Wednesday, June 24, 2015
Have you ever been in the kind of relationship ("situation" is probably the more appropriate word) where you really care about the person and you really want to believe that they care about you but if someone asked you for some type of evidence to support the fact that they do...you wouldn't be able to come up with much? NOT. MUCH. AT. ALL.???
One of the things that I so appreciate about the Bible is the fact that it doesn't just speak highly about love; it also tells us how to know it when we see it. That way, we don't have to disillusion ourselves or (OR) settle for less than the real thing.
So, in honor of some semi-crazy conversations that I've been having with a few women lately about the "love" they are in vs. *the love that is real*, and also in order to prevent any of us from embracing "the counterfeit kind of love", here are five of the 10 ways to discern what love is. *Based on how it acts. Based on the Bible*. (I'll share the other half on next week.)
LOVE PUTS GOD FIRST
"And you shall love the Lord your God out of and with your whole heart and out of and with all your soul (your life) and out of and with all your mind (with your faculty of thought and your moral understanding) and out of and with all your strength. This is the first and principal commandment."---Matthew 12:30(NKJV)
In a devotional that I penned a few days ago, I shared a revelation that I've been settling into more and more as it relates to I John 2:16. Since the Word tells us that all there is in the world is lust and pride, whenever we decide to step out of God's boundaries for relationships and date someone who doesn't have a relationship with him (not someone who simply "goes to church" but *actually has a relationship with all of the Godhead*--2 Corinthians 6:11-18, I John 3:8), we're setting ourselves up *by choice*, to be involved with a man who has severe lust issues, pride issues or the combination of what can come from lust and pride "marrying each other": *extreme selfishness*.
It is close to impossible to have a healthy relationship with a selfish person (Philippians 2:3) and deeper than that, one of the best ways to overcome selfishness is by putting God first. A man who does that is opening himself up to receive direction from the Lord on how to love...appropriately. Because he is so engrossed in wanting to serve and please God, loving you in a way that does not bring forth God's approval is *the last thing* that he's going to want to do. A man who loves God is not perfect yet he is humble and he's open to being a student of love from the Ultimate Teacher. This puts you into the position of being loved in the best and most holy (sacred and special) way possible.
LOVE LOVES FROM THE INSIDE OUT
"The second is like it and is this, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these."---Mark 12:31(AMP)
If you're looking for a new book to add to your collection, you might want to consider picking up: True Love Dates: Your Indispensable Guide to Finding the Love of Your Life. In checking some of it out, there is a section entitled "Dating Inward" which confirms the point...of this point.
Being that I work with a porn ministry, I sometimes get emails sent my way from women who are dating porn addicts. As they go into why they feel that marrying these guys will "cure" their addiction (um, it won't), one of the things that I share with them is that no one is in the position to love another person well if they don't first love themselves.
"On Fire" ladies, this is so biblical. Aside from us being told to love our neighbors *as ourselves*, look at what Ephesians 5 says about husbands and how they are supposed to act towards their own wives:
"Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones."---Ephesians 5:25-3(NKJV)
Personally, I used to struggle with the underlined part because, unfortunately, I know quite a few men who act like they hate themselves. Promiscuity is not a form of self-love (or self-preservation in this day and age). Being addicted to *anything* is not a form of self-love. Not taking care of your health is not a form of self-love. Yet what I realize is the Word is basically saying "It should be a given that a man who actually takes on the responsibility of a wife should be a man who loves himself enough to see her as an extension of who he is and therefore, will care for her as he cares for his own being."
A man is to nourish and cherish you. It's not your responsibility to *teach him* how to do that. Help him (Genesis 2:18), sure. Teach him? Uh-huh. By loving God and then himself, he will come into an divine understanding of what nourishing and cherishing means and requires. Not only that, but he will reveal to you what nourishing and cherishing look like *before marrying you*. He won't be able to help it. When you love from the inside out, it tends to spill over! Yes, as the picture quote states: A man who is at peace with himself will reveal it in the reflection of how he treats the woman he cares about. And cares for.
