Archive for July, 2015

1 Corinthians 13 — This will be the 16th and final blog on the Love Chapter as 1 Corinthians 13 is often affectionately called and we will end it with a review of its most famous verse, 1 Corinthians 13:13 which in the NIV states, “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” These three qualities of life are the basis of Christian belief. When you boil down our theology to its barest essence, it is these three things. Without faith, hope and love and without love being the greatest of these qualities, then our beliefs are meaningless, our acts are meaningless. The reason is that when we have these qualities we are intimating the very nature of God.

Without faith in the existence of God and without faith that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, there is no Christianity. Faith, as Hebrews 11:1 tells us, “is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Simply put, the biblical definition of faith is “trusting in something you cannot explicitly prove.” This definition of faith contains two aspects: intellectual assent and trust. Intellectual assent is believing something to be true. Trust is actually relying on the fact that the something is true. When we have faith in God, it means not only do we give intellectual assent to His existence but we also rely on it. Some will grant you that Jesus existed because of the overwhelming evidence outside the Bible that He did exist (intellectual assent) but it is a whole nother thing to trust that He says He is the Son of God, God in the flesh, and rely on it (trust). Our faith in God means that we believe that this world is not random and meaningless because it was made by a Creator. Our faith understands that the reason that the world is in disrepair is not because there is no higher power but rather because it was once perfect as is our God but we, man, in our free will decided to depart from obedience to our Creator through sin. Our faith thus allows us to see why Jesus was so absolutely necessary to break into human history. It was necessary for Him for complete the sacrificial system established in the Old Testament and be the permanent sacrifice for sin to reconcile us to God. Faith is believing in that which you can see and prove. We express that in our daily lives by not withholding the gospel message because we have faith that even the worst criminal can be redeemed through Christ’s sacrifice. Faith is believing in those that we love – seeing beyond what they are now and to what they can be in Christ. Faith is believing in and relying on God to have our best interest at heart no matter the circumstance. Faith is believing that fact with abandon so that we live lives sold out to Him no matter the cost to us personally. Through faith, we believe in and rely on the promises made by God in His Word to the point that we cannot be shaken by anything that the world throws at us.

Hope. Hope is also a necessary ingredient to the Christian faith. Without it, we might as well withdraw from the world and die. Hope is the attitude and focus of faith. Hope is believing God’s promises to be true even when there is overwhelming evidence for us to give up hope. Hope allows Christians to carry on amidst persecution. Hope allows Christians to endure torture and punishment for not renouncing the name of Jesus Christ. Hope allows us to cling to its rope in the midst of life’s storms. As mentioned in this blog yesterday, there have been some really dark valleys in my life where it was simply difficult to exist. Simply taking breaths took concerted effort. But, yet, there was something in me that keep me putting one foot in front of the other. There was that hope that things would get better. Without the Holy Spirit making us breath at times in life, we would curl up and die. In Christ, there is hope. Through in-dwelling of the Holy Spirit, He picks us up and carries us at time. It is hope that keeps our heart beating. It is hope that gives us the will to live. It is hope that God is working out His plan for our lives even in the valleys. It is hope that helps us see the valleys as part of our future testimony. It is hope that sees the mountaintop when we are in the valley. It is hope that gives us strength to know that if God did call us home right now this moment that we have a home in heaven that is far above anything that we know and can imagine in our limited human intellect and emotion here. It is hope that frees our soul frees us from the shackles of this world. It is hope that grants us peace. It is faith that gives us reliance. It is hope that gives us power and freedom. All of these things are necessary for us to love.

