We Know What Real Love Is

dsc_3833How many of you would say “I’m in the perfect will of God?” or is it more of “Does God love me?” I don’t ask that question to imply that I’m putting myself on a pedestal, but rather to emphasize a question that my heart often finds itself asking.

It’s a question I remember asking my 19 year-old self in college when I had just read a positive pregnancy test.

I had walked in a genuine relationship with Jesus from a very young age, but somewhere along the way I had lost my identity and was desperately looking for it in all the wrong places. One of those places was my very attractive, navy air crewman boyfriend, who was an atheist. At this point we had been dating just shy of two years. He had been away for 7 months on a deployment, and when he arrived home, purposed right away. It was just a month after that I found out I was pregnant.

For me it was a wake-up call! I had tasted and seen that the Lord was good, and I had exchanged that for my own selfish desires and this is where it had gotten me. It was then that I had a deep desire to seek God with my whole heart, because I didn’t know what else to do….

God’s word in Jeremiah 29:13 tells us “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with your whole heart.”

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And God did not disappoint! Did it look like a beautiful hallmark movie where my husband met Jesus and changed over night? Of course not.

I think I cried myself to sleep every night for the first 3 or 4 months of our marriage. I felt hopeless, even with God on my side. I wish that I could say that I loved lavishly, or that there was some influence I made…and I’m sure that I had an impact. But I was sure in my heart that if there was one person in the world that would never believe in God, it was the man I was married to! He was always angry, stretch thin at work, stressed out. We were trying to buy a house and were living with my parents until we were able to close; we had no privacy, and barely talked.

During that time we were going to church together, because I had made it clear before we got married how it was important to me and if he wanted this family he’d have to come too! Sunday in and Sunday out, he’d have nothing but negative things to say…how can this be true? It’s all a bad joke! But there was something going on in his heart that I had no idea was happening at the time.

I was 7 months pregnant when Chris arrived home, like he did everyday, but this day was different. He walks up to the door, where I was eagerly waiting, and blurts out, “I think I am saved.” Not even able to comprehend what he had just said, with mouth agape, responded with, “what?” “I think I’m saved.” I just could fathom it.

Over time it proved to be true, God put a hunger in my husband’s heart for reading the bible, a desire for seeking out truth about God. We sought God together and He was faithful, we found Him in our seeking. He had called us from before the foundation of time, he was working together all my mistakes for His good, and His glory. For the first time I was realizing after years of growing up in Church that God loved me, and I loved Him back and nothing or no one could stop that never stopping, never giving up, un-breaking, always and forever love of God He showed us in Jesus.

How many times have you felt like you were in the middle of a disaster, whether it’s of your own doing or circumstances out of your control? Your heart says “Am I in God’s will?”  “What am I even doing?” “How can God let this happen?” I know my heart and mind wondered in those places…

This scripture brings me so much comfort and propels me to continue to do God’s work.

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And having chosen them, he called them to come to him. And having called them, he gave them right standing with himself. And having given them right standing, he gave them his glory. What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else? Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself. Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:28-39

dsc_2693eGod’s Love causes us to step out boldly in faith.  He calls us to take risks. You’ll do anything for someone that you love. If you love God you’ll do anything for him. Take any risk. When you experience the fullness of his love, and being reconciled with him, being rooted in His unfailing love, you can operate in bold, audacious faith.

 

Are you familiar with the parable Jesus tells to an expert in religious law who asked the question “what should I do to inherit eternal life?” The parable of the good Samaritan. If not, I encourage you to read Luke 10:25-37. Here’s a great storytelling version:

A man asks Jesus a question.  The man who asks Jesus a question was very smart. Maybe he was trying to trick Jesus and see if he was a good teacher or not.  This is what he asked: “Teacher, what should I do so I can go to Heaven and live forever?”

Jesus replied, “What is written in the Bible?  What do you think?”

The man answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.”

“That is right!”  Jesus said.  “Do this and you will live forever in Heaven.”

But the man wanted to know more so asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

Jesus decided to answer this question with a parable to help everyone who was listening understand.

Jesus said:

“There once was a Jewish man walking along a road.  He was coming from Jerusalem and was heading to Jericho, which was a full day or two of walking.

The road was rocky and there were small hills all around.  The man was just humming to himself and enjoying the nice day when suddenly a group of men jumped out from behind a hill.  They took all his belongings and tore off most of his clothes.  They didn’t want him to follow them so they beat him up very badly, and left him lying and bleeding on the side of the road.

A few minutes later, a priest was walking down the same path and noticed the man lying on the side of the road.  Do you know what he did?  You’d think he would run over and help the man.  Instead he crossed the road and walked on the other side and acted like he didn’t see the man.

About an hour or so later, another man, called a Levite, was walking down the road.  Levites were people who assisted priests with their work.  He would probably help the man.  But you know what he did?  He slowed down and walked a little closer to the man, but then kept walking without helping him at all.

You might be thinking that maybe the man lying by the side of the road looked like he was resting or something and that is why the priest and the Levite didn’t stop to help.  The trouble is, it was easy to tell he was badly hurt.  The man was bleeding, had most of his clothes ripped off him, and he was bruised and hardly breathing.

Just a few minutes later, another man came walking.  He was a Samaritan.  One thing you should know about Samaritans is that Jews didn’t like them.  Jews usually didn’t treat Samaritans very well, so they never got along.  The man who was dying on the road was a Jew.  So what do you think the Samaritan did?  You would think he would walk by and maybe even laugh at the man.

But as soon as he saw the man, he went over to him and felt compassion for him.  He put bandages on his sores and poured oil and wine (which were quite expensive) on the sores to prevent them from getting worse.  Then he lifted the man on his own donkey and took him to a hotel to take care of him.

The next day the Samaritan took out enough money so the man could stay at the hotel until he was well enough to leave. He paid the man at the front desk and asked him to take care of the man.  If he wasn’t better after about two months the Samaritan would come back and pay for any extra cost.”

After Jesus finished the story, he asked, “Which of the three men do you think was a neighbor to the man who was left beaten on the side of the road?”

The man who asked him the question at the beginning replied, “The one who had compassion and helped him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do the same.”

The last statement Jesus makes after he tells the story to the expert in religious law is “go and do the same.”

What? Jesus actually wants us to put ourselves at risks to help those in need? I think yes.

“We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters.” 1 John 3:16

Our journey to missions has been a transformation. My heart for others wasn’t there. I had a picture in my mind of what my life, my family should look like and God was contradicting my vision. He began to show me through His word the kind of costly obedience he desired, and a year ago I might have been the priest or the Levite in this story. But God wrecked me with a revelation of His love, a love that cost him his own son in exchange for me.

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Ask God to open your eyes to opportunities where you can love and give to those around you, ask God to change your heart to be like the Samaritan who was willing to stop on a risky road to help someone in need, and to cover the cost of his healing. You’ll be amazed when you look around with fresh eyes at the overwhelming opportunities we have to love in a costly and radical way.

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