days lacked any measure of excitement.

"Why would you want to go with me baby girl?"

"So I can watch you."

I've been thinking about those words all week and how Paul wrote that he felt conflicted about staying on earth to encourage the saints, or to go and be with the Lord. (Philippians 1:24-26) In that moment, hearing my granddaughter's words, I too felt conflicted; stay or go. But she felt no conflict, she clearly knew what she wanted. She wanted to go with me.

Jesus told his disciples that He also was leaving to prepare a place for them. (John 14:2-3) Our hearts cry out to Jesus because of this promise not only to prepare a place for us but to come again. (John 14:28) As followers, we hope with anticipation for the return of our Lord. Our hearts long to be with Him, but we also know that we are here for the purpose of demonstrating Christ in our lives; the hope of our glory.

Sometimes we struggle, sometimes we're lost, sometimes we feel all alone, we get tired, weary, discouraged, and hurt. But the Lord has promised to never leave or forsake us. (Deuteronomy 31:6, Deuteronomy 31:8, Joshua 1:5, Hebrews 13:5) We can be assured that Christ never fails, His word is true. No matter what we face in this life, we are never alone.

Lord Jesus,

Thank You so much for being present in our lives. You are The Promise Keeper and You are the perfect example of being true to my words. Teach me Lord by Your Holy Spirit to live my life in anticipation of Your return. I want to hear the words, "‘Well done, my good and faithful servant." I want my life to please you in all I think, say, and do. May the Holy Spirit guide me in all that I think, say, and do. I pray not only for myself, but for others as well; that they experience Your divine intervention and wonderful grace. You are our Advocate. Your blood is poured out as the ultimate sacrificial drink offering. An offering which pleases the Father. Thank You Lord Jesus for saving me from the bondage of my sins. Amen.


Spiritual SundaysNote: This post is linked to Spiritual Sundays (hosted by Charlotte and Ginger).

Friday, August 19, 2011

There is a difference

She stood before me, knee-high to a duck, but full of confidence.

"You want to know the difference between Khartune Netwurk and Nic Joonyer?"

I barely heard her voice but I focused my eyes upon my granddaughter, and nodded my head, waiting to hear the difference.

"Khartune Netwurk has khartunes, and Nic Joonyer doesn't."

And just like that, I now knew the difference!

One of the beautiful qualities in children, is that they cut to the chase; children rarely beat around the bush. I looked at my granddaughter and said, "I didn't know that!"

She thought I was saying that, I didn't understand what she just revealed, so she reiterated it for me.

"Khartune Netwurk has khartunes, and Nic Joonyer doesn't."

"OK, babygirl. Thank You."

I now know some of the characters who perform on Cartoon Network (Khartune Netwurk), like Buggs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, and Road Runner; by the way, they do not appear on Nick Jr.

My granddaughter doesn't think I know very much about important things, and her pop quiz verified my lack of knowledge. Sometimes, I have that attitude toward God, that He doesn't know what I do about important things. You know, particularly the things which matter to me.

The bible says God knows:
  1. Those who are right (Psalm 1:6)
  2. The secrets of our heart (Psalm 44:21)
  3. Our thoughts (Psalm 94:11)
  4. Our physical makeup (Psalm 103:14
  5. What is hidden in darkness (Daniel 2:22)
  6. Our needs (Matthew 6:8)
  7. The Son (Matthew 11:27)
  8. The end of time (Matthew 24:36)
  9. The mind of the Spirit (Romans 8:27)
  10. The thoughts of the wise (1 Corinthians 3:20)
  11. Those who are His (2 Timothy 2:19)

The truth is that God knows and there is a vast difference between what God knows and the limits of my knowledge; yet I choose to offer Him my counsel, even though it is unnecessary.

The strange thing is that God listens to me when He already knows what's in (and on) my mind. I'm learning to stand on the precipice of grace, trusting in the Lord with all my heart (Proverbs 3:5). Realizing that God loves me unconditionally, without reservation, or regret. So on those times when I want to offer my opinion, I'll remind myself the difference between Khartune Netwurk and Nic Joonyer; confessing that I trust God with my life.

Dear Lord,

You alone are The Sovereign God who knows all things. You are teaching me to trust You, to love as You love, and to forgive as You forgive. Your grace oh Lord, is beyond my understanding. Thank You for the revelation of Your truth, the truth of Your Son, Jesus Christ. I offer up my praise to You; You are so deserving of all glory, adoration, and praise. You are righteous, holy, just and true. Thank You for intervening in ways which extend beyond my comprehension. You are able to do above and beyond all we can ask, hope, or think. You bless our lives daily by Your grace which is totally sufficient; through our weakness, Your grace is made perfect in our lives. Thank You for being Jehovah Jireh; The Lord Who Provides. In the name of Jesus. Amen.