LOVE DRAWS IN WITH LOVINGKINDNESS
"The Lord has appeared of old to me, saying: 'Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you.'"---Jeremiah 31:3(NKJV)
One book that in some ways is a heavy read but was a game-changer for me at the same time is The Sacred Art of Lovingkindness: Preparing to Practice. It's by a local rabbi I know and it really does challenge one's way of thinking. It addresses things like you're not operating in lovingkindness if you imitate (copy) others. You're not operating in lovingkindness if you don't keep the commands of God. You're not operating in lovingkindness if you choose to not reflect God's image. You're not operating in lovingkindness if you operate out of fear. And you're not operating in lovingkindness if you don't have compassion.
Compassion is a word that is oftentimes not properly defined or taught. Compassion is not simply feeling bad for someone. Feeling bad is inactive. Compassion is an action word. It's defined in this way: "a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering".
When someone is suffering or in some kind of need, *compassion has a strong desire to do something about it*. So yes, when God told the prophet Jeremiah that he was drawing him in with lovingkindness, a part of what this meant was God was going to use compassion to bring him closer to him. If you're interested in someone who shows more *apathy* than *empathy* towards you and what you may be going through at any given time, that has red flags all over the place! Please don't ignore them. It's not a man's job to *baby you* (a mature woman knows that---I Corinthians 13:11) or *be your savior* (a mature believer knows that---Hebrews 5:12-14). Yet he is going to be sensitive to the trials, tribulations and circumstances that may be personally affecting you.
Also, the dictionary definition of lovingkindness is "tender kindness motivated by or expressing affection". I've shared before that my mom has told me that at the end of the day, something that she wants most for me, is a kind man. It makes sense being that it's the "second ingredient" in the "love juice box" of I Corinthians 13 ("Love is longsuffering. Love is kind."). And you know what? *No man can be kind without being tender*. And (appropriately and responsibly) affectionate as well.
When you're tender, you're "easily moved to sympathy or compassion; kind". When you're tender, you're "affectionate or loving; sentimental or amatory". And I really like another definition of tender: "considerate or careful". In dealing with us, God is considerate. In dealing with us, he's also careful. A man after God's own heart strives to be the same way with the woman he claims to love. So yes, when a spiritually-sound man says "I love you", a part of what he is saying is "When it comes to your mind, heart and body, I intend to be very considerate of and careful with you."
LOVE. DOES. NO. HARM.
"Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law."---Romans 13:10(NKJV)
Yeah, I have a feeling that a part of the reason why I'm about 8 1/2 years of abstinence and counting is because I didn't take this "love point" as literally or seriously as I should have back in my "setting it out" days; therefore, I needed more "detoxing" and *purifying* than I initially thought. Look, there is no absolute way that the Word can say "Don't fornicate" (Hebrews 13:4, I Corinthians 6...all over the place) and two people can do it and think that they are not inflicting harm upon one another. Love does no harm. The Bible clearly tells us so and harm is defined as being "physical injury", "mental damage" *and* "moral injury". Fornication, interestingly enough, one way or another, does all three.
Therefore, no kind of "making love" is taking place in the midst of *sexual sin*. Period. Besides, a man who really and truly loves you is not going to want to violate you in that way. Your body is a gift to him once you're his wife. That's because he has God's blessing and permission to partake. Prior to that, he's a...trespasser. In other words, *until God tells a man that having sex with you is OK...it's not OK*.
Yet aside from sexual sin/brokenness/compromise, a godly man knows that love is designed to do basically the opposite of harm and that's protect. And since protect means "to defend or guard from attack, invasion, loss, annoyance, insult, etc.; cover or shield from injury or danger" that would mean that he's not going to be the direct cause of attacks or loss or insults, right? One of the best definitions of abuse that I've ever heard of is "abnormal use". Pay close attention to how you're being treated mentally, emotionally, physically, verbally *and also* spiritually. If he's not striving to guard you from harm, he might as well be causing it. Or cosigning on it. Either way, you deserve better. Lots better.
LOVE LITERALLY DOES THINGS
"Little children, let us not love [merely] in theory or in speech but in deed and in truth (in practice and in sincerity)."---I John 3:18(AMP)
OK, so a man says he loves you. What is he *doing* about it? The Word is clear that not only are we called to love but we are commissioned to do so beyond lip service. Our love is to manifest through our deeds.
