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.

1 Corinthians 13 — This one is the toughest of the love is not phrases in this, the love chapter. Are you an accountant when it comes to your relationships? Do you keep a ledger on every relationship where you track what negative things a person has done to you? Paul says we should not be accountants of love!

How can I forgive someone who has done me wrong? How can I love someone who has spewed hate all over me? How can l love someone who has made it their life’s aim to destroy me? This is a question that I have pondered over the years when it comes to my first ex-wife. It has become an introspective thing for me here in the last couple of days as my grown children mourn the sudden passing of their mother, my first ex-wife. Our 13 year marriage was a rocky one and the divorce was stuff of made-for-TV movies. It was ugly. There were things that happened that should make me bitter towards her forever, according to worldly standards. However, it was only by the grace of God and my salvation in Jesus Christ that forgiveness ever came. Keeping nor records of wrongs does not mean you forget what happened but it does mean that you choose to forgive. It is only by the grace of God that our eyes are opened to the things that we have done to contribute to another’s person’s hateful actions.

Love keeps no record of wrongs. Man, that is a tough one. It is what separates worldly definitions of love from agape love. Divorce courts are full of “you did me wrong, I don’t love you anymore” cases. Relationships between family members are permanently destroyed because of recordkeeping. In this world, not just in husband-wife relationships, not just in family member relationships, but in all relationships, they can be destroyed by keeping records of wrongs. When we keep records of wrongs, we pull out those ledgers and look at them and remind ourselves of the pain that we felt at the hands of another. This is a message for everyone. Unless you live under a rock at the top of the Himalayan mountains, you have relationships with other people regardless of the degree of intensity of those relationships.

Love does not keep records of wrongs done to us. When we do that, we are not truly loving. When we do that, we do not reflecting the nature of God. When we keep records of wrongs done to us we are making those wrongs our gods. Idols do not have to be wooden, carved images that we worship. It can be our own pain and suffering. When we get swept up in life having to be perfect for us where no one hurts us, we can make the wrongs done to us our idols just as much as if it were a statue that we worship. People who let the wrongs done to them by others consume their very being, the very core of who they are, they let the thing the other person has done to them define them. There was a true story made into a movie back in the early 90’s called, “A Woman Scorned: The Betty Broderick Story” where a difficult marriage ended with the husband having an affair. Betty Broderick descends into the insanity of revenge and becomes consumed by attempting to destroy the life of her ex-husband. Betty eventually drives every person in her life away including her children. She becomes so consumed with vengeance that she ultimately breaks into the home of her ex-husband and his new wife and murders them while they sleep. This was a true story and an extreme example of how we get let the wrongs done to us by others consume us and destroy us and let those wrongs become our idols. We see it not only in marriage but in all kinds of relationships even ones that are less intense than marriage. I have an uncle who has not come around our family since the late 60’s because of something my grandfather said way back then. Even though my grandfather is gone, he refuses to mend fences with the rest of the family. How can we love when we keep records of wrongs? How can we expect others to love us when we break out that ledger of wrongdoing every time that person comes around? How can we love if we do not set aside wrongs done to us? When we don’t, it affects all of our relationships. When we don’t let go of wrongs, we make them our god and a false god at that.

When we keep records of wrongs done to us, we obsess about them. We obsess about what that other person did to us that we forget what wrongs we have done to others. We have a tendency of making the wrongs one-sided. In every relationship, we do wrongs to one another. Some things are small and inadvertent. Some things are big and purposely hurtful. We all hurt one another. When we refuse to see what we have done to contribute to the downfall of a relationship, it is often because we are so focused on what someone has done to us that we are blind to our own contributions. When we love, really love, we admit our own mistakes. When we love, we consider what we have done to contribute to the mean spot we find our relationship in. Although you can feel completely justified in having an affair because of some perceived or actual wrong that your spouse has committed, it does not make it right. As the old saying goes, two wrongs don’t make a right. Even though someone has hurt you badly, it is not the love of which Paul speaks to do something equally or even more mean to the one who hurt you. When someone has hurt us on purpose, we must examine ourselves before we lash out at them. If more husbands and wives took a look at themselves and how they contributed to the downfall of their marriages rather than trying to justify their own actions or reactions, there would be far less divorces today. I applaud my oldest daughter, Meghan, for not listening to us in our keeping records of wrongs and who is working on rebuilding her marriage and making it better. She is not keeping her record of wrongs. She is setting it aside because it takes two to tear a marriage down and it takes two to make it work. Forgiveness does not mean forgetting but it does mean setting our wrongs aside. Forgiveness does mean that we examine ourselves. Forgiveness does mean seeing other people as having the same ability to screw up as we do. Love means forgiving and setting aside the record of wrongs.