Note: This post is linked to Spiritual Sundays (hosted by Charlotte and Ginger).Spiritual Sundays




Friday, August 12, 2011

Thank You Lord!

Every now and then, I find myself in wonder and awe of the mighty God we serve. Since He is God (Isaiah 45:18), it shouldn't come as a surprise to me that His capacity to shower our lives with grace and blessings is:
  1. By His choosing
  2. Because of His unfailing love
  3. Because He is unchanging
So today, I want to be particularly focused in what I say to Him because I'm thankful (Psalm 18:49, Psalm 57:9, Ephesians 5:20, Colossians 1:12, 1 Thessalonians 5:18, Hebrews 13:15).

Three weeks ago, my oldest son and his wife became parents of a little baby girl. She entered this world struggling for her life. Every family member and extended family prayed for her survival. She is breathing on her own now but she needs to increase her intake of nutrition in order to gain sufficient weight to be released from the hospital. My son is a first time parent and as he and his wife continue to walk together facing some of the trials of parenthood, they both know there is a God who heals, and a host of witnesses who stand in prayer with them.

I don't know if this means the end of my topic on love, but it no longer matters what topic I write about as long as God receives the glory and praise.

If you don't know God, or if you're struggling with faith in God, if you find yourself mired in sin, then take heart my friend; God cares about you (Psalm 138:8). He loves each of us so much, that he gave His only Son (Jesus Christ) to die a painful death in our place (John 3:15-17, Romans 6:23, Ephesians 2:8); just to remove the penalty and stain of sin that condemned our lives. That's who God is! Ask Him right now to save you, to step into the confusion of your life and bring you the peace that goes beyond a measurable number (Philippians 4:7). While there is no guarantee that God will change your current circumstances, He will change you. God will enable and empower you to go through any fiery trial a person can face in this lifetime (1 Peter 4:11-13). That may not sound as appealing as rubbing a bottle and having a genie appear to grant you three wishes, but it's far better than living in a fantasy world.

God does the impossible that we might become witnesses that The Lord, He is God! (1 Kings 18:21-40)

When I think about how good God really is, it makes me want to shout His praise!

Almighty God and Father,

My soul asks,
"What shall I render to the Lord for all His benefits toward me? [How can I repay Him for all His bountiful dealings?]I will lift up the cup of salvation and deliverance and call on the name of the Lord...I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; From where shall my help come? My help comes from the LORD, Who made heaven and earth."

I will lift up my hands O Lord, exalting You as my Lord and God. Your love is beyond measure and Your grace can not be contained. There is joy which You have put in me, though at times, it is unspeakable, I cannot contain or restrain the words of adoration from my mouth. Thank You Lord God, You are great, and greatly to be praised! Look on those who need Your healing touch upon their bodies. If You but say a word, those who are mired in discouragement, will be strengthened and renewed. Send Your peace which transcends all understanding, which exceeds anything we can understand, and which surpasses all comprehension, so that our hearts and minds are protected and shielded in Christ Jesus.

This is our prayer today O Lord, in the mighty name of Jesus Christ. Amen.


Happy Birthday MG, I chose this song for you:


Spiritual SundaysNote: This post is linked to Spiritual Sundays (hosted by Charlotte and Ginger).


Friday, August 5, 2011

A Purpose-filled Relationship

Have you ever gotten into your car and driven for a while then suddenly realized you were headed in the wrong direction or driven past your destination? I hate when that happens to me, because it means I'm lacking focus, and driving a car requires focus. If you're like me, you suddenly realize you weren't paying much attention to what you were doing or where you were going. I call it “auto pilot” (only there's no AP system to engage), but by not paying attention to what I'm doing, I've “mentally wandered away”; giving me a reason to be concerned. I don't think I'm the only one this happens to because everyday while driving to work, you'll see someone driving in the left (i.e., passing lane) holding a cell phone to their ear. I've seen women with a curling iron, guys reading newspapers; activities that aren't consistent with driving a car. We get into certain behavior patterns that initially appear innocuous (to us). It's almost as if I'm unconscious, sleep-walking as it were; while simultaneously being conscious. What I like to call, “Unconsciously Conscious”.

