Limited vs Unbound Love: Valentine’s day musing

Everyone desires love. The question is what level of love they will settle for. Today on Valentine’s day, love is the theme. Examining the theme of love there are two concepts to which this mind is drawn. The two concepts are of limited love and unbound love.

First let’s examine limited love. Limited love is self-generated. It is love that focuses on loving others in reflection of love received. It is loving others based on what they do for you, the needs met. There are types of love that fall into this category. Romantic love fall into a type of limited love. It is based on attraction and being built up and loved by another. It eventually fades as it has a limit. Another type of limited love is familial love. Now there is familial love that transcends limits, however, all too often family is elevated about all and becomes soul focus. The focus on family and can result in limiting love in other directions outside the family sphere. It really comes down to loving those in our lives. It is what meets the needs of self or is derived from self. Limited love is limited in many ways including duration, scope, and practice.

There is another type of love though, the unbound love. A more familiar way of phrasing this is unconditional love. Unbound love knows no limits as it is love not self-defined. Unbound love flows from the heart and touches others. It is the type of love by which one can bless their enemies. It is the type of love that gives without hesitation. It is love transcending the limits of self and giving fully of self. This type of love is love that transcends self. It is the type of love that can flow with a person who is right with the Creator of the Universe. It is the love that is found at the cross and death of Jesus. It is the love that is seen by people giving of themselves at great personal cost. It is love that often is not seen as people quietly work toward loving others.

Personally, unbound love is this writers preference, but all too often fall short. My behaviors and responses are often steeped in self and trapped by my limits. I love my wife and family in perfectly, and often react out of my own needs and desires while missing or ignoring theirs. My own limits are seen in struggling to continue to be intentional in writing in a daily basis. My limits of love are seen in times of struggling to follow-through with made commitments. We all truly need to taste the unbound love. God created us with the un-quenching desire for that real charity. The wounds of life we all experience are due to facing on form of limited love or another. Our expectations and desires are squashed.

So how do we walk in greater levels of unbound love. It has to start with walking each dad in surrender to Jesus and following the leading of the Holy Spirit. It starts with loving God with the whole self and as we do that love becomes evident in our treatment of others. The more aware of being truly loved in a way unbound and immeasurable, as God loves each of us, the more able we are even able to love those who despise us. Ultimately, each of us are growing more and more in being able to love in unbound ways, or we face greater and greater limits to love, which results in fewer and fewer ways of truly being connected and truly loved.

Helpful Articles: Overcome so you are not overcome by Julie Markhausen

 
The following is commentary by Julie Marxhausen.  She is the pastor’s wife and part of the ministry team at Calvary Worship Center in Minnesota. The church is associated with International Ministerial Fellowship.  I ran across the commentary on her notes page on Facebook but since learned she posted on her own blog found here: http://julieamarxhausen.wordpress.com/2010/01/18/overcome-so-you-are-not-overcome/.
 
Overcome So You Are Not Overcome

As Christians, we have the unique privilege of overcoming all things this world, sin, and the devil throw our way. We need to be people who choose to overcome the things of this world so we can bring others into that same victory in Jesus and not be victims of this world. Overcoming and faith go hand in hand. We need to walk by faith, in order to be the kind of people who overcome. 1 John 5:4 says: “Whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith.” It is our faith in Jesus Christ which enables us to overcome this world.

If we remain people who are tossed to and fro based upon the circumstances of life, we must conclude we are not living in faith because faith is victory, and faith victory has overcome the world. Before anyone gets guilt ridden or feels inadequate about their faith as a result of hearing this, let us remember our faith is a gift from God. He has given each of us a measure of faith. Romans 12:3 says “For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.” The point to be made is that if we are being tossed to and fro, and if we are not experiencing victory to overcome the world, we need look no further than our faith in Jesus. We can press in with God and His Word, refocus our attention, give our honor and praise to Him, and find ourselves exercising our God-given faith which will enable us to find ourselves IN Jesus once again. Our faith in Jesus overcomes the world.

