All You Need Is Love

ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE

In a world and political landscape that increasingly seems to highlight division and is more interested in being known for what it’s against rather than for, it’s especially important this Christmas to remember love. Whilst others are set on fighting against each other we have to remain set on fighting with each other. With so many opinions that wish to divide, we have to find a cause that unites.

Jesus told His disciples that people would know that they are His disciples by the way in which they loved one another (John 13:35) He didn’t say we should always agree although scripture instructs us to work for peace and unity (Ephesians 4:3-6) He didn’t create us to look the same or have the same interests but He did command that we should always love, love God and love others (Luke 10:27) There’s definitely room for healthy debate as we work towards finding solutions and answers. There’s also room for differing opinions and preferences as we aim to live peacefully alongside each other but there is definitely ‘no room at the Inn’ for our misplaced hate, we have but one true enemy and whilst we fight against each other we miss the bigger picture.

Love undoubtedly is hard, it requires us to forgive when it’s undeserved, it requires us to show grace when we want to point fingers and place blame. It’s so easy to bulldoze our way through life and people as we each champion our individual causes, but it’s so much harder to do it in love. Fortunately, it’s not something we have to try and conjure up in our own strength by striving to be right or better. Rather, God is love. He gives love and He is love and His love freely flows through us as we allow it.

Christmas, the celebration of Jesus’ birth for the Christian, isn’t the start of the account of His incredible love for us, but it’s a special reminder of the kind of lengths He and those chosen by Him went to on our behalf. It’s the love of a courageous young virgin. Due to her devotion to and trust in God, she risked her life to bear His holy child despite not seeing all that was to come. It’s the love of a carpenter who put aside his pride and the shame of marrying a woman already pregnant to allow her to bring God’s presence into the world. It’s the love of wise Magi who travelled far from a distant place, leaving the comfort and elegance of their homes in order to bow their knee to an infant dwelling in humble circumstances. It’s the love of a group of Shepherd’s willing to leave their night watch, their livelihood, to worship at the feet of a tiny babe born in a lowly stable. It’s the love of a Father who willingly gave His own son so that we might see the error of our ways and receive forgiveness and grace. It’s the love of a Son who gave up His position, His rights, everything, in order to walk alongside us so that we could have His friendship and guidance forever. It’s the love of the Holy Spirit, the Presence of God to dwell in a broken temple of flesh in order to deliver to us our saviour.

The time and circumstances in which Jesus was born were tumultuous, the Roman rule was oppressive, the greed of kings murderous, the plight of God’s people seemingly forgotten …. but God. But Love. Love risked it all for you, for me, to know Him, that we may find peace and unity in Him. Love persevered as it nailed Jesus to the cross for the sake of our mistakes, anger, jealousy and self-interest.  Hate and prejudice didn’t nail Jesus to the cross, it was love. His love for us.

I pray that as we enter into the festivities and fun of Christmas, the games, the presents, the protruding bellies, we would stop and remember love. Amidst the many issues and uncertainties of life, there is always something, more importantly, Someone to be grateful for. As we meditate on His love for us and others over Christmas may it see us into the new year also. Maybe just maybe, then, we can change our worlds, impact those around us and show the world that despite our differences love never fails (1 Corinthians 13:8)

Merry Christmas All!

“An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. “

Luke 2: 9-11

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Love Beyond Reason

love beyond reason.png

This past week I attended Hillsong Conference Europe as I have every year for the past seven. In one of the evening sessions Carl Lentz, Hillsong New York lead pastor, preached a powerful message about God’s love. It was so significant that I think many were deeply moved and changed, myself included. If you’ve followed my blog for a while you will have seen I’ve returned to the subject of love in the scriptures often. Clearly, God is stirring something within me. This stirring should be an obvious expectation for a Christian, to linger on and develop in love, and yet sadly it isn’t. Carl’s message was based on John 13 v 34 – 35, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples”. Interestingly, this passage is one Rich and I have talked a lot about over this past year as we’ve processed life’s changing scenery. I was reminded once again by his preach that there is no reasonable excuse not to love. Even when it hurts, when it’s messy and when it’s undeserved. When I look at Jesus and how He lived, and all that He has done and continues to do for me, I have no foundation to stand on that allows me not to love. To remain in Him and on this journey with Him, I must remain in love (see previous post, Remain In Love). God is love. If I say yes to Him I say yes to love, there are no grey areas surrounding this subject.

