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!

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Live Like You’re Married

walking couple

“What?!” you might say.  “Isn’t it wrong to live with someone before you’re married to them?”

Yes, you’re right; it is wrong to shack up romantically with someone before you’re married!  However, there is much more to “living” like you’re married than cohabitating with them.  It’s developing a lifestyle now that you will carry into your marriage after you say, “I do.”  It’s based on conviction, good habits, and maturity that will go a long way to making a happy and God-centered relationship.

Let’s look at the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25:14-19:

 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them.  And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey.  Then he who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and made another five talents. And likewise he who had received two gained two more also. But he who had received one went and dug in the ground, and hid his lord’s money. After a long time the lord of those servants came and settled accounts with them.”

For the sake of time and space, I will recap the ending to this parable through verses 20-30.  The first two servants did well in investing their talents so that it caused increase for their master.  The third, however, hid his talent in the ground and returned it to his master without any increase of value at all!  The master reprimanded him, gave his talent to someone else, and sent him away as punishment.

The two wise stewards received a great reward in that they were given more responsibilities.  The master’s response to their faithfulness is found in verse 21: “His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’”

You have been given stewardship of your life, “the job of supervising or taking care of something, such as an organization or property” (Webster’s). How you choose to “take care” of your life determines what will be entrusted to you, including in marriage.  If you are handling your life selfishly and unwisely before you’re married, God is not able to honor you with the greater responsibility of marriage.  If you desire the man God has chosen for you, you must live your life ready for him.  Like in the parable of the talents, God will never bring you a blessing you’re not responsible enough to manage well.

This principle can also be found in 1 Corinthians 4:2: 

Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful.”

To be faithful means to be trustworthy.  God is looking for people that He can trust with something as important and honorable as marriage.  It’s a relationship based on a covenant that reflects the relationship between you and Jesus.  More than romantic feelings, marriage is a huge package of responsibility.

From experience, I know the level of responsibility needed to make a marriage and family work.  Had I not put effort into being a stable and responsible adult before I was married, I would have been far more stressed as I attempted to adjust to another person in my life!  The following are several areas I recommend all single people practice as good stewardship in preparation for Mr. or Mrs. Right and the life that comes with them!

  1. Strengthen your relationship with Jesus. Jesus should be the foundation for every marriage, as He is the one who created it and set the greatest example of covenant commitment.  Without Jesus in His rightful place of lordship in every area, life – whether married or unmarried – is incomplete, messy, and eternally hazardous.  Fall in love with Him first, and you’ll be able to pass on His love to someone else!

Matthew 6:33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.

  1. Strengthen your understanding of family. If your relationship with your own family before you’re married is shaky, you will take that same instability into your own family after marriage.  Seek peace in your family relationships to the best of your ability.  And while you’re at it, study up on how God desires families to function.  Many good Christian books have been written about marriage and child training. Often conferences on family and marriage are open to single people as well.  It’s not too early to learn!

2 Timothy 2:15 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

  1. Learn to love. This is probably one of the greatest assets – and commandments – you could bring into marriage.  Walking in love is necessary for every relationship, including marriage.  If you don’t learn to walk in love with others before you’re married, walking in love with your spouse will be very difficult.  It could even lead to divorce.  The God kind of love is not romantic emotions or extravagant gifts; it’s treating someone as God has treated you – with unconditional love not based on your actions.

Mark 12:30-31 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment.  And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

  1. Maintain the lifestyle of attending and serving at church. Part of our walk with God is consistent church attendance. God has also called us to serve the Body of Christ by helping in various church ministries and outreaches.  This teaches us to be selfless and sows seed into our future that we will one day need to reap!  Marriages and families thrive with this connectivity, so making it a priority now will lead to making it a priority later.

Hebrews 10:25 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.

  1. Manage your money well. Money problems and miscommunications are one of the leading causes of divorce. Becoming a wise steward of finances now will enable you to manage it well when you’re married.  After marriage, there is often more finances coming in, but that also means more bills to pay and another person to coordinate with in financial decision-making.  Learning to spend within your means, tithing, and giving now will create a good habit of money management that will help keep the peace later!

