Monday, February 14, 2005

Happy Valentine's Day

Well, of course we start off with a Happy Valentine's Day wish to all you romantic souls blessed to have a covenant partner with whom to share your life! (Of which, I am one!) I cannot even remember what life was like without my precious partner, Patti. I've always wanted someone with whom I could share my faith and my heart, and God answered my prayer. For that, I am eternally grateful.

While we're pondering love, let's talk about love and the church. I have been disappointed by the lack of love expressed in our churches. Oh, we talk about it. A lot. But, we don't seem to have the actions that back it up. I cannot begin to number the times I've seen God's people do ungodly things to each other. And, were I truthful, I would have to admit that I have been among them.

God has been speaking to my heart about love and those that cross our paths daily. How difficult is it to offer a smile to a store clerk who's had the worst day at work? Not difficult at all. As a matter of fact, that's just what God expects of us. KINDNESS. You can show more love in a single moment through a very simple act of kindness.

Let's take that same kindness into our churches. How are we at this in our churches? In my opinion, we play at this and fall way short of God's ideal. The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 13:1-7 all the things that describe love. It is patient, kind, not jealous, not boastful, not proud, not rude. Love is not selfish, irritable, nor does it remember when it has been wronged. Love is never glad about injustice but love rejoices over the truth. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful and endures through every circumstance.


Can we really claim to love our brothers and sisters? Can we really claim to love those outside of our church? Not unless we meet all of the criteria, we cannot. So often, we smile at people in church and then turn right around and talk about them behind their backs. Is this love? It is such a huge problem. We don't take time to truly listen, truly care about those who may be unattractive, of a lesser social standing, or any other myriad of excuses. We even use prayer as an excuse to gossip about others. How petty! How difficult is it to smile and sincerely care?

I can give you an example. I have a dear friend who is going through such an emotional battle right now. She has been thrust to the side by the church leadership, who have pidgeon-holed her into a less than flattering category. They think she has less faith because she questions. They think she has invalid needs and comments because she isn't like them. Quite simply, they have by their actions and words put her outside their social and church circle and completely marginalized her. And, she's not the only one. I've seen it over and over again. If you are weak in faith, well you're not invited into the "privileged" few. If you are weak in body, then you are pushed away as being a "less than."

Dear friends, that is a disgusting stench in the nostrils of an holy God! I cannot stress it enough. I know this is a tough lesson, a hard thing to take in. But...know that it is from the heart of a hurting Father! Our Father longs for His children to not just get along, but to truly and wholly live in love in this world. We cannot affect change as long as we're busy shooting our own troops! Friendly is God's ideal...not friendly fire.

If you are the one who is (even if unaware) being unloving and marginalizing others, then please get on your knees and ask God for forgiveness and go make it right with your brother or sister. I have done so. I must trust that God will change my heart! It is my goal to make everyone in my circle of influence feel loved by God and to know that I care for them sincerely. If I cannot do this, then everything else I offer in sacrifice to God is unacceptable.

The last of chapter 13 says, "...and the greatest of these is love." Please, hear the words of Jesus speaking about the greatest commandments in Mark 12:29-33, "Jesus replied, 'The most important commandment is this: Hear O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength. The second is equally important: Love your neighbor as yourself. No other commandment is greater than these.' "

Hear, dear child of God. NO commandment is greater than these. On the premise of love hangs the entire New Covenant. On love hangs grace. On love hangs our entrance into eternity! On love hung our Savior.

Reach out. Love deeply. Love well. Love in deed. Love in word. Love with abandon and extravagance!

May God richly bless you this day and give you a deeper revelation of what LOVE truly is.


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