Is Love a Fancy or a Feeling? Happy St. Valentine’s Day!

valentinecandyHow would you finish this statement, “This is how we know what love is…”? Today is St. Valentine’s Day and I am sure he was a pretty cool saint, if for no other reason, for giving his life for his faith. However, most of us don’t think of faith when we think about Valentine’s Day. We think about love, romance, or if you are from the School of Spanky on the Little Rascals, you may think about the He-man Woman Haters Club. We love little sayings on candy and cards to help us figure out what to say and ways to define our love.

How do we know what love is? Hartley Coleridge asked, “Is love a fancy or a feeling?” How would you answer that question? He quickly answers, “No” to our fancy, feely world of love. Coleridge goes on to say,  “It is immortal as immaculate Truth.” Love is immortal as immaculate Truth. Take time to let that sink in. Is there an everlasting, perfect love?

Shakesphere analyzes loves and says, “…it is an ever-fixèd mark that looks on tempests and is never shaken.” Where is this immovable, everlasting, perfect love? I believe the answer comes from the pen of one who experiences this love first hand. He wrote the conclusion of the statement, “This is how we know what love is…” John, the beloved disciple of Christ, finishes this statement, “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us.” There you have it, the immovable, everlasting, perfect love of God displayed through the death of Jesus… for you. Jesus perfectly displayed, “I love you.” There is no need to try to figure out what love is because Jesus defines it with His perfect life, death, and resurrection. If you are looking for love, He is the One you have been trying to find. He did not write it on a colorful candy heart, He wrote it on His heart. He wrote, “I died for you.”

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. 1 John 3:16

Controlling the Rain

What do you do when life is out of your control? Yesterday, while checking the weather, I saw where a storm was about to come across the lake near our house. I decided to walk down to the dock and watch it come across the lake. A storm is an amazing thing to watch at the beach or on a lake because you can see it develop, break up, and move.

As I laid there in the hammock watching everything I had many thoughts. I thought about how we desperately need rain everyday here in our state. I thought about how good God is to give it and how amazing the whole concept. What I seemed to think about the most is how rain is something totally out of our control and we usually don’t like it when things get out of our control.

We can’t run to the store and pick up something for rain. The doctor isn’t going to give us a prescription for rain. Sure, we have our wells for our lawns, and farmers have their irrigations systems but when it gets so bad that wells, and ponds dry up we realize how we may be able to create remedies for our issues or problems but we are not going to create rain.

Rain is part of God’s blessing to us as a nation. Actually the Bible says the heavens are His storehouse and He is the One who opens them and gives rain. He says then you will lend to many nations, but you will not borrow (Deuteronomy 28:12).

As I laid there, I thought of how all of life is really out of my control. I make my choices from day to day that have seemed to direct my path to this school and that school, this person to that person, this activity to that activity; however, the bottom line is that He is in ultimate control of it all and the choices that I make are granted by Him.

The next time you see rain, let it remind you of Who is in ultimate control. When we walk by faith in this reality we experience the blessings of all types of rain from Heaven, and we find we end up being the lender, rather than the borrower.

Setting Fence Posts and Staying Focused

“Twenty-five dollars a day, from sun up to sun down” was what Larry, our youth leader, offered to pay us for working on his farm back in the 80’s. I had quit my job at Harvey’s grocery store at the beginning of my senior year in order to be able to go to youth group more at church and enjoy my senior year at school. I had the feeling I was only going to have one senior year to enjoy in life and my grades, believe it or not, helped me to turn that feeling into a reality. I had my ten year old, 1972 Orange VW Bug, paid for and felt all I needed was a little gas and spending money. Gas was only $1.30 a gallon and I felt good about working on that Mitchell County Georgia farm on the weekends.

The interesting thing about working out on this farm was that I never knew what I was going to be doing on any given day. One day I showed up for work and Larry informed me that I was going to be digging holes and setting posts for a barbed wired fence across a field. When he dropped me off, it seemed more like I was out in the middle of the desert than a field.

Now Larry had a way of always calling you son and if he said something like. “Son, I’m only going to tell you this once…” you had better listen up. He proceeded to tell me how deep he wanted each hole. He marked the posthole diggers for me. Then he told me how many feet he wanted each post to be apart. Then Larry said something to the effect, “Son, listen to me, you see that tree over there?” The tree was about a mile away but I could see it in the distance. It helped that it stood out in the line of trees. Larry continued, “Every time you step off your distance between posts, walk directly towards that tree. Don’t get it mixed up with any other tree.” That was it; his blue little Toyota pickup truck took off in a cloud of dust. I got the posthole diggers and went to work out in the middle of nowhere. After each hole I found my tree and walked off my steps.

My point of focus ultimately determine the quality of my work and the practicality of it that day. I find that what or whom we focus on in life has the same effects. This is why the Bible tells us, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”  (Hebrews 12:2). Focusing on Jesus keeps me out of a lot of trouble in life. He makes my work easier and better.

Now, I realized I am saved by His work and not mine. I also understand I am saved by grace and not by works. It is a free gift of God by Christ Jesus. It’s free and He paid for it. However, He saved me for good works (Ephesians 2:8-10). Christ followers want to hear Jesus say, “Well done” at the end of their day and especially at the end of their life and focusing on Him makes that reality.

I am glad to say that my fencerow turned out perfectly straight that day. I wish I could say everyday turns out the same for me. I do know this though, when my focus is set on Jesus and I walk towards Him, it does.

Nothing

Have you ever had a song or part of a song that you can’t get out of your head? Recently, I could not get Nothing out of my head. Don’t laugh; it’s a song by The Script. The songwriter says,

 

“I wanted words, but all I heard was nothing.”

 

The song echoes the pain of silence. The same silence that many call golden. Silence may be golden in some cases. It can even be therapeutic. It’s a blessing to the young mother who has a free day from the little ones because of grandma. It has a healing aspect for the busy executive that finds relief from a mountain biking trip in the middle of nowhere.

 

Silence is anything but golden when we want words, when we need words from the ones we want to so desperately hear from. The songwriter is basically sharing about heartbreak from silence, and the measures we go to hear love through words of admiration. I believe many go through the same kind of heartbreak when God seems to be silent in their lives.

 

How do you react to silence? The songwriter contemplates extreme measures by asking, “Am I better off dead? Am I better off a quitter?” A more important question is: How do you react when God is silent? Asaph begs God not to be silent. (Psalm 83:1). David does the same in Psalm 109:1. Man has struggled with the silence of God for centuries. The problem is not with God’s actions, or lack there of, but our reaction. This is one of the reasons God became one of us in order to show us how to react to His silence. Jesus asked a powerful question while dying on the cross. He asked, “My God, My God, why has Thou forsaken me?” And He heard nothing. Jesus was quoting Psalm 22 where the psalmist declares God as holy. He declares God as worthy of our trust, even in His silence (Psalm 22:3-4).

 

We all have to figure out if we are going to reject God, because of His silence, or if we are going to trust Him. We are never better off quitting God. We are definitely never better off dead to God or declaring Him dead to us.

 

Let me encourage you with the truth that God is there and He loves you deeply, even in the silence. You can exhaust all your options to try to get God to speak. You may even turn to things of the world for relief from the silence but it all comes down to developing the spiritual discipline of realizing, by faith, there is Someone waiting on you, even in times that feel like He is saying nothing at all.