Love’s Gonna Cost You

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not
proud. It is not rude, 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. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there
are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away, 1 Corinthians 13:4-8.

Love is a gift. Those are the words that ring in my mind when I think of love. It’s a gift. Jesus paid the ultimate price for our freedom and it was/is the greatest gift we could ever receive. He also gave us a great gift, the Holy Spirit. Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send Him to you, John 16:7. We cannot love like God without the help of the Holy Spirit. It’s impossible. This Helper (the Holy Spirit) is a person. A person who will help us to love one another.

When you read the verses about love it’s challenging. It’s perfect love. It’s God’s love. It’s available to us 24/7 when we walk in the Spirit. He loves perfectly all the time.

I confess I struggle with love even with the Holy Spirit. I often ask God why? Since the Holy Spirit lives in me, and He’s the most powerful Being in the Universe, why is love so hard? Answer: Love costs us dearly. We are still living in these fleshly bodies that don’t want to continually sacrifice. It costs us pride to serve, love, and forgive. It cost us time to invest in people. It costs us energy to carry another person’s burden. It costs us resources to help a person in need. It costs us dearly to put another person’s needs above our own. Love’s gonna cost you. And if you really step out to love the way God loves, you open yourself up to be extremely vulnerable. Jesus was vulnerable to people. You will be vulnerable as well if you love deeply, and purely as He loves.

The good news. Real love is the most powerful force in the Universe. God is love, and when you love you are imitating Him. Love doesn’t always feel good. It doesn’t always make us warm and fuzzy inside. However, it is an indicator of who our Father is. If we abide in Him, than love abides in us.

My prayer for you this week is that God floods your heart with an abundance of His love and you tap into His love for you and others. You are loved more than you can imagine!

The Single Reality (Part 10)

To Date or Not to Date, That is The Question?

Today we will tackle the topic of Christian dating? Who’s excited? I hope you are. First let me say that much of what will be sharing is based on my own experiences and experiences of people I know. You have to decide on your own with God what’s best for you.  The Bible doesn’t talk much about courtship in how to (the 10 commandments of dating). Paul did encourage those who were burning with desire to marry instead of simply hook-up. Well, not exactly his words, but you get what I am saying. We are told what not to do, but what about what we are supposed to do.

Here’s my top 10 dating tips:

1. Find out who you are alone first. It’s easy to try find another person to validate or fill a void. However, if you date to heal low self-esteem you will attract another person with low self-esteem and insecurities. Two insecure people makes for a roller coaster relationship. Trust me on this one. Let God heal you; love, respect, and accept yourself, and then add another person.

2. Keep pursuing Jesus! God knows where you are and will most likely align your life with someone headed in the same direction. He brings people together who compliment each other and can help one another. Some of the happiest couples I’ve met have met each other while serving God. Their paths crossed and they built a friendship. Their friendship evolved into a romantic relationship. They weren’t looking; God had their paths cross.

3. Leave the house. Some people like the online dating sites. I have no opinion on them. Pray and decide what’s best for you. I know people who have met their spouse online and they are happy. Some people have had no luck. With that said, if you never leave the house, you’re probably not going to meet anyone. I am not advocating making yourself super busy to meet someone. I am advocating living! Find things you like to do and do them. Join a gym, take a class, join a group, get going. I’ve found angels don’t deliver people to your doorstep, though I’ve never asked so who knows. I doubt though that God will FedEx your spouse to you. 🙂

4. Find out about that person’s walk with Jesus. Many people go to church who do not know Jesus. They know of Him, but they have no deep relationship with Him. Where are you in your walk with God? Do you want someone to spur you on, challenge you to grow stronger in your faith, pray and interceed for you, someone who loves like Jesus? Those qualities come from abiding in Christ. If the person you’re interested in isn’t passionate about Jesus, then why would you want to hitch your life to them?

5. Build a friendship, wait for romance and too much intimacy. Movies make it romantic and glamorous to fall in love in 20 seconds and live happily ever after. Well, that works in the movies, it does not always work in real life. People immediately want to kiss, hold hands, share their soul and deepest thoughts. There is nothing wrong with those activities. However, if friendship (platonic) is not the first thing built, then your foundation is not as solid. Friendship is what will hold your relationship together when the romance has subsided. The sooner you introduce physical or emotional intimacy, the more difficult it is to get out of the relationship if it isn’t right. It also makes it more difficult to see the flaws in the other person, things you may need to address before your heart is entangled. God created us to link up and join with people forming strong bonds. Intimacy fortifies (strengthens) those bonds. Once they are formed, it’s not easy to walk away. Also, if someone cannot be a good friend to you, do you want to have a romantic relationship with them?