I read someone's blog that gave me one of those “Ah Ha” moments. I say that because sometimes, I read a blog and I'm on cruise control; not really feeling what the blogger is saying. This was the case recently. My mind had drifted in and out of issues surrounding a family emergency, and I needed a break, so I started reading blogs. I had never read this particular blogger before, so I had no framework for the particular writing style she used. Her topic was about a guy; not just any guy, a particular guy. There was a section on her post that snapped me back into consciousness and out of my intellectual cruise control:

...I am a simple booty call. To him I am nothing more than just another girl. I was okay with this when we began.... As of now I don't know anything about him or his life. This is so stupid of me, but I can't help it..... I don't want a relationship with him, I don't want to love him, I just want him here.

This made me ask myself the question, “Is there a genuine purpose in the unconsciously conscious things we do, or is it just something we just do out of habit?” How can I truly do something effectively and find satisfaction and meaning, when I'm not aware of what I'm doing, or why I'm doing it? Can I truly be happy just doing it? Nike's motto is, “Just Do It”, but hidden in those three words is the implication, that:
  1. You really know what you're doing
  2. You really know why you’re doing it
  3. You really understand how to do it
These three actions are what identify a relationship with a purpose; what I call aPurpose-filled Relationship”. I think there are times when a relationship can move into the “Unconsciously Conscious” realm; two people find themselves lacking purpose in their relationshionship and waiting for something to happen. To them there no longer exist a real purpose in it (if there ever was); it was merely something for them to do. If I'm driving my car, behaving in this manner, I can self-correct by re-establishing my focus while driving. It's much more difficult to do this in a relationship, because, for some, this is how the relationship began; so, it always lacked real purpose. A purpose-filled relationship has to have more going for it that a mere “hook-up or booty call”.

Some guys (and women) might say, “Give me a booty call that has great sex, and I'll take that over a meaningful, purpose-filled relationship any day”.

I would say to them, “You don’t understand the purpose of a relationship, and you will eventually find yourself living a lonely, unfulfilled and empty life; never recognizing the potential for loving another or achieving your relationship purpose!

I look at a purpose-filled relationship like a multi-layered cake; decorated with frosting. The frosting is like a binding agent that holds the layers together. A frosted cake can be sliced and the layers won't collapse. Now some cakes look really appetizing until you slice them. I remember buying a cake that looked so pretty until I got home and sliced it and to my surprise, it was molded! A great tasting cake isn't defined by how it appears; its purpose goes beyond appearance. A purpose-filled relationship must be more than a pretty, layered cake. A purpose-filled relationship isn't for show; it's for real. Because its real, a purpose-filled relationship is defined by:
  1. Love
  2. Commitment
  3. Unselfishness
Love: A purpose-filled relationship needs love because love inspires two people. Love comes from recognizing a vision of one's future; a future which has no meaning without that other person in it. It's a shared vision because you both communicate it to each other, every time you say, “I love you” (and you're not just mouthing the words). A purpose-filled relationship needs love because love directs two people. It's a mutual direction because you both recognize the need to work together to get the relationship to a specific place. Getting to that specific place, means that the two of you are in a potato sack race; you aren't opponents, you're partners.

The great thing about being partners (husband and wife) is that you genuinely like the other person; you're really friends. A purpose-filled relationship needs love because love sustains two people. Love comes from possessing the ability to endure; strengthening your partner when they need bolstering, and not just when they ask for help. Both people realize they can function successfully without the other, but they similarly acknowledge that they don’t want it without the other person. All relationships go through roller coaster experiences; the ups and downs, twists and turns, and the highs and lows; things that can derail a relationship. A purpose-filled relationship is sustained through the storms, because they know the shelter is there for them both. When you have love in a relationship, you have vision, direction, and endurance.

You can never have a purpose-filled relationship if you are unable to capture a vision of loving that person tomorrow. Truly loving someone isn't just a matter of imagining them in your future; it's living out that future each and every day with them. The bible says, "Where there is no vision [no redemptive revelation of God], the people perish..." (Proverbs 29:18, Amplified) Just as we need a vision from God to quicken our heart to love and commit to obey Him, we need a vision of love for that one person that quickens my heart with love, passion and a desire to commit my life to them.

There is absolutely nothing more fulfulling than loving another person! I realize that:
  1. No one can eat just one Lays potato chip
  2. Everybody doesn't like something, but nobody doesn't like Sarah Lee
  3. You can't get enough of that Sugar Krisp
  4. Ford's are built tough, and
  5. Enterprise will come pick you up
But the truth is that none of those things surpass love, nor will they give you a vision to love.

I don't believe that I have ever been inpired by a thing, it's always been a person. A new car is nice, but it won't inspire me. Thrill me? Yes. But at some point, the thrill will be gone and I'm ready to move on to the next thrill.

Love isn't a thrill.

