LOVE: A REBRANDING

Love. It is the one common thing every person on earth searches for during their lives. Everyone wants to be loved, to feel love, and to make love. Yet not many in our society really wanted to go through the effort to give love, or to show love, so we have slowly decided to redefine love.

We redefined “love” as not only a temporary feeling of butterflies in stomachs and giggles, but as tolerance. And then we redefined tolerance as accepting everyone’s views as equally right, rather than its old definition of respecting people’s differences. If you love someone these days, you won’t tell them when they’re wrong. Because correction might hurt feelings, and hurting someone’s feelings isn’t love, it’s narrow-mindedness and bigotry. Through our redefining of love, we’ve come to the conclusion we all should get participation trophies, because it’s easier to buy a trophy than it is to say no.

Before I started writing this, I was listening to Bob Marley to get into the mood. I figured if I’m going to write about love, I should listen to the guy who helped define it. And that’s when I started to realize that Bob Marley had no idea what he was talking about. Or at least we have no idea what Bob Marley was talking about (it turns out he was a lot more militaristic than modern society makes him out to be). Take “One Love,” for example:

“Let’s get together and feel alright.”

Bob Marley - a man who tried to redefine love

Bob Marley – a man who tried to redefine love

We’ve redefined this love as “getting together,” and as a state of “feeling alright.” We’ve redefined love as irresponsibility. This is not love. This is the result of a society which can’t be told they’re wrong. This is the result of passivity, because our society today is too afraid of what comes along with real, truthful love. The truth is, only one man has ever lived a life of complete love, and his life was synonymous with discontent and discomfort. He said many wise things about love, and he called a lot of people out on the wrongs they were doing. And he said love is the most important thing we can do. He also said,

“There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” –John 15:13

Many people read this verse and see it as a challenge – as a question asking, “Would you die for your friends?” They think it over and say, “Yeah, I think I would,” and walk off proud because they’ve stepped up to the task. But this is only one small piece of what Jesus is talking about. Jesus isn’t talking about finite death; he is talking about daily, hourly death. He is giving love it’s true definition: sacrifice. This is why Christianity preaches abstinence, and living only out of need, and giving to those without. It is even why Christianity preaches against abortion – because we believe a living fetus is to be loved as equally as the woman who created it, even though we know believing this means the woman will have to make huge sacrifices.

Are you willing to sacrifice your own happiness for your friends?

If not, I can’t say you love them. Jesus was the one who defined love because He is the only one who truly lived it out through sacrifice. He came to this earth with the power to defeat any wrong done against him – with the power to do it the easy way by conquering the unjust and becoming the ruler of the nations – the way most Jews expected – yet He didn’t do that. He didn’t destroy the wicked, He paid their way. He disciplined himself to perfection, and because that is something we can’t accomplish, He sacrificed himself in order to see us as perfect. He took the hard way out, because it was the only way to create a way out for us. He sacrificed because He knew it was the only way to love. It was the only way to rescue everyone – the good and bad alike. He sacrificed himself because He loved all.

Our society can’t seem to grasp this. Our society is too busy hiding behind the lie that sex is love, or acceptance is love. Our society is too busy letting people define love as something that feels good, while watching our marriages crumble and our lives turn meaningless because we’re too afraid to do things that are hard. We’re too selfish to do things we don’t want to do. We’re too proud to think someone else is more important than ourselves. And until we begin to see ourselves as the “least of these,” as Jesus taught and lived, we will never sacrifice our own momentary happiness for the happiness of the people we love.

The truth is, I as a Christian, and us, as Christians, have a long way to go. We have become so focused on relevance in our culture that we have neglected relevance to God. We have become so focused on living comfortably and selfishly that we have forgotten how to live any other way. We have preached so much grace and forgiveness for the world that we have started to believe we are of the world, and forgotten that as soon as we accept God’s grace we are called to allow the Holy Spirit to restore us to righteousness through complete surrender.

