Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Gift of Love

One of the most recognized verses in scripture is John 3:16. Even if you don't know what it says, you at least know it's there. The verse has become a part of our pop culture; showing up on signs, business cards, and even tattoos. It has been called the "Gospel in a nutshell" because it summarizes the story of God, in one verse:

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. John 3:16

I have a bad habit of using the wrong words to communicate. It is for this reason that my wife knows that I love her AND Popeye's Chicken. ( Isn't she special? ) Of course on most days, I love my wife more than Popeye's Chicken, but it is a perfect example of how weakened our words and ultimately, our relationships have become. Love is one of those words we casually throw around to describe how "good" something makes us feel. Because of my careless use of words, unless my wife "knows" me, she could assume that she is in the same league as fried chicken, Fridays, and Facebook. As American English speaking Christians, John 3:16 doesn't sound so potent anymore. We've watered-down words so much, that we have reduced the Gospel to forgettable and familiar cliches.

The problem with love is that everybody's saying it. Hearing that God loves me isn't that big of a deal to most of us. This is because we've heard it before, and we know how the game is played. Ask any guy why he loves his wife and you'll soon find the problem. He might say something like, "I love her because she treats me like a man", or "I love her because we make a great team" Ask a woman the same question, and you might hear; "I love him because I enjoy his company and he makes me happy."

The love we know is all about "MY" needs and "MY" best interests. We love people and things that make us happy. Therefore, We understand that others love us based on how we make them feel. We learn that as long as we are able to contribute to their well-being, they will add us to the list of people, places, and things, that they love, and who doesn't want to be on that list? Most of our relationships begin and end with US in mind. As long as there's something in it for us, we will continue to love them. Sadly, that is where we tend to lose God in the mix. We don't really have a problem with being loved by God. Our problem is that we don't understand why. I can easily make a list of why I think people love me. But God, well we just don't get it. I can treat God's love the same way I treat a hockey match on television. Because I don't understand it, I just change the channel.

We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. 1John 4:16-17

In Hebrew (the language of the Bible), there is no word for our definition of "love". The closest word in Hebrew is the word "Ahava", which means "I will give" or "giveness". Ahava is a state in which all I want to do is give. The reason God loves us is because He IS love. To God, Love is NOT an emotional response, it's who He is. To say that God loves us, is like saying the rain waters the ground. That's what rain does. The rain can't come and NOT give water. If there is no water, there is no rain. The rain doesn't make a choice. It doesn't pick and choose where its going to fall. It will fall on those who receive it and those who'll turn it away. It will fall on the garden, and it will fall on the concrete. God's love through Christ fell on the entire world, regardless of soil of your heart. God doesn't choose who He wants to love. There is no such concept in God, but WE do it all the time.

God's love is completely opposite of our view of love. Where we tend to analyze the relationship for "mutual" interests and benefits, Ahava says I will give regardless of what you do. There is no mutual benefit requirement for Ahava. God doesn't look down from Heaven and wait for us to do something cute so He can love us. God already loves us. God didn't create a focus group to find out what percentage of mankind would accept Him, if he came to earth and died. That's what we do. We don't like to waste our affection on folks who don't appreciate or recognize us for it. We don't waste our time, talents, and money on people who don't contribute. Those people don't DESERVE it. That's why God's love is confusing to us. Our definition of love is not even a word in the Hebrew Bible. Our definition makes us ask "why", "what's the catch", or "what's it gonna cost me?" We've been looking at love through the wrong eyes. We need to have God's perspective on love, not what our culture says. If we take the literal meaning of love, we get a better picture.

Because God is a giver, to the world He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. John 3:16

The dictionary defines marriage as "a formal agreement between two companies or enterprises to combine operations, resources, etc.., for mutual benefit; merger." When analyzing our definition of marriage, I can't believe how America's divorce rate is as low as it is. That's astounding! Since half of all marriages end in divorce, our marriages are doing better than most businesses. Restaurants only have a 20% change of surviving two years. No one starts a marriage (or business) with the intention of failing, but when your definition requires the other entity to do their part, their are no guarantees. I have heard it said that marriage is a two way street. I have also heard it said that marriage is 50/50. It may sound good, but is it true? You wont find that definition in scripture.

