Love in the Church

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
John‬ ‭13‬:‭34-35‬

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Jesus said that people we know the church by their love for one another. Over the last several days I’ve talked about how real love is supernatural. That only through God, who IS love, is it possible to love deeply and unconditionally. You would think because He is love His church would be marked by love. People should notice a stark difference between the church and the rest of the world. We have the power to love like no one else and the world should be amazed by the way we live one another. “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

This however is not the reality in the church I see today, at least not the American church. There is so much materialism, jealousy, bitterness, unforgiveness, self-righteousness, pride, insecurity, hypocrisy, and numerous other sinful behaviors that lead us to either leave the church altogether or end up divided into cliques of people that look very similar to much of our culture. Today while listening to one of my favorite podcast (In the Market with Janet Parshall) I was struck by this quote.

“And what’s powerful about this is the kind of love we are talking about is not the kind of love you share with people who are just like you. Sometimes people want to say ‘hey, I get together with my friends and we have a good time. We talk about spiritual things and that’s my church.” I love the way one theologian put it. He said basically ‘If you are just loving people who are like you that’s nothing more than self love spread over a slightly wider area.’ Now what’s supernatural is when you begin to love people from different class backgrounds, racial backgrounds, people who are coming out of different lifestyles, when people who otherwise have nothing in common except for Christ are loving each other deeply.”

 

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This is harder than I thought…

So it’s day 9 of the #write31days journey and I’m beginning to rethink my decision to join.  Wow, is it hard to write on a single topic for 31 days.  I spent two hours today writing a beautiful post and then realized while making dinner for my family that I was not ready to post it.  It may pop up on the blog later but today was not that day so for the last half hour I’ve been racking my brain for what to write on abiding in love.  I decided I’d be honest. I’m not even halfway through and I’m struggling.  Not just to post but even to think of ways to show people love every day.  It’s really hard.  Part of the reason I decided to do this was because I knew I wasn’t good at it.  I knew it would be hard to do.  So far planning meals for the month is easy peasy loving on people however… not so much.  It’s sad when the most important things we are commanded to do as Christians, Jesus called them the greatest commandments, to love the father with all your heart and to love others more than yourself (Matt. 22:36-40), seem nearly impossible to accomplish.

I believe that honesty and transparency amazing ways to love someone.  To be honest for their good.  C.S. Lewis said “Love is not an affectionate feeling, but a steady wish for the loved persons ultimate good.”  When we are transparent with people not only about their lives but about our own it makes them feel comfortable to be honest with us.  It creates a relationship where both parties feel safe to be themselves and fosters opportunities to grow.  So this is me trying to be open with you.  I’ve said before love is hard but by God’s grace I can be better.  I hope you continue to walk with me through the rest of October I hope we can grow together.

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Keeping it Simple

I haven’t had a lot of time to think about what to write today so when I was considering a topic I thought to myself  “It’s going to be short and sweet.”  Love can be a deep and complex topic.  It can be super complicated to love someone.  In fact people refer to their relationships as “complicated” quite frequently.  Love is not always simple, but it can be.  We don’t always have to make grand gestures to show people we love them.  Loving someone can be as simple as praying for them.  It can mean forgiving someone who really doesn’t deserve it, spending time with a friend, or just listening.  There don’t have to be gifts or sonnets and the best part is when we simplify love it makes it easier for us to show love.

So today don’t try to think of hard ways to give love.  Think of simple, straightforward, tangible things you can do.  This way, today, we can show more than just one person that they are loved.

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Grace in Love

So yesterday I did not post. I failed the challenge. I didn’t forget. I had one of those “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day” kind of day. You know the kind of day that nothing seems to go the way you plan. Pretty much everything went wrong most of the day and when I finally had a chance to sit and write a post which was at about 11:15 last night I decided to sleep instead. It’s amazing though, because while on the surface the day appeared bad God broke through, as He usually does, and revealed His boundless grace.

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I try to keep my feed positive and mostly work related but today has been a battle. Homeschooling was ridiculous this morning and I experienced possibly one of the worst grocery shopping trips of my life this afternoon… After changing back into sweatpants when I got home (I had basically given up at this point) I went to pour myself coffee and noticed my mug from the lovely @pnzdesigns . Grace, that was exactly what I needed. "But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭12‬:‭9‬ ESV) #grace #HisGraceIsSufficient #bestmugever

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I was reminded yesterday, in the midst of everything, on my fifth cup of coffee, of grace. The definition of grace is “the free and unmerited favor of God.” (Oxford Dictionaries, Bing) I remembered how short I had been with my daughter when we were doing her school that morning. I thought about how I had pushed and pushed when I was trying to get things done that afternoon and how defeated and angry I had been at the grocery store. My poor kids. I had been complaining and storing up these self-centered emotions completely absorbed with what was happening to me.

In those moments God reminded me of my weakness. This month I am writing on love and yesterday I neglected to show love to the little people that mean the most to me. I wasn’t hateful but I definitely wasn’t loving. I forgot about grace. I forgot that as a parent my kids see Christ in me. I’m shaping their view of love! One of the most beautiful aspects of God’s love is that it is undeserved. It doesn’t matter what my kids did yesterday. Showing God’s love in the midst of disobedience is so important. I wasn’t calm by any stretch of the imagination. I didn’t think through my words and my actions. I was controlled by my circumstances and not by the Spirit. In my brokenness God always shows me grace and I was unwilling to do that with my children.