There is a simple way to determine if we are among those who overcome and it is found 1 John 5:5 “Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? “ Many people “say” they believe in Jesus Christ, in fact even Satan believes Jesus is the Son of God. In a “Facebook” comment one lady remarked to some others witnessing the love of Jesus to her, “Wish you would stop trying to stuff Jesus and God down other people’s throats. It is f……sickening, a lot of us believe but do not need to go to church with a bunch of hypocrites to have that belief so just go away.” Does that sound like someone who believes in the greatest news on earth?

You see, believing is far more than simply acknowledging we know “of” Jesus. Satan acknowledges Who God is but will not accept the dominion of Jesus Christ. Many people do the same thing. They acknowledge who God is but do not submit to His Lordship in their lives. Therefore, simply “believing” in the basic essence of the word, is not what God is talking about here. “Believing” is the acceptance of everything about Jesus, acknowledging Him as God, as the only One who overcame the world, death, and the devil. Truly believing is “a knowing” at the seat of our desires, feelings, affections, passions, and impulses, that Jesus is the Son of God. Believing takes place in our hearts not just our minds. And it means accepting Him as Lord over our lives and then sharing our lives with those in the body of Christ. When we believe Jesus is the Son of God, when we have faith in God, we overcome. It is not an option. The Word says our faith overcomes the world. We may like to bring all the arguments against this since we don’t always experience the overcoming victory we expect to achieve, but that is only evidence our faith is still not grounded in Jesus.

One of my favorite verses on overcoming is found in Romans 8:37 (NASB) “But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loves us.” Most versions are written, “We are more than conquerors.” We probably should know what “all these things” are. We are going to go through things while living on earth. Those things are: v. 35 – tribulations, distress, persecution, famine, nakednesss, peril, and sword. Tribulations would be things causing great stress and pressure or calamity. Distresses we experience include extreme circumstances where we feel there is no way of escape because it feels so narrow, including sickness and disease. Perhaps we suffer persecution for our faith in Jesus Christ even fearing attacks from people beyond mere words. We will also experience hardship, possibly lack of food, clothing and other dangers to our well-being.

Then verse 37 comes with the words “but” and “all”. But, in all of these things we overwhelmingly conquer. Christians almost daily proclaim, “I don’t know if I am going to make it through this one.” Or “It will take a move of God to get me through this.” Or “I just can’t take any more.” Or “I wonder if God is even watching me because He sure isn’t doing anything for me here.” We may feel all of things but at some point, we MUST stand up in the faith which gives us victory and proclaim “BUT in ALL these things I overwhelmingly conquer.” This is not simply defeating the enemy, it is a landslide beating.

When going through trials, persecutions and the like, people like to vent and get all the “bad” things” out. Perhaps they even convince themselves this is the way to get over something. What we do not realize is that in doing this, we only propagate the negative feelings, and we do it because we want sympathy or empathy. I am not suggesting we “fake” it and pretend all is well all the time. BUT, I am suggesting we speak the Word and do the Word rather than doing what feels good at the time.

Recently I was sad, frustrated, angry, and irritated with Christian people. This happens every so often so I recognize the feeling when it comes on me. I was feeling suffocated by the complaints and lack of faith I was hearing and seeing in the body of Christ. I am not insensitive or immune to the problems we all face in this world, but I am very sensitive to how we handle these problems. In my emotion I found myself discouraged and judgmental leaving me at the point of tears. Since I want to be a doer of the Word and not a hearer only, I knew I must overcome and experience victory through faith. I knew I had to get into the Word of God and allow Him to refresh, convict, and renew my thinking. I knew I was to intercess through Him, not vent to others, (which would only fuel my frustration). Knowing all of this, I knew I had to make the right decision but was I ready and willing to be obedient?