It's a willingness to surrender my will by demonstrating my love. John calls us to witness God's love when he says, "See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us... (1 John 3:1, NASB) The Apostle Paul asks the question, "Who will separate us from the love of Christ?" (Romans 8:35, NASB)

When you love someone, there is nothing that can separate you from that love. Love for God, love of a parent, love of a child, love of a spouse; even death lacks the ability to steal your love for another.

That's the security of love.

Father God,

I long for You in the early morning before the sun rises. I seek you in the noon hour. At night, I kneel and call upon Your name. O God, worship and adore You. You are my strong tower and my Deliverer. Thank You for loving me so completely. Teaching me in turn how I ought to love; really love from my heart. Yes, I love Your blessings which enrich my life, but I seek You Lord. I'm amazed that You turned and considered me worthy of Your precious grace. I have yet to truly grasped Your love and grace, but I never tire of seeking to know You and the power of Your resurrection.

I lift up before You, husbands and wives, blessed by You with a love for one another; fulfilling their relationship purpose. I pray for those struggling in marriage, those lacking real vision, those who have yet to understand their purpose. Give them a vision Lord, excite them with passion and joy. Those of us living as single men and women need You as well O Lord. We love You too. Bless us to remain faithful to You. Amen Dear Lord Jesus, Amen.


Note: This post is linked to Spiritual Sundays (hosted by Charlotte and Ginger).Spiritual Sundays

Friday, July 29, 2011

The Will to Love

What does commitment look like?

When is commitment most visible?

Where is commitment often seen?

Why is commitment so difficult?

Who has commitment issues?

As you know, I discussed three key components which I believe are critical for any couple to experience the biblical model of love:
  1. Commitment
  2. Strength
  3. Endurance
Many of us recognize what commitment isn’t, but do we really understand what commitment is?

I was standing on my patio deck the other night thinking about commitment when the conversation between Jesus and Peter got me to thinking:

When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter,Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?

Yes, Lord,’ he said, ‘you know that I love you.

Jesus said, ‘Feed my lambs.

Again Jesus said, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?

He answered, ‘Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.

Jesus said, ‘Take care of my sheep.

The third time he said to him, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?

Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’ He said, ‘Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.

Jesus said, ‘Feed my sheep.1

Jesus was commanding Peter to nurture those whom he now called “lambs” and “sheep”.

I use to think that commitment was something you simply acknowledge. I think I associated it with the act of joining a local church, or asking someone, “Will you marry me?” But commitment isn’t one defining moment in a person’s life. It is a succession of moments, intertwined, and linked together over a lifetime. It is an investment of me into the life of another human being outwardly express as love, devotion, or dedication. I’ve shared my opinion of Cinema Love, a love that lasts for thirty minutes (not counting commercials). In Cinema Love, there are no problems which cannot be resolved in thirty minutes. Real Love requires a man and woman to exceed that thirty minute threshold, coming face-to-face with issues in their relationship. Family, money, jealousy, lust, abuse, illness, unemployment, and career are just a few of the areas of potential conflict men and women face in a relationship.

Many of the blogs I read are written by women who have roles defined as wife, mother, widow, divorcee, child of an aging parent, parent of a child with special needs, or a single woman. It’s interesting to me how we tend to compartmentalize our life as defined by our role or identity. I never felt truly secure in my place as husband. Perhaps, I never believed my position was secure. Now although this wasn’t true and I never acknowledged it, I still believed a lie at a subconscious level. And that my friend is what I discovered: How susceptible I was to believing a lie, particularly when it concerns me. While I don’t fault my ex-wife for my insecurity, it would have helped tremendously had I acknowledged my fear and discussed it with her. This was many years ago, and I certainly wasn’t the man I am today; I was immature and not emotionally or intellectually prepared for marriage or fatherhood. I would have benefitted from a mentor, but I’m not certain that I could have submitted my ego at that time.

I suppose if we break it down chronologically, commitment began with the spoken word of God:

And God said,Let there be light,and there was light.2

And a voice from heaven said,This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.3

In the Garden, we then see the commitment of Adam expressed as:
This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh…4

But commitment goes beyond what you or I say. What I say is an expression of me.

Unlike God, I do not always uphold my word. This is because I fail to understand that my word represents me.

When God spoke the words, “Let there be light...5

He understood that if His word failed to produce light, it would mean that He wasn’t accurately reflecting who He is. But God will never fail to accurately reflect Himself; He doesn’t need a mirror as we do. Please understand that I’m speaking as an unspiritual man using his intelligence would think. As Christians, we all know that God’s word cannot fail because He is God. This means that an intelligent, logically thinking person would have to surmise that God upholds His word because He is God. It also implies a certain responsibility on the part of God simply because He is God:
  1. He cannot lie
  2. He cannot fail
  3. He cannot cease to be God
God has established the principle that one’s word must reflect the character and nature of the one speaking. If my word fails to be honorable, it is because I do not honor what I say. Nothing we say is insignificant, particularly when it comes to love. So many people have spoken the words, “I promise to love, honor, and cherish as long as I live, so help me God”, but they’ve failed to uphold their word.