6. Trust your gut. Sometimes we know someone is not right for us, but we continue on in a relationship just to be in one. Well, if we know it isn’t right we are wasting another persons time and our time. I dated someone who on paper looked great, but something in my gut said, “Red Flag. Abort…He’s not the right person for you.” I prayed and asked God to show me who this guy really was. Glad I asked. There were several deal breakers, and I saved myself from future heartache.

7. Set boundaries, have accountability. We are not immune to temptation. So plan ahead for it. Don’t simply go with flow and think you’ll able to make the right choice. In the moment you may not be able to. It’s better to prepare ahead of time and tell the other person what your boundaries are, than to fall into temptation or sin. It’s good to have a trustworthy friend you can confide in and seek counsel from as well. Someone who won’t go blabbing your business to everyone.

8. Please don’t date if you don’t want to get married. A non-Christian can get away with this. Most Christian singles date to find a mate. So, if you know you aren’t ready, don’t want to, or don’t see yourself marrying the person interested in you, don’t date. I’ve made this mistake before. I dated people with no intention of ever marrying them or anyone. I was more interested in traveling, following passions and dreams, etc…I had no desire at all to be married, yet I was dating people. I told them I wasn’t interested in marriage at the time, and I think some thought I’d change my mind or something. Then things just got awkward and people were disappointed when they realized I meant what I said. I liked the people I was spending time with and the friendship was good. However, I did not want to be married and we are to be good stewards of people’s hearts. I was doing a horrible job.

9. Dont just get to know the person, get to know their friends and family. A person who cannot sustain any healthy friendships with other Christians is a big red flag. There needs to be someone who knows the person and can vouch for them. It’s easy to hide crazy. However, people are more themselves around their closest friends and family. If they cannot build a healthy relationship with someone who they are not romantically involved with, then be concerned.

10. Take your time. Everything in our society is fast paced. People are always in a hurry. However, when it comes to your future, you have the right to take your time. Marriage is supposed to be until death. That’s a long time. Imagine 50 years with someone you can’t stand. People also put their best foot forward the first year or two they know you. I’m not saying you need to date for 5 years then get married. I am saying that people are out to impress when they first meet you. It takes time to know who they really are. Ask questions. Find out how they handle stress, money, life…get to know the person. Goes back to numbers 5, 6, and 9.

Lastly, God said that He does exceedingly and abundantly above all we could ask or imagine. Don’t settle for so-so, or okay, or good enough if you want exceptional. Exceptional doesn’t mean perfect, but it means perfect for you. The person who compliments you. The person who’s an amazing person to you. The person who’s inner beauty is more radiant than their outer beauty. A person you could imagine growing old and sharing everything with… You’re worth it!!!!

Love Yourself

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these, Mark 12:31. 

Good morning! I hope you all had a great weekend. This devotion focuses on you. Yes, you. Loving yourself. It’s been taught that to focus on oneself is sin or selfish and to be a martyr for Jesus is the most noble of all things. Here’s an inside tip:

We cannot love our neighbor if we don’t love ourselves. You cannot give away what you do not possess. It’s impossible. God wants you to love and accept yourself. He also wants you to take care of yourself; mind, body, and soul. God heals and He restores, but if we continually abuse the bodies He has given us, allow our minds to be polluted with garbage, and neglect our emotional needs, then we will continue to suffer. Also, a drowning person cannot save a drowning person. Therefore, we are expected to go to God with our needs and get them met and take care of ourselves.  We are expected to take care of ourselves and love the person God made.

Many fear taking care of themselves for fear of being selfish. Well, a healthy person is far more capable of helping others than a sick and broken person.

Here are some other tidbits on why it is important to love yourself.

1.      What We Project Is What We Attract. If we don’t love ourselves, we attract people who don’t love themselves. Two broken people leads to more brokenness. Each person seeks their emotional needs to be met primarily by someone else which creates a tremendous burden. The focus is what the other person can do to make the other one feel okay. It can lead to co-dependency and dependant relationships. Instead of, “I Love You,” it’s “I need you.” Two broken people don’t make a whole person, two whole people make a whole person. Also bullies, manipulators, controlling, and abusive personalities are attracted to people who don’t love themselves or are weak willed. 

2.      We Allow Ourselves To Be Mistreated. I have met so many people who refuse to stand up for themselves because they feel it’s unloving. When we allow people to mistreat us we are making a statement that we don’t value ourselves. There is a difference between turning the other cheek (not seeking revenge or to return the same treatment) and allowing yourself to be abused, belittled, and mistreated. Think of it this way, is your behavior helping the other person see Jesus or furthering the gospel? If not and you are laying down and allowing people to walk on you for no reason, it’s a problem. God wants you, hear me out, to be treated well. He wants you surrounded by people who will love you the way He does. If everyone around you treats you poorly, you may be part of the problem. What we tolerate is what we are telling people we deserve. Love is not enabling bad behavior. Love points to truth. Sometimes you have to say to someone, “I love you, but I will not allow you to treat me this way. These are our boundaries and if you want a relationship then please adhere to them.” 