Love. Without love, life is hopeless. Without love, there can be no faith. Through faith, we can have hope. Through hope, we can love. But love is the most important aspect of the Christian faith. If we do not have love, we are just clanging cymbals. We are just an out of tune piano. We are just a guitar that needs tuning. We may have all the necessary ingredients to be a great Christ follower but if you do not have love as the basis for it all then we are not Christ followers at all. Love is action. Love is the tires on the NASCAR race car of faith and hope. Love puts faith and hope into action. Love moves us to act. It was love that caused God to send His Son into human history. So, love is the very essence of God Himself. Love is what changes the world from the inside out. Hate never has. Hate only begets more hate. The love of Jesus Christ radically changed the world as we know it. Peaceful protests in India brought the British Empire to its knees in India. Peaceful protests in my homeland of the American South led to radical change in my part of the country when you compare South Carolina in 1955 to South Carolina in 2015. The same could be said for every state of the Old South. It was peaceful protest that brought change. It was love that exposed the former structure of oppression as wrong and that must change. Love changes things. We are called as Christ followers to love in the face of hate. We are called to stand true to the truths of the gospel regardless of those who persecute us for believing in God’s truth. It is love that motivates us to care. It is love that believes that people can be changed by exposure to it. It is love that motivates us to continue believing in someone even when everyone else has written them off. It is love that allows us to make sacrifices for others without expectation that we will be praised for it. It is love that makes faith and hope real. It is love that makes us doers of the word rather than just readers of it. It is love that takes us from intellectual assent to feet on the ground soldiers for Christ. Without love’s motivation, it is all just words. Without love, we might as well just pack it all in. Without love, there is no faith and there is no hope.

Oh Father in heaven, help us to be motivated by love in everything that we do so that we can be more like You daily as we progress in our Christian walk. Help us to love others as much as You love us by having sent Jesus to rescue us from ourselves. Help us to be motivated by love and not by what someone can do for us. Help us to have Your Nature so that we give of ourselves to others. Help us to stand up for others when there is nothing to gain for us. Help us to stand on Your Promises so strongly that we are free to love others with abandon because we know that our heavenly home is far greater than anything that we hold dear here. Help us to rely on that fact so that it frees us to love uncommonly, dangerously, so that the world will know more of You through the actions of love. Amen.

1 Corinthians 13 — “It’s amazing Molly. The love inside; you take it with you!” Now, that is a classic movie line if there ever was one. It is, of course, one of the last spoken lines of the 1990 movie, “Ghost”.

Paul states in vv. 8-12 of this chapter that love is the only thing that lasts forever. He says that our spiritual gifts such as prophecy and special knowledge become useless in eternity because they are only partial and incomplete. This passage got me to thinking about two things. First, about what Paul says about spiritual gifts and second about what Paul says completeness in heaven.

Because we are incomplete, imperfect, and flawed human beings with limited understandings of God’s creation and even of our ownselves, we are each given specific gifts by God. We could not handle all spiritual gifts at once because of our limited nature. Thus, each one of us is given one or more spiritual gifts as our unique contributions to the symmetry of God’s plan for mankind through the church. God gives us our spiritual gifts for our lives here on earth in order to build up, serve and strengthen the church and its fellowship of believers. We all have something to give. We all have unique talents that God has given us to make the entire body of Christ more effective. We should never think that just because we have a certain gift from God as our talent that it makes it in some way superior to the gifts given others. Because of our limited nature here on earth, we each have a role to play. None are more important than another. The guys on the parking team at our church are as important on Sunday mornings as the preacher who preaches. If we do not have our guys out there directing people to the most efficient use of our limited parking spaces, a seeker may turn around and leave and never here the sermon that the preacher preaches that they needed to hear. Thus, we should never let our talents make us feel superior to another. We should never let our talents separate and divide us. Because Paul tells us, these talents that we have are incomplete things and will become useless to us in heaven anyway. Our talents are this plane of existence only. Thus, they are meaningless in heaven because the only thing we carry with us when we go to heaven is the love in our souls. Our gifts and talents are meaningless in eternity, only love remains. Our gifts and talents do not carry over so they are not something that we should lord over others. We will all be equally perfected in heaven for those of us who know Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord.

The second thing that comes to my mind from reading these verses is the concept of clarity that we gain in heaven. It has been a point that has been driven home to me lately as the result of the death of the mother of my children, my ex-wife, 11 days ago. She died suddenly at the age of 54 from an apparent heart attack or severe stroke. One month shy of age 55, she was. Because of the combination of the losses she suffered in her lifetime and because of her personality, even my daughters will tell you that she was a difficult person to deal with. But the point that I kept coming back to about her death was that now she sees with clarity as has entered into the heavenly realms where God dwells. On earth, she may have felt that people did not care about her the way that they should have. Maybe, here she felt as though no one cared. Maybe, here, she felt that people should do things only her way. Maybe, here, she could not understand how her actions appeared to others. Maybe, here, she could not understand how the words she used were often daggers to the people that heard them. Maybe, here, she felt unloved by many. However, when we take Jesus’ hand and exit this side of eternity, we begin to see things in perfect clarity. We have knowledge that is complete. Paul compares it to the maturity of a child vs. the maturity of a grown up. There are just things that kids are incapable of understanding until they grow up and have more and more life experiences. It is the same with us when we get to heaven. There are things that we just cannot understand in this life on earth because of the limitations of being sinful human beings with limited intellect and limited understanding of space and time. Right now, we know so little. When we go to heaven, we gain all understanding. The things that we didn’t understand here; we have complete understanding of there. Lisa now knows that Meghan and Taylor loved her even though they did not always agree with her. She can see the love and feel their love now. Lisa now knows that not everyone was her enemy. Lisa now knows that her family cared about her. She now knows that I did not hate her and had forgiven her a long time ago for all the bitter things that happened at the end of our marriage and through our divorce. She can now see all things clearly. All that happened the moment she took Jesus’ hand. All the fears, all the insecurities, all the loneliness, all of it washes away into the complete knowledge of God that flowed through Jesus’ hand as she took it into hers as she passed into eternity.

