Love is…..
Daily devotionals featured on 103.5 KSUN by Pastor Craig

Friday, February 12
Valentines Day is Sunday and we have been looking at love and romance.

We looked at Paul’s love poetry from 1 Corinthians 13 and discovered what love is, and what love is not.

Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.”

This is how we are to love others.  When Jesus commands us to love God and love our neighbor as yourself, this is what love looks like.  Become this person in the way you love others and you have just increased your odds finding that right person you are looking for.

As a teen I wanted to be that right person but as I entered my twenties my self-centered nature sabotaged my relationships.  What do I mean?  Well, it all started off fine with my desire to be an honorable man who offered romance and a long term relationship.  But in my heart there was not just love but also self-seeking as described in the poem and I ended up hurting the ones I loved.

Now let me share rest of the poem and how it finishes. 

It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails.

Did you hear that?  This is a powerful love that can withstand anything life can throw at it – it always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres, never fails.

This is the kind of person we need to become if we are to find a love that can handle to storms life will throw at it. 

But the problem is that we can’t consistently or faithfully be that person.  Trust me I couldn’t.  I tried at first but it went against my selfish nature.  Do you think you can do it better than me?  Trust me you can’t.  Try this experiment with me.  In place of the word love insert your own name into the poem.

Craig is patient, Craig is kind.  Craig does not envy, Craig does not boast, Craig is not proud. Craig does not dishonor others, Craig is not self-seeking, Craig is not easily angered, Craig keeps no record of wrongs.  Craig does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.”

Craig always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Craig never fails.

Ok, if the people who know me are listening they are also laughing right now.

Love does not come easily or naturally.  Craig cannot be all this all the time.  I fail often.  But here is the secret that will make love and romance work.  Put Jesus name in place or yours.

Jesus is patient, Jesus is kind.”

Jesus does not envy, Jesus does not boast, Jesus is not proud. Jesus does not dishonor others, Jesus is not self-seeking, Jesus is not easily angered, Jesus keeps no record of wrongs.  Jesus does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.”

Jesus always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Jesus never fails.

You weren’t ever meant to create romance without God.

Ecclesiastes 4:12 – “A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”

Jesus wants to be the third strand in your relationships and is the only one who never fails.

My life turned around when I surrendered it to Christ and soon afterwards I met a beautiful young woman at the church college group.  After we started dating I felt it only fair to let her know my history.  So I took her to a park and said we needed to talk.  I told her everything and how I had been unfaithful in my past romances.  I knew this would be our last date when she heard what a jerk I had been.   But without a blink Gill said, “Ok, but I can see Jesus in you now and I can trust that.”

Following Jesus to become the right person will help you find your happy-ever-after.

I did when I asked Jesus to be Lord in my life, to help me become the right kind of person, and then find the right person to join me.  Gill and I have been married 31 years and are looking forward to 50 plus.  Life still gets rough sometimes but the three of us make for a strong marriage.

Thursday, February 11
Valentines Day is a day of celebrating romance and love.  Kids make cards for their classmates and couples go out on dates.  And good luck trying to buy flowers if you wait until Sunday.  I started the week asking you to complete the sentence, “Love is ________.”  Jesus answered that question by turning love into a verb when he commanded us to love God and love your neighbor as yourself.  In Ephesians 5:1-2 Paul took Jesus’ command to love and put shoes on it when he said “Walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”  We can see what that love looked like in the life of Jesus as he walked the earth healing people, casting out demons, eating dinner with sinners, and most of all choosing to die for you and me so we could be saved.  This may not sound very romantic until you realize that the only way for God to restore a relationship that was lost and to be with us forever was for Jesus to die and remove our sin.  But then he rose again from the grave because his love for you is stronger than death.  Jesus even calls the church his bride and that he is coming back again one day to bring her home with him in heaven.  Wow!

Have you ever thought what life would be like if Valentines Day was every day of the year?  You’re probably thinking, “I couldn’t afford to go eat out that much” or “I can’t have pink stuff in my house everyday.”  I’m embarrassed to say that as a young man I would sometimes sit in front of the ocean and think of finding that perfect girl and how awesome our life would be together.  I would even try to write poetry and imagine how epic our love would be.  But I soon learned that great love is more about what you do than what you feel and it takes work if it is going to last.    

You might ask, “Isn’t there lots of feeling and passion in the great romances on the silver screen?”  You know the story, there’s the chance encounter and their eyes lock.  There’s love has at first sight and dinners for two.  Then the tension builds when we discover that one of the actors has a flaw in their character or a secret to be revealed.   Will the romance survive or will their love be lost forever?  My wife and I never get tired of watching romantic movies.  But if you put the romantic carriage before the horse that pulls it you will not have your happy ending.  Paul knew what love would need to have a happily-ever-after story.  So he put his own poem in the Bible to explain what love is and what love is not.  He used a series of verbs to capture what to do and what to avoid.  You have probably heard it at a wedding or two because of it’s beauty and power.  The beauty of the poem is the use of verbs that guides us into becoming the right kind person who could sustain a romance for more than a day.
Let’s listen to the first part of this poem from 1 Corinthians 13 and hear what love is:
Love is patient, love is kind.”

Now hear what love is not:It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.”

