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Tag: rejection

Courageous Love

Have you ever had a moment when you became overwhelmed with a greater awareness of the pure Love of God? It seems clear to me that more than a few hymn writers have experienced this, like Frederick Lehma who penned “The Love of God.” You might remember the chorus:

“O love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!ask
It shall forevermore endure
the saint’s and angel’s song.”

He recalled an experience in his youth while growing up in Iowa:

“One glad morning about eleven o’clock while walking up the country lane, skirted by a wild crab-apple grove on the right and an osage fence, with an old white-elm gate in a gap at the left, suddenly Heaven let a cornucopia of glory descend on the eleven-year-old lad. The wild crab-apple grove assumed a heavenly glow and the osage fence an unearthly luster.” This was more than an appreciation of the beauty of creation, for he became so captivated by the presence of God that he was filled with overwhelming joy and praise to Him. The love of God that engulfed him that day is expressed in this beautiful hymn.

Many such stories have been recorded where individuals were struck in a point in time with this sense of the wonderful, all-embracing love of God. We have come across them in songs, poems and personal testimonies. When we hear of the experiences of others, we can even share their joy as they remember and try to describe them. In years past, a portion of time was set aside in many church services for people to tell their personal stories of God’s goodness. How encouraging and uplifting were these times! Fortunately, in our time, many gatherings of small groups can still easily offer opportunities to share these kinds of testimonies.

From the biblical record and from my acquaintances I have learned that these experiences among believers is not all that uncommon. No two stories are identical but each one communicates that the personal presence of God is real to us. The earliest leaders in the church were known to remind their fellow believers of those precious moments in God’s presence. The believers were also urged to continue in His love by prayer, worship, fellowship and meditation on the scriptures. Paul specifically prayed that their awareness of the love of God would continually increase. In view of the wonderful and eternal purpose that God has for His church, Paul wrote these words:

Ephesians 3:14-19:

“14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, 16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.”

He also states these facts relating to believers in Christ:

Romans 5:1-5:

“Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. 3 And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; 4 and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; 5 and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”

At this time there might be some reading this that struggle with doubts and fears. Maybe the love of God seems distant, so distant that you can barely remember the time when He poured His love out upon you and within you. If so, I urge you to believe these words and to reach out to Him for a fresh outpouring of His love through a fresh infilling of His Holy Spirit. All He asks of you is that you humble yourself before Him, confess your sins and failures unto Him and believe Him for healing. Ask another believer to pray for you and with you as well. Draw near unto Him and He will draw near unto you. (James 4:6-9).

Foundational to Christian belief is that we cannot live righteously on our own. Foundational also is the fact that we can through trusting in Him live full, godly and righteous lives in Him! Everything He has taught us about life is summed up in one word: love. We are to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. (Mark 12:28-31, Luke 10:25-28, Romans 13:9-19, Galatians 5:14). We can only do this because He has put His love into our hearts. This is the New Covenant, where God is working within us to will and to do His good desires. (Ezekiel 36:25-27, Hebrews 8:8-12, Philippians 2:12-13).

For the past several years, peace seems to be getting further and further from us. Strife in general has increased to the point that people cannot even drive on the highway without being overcome with “road rage.” The tension between political and religious views during my lifetime has reached an all time high. I don’t know about you but I find all this very discouraging. Evil is real and cannot be ignored. How do we deal with it in light of the love and grace of God that we know? How do we avoid getting caught up in all the hatred and strife that we see all around us?

This has forced me to remember the importance of real, divine love. John and his brother James were given a nick-name by Jesus. They actually wanted to call fire down from heaven upon their opponents as did the prophet Elijah. Jesus called them the “Sons of Thunder” because of their brashness. He had to remind them that He had come not to destroy lives but to save them! (Luke 9:56). How often do we even forget that He taught to love our enemies, to pray for them and to even do good to them?

The amazing thing about this story is how John would later change. After Herod executed his brother James, one might expect him to become even more revengeful. In fact he would suffer many forms of injustice in his life time. The main difference would come after the ascension of Jesus when John was filled with the Holy Spirit. (Acts 1:8) The love of God was poured out in his heart by the Spirit of God! Now he would be known as the apostle of love.

He later wrote:

“7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (1 John 4:7-8 NIV)

The love that Jesus and His apostles spoke of is not the same love that most people mean today when they speak of love. The ancient Greek language actually had 6 different words for love. In the bible “phileo” is used in reference to friendship, but “agape” is used in the context of God’s pure and unselfish love. In our modern times the Greek word “eros” would best describe the love that people experience when they “fall in” and “fall out” of love for one another. It is an emotion for sure, but it is fleeting and usually more sensual than phileo.

Some people are realizing that agape, this deeper, more unselfish love can be tough. This is the kind of love most found in the bible. God corrects those He loves. God offered His only Son as a sacrifice for sin because He loves the world. This is that love that He has poured out upon us. This is the love that through Him has filled our hearts! Do you believe in the power of God to fill you with love, divine love for everyone? Remember those who sang that old, old song, “Give me that old time religion, it makes me love everybody, it’s good enough for me?” They believed it!

When we allow the love of God that is in our hearts to work, we are challenged to “speak the truth in love.” Yes, there are a great number of voices in the earth eager to “speak the truth” with the wrong motivation. Maybe the goal is to humiliate the opponent. Maybe it is to simply win in the court of public opinion. Sadly, I fear that even in the Christian media there can be a financial motive. The more clever we can be, the greater the audience, the more influence one can gain, and along with it a more comfortable life. But at what cost? The result is often more division and strife in the world. We all lose.

At times love is gentle, and at other times it must be tough and even face rejection. The important thing is a clear conscience toward God that is void of offense toward humanity. If God so loves the world, then that must be our desire. Jesus said that the children of God are to be peacemakers. This requires a costly love, and a willingness to take risks. It comes from a perspective that is higher than my own. It is God’s perspective. It is a love that is rich and rewarding. It can and will be rejected. It can cause me personal pain, but love and service are a reward in themselves.

This is a love that dwells in the Kingdom of God and seeks to advance the righteousness, peace and joy of the Holy Spirit in the earth. It is a love that drives out the fears that bind us, and liberates us to live courageously for Christ. May God continue to reveal His love and express His love through us today!

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