Love the Law, Love: the Law

“For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.”
1 John 5:3

The Law
Obedience to God’s commands is an incredible delight and an immense joy.  Anything to the contrary is prideful, self-exalting and ultimately ripe for rebuke and correction from God.  What’s more, it would be missing out on the greatest blessing and highest calling on our lives… to serve God through a life of worship and obedience by way of our spiritual gifts, devoting every breath to our Savior.  What could possibly be better than devoting our lives, our minds, our bodies to our Wonderful Counselor, our Mighty God, our Prince of Peace, our Master, our Redeemer, our King of Kings, our Lord of Lords?

The Greatest Commandment
So what is the basis of this law?  What is it made of, and why is that thing not burdensome?

A Pharisee approaches Christ in Matthew 22 and asks Him what the greatest commandment is.  He responds by boiling the entire Mosaic covenant, all ten commandments and all other teachings down to one thing:  to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37).  Next, Jesus expounds slightly further and likens the second commandment to the first:  “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mt. 22:39).  Love!

The Law of Love
Love is the basis of what the entirety of God’s Law comes down to.  This love fully consists of that found in 1 Corinthians 13, which means that it is patient… that it does not think more highly of itself than another and therefore put the importance of time and resources on itself but rather the world at large or the companion across the table… or the spouse in the movie theater bathroom or power tool section of the hardware store.

This love is also kind and courteous which directly correlates with patience.  The thankfulness found in the eyes of another who receive an unexpected act of kindness serve as the earthly reward, all the while making deposits in the eternal IRA – our treasures stored in Heaven.

This Love Law is not jealous and therefore does not waste precious time arguing, sulking, or snooping around trying to catch another in a lie or manipulate words to elicit a incendiary response.  This hurtful soul carcinogen that we call jealousy is much more of a burden to bear and one that Christ will readily exchange for His easy yoke of love.

This Love Law similarly does not boast or feel the need to… it is full of self-confidence, heavenly reassurance, and eternally-based efficacy for the world and its inhabitants.  Boasting necessarily means that there be something to boast about which is the driving force behind pride; the proverbial primer that ignites the powder of ego, unhealthy determination, and competitiveness that sends weighty, sinful, bullets of soul lead straight into the heart of the hearer of boasting as well as the boaster himself.  Why not bear the ‘burden’ of love and forego the whole noisy, dirty, hurtful affair altogether?

Again, it does not act unbecomingly so as to feel the need to apologize or bear the weight of regret in one’s bed alone at night recounting all of the heart-heavy events of the  past day, year, or lifetime.  A clean conscience and an unburdened memory weigh much less than the results of propriety and keeping control of one’s faculties.

Being provoked denotes a person who is constantly on guard for provocation which is an exhausting and fruitless task.  Patience and kindness lead directly into provocation-resistant people who are increasingly rare; pearls every one of them.  The defensive posture of a person easily provoked speaks nothing of the confidence and self-worth of Spirit-driven love, and when weighed on scales of burden, love is never found lacking, insecure, or wearisome.

On the flip side of not acting unbecomingly, a record of wrongs – if properly kept – takes enough volumes to fill a large backpack.  The posture required to haul this record is that of a harassed and hunched over hermit with neither nary a friend, nor the requisite writing space to record such an acquaintance if there were to be one.  There is also a healthy denotation of pride in keeping others’ wrongs and failing to mention any of one’s own.  As an extension of the mercy and grace that God has so wonderfully blessed us with, the record of wrongs is systematically erased page for page until completely empty, much as the crimson stains of our sin washed white as pure wool by the blood of Christ.  Better a freshly knit wool scarf than a pack full of vengeful, rift-inducing writings which have usually gone completely unnoticed by the offender or the potential witness pool.

Truth does not require imagination or carefully crafted responses to garner undeserved trust and confidence.  On the other hand, lying and unrighteousness take a great deal of creativity, fact dodging, worry, and fear in the recipe to make a successful batch.  Not only that, but if that recipe is not written down, it likely will need to be called to memory at the most inopportune of times.  This memory must be even better than its truth-based counterpart.  The price of the policy of honesty far outweighs the consequences, gray hairs, and character assassination that either a career or happenstance dabbling in lying and skullduggery charges.

So this love may carry with it a burden for those unfortunate, and it may take a great amount of resources (time, money, effort, consideration, etc.) to benefit others that could very easily have been spent on number one himself.  The guilt, strife, grief, stress, dirt, and baggage (psychological, emotional, and spiritual) of not bearing the light, joy-filled, Spirit-driven yoke of love is far too difficult and quite frankly defies good common sense.

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Q&A: Fear and Abandonment

Do you have any thoughts on the fear of abandonment?

