Thursday, June 24, 2010

Devoted Love: Adorning Your Heart Part 4

~There are so many beautiful qualities in Scripture, its hard to pick and choose what to talk about this week. Mostly I've just been writing about what comes to mind, what is on my heart at that moment. And for some reason I've had devotion and love in my thoughts today.

Devotion - the act of devoting, devotion of time and energy, the fact or state of being ardently dedicated and loyal...

~Are we dedicated to God? We've talked about the importance of staying close to God through reading His word - but what else can be said for the heart commitment of steadfast devotion. Do you want to read a heart wrenching story of devotion, the likes of which I can only pray would be given to me in such a situation? 

 "The young, brown-eyed girl looked up at her mother. What would her mom decide? Earlier that morning, the young girl’s mother, their pastor, and twenty-six others in her North Korean village of GokSan were bound and taken before a screaming crowd of Communists. One of the guards ordered Pastor Kim and the other Christians, “Deny Christ, or you will die.” The words chilled her. How could they ask her to deny Jesus? She knew in her heart he was real. They all quietly refused. Then the Communist guard shouted directly at the adult Christians, “Deny Christ, or we will hang your children.” 

The young girl looked up at her mother. She gripped her hand knowing how much her mom loved her. Her mother then leaned down. With confidence and peace she whispered, “Today, my love, I will see you in heaven.” All of the children were hanged. The remaining believers were then brought out onto the pavement and forced to lie down in front of a large steamroller. The Communists gave them one last chance. “Deny this Jesus or you will be crushed.” The Christians had already given up their children; there was no turning back. As the driver started the heavy piece of equipment, the singing from the villagers started softly. “More love, O Christ, to thee, more love to thee.” 

More. It’s what God gave when he sent his Son. More. It’s what Jesus gave when he was crucified. More. It’s what believers give simply out of love for Christ. They want to give more to the One who gave so much to them. In a worldly age that values giving only what one must to get by, believers set a new standard. “More love to thee” is more than just words in a traditional hymnal. It’s a lifestyle without limit. Each day is a path of discovering how to give more love to Jesus Christ. For some believers, this path has led to their death. For others, “more love to thee” has meant financial sacrifice. What does “more love to thee” mean to your everyday life?" Extreme Devotion, Voice of the Martyrs.

~This was devotion of the kind only God can give in times of extreme testing, and by His grace they passed the test. These dear brothers and sisters are resting in the arms of Jesus, where He wipes away every tear from their eyes. How much easier it should be to have devotion to God in our everyday life, with our everyday decisions, than to face death for our beliefs. Yet we so often fail in the little things, the little tests. And one of the hardest of those things is love.

‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ " Mathew 2:37-39

  ~In John Pipers book "Desiring God" he describes love in two ways. One, is vertical, between us and God. The other is horizontal, between us and man. He goes on to say that horizontal love between people is an extension of the vertical love between God and us. "Love is the overflow of joy in God that gladly meets the needs of others". Gladly. Meets. Overflow. Joy. All words from the heart - we cannot love others if we do not love God. We cannot meet the needs of others unless our needs have been met in God (not going elsewhere to be fulfilled). To be able to love our family, friends, unsaved neighbors, strangers on the street, we must first have a heart that loves God. And a heart that loves God is devoted to Him.

Love - warm attachment, enthusiasm, or devotion. Unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another.

~Love and devotion seem to go hand in hand. We cannot truly say we love someone, unless we are concerned with their concerns, enthusiastic for their joys, sorrowful for their woes. When we love someone we cannot sit idly by when they are in need. We want to meet that need, we want to share what we have - even if it is little. At least, this is what love should look like. Unfortunately we do not always share the love God has poured into us with those in our lives.

~There are so many different facets of love, ways love can or should be expressed to others, and types of love, that I'm not even going to attempt to list them all here. Its simply beyond my insufficient mental powers to imagine the entire scope of ways that love can affect us in our walk with the Lord. I know it has saved me, as it has saved every child of God, I know that it continues to work in me; sanctifying me, challenging me, pushing me, overfilling my cup so that I must share it with others. In narrowing it down I think I know one area that many of us could relate too, and I certainly know I can!

Love for those who are difficult to love.

~This is a toughie. Its not easy to love someone who is simply unlovable. (Another issue is that the problem is often us!) But "more love to thee" in our daily life may very well be extending the love God gave to us - while we were still sinners.

"But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Romans 5:8

~Last night we were reading together from Luke 15, and after reading the part about the Pharisees complaining that Jesus was eating with "tax collectors and sinners", we stopped to discuss the Lords reply. Jesus told three stories about finding lost things, a shepherd and his sheep, a woman and her coin, and a father with his son. Each of them, shepherd, woman, and father, did not sit idly by - they searched for, they ran to meet, the lost one. Why? Because that thing was valuable to them, they treasured it. How much do we value the unlovable people in our life? They may be lost, they may be going through a time of sin, but do we try to reach out and show them Gods love?

~I think one of the biggest problems in learning to love others, is that we value ourselves more than them. Our priorities need to change. We need to value their joy, their comfort, their happiness, the same as we value our own. In fact, that should be key to our joy. Here's an interesting response Jesus gives concerning the joy even the angels have when a sinner repents.

"I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance." Luke 15:7

~The angels find joy in repentant sinners. God finds joy in repentant sinners. We should find joy in repentant sinners. And if we want that joy, we seek after it by loving the unlovable, and extending the same to them that we are overflowing with from God. Here's some pointers I came up with for myself.

Don't walk away when I see the unlovable person coming
Spend more time praying for the needs of the unlovable person
Be initiative in starting conversations
Practice gracious speech, if necessary "rehearse" this in my mind
Remind myself of my own failings as a sinner, and cultivate gratefulness that God loves me 
Wear a smile, as much as possible, instead of a frown, when talking to them (This goes a long way dealing with siblings that like to annoy!)
Make sure I value them, by listening to their interests, and taking time out of my day to show them I care
Eat with them - ask to join them when I see they are alone

~All these are good in theory, but, may take lots of time and consistent practice to see any fruit. If ever. We are not called to love people only if they love us in return; regardless of whether or not the unlovable person ever comes round we must continue to display another adornment - patience. (Not going into that one right now!) Love is displayed by affectionate devotion, and concern. Which brings us full circle. Devotion and love to God should spill over in devotion and love to each other. Love is one of the greatest spiritual gifts, if not the greatest.

"Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never fails...And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these
is love." 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, 13
In Christ,

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