What’s Love got to do With It?

Ahh February..the month of Love! February gives us Valentine’s Day; the holiday that causes most men more than a bit of anxiety. The average person will spend $126.03 this year on Valentine’s Day to show their love to their favorite person.  It is a holiday that people either “love” or “hate”. My son used to call it “singleness awareness” day.

It is wonderful to celebrate love of family and that special someone at Valentine’s Day. But it is unfortunate that even in the church we have     allowed our culture and media to define “love” for us.   Our culture today has us believing that love means if you meet my needs then I will love you.  I have been to more than one wedding ceremony to hear the bride and groom promise to stay together “as long as their love shall last.”

We need look no further than to the Creator of Love, God himself for the definition of love. 1 John 4:7 says that love is from God. Biblical love is an action word, not a feeling word. We have reduced love to a feeling that can come and go. Biblical love is based on covenant; a promise made and kept.

The word most often associated with God’s love for us is the Hebrew word hesed translated lovingkindness. Lamentations 3:22 says, “The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never ceases, For His compassions never fail.” Hesed it is not merely love, but loyal love; not merely kindness, but dependable kindness; not merely affection, but affection that has committed itself. It is most often used of someone “doing,” “showing,” or “keeping” hesed. Hesed expresses both God’s loyalty to His covenant and His love for His people along with faithfulness to keep His promises.

The first time we see the word love used in scriptures is in Genesis 22:2. The Scriptures tell us that God tested Abraham by asking him to offer up his son as a sacrifice.  He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.

 Isn’t it interesting that the first time God uses the word love it is the context of a father sacrificing his son. This is how our Heavenly Father showed His love towards us; by sacrificing His son, His only son, whom He loved. John 3:16 “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.

 What’s love got to with it? Everything; for we are to love one another with the same depth of love that the Father has shown to us. Jesus said to his disciples the night before he died.  “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. There is no greater love than this—that a man should lay down his life for his friends” John 15:9, 12-13. This too is to be a hesed kind of love; loyal, dependable, kind, committed, all shown by our actions.

This Valentine’s Day as you celebrate the ones you love; remember to give glory to your Heavenly Father the author of love and your Savior who put His love in action on the cross

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The Call of God

I was privileged to spend several days last summer with Danny and Philippa Brooks, missionaries to Palawan Philippines.  We had a wonderful time with them and their daughter Izzy. Our trip to see their village and meet the tribal people who they minister to was enlightening. They love their life and the people in their village. It is a hard life but a blessed life, one that they enjoy because they answered the call of God and are at home in His Will.

I realized after that visit that I was definitely not called to be a missionary in the jungle of the Philippines. However, as I contemplated Danny and Philippia’s call, I was reminded of God’s call on the life of Abraham.

In Genesis 12 God calls Abraham (then called Abram) to leave his comfortable home in Ur to travel to a new country and a new culture, inhabited with new people. Abraham was  75 years old when God first called him. He was definitely AARP age already, and yet that did not deter him from answering the call.

“Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing…and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

God speaks directly to Abraham and tells him (as the King James Version says) to “Get Out” of his  country and be a blessing to others. This is the first instance of God’s call on Abraham’s life. This call will come back to Abraham twelve times in the book of Genesis in various forms and at various times.  The interesting part is that God called Abraham to leave his country and as the book of Hebrews says, “he went out, not knowing where he was going.”(Hebrews 11:8)

Every believer in Jesus Christ has heard the call of God. It is a call initially to come to Jesus, to become one of God’s chosen daughters and sons. Then, just as with Abraham, God will repeat that call in another way and at another time with more instructions. Sometimes those instructions are more detailed but they are  always the same as Abraham’s.

What does it mean to answer the call of God? It means to get out not knowing where you are going. It means to realize that God blesses you so that you can be a blessing. A true Believer who follows God’s call will be changed. They will make decisions in their life, not based on what blesses them, but based on where you can most be a blessing. If you seek to be blessed you will be empty, but if you seek to bless others then God will bless you. The call of God reshapes you. If you live to fill others up then God will fill you up. How can we be a blessing? Being a blessing means Get Out: out of your house, out of your neighborhood, out of your church, out of your community, out of your country; and be a blessing by serving others.

My life has been defined by the call of God. When I was twelve years old, I sat at the graveside of my twin brother who entered eternity after three short years on earth. I wept and asked God why, why did he take my brother from me. God clearly spoke to me and said, “Sandy, you are asking the wrong question. It is not why I took your brother, but why I left you.” That call began my journey of seeking out God and His purpose for my life. At the age of 18, I heard another call from Him that said, “I want you in full-time Christian service for me.”  This was the beginning of my quest to “Get Out” of my town, my home, and leaving family, to pursue God’s plan for me, “not knowing where I was going.”

What does it take to answer that call of God?  It takes faith and obedience, two things that   defined Abraham’s life. At the very beginning of his life with God, God says to Abraham, “Go from your country and your people.” Abraham said, “Where”? God said “I will show you later, just go.” Later in his life, God will say to Abraham, “I am going to give you a son.”  Abraham replies, “How?” God says, “I will show you later, just trust”. And finally God says to Abraham, “Go to the top of the mountain and put your son to death”, and Abraham says “Why? And God says “I will show you later, just climb”.

This is the Christian life: Go, Trust, Climb. How could Abraham do this? Because as the writer of Hebrews says, “he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.” The call of God reshapes you, defines you, and relocates your citizenship. No longer are we citizens of this world, but we are citizens of Heaven; our outlook goes beyond this world to the hopeful expectation of the Savior who will come from Heaven, the Lord Jesus Christ.” God is calling you to get out; to go, trust, and climb on your journey to a new city where He waits for you.  Are you listening? He’s calling……