The most important thing right off the bat is to realize that people are sinners, but God is good.  People do cause hurt and pain, and do mess things up, but God says that He will never leave or forsake us (Joshua 1:5, 2 Corinthians 4:9, Romans 8:28).  From there,  I’d say that you need to realize the issue(s) if you don’t already, so that you can begin understanding and working on them.  If you’re a Christian, forgiveness is key – this doesn’t mean forgetting or downplaying the consequences, but forgiveness is the first step toward reconciliation and healing.  Also, going to a good counselor is a huge step.  Counseling isn’t just for crazies (even though we are all crazy at some level), it’s for everyday people to work through issues and be able to live a more fulfilling life.

On the more practical side, I think you’ve got to realize how the fear influences thoughts and behaviors.  Are you emotionally manipulative to get people to stay and/or express their feelings of love?  Are you willing to compromise morally (sexually, etc.) in order to keep someone from leaving you?  Do you alter eating and/or sleeping patterns because of worry?  Once you get that out on the table, it’s good to go through these issues one-by-one and see that any of these behaviors are sinful because they aren’t born out of love, but rather fear and hurt (1 Cor. 13, 1 John 4:18).

Finally, I think trust plays a huge role in dealing with abandonment issues.  Trusting that God will get you through the pain and fear, trusting that your husband/wife will stay (this can be most achieved by them loving and having a holy fear of Jesus as well as a covenant of marriage with you).  The key isn’t to make sure nobody leaves you; it’s dealing with the original hurt and realizing that your hope is in Christ, not in humanity.  Along with a good counselor, I would recommend writing and then voicing your concerns to loved ones (after reviewing and revising them), letting them reassure you, and then having a good accountability partner and/or group to walk through life with so that you can mediate your thoughts and behaviors – not just on abandonment, but everything else.

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Mercy in Loneliness

The following was written on March 13, 2008…


Real as a prayer on a lonely night,
sure as the ocean tide
oh love, oh love
oh the many colors that you’re made of
you heal and you bleed
you’re the simple truth and you’re the biggest mystery
— “Oh Love” —
by Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood

Who doesn’t long for someone to hold?
Who knows how to love you without being told?
Somebody tell me why I’m on my own,
If there’s a soulmate for everyone.
— “Soulmate” —
by Natasha Bedingfield

Well, I think I’ve finally come to the place where I know at least some part of the answer to some questions that have rested on my soul for the longest time.  Disclaimer: by no means does this mean I have it ‘figured out’ or even have peace in my heart – it means only that God has spoken Truth into my life and allowed me a slight glimpse into my own life from His perspective.  Before I go any further, allow me to elaborate on what I’m actually talking about.

Ever since the day I figured out girls were cool and that I wanted one, I’ve longed to be married.  From then on, I’ve schemed, planned, strategized, and tactically approached dating relationships, and all manner of communication in relation to them.  Many a late night during my college years was spent hunched over cheap coffee, either dissecting the latest philosophy and/or theology of dating and marriage.  Still more were spent engaging in conversation with any number of my peers as we lamented, celebrated, theorized, and advised each other about the many intricacies of dating life, the opposite sex, and what God thought about all of it.  Through it all, I’ve had one constant desire on my heart – to be a husband, a father, and a provider for my future family.

That having been said, my last official relationship ended between 4 and 5 years ago, and I’ve been pondering life, marriage, relationships, and theology ever since.  The past two years have been especially fruitful and formative for where I believe I’m headed for the rest of my life, and without getting sidetracked there, I’ll say that they have been an immense blessing despite tough times and long nights.   I’ve oscillated drastically from near certainty that a relationship would blossom out of a friendship to nearly vowing celibacy and denying what God has put in my heart for me to do.  Through thick and thin, laughter and pain, one constant staccato of questions has ached my soul and been a heavy ballast in my heart:  When, where, and how will I meet my future wife… and who is she?  I know well the dark nights of the soul when prayers hit the ceiling and the only thing on the other end of the phone line is voice mail.  The questions, the uncertainty, the insecurity… all of them welled up within me to the breaking point when I found myself crying out like David, “How long, O Lord, will you forget me?”

It is in the still quietness following that silent crescendo in my heart that I found myself praying constantly for my future wife and kids, for myself, for anything at all that would relieve me of my angst.  As the months wore on, God began to show me more of myself, which was a scary thing for me to see.  Small faults, hidden insecurities, erroneous presuppositions about the way relationships and marriage and myself worked.  These discoveries were all good and well, but deliverance from the ache of missing someone I hadn’t even met still eluded me.  Pain.  Turmoil.  Isolation.  Why would God put those into my life if He wired me for marriage and community?  What would be the purpose in not having that venue to glorify Him?  I had my stuff together, I had my priorities in line, and I was ready, right?  Absolutely wrong.  What follows is the result of the last couple of days in my meditations on this subject, and they are by no means infallible.  I do believe that God has given me insight into my own situation, and therefore I’ve chosen to put it down here.  Do with it what you will.