3.      We Don’t Value or Honor Others. When we don’t value ourselves, we don’t value or honor others. It goes back to the, “You can’t give away what you don’t have.” A person who does not love themselves, cannot love anyone else. The people I have met who have done the best job at honoring, loving, and respecting others have been the people who love themselves. They excel at giving honor, because they know that they are valuable, therefore others are valuable.  

4.      We Are Stewards Not Owners. Our bodies belong to God. It is the temple where the Holy Spirit lives (1 Cor. 6:19). We are expected to take care of ourselves. In church we focus on getting our minds right, meditating on God’s word, and making sure our spirits are right. There is less focus on being healthy physically. I have been convicted at how I treat my body: lack of sleep, lack of water, lack of eating healthy food. I’d cry out, “God I am so tired, please help me.” And His response was, “Drink more water.” No joke. So, sometimes our sickness is our doing. Ouch! But true. We don’t own these bodies, they belong to the Lord, and He cares how we treat them. 

5.      God Loves You More Than You Love You. Sometimes we think God only cares about our spirit. Wrong. He cares who our friends are. He cares how we feel. He cares about every single detail. He cares more than anyone else. What matters to us, matters to Him. If God loves us so much and He cannot lie, then why can’t we love ourselves? It is not pride to value oneself. It’s healthy. Bill Johnson quote, “Self deprecation is not humility, it is the most subtle form of pride.” We have taught people to put themselves down to be humble, but what we are saying to God when we self deprecate is this, “You make junk. You are not perfect in wisdom. You are not the most intelligent, creative, Being on the planet.” Humility is a right assessment of oneself in relation to God. Humility is saying, “I am wonderfully made by God. He is the reason I am gifted, talented,….etc…” All Glory goes to Him. 

Well, that’s a wrap folks. I hope and pray that your week overflows with the love, joy, peace, and hope of Jesus. You are deeply loved, today and every day. You have a divine purpose for being alive.

God made you awesome! You are not less than or more than, you are equal in value to those around you.

Abba, I pray for healthy confidence based on who we are in You. Help us to have identities that are firmly rooted in Christ. May we be healthy physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Heal us from the inside out, and put us on display for Your Glory. May we see ourselves and others through Your eyes. Impart boldness, confidence, hope, and wisdom. Fill us up, then pour us out. I ask for divine healing, restoration, and freedom! In Jesus mighty name, Amen.

The Single Reality (Part 9)

Is Our House Divided?

A house divided against itself cannot stand, Mark 3:25

Today, I wanted to talk about something that touches my heart- Division within the Body of Christ. We learn from childhood to separate things into categories and lump things that are similar together. It is engrained into our minds to put labels on people and to associate with people who are similar. Our eyes have been trained to separate what is different. It can be a detrimental thing, for a house divided against itself cannot stand. Division is a way to destroy something or minimize its strength. Unity is powerful. One of the reasons I started this series was due to numerous blogs for married couples, engaged couples, those dating, and I could find very few that focused on single life as a Christian. If I did find one, they were geared towards getting a person to the altar instead of living a fulfilled life as a single person.

We Are In This Together….

As part of one race, the human race, we are all connected and sharing a planet. As part of Christ’s body, we are all connected by God’s Spirit. We belong to one another. In relation to single people versus married people we have some obstacles to overcome.

1. Separate Fellowship. Single and married people are to fellowship together within the body. God never intended for singles to only interact with singles and married people to only interact with other married people. He has a view of unity and community where His entire church body comes together and works together to give the world a picture of what He is like. Both groups are equal in His eyes. He sees one body, not a divided one. One is not more important that the other. They are to work together to display His Glory.

2. Isolation. I’ve met many single people who feel more and more isolated as their friends get married. Some lose their friends. Some have no community or family of their own. God never intended for anyone to feel left out, isolated, or without community. Check out the verses below from the church in Acts.

The Fellowship of the Believers

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved, Acts 2:42-47.

The church was unified and they grew. They helped each other and supported one another. This is a true picture of a house undivided.

3. My Status Is Better Than Your Status. What a great way to keep us from loving one another than to create a world of, “My status is better than your status.” Our identity cannot be rooted in our status. Our  identity is to rooted in Christ. If our identity is rooted in Christ then we view others as a part of our spiritual family. In His eyes, we are all His children, all heirs; no status is more valuable or important. There is no “us” versus “them”. Neither status makes us greater in God’s eyes.