What resonated most was how important the stakes are when considering love. People will see Jesus if only we love one another. We so often focus on our ‘calling’ or purpose, our work or the gifts and talents we have and how to develop them as we pray ‘me-centric’ prayers to satisfy our desires and yet we live in a world desperately crying out for love. God delights in us fulfilling all of our potential but not at the expense of love. Carl reminded us that love is easily defined – just look at Christ, it’s simply developed – follow Christ and it’s dangerous when demonstrated – Christ changed the world forever with His ultimate act of love.

So why do we make Christianity so complicated? At what junctures, in our well-meaning efforts, have we missed the mark and gone off track? I don’t know all the answers to those questions, but I do know the simple solution to realignment and the ultimate purpose of the Church – Love; to receive love, to have love and to give love.

To love is to show grace and mercy, to forgive without receiving acknowledgement or apology, to show kindness where others haven’t and to give second chances where most wouldn’t. Love gives with no hope of return. It goes further than one has asked and extends considerably beyond the limits of worth. There’s no way we can do any of this in our own strength nor should we try. When we misunderstand or misplace love it causes problems. Our own reserves are finite and easily wasted. True Love does not exhaust us until we are dry, empty and weary. It doesn’t cut deep and leave us broken, but it does penetrate the deepest recesses of our souls. I can’t love undeservedly and even deservedly of my own accord consistently and faithfully. I must place my love in Him and look beyond the reality of the circumstance towards Him.

His love is infinite and abundant, it never runs out, it encompasses all things if we allow it. Our hurts, disappointments, misplaced hopes and unfulfilled dreams all wash away in the ever-flowing stream of His love. Not only that but this plentiful and refreshing flow allows new things to be seeded and grow, joy to replace grief, life to replace death, peace to replace anger. His love knows no bounds and it waters even the darkest and most lifeless parts of our soul if we allow it.

There’s no situation I can face that Jesus does not understand. He was grossly misunderstood by his own people, falsely accused, rejected, beaten, abused and tortured. He acutely feels our pain. He asks us to forgive not to exonerate bad behaviour, but to set us free from the bondage of bitterness and hate. Love is the better way. He doesn’t ask us to pretend that things didn’t happen but rather He offers us healing. He doesn’t excuse poor behaviour, but rather teaches us to see the brokenness in others. He’s not asking us to try and love because people deserve it, He’s showing us how to receive His love so that we can move beyond our past.

True Love is unreasonable. Reason informs me that because of this they deserve that. Reason is a good thing and applied well can carry great wisdom. But love trumps reason.

Love melts away anger and offers comfort. It has the ability to bring us to our knees because we choose it not because we are forced and then it gently lifts us up and restores.  

Love doesn’t offer us behaviour modification as prescribed by self-help gurus, although that may be a fruit of its tender embrace. Rather it offers hope, belonging, faith and security. It first pours in and only when we are full to overflowing is it required to spill out into our lives. Really God isn’t asking us to do too much more than allow Him to first love us and see what happens. To quote an old hymn, “love changes everything”. I’ve written it before and no doubt I will again because I personally need reminding of it daily, “Love NEVER fails” (1 Corinthians 13 v 8).

There’s an old Aesop fable I remember hearing as a child about a dispute between the North Wind and the Sun. As they discussed which of the two was stronger, a traveller passed by wearing a cloak. They agreed that whoever would be able to strip the man of his cloak would have the greater strength. The North Wind went first and blew and tore angrily at the cloak but this only made the traveller hold onto it all the tighter. When the sun had its turn, the warmth of its rays offered much relief and as the heat gently grew stronger, of his own free will the traveller removed his coat. This old tale reminds me of the love of God, it’s strong and powerful like the heat offered by the sun but it doesn’t force itself upon us and demand we let down our guard. Rather it warms and shines and gently nudges us to let go of our burdens.

Give Love a chance, your life and others depend on it.

Delete Forever

DELETE FOREVER

Unfortunately, I’m one of ‘those’ people when it comes to computers! Quite often mistakes are down to user error rather than a computer fault. There are others in the family who are far worse than me but they shall remain nameless so that I don’t get in trouble! One thing I have accidentally done before is pressed the ‘delete forever’ option. It’s great when freeing up space on my computer and I mean to erase that which I have now deemed as ‘trash’. However, it’s not so good when I didn’t mean to remove a file in the first place and in an attempt to retrieve it, I again erase it and banish it forever!

