Genuine Love

cross_equals_love_website

When we think of the word “love,” we usually get a warm feeling inside.  We think of love in a positive way, as love is portrayed – in most cases – as something good.  Marriage is based on love.  Parenting is based on love.  Missions and outreach is based on love – or at least it should be.

Unfortunately love in our culture has become a broad description of many things.  We “love” Italian food.  We “love” our new sports car.  We “love” our jobs.  According to the Word of God, however, this form of love is not true love.  This is a pleasant feeling or “like” toward something.  This “like” ends when the newness or emotion of it fades over time. 

True love is not based on emotions.  It is based on a choice to put others before ourselves, regardless of how we feel.  It’s deeper, more valuable, and more lasting than what any definition of love could be.

What Is Love?

While the world may define love as warm, fuzzy feelings toward another human being, or perhaps even their pet, the Word’s definition is not “what” but “Who.”  God is love.

(1John 4:8 KJV)  He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.

(1John 4:16 KJV)  And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.

Where Is Love?

God not only is love but He has placed that love in our hearts the moment we were saved.  We don’t need to strive to walk in love; it is right there in us if we’ll just let it guide us!

(Romans 5:5 KJV)  And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.

(Galatians 5:22 KJV)  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith.

 What Love Does

Just like “faith without works is dead” (James 2:20), so faith without action is not love.  It must be proven through good deeds for others to see.

(1John 3:18 KJV)  My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.

(1John 3:17 KJV)  But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?

(2 Corinthians 8:8 KJV)  I speak not by commandment, but by occasion of the forwardness of others, and to prove the sincerity of your love.

(2 Corinthians 8:24 KJV)  Wherefore shew ye to them, and before the churches, the proof of your love, and of our boasting on your behalf.

God proved it:

  1. He sent Jesus.

(1John 4:9 KJV)  In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.

(1John 4:10 KJV)  Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

  1. He corrects us.

(Revelations 3:19 KJV)  As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.

(Proverbs 3:12) For whom the LORD loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth.

 

We prove it:

  1. We keep His commandments.

(1John 5:2 KJV)  By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments.

(John 14:21 KJV)  He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.

  1. We keep the peace.

(Proverbs 17:9 KJV)  He that covereth a transgression seeketh love; but he that repeateth a matter separateth very friends.

(Proverbs 10:12 KJV)  Hatred stirreth up strifes: but love covereth all sins.

(Ephesians 4:2 KJV)  With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love . . .

  1. We live selflessly.

(1Corinthians 13:4-7) Charity [love] suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

(2 Corinthians 12:15 KJV)  And I will very gladly spend and be spent for you; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved.

(Ephesians 5:2 KJV)  And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling savour.

(1John 3:16 KJV)  Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.

(Romans 12:10 KJV)  Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another . . .

  1. We work to serve.

(1Thessalonians 1:3 KJV)  Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father;

(1Thessalonians 5:13 KJV)  And to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. And be at peace among yourselves.

(Hebrews 6:10 KJV)  For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister.

(Galatians 5:13 KJV)  For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.

  1. We encourage good works.

(Hebrews 10:24 KJV)  And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works . . .

  1. We never stop loving.

(Hebrews 13:1 KJV)  Let brotherly love continue.

(1Corinthians 13:8) Charity [love] never faileth . . .

  1. We speak the truth.

 (Ephesians 4:15 KJV)  But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ . . .

  1. We fulfill the law.

(Romans 13:8 KJV)  Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.

  1. We build up (edify).

(Ephesians 4:16 KJV)  From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.

When it comes to romance, it’s important to know and believe of the Love of God first.  You will then be able to spot a counterfeit relationship miles away . . . and you will be able to identify the genuine because you have already seen the legit!  Go for the genuine love that God has for you!  It’s His highest and best!

Advertisements

The Apple Tree, Part 2

appletree

The Amazing Apple

 Miss Amazing is human just like you and me.  She’s not perfect by any means, but instead of focusing her life on something as shallow as charm and beauty, she has something going for her that will ensure her success every time.  Her value in life is described in the last half of Proverbs 31:30:  but a woman who fears the Lord, she will be praised. 

