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from the archives: [love]

for valentine's day, i thought i'd repost something from the archives [back before anyone was actually reading this, april 2010]. it's really really long, and i'm actually quoting myself for most of it. so it's really like a post out of the archives out of the archives. disclaimer: i think maybe i was a little more direct back when i wrote the quoted part. i think i also said some things that aren't quite right, but overall the message is good. it was written about four years ago, so just keep that in mind :) anyway, here goes:

i love how God teaches us things in certain seasons of life, and brings those lessons back to us when we need them... i wrote this a little over two years ago (on my myspace page, back when people had a "myspace"). every now and then, God gently reminds me that i was once on a quest to LOVE others with a passionate, unwavering, and unconditional love. that i was going to seek out people who were hurting and needed something from me. people whose lives i could impact just by doing something simple. complete strangers. friends. whoever! He reminds me that i was heading down a path that would require me to fulfill the commands of Jesus Christ, to follow in His footsteps and "love my neighbor as myself". here's what i wrote those years ago:
Here’s what I’ve been learning, and grappling with, and pouring over the last few months...
1 John 3 (read it if you haven’t)

It gives us two important principles for living. People (myself included) usually take one without the other, and think they’re good... but it’s not the way God intended our lives to be fulfilled (more than we could ever think or imagine). First, John says that if we have received the Holy Spirit, we can’t go on sinning. Obviously, we’d all be in trouble is this were literally true, but I think it means (if I may) anyone who consciously stays in the same lifestyle they have become accustomed to, without remorse or conviction, or any attempt at pleasing this God who loved us so much that he lived a scorned life, hated by most, and DIED an excruciating death so that we would not have to! This is hardest part of responding to what Jesus has done for us... It was for me! I did NOT want to let go of those things that I didn’t think were so bad, and that no one should care if I did anyway... But GOD CALLS US (loudly) to a higher standard- and promises it will be worth it- and it IS! We think we have it figured out in this life, that WE know how REALLY LIVE! But God is trying to get it through our thick heads that we have not even the slightest idea of what he will do if we TRULY and completely surrender to his commands....