In the heat of the battle some soldiers experience fear and the desire to run away from conflict. Those who are committed face conflict because they understand their purpose and role. Many people when describing what went wrong in their marriage confess, “We just grew apart over the years.

But commitment doesn’t create distance between a man and woman; it actually enables a man and woman to forge ahead, accurately establishing a bond of unity that reflects their love.

I regret saying this, but I was always committed to my career at a level which I never fully grasped in my marriage; yet I thought I was fully committed to both. We can easily see the level of commitment someone else has, but too often we don’t see our own level of commitment from those same set of lenses. I’m certain my ex-wife realized this and found it frustrating. Unfortunately, by the time I realized it, she no longer needed me fully committed.

I’ve come to realize that it not the things which occur in my life that define me, it’s my response to those things. I’ve also come to realize that reasons and explanations mean nothing in the aftermath of a failed marriage. Who was at fault is a question that requires no answer. Two people joined together, and two people separated.

I think about Paul’s reflection on Israel’s rejection of Christ (Romans 9:1-5). Paul didn’t curse Israel for their actions, he didn’t want to see Israel punished; he prayed for Israel. I don’t know if my ex-wife prays for me, but I pray God’s blessings over her life; I want her to be genuinely happy.

Spiritual SundaysNote: This post is linked to Spiritual Sundays (hosted by Charlotte and Ginger).

Footnotes:
  1. John 21:15-17, NIV
  2. Genesis 1:3, NIV
  3. Matthew 3:17, NLTB
  4. Genesis 2:23, NIV
  5. Genesis 1:3, NIV
References:
  1. Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, By James B. Strong, S.T.D, LL.D., Riverside Book and Bible House, Iowa Falls, Iowa 50126
  2. The Ryrie Study Bible (New American Standard Version), Edited by Charles C. Ryrie, Moody Publishers, Chicago, Illinois, ISBN 0-8024-8920-6
  3. The Amplified Bible, by The Lockman Foundation, Zondervan Bible Publishers, Grand Rapids, Michigan, ISBN-13: 978-0310951414
  4. King James Version, The Crusade Analytical Study Edition, Crusade Bible Publishers, Inc., PO Box 90011, Nashville, Tennessee 37209
  5. The Message Bible, by Eugene H. Peterson, NavPress Publishing Group, Colorado Springs, CO, ISBN-13: 978-1600060250
  6. New King James Version, by Nelson Bibles, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Inc., PO Box 141000, Nashville, Tennessee, ISBN-13: 978-0840713704
  7. The NIV Study Bible, Edited by Kenneth Barker, Donald Burdick, John Stek, Walter Wessel and Ronald Youngblood, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49530, USA
  8. The New Living Translation Bible, by Tyndale Charitable Trust, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois, ISBN-13: 978-0842384896


Friday, July 22, 2011

An Examination of Love (Part 3)

Love Scene Investigation

Just as there are a myriad number of reasons why people get married, there are an infinite number of reasons to love. But in examining the biblical model, I’ve seen a consistent pattern of characteristics which are revealed in the life of husbands and wives. These characteristics form an impenetrable barrier that is impervious to destruction, deception, and the death of love. The three characteristics I believe are consistently revealed in a loving relationship are:
  1. The commitment of love
  2. The strength of love
  3. The endurance of love
The Endurance of Love:
What is it that sustains love?
How is it that love endures?
Where does one find an enduring love?
Who is capable of both giving and receiving that kind of love?
When is that kind of love revealed?
Why is it that not all know the depths of that kind of love?

These are questions I pondered, hoping to find answers that would transform me into the man God desires me to be; a man after God’s own heart. While I've not yet attained my goal of the upward call of Christ (Philippians 3:14), I press on because it is my hope and desire to hear Him say, “Well done!” (Matthew 25:21)

I believe these questions on love are necessary because they demand to be answered. They place us at a fork in the road where we must choose this day whom we will serve (Joshua 24:15). Yes there are expectations from any kind of relationship, but expectations don’t always demand answers. Love demands answers. Love makes one accountable for what I choose to do. For two people in a casual relationship, they may have the fleeting thought of tomorrow, but there is really only today for them. Love requires two people to look into the eye of tomorrow and answer whether they see one another through that same lens.