Everything that we hold dear here on earth, everything we take pride in here on earth, everything talent we have, every resource that God allows us to have, every ounce of pride, every earthbound limited thing that we cling to in this life as being meaningful to us is meaningless in eternity. The only thing we take with us is the love. That makes love the only thing worth having here on earth. Maybe, we, then, should concentrate on loving others as Christ loved us rather than putting our stock in things that do not last. Love is the only thing that last forever, according to Paul.

It is amazing, Molly. The love inside you take it with you. It’s the only thing we take with us. As those great philosophers, The Beatles, said, “Love. Love. Love. All ya need is love. Love is all you need. Love is all you need.”

1 Corinthians 13 — Love is a long-term investment. Love is not day-trading. Love is stock that you buy and hold the investment through the peaks and valleys of the market. Love is an investment for the long-haul. It is an investment that you hold even when the market is screaming that you sell, sell, sell. May we have a love investment strategy that is for the long haul where we do not sell it off at the first sign of a dip in the market.

Today, we finish up the characteristics of love. What love is and what love is not. We have spent a great deal of time here as we have gone through each characteristic one by one. You as the reader have endured to the end. Today, we talk about how as Paul says love endures every circumstance. That’s a pretty high standard but that is the love that we as Christ followers must have so that we can be imitators of Christ.

Love endures every circumstance means that we love regardless of whether we get payback on our love or not. So many of us expect that we are going to get paid back for our love. A man brings his wife flowers and writes a beautiful card with the expectation that she will be intimate with him later. A wife fixes her husband his favorite meal and compliments him profusely just so she can go out with the girls later. These are examples of how we all love at times. We invest with the expectation that we will get a return on our investment. We love with the expectation that if I do this for you then you will do this for me. Is this really love? When we call this love that we do something for another person so that will do something for us is not really love, is it? Is it more like manipulation than love? Real love is doing something for someone just because you know they will enjoy what you are doing for them. You know they likes and dislikes and you try to meet their needs because for no other reason than you love them. Think of how we are with our children. For much of their lives, they do not appreciate what parents do for them. As a matter of fact, they often expect and demand that we do as much as possible for them without any sign that they appreciate it. Often as teenagers, our children have great disdain for us but yet we as parents still love them. Our love for them endures all the lack of appreciation, the lack of payback. We love them no matter how bad they treat us. Our love endures.

Love endures every circumstance means also that we never throw in the towel on a relationship. This concept seems almost foreign to marital relationships now and also to friendships. Today, if a marriage does not meet my needs, if a marriage has any conflict in it at all, we are ready to bolt. Marriage is no longer seen as a lifetime commitment. It is seen as a commitment that we stick with as long as it is fun and it is not hard work. Real marital love is expressed in a wife sticking by her alcoholic husband for years until he finds recovery. Real marital love is seen in the husband who instead of divorcing his wife for infidelity works through the pain and works on the marriage to make it better. Real marital love requires that we work through the tough times where everything in you screams to run for the hills. Real marital love is making it work when everyone tells you that you deserve better than him or you deserve better than her. That’s why we should think long and hard before we get married. Real love endures that hard times. Real love does not abandon. Real love is a choice not a feeling. Real love does not give up just because you are not paying me back. Real love means you signed up for everything. Real love means I love you when you are having a bad day. Real love means I love you when you are have a bad week or bad year. Real love endures til the end.

