Happy Valentines Day

on Sunday, February 14, 2010

Feb.14 comes once again. And love is in the air ... ahhhh. But it's not that squishy romantic boy meets girl kinda love, although I still enjoy that too :) Have you heard it? It's in the lyrics that fill our worship and the messages that are preached week after week no matter what country you are in. I believe the message on God's heart this year is love. It's not like it ever stopped being His message because He is love, but maybe we are starting to push back the clouds of fear and punishment just enough to see clearly His perfect love shining down on us. We have heard the message preached time and again that "they will know they are Christians by our love" but never has this message rang as loudly as it has been in the past few weeks.

We visited an "International" (aka American) church today. I had no idea of their theology or their vision, but knew that they had English worship and possibly Sunday School. It's been a tough go for the kids to attend spanish services week after week. To sit through spanish worship and often Daddy preaching has not been their idea of fun. So we agreed to visit this church so that they could feel more part of what was going on. I don't think the kids felt any more part of what was going on. In fact the whole thing felt foreign. It was a conservative service with some hymns and contemporary worship mixed together, which would have been alright. It was hardly the kind of worship we love to dance and worship freely, but it was familiar and some great songs like Everlasting by Hillsong and Indescribable. I knew we didn't quite fit in though when a couple of the youth noticed how freely we worshipped and turned and whispered to their friend and snickered. I thought .. Really? ... Here? ... in church I am going to be mocked for giving God glory? Can you tell it was already at this point that I was starting to get offended? I tried really hard to not be distracted by people and just worship, but the atmosphere was heavy and freedom did not feel welcome.

The guy that preached was in town doing a conference. He spoke to us about how much we allow sin in our life is the true testimony of how much we love God based on the scripture that says "if you love me, you will obey my commands." He had a point and I was trying really hard to get past the fact that he used scripture and words out of context, but when he started throwing shame and guilt into the mix and suggested that each time I fall that Jesus is feeling the pain of the nails driven once again?!?! He even had a guy dressed in a white sheet and then smeared actual excrement on him to demonstrate what we do to Jesus each time we sin. Gross! Poop! and I don't agree with this guy, but I totally understand his stand point. Leaders like this man so want us to make better choices that they try to make us feel dirty, guilty or ashamed enough about our sin that we will change, but they forget that it is the kindness of God that leads us to repentance. Paul called us saints to encourage us to see ourselves as God sees us when he looks at us through the veil of the shed blood of Jesus. Did you know that when you are hidden in the rock of your salvation that God sees you as holy? He doesn't see all the poop. It is meant to encourage us to want to raise the standard that we live by because we love God so much that we want to live up to how he chooses to see us and we can't do this by our own effort, by our works (lest anyone should boast). Holy Spirit is there to help us with the new standard. We are going to mess it up sometimes, but there is no guilt and shame in that. God gives first honour, first grace. In Romans 5:19 Paul says that it is through the obedience of one man that many are made righteous. That is why Jesus says if you love me you will obey my commands. In 1 John 3:23 we are told what Jesus commands are: "And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, (this is the "through the obedience of one man") and to love one another as he commanded us. We are commanded to believe in the name of Jesus and love as he loved us. It is not about keeping the 10 commandments. It is not about being sinless. We just have to believe that Jesus paid the price and realize that no matter how hard we try in and of ourselves that we could never measure up. But we don't have to. Holy Spirit will help us with that. We just have to learn how to love! And how do we do that? We take the time to get to know how much God loves us, how much Jesus gave us. Don't get to know it through guilt, but through gratitude. And what is the best way to demonstrate gratitude for a gift?!?! Use it for the purpose it was given, walk in it, share it. When we love one another and believe in His name, we are obeying His commands and it says in 1 John 3:22 to "... receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him."

I want to know His love so much that it becomes me. If God is love and I am becoming like him than I am becoming love. What does it look like when God's love comes from me? I started to wonder this week. How much of what I thought was love is merely responsibility... commitment ... obligation ...Ouch! I'm not trying to dish out guilt or shame! Don't get me wrong. No condemnation. I just started to wonder. Do I really know love? Do I know what it looks like? Do I know how to give it? Do I look like my Father in heaven when the world looks at me. The answer ?... I really don't know, but I know I want to and I know the Lord wants to show me. So what do I do? .... I have to boldly come before the throne of grace ...  quote Oliver Twist ... and ask "please sir ... can I have some more?" How else will we know it except to encounter it? When we can cast the shame and fear aside, we can see the loving heart of the Father just waiting for us to ask. His cup is overflowing, held out poised to pour out His love on us. Truly, we don't even have to ask. He is standing there loving us, but maybe we need eyes to see it.

In light of my need to see more of His love, I thought I would share a few little things that were a simple testimony of God's love for me this Valentines day. About Thursday, when Graeme was in another town and I was alone with the kids, I started to think about how I had not been away from my kids for over a month now and it was really starting to wear on me. I was starting to pout about how it wasn't going to be much of a Valentines Day this year. I was missing good chocolate, eating out and date nights, icey cold drinks and long walks. I'm not too proud to say that I was having a bit of a pitty party. But my bad attitude was no barrier for God's love. Saturday came and I got on my computer in the morning. There was a message from an American family here in Managua. They wanted to know if the kids could come over to play. They wanted to pick them up for the afternoon. The kids were thrilled and Eric drove up at 1pm followed only 2minutes later by Graeme being driven back from Diriamba where he'd spent the last 3 days. Eric said that they would keep the kids til 8pm and feed them dinner. Graeme got out of the car with take out that they bought for him on the way home. It was chicken and a big icey bottle of coke. We had a great afternoon of lounging in the hammock, watching movies and a nice long walk at the perfect temperature. It was just what I needed and I felt so grateful. God's so good at taking care of all the big things and all the little things. I think I have only seen the tip of the iceberg though so like the adventurer I am, I will continue the pursuit of understanding His love and I know my heart will be overwhelmed with the boundless expanse I discover. But I know I'm not just pursuing it for me but for it in me. I think this is how we display His glory; to be a true representation of His love.


Mark Lawler said...

Amen! :)

Amie said...

Happy Valentines Day! So glad to hear you got blessed as I was getting really concerned after thinking about you being there day after day on your own, must be tough at times and then to be in a discouraging place at church again and having to process all that. I think I would just cry but then as I read on I could see how it just brought an assurance of who you are and what you believe and know to be true. Like all that was put in you is strengthened at this time because you see what you have and what you can bring that it's frustrated when it's stopped up and the opposite is displayed in front of you. I could feel the tension! What I thought was cool was that even though I was concerned your needs might not be met and feeling far away like what could I do as a friend for you, thinking that your pity party was justified too! but then our God is so great and loving that he met you there and blessed you with the things that you needed and some extra treats and I so praise him! What a an awesome God we serve! His ways are higher than ours and he really does do above what we can think our imagine. More God!

Post a Comment