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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The Apple Tree, Part 1

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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…

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

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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.

When Dating Is Wrong

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We’ve heard a lot of opinions about dating.  When is it appropriate to date?  At what age should a person start dating?  Is courtship better than dating?  Is dating even healthy for a Christian? With so many views, we could get confused and frustrated in culture where dating many times over is totally acceptable.

When we get down to the root of it all, however, it’s not about dating vs. courtship, or dating only at a certain age.  It’s about staying in the will of God in every area of our relationships.  Though dating in general may not be sinful, a wrong heart motive behind it may be as wrong as dating the wrong person at the wrong time.

God first looks at the heart (I Samuel 16:7).  He always has and always will.  In fact, we can’t even get saved unless we believe in our hearts (Romans 10:9,10).  Many people can “date” with a pure heart motive. However, if the heart motivation behind a dating relationship is wrong in God’s eyes, that dating relationship is not from Him. Dating then is not the issue; the heart is the issue.  Is the heart wrong?  Then the dating is wrong.

As we read the following points ask ourselves, “What is the condition of my heart? Am I dating for the right reasons?”

  1. Am I motivated by filling a need like loneliness?
  2. Am I motivated by the thrill of accessing a certain group?
  3. Am I motivated by avoiding responsibilities?
  4. Am I motivated by ignoring a season of growth and maturing?
  5. Am I motivated by lustful desires?
  6. Am I motivated emotions, and nothing more?
  7. Am I disobeying God when He specifically said not to date this person?

If we answer “yes” to any of these, it’s time to step back and analyze our relationship-.

We must always remember that our actions toward and with people are to be motivated by love.  Love for Jesus and love for others (John 13:34).

When we obey Jesus and His will for our lives, we are loving Him (John 14:15). We don’t ask questions, but simply do what He says, even if it means overcoming disappointment that a relationship may not happen.

When we love others, we don’t use someone’s attention and time for personal gain.  Love doesn’t lead them to do something that will hurt them.  Instead, it strives to lead them into a stronger relationship with God, and helping them stay in – not out – of His will for their lives.  Anything less is selfishness.

When is dating wrong? When it’s not motivated by love.  When is dating right?  When it’s motivated by love . . . and love only.  When this is our motivation, God’s best relationships are sure to find us . . . because our hearts can be trusted!

 

Photo courtesy of Google images.

Love Is a Verb

love is a verb

Love.  We all want it and can’t live without it.  We seek it, idolize it, and make it our life’s goal.  But do we know what we’re really looking for?  Is that object we call “love” really what we’re expecting?

Love is depicted in many ways in the world.  We see movies, novels, and dating relationships describing love as an emotional tie to another person.  We’re given the idea that love is found only on Valentine’s Day in the form of a box of chocolates.  We’re convinced that love is found in the physical attraction to someone through a kiss or an embrace.  Worst of all, lust is portrayed as synonymous to love, despite all its harmful effects.  Out of all the choices, which one is truly “love”?

God, of course, gives the most accurate description of love:

Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. John 15:13

Here is a definition of love most of our culture knows nothing about!  We see very little giving, much less dying for others.   But according to the God of the universe, the greatest form of love is giving up one’s life.

For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. Romans 5:7

The greatest example of this, of course, is Jesus.  He dared! People all over the world have laid down their life for someone or something, but never for so great a cause.  Others have laid down their lives for their friends, but rarely for their enemies.  In contrast, Jesus did this for people in the present and people in the future, regardless of their love for Him.  He allowed Himself to be given.

For God so love the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. John 3:16

Our human instinct is to fulfill its cravings at the expense of everyone else, with no pain toward ourselves.  Jesus, however, commanded us to love our neighbor – friend or foe – as ourselves (Mark 12:31).  When we love “us,” do we take advantage of ourselves?  Do we take from ourselves more readily than we give?  Do we deprive ourselves of our daily needs?  They answer is clearly “no”, yet we often do exactly that to others, not realizing that we’re stepping out of the boundaries of love.  We forget God’s command to do unto others as we would have them do to us (Luke 6:31).

It’s easy to give a gift or assist someone we like.  We feel more inclined to show love to someone who loves us in return.  But what about the times someone isn’t able to return the favor, or chooses not to?  That’s when we are called to be the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37).

A man was beaten, robbed, and left for dead on the side of the road.  Shamefully, two devoted Jews passed by without offering aid.  They were followed by a Gentile, focused on a destination of his own.  He stumbled across that horrific sight crying out to him for help.  He hesitated. Time was ticking away.  He was human like the rest of us, so I could imagine the debate that went on in his head: “You’ll be late for your meeting!  If you’re late, they’ll never promote you to that new position!  Let someone else come and help him.”  Thankfully, he didn’t give in to the argument.  He stepped aside and assisted the man, inconveniencing himself and his pocketbook.

This Samaritan was a “good” Samaritan.  But what separates a person from the just “good” and the “loving” is the action taken to back up the goodness.  A “good” man has a few compassionate thoughts fly through his head, yet still continues on because he must keep his schedule.  A “good and loving” person will go beyond inward goodness; he will put aside his desires and help the person less fortunate. Greater still is when he pays the extra bit to keep the other person going, even after he must leave. That is love.

Just the same, negative feelings often arise when our flesh wishes to do anything other than show love.  It may be that it’s going to take an uncomfortable amount of effort to show it.  We might have to swallow our pride and humble ourselves in front of someone we’ve wronged.  Someone who has hated us might be a candidate for love, but our flesh may cry for justice rather than mercy.  Whatever the situation, we cannot rely on our senses.  The greatest test of love is how we act when our feelings don’t line up with our actions.  It’s an act of faith that says, “I will do this out of a tender heart toward God, regardless of the way I feel.”

An emotion-led relationship is often controlled by hormones and has nothing to do with commitment.  The feelings change the moment someone does something we don’t like. The fuzzy feelings of getting a gift and a special night out eventually fade.  Physical touch and sexual “love” is temporary and subject to a person’s presence.  Lust does nothing but take out of selfishness.  The only reliable and authentic form of true love is found in only one place – in the nature of the Father.  Apart from Him, we flounder in our own strength to accurately show and receive love.  When we don’t know Him, we don’t know love, for He is love.

A minister once said that “love is a verb.”  It’s an action, not a feeling.  It’s a decision, not a fleeting thought.  Thankfully, Jesus understood this.  He acted on His love to the point of torture.  This may never be demanded of us; but like the Good Samaritan, we still have opportunities every day to put down our flesh and its desire to take rather than give.   We may have to reprogram our minds to think without selfishness interfering with our actions.  We may have to start with the small actions of love in order to attain to the big actions.  The opportunities are there if we’ll keep our eyes on the greatest Example God gave us – Jesus, love in the flesh.

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.  He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. I John 4:7, 8

.Photo courtesy of Google Images