Yesterday as I was driving home from class, I continued on the line of thinking that I’d entertained earlier that morning, namely my future family (or lack thereof) and the omnipresence of those who had found precisely what I longed for.  As I plumbed these depths for the millionth time, I had an epiphany.  If God would have given me who I wanted (and still very much want) when I wanted her, I would have taken advantage of her, taken her for granted, and failed to appreciate her – or perhaps more accurately, God working through her.  Basically, I came face-to-face with the reality that God – in His infinite mercy and wisdom – was allowing me to endure the pain of loneliness for my own good… because as a wise pastor once said, it is much better to be lonely outside of a relationship than lonely inside a marriage.   Now, I’ll admit that I’m not much closer to having this figured out than I was yesterday, but I do realize the game I’m playing now.  Until I’m ready to lay down all that I dream on the altar of God’s will for me, I will continue to be frustrated, lonely, and wholly unattractive to the kind of woman I pray that I’ll marry.  So for now, I’m content to work on that which is in me that is fractured and would do massive damage to a marriage were it given the opportunity.  I lean wholly on God’s guidance through Scripture, prayer, and godly wisdom/advice/experience, and thus far have found it to be immensely sanctifying, humbling, and hopefully rewarding than even I thought it would be.

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Psalm 116:7

“Return to your rest, O my soul, for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you.”
– Psalm 116:7

God has been so gracious to bless me with so many things… a wonderful family, a bountiful supply of food, money, resources, friends, and joy.  Why, then, do I fear and covet and become jealous of other people?

There’s no need for me to worry (Matthew 6:34)… God is in control and grants me new mercies every morning, according to what that day requires (Lam. 3:23).

So I can return to rest… I can sleep soundly, because no matter what happens in this life, I know that God has dealt bountifully with me.

In my sin, I have earned the death and torturous anguish that I’ve tasted at various points in my life… but God, in His infinite mercy and grace, has saved me from my junk and bathed me in His Spirit so that I can now be counted righteous before God, though I’ve done nothing to merit anything.  Lost in my trespasses and dead in my sin, God sowed in my heart the righteous seeds that now bear a pleasing and fragrant fruit that also spreads seeds to others.

So God has been most gracious in dealing bountifully with me… therefore my soul can return to rest and pleasant sleep in the satisfaction that has been delivered me through the blood of Christ.

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Sin and Reform

The following was written on November 12, 2008…

As I’ve progressed in my walk with Christ, I’ve found more and more that Scripture reads me.  When I see people in the Bible, I often see aspects of myself.  While the stories of David and Solomon and Elisha aren’t my stories, they do resonate with me, and tell me more of the God who is intimately working in my life.

Most recently I’ve been reading through 1st and 2nd Kings, and it’s been an interesting experience.  I’ve loved seeing God working on the macro level – with Israel and Judah’s many kings of varying holiness.  He truly is sovereign over all aspects of government, and works in mighty ways to accomplish both His will and His purposes for nations.  I’ve also been fascinated at how God works on the micro level.  The text will quickly rip through a hundred years’ worth of leadership and kings in Israel in just a paragraph or two, and then will slow way down to speak of a miracle or an evil deed, taking several chapters to do so.  These things that I’ve been learning, however, aren’t the issue that have been on my mind the most lately…

God showed me last night that the big story with Israel throughout the monarchy (both in the united and the divided) is that Israel struggles intensely with her idolatry, and cannot seem to put the foreign gods away for any lasting length of time.  Every once in a while there is reform, or a holy king who takes care of a few things, but there’s always an evil king who leads the people back into sin again… and again… and again.  They never beat their sin, and in the end have to be completely abandoned by God and delivered over to a pagan nation to experience His judgment by living as conquered slaves in a foreign land.

In a way, this story is my story.  I’ve struggled so much with my sin – be it pride, lust, idolatry, selfishness, greed, gluttony, or anything else under the sun – and every once in a while I’ll see some reform, a return to following Jesus closely.  But there’s always something that leads me back into my old lifestyle, something that tugs at my heart strings and leads me down that dark pathway, and I find myself standing and knocking at temptation’s door, head hung low, shoulders slumped in surrender.

So how long must I continue in this way?  How long will my God’s mercies continue to renew, and how long will it be before I truly understand how much damage I’ve dealt myself and those I love?  I pray that He ruins me… I pray that He enraptures my soul with a lasting satisfaction and joy, so that I consider Him the most desirable thing to be had in all the universe for all eternity.

Oh merciful Almighty God, deliver me from my sin.  Send me not into Exile from You.  Oh please don’t forsake me to the wilderness and my own destruction.  Give me grace, lead me into Your pleasant presence and put away my transgression.  Let Your mercies be new tomorrow, and give me strength to serve You and only You this coming day.  Thwart evil, give grace, and let me bear fruit in keeping with true repentance.

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