Friday, May 31, 2013

Love = Sacrifice

Before moving on to the next Fruit of the Spirit, there is one crucial aspect about love that I would like to think about: the sacrificial nature of it...

I remember that song from the 80s that says "Love scars, love wounds and marks..." (if you are a child of the 80s you know what song I'm talking about...the funny thing is that the name of the group is/was Nazareth, how appropriate for our topic, huh?) Anyway, yes, love DOES hurt! And it does do all the other things too : ) And one of the reasons it hurts so much is because there is sacrifice involved.

Love without sacrifice is not love. It is selfishness. And sacrifice is not easy because it requires huge amounts of giving, usually giving of ourselves, giving what we cherish the most. Sacrifice is to let go and letting go is no picnic. I don't know about you, but I can't even let go of the things I don't like! Imagine letting go of our most precious possessions, like our children, like our lives. Well, that is precisely what true love demands of us. It demands our lives in exchange for the lives of those whom we love.  However, the miraculous thing is that by this ultimate sacrifice, in the end, we both can live!

Love does hurt, BAD! Ask the Father...ask Christ...

John 10:11 "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

John 15: 13 "Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends."

1 John 3:16 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.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3: 16

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Love is...

I think that 1 Corinthians 13: 4-8 is one of those passages in Scripture which a great many people in the world have heard of, one way or another. It is recited at weddings like some sort of rote prayer and even secular songs have used it as inspiration. In our human search for the explanation of what love is, this piece of God's Word has played an important role. 

Of course it has also inspired twisted views of love. Remember the infamous: "love is never having to say I'm sorry"? (Well, I guess saying you do know that phrase would be an indirect admission of your/our age...which reminds me I heard it from my OLDER sister LOL! : ). I mean, really! Can anybody who has loved someone deeply, and I don't mean only romantic love, but just LOVE, honestly say that they never had to say "I'm sorry"? Forgiveness is a huge part of love! We are humans, and as such we are imperfect, and as such we make mistakes and hurt people! It is as unfortunate as it is inevitable. And because of this fact, we are called to repent. Therefore, honest repentance implies acts of forgiveness, hence, having to say "I'm sorry" quite often. 

At any rate, in our quest to figure out what love truly is, we have remembered that God is love. Therefore, God, not Prince Charming, is the ultimate definition of true love. We know that we love because He first loved us and that without Him in us, the "love" we experience is worldly love, not Biblical love. It is the Holy Spirit in us who plants the seed of love and makes it grow with our faithful awareness. In today's Scripture we see that love also implies other practical things. We also see what love is not. And we learn that it is an action, or rather a series of actions...and that it NEVER fails. It never fails because when we have love, we have God, and God never fails. 

Can one write a meditation on what love is in one paragraph? I surely can't, but Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit certainly did:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. 1 Corinthians 13: 4-8a

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Love: Because He First Loved Us

As we saw in 1 John 4: 8, 16b, love is divine because it is part of the very essence of God Himself.  God IS love.  Today, John tells us another crucial bit of information:  "We love because He first loved us."  (1 John 4:19)  The divine nature of love is therefore confirmed and affirmed in this verse.  It is not of human origin.  It comes directly from the Maker who loved us first so we could learn what love really is.

The human version of love makes it seem impossible to love the way the Bible tells us to love.  For instance, Jesus tells us in Matthew 5: 44 to "love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us."  I don't know about you, but I have tried to do this on my own, by my own strength and I have failed time after time. Do you know what I'm talking about? It is not humanly possible! It requires our surrender of the issue to Christ who can crucify it for us and bring it back to life again as something new.  Only then, with and by His strength we are able to do so.  Apart from Him who IS love and who plants the seed of love in us through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, we cannot truly love those who hurt us.  

God chooses us to love us, and by receiving His love we learn how to love. Without him, the kind of love we can experience is a rather selfish human emotion that betrays us as it masquerades as real love. The "love" we experience apart from Christ is the love that focuses on self, seeking satisfaction centered around "I". The love we experience in Christ focuses on Him and because we want to serve Him and obey Him, it spills over to our neighbors, even the ones we don't get along with, even the ones who are so very hard to love. We are able to do this as we remember that God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5: 8  We have no other choice than to humble ourselves, leave our pride behind and attempt to love as He has first loved us. It sure is easier said than done...but it is our mission to try to accomplish it as best as we can for Jesus Himself told us: "By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." John 13: 35.