A deed is defined as "something that is done, performed, or accomplished; an act". However, another definition that I really like is "an act or gesture, especially as illustrative of intentions, one's character, or the like". Deeds are designed to reveal one's intentions. Deeds are also designed to reveal one's character (Colossians 3:12-17).
Based on how the guy you're interested in's intentions and character are, that speaks volumes to how they really and truly feel. And so, love is not love unless there are actions to back them up. By him. *And by you*. If saying the words is all that's going on, real and love has yet to come into fruition. It's another thing to not ignore. It's a huge matter to pay very close attention to.
The Bible is awesome in so many ways!
It provides answers to every spiritual question that we have.
And love? It is indeed spiritual.
The next time you're about to say "I love you"...
You hear "I love you"...
Or you wonder if someone loves you...
Take all of these biblical descriptions of love into account...
So that you can know if you're in *true love*. Or not.
Saturday, June 20, 2015
So I'm pretty sure that most of the women who check out this blog aren't Amish and you may not have a ton of time to check out a fictional 1 1/2 hour movie about Amish people. Yet I happened to check it over the weekend. And in the midst of so many movies that are...let's say visually and verbally assaulting, it's nice to see a nice and sweet love story. Plus, there is a great point that is brought up in the midst of it all that applies to anyone who loves and strives to serve God---and being in a godly relationship.
I John 2:16 tells us that the world is full of *nothing but* lust and pride. And so, if you look to be in a relationship with a man who is "of the world" as opposed to one who has a relationship with God, Christ and the Holy Spirit, there's a great chance that he's going to be the combination of lust and pride: *extremely selfish*.
Anyway, if you have some down time, there are some pretty nice "ah ha moments" in it. Sometimes, we're so busy thinking there's stuff out here that's more interesting, more desirable and more satisfying than what's aligned within God's boundaries. And you know what? *There never ever is*:
"But every person is tempted when he is drawn away, enticed and baited by his own evil desire (lust, passions). Then the evil desire, when it has conceived, gives birth to sin, and sin, when it is fully matured, brings forth death."---James 1:14-15(NKJV)
"But, on the contrary, as the Scripture says, What eye has not seen and ear has not heard and has not entered into the heart of man, [all that] God has prepared (made and keeps ready) for those who love Him [who hold Him in affectionate reverence, promptly obeying Him and gratefully recognizing the benefits He has bestowed].
Yet to us God has unveiled and revealed them by and through His Spirit, for the [Holy] Spirit searches diligently, exploring and examining everything, even sounding the profound and bottomless things of God [the divine counsels and things hidden and beyond man’s scrutiny]."---I Corinthians 2:9-10(AMP)
There's even a character in the film that speaks on this...
Anyway, if you want to see a nice wholesome movie with a great morale to the story, here ya go:
Monday, June 15, 2015
"Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law."---Romans 13:10(NKJV)
Over the weekend...
I had an "impromptu" (Proverbs 16:33-AMP) conversation with a 35-year-old woman who really wants to be married. As we were sharing where we are in our lives and when it came to me, as I shared that I'm heading towards nine years of abstinence with one of my standards being that a divorced guy is not an option (and there are *a lot* of divorced guys in my age demographic--I Corinthians 7:9-10), she asked me if I was scared that I may never get married. *And* if my standards were so high that it could end up working against me. What I heard coming out of my mouth was something that I am *thrilled* that I can both say, and mean, two days short of 41:
"My standards are biblical and so I put my faith in that. And it's not so much of a priority that my marriage is 'happy' but that it is *healthy*. That is worth preparing and waiting for."
Walk by faith, not by sight, right? (2 Corinthians 5:7)
If you're someone who is headed towards 40, just a heads up: It biblically symbolizes testing; some theologians even say *severe testing* which is something that I can certainly vouch for! Yet in the midst of all of the tests I've endured (Psalm 7:9), some patterns have definitely broken and what I'm seeing/discovering/realizing/accepting is that I'm a lot closer to healthy than I've probably ever been in my entire life!
And when you're healthy...
It's harder for you to cause harm in your relationships...
Plus, you can spot the potential for who may cause you harm as well.
Yeah, contrary to the world and how it lies to us...
Love does not hurt.
In fact, the Word tells us that love does not harm.
And so, one way to tell if it is true and purposeful love...