Yet despite our failings, I am encouraged. I am encouraged by our generation’s attitude of all in or not in at all. I am encouraged by our generation’s hatred of lukewarm. I am encouraged by our generation’s desire to serve the world and sacrifice for the sake of the world, and our progress towards redefinition. The world may be getting sicker, but the church is slowly getting healthier. The church is realizing following Jesus and His teachings are more important than following what people say about Him. The church is realizing living a life of love – of complete sacrifice and surrender – is the only way to healing. It’s time we share our realizations. It’s time we show the world our new (old) definition of love.

LOVE = SACRIFICE.

1 John 4:19 – “We love because He first loved us.”

We sacrifice because He first sacrificed for us.

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UNCLENCH YOUR FIST

“Our hearts ache, yet we always have joy. We are poor, yet we give spiritual riches to others. We own nothing, yet we have everything.”            – 2 Corinthians 6:10

Oh, how counter-cultural this verse is to the Christianity I see today. The Christians I see today don’t display these traits, and that includes myself. I look around the room I’m in and see things I don’t need. I see excess, waste, and resources that could be better used, and this is evidence that I am not so detached from my belongings to the point of them being worthless to me. I am not at a level where I can proclaim that I have “nothing, yet everything.”

I am at a place where I could only proclaim that I have some things, and have some better things. I have possessions, and I have God. I have the things I cling to, and I have the things He’s given me thus far. I know that what He gives are the better things – much better in fact – yet the things I cling to are not the things I hold together with God, but the things I only hold myself. I am not yet at the point of possessing His entire character and letting go of my own insecurities, and I don’t know if I’ll ever be there before I leave this earth.

I still have me – some flawed parts of me – and until I lose those parts which He wants to take, I cannot have everything He wants to give me. Until I vanquish those parts of me, I only have most everything in Him – and the rest, which He wants to give, is only potential.

Yet in order to reach that potential, I must act! I must give! I must ask Him to point out those things I am clinging to and unclench my fist from the, letting Him take them. When He takes all is when 2 Corinthians 6:10 can be made true in my life and yours. It may be uncomfortable, terrifying, and uncertain, but it will also be full of comfort, peace, and certainty because we have let the One who knows better take control! We have let Him take everything, leaving us everything in return.

Give it all, and be given it all. This is the outcome of total surrender. Unclench your fist and let whatever you’re grasping fall to the ground.

THE ‘MAGIC’ PRAYER (and why it often doesn’t work)

“You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father. Yes, ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.”   – John 14:13-14

This a verse that, when we look, we immediately think of the things we’ve asked for and haven’t received, and almost feel cheated by this verse and what it says.

But that is only because we aren’t really hearing what it says!

“Ask and you’ll receive.” This is what we hear when we read this verse. What it actually says, however, is “ask for anything that brings glory to God, and you will receive.”

This verse is a promise to us, but it is a promise given by a God who is much more wise than us! We can ask for anything, and we might believe it is for God’s glory, but only He truly knows. Only He truly knows the end result, and the true motives of our hearts in everything we ask.

Remember this next time you ask and don’t receive, and praise God for knowing your true needs and desires! Praise Him for His wisdom, and your foolishness in the midst of Him! Don’t hold a grudge against God for not giing what you’ve asked; for holding a grudge against God is simply pride and selfishness. It is you telling God you know better than Him, and that is never the case!

“We can make our own plans, but the Lord gives the right answer.

People may be pure in their own eyes, but the Lord examines their motives.

Commit your actions to the Lord, and your plans will succeed.”  -Proverbs 16:1-3

It isn’t until we are one with God that we can truly ask for anything in His name, and when we are at that point, the things we ask will be of Him, and undoubtedly bring glory to Him because of His presence in every essence of our lives. “Ask in my name” isn’t a magic trick to get what we want, but simply an example of what can be done when we live completely in the Holy Spirit rather than under our own ambition. Ask in the Holy Spirit, in unity with God, and you will receive. And if you ask out of the Holy Spirit’s prompting, that which you receive will undoubtedly bring God glory!