The same can be said for non-marital relationships as well. Few of us have friends for a lifetime even if we live in the same geographic area all of our lives. Over a lifetime, even if spent in the same place, we allow people to drift out of our lives. Real friendships are those that endures through all things. Few can say that they have had a friend for a lifetime. Often we treat our friendships today in the same way that we treat marriages. Our friendships must do something for us. We throw them away when they are not meeting my needs. Those friendships that last a lifetime are the ones where you love the other friend regardless of how they act. You look past that night where he cussed you out and get back to being friends the next day. Friendships that last a lifetime are those that allow the other person to just be who they are without having to meet any requirements to be your friend. This kind of love means that you will drop what you are doing to be there for your friend not because you expect to get anything out of it but because you need them. This kind of love does not keep record of how many times “I have been there for you” vs. how many times “You have been here for me.” That is real love. That is real friendship. That is the kind that lasts a lifetime. Real love endures.

Love endures all things. It remains even when circumstances make everything in you cry out to walk away but you stay. This kind of love is a choice. It says that I am going to love you no matter what happens. This is the love that God has for us. He patiently waits for us. He loves us no matter what we say or do. He could easily abandon us and reject us and say we are not worth it. But God sees what we can be in Him. He loves us so much that He sent His Son to be the sacrificial lamb offered up to save us from sin and death. God could have divorced himself from us. He could have washed His hands of us. But He did not. He invested in us through stepping into human history as Jesus Christ so that we would have a reconciled relationship with Him not a broken one. God loves us no matter how we treat Him. God loves us even when we are like teenagers treating their parents like crap. God loves us always. God loves us forever. God’s love for us endures all the rage that throw at Him. He loves us without expectation of it ever being returned. His love endures so that there can be that moment we turn to Him through His Son Jesus Christ. We must love in the same way that God loves us. Without love that endures, we are simply manipulating people to get what we want and then we throw them away. Love that endures make the celebrations on the mountaintops sweeter because we did not abandon the ones we love in the valleys. Just think of how much joy it brings God when we finally turn to Him. Love that endures is love that brings tears of joy to your eyes. Let us love one another in this way. Let us not be a people that does not throw relationships away like we throw away yesterday’s garbage. Let us have love that endures all things, all circumstances. Are you willing to invest for the long haul? Are you willing not to run at the first sign of trouble? There are long term investors so let us be long term lovers willing to hold our relationships through every peak and valley. Let us love without regard to getting our investment repaid immediately. It is true in investing that often we miss the biggest payoff when we cash in too early. Love that endures is love that has the biggest payday.

1 Corinthians 13 — Love is always hopeful. Hope springs eternal. Hope is the thing that keeps us alive. Hope is that one thing that you cling to when you are down and out. It is hope that gives the strength to carry on. In my life I have seen this concept played out in my life and in the lives of people that I have known and/or loved.

In my life, hope has carried me through tough times. There have been times in my life where it was simply a struggle to get out of bed. When I was going through my first divorce, it was hope that carried me. It was a tough time. There were times when I stopped at the local hot dog joint to by four hot dogs so that I would have dinner for two nights. There were times when I was unable to see my kids for long stretches. The divorce separated me not only from my wife, my kids, my home, it also separated me from people I had known for 20 years. But the relationship was such that I feared for my life and the collateral damage that it was causing my children. I had to make a bold move and it resulted in me being completely alone. I was starting over from scratch. It was a tough, tough time emotionally. But there was something in me that kept me going. Kept me getting up each day. There was the hope that things would get better. It kept me alive. Hope kept me alive. Things were similar in my second marriage, I ultimately had to make choices between my children and my second wife. There was this jealousy of anything to do with my past life before our marriage and that included my children. So many mistakes made during this time. Eventually, I had to choose between my new life and my children. Our responsibilities to our children should always win. It may cost you the life that you know, but we know it to be right. Alone again. Starting over again. My second ex seemed to be living it up while I sulked away and was crushed by the emotional weight of the separation and divorce. Early on, literally, there were days that I could not get out of bed. Sleeping was my solace. It was the escape from the loneliness of my life. But there was hope. Hope was all I had. There was hope that things would get better. Starting all over again from scratch again, but there was hope.