Luke 14:28 For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it—

  1. Manage your time well. Once you’re married, more activities and responsibilities will be added to your life as you include another person and their interests and families.  If you are good steward of your time now, you’ll be able to handle organizing a busier schedule later.  Striving not to waste time but to use it productively will lead to a less stressful marriage!

Ephesians 5:16 . . .redeeming the time, because the days are evil.

  1. Learn to communicate well. Words can bring strife or bring unity.  It all depends on how things are said and with what heart motivation.  Effective communication, done with pure heart, can snuff out opportunities for hard feelings and bring resolution to any situation.  The tone of voice, attitude, and body language sends messages to others.  If things are communicated selflessly and with a gentle tone, even challenging topics can be better received.  The key is grace!

Colossians 4:6 Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.

  1. Practice an excellent work ethic. Some marriages include two working people.  Regardless of whether you’re the main bread-winner or not, an excellent work ethic leads to raises, favor, and job promotions.  With a family depending on you at home or at work, working as if you’re working for Jesus is key to being a responsible spouse and parent.

Colossians 3:23-24 And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.

With these strengths as a lifestyle, whoever gets you is going to get a gem!  No, you will not be perfect, and marriage will still take work.  But you will be relieved of a lot of stress that many others slave through.  Regardless of whether you intend to get married, living the life of a responsible disciple of Jesus is worth it to you and others around you!

 

The Perfect Romance

This thought from the year I got married showed up on my Facebook newsfeed this morning. It’s so precious to see what God can do when you put Him first!

“A young woman is often told that she needs some romance in her life when she’s not in a relationship. However, she does have romance if she’s a Christian. It’s with Jesus, the Lover of her soul, the One who loves her so much that He gave His life for her. There’s no greater romance than rejecting counterfeit lovers for the One who loves her most and who’s plan for romance is perfect.”

The Ultimate Wedding Coordinator

wedding

Several years ago I attended the wedding of a woman in my church.  Though she had had more than one disappointing marriage, for twelve years she believed God for the right one for her.  One night she attended a church service in a different town where her job had assigned her to substitute.  At that service she met a godly man, and they began to correspond.  Though I didn’t get to watch their courtship, I was able to attend their wedding.  I’m so glad I did!

At the ceremony, a guest musician noted that the best does not come for those who wait; it comes to those who believe.  My heart leaped when I heard it.  This woman hadn’t been looking for a man; she had simply believed for one.  It wasn’t a mistake that she was assigned to a different location to work for a day.  God knew when the right time for her and this man would be to meet.  He was the coordinator, orchestrating every detail to make their relationship a success.

We all have a choice.  We can choose our best or God’s best.  But God has promised that if we choose His best, we’ll experience His best.  His best is for us to completely surrender our relationships to Him.  It may mean saying “no” to many advances from guys.  But every “no” spoken is saying “yes” to God’s chosen one for us.  Though there may be disappointing experiences and counterfeits along the way, we can choose to use those experiences as a springboard into our future.

It’s often hard to trust something we cannot see.  It’s easy to imagine that God, as busy as He is, couldn’t possibly care about whether the right “car” is coming to our intersection or not.  But God, all-knowing and all-seeing, does more than just notice the details of our lives.  He orchestrates them.  He’s the ultimate wedding coordinator.  He knows the right man.  He knows the right place.  And He knows the right time.

God is a God of surprises.  Adam never knew a deep sleep was coming and that Eve would be the result of his slumber.  Like Adam, God doesn’t want us to see and know everything.  He doesn’t want us to dream someone else’s dream, or to try to make their experience ours.  He wants to make our relationship uniquely ours.  The greatest part of waiting for the unique is the pleasure of seeing the surprise of God’s best before us.

 

Photo courtesty of google images.

Hands Off ! Part 2

4way

Four Way Stops

Ever run a stop sign, dashed through a red light, or been caught speeding down your favorite street?  I have!  Most was by accident – my brain was off in La La Land, and – oops! I’m sure I’ve gotten a few ugly looks as I cut someone off and made them put on their brakes prematurely.  All I can say is, “Sorry, folks!”