It is a choice to nurse negative feelings or move into a place of confession and repentance, allowing God to cleanse and wash allowing Him to take the burdens. I will admit I don’t always choose rightly. Most times I vent first and then go to God afterwards. Timing is everything! If I would go to God first, I can vent to Him and won’t have a need to vent to others. Oftentimes we hang on to these emotions for the sake of validity or we believe the emotions have a hold on us and they will just go away in time. But our victory comes through faith in Jesus, and our faith in Jesus includes being obedient to His will, and His will is firmly established and revealed in His Word and by His Spirit.

The next time trials and tribulations come, as they will, and you feel overwhelmed, remember you are more than a conqueror through Christ. Everything must bow to our holy God. Revelation 12:11 says “And they overcame him (the accuser of the brethren) by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.” Don’t settle for complaining and venting when you overwhelming conquer everything in this world through faith in Jesus Christ. In other words, overcome so you are not overcome. Overcome by faith in Jesus so the world does not overcome you!

Musings on Beginnings

Today is a beginning. It is a day marked off as the start of a New Year. The year 2010 in the Roman calendar has begun. Since it is a beginning, it is a good time to reflect on beginnings. Beginnings are actually constant. We move from one day to next, one minute to next, constantly encountering new beginnings.

In terms of the ultimate beginning, there are only really two options of belief. Either you believe that the ultimate beginning was initiated by a Creator, or your believe that the ultimate beginning just happened by random chance. What you believe about the ultimate beginning shapes your beliefs about the world and the nature of beginnings. Personally, the world of beginning having an initiated beginning makes more sense to this writer. A start point with intent and purpose is entirely different from a starting point based from meaninglessness. Now the view of their being an initiated beginning leads to thoughts about other beginnings.

The first beginning is that of the first sin. The beginning of man moving away from depending on God for instruction and direction is the story of Eve eating from the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. The eating of such fruit allowed for a turning from God to self-determination. Adam took and ate, both then hid from God and when confronted shifted blame. God spoke and started the consequences of the move away from God. We all know at the beginning of life, start separated from God and depending on self. This led to God implementing several other beginnings in order to implement His plan of reconciliation.

Another beginning that is important and played a role is God’s plan is God beginning the nation of Israel through Abraham. This nation, these people God chose to reflect directly His ways to the world and be the starting point of God’s reconciliation with humanity. God made a promise based on His relationship with Abraham. It was through that beginning that God brought another beginning, the Torah: a revelation of His ways and His self for not only all of Israel but for all of humanity. The Torah is the beginning even of God’s written revelation. The revelation serves to give a measurement of how we fail to live up to God’s holy standards and point ahead and illustrate God’s plan for reconciliation.

Now God’s plan of reconciliation is the beginning point of all of humanity being able to be at peace with God. The reconciliation came by Jesus who is God in the flesh, in order to fulfill the requirements needed to reconcile man and God died in an extreme form of capital punishment as an atoning sacrifice. The innocent standing in place of the guilty as a scapegoat giving each person a point at which reconciliation with God begins. It begins with an intentional act of self, to accept the gift of reconciliation and turn from self. Such a decision is but a beginning of an ongoing relationship with the Creator, the one who initiated all beginnings. So, please take time and begin reconciliation with God by turning in surrender of self and accepting the gift of having the consequences of your own self-dependence redeemed. He initiated it but it takes intentional receiving of the gift in order to establish.

Now one thing about beginnings is that beginnings lead to an end. There is a conclusion and purpose. There is order. God has provided revelation of what the ultimate ending is. We have the final chapter of the story of humanity on earth. The essence of day to day live is getting from the beginning to the end. Each beginning is part of the ongoing process of growing and resolving the story. Ultimately, the beginning and end all reside in Jesus who is both. Take time to begin that relationship. If you already have, find out what is the next step and next beginning in the unfolding story of your life as you push forward toward that which God began. Know that always “He that BEGAN a good work in YOU will be faithful to complete it.” In other words, that which God has initiated and put in motion in His workings in your life will continue until it reaches God’s conclusion. God will always ensure that what He seeks to be complete will occur for those that follow Him. God will always bring His initiated beginnings to His conclusion. So take time and reflect on God’s initiation in your life and your responses. Examine your own beginnings and the ongoing process of moving forward in growth. One last thought, remember that always in comparison with eternity we really are still just beginning.