A trap for even Miss Amazing is to believe she must be loud and aggressive to attract a man to her life.  They crave the same “praise” that Miss Easy is looking for and cry, “I’ll never get noticed if I don’t show off!”  I know how it is.  As much as I want to be an amazing apple, I’ve been guilty of trying to impress men with my abilities and the things I’ve done in life.  I’ve even thrown in a little flirting!  Sadly, that game always ended up sour.  I didn’t act myself and walk away with no man on my arm—even though I tried so hard.  I can sense God shaking His head sadly, knowing I’d missed the point of being Christa—daughter of the King.  I remember clearly when He told me, “You don’t show yourself off; I will show you off.”   He wants nothing more than to show off His greatest possession, and He didn’t need my help.

My brother wisely put it this way, “If you have to do all that [immodesty, flirting, etc.] to get attention, then you must think that your character isn’t enough to attract someone.  Or you don’t have much character at all.”  That can be a painful statement, but it’s true.  It’s natural to want to feel accepted, to have a man’s attention, and it’s not wrong to tell people about ourselves and what you do.

You show honor to God when you take care of the body He has given you, but honorable, satisfying favor and attention doesn’t come from aggressively seeking it. Proverbs 27:2 says, Let another man praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips.  Your human flesh wants to do the exact opposite!  You want to push yourself ahead because you want that relationship now!  That wish will never be blessed by God.  He has another plan – total and complete trust that He will honor you for who you are and for the way you live.

“Fearing the Lord” means putting Him first in your life and developing a lifestyle that honors Him. Unlike Miss Easy, your entire focus in life is on giving Him your all, rather than promoting the Big Apple—also known as me, myself, and I.  Since you know you’re representing God, you should have no desire for selfish flattery or immodest dressing.  Purity in your hearts, minds, and bodies is your greatest aim.  When a man looks at you, you want him to see your beauty—your real beauty. A godly difference stands out and makes a godly man take notice.

Sincerity of Heart

Since flirting and flattery are shallow and selfish, Miss Amazing will choose to be gracious in her interaction with men.  Instead of aggressively pulling their attention toward herself, she quietly demands their attention by being a woman of honor.  When I say demands, I don’t mean with words or actions.  Miss Amazing will call for a man’s respect because she’s different from all the other girls.  This is the kind of woman Mr. Brave is looking for.

Godly Friendships

Miss Amazing knows that “bad company corrupts good habits” (I Corinthians 15:33).  She doesn’t want to fit in just anywhere.  She wants to mingle with people who have a lifestyle and standards like hers.  With those, she’ll find the strength and encouragement she needs to maintain her “Amazing Apple” status.  She doesn’t think she’s too good to reach out to the world around her; she just realizes that what she wants in a man can’t be found in the world’s popular crowd.   She’s looking for Mr. Brave, who has made his choice to mingle in the same crowds.

Internal Value

Although Miss Amazing desires a beautiful face and body like every other girl, she also knows that the most important part of her cannot be seen.  The real her, her born again spirit, is what’s most important.  She considers what God sees to determine her value (I Samuel 16:7).  As a result, she takes care of her outside by styling her hair, wearing make-up, and staying in tune with the latest fashions.  In the process, she makes sure that what she wears isn’t provocative and gaudy.  She’s not so insecure in herself that she must rely on the perfection of these things to find her worth.  After all, she wants to attract Mr. Brave, not Mr. Easy.

Self-confidence

Miss Amazing is a confident person.  She knows what God has created her to be and is strong – strong enough not to fall for every man who gives her a second glance.  She’s not exemplifying pride or a characteristic of an extroverted personality.  She does not show off self.   She shows an understanding of a value placed on her life by Someone bigger than herself.  Such knowledge spurs her to fly beyond the mediocre vanities of life and on to greatness, no matter what other people think.  Like all men, Mr. Brave is attracted to this characteristic.  Something is so beautiful about human character, especially when it’s filled with God’s character.

Focus on the Future

Miss Amazing knows her place in the Kingdom of God.  She knows her role as ambassador and desires more than anything to hear God say, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:23) It may mean that she becomes a nurse, a secretary, or a missionary in her pursuit.  No matter what her call is, she makes this her focus.  It’s her priority . . . and she desires no other way than to meet Mr. Brave on the road to her destiny.

Integrity

Miss Amazing knows that the “integrity of the upright will guide her” (Proverbs 11:3).  She has chosen to honor Jesus with her lifestyle, which means living a life of character.  Even when she doesn’t feel like it, she chooses to live according to God’s Word.  As a result, she trusts that God will “guide” her to Mr. Brave in His timing.  Because Mr. Brave values a life of doing what’s right at all costs, he will soon find her.