I thought about something a married woman said to me about her neighbor who was home alone waiting for some guy to call her, “While my friend is waiting for a sign of commitment, my husband and I kiss again and say, I love you.Love demands commitment, doesn't it? How could it be love otherwise? Commitment contains its own version of passion; it is the passion of endurance. If there is one thing that will test the measure and mettle of love, it is time. Time is the great equalizer, because it levels off all the excess and fluff; leaving you with only a foundation (1 Corinthians 3:11-13). Everyone has a foundation, but not all foundations endure. Without the ability to endure, love is only temporary. It is like a seed resting gently on the surface of the ground, only to be scorched by a blazing sun, blown away by a gust of wind, or plucked away by a scavenging bird. There are so many things that can exert pressure on a marriage that determines whether the love of a husband and wife can be sustained; it will not endure unless they are both committed to love, nurture and care for each other.

I was talking with a friend about the topic of love and I asked her, "Why is it a woman can love her child, be accepting and tolerant of her child, be patient with her child, be forgiving of her child, be understanding of her child, yet she seems so incapable of giving herself in these areas to her husband?" Her response was not only obvious, it was it was also honest and sincere. She expressed that there is the time and nurturing aspect between a mother and child that does not exist in the relationship between husband and wife. As I thought about her response, I realized how important it is for husband and wife to nurture one another. I don't mean from a parent/child concept, but an adult version of genuinely nurtured love.

Us guys don't give much thought to the concept of nurtured love, probably because we view it from a gender functional definition; but we guys need to be delivered from our archaic notions of love. We must be strong enough and committed in order to express our love in a way that nurtures our spouse. I believe this is true for some of you sisters out there as well. If you're not comfortable expressing love for your spouse through an attitude of nurtured love, then you need to get busy. Nurtured love of your spouse not only transforms you, it also transforms your spouse into someone who recognizes the quality, character, and value of love in their life because of you. Subtract you from the equation and what do I have? I'm like Adam all over again (Genesis 2:20, Genesis 2:18).

When two people grow old together in love, they’ve learned the lessons of endurance. It's easy to see that a husband no longer looks solely at the external appearance of his wife, who had such beauty as a young woman. His wife no longer sees a man with broad shoulders and ripped muscles. What they now see is not visible with the eyes, their love has exceeded the boundaries of physicality; they are no longer imprisoned by their perceptions. Perceptions are deceptive. Someone you see may not be who they really are, once you get below the surface of their exterior. It doesn't make them unlovable. At one time or another, those of us who say “Yes”, to the question, “Are you in love”, were indeed unlovable.

I'm going to personalize what I'm saying here because it will hopefully illuminate what I'm trying to say. When I talk about being unlovable, I don't mean to say that no one wanted to love me; I simply didn't make loving me an easy endeavor. For example, I wasn't an easy person to communicate with. I was suspicious and guarded about the motives of anyone who sought to learn about me. Now I use to tell myself this it was because I grew up in Chicago, a place where people turned out to be deceptive, manipulative, and envious. Now, I felt totally comfortable with members of my immediate family, but since we were all indoctrinated into an ideology of trust, I interpreted it to be mistrust. So while my grandmother taught me not to trust strangers, I expanded my scope to be inclusive of everyone; including to some degree her, my grandfather, mom, and brothers. I just didn't reveal what I was thinking or feeling to anyone. So loving me was difficult and challenging. I made it difficult because I constructed an emotional minefield and obstacle course for anyone seeking to get close to me. OK, that's my version of Truth or Dare!

I’ve come to realize that in love, you at some point stop looking merely at the external qualities of a person. This doesn’t negate that a beautiful woman isn’t desirable. I’ve never met a man that failed to acknowledge the beauty of a woman. I doubt that you’ll find a shortage of women that want a good looking man; but both men and women eventually give way to time. Time strips away those looks. We gain weight in places that expose us. We lose hair in the most visible part of our appearance, and we find those follicles growing in unwanted areas of our body. Our faces begin to show the wear and tear of time and sometimes, the effects of how we have lived. I realize that over time, it becomes easier to look beyond the surface of who a person is, and love them for who they are. Those who realize this early in the marriage relationship are way ahead of the curve, because they know, “it’s not what's up front that counts”, “that image isn’t everything”, and “looking good, doesn’t make it good”.

When you love someone, you learn to look beyond their flaws, their frailties, and insecurities, and love them anyway; come rain, shine, hell or high water, you still love them. That's a love that endures. And it's not in a word, because words become shallow and forgotten. It's in a life committed to living with and loving someone. It doesn't mean they never get on your last nerve, because there will be times when they do, and believe it or not, you are just as capable of aggravating them. In spite of that nerve-wracking aggravation, you're still, loveable old you. Maybe you'll evolve and become less of a pain, but you're still loved in spite of it; and that's the really cool thing about love, it endures.