which brings me to the next part of 1 John 3...
The second of Jesus’ greatest commands was to LOVE others- this is what I’m struggling with now. I’m a decent person, and I’ll give a dollar to the homeless guy with the sign if I have one. But is that what he means? i don’t think so. This is hard for a lot of politically conservative people to grasp, because characteristically, we are against high taxes, welfare, and all sorts of social programs that we think are a waste of our precious hard-earned money- for people who aren’t willing to help themselves... but WHO CARES!!! I’m not saying let’s all change our political affiliation, but I AM saying- let’s live a life that models the greatest man who ever lived- Jesus Christ. Do you think he really cared what happened to his money? Did he even have much? NO! He gave of his time, his heart, everything he possibly could (his literal body and life) to CHANGE others’ lives. He didn’t care who it was- the dirty prostitute, the scary demon-possessed, even the self-righteous apparent followers of God- the Pharisees...He didn’t care if someone else was there to watch, or whether it was socially acceptable to do what he did. He knew how it would affect those he did it for, so he did it with haste! Why do we cling so tightly to this money that we apparently work SO hard for, just to make a name for ourselves, and a luxurious life for us to enjoy... why do we say we have no time, when we spend hours pampering ourselves, doing activities that only benefit ourselves- EVEN IF THEY ARE GOOD THINGS!!! If I may make this observation- we are turning into well-dressed, well-educated, well-spoken, well-fed, EMPTY and POINTLESS "resounding gongs and clanging cymbals" (1 Cor. 13) in our physically and spiritually starving world...
C.S. Lewis, in Mere Christianity, (Ch.3) put it best (which is what started this whole thing for me).
"You will find this again and again about anything that is really Christian: every one is attracted by bits of it and wants to pick out those bits and leave the rest. That is why we do not get much further: and that is why people who are fighting for quite OPPOSITE things can both say they are fighting for Christianity." is this ringing any bells?? Politically liberal Christians say that conservatives CAN’T be real Christians, and vice versa!
He also says, that where "the New Testament says that everyone must work (2 Thess 3:10- "If a man will not work, he shall not eat.") it gives us as a reason, in order that he may have something TO GIVE TO THOSE IN NEED." I wonder if we think about that?
He goes on to tell us that no one can really say what a good amount of giving is, but there is a way to test if it’s enough for you. "...The only safe rule is to give MORE THAN WE CAN SPARE." He says that if you live a lifestyle consistent with others who have your same income, then you aren’t giving enough. (and I’d say that if you’re living ABOVE your means, you’re definitely not giving enough!) "In other words, if our expenditure on comforts, luxuries, amusements, etc., is up to the standard common among those with the same income as our own, we are giving way too little..." This is truly convicting for me! He says, "If our charities do not at all pinch of hamper us, I should say they are too small."
He’s not talking about tipping well, or giving extravagant gifts, or being hospitable- things that people can obviously see and then think well of you as a generous person... he’s talking about those things people don’t always see, but that the recipient NEEDS so desperately. (obviously, you should do those first three things, but not to make up for NOT doing anything else). Jesus himself said in Matthew 6: "When you give to the needy, do not announce it with the trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men... but when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you." I don’t think we want praises of men- who are just as lost and ridiculous as we are! We want the reward from God who loves us more than anyone else ever could, and is the ultimate Judge of everything we’ll ever do!
The Message (a paraphrase of the Bible) puts it this way... "Be especially careful when you are trying to be good so that you don’t make a performance out of it. It might be good theater but the God who made you won’t be applauding. When you do something for someone else, don’t call attentions to yourself. You’ve seen them in action I’m sure- ’playcators’ I call them- treating prayer meeting and street corner alike as a stage, acting compassionate as long as someone is watching, playing to the crowds. They get applause, true, but that’s all they get. When you help someone out, don’t think about how it looks. Just do it- quietly and unobtrusively. That is the way your God, who conceived you in love, working behind the scenes, helps you out."
anyway, back to Mr. Lewis for one last thing to wrap up my politics point: "Most of us are not approaching the subject in order to find out what Christianity says: we are approaching it in the hope of finding support from Christianity for the views of our own party. We are looking for an ally where we are offered either a Master, or a Judge." God isn’t there to back us up... He’s looking for US to back HIM up. He already spoke the truth in the Bible, and there’s nothing we can do to change what He said, no matter how badly we want to! We need to follow what He says, not try to create some alternate truth out of our own feeble mind and heart that is bound to lead us right into Satan’s open trap!
and here’s where Lewis unknowingly wraps up 1 John 3 for me: "i may repeat ’Do as you would be done by’ till I am blue in the face, but I cannot really carry it out till I love my neighbor as myself: and I cannot learn to love my neighbor as myself until I learn to love God: and I cannot learn to love God except by learning to obey Him."
basically... stop being OK with your sin, obey God’s commands- we all know them, or at least where to find them-, and then watch how you’re compelled to love others in a way that you never could in your own strength! I don’t know exactly what God is trying to get me to do, but I KNOW that it’s going to start with little things... I KNOW He is trying to get me out of my self-centered ridiculous world, to get me to live a fulfilling, incredible, influential life... BUT (and this is the most important part) ALL FOR HIS GLORY AND HONOR- NOT MINE
i am singing "By Our Love" by Christy Nockels, this Sunday. for some reason, the song kept stuck with me the first time i heard it, and i knew it was something i had to sing. then i started really listening to the words and realized that it was the message of my heart those years ago. it is exactly what God has been trying to teach me. and exactly what i've been gently "resisting". because the implications are not something i am ready to face. it means getting out of my "comfort zone" to be someone who loves unconditionally and without regard to consequences. someone who thinks about others, first and foremost, and herself last. i don't know that person, but i know God wants to transform me into her... will i let him? i'm so stubborn i can only pray that the Holy Spirit will have His way and fill me with the power that only comes from Him. that He would give me the supernatural strength and love to minister to the lost and hurting in a way that can only be explained through Him.


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