It’s interesting that my computer was designed in such a way that I’m able to resurrect things that I’ve scrubbed out. To undo that which I have done. It’s also interesting that it doesn’t completely delete things the first time even though that’s my intention. This is great when I’ve made a mistake and need to get a piece of work back. Other times it’s frustrating that I have to delve back into my ‘trash’ and choose again to delete the things I thought I’d already erased to ensure that they are completely gone! I wonder if whoever designed it knew that as humans our nature is to hold onto things unnecessarily, or second guess our decisions, or feel the need to drag back into the present that which is belongs in the past. Who knows, they probably didn’t think too philosophically about it, but hey it works for my post.

“Love keeps no record of wrongs.”

1 Corinthians 13 v 5

Yep, I’m still mulling over the words of 1 Corinthians 13. Perhaps it’s due to an increased hunger to experience more of the Presence of God who is Himself Love (1 John 4 v 8) and so I have a heightened awareness of Him and therefore It.

As I read verse 5 through the lens of His love for me, evermore so because it’s Easter, I feel humbled, grateful and undeserving that He chooses to keep no record of my wrongs. To wash them as white as snow and delete them forever as though they never happened. It’s not just forgiveness I receive when I accept His love for me, and that would be more than enough, but it’s no kept record of the dark parts of myself that nailed Him to the cross. That’s pretty mind-blowing. I could thank Him for that forever.

What challenges me is to love likewise. How do we keep no record of wrongs when we are hurt, we are grieved or scarred deeply? To forgive is one thing, and that in itself can take a lifetime, but to keep no record, wow that’s a tough call. Sometimes we might think we are ‘over’ things and perhaps have told ourselves such, when in actual fact we have buried the pain deep within, pushed it aside or tried to close a lid on it. The issue with that, however, is that when you bury a seed it has the potential to grow. Although day to day we may seem ok whilst getting on with life, a root of bitterness may be waiting to spring forth and rear its ugly head. Like a weed, it wishes to sap energy and choke future possibilities to love, have meaningful friendships and relationships, dreams, hopes and purpose. Understanding that the personal stakes are high is not the hard part, the difficulty is in actioning this aspect of love.

There are times when we are right to be angry, when we are victims and when we want to learn from circumstances and guard our hearts for the future, but how do we really find the courage to forever delete the records of those that have hurt us?

I’m not sure the answer is instant, in fact, I think it’s a lifelong pursuit. I guess we would have to start with the cross, for that is where the debt of our wrongdoings has painfully and undeservedly been paid for. I know when I truly think on the love that nailed Jesus to the cross, the last thing on my mind is what others have done to me, but rather what He has done for me. In those moments, all I feel is the warmth and overwhelming sense of His grace. When I know His grace and it penetrates the depths of my soul, it’s abundance seeps out. It’s so important to visit the cross and linger often, to pause and pray, to worship and repent, to cry and to be grateful. But our journey doesn’t end there. We need to look up and look on and see the resurrected Christ, Who draws us unto His life-giving self, full of hope and promise and future and love.

From a place of accepting and knowing His love, we can start to heal and move forward. Embraced by His love, the hurt inflicted on us, intentionally or unintentionally, becomes harder and harder to see as it fades into our past as He leads us heavenward.

One thing I am learning is that there is no limit to the depth of His engulfing love, the more I ponder on it, experience it and sit within its healing, it becomes more and everything else becomes less.

So how do we delete forever and not keep things stagnating in our ‘trash’ file? Well, it’s not so much a case of press this button and it’s gone, but rather the answer is simply, Him. To be in Him, to walk with Him, to allow Him to love us. I imagine it will transpire a little differently for us all as He knows us individually and personally, but the answer is still Him. The many depths and wonders of Him, His love, His grace and His peace.

I pray this Easter as we remember its significance and continue to draw ever closer to Him, the painful things stored away in our memory bank, the insecurities, regrets, hurts and losses will fade evermore into the distance.  

“Love NEVER fails.”

1 Corinthians 13 v 8

Happy Easter