Is whether or not the relationship is causing you (or you are causing it) harm.
And one way to know that...
Is to know what harm means:
Harm: (noun) physical injury or mental damage; hurt; moral injury; evil; wrong; (verb) to do or cause harm to; injure; damage; hurt
A part of the reason why Mark 12:30(NKJV) says "...love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind" is because all three of these things speak to the totality of our being. This means that when the Word gives us the heads up that authentic godly love cannot cause damage or injury to your mind, to your soul or to your heart. So, if what you're in right now is doing just that, you really need to step back and do some serious praying (probably even fasting-Matthew 17:20-21), pondering (Proverbs 4:26) and assessing.
Another way to know if you are moving further away from the potential for harmful relationships is by paying attention to signs that you've broken (or are breaking) the patterns that come with toxic (poisonous and harmful) relationships. One article that can help you do that is "20 Signs You've Broken Your Toxic Relationships Pattern". I'll share half of 'em:
You take full responsibility for your own behavior, your own choices and your own life.
You try not to adapt yourself to try and fit into "uncomfortable" situations and relationships.
You are in touch with your feelings, needs and desires and do not need a man to bring out the fully expressive, creative and affectionate you. You do that with yourself and get a real kick out of it.
You are less needy, less worried, less anxious, less angry, less irritable, less hostile, less forceful, less submissive [overly-compliant], less confrontational, less selfish and less self-destructive.
You are more realistic in your expectations of yourself and of others. You no longer pressurize others for more of what they don't have (time, closeness, sensitivity, romance...material stuff, etc.) or give him too much of what he doesn't necessarily want and then become angered and hurt when does not seem to appreciate it.
You've let go of playing games: calculating, manipulating, putting on a great spectacular show of "loving" him, the chasing and running away. You are more relaxed and honest and let the rest take care of itself.
You have a circle of supportive friends and family while at the same time avoiding dysfunctional relationships and energy drainers---people who can sabotage your growth by wanting you to remain the same so that they can remain the same.
You allow yourself to be loved because you already love yourself. If there is lots of love already in there, it is much easier to receive and accept love that comes from outside of you.
You know that a good relationship takes work and time to grow and are willing to put in effort and time but at the same time know when to let go if it's not working---to let go without experiencing disabling depression.
You've learned to live your life without all of the "stress" and time-consuming and energy-draining dramas of heated battles, begging, angry outbursts, parting and reconciling.
Such good and poignant points! And one of the things that I appreciate so much about each one of them is they're proof that when you do the work to free yourself from toxic patterns, you find yourself showing clear signs of being able to love yourself. *And then* you are far more equipped to love someone else rather than looking for someone else to fill the voids that only God, you and time are fully capable of doing. Remember, Christ once said that aside from loving God with your all, it is also so important that you "love your neighbor AS yourself" (Mark 12:31).
As you're loving others, love yourself...
The way that you love others tends to be a direct reflection of how/if you love yourself.
And just what are some of the indications that you do indeed love yourself? Here are some great bullet points from an article entitled "6 Ways to Know That You Love Yourself" (click on the link for the full read):
You work very hard in the professional life of your choice, to achieve the success you want.
You know when to "treat" yourself.
You are mindful of your health.
You are okay with being "by yourself," and alone in the company of your own thoughts.
You prioritize your values over what everyone else values for you.
You look in the mirror and love what you see!
Love your neighbor as your self...
And as the saying goes, we tend to attract a lot of who we are. Good and otherwise.
Don't you want to be with a man:
Who also works hard in their professional life?
Who treats themselves from time to time?
Who is mindful of their physical, emotional, mental and especially spiritual health?
Who is OK being by themselves (doesn't always have to be in the company of women)?
Who prioritizes his own values?
Who looks in the mirror and loves what he sees---so that he doesn't need a lot of "outside validation"?
A man like that...
Who is paired up with a woman who is the same?
That is an unstoppable union...
That is an amazing walking definition of love.
If you desire to be in love...
Please take out some time to ask yourself...
"DO I LOVE MYSELF ENOUGH TO BE IN LOVE?"
Because sometimes we think we're waiting on "him"...
When God is actually waiting on us...
To love him and ourselves first...
So that we can love our man so much better!