Wisdom

Miss Amazing finds great value in the wisdom of God.  She craves His Word, and desires to be led only by the Holy Spirit.  She knows this is the only way she will be a success in life.  She wants to “redeem” her time while on the earth (Ephesians 5:16) rather than make poor decisions because she chose to be led by her own mind.  Whether it be choosing the right car in the lot, or choosing the right husband, wisdom is her guide.  In the meantime, Mr. Brave is led by wisdom himself.  That hunger for wisdom will draw them together like “iron sharpens iron” (Proverbs 27:17).

***

 When you think of an “Easy Apple,” it’s easy to imagine a girl who waits tables at a bar at night, or who looks like a hooker strutting through the mall.  That’s not always the case, though.  Sometimes “Easy Apples” can be sweet Christian young women who don’t really know what they’re doing when they decide to flirt or throw on a mini skirt.  Often, they are ladies who simply want to feel accepted and appreciated.  They’re insecure about who they are and want someone to find them special and add value to their lives.

If this is you, don’t let the devil condemn you.  Everyone has given in to these temptations at one time or another.  The good news is that being Miss Easy doesn’t have to be permanent.  The simple act of repenting and changing the direction of your lifestyle is all that’s needed.  There’s a greater place to live than in the mud around the tree trunk.  There’s a branch with your name on it – a branch reserved for you, Miss Amazing Apple.

Even Miss Amazing doesn’t always think she’s worth pursuing.  They don’t see the value of having characteristics like these.  That’s usually why they give in to any man who comes along.  As a child of God, you should consider yourself worth pursuing—not easily caught!  You know you’re a lady, therefore, expect to be treated like one!  Like Proverbs says, see yourself as having worth far above rubies. Believe that you are a gem, and nothing – and no one – can take that value away!

Who can find a virtuous wife? For her worth is far above rubies. Proverbs 31:10

 

 

 

The Apple Tree, Part 1

appletree

Though some social media should never be allowed on cyber space, I came across this gem quote by Pete Wentz in an email years ago.  I can’t vouch for him and his lifestyle choice, but I do appreciate his insight when it comes to women and their value.

“Girls are like apples on trees. The best ones are at the top of the tree. The boys don’t want to reach for the good ones because they’re afraid of falling and getting hurt. Instead they get the rotten apples from the ground that aren’t as good, but easy. So the apples up top think that something’s wrong with them when in reality they’re amazing. They just have to wait for the right boy to come along – the one who’s brave enough to climb all the way to the top of the tree.”

Ever felt as though you were one of those apples at the top of the tree, totally invisible to any suitable candidate because you were so high above the ground?  You watch with envy when the other young women get snatched up and whisked away to their fairytale romance, and you’re left hanging from the highest branch…waiting.

I know how it feels.  I was thirty-two when I got married.  My high standards and desire for God’s best kept me “hanging” for years.  However, when I looked at some of the other “apples” and what they had to go through to get their man, hanging didn’t look so bad.  I refused to be one of those “easy” girls.  I wanted to be listed in the category of “amazing.”  I wanted to attract the guy “who’s brave enough to climb all the way to the top.”  I realized, though, that attracting the right one comes with a price…the price of sticking to what makes me who I am.

Like I did for a season, the world looks at a person and finds that person’s value in what that person can do.  Look at Hollywood.  Very rarely do you see a magazine headline boasting about a woman’s virtues: “Sally Smith Is Voted ‘Most Virtuous Woman’ in 2016!”  Instead, you’ll see them applauding a person’s acting ability, great talents, or amazing beauty.  All of it is based on what that person can do or what they like.  But God declares that a person’s value is based on who they are as God’s creation and on the love He has for them, regardless of their talents or looks.  God looks at the heart when it comes to deciding a person’s worth.

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” I Samuel 16:7

God made you amazing! David said in Psalm 139:14, I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well.  He placed in your unique characteristics that make you you, that make your life interesting to both you and the people around you.  Your life is colored by your talents, personality, likes and dislikes.  But who you are is the most important part about you.

My favorite verse since I was a teenager has been Proverbs 31:30:  Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing, but a woman who fears the Lord, she will be praised. Your maturity, your lifestyle, and your godly character are what counts in a relationship.  They are the attributes that will stand for eternity and never fade with age.  They’re free, and you can have them without being the next Hilton or Lopez.