A lot of things fail in this life. Cars break down, food spoils, memberships expire, and things sometimes just need to be replaced, but love hangs in there. Love doesn't give up, and love won't wear out. Long before Eveready ever started their advertising campaign with that bunny, some guy, in love with some girl, sat in an advertising strategy meeting, as he and others tossed out ideas for a client. As he sat there thinking, he thought about the fact that despite all the grief he’d given his wife over the years, she somehow managed to hang in there with him. How many times had he forgotten her birthday or their anniversary? How many evening dinners had he missed because he chose to work late? When would he keep that promise to take her on that trip she always talked about? She didn't give up on him, she didn't give out, and she kept going and going and going. Suddenly, he jumps to his feet realizing this woman loves him unconditionally, and he’s so excited because he knows what to tell his client. All eyes are on him, watching this man make a fool of himself, imitating a bunny with an inexhaustible supply of energy. He looks at the client and says, “Eveready Batteries…they keep going and going and going…

The client sits there quietly, as silence envelopes the conference room. He looks at this man, waving his arms, and twirling around in circles and says, “I love it!

When he arrives home, he wants to tell his wife how much the client loved his idea for a new ad campaign, but as he opens the door, she’s standing there smiling. He looks in her eyes and sees a reflection of himself, but behind that reflection is a woman with a love that endures. He realizes that she is his inspiration, her life is wrapped up in his; they are one because love endures.

Note: This post is linked to Spiritual Sundays (hosted by Charlotte and Ginger).Spiritual Sundays


Friday, July 15, 2011

An Examination of Love (Part 2)


Last week, I said, “Love demands commitment”, and those of you in love, know that's right! Although I’m writing about love between a husband and wife, I believe it is applicable to any relationship; be it parental love, friendship, siblings, or relatives. I’ve asked myself, “Am I capable of loving someone from the biblical framework”, and I want to believe I am. I know what it’s like to love myself above others, and as I’ve said numerous times, "I've never had a problem loving me." I never get so upset with me that I sever any concern for my life. No my friends, my love for me will never cease. But I’ve come to realize that God wants me to love others the way I love myself; unconditionally (Mark 12:13, Galatians 5:14, James 2:8). I believe love is the greatest gift in life one can give. I say this because the bible reveals what God has given, and the cost of His giving. Whether I’m giving it or receiving love, I’ve discovered what a joyful experience it is. In the end, when all else has failed, love endures (1 Corinthians 13:8).

The Strength of Love: Simply put, love needs strength; it needs your strength to endure. Let the Marines look for “A Few Good Men”, love cries out and seeks the strong; an area where husbands don't alwaysman up, and where wives don't alwayswoman up”. Why do you need the strength of love? Because if you’re not strong enough to handle the challenges that occur in a marriage, things which will sabotage a marriage, then you're gonna faint, give out, and give up. A lot of people will say, “I just want to be loved”, but they're not even close to being strong enough to give love. They have the capacity to receive (or take) love, but truly lack the ability to give it. They have no strength to give love. I really believe we get the concept of love “twisted and confused”; we focus so much onme, me, me....love me, love me, love me. We become as burdensome as that plant in the movie “Little Shop of Horrors” constantly demanding, “Feed me” with the demand to “Love me”. But real love isn't about what you're getting from someone, it's about what you're giving them; and the weak cannot handle giving.

Often, we focus on the superficial, external expects of a person, instead of the identity of who they really are. A husband may think that his identity is wrapped up in the things he acquires. A wife may think her identity is wrapped up in how she appears. While this may have value in the physical attractiveness and appeal to one’s spouse, there must be strength of love in your life that gives your identity a lasting beauty that is not compromised. Impatience with a spouse not only robs a relationship, it disfigures a person in a way that distorts how they’re viewed. A husband who lacks patience with his wife is not handsome; no matter how ripped his muscles are. A wife who lacks patience with her husband is not beautiful; no matter how luscious her lips appear.

Strength illuminates the eyes in a way that cannot be glossed over with eye shadow. Strength stretches a smile that spans time and distance. I know some guys think their wife will appreciate how you take care of your body. You lift weights, run, and push your body through a regimen of exercise; hoping that she still finds you attractive. But it takes training to change your body from flab to fit. If you haven't trained your body to lift weights, you’ll find that you are incapable of lifting very much. It takes time, consistency, and commitment to gain physical strength. You have to work yourself up to handling more and more weight. Strength of love is no different; your love strength quotient will not be able to handle the kind of weights that someone who's been doing "Love Training" needs to lift. Relationships that struggle, require strength to endure those times of struggle, part of the strength comes from a mindset that builds up through an investment of time, consistency, and commitment. You've got to be mentally tough in love. A weak-minded spouse will usually find love frustrating, because they are too selfish to prioritize love. Things always seem to rise up to the top of their own selfish love totem pole, leaving love at the bottom.