4. My Family Versus God’s Family. Having our own families, caring for them, and making them a priority is important. However, there is God’s family that we are called to invest in as well. Investing in His family can include serving, volunteering, making disciples, and/or developing friendships. In God’s eyes all who are in Christ are family.  We may not want to invest in anyone other than our own biological family, but we have another family as well, our spiritual family.

Prayer:

Abba, I pray that our identities are rooted in You. May we be unified and not divided. Help us to see each other through Your eyes. Help us to view single life or married life the way You do. May our eyes be fixed on You. In Jesus name, Amen.

The Single Reality (Part 8)

Purity in an Over-Sexed World

We live in a world that is obsessed with sex. Yes, I said the s word. God created sex and created it to be good. Everything He created is good. The problem comes when anything God intended for good is used outside the boundaries He put in place. He is smarter than we are. He knows that if we are allowed to do whatever we want, it will lead to disaster. He’s right. We have tv shows promoting teens having sex, when they can’t even drive a car or vote. We have people saying, “Do whatever feels right to you. If it feels good do it!” We live in a world where children and women are being held against their wills and are trafficked for sex. People are cheating on their spouses, addicted to pornography, and even children are being exploited. People have access to any and everything, more than any generation in history. All this over saturation has led us to a place of being desensitized. What God created for good is being used for evil.

So, why is God so concerned with purity in thought and deed?

A. Lust is never satisfied. God knows that self indulgence does not lead to freedom, but to bondage. Anything we feed grows. Anything we starve dies. Our appetites are not quenched by indulging in whatever activity our body craves. Hunger creates more hunger. Lust is destructive because it is rooted in selfishness. A person can be single or married and struggle with lust. It is not limited to sexual activities. A person can lust for what someone else has (coveting), or lust for power (pride), or lust for money (greed). It is a strong desire to take for oneself. It is not giving, lust takes.

B. Purity is rooted in love. God is love. Love is not selfish. Love wants what is best for the other person. Love does not reduce a person to an object for pleasure. Love elevates a person to a place of honor. Love seeks to serve, sacrifice, and give. Purity is an essence of God. Purity of thought leads to purity in deeds. Paul encouraged us to take every thought captive and make it obedient to God’s word, 2 Corinthians 10:5. God’s way is the right way whether we want to adhere to it or not. He knows that not choosing His way leads to destruction.

What about my hormones and urges….?

Okay so I’ve been alive long enough to have been asked this question, and I am the oldest sibling with teenage siblings. A sex drive (the desire to have sex with someone) is not evil. It’s what you do with those desires. You can meditate on them and allow them to control your life. Or you can focus on love. Love is willing to wait. Lust wants immediate gratification. Love is patient. Lust is impulsive. Love wants God’s way. Lust wants its own way. God isn’t cruel. He does not give humans a desire to mate and then laugh when they can’t. If asked, He will help any person to maintain self-control. One of the fruits of the Spirit is self-control.

Won’t marriage cure my cravings?

Well, it depends. We tell people that getting married solves a lust problem, but it doesn’t. No more than going to a buffet cures an over-eating problem. Lust is a heart issue. If the desire to please self is more important than loving another person, then it will exist even after there’s a proper outlet for it.

How do I remain pure in an over-sexed world?

1. Take inventory of what you are feeding your mind. We spoke of this a few weeks ago. What you feed your mind is what it will meditate on and garbage in=garbage out. Our spirits are affected by what we see and hear.

2. Prayer. I put prayer second because you can pray but if you don’t take inventory of what you’re taking in, you are defeating the purpose. God will help anyone who asks for help. He’s also the most powerful Being in the Universe. He will not allow a person to be tempted without providing a way of escape, 1 Corinthians 10:13.

3. Accountability. Even the strongest person benefits from accountability. Whether you are single, dating, or married, there needs to be someone you can trust with any struggles, who can ask the difficult questions and hold you accountable to purity. It’s one of the benefits of being in community. I recommend a trustworthy, loving person.

4. Boundaries. Sometimes people fall because there are no boundaries. They don’t set boundaries in advance. If they are dating, they just go along with the flow until there’s an “Oops.” Plan ahead to protect the person you are dating. How can you help them remain pure? Love protects. Love isn’t seeking its own pleasure but what is beneficial for the other person.

Father I pray for every person who reads this blog to have a purified heart and mind. Remove anything that would hinder love, pure love. May we have a deeper revelation of Your love and understand the power we have in You to do all things. In Jesus name, Amen.

Next time we will talk about dating…Have a great week friends.