Peace on Earth Goodwill to Humanity

Christmas and all the trapping of the celebration have come and gone. Gifts have been given and received. Carols sung. Time with family and relatives spent. Countless sermons preached on the various elements of the story of the birth of Jesus. For this writer though, it all boils down to reflecting on what the birth of Jesus means. More particularly, the reflection of what the Angels announced to the Shepherds. The angles announced that Jesus came to bring peace on earth and goodwill to men. It strikes me that the people at Jesus time missed the meaning. They expected Jesus to come as a conquering hero and bringing all things under his reign. He would bring peace by re-establishing the throne of David. Here is the amazing thing. The depth and true meaning of peace is a common element to life in Israel. The Hebrew word for peace, Shalom, remains the common greeting. Perhaps with the daily greeting of peace the true meaning of the word gets lost. At the same level, has the gift of Jesus sacrifice at the cross so common a reference that we lose sight of what the gift truly means?

Jesus coming to earth did bring peace on earth and goodwill to men, just not in the way people expected. The Hebrew and Greek words for peace point to wholeness. Peace is not about the absence of conflict or suffering rather it means being complete, whole. The gift was Jesus that we needed because since the fall, when humanity made a choice not to be dependent on God for knowledge of right and wrong, humankind has not been whole. True wholeness comes when we are in fellowship and at peace with God. Any peace without being at peace with the Creator is limited and impotent. In order for the restoration of all of creation, first the debt of turning from God had to be paid. Jesus paid the price and made a way of reconciliation with God. That way established through the sacrifice of Jesus. His death and resurrection set all things right for those who choose to walk in the way. The way is a way of giving of self in whole, for only by whole surrender is true wholeness found. This is the meaning of peace on earth, goodwill to humanity. Jesus reconciled us with God enabling humans to be in right relationship with God and thus whole. This option is of benefit for all and is good news for all to embrace. For there is nothing to anyone needs to do to be right with God, other than surrender to God. It is noting earned by merit, it is simply a benefit received by turning from self to be in relationship with God.

Here is the difficulty though, while all should embrace the good news it falls short of expectations. Jesus life resulted in death because of failed expectations. People reject true peace today because of failed expectations. People expect a loving God would do away with all suffering and strife. What people fail to understand is that you cannot have peace without surrender. True peace is readily available to all who are willing to stop fighting and striving for self and return to listening to God and following His ways. His ways are good and simple. We are to love God first and then love others. Simple to say yet very difficult to do, as it is far easier for each person to focus on self. The path of true peace though comes with ever growing in loving response. In addition, as we love, we help generate true peace and goodwill in the lives of others, as we reflect the light of God’s peace and spread His goodwill. So if your desire is to see more peace, and less conflict in this world. It all starts with yourself and being at peace with God. Any other peace is faulty and temporary. Remember it all starts and ends with Jesus. His surrender leads to our surrender and by which comes peace on earth and goodwill to humankind.

Good Friday Musings: Seven common types of emotional suffering Jesus endured.

Today is Good Friday. It is the day where we commemorate the crucifixion of our redeemer. We commemorate the sacrifice of Jesus, the Lamb of God, who was slain to take away our sins. When we consider the day, usually our focus goes toward the immense physical pain he endured, suffering for our sins. We rarely take time to focus on another dimension of his suffering, the emotional suffering. In considering this day, seven common types of emotional suffering were identified in terms of what Jesus endured. So for this article will identify a type of emotional suffering and offer commentary about what Jesus suffered. This article will conclude with even looking at a type of emotional suffering Jesus suffered that was beyond our normal experience.

Stress: This is the most common type of emotional suffering, one that we all endure. There are multiple articles and suggestions on coping with stress. In the events of Passion Week, Jesus suffered stress more extensively than any other human. His stress started with his foreknowledge what must transpire. He entered into the events with full awareness of what he was about to endure. His stress level reached the point where in praying in preparation he reached a point where he sweated blood.