If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commands and remain in his love. John 15: 10

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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Love: The First Fruit

Well, how does one ever write a short meditation on Biblical love? Easily…you don’t! It is impossible to meditate on Biblical love in a couple of paragraphs…or is it? It is impossible for me, that’s for sure. It is not impossible for the One who IS love, though…Jesus, in His Divinity, was able to summarize the entire law into two sentences when someone asked Him what the greatest commandment was: 

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22: 36-40

There…a very short paragraph that contains all we need to know about Christian love. Understanding this paragraph, however, is not a simple task. Our human brains cannot fully comprehend the immensity of the sentences because we cannot fully understand what love really is. Many have tried to explain it. From the secular and scientific fields, to the Christian and other religious theologies, the topic of love has been explored from a human perspective ever since men and women began to use their brains. In my humble opinion, that is precisely why we can’t understand it. We don’t get it because love is divine in nature. The only way to know love is to know He who IS love, like 1John: 4-8 tells us: Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. 
1 John 4: 16b

Love, therefore, is intimately and irrevocably linked to God. That is why it is not until the Holy Spirit indwells in us that we can begin to know what love truly is. The “love” that we experience without the Holy One is a human creation that fizzles the moment it comes in touch with reality. When we realize the immensity of the statement “God is Love,” reading Bible passages about love like 1 Corinthians 13, for example, take on a whole new and different perspective:

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

We can be the most “loving” and generous person who ever existed, but what happens if we do not have Love? What happens to all our great deeds if we do not have Love…if we do not have God? After all, the “greatest of these IS love” because God comes first, and He is our greatest commandment.

How do we meditate about love in a few paragraphs? We don’t. We extend it to a bunch of paragraphs over a few days. See you later with more on Love next time!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Can Others Recognize Us by Our Fruits?

How often do you feel stressed out, anxious or worried about something or someone? Don’t ask me that questions because my answer may overwhelm you. I am a professional worrier. I’m the classic, “nobody in my house worries about anything because they know I will do all the worrying for them” type of girl. I’ve always been embarrassed to say I am a worrier. It doesn’t speak well of my spirituality, you know? There’s this thing in Matthew 7: 15-21, specially verses 20-21 where Jesus Himself says: “Why by their fruits you shall know them. Not everyone that said to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that does the will of my Father which is in heaven…”

The fruits…they always get me…remember? Galatians 5: 22-23: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” I have such a way to go…The Holy Spirit has His work cut out for Him in me, I tell you. The field available in my soul to grow these fruits is not the most fertile… But I must trust that He is able to do what He says He will do. And one of the many wonderful things He has said is:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11: 28-30.

I trust that if I come to Him, He, in turn, comes to my rescue every time my heart fills up with fear and my shoulders break under the heavy yoke of the world. He tells us not to be afraid, we are worth more than sparrows and even they rest in His loving care! (Matthew 10: 31).

As I look at the fruits of the Spirit, I resolve to meditate in them this summer. I will take them one by one and see how the growing process is going. It is not an overnight process. It is a growing process, just like our gardens in the spring and summer. The Gardener of our Souls plants the seeds and it takes a long while to see them sprout. Unlike the seeds that are not conscious of what is happening to them, the growing process in us must be done while we are fully conscious of what is happening. It is an intentional undertaking, and we must stay aware in the procedure. That is my goal this summer: to become aware of the Fruits of the Spirit in me and I hope you join me and examine the growing of your own Fruits of the Spirits in your lives this summer too. I have no clue how this is going to be or what shape is going to take; so let’s allow the Spirit to lead us and see where He takes us. See you soon with a look at the first fruit, love.

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3: 17-18

Saturday, May 25, 2013

You Are My God, Just As You Were Theirs...

Usually, after I read my short daily devotional, there is always a phrase that lingers in my mind the rest of the day.-that is the blessing of doing daily devotionals, btw : ). This time the phrase was more of a thought...after the reading quoted the verse from Daniel 10: 12 “Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them," the devotional said: "You are my God just as You were his." And that's what got stuck in my head.