In Hebrew, there is also no word for our definition of "marriage". The closest word in Hebrew is Nisuim or Nisuin, which means "to carry". In ancient Jewish weddings, the groom would "carry" the bride off to his tent to consummate the marriage. This is where we get the tradition of "carrying" our bride across the threshold. God didn't create the concept of mutual benefit, or merger. Man, culture, and tradition did. God's view of marriage was that I want to give what I have, BECAUSE YOU NEED IT!. Marriage was always the concept of I love you so much, that I can't help but want to carry you, and and I will carry you no matter how heavy you get. What would our divorce rate be if we adopted THAT concept. In reality, we already do that. We just call it "dating" or "courting". Once we tag em and bag em, its back to loving you as long as you do for me.

But I have this complaint against you. You don't love me or each other as you did at first! Look how far you have fallen! Turn back to me and do the works you did at first. Revelation 2:4-5

Could it be that marriages fail because love fails? During courtship, there was no such things as too much time or money. Before marriage, we had friends complaining that they never saw us anymore. Before marriage, we were borrowing money because we spent it all on our date. Before marriage, money, time, and other people's opinion didn't matter. We loved by giving. We KNEW what love was. But now we are "mature", and someone told us love was a two-way street. Someone told us that marriage was 50/50. Someone told us that we needed to tone it down because we were spoiling them. Someone told us that we needed to come to reality. They said it was just a phase. Enjoy the honeymoon, you'll come out of it.

The Bible says that we fall out of love, because we quit giving. We quit doing the things that made us fall in love, in the first place. Marriage teaches me to do my part, and expect you to do yours. It teaches us to compromise. It teaches us to meet in the middle. If I go to work, you raise the kids. If I cook the meal, you cut the grass. If I clean the house, you take out the trash. But Nisuim, teaches me to do everything. Nisuim says I'm gonna make the money, clean the house, cut the grass, and take out the trash. Nisuim says that I decide to give 100%, regardless of what you give. There is no Hebrew word for a mutual parasitic relationship. But we have one in English.

But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. Romans 5:8

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Rest Area

A good friend of mine mentioned that my posts were becoming increasingly "preachy" and long. Because I love him so much, I'll give him a break and allow him to catch up. I admit, there was a definite theme with the last 10 or so posts, but that's where I was. That's why it's titled, "My Journey - Witness God lead, drag, and by gun point, take me into his perfect will."

Being a Christian isn't about always appreciating the scenery, or choosing the pitstops. That's what separates Christianity from all the religions of the world. All of them say do this, don't do that, or turn here, and if you're lucky you'll arrive in heaven's parking lot. Christianity is about handing over the car keys. Firstly, because there's only one person who knows how to get there. We are born clueless to our purpose and have no idea how to navigate a weekend, much less navigate into eternity. Secondly, we're too drunk with life's problems to be able to steer. Talking on a cell phone while driving is dangerous enough. Most of us go through life talking on multiple cell phones. We have a work phone, a family phone, a church phone, a sick grandmother phone, and a ADD child phone. But we start the car everyday and think we can juggle it all and STILL find out our destiny. I never know where I'll end up, but I'm at peace knowing that when I get there, I'm in HIS will, and I'm on His itinerary.

There's an old Buddhist proverb that says, "When the student is ready, the teacher will appear." For the past few months, that has truly been the case. It's amazing what can happen in your life, in just a short time, if you quit watching the news. I became so disillusioned with current events and politics, that I decided to stay away from it. Of course, I did feed the beast a little snack every now and then with a few evenly spaced Facebook quips. But for the most part, I've stayed away from what has become to me, a cartoon. By not dwelling on Obama, Middle East drama, and economic trauma, I made myself ready. And when I settled down, God showed up with a fresh supply of peace, tranquility, hope, and joy.

Hand over your keys, all who are too drunk, busy, and ignorant to drive, and I will let you nap in the back. You're gonna need your rest when I wake you up at the next stop. Matthew 11:28 ( New International Truck Drivers Version) (ok it's mine)