I love 2 Corinthians 2:9:

“But He said to me,
‘My grace is sufficient for you,
for my power is made perfect in weakness.’
Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses,
so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”

I’m incredibly thankful that God can use my weakness for His glory. Today if I can encourage you in anything show grace. People need to know that our love is not contingent on the things they do. We are Christ followers and that means by His grace we can love like no one else and through that love we can lead others into a relationship that will literally change their lives forever.

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Resting in Love

Sundays are typically a day to recover from the week for our family. Monday through Saturday can sometimes seem a like a endless struggle. We are constantly going, trying to be better, do more, and get just a little more out of our frazzled schedules. But Sundays, they are our days of sweet rest. We normally have the kids rest in their rooms for an hour or two so my husband and I have time to reconnect and normally veg out on the couch me with my coffee and he with his tea. I can’t tell you how much I need Sundays. After a week of homeschooling , running a small business, and trying to keep my house together they are a necessity. There is nothing like just laying on the couch in my husbands arms resting. The last few days I’ve talked about how to love others. Yesterday I touched on the fact that we can’t love like Jesus unless we know Him. Without experiencing the deep, rich, boundless love of Jesus we can’t hope to even begin to share that love with others.

Today I want to urge you if you don’t know what it is to be loved unconditionally, to be loved just as you are, to look to Jesus. And if you’ve already accepted His grace and mercy to rest in His love. After all “we love because He first Loved us” (1 John 4:19)

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Learning How to Love

Love is something we so often take for granted. Something most of us assume comes naturally, and sometimes it does, but more often than not love is not our natural reaction. Is it natural to wake up in the morning and immediately think of someone else? Is it natural to show kindness to someone who insults you, or worse, your family? No, love is not natural. In fact it is contrary to our nature.

My natural reaction when someone hurts me is to make him or her feel the way he or she made me feel. To hurt him or her as deeply as they have hurt me and to let as many people know as possible what a jerk that person is. But God doesn’t command us to do what is natural. He commands us to Love.

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So the question is, how has He loved us? Well, according to John 3:16 He loved the world so much He gave the life of his only son. He came into a world that hates Him and willingly gave Himself up. Died for a people that weren’t only indifferent toward Him, it wasn’t just like they didn’t care or didn’t notice Him, they mocked Him and spit on Him, they beat Him, and ultimately murdered Him. After all this as He hung on the cross dying He said “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” Say what? Forgive them? Really, why? Because God IS love. Love isn’t just something He does it’s who He is.

As a believer I am supposed to be an imitator of Christ and when it comes to love that is a tall order. I have a hard enough time loving my kids and my husband like I’m supposed to and when I think of showing love to other people it seems like too much sometimes. Intentionally showing love means going out of our way for the good of someone else. It means doing something for someone or being there for someone even if the kids are screaming and you just want to take them home and have naps. It means being generous even when you can barely pay the bills. It means reserving precious time that could be spent doing something “productive” to just sit and listen with someone who needs to talk.

Love is something that has to be learned. One of my favorite new bands is Colony House. A couple years ago I got one of their first ep’s. On it (and on their new album “When I was younger”) is a song called “Learning how to love.” I resonated so much with it because it talks about how unnatural love is. We spend the majority of our childhood learning. We are forced to learn reading, writing, math, science, history, and geography. But how many of us are taught how to love. Some of us have never even seen real love acted out. We expect people to love us when we don’t fully understand how to love them.

The best way to learn something is to practice. Normally no one is good at something immediately. Practicing love habitually is the best way to become loving. If you do something enough it can become second nature. Love is no exception.

We also have to realize that in our own power loving someone like Christ loved us is impossible.   We will never be able to do it on our own. We need Him, because He is love.

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What is love?

The funny thing about writing on love is almost every post I’m reminded of a song.  Like today all I can think of is “what is love? Baby don’t hurt me, don’t hurt me, no more..”  Anyways, I felt compelled on this journey to love intentionally to define love.  In our culture today, for a variety of reasons, love has become confined to this sexual love box that quite frankly I don’t believe it belongs in.  Actually even the Oxford Dictionary defines love in this way:

love  [ ləv ]

noun

  1. an intense feeling of deep affection:
    “babies fill parents with intense feelings of love”
    synonyms: relationship · love affair · romance · liaison · affair of the heart ·

    More
    • a deep romantic or sexual attachment to someone:
      “it was love at first sight”
      synonyms: infatuated with · besotted with · enamored of ·

While this type of love is real there is so much more to loving a person than being emotionally attached or physically loving them. The bible defines love differently.  It explains true unconditional love.  Love that doesn’t depend on our feelings but remains despite our feelings 1 Corinthians actually lays out in detail what real love is,

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Many of us have heard these verses over and over but when you break down the truth of scripture.  You realize how far as a culture we’ve missed the mark on this one.  Love is not some fairy tale ending even though I some days I desperately wish it could be.  Love is not an amazing feel we get when we care for someone.  It isn’t a sweet kiss or a bouquet of flowers.  All these are just the effects of Love.  Love is choosing the good of another person over your own good.  Sacrifice.  It’s not always fun, it’s not always easy, and quite frankly more often than not it’s something I don’t feel like doing, but it’s good.  And love that has been tested is deep and rich.  That is why at the end of 1 Corinthians 13 Paul writes “But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.”

So today I’m taking a moment to breathe and consider what it really means to “abide” in love.  I’m considering ways to step out of what is easy for me and do something hard for someone.  Something that actually puts their good above my own.  I pray you can do the same thing too.

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