ALL MY FOUNTAINS

“As they make music they will sing,

‘All my fountains are in You.'”   – Psalm 87:7

Psalm 87 was written by the temple assistants, the Sons of Korah, and was written about the City of God – the place where all believers will one day gather, and is looking ahead to the Holy City as described in Revalation 21:10-27. It will be an amazing sight when the day comes! The city is described as being 1400 miles square, and as long and wide as it is high! Imagine a 1400 square mile city, full of the worship of God’s children! A city without night, lit only by the glory of God! That will be a wondrous sight!

Yet although this verse is describing the glory after Christ’s return, it also describes what we should strive for while on this earth!

“All of my fountains are in You!”

This is the place we shall strive and long to be. I long to be in the place while on this earth where I know I have no other options besides leaning completely and totally on Him, and having “all my fountains” invested in Him. Heaven will be a wondrous sight, yet what is stopping us from showing heavenly  praise while on earth?

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Lord, take me to the place with no other options

take me to the heart of You!

For as this world tries me, I learn of my weakness

and my strength, found only in You!

Take me to the place where my spring finds it’s origin,

and let that origin be You!

 Not my strength, but Yours alone can sustain me,

For in my trials I rejoice of You!

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EDIT: When I posted this, a friend shared this video with me, so I thought it’d be worth posting here, as well. Enjoy!

OUR PRIDE IN BURDEN (and giving them both up)

Please take all my burden, please take all my shame.

This is the last line of a song I wrote (which you can listen to here). Sounds kind of selfish, doesn’t it? Have you ever looked at scripture and the things we ask of God and said to yourself, “I’m not going to get involved in that, because those people are just people that can’t deal with their problems, so they resort to putting them on their ‘god.’?” It all seems incredibly selfish. I know that if five people told me to deal with all of their issues for them, and to free them from those things they struggle with, I’d feel completely overwhelmed, and would probably yell at the people, telling them to take responsibility for themselves rather than making me solve their problems.

I’d blow a fuse given five people’s problems. God has nearly 7 billion people to worry about. It doesn’t seem morally right to me to give Him that kind of stress. It all seems slightly irresponsible.

And then I remember who God is, and that is a God who cannot be put into a box. That is a God who died for the evil in us. It’s the God who created the world, and the stars, and the universe! He created animals, and plants, and US! He parted seas, stood up rivers, brought to life a man who had been dead for four days, and conquered death himself in three. He is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The reason we are able to ask God to take all of our burdens and shame is because HE IS WHO HE IS! He is GOD, and he is plenty capable.

The real reason it may seem selfish to ask God to take these things from us originates entirely from our pride. We are often too proud to acknowledge how much power our God has over us. We are often too proud to let our God take over the things we first believed we could handle ourselves. We are often too proud to recognize the incredible gifts God has given us – one of which being freedom from our burdens!

Until we begin to see ourselves as we truly are – weak, broken, and prideful – we won’t be able to recognize our need for Christ. Until we being to see God as He really is – almighty, all powerful, just, forgiving and merciful –will we be able to recognize the importance of letting God handle our burdens. He is usually the only One who can handle them – so let Him handle, and praise Him that He is able to free you from having to handle those things on your own.

To any non-Christians reading this, you’re probably scoffing. You’re probably thinking I’m incredibly irresponsible, and that I never answered the question of why we are able to put our struggles and burdens on God. And to be honest, it’s not something I can explain, or we can understand until we grasp what it means that this God we serve died for scum, and then conquered death. He died for the worst of us so He could see the best in us. Of every religion on earth, the God of Christianity is the only god who made it His own responsibility to save His people. We don’t have to meditate, or keep good karma, or do good deeds to reach salvation – we simply have to believe that He did it for us, and once we truly grasp the reality of that one act, it is impossible not to fall in love with Him, and live our lives for Him. Honestly, it seems quite foolish not to trust someone who decides it’s worth it to die for you.