This time there was hope through Jesus Christ. This was 2004 but in 2001 I had accepted Christ as my Savior. There was hope. There was a purpose seen in the suffering. There was hope that no matter how blue I got, there was simply the foundation of hope that eventually things would get better. Through Jesus Christ, our suffering is not welcomed but it can be endured. Our suffering is seen in the light that there things to be taught to us. All the mistakes in my life were enlightened to me one by one during this time in my life. It was painful but yet hopeful. Relationships with my children repaired and deepened. Understanding that the world will not explode if I am not in a relationship. Knowing when to say when, when it comes to relationships that are bad for me. Learning finally that your spouse should be your best friend in addition to your lover. These are all the things that led me to the wife God had intended me to find but only when my eyes were open enough to see her. Elena and I claim “God Bless the Broken Road” by Rascal Flatts as our theme song. We would not appreciate this marriage had it not been for the broken road of our respective pasts. To get to her, if it were not for hope, the belief that things would get better, the belief that God was actually guiding my steps even when it was darkest, we would not be together. If there was not hope, I would have given up. If there was not hope in my heart that a better day was around the corner, I would not being experiencing the blessings that I am experiencing now. God has me in a season of blessing at the moment. When I look back on the hard, rocky trail with all of the ups and downs, it is not lost on me that it was hope that brought me here. I thank God for the broken road because of hope. Because of hope, when the smooth stretch of road comes, it is oh so much sweeter. God gives us hope. His Son gives us hope. There will be a brighter, shinier day ahead. Whether it is in this lifetime or in heaven, brighter days are ahead. Hope springs eternal through Jesus Christ. Cling to hope even when hope is all you have. Your hope is found in Jesus. When you have Jesus, you have hope. When you have hope, we can make the best of the worst of times because better days are coming. Better days are coming.

I have seen also in others in life where hope has disappeared. Life disappears soon after. I think of my mother. A fine Christian woman with a drive and a spirit that kept her a vivacious and involved woman the majority of her life. In her latter years though, back problems, back surgeries (notice that is plural not singular), arthritis, and sheer old age ravaged my mom. Next came dimentia. She had become a shell of the vivacious woman I once knew. Her pain and the dimentia eventually led my mother to give up on life. She gave up hope. When we lose hope, death follows. My mother passed away soon after we saw her give up hope on life. This was not a morbid giving up on life. It was simply a woman tired of living in a body that was no longer working. It was a woman who was tired of being in pain. It was a woman who was just tired. She was ready to go home to the Father in heaven. She gave up hope. She gave up the fight and death mercifully soon followed. It made me realize what a role hope plays in our life. It is that inner fire that drives us to stay alive. It is that which drives us on forward when the world is falling apart around us. I saw this point clearly again with the passing of my first ex-wife here within the last week. She was 54 when she died 9 days ago. She too had given up hope on life. When she was 3, her father died in a car accident which also left her mother in a wheelchair for the rest of her life. When she was 19, her 22 year old brother was taken in a car accident. Finally, the thing that took away what hope she did have in life was when her mother passed away 11 years ago. When that happened, you could see my ex-wife exhale what hope she had left. When hope goes, health fails. When hope goes, you withdraw from life. When hope goes, we begin to die. Mercifully, my ex-wife is now reunited with her mom, dad and brother. When hope goes, we wait and wish for death to come to us. We live but we are dying when we have no hope.

Thus, hope is that drive that things will get better. Hope is the belief that things will actually get better when all evidence is to the contrary. That’s why Paul says love is hopeful. When we love others, we believe that they will become what they have the potential to be. When we love, we believe in a person even when all evidence makes others think you should write that person off. Love is hopeful means that we go through hard times with a person. Love is hopeful means that we cling to the belief that there is an awesome person inside that rough exterior. Love is hopeful means that we cling that small light in the darkness. Love is hopeful means that we never give up. We keep pushing through. We keep prodding. We keep on keeping on with those we love. Love is hopeful means that we see through the arguments and hateful words as just words and arguments and see the hope that love brings.

Our Father in heaven is hopeful for us. He believes in us even when we spew hate on Him. He believes in the best in us even when we shake our fist at Him. He sees what we can be in Him even when we walk away from Him. He is forever hopeful that you and I will accept His ultimate act of love in sacrificing His own Son on the cross for our sins. He waits with hope. He believes in us. He believes that we will come to our senses. Hope keeps God pursuing us relentlessly. Hope is the nature of God. Love is the nature of God. He loves you. He wants you to come to Him. He has plans for you. To give you a hope and a future. The broken road that you are on now is leading you to Him. He will give you hope where there is none. He will help you see that there is sunshine around the corner. He will help you see that your broken road is for a purpose. He wants you to stand in the field of daffodils with the warm sunlight on your face. Have hope. Have Jesus. Even in the dark days in the valleys are filled with evidence of God’s guiding hand. That gives us hope. That gives us a string to cling to that pulls us through to the mountaintop. Call on Jesus’ name. He’s hoping. He’s waiting. There is life in hope!

