As we have moved into the New Year it seems like I am continually reminded of "without love, I am nothing," which of course is found in 1 Corinthians. Somebody will say something, or I will suddenly read something that reminds me that even though I may desire to do and see the "greater things",if I don't truly love as Jesus loved then it means very little or even nothing at all.
Last year, Kay and I enjoyed learning how to hear God's voice more clearly so that we could in turn bless people with words of God's love and His words of knowledge for them. There were also times when I experienced hearing prophetic things and had some very vivid dreams and when I awoke was left with no doubt that they had been sent by God. That had been a desire in my heart and I am reminded of how our dear friends, Larry and Ginger, prayed over me one early summer night in Wilmington, North Carolina for God to allow that to happen.
Kay, on the other hand, always seemed to have a gifting where God would show her a picture as she way praying for someone, which in turn would help her minister, or speak words of encouragement. There were times when that gift would lay dormant in her, but in 2010 as she opened up her heart to really seeking all that God wanted to develop in her, that gift exploded in her, even to the point to where I became kind of envious. (As I use that word I mean it in a good and humorous way. I'm not really jealous of my wife's gift.........well, maybe, sort of.......ha ha ha) I remember asking her one day, "Ok, while we were praying you said you saw a pine tree. Was it kind of just an image or an outline of a pine tree, or did you really see.....a pine tree?" To which she replied, "Oh no, I really saw a pine tree." That is just one of many examples. I remember thinking, "Oh my gosh, that is soo cool. God can I have that, too?!!" All these things have been so much fun and I mean really FUN. I truly believe God wants His kids to have more fun and enjoy the gifts and things that He gives us. There are times to be serious and there are times when ministry can be difficult, but there are many times to just laugh and enjoy. God knows what it takes to make the perfect balance.
However, as much fun as that all has been, the Lord seems to keep really driving home to me that without loving His people like Jesus did, all of that other stuff isn't worth anything. Let's be very honest here. It's easy to love family and friends. Even when one might do something to upset you, it usually is forgotten or forgiven relatively soon. However, when someone just grates and grates and grates on you, is mean, sometimes even almost hateful, wouldn't it be easier to just want to kick them in the teeth? How about when something goes wrong for them, isn't it much easier to think, "See, that will teach you. Think about THAT for awhile before you come talking to me!" Now, don't you dare raise a self righteousness hand to me and say, "Gosh, I'm above that. I never even have had thoughts like that!" You say that and God will get you next............ha.
Seriously think about it. We often say we love people, but it's love on our human terms. That love does have conditions. God's love isn't human, though. I used to think that no matter how hard I tried I would never be able to love like Jesus, because after all, Jesus is...well...God. That is a LIE OF THE DEVIL. To operate in the gifts of the Spirit isn't human either, is it? Yet we have no problem with that. I can't walk up to someone in a restaurant and say, "You are very soft hearted and I get a sense that because of that, people either take advantage of you, or you feel that they often do," which actually happened on Mother's Day last year in Pennsylvania. I wasn't able to do that with human understanding. Being able to minister to that young woman that day was heaven sent. I don't have the ability to just do that on my own. I could try, but I would end up looking like a fool. It's the same with love. I could try to unconditionally love people with my own understanding, but that would be a fool's dream. I need Jesus to teach me how to do that. I often comment that the Word teaches that we are to act just like Jesus. When I say that I often think about how Jesus laid hands on people; healed people; cast out demons in people. That sounds fun and exciting, but how about the many times that Jesus was simply moved with love and compassion. How about Jesus being able to look with love on those who were killing Him and truly have the look of love? That's what made Jesus so compelling to the common man. Would I be able to do that at the point of death?
We often hear of families that lost a loved one who was murdered. It is very rare, but every once in awhile you will hear of say a mother, who in the court room looks at the one who murdered her son or daughter and says, "I forgive you." To be able to do that is not human. That kind of love can only come from God. Could you love someone who would murder a son or daughter? It's better that we not even think about that right now. It's better that we start by thinking first of the people who really irritate us, or maybe don't like us and they let you know that they don't like you. How do we react to them? Will we pray for them? Isn't is easier to think, "You will get what you deserve......just wait."
I really want to be just like Jesus. I'm supposed to be. I really want to have that love which Christ had on the cross. I'm not just spewing words out just to sound good. God knows my heart and in His wisdom I believe that He sometimes allows opportunities to be stretched and to grow. Sometimes the learning can be hard, but in the end it is so well worth it. Recently, I've had a few occurrences to where I know in my heart that I received some very unjust treatment. It happened twice in one day in fact and they were both two completely different situations. To be honest, I felt kind of beat up. To be honest the man within the body of Mark was very angry when this happened. Instead of love, there was bitterness, especially because one of the situations could bring some hardship, not only to me, but also for my wife and son. Remember when I said that God knows my heart about wanting to love? I know this to be true, because instead of leaving me on my own to stew about this, the Holy Spirit went to work on me. I hadn't been driving very long after the one incident and I sensed the Holy Spirit remind me that this was my chance. Instead of deep in the secret places of my heart (that nobody else can see) wanting justice or revenge, would I instead desire love and blessings for someone? Instead of wanting for others to know how badly I was wronged, to just be quiet about it never to let it be brought to light. It was like God was saying to me with a loving chuckle, "Son, I know what you want, but it's not going to be easy. Sometimes the learning is going to be hard."
I know that I am growing, though. I know that I am reaching for the goal and that God sees the sincerity. There was a time where in those deep secret places of my heart where nobody can see, that I would have been wishing for revenge. The anger would have festered on the inside, but on the outside people would have seen the face of someone trying to look like he had it all together. The always caring shepherd, so gently loving. Yea, ok, whatever....ha ha ha. This time though, I am allowing the Holy Spirit to cut and carve out the things in my heart that the flesh doesn't want to give up. It is not easy. There is a battle of wills to want to hold on. But the will of the flesh has begun to lose. Maybe I haven't completely arrived, but I am on my way and God is saying, "Let's go! You want to be more like My SON, so.....keep moving!"
............after all, without love I am just making a lot of noise.
Remember, this kind of love often comes with a price. But it is a price well worth the effort. Love involves action that is needed when we see the oppressed, homeless, desperate, sick and poor. Loving with Jesus' love knows no bounds.
"Learn to do good; seek justice, rebuke te oppressor, defend the fatherless, plead for the widow." Isaiah 1:17
Love, God's love, will conquer all. Maybe the result won't be seen immediately, but eventually it will and when we allow that kind of love to exist, everything else will just fall into place.
Blessings, love and growth for all in 2011,