If you’re a young woman whose focus is on being like Jesus, your desire will be to use your look, talents, and abilities to advance the Kingdom of God.  If you use those talents to try to attract a boy, you will be very disappointed.  Who you are determines the man that you attract.  Do you want a man who is only attracted to your looks and talents, or a man that values what God’s desires most in a person?  A man who only appreciates your body or your amazing singing voice will be a man that abandons you when those things fade and times get tough.  That would be the man going for the “easy apple.”

The Easy Apple

Miss Easy is the type of girl who’s desperate for a relationship.  She hangs around the trunk of the tree, hoping that the right man for her will see her in plain sight and sweep her off her feet.  The problem is that Miss Easy Apple’s method of attracting a guy to her life is based on the shallow exterior.  As a result, who she attracts will be someone attracted to exactly what she’s flaunting—shallow charm and beauty.  In the book of Proverbs, this woman is considered very foolish.

Flattery

Flattery is excessive or insincere praise.  Miss Easy often uses this trait to get a man’s attention by raving on and on about his looks or talents.  Since men thrive on affirmation, a guy that uses flattery himself will rise to the occasion.   This means is setting Miss Easy up for heartbreak because she’ll soon find that everything Mr. Easy’s been saying to her wasn’t from his heart.  Though Mr. Brave likes affirmation like every other man, he sees right through her shallow praise.

Flirtation

Like flattery, flirting is based on selfishness. Some people just think it’s cute, but it’s making a demand on someone to focus on them, but for the wrong reasons.  The guys who respond to flirting are the ones who do plenty of it themselves—with whichever girl is closest.   Excessive flirtation, on the other hand, makes Mr. Brave nauseous.

Foolish Friends

Miss Easy also likes to hang around the “in” crowd because she thinks it will cause her to be more accepted.  This “hangout” might give her a chance with one of those hot guys everyone raves over.  This action will also turn out disappointing.  Most of the time, the popular crowd is made up of peers who sport worldly lifestyles and everything Miss Easy should avoid if she really wants to get somewhere in life.  Mr. Brave doesn’t hang out there, but Mr. Easy sure does!

No Plan for the Future

Miss Easy’s main plan for her future is romance.  Her world revolves around the next date.  No matter what she does, her mind immediately goes to the men who will potentially be there.  If she applies for a new job, she considers the male employees.  If she goes to the store, she wonders what man she might run into.  Her focus is consistently revolving around little more than gratifying her romance life.  If she does happen to get an exciting idea to attend college or help in her church, the nagging idea of another boyfriend is not far behind.  Unfortunately, any man who’s focus is on Jesus will find that life’s mission in another young woman very shallow.  Only Mr. Easy finds her unending spontaneity enticing.

Lack of Integrity

Integrity is a near-lost art to Miss Easy.  She is so engrossed in promoting her life and her relationships that she will do anything to get it.  A little fib here and there doesn’t seem to faze her as long as she gets what she wants.   That lack of integrity shows up in more than her work ethic, however. It shows up in her relationships as well.  She will put on a “good girl” face and tell a few sweet lies to get a guy to think she’s something more than she really is.  This will eventually backfire, however, because even Mr. Easy will eventually see through her charade.  Mr. Brave will steer clear from the very start.

Foolishness

Because of her lack of integrity, Miss Easy tends to make foolish decisions based on the way she feels.  Her money very quickly disappears at the mall or online.  She agrees to make deals with people because it looks good on the surface.  Being led by the Holy Spirit, of course, isn’t even considered.  Again and again her foolish lifestyle draws her away from stability and the life God had always intended for her to have.  In the meantime, Mr. Brave is going in the opposite direction, while foolish Mr. Easy is in hot pursuit.

External Value

Miss Easy craves beauty, but like charm, it’s deceitful.  It not only can change; it will change. There’s not a person on this planet who doesn’t undergo a shift in appearance as the years go by.  Because her value and means of attracting guys is all wrapped around the exterior, this attribute is especially important to Miss Easy.  She’ll “dress to impress” and spend hours preparing to flaunt herself.  She sees her worth in how she looks as if that’s the only significant part of her.  Mr. Easy will be instantly attracted for all the wrong reasons, but Mr. Brave will decline because of the lack of virtue he sees in her heart.

To be continued…