1 Corinthians 13 — Love never loses faith. When you think of love never losing faith, I immediately think of mothers. Mothers never lose faith in the children regardless of circumstance. Fathers seem to be more objective about their children but because of the way women are wired and because women carry and give birth to children, there is an unique connection there that cannot be explained and gives root to enduring faith in their children’s potential. So, to have love that never loses faith is one that is demonstrated to us by our mothers and is the same kind of love that God has for us.

Faith as we speak of it here means having complete trust in the ultimate good in the ones that we love. When we have faith in the ones we love, we believe them when all evidence points to the contrary. When we have love that never loses faith, we have trust that there is something lovable in the person we love even when they screw up. When we have complete trust in another person we make ourselves vulnerable to them. When we have a love that never loses faith, we have trust that the other person has a deep-seeded goodness in them. When we have love that completely trusts, we would reveal our darkest secrets and our deepest longings to them. When we have a love that never loses faith, we feel comfortable that they will never hurt us with malice of forethought. How many people in your life do you completely trust? Do you trust your husband or your wife? In order for us to really love we must have give someone our complete trust. In order to truly love we must think of how our mothers love us. No matter how hard we try to make fun of them growing up, no matter how hard we try to disobey them, no matter what we do, unless your mother has some emotional issues of her own, a mother’s love has complete trust. Our mothers think about us and get misty eyed just thinking of the way love us. God has a love for us that sees the good that we can be. God had trust that we can be changed from evil, selfish beings into lights of the world. God believes in us so much that He sent His Son so that we would have a way to be reconciled to Him and become His beautiful children. He loves us.

Faith as we speak of it here has confidence and belief that the ones we love are capable of being more than they are right now. Confidence that loves even when we rebel. Confidence that loves even when we shake our fists. Think of mothers of known and convicted murderers who still come to visit their sons or daughters in prison. Such moms have complete confidence in that there is something lovable, something redeeming about their child. Think of your own mother. Even though you and I are not murderers, we have done many things to disappoint our mothers over the years. We have treated them as our handmaidens. We have treated them as a hired hand who must do for us without thanks. We have disregarded their feelings. We have yelled at them as if they were lower than life. We have rebelled against them. We have treated them as if they were stupid. We have treated them with disdain. We have treated them as if they were not there. Surely, there are times that our mothers in their humanness and imperfections have done things that may rightfully make us angry at them. That happens. Yet, a mother (unless there are psychological issues that she is dealing with) despite all evidence of our not loving them continue to love. Mothers love despite their children’s actions. Mothers start from a place of love with their children and have complete faith in the goodness of their children. Isn’t this the way that God loves us, we fight Him. We rebel against Him. We shake our fist at Him. We treat His Word as menu items from which we can choose. We treat His Word as old fashioned and out of date. We treat Him as if He doesn’t even exist at all. Yet, He loves us enough to overlook all of that. He loves us enough to have confidence that we will at some point (even if it is on our deathbed) come to Him through the only method He made available to us in Jesus Christ. He has confidence that if we see the path that we will take it. He has confidence that we are worth cutting through all of our rebellion, all our disdain, all of our fist shaking. Why? Because He loves us.

Love never loses faith. God’s love for us has so much faith in us that we can spend a lifetime shaking our fist at Him but yet find Him at the last possible moment and He will accept us. A mother’s love for her children is like that. Ever confident. Never losing faith. God loves us in the same way. It is never too late to turn to Him. It is never too late but there is no time like now. Life is short. We are never promised 75-80 years of life. Turn into God’s love for you. He loves you. He knows every bad thing, every mean thing, every horrible thing, even those things that you think nobody noticed. He knows it all. He knows all the crud that has developed in your life. He knows it all. But He still loves us and is waiting patiently with His love for you that never lost trust in you, always had confidence in you. He never lost faith in you. He has been patiently waiting for you to come to Him and He has provided you a way to be made clean again through the sacrifice for your sins on the cross by Jesus Christ. Come back home to God. He loves you. He has faith in you that never gives up on you and writes you off. Come home now.