It is only through the grace of Jesus Christ that I can look back at my first marriage and see my mistakes, my reactions to her actions, and see that as the opposite of what a Christ-like response is. It is now these 20 something years later that I can look back on my relationship with my first ex-wife and think fondly of the good times not dwell on the bad. I think of two beautiful daughters that are unique to this world because of my first ex-wife and me. If I had these children by someone else, they would be my daughters but they would not be different from Meghan and Taylor. Meghan and Taylor are unique to Lisa and me. When I look back, I can remember the wrongs that she did to me which were very serious but also recognize the role that I played and no longer hold a grudge. As we celebrate Lisa’s life this Sunday, I am at peace with her and hopefully now she is at peace with me.

A line from one of the greatest movies of all time, Love Story, said that love means never having to say you’re sorry. I never agreed with that line. Love does mean setting aside your pride and saying you are sorry. Love means realizing that the people in our lives are flawed. Love means realizing that we are flawed. Love means giving and forgiving. Love means not being a recordkeeper or bean counter of the wrongs of another person. Love forgives. Love does not forget but it chooses to forgive.

1 Corinthians 13 — The next characteristic of what love is not is one that seems a little beyond reason. Paul says that love is not irritable (in the New Living Translation – other translations may say “not easily angered”). Man, that’s a tough one. Don’t we all get irritable at times? First thing in the morning before I get my coffee, I would have to say that I am irritable. My wife knows not to have a serious conversation with me for at least a half hour after I get up. I am not openly hostile first thing in the morning, but irritable yes. I am certainly not one of those people that pops out of bed all bright, sunny, and perky. Those people I just want slap first thing in the morning because…well…I am irritable. Waking up first thing in the morning, many of us are irritable to a certain degree. But for most of us it passes after we smash the alarm clock into small little pieces and have had our first cup of coffee. We must choose to lose our irritable nature. However, if we remain irritable or have an irritable disposition in general, it is the opposite of love.

If we look back to Mark 6:30-44, we see irritability in action among the disciples. They had experienced a long day of staging and managing one of what I like to call Jesus’ revival meetings. Jesus had been speaking to and teaching 5,000 people plus women and children. So, really, the crowd was around 10,000 with the women and kids. Big crowd. Imagine workers at a Billy Graham crusade meeting doing all the behind the scenes work to make Mr. Graham’s services in those large venues seem seamless. It is hard work to make a big event seem like its effortless. So, the disciples were tired by the end of the day. They were irritable. Irritable people just want people to go away. They want to be left alone. The disciples just wanted everybody to go home. They were tired, they were hungry themselves, and they just wanted to be alone so they could rest and eat. But yet Jesus, who was in his flesh, probably tired too. However, Jesus did the opposite of what irritable people do, He invited people to stay and eat. He invited them to be a part of a miracle.

When we are irritable, we desire not to consider others needs. When we are irritable, we are being selfish and self-centered. When we are irritable, we think our needs are superior to everyone else’s needs. Sure, we can have very valid reasons for being irritable but aren’t they all self-centered? I am tired. I have worked a long hard day. I am under a great deal of stress. All of these are valid reasons to be irritable. In our irritability we are forcing people to make exceptions for our bad behavior. When we are irritable, we are saying to the world, look at me and my issues and you please accommodate me and excuse how I am acting like a real ass. We want act the way we want and just pull out that free pass called the irritable card. Is this love?