Betrayal: This is another common emotional suffering we endure. At some level we are all betrayed by someone we care about and trust. For Jesus and the events of Passion Week, Jesus faced total betrayal. It starts with Judas turning Jesus over to the Sanhedrin, yet the betrayal didn’t stop there. Peter also significantly betrayed him publically three times. The betrayals of Jesus exhibited by Judas and Peter actually cover the full range of types of betrayal we endure. Judas directly and aggressively betrayed Jesus to his face. Peter’s betrayals were passive and indirect. He did not betray Jesus to his face, but yet the betrayal was still there.

Abandonment: This type of suffering is pervasive and significant in many lives. Abandonment and the fear of abandonment is a big contributor significantly to psychological distress. It is different than betrayal because it is not an outright turning against one who previously stood alongside, but rather it is simply not being there when needed. It is a failure to have needs met. Jesus definitely experienced the full range of abandonment during Passion Week as well. It started with the disciples falling asleep when asked to watch and pray and continued with the disciples simply not sticking around during the events that transpired. He was not given the support He needed and was truly alone.

Rejection: There is something about being rejected that is at a core of a lot of human emotional suffering. We each have a desperate desire to be loved and accepted as we are and not be rejected. The rejections that come in life can add up and be a source of much psychological turmoil. In actuality, one can even view the assorted types of emotional distress and being one form or rejection or another. Jesus, in Passion Week faced ultimate rejection. He faced public rejection with the cries of “Crucify Him” and even had a murderer and rebel chosen over him to be released. He had the personal rejection occur on multiple levels throughout the course of the events of Passion Week. As the Bible points out, “He was despised and rejected of men.” (Isaiah 53:1)

Humiliation: Humiliation is something many people experience at one level or another with the result of a lot of psychological damage. Bullying and harassment are important issues in this day and age. No one likes to see anyone picked on or made fun of for any reason. Jesus faced an extensive amount of humiliation. He was brought down to the lowest possible level, with his claims being made a public spectacle.

Persecution: Persecution is essentially being tortured for something that you hold to and won’t let go of. It is essentially all forums of torture. Thankfully there are only a small percentage of people today who face direct persecution. Yet, many Christians and people readily given in to the more indirect types of persecution that call for compromise. Jesus during Passion Week faced extensive persecution. He was whipped to near death, he was hit, spat upon, had a crown of thorns jammed on his head, had to carry his cross and the ultimately was executed all because of his claim of being the Son of God, Messiah.

Injustice: The world is filled with injustice and we feel the effects of it daily. Yes, innocent are killed, guilty go free, evil prospers, good suffers, the blood of innocents is shed, and more. There is no end to the injustices in this world. Passion Week is the epitome of injustice. Jesus, who did no wrong, was executed alongside common criminals. Jesus was the ultimate shedding of innocent blood. Jesus deserved nothing and faced the totality of human emotional and physical suffering. He did so out of love, for you and me so that we may be redeemed and restored to relationship with the father. Any injustice you have felt, real or perceived pales to the injustice Jesus endured, all in order to bring Salvation.

Separation from God: Jesus endured one type of suffering none of us can grasp. He was in constant communion with God the Father. Yet, at the cross, that communion, that unity, that oneness was disconnected. This led to the agonizing cry “My God, my God why have you forsaken me!” None of us can grasp what Jesus suffered because we walk in continued separation. Even today with the infilling of the Holy Spirit we only grasp a taste of what Jesus had continually. The loss of that was excruciating and in reality was more than he could bear, leading to his physical death.

In summary, reflect on the emotional suffering Jesus endured along with the physical suffering in order that we may be brought away from separation from God and into fellowship with God. The reality is that if the events of Passion Week only brought one person into renewed fellowship with God, Jesus would have still endured it all. If you are reading this, and have not yet come to accept Jesus shedding of innocent blood in order that you may be redeemed, and agreed to accept the gift, the time is not too late, so find someone you know who has accepted this gift and ask them to help you.