Did you hear the difference?  True love is other centered.  Patience is love’s slowing down so the other can stay with you.  Kindness is love’s provision of strength to compensate for the other’s weakness. 

False love is self-centered.  False love is intolerant of the others mistakes.  False love will throw others under the buss.  False love will do or take what ever is necessary to be happy.  True love would never do this.

This is true love as God describes it.  This is the love that Jesus gives us. 

This is the person you are to become.  Anything else avoid it.

We will look at the rest of the poem tomorrow.

Remember, you are loved by God!

Wednesday, February 10
Albert Einstein said, “Men marry women with the hope they will never change and women marry men with the hope they will change.  Invariably they are both disappointed.”

Valentines Day is coming this Sunday and we are looking at love this week. How would you like to be successful at love?  Einstein was a smart guy in defining the problem with dating and marriage.  I wonder if he ever found the solution.  Luckily for us God also is really smart and gave us an answer in the bible.

Let me share with you one of the best bible verses on love.  Paul says in Ephesians 5:1-2, “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.  And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

On Tuesday we focused on how this verse applies to dating.  The goal of dating should be to become imitators of God, which means you are on a journey of becoming the right person in the way you relate to others instead of looking to find the right person you want to marry.  Dating gives you opportunities to practice becoming that person who loves others in the same way Jesus loves you.  When you do this you have a better chance of finding the right person as a bonus.  Even married couples need to keep dating to keep growing in the love they had for each other in the beginning. 

Einstein identified for us what’s wrong with the world’s way in love – The problem is focus.  Whether you are the one who wants your spouse to change and act more mature, or you are the one who hopes they stay free spirited and fun loving – the honeymoon will be over.  Why?  When you focus is on how your partner is behaving then we go through life asking, “Are they meeting my expectations in what they are doing?”  At any particular moment in time they are demonstrating whether are they the right person for you or not.  We subconsciously keep a tally and we all know where that leads – stock markets and courtrooms.  Stock markets because we decide stop paying dividends into this marriage account until we see a better performance.  Court rooms because we finally give up and want Judge Judy to side with us that this is the wrong person for us and we deserve compensation. 

But Ephesians 5:2 tells us how Jesus was able to succeed at love.  As Jesus loved us he focused on God.  Listen again, “Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”  Though we weren’t worthy of his love Jesus selflessly loved us, even to the point of dying on a cross for our failures to love God back, but with his focus on pleasing his Father in Heaven.  By wanting his life to be a fragrant offering to God he didn’t need anything from us in return to succeed.  He simply loved us unconditionally and only asked that we put our faith in him and walk out that love in the lives of others.

This verse says Jesus love was for us but his devotion was to God.  This is what made Jesus’ life a fragrant offering to God, which simply means it was very pleasing to God. 

If you want a successful love life then live it in a way that creates a pleasing aroma to God.  It’s called paying it forward.  He not only loves you but also will help you love others as you keep his commandments.  Jesus says in John 15:9-11, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you.  Abide in my love.  If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.  These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

So here’s what do.  Pray and ask Jesus to help you love that other person as he has loved you in a way that is fragrant to God.  Then regardless of what they say or do on your date it will be successful in God’s eyes.  Notice the success of your date is not hinged on the other person but on who you were in that date.

Over the years we have used different adjectives to describe something good.  When I was a kid it was the word “cool.”  About the time I started surfing in California “cool” got changed to “awesome!”  “That was an awesome wave dude!”  More recently awesome is getting substituted with sweet.  That’s a sweet car.  God’s got a new one for us to use.  When your friends ask, “How was your date?”  You can tell them, “It was fragrant!”  Or as the teens now say in our church “Frag!”

Tuesday, February 9
Valentines day is coming and romance is in the air, so lets talk a little about dating.  Like, “Why do it?”  What’s your purpose or goal?  That would make an interesting question for someone who’s asking you out, “Why do you want to date me?”  If they answer “For recreation” run for you life.  Of course nobody would actually say that but there are those who are only looking for happiness, fun, and sex.  I used to be one of those guys who dated recreationally.  In my day we would listen to romantic ballads written about dating jerks like in the song “Free Bird” by Lynyrd Skynyrd.  I was one of those jerks so ladies if your date’s goal is recreation get off that roller coaster immediately because there is only a head ache waiting for you at the end of that ride.

As Proverbs 6:27 warns us, “Can a man carry fire next to his chest and his clothes not get burned?  Be careful who you bring close to your heart or you’ll get burned.

Maybe your goal for dating is to find the right person with whom you want to spend the rest of your life.  What does that really mean anyway?  Usually it means that you are looking for the person who will make you happy and meet your needs.  It’s looking for someone who shares the same interests and agrees with you.  Let’s not stop there but add in the right age, height, weight, and hair color.  But if that sounds too superficial then you might say you’re looking for someone where there is a mutual attraction and chemistry.  These are not bad things, they just don’t result in lasting relationships.  If you’re looking for someone to give you an emotional buzz and meet your needs they will soon fail on both accounts.  You can’t provide that continuously and neither can they.  Then your falling in love feels more like falling into a tar pit that you can’t get out of.  If your goal is finding Mr. or Mrs. Right who will make you happy you will be disappointed. 

Staying in love requires more than falling in love.  I used to be an engineer and after some personal research on this I discovered that Romance plus good sex