Love is not irritable. Love has consideration for others. Love says that other people are just as valuable as I am. When we have a loving nature, yes, we may feel all yucky and irritable inside but we choose not to take it out on others. When we have a loving nature, we do not force others to suffer because I am having a bad day. If you have had a crappy day at work and it has made you irritable, does your wife deserve to be yelled at for the slightest little thing when you get home. When we are irritable, we do not have respect for others. When we have love, we consider and we respect that your wife may have been having a great day until you ruined it with your self-centered irritability. Irritability is a sign that we just say everybody needs to deal with me. Everybody needs to come to the emotional place that I am at. Love shows us a better way.

Jesus could have easily been irritable on Good Friday. Talk about your bad days. By the end of it, He was hanging on a cross in excruciating pain. As God in the flesh, He could have said I am tired of this, got down of the cross and made mankind pay for putting Him on the cross. He could have zapped our forefathers all over this planet into oblivion on that day. However, He choose to consider our eternal future. He knew He had to be on that cross. He knew it had to be done to give us the opportunity to be reconciled unto Him. That is love. That is not irritation. That is not short-fused anger. That is not making you deal with my bad stuff. That is not making you deal with my pain. That is love. Doing what is best for others. Setting aside my selfish desire to have my needs met and have everyone deal with that is being Christ-like.

When we have a loving nature, we realize that the world is not all about me. When we can love it lifts us beyond our selfish needs. When we love, we get to be parts of miracles. When we love we get to see the miracles. Isn’t ironic that when we have an irritable nature and want everybody to see us and massage our needs, we tend to drive people away. Yet, when we love we are focused on the needs of others is when people are drawn to us and meet our needs in ways greater than we could have ever imagined when we are being selfish. Isn’t that the irony of love? When we give up our selfish attitudes and give, give, give of ourselves that we end up having more, more, more. Love. Love. Love. All we need is love.

1 Corinthians 13 — Love does not demand its own way. This battle begins early in life. As babies, we demand in loud tones that our demands be met. As babies, when our demands are not immediately met, we let the entire world (or at least the world within earshot) with cries of grief and despair. Babies’ ways of communication are difficult to deal with often because they lack the language skills to effectively communicate what their needs are. As parents, we spend the next 18 or so years teaching them how to communicate in more effective ways. Many of us though seem to not have learned much as many of us still demand our own way in ways that are difficult to deal with by others.

Demanding our way can take many forms. Sometimes, it can be subtle or passive-aggressive. Have you ever known a person that will pout until they get their way or they get moody until circumstances change in their favor. Some withhold affection until they get their way. We manipulate others through these passive-aggressive behaviors. Often these types of behaviors are the most frustrating to deal with. These subtle behaviors often make others walk around on eggshells because we are trying to figure out how to satisfy this person that we love. We often see this type of behavior in marriages. Many people try to avoid conflict in marriage so they do not directly address issues. How often do we see sex become a weapon in marriage to modify behavior. If I am mad at you because of some way that you did not do things my way, I will punish you with the withholding of intimacy. How often do we see people that are in relationships that shut down and pout for days because the one they love did not do things the way the other wanted. How often have we experienced these types of behaviors from others? How often have we employed these tactics ourselves?

There are more aggressive forms of this behavior of demanding our own way. Always having to have the last word in an argument, being the final authority on all issues relating to the family, the home, the children, the finances and on the relationship itself are examples of more open behaviors where we demand our own way. Thinking that you are smarter, more astute, more talented, just more altogether than your spouse or significant other shows that you have devalued them by demanding that only your needs are primary.

These behaviors can become very extreme to the point the loved one of a person who has such controlling behavior becomes a shell of the person they once were. You seen these relationships. Maybe you have been in one yourself. Maybe you are in one right now. We have seen these relationships where one partner in the relationship has become so controlled and so manipulated by the other that they fear going to the bathroom without asking permission. We see this most often in abusive relationships. It is so sad to see a person in such a relationship where their every breath is marked with fear. This is the ultimate devaluation of a person to get our own way. Ultimately, this type of relationship will end in disaster. It will end one way or another. People even severely oppressed ones will ultimately react in ways that either bring their death or their freedom. Abusive relationship such as these end disastrously and we often see the aftermath of these relationships on our late local news.