Chasing our own plan for our lives is kind of like running intersection signs.  We think we have it all figured out, so we go full blast ahead without consulting all the signs that can navigate us to success.  Throughout our lives, God puts up strong instructions at the crossroads between pursuing our plan and going His way in His time.  It’s not that He wants to spoil our fun.  He’s really trying to save us from the agony of a wreck, and having to run to Him like an insurance agent to bail us out.

God’s the mastermind behind directing dream traffic.  He sees the oncoming traffic, how they’re driving, and where they’re going.  Every car is different with a specific destination.  Some may be heading the same direction as you.  Then others may be such reckless drivers that you could gladly go years without seeing their tail lights ever again!  Regardless, God knows how to navigate you around the cars.

Picture this.  You’re at the intersection of waiting for your dream to come true.  A new “car” (the cutest guy you’ve ever seen) reaches the intersection before you to your right.  He’s going straight.  Ah, the temptation to follow – to chase him down!  But just as he pulls away, you see that you’re at a four way stop – and there are other cars before you.  Ugh!  If you stop, you’ll lose him!

Some of us might be staring at a stop sign and thinking that we hate the color red.  No one really likes this sign, but God uses it anyway.  We’ve all been in a hurry to make romance happen in our lives at one time or another.  But have you noticed?  Somehow nothing really works out in our favor.  We choose track down that cool car, and end up with something that was never meant for us.  Or we run the red, only to get ourselves lost in searching.  Then it’s back to the same intersection again.

That yellow yield sign can be just as frustrating as the stop sign.  Maybe the right guy is in the car next to us.  We know he’s the one!  Everyone knows he’s the one!  But it’s not that God said a solid “no” to our plans.  He just wants us to relax and sit a while until the intersection is clear. It’s a sign that screams “patience!” No matter how aggravating it may be, it’s worth the wait.  It means that every day God is preparing you and that guy for the future He has for you.  It means you’ll both be ready, every detail will be in place, and the timing will be perfect.

Everyone is in a different place in their lives with different signs in front of them.  Regardless of whether it’s a “stop” season or a “yield” season – or both – God’s always got our best in mind.  After obeying all the annoying red and yellow signs, there’s always a time to go!  And when it’s our turn to move – go, baby, go!  Putting our feet to the gas pedal is exhilarating when we know God is the one who gave us permission to move forward.  The way is clear and the road all ours!  We just have to step out in faith without hesitation.

Christ Is Enough

We live in a culture of romance. So much romance that it seems our lives are incomplete without it. But if we are Christians, we are complete, with or without a boyfriend or girlfriend, husband or wife.  He is enough, more than enough, because He alone can fulfill us. He has taken care of the most important part of our lives. Our sins have been forgiven, our eternity set in heaven, and our value determined by Him alone. No person or relationship can fulfill all that. Though God may bless us with a spouse, Christ is ultimately enough.

17 Tips to Help You “Love Tough” – James Dobson


Let me get very specific with those of you who are single but wish someday to be married. (No insult is intended to those who are single by design and wish to remain unmarried. That is a legitimate choice that should be respected by friends and family, alike.) Listed below are seventeen suggestions that will help you conform to the principles of loving toughness in matters of the heart.
1. Don’t let the relationship move too fast in its infancy. The phrase “too hot not to cool down” has validity. Relationships that begin in a frenzy frequently burn themselves out. Take it one step at a time. 