1 Corinthians 13 — In the 1992 movie, The Last of the Mohicans, there was one of the great movie lines of all time, when Daniel Day Lewis’ character says to Madeline Stowe’s character, “You stay alive, no matter what occurs! I will find you. No matter how long it takes, no matter how far, I will find you.” That is one of the most inspirational comments about love that you will ever hear. That is love never giving up. That is what Paul says about love that we will look at this morning. Love never gives up. This characteristic of love is one that we need more of in this day and age in our personal relationships.

Love never gives up. In our personal relationships today, many of us give up more often that we push through. 52% of all first marriages end in divorce. 76% of second marriages end in divorce and with each succeeding marriage the percentage inch ever higher. We give up. We do not want to have to struggle in our relationships any more. We throw them away like we do the baby’s bathwater. Rarely in today’s world do you hear of marriages like that of my friends, Brian and Pat McKnight who have been married 46 years. I am no different than the rest of our nation. I often joke that I have been married for 27 years…but just to three different women. Thank God the third time was the charm as my marriage to Elena is the one that is going to take me to the finish line of life. But it is emblematic of our world today. We do not want to work through the tough stuff. We would rather run that stay and work on relationships. We confuse sexual passion with love in today’s world. We think that we are to have that hot, animal passion of new relationships for the rest of lives. When we live in that place, it is awesome but if we are basing our marriages on that feeling then every time we are going to be disappointed.

My mother, who is in heaven with Jesus now going on 5 years, gave me advice a long time ago that has stuck with me all these years. She said that you need to find a wife that will be your best friend outside the bedroom as much as in it. That means pretty much is that sex even when we are in that hot passion phase early in relationships that intimacy doesn’t last long and we spend more time outside the bedroom than we do in it. Elena’s mom has some sage advise as well, “Don’t allow one time what you are not willing to put up with the rest of your life.” From the wisdom of these two great ladies we see the crux of long-term relationships, relationships that last.

Best friends outside the bedroom as well as in it. Let us make sure that we are compatible with the one we marry. Hot, sexual passion is wonderful but sometimes we blind ourselves with it when choosing our mate. Let us make sure that our wives or husbands are people that we actually can be best friends with. Let us find that person that we can talk to and be completely understood. Let us find that person that a look can express a hundred words. Let us find that person that calms and soothes our soul just be sitting down next to us. Let us find that person that we can actually talk to. Let us be best friends with the ones we love. Let us not just want them with great passion and the moment that it done you listen to the talk and want to rip their eyes out. Let us find and marry our best friend in our marriages.

Let us not accept one time what you are not willing to put up with the rest of our life. As we live with someone over the years there can be little things that become big things. Each one of us is unique creatures made in the image of God and He has given each one of us unique personalities. In marriage, we find your quirks and my quirks running headlong into each other. If something about your spouse irritates you now just imagine 20 years from now. We should consider these things before we marry. If some habit or hangup is driving you nuts now, just think how exacerbated that will be years down the road in this laboratory of human behavior called marriage. Think of your boyfriend or girlfriends worst quality. Is that something that you are willing to accept for the rest of your life. If you are, then proceed to the altar. If you are not, run Forrest run! When you are best friends enough we a person to accept their worst fault and love them anyway then and only then are you ready for the altar.

From my mom, married for 52 years to my dad when she passed away in November 2010 at the age of 70 and from my mother-in-law, married now for 64 years as she is now 83 years old, we learn sage advice. These ladies had marriages that lasted and are lasting longer than any marriages that I know of these days. These are examples of never giving up. Love means that we work through problems. Love means that we forgive our spouse for their imperfections as we slowly learn of our own. Love means not crucifying our spouse for not being exactly like us. Love means that will allow our spouse to be who they are and not try to form them in our ideal mate. Love means dealing with problems and moving to the next level of the relationship. Love means never giving up.

How marriage is so like God’s relationship with us. He never gives up. He sent us His Son to give us a chance to be reconciled to Him. He loves us that much to have given of Himself in that way, to allow His Son to be offered as a sacrifice for our sins. God loves us despite the fact that we are not 100% faithful to him. God loves us when we act as though we don’t even know Him. God loves us in the good times and the bad. God loves us when we are not perfect. God loves us when we show our ugly, evil side to Him. God loves us when we look pretty gnarly first thing in the morning. God loves us warts and all. Why can’t we have marriages that are a symbol of God’s love for us? Why can’t we have love that never gives up? God never gives up on us. We should never give up on our marriages. We should have marriages that say to the world, “no matter what occurs! No matter how long it takes, no matter how far.” Let us have marriages with this character that never gives up on the one we love. Let us have marriages like that.