Healthy relationships are not one-sided. Healthy relationships honor and value the contributions of both parties in the relationship. Healthy relationships balance the needs of the two parties. Healthy relationships involve me seeing your needs as just as valid as my own. It may frustrate me at times but I must be able to see you as an equal who has valid needs just like me. I must not see you as a person whose needs are just a problem to me. I must not see your needs as just something that I have to deal with to ultimately get my way. I must not see your needs as something I have to get around, manipulate, devise plans etc. to work around to get my way. Husbands do you things that meet your wife’s needs just to have a better chance of having sex or do you do things that meet your wife’s needs because you see her as the treasure of your life. Do you honor her needs or just meet them to get what you want? Same for wives. Do you meet your husband’s needs just so he will stay out of the way of the things that you want? Do you use intimacy to get other things just so that he will put his dirty clothes in the hamper rather than on the floor beside it? Husbands and wives can play these games in marriage. We can do these types of manipulative behaviors in other relationships as well.

Healthy relationships, though, are characterized by genuine concern for the well-being of others. It is amazing in relationships when we really learn that love is about caring more for the needs of others than for getting our own way. And amazingly we find that in the giving away of our rights, we get our needs meet without asking, demanding or manipulating. We have seen these kinds of marriages too, the ones, the few that really, really work. Those 50, 60 year marriages that are out there. The secret to these marriages is always the simple stuff when we ask grandma and grandpa the secret to their marriage. It is the holding of hands for no reason. It is undivided attention. It is doing the silly stuff. It is silence when silence is needed. It is a hug when a hug is needed. It is space when space is needed. It is a kiss. It is a surprise. It’s all the little stuff that grandma and grandpa do to recognize the worth of the other. It is also pushing on through the tough times and never giving up on the relationship. It is making the marriage greater than the individuals. It is forgiveness when wronged even when my insides and my friends all tell me not to forgive. It is loving when I don’t feel like it. It is about giving ourselves away to the relationship. This is so often the problem in today’s throwaway marriage world. We demand our own way and when those needs are not met, we throw the relationship way like a baby throws his toys out he crib when he doesn’t get his way.

No wonder we live in a world where all relationships are polarized. No wonder we live in a country where Congress is frozen in inaction. No wonder we live in a world where one groups needs are forced on others without concern. We have become a nation of babies in cribs demanding our own way. We learn this behavior in throwaway marriages. No one tries to work things out anymore. We simply demand our way or we force our ways on others regardless of the common good. There is no seeking common ground anymore. Maybe, if we had more 50, 60 year marriages out there where we learned how to live a life of loving others enough to make their needs as important as my own, then, maybe just maybe the fabric of our society would change toward that end. A society where we don’t always get what we want. A society where we see the needs of the whole nation as more important than my individual needs. A society that works together for the greater good. Anything great begins with basic building blocks. If we learned as individuals in our own relationships that love is about seeing others as equal, love is about willingly making the needs of the ones we love as more important than our own, love is about working through problems because we place more importance on the relationship than we do on getting our needs met, maybe this world would be a better place.

Man, not demanding my own way and loving others in sacrificial ways sounds a bit like Jesus Christ. He could have easily stayed in heaven and kept his glory and got his own way. He chose to set aside His glory and come to earth in human form so that we, mankind, would have a way to solve its sin problem and be reconciled to God. He loved us even though we didn’t deserve it and still don’t. He put our needs ahead of His glory as the Son. He put aside his own aversion to pain and suffering and suffered and died for us to provide us what we needed. That’s love. That is love not seeking its own way. Let us think of Jesus on the cross bloody and dying when He could have been in heaven sitting on His throne the next time your marriage relationship doesn’t go your way. Think of him the next time any relationship doesn’t go your way. It really puts things into perspective. Jesus could have very easily not done a thing. No birth into a frail human body. No being subservient to an earthly mother or father (when you consider that He is their Creator). No earthly ministry of hardship and poverty to spread the Good Word. No trial and punishment. No cross. He could have got His own way. But where would we be then?