2. Don’t discuss your personal inadequacies and flaws in great detail when the relationship is new. No matter how warm and accepting your friend may be, any great revelation of low self-esteem or embarrassing weaknesses can be fatal when interpersonal “valleys” occur. And they will occur. 
3. Remember that respect precedes love. Build it stone upon stone. 
4. Don’t call too often on the phone or give the other person an opportunity to get tired of you. 
5. Don’t be too quick to reveal your desire to get married–or that you think you’ve just found Mr. Wonderful or Miss Marvelous. If your partner has not arrived at the same conclusion, you’ll throw him or her into panic. 
6. Most important: Relationships are constantly being “tested” by cautious lovers who like to nibble at the bait before swallowing the hook. This testing procedure takes many forms, but it usually involves pulling backward from the other person to see what will happen. Perhaps a foolish fight is initiated. Maybe two weeks will pass without a phone call. Or sometimes flirtation occurs with a rival. In each instance, the question being asked is “How important am I to you, and what would you do if you lost me?” An even more basic issue lies below that one. 
It wants to know, “How free am I to leave if I want to?” It is incredibly important in these instances to appear poised, secure, and equally independent. Do not grasp the other person and beg for mercy. Some people remain single throughout life because they cannot resist the temptation to grovel when the test occurs. 
7. Extending the same concept, keep in mind that virtually every dating relationship that continues for a year or more and seems to be moving toward marriage will be given the ultimate test. A breakup will occur, motivated by only one of the lovers. The rejected individual should know that their future together depends on the skill with which he or she handles that crisis. If the hurting individual can remain calm, as Shirley did with me, the next two steps may be reconciliation and marriage. It often happens that way. If not, then no amount of pleading will change anything. 
8. Do not depend entirely upon one another for the satisfaction of every emotional need. Maintain interests and activities outside that romantic relationship, even after marriage. 
9. Guard against selfishness in your love affair. Neither the man nor the woman should do all the giving. I once broke up with a girl because she let me take her to nice places, bring her flowers, buy her lunch, etc. I wanted to do these things but expected her to reciprocate in some way. She didn’t. 
10. Beware of blindness to obvious warning signs that tell you that your potential husband or wife is basically disloyal, hateful, spiritually uncommitted, hooked on drugs or alcohol, given to selfishness, etc. Believe me, a bad marriage is far worse than the most lonely instance of singleness.
11. Beginning early in the dating relationship, treat the other person with respect and expect the same in return. A man should open doors for a woman on a formal evening; a woman should speak respectfully of her escort when in public, etc. If you don’t preserve this respectful attitude when the foundations of marriage are being laid, it will be virtually impossible to construct them later. 
12. Do not equate human worth with flawless beauty or handsomeness! If you require physical perfection in your mate, he or she may make the same demands of you. Don’t let love escape you because of the false values of your culture. 
13. If genuine love has escaped you thus far, don’t begin believing “no one would ever want me.” That is a deadly trap that can destroy you emotionally! Millions of people are looking for someone to love. The problem is finding one another! 
14. Regardless of how brilliant the love affair has been, take time to “check your assumptions” with your partner before committing yourself to marriage. It is surprising how often men and women plunge toward matrimony without ever becoming aware of major differences in expectation between them. For example:
a. Do you want to have children? How soon? How many?

b. Where will you live?

c. Will the wife work? How soon? How about after children are born?

d. Who will lead in the relationship? What does that really mean?

e. How will you relate to your in-laws?

f. How will money be spent?

g. How important will spiritual matters be in the marriage?

These and dozens of other “assumptions” should be discussed item by item with the help of a premarital counselor. Many future struggles can be avoided by coming to terms with potential areas of disagreement. If the differences are great enough, it is even possible that the marriage should never occur. 
15. Sexual familiarity can be deadly to a relationship. In addition to the many moral, spiritual, and physical reasons for remaining virgins until marriage, there are numerous psychological and interpersonal advantages as well. Though it’s an old-fashioned notion, perhaps, it is still true that men do not respect “easy” women and often become bored with those who have held nothing in reserve. Likewise, women often disrespect men who have only one thing on their minds. Both sexes need to remember how to use a very ancient word. It’s pronounced “NO!” 
16. Country singer Tom T. Hall wrote a song in which he revealed an understanding of the concept we have been describing. His lyric read, “If you hold love too loosely then it flies away; if you hold love too tightly, it’ll die. It’s one of the mysteries of life.”(4) Hall’s observation is accurate. If the commitment between a man and a woman is given insufficient importance in their lives, it will wither like a plant without water. The whole world knows that much. But fewer lovers seem to realize that extreme dependency can be just as deadly to a love affair. It has been said that the person who needs the other least will normally be in control of the relationship. I believe that to be true. 
17. There is nothing about marriage that eliminates the basic need for freedom and respect in romantic interactions. Keep the mystery and the dignity in your relationship. If the other partner begins to feel trapped and withdraws for a time, grant him or her some space and pull back yourself. Do not build a cage around that person. Instead, release your grip with confidence while never appeasing immorality or destructive behavior. 

By Doctor James Dobson