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Monday, November 24, 2014

Understanding Love

Love - in a scriptural sense, this term means any purposeful commitment to sacrificial action for another.  Now, we take a lot of actions in this life, neither purposeful, nor sacrificial - let alone on behalf of another!  So, how is it we best learn to display love in our lives?  I think the more of Jesus we allow to "get inside" our lives, the more love begins to be reflected "outside" our lives in the actions we exhibit.  How love takes root is pretty similar to how most seeds take root.  There is a germination process whereby the "seed of love" is planted and begins to send off the tiniest bit of hope there will be new growth there any day.  In a short span of time, those tiny roots will produce a little stalk of growth, giving evidence of something happening just beneath the surface.  Until the tiny growth appears "above" the surface, all we know is the seed has been planted.  We don't know if it is receiving enough water, sunlight, or nutrients from the soil.  The little stalk of life above ground gives us hope there will be a harvest of the seed which was planted.  In quite the same way, God's Word is a seed, deeply planted "inside" each of us, which one day begins to bring forth evidence of a little bit of growth indicative of a harvest yet to come.

I deeply love your Law! I think about it all day. Your laws never leave my mind, and they make me much wiser than my enemies. Thinking about your teachings gives me better understanding than my teachers, and obeying your laws makes me wiser than those who have lived a long time. I obey your word instead of following a way that leads to trouble. You have been my teacher, and I won’t reject your instructions. Your teachings are sweeter than honey. They give me understanding and make me hate all lies. (Psalm 119:97-104 CEV)

The Word of God is to be cherished - never taken for granted - consistently obeyed.  This is what love really is - obedience to the revealed will of the one we choose to willingly serve. Notice I used the words "choose" and "willingly".  Choice is a matter of selecting one thing over another.  In the case of serving Jesus, it is the choice of accepting him as the focus of our life rather than any other distraction presented in our path (and there are many distractions, just in case you have not noticed).  This is the crux of the first of the Ten Commandments given to Moses - have no other god.  Anything which demands our focus is our god.  Even if the "demanding one" is us!  Willingly suggests there is a purposeful commitment on our part to serve Jesus - it isn't just mindless adherence to some code or plan.  This is what biblical love is - a purposeful commitment to sacrificial action for another.  God demonstrated this love in his action on our behalf (the death of his Son, Jesus).  We demonstrate this love back to him in our purposeful denial of any distraction which takes us away from the center of his love.

David was known as a man after God's own heart.  I believe this may be because of his willingness to always keep God at "center" in his life.  This doesn't mean he never strayed from "center", though.  We only need to read the account his life in scripture to see he had some pretty awkward moments in his relationship with God.  There was a pretty dysfunctional period of time when he just spent month after month on the run from a madman set on destroying him.  Then there was the whole issue of sex outside of marriage (with another man's wife).  He experienced early grief in his married life with the lost of his infant son.  His kids didn't get along at times and even revolted against his leadership.  So, lest we think he enjoyed some privileged status of an "elite" believer, he did not.  He was a regular guy with pretty "normal" issues in his life - all those distractions we have to deal with in our own!  So, if he could get past these distractions, I honestly think we need to "tap into" how it was he did so.

First, he exemplifies for us the true heart of a worshiper.  He was never willing to let a distance grow between him and the one he loved.  He kept his relationship with God fresh and alive.  So many times we don't get much out of our time with Jesus simply because we have become too cavalier in approach to God.  We don't take time to reflect upon the condition of our heart, laying before him the things which really need to be dealt with that interfere with our closeness to his heart.  We somehow discount their importance and miss out on the fact they need to be dealt with at his feet.  If we want to develop the kind of heart which purposefully commits to actions on behalf of another, we have to purposefully deal with the things which keep us in a place of complacency, compromise, and "coolness" in our walk.

Second, he always turned to the Word of God as his source of both "help" when he needed to know if he was doing the right thing, going the right direction, or making the right choices. He knew the value of the Word - even those parts which he might not have known well, found a little hard to grasp, and got a little "weirded out" about.  God knew the passing down of the truths which reveal the depth of his love on our behalf would become "skewed" if left to humans to do the "telling" of the truths down through the ages.  So, he gave us this reference in writing - because we can always go back to the source to check out what anyone says!  If we don't take time to discover what is contained in those pages, it is like we are driving a new automobile without ever discovering what all the "buttons, lights, gauges, and levers" accomplish.  We settle for far less than what we were designed to enjoy!

Last, but not least, he used the Word of God as a guide by which he evaluated not only his actions, but those of others around him.  This helped him to keep from stumbling down paths which were neither designed for him, nor were they beneficial for him to travel in the first place.  A healthy relationship with God demands learning his heart's desire and there is no better way to do this than to discover that desire as revealed in his Word.  David understood this - so he pursued a knowledge of the Word of God, not just the words of the great philosophers or teachers of his time.  We can take a lesson here.  To get to know someone's heart, we have to go to that person.  We cannot learn of another's heart through another!  We experience it in the closeness of our own personal connection with that individual.  Just sayin!