1 Corinthian 13 — There are those who have put their life at peril and some have even given their lives in the pursuit of justice and truth. The litany of names throughout history of those that have stood up to injustice and have been killed for their stand goes on and on and on. Love demands that we pursue what is right and what is true and what is eternal even unto death. So many of us cower away from the truth if it is going to cost us something. Do you, do I, seek justice and rejoice in God’s eternal truth?

We have spent the last few days looking at Paul’s discussion of what love is not. We now turn to positives. We now turn toward what love is. Today’s characteristic is that love does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever truth wins out. This is certainly a call to Christ followers to be actively in the pursuit of justice and truth. We should be drawn to what is true and what is right because they are of the character of God.

Do we have what it takes to be such Christians? Do we have the guts to stand up against those who oppress others. Do we have the guts to help the church spread the gospel in China? Do we have the guts to help free women from the sex trafficking trade in the India and southeast Asia? Do we stand by and accept the evil being perpetrated upon others. Doe we turn a blind eye? When we turn a blind eye to injustice we are in effect supporting it. When we complain about inner city blacks burning their neighborhoods down in anger over life as it is, but do nothing to change their lives one person at a time, day by day, working in the trenches with them. Can we really complain? When we lament over the needs of small segment of the population having their right to marry forced on the rest of us, but yet we do not vote, but yet we do not run for office, can we really complain? When we see a poor man begging on the street and wish he would leave but yet we do nothing about working with the poor to change their plight in life, we are accepting injustice and allowing it to continue. When we see hate for one race toward another but say nothing and just accept that it’s just the way it is and do not seek to change it, we let Satan win. Our silence in the face of that which is not of God is the same thing as accepting it.

We are called to be love justice and rejoice in the truth. Justice and truth. We are to love them. We are to stand by them. We are to be willing to die for them. God is truth and God is justice. How can I accept racism and participate in it and then stand in church on Sunday and hear that we are all created in the image of God. How can I accept sex trafficking, poverty, abortion, assaults on marriage, and assaults on religious freedom and any other assault on that which is of God and claim to be Christian. We must stand for what is of God. We must care about more than our house and our cars and our vacations. We must fight for the things that matter to God. We cannot ignore the victims of sex trafficking by closing our ears. They will still be there. We cannot ignore the cries of the unborn by simply ignoring it. We cannot erase poverty by avoiding that part of town and thinking the United States is made up of all wealthy people. We cannot make the hungry children in Africa go away by changing the channel when disturbing images come on the screen. We cannot ignore our Christian friends in the Middle East who are being persecuted and killed just because they are Christian. They will not go away if we ignore it. They are still there. Do we even care? As long as we can drive a nice car, have a nice house, and little conflict in life, we are happy. In the meantime, there is injustice that abounds in this world and yet we watch movies and play video games.

What does this say about our generation, me included? We sit blindly by as Christians die around the world and yet complain that the government is doing nothing while we sit on our couches typing our statuses on facebook and do nothing ourselves. We complain that it is wrong for young girls to be captured and sold into sex slavery but I only know one person in my life who is actually doing anything about it. We think someone else will fight for justice and we sit on our couches waiting for THEM to do something. You and I know the things that are wrong in this world. You and I know what is against the nature of God. You and I know what grieves the heart of God when He looks at our world. Let us step up to the plate. Let us be a generation remember for caring more about the plight of our fellow man than about how many toys are sitting in our driveways and garages. Let us be a generation that knows what truth and justice are and are willing to die for it. Injustice and evil will continue as long as we are silent. When we are silent, we accept evil and injustice being poured out on our fellow occupants of this blue ball called Earth. Let us not go quietly into the night. Let us not give up without a fight. Let us be remembered as a generation that fought for the downtrodden and the oppressed. Let us be remembered as a generation that expressed love for others by fighting against oppression. Let us be remembered as a generation that sought truth and justice rather a generation that was more concerned with its own entertainment as the world burns around them. Let us not be remembered as a generation that allowed the world to burn around us but all we wanted to was dance.