How many of you really understand the kind of strength it takes to be unselfish in love?

A lot of women (not all) get it, I believe more women get it than men (at least in the beginning); but the potential is there for anyone to have and exercise strength of love. It doesn't take much effort to walk away from a relationship. In most instances, by the time you actually leave, you've mentally left some time ago. No, it really takes strength to stay with someone when things aren't going the way you perceive or want them to go. I'm not advocating you stay in a marriage, just because you have strength of love. Some marriages are truly wrong, not because of love, but because they're unhealthy. As far-fetched as this may sound, some people just DON'T WANT TO BE LOVED. They prefer to exist as unlovable, miserable, and intolerable people. You have to be wise enough to allow them the freedom they seek, by letting go of an unhealthy relationship. A true loving marriage requires the component of strength to support and sustain the love between a husband and wife.

In order to demonstrate Strength of Love, one must be mentally tough; because, most of the things that attack marriages and relationships start in our mind. Insecurity, fears, doubts, jealousy, lust, greed, selfishness, all originate in our minds. We think about something in one of these areas, and the more we think about it, the weaker we get; it’s what I like to call theSamson/Delilah Syndrome”. We slowly give in to the demands of temptation and become blinded by the selfish desires of our appetite. So if these “things” are the enemy, how do you succeed in maintaining strength of love? Like any opponent, you face it, acknowledge it, deal with it, overcome it; preparing yourself to face the next temptation. You have to prepare yourself for these battles; because your marriage (or relationship) is in a life and death struggle. Some marriages may be in ICU, barely hanging on with very little pulse. Some may be in ER, where your heart is frantically being massaged, so that it doesn't stop beating. Your love will either live on to love or your marriage will die; and there are no heroic deaths in love, unless it’s that cinema kind of love.

Up to now, I've been talking about what YOU have to do, but we all know love is a partnership, a potato-sack race; to the finish line. As they say, “It takes two to tango”, and if you're really “in love”, it's probably a good idea to be in a relationship that allows you to love, to be loved and grow stronger in love. It takes strength to open up and bare yourself to someone (no matter how long you've been married). It takes strength to admit you can be flawed, to admit that you were wrong, and acknowledge that you want to change. Yes, it takes real strength to say, “I WILL CHANGE”, not, “I want to change”, “I'd like to change”, or “I should change”, but “I WILL CHANGE”. Strength of love does not leave wiggle room for excuses, extenuating circumstances, or contingencies. Strength of love will “examine you” by holding you accountable, and verifying the results of your actions. Strength of love determines whether you honor what you say by the results of what you're doing. When you see the results, you’ll know that you made the right decision to love. You’re demonstrating to your spouse the strength you've gained from loving them.

Spiritual SundaysNote: This post is linked to Spiritual Sundays (hosted by Charlotte and Ginger).

References:
  1. Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, By James B. Strong, S.T.D, LL.D., Riverside Book and Bible House, Iowa Falls, Iowa 50126
  2. Unger's Bible Dictionary, By Merrill F. Unger, Moody Press, Chicago
  3. The Ryrie Study Bible (New American Standard Version), Edited by Charles C. Ryrie, Moody Publishers, Chicago, Illinois, ISBN 0-8024-8920-6
  4. The Amplified Bible, by The Lockman Foundation, Zondervan Bible Publishers, Grand Rapids, Michigan, ISBN-13: 978-0310951414
  5. King James Version, The Crusade Analytical Study Edition, Crusade Bible Publishers, Inc., PO Box 90011, Nashville, Tennessee 37209
  6. The Message Bible, by Eugene H. Peterson, NavPress Publishing Group, Colorado Springs, CO, ISBN-13: 978-1600060250
  7. New King James Version, by Nelson Bibles, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Inc., PO Box 141000, Nashville, Tennessee, ISBN-13: 978-0840713704
  8. The NIV Study Bible, Edited by Kenneth Barker, Donald Burdick, John Stek, Walter Wessel and Ronald Youngblood, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49530, USA
  9. The New Living Translation Bible, by Tyndale Charitable Trust, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois, ISBN-13: 978-0842384896
  10. Matthew Henry's Commentary, McDonald Publishing Company, McLean, Virginia 22101, ISBN 0-917006-21-6