Our Lord is indeed the same today as He was yesterday and will be tomorrow (Hebrews 13:8). As a matter of fact, since He is the Great I AM, He always IS...He never really was. So of course He is the same God today that the Bible tells us about 5,000 years ago. Just as He is the same God who shows up for Daniel, to shut the mouth of lions, He is our God, who shows up in our daily grind to rescue us from the muck and mire. The thing is that so often our vision is so blurred by our lack of faith that we cannot see His radiance in our lives. We are so trapped in darkness that we have our backs to the light. However, light overcomes darkness (John 1: 5). 

We are of little faith, and we question the very existence of the One who created us and sustains us. However, Our Redeemer does live! He is the One who the winds and the waves obey, and He is the same who watches over me even when I am unaware of His presence. His ways are not my ways, that's for sure. And I want my ways to prevail...however, His ways are higher, as the heavens are higher than the earth (Isaiah 55: 8-9) Therefore, in the midst of my darkness and doubt, I must gather the mustard-seed-size-faith I have left and hang on to it with my life, as I wait for the night to pass and turn into the morning light.

All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. John 1: 3-5

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Place Where Redemption Finds You

For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. Ephesians 1: 4 

The truth in this verse is so overwhelming that it is impossible to completely comprehend in our limited human brains. It is so transcendent I don’t even know how to react other than with humble gratitude and worship. “Before the creation of the world…He chose…me” And back then He knew my name and He knew exactly how He would reveal Himself to me some day. He had it all planned.

He designed the very moment and place where He would make Himself “real” to me so I could say, in turn, I see you, Lord and I am certainly yours. That place and that moment could be anywhere and anytime. For some, it is by a burning bush in the desert after a long day of work. For some others it is while on their way to persecute His very children on the road to Damascus.  For others it was on the road to Emmaus. For some it is during old age, yet for others it is while at a tender age. Regardless of when, though, it is always mystifying just the same.

For some it is a hospital bed while facing life-threatening illness. For some it is the bottom of a pit while dealing with addiction, depression, loss, loneliness, defeat.

Yet, for some others it is the old childhood home to which you come back once it is empty. It might seem as if all is lost and it is too late, but it is never late or no one is ever that far lost that Redemption cannot find him or her and the Great Redeemer cannot fully restore.

Wherever it is, Redemption will find the chosen in His perfect timing. Pit-dwelling is not forever for those who belong to the One True King. It is just a waiting room before the meeting takes place. For we must be “confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1: 6 Trust in the One who chose you, and know that He will meet you at the place where Redemption finds you.

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart. 
 Jeremiah 1: 5

My childhood home in Panama, perhaps forever gone...
Linking with:  Whole Hearted Home

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Pinterest Perfect Life?

Snap a picture…don’t like it? Well, snap another one and another one and another one until you get one that looks great on the little screen of your phone or camera. The magic of digital media makes every picture…well…perfect! You can take as many re-takes as you’d like without it costing you a penny. I remember when I had to buy film and then had to wait days or weeks until the pictures got developed, all at a cost. Most kids today don’t even know what those words mean, let alone know what it was like to wait to see what the pictures looked like only to find out that they were blurry or not what we had expected.

Not now. Today, every picture we post on our social media of choice could actually be…well…perfect! But, is it? 

As it happens, there is an added source of stress mainly in women’s lives nowadays…as if we needed more, right? Apparently, the social media where we share pictures of our “creations” or adventures in cooking, the arts, crafts, vacations or even everyday life is causing a new stress on those who see the pictures. Yes, crazy! But the thing is that the pictures all seem, so…perfect on the screen that when we look at our own real-life pitiful attempts at replicating what we see in Pinterest, Facebook or whatever, and compare it to the picture on the computer, we feel like a big failure.

Our own Transformer-shaped cake looks more like a bleeding mutant zombie. Our handmade bow is more like trampled over confetti at Time Square after New Year’s Eve. And our kids are more like a potty bunch rather than the Brady Bunch. Our lives don’t measure up to the digital media expectations, so we despair.

In reality, however, we forget that the pictures we see someone posting are probably manufactured semblances of a distant reality many takes over.

We forget that none of it has any eternal value.

It is not what we do but how we live. So, did you have fun making the mutant zombie cake? Did your kids like how it tasted? Did they help you make it? Are you proud of your effort? Do your kids still enjoy your company? Then, laugh it out and have a bite!  Put that confetti bow on your little girl's hair and snap a picture that you can laugh at years from now.  And remember, The Maker is the Only One Perfect. After all, we are just clay.

Happy Mother’s Day!

The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but theLord looks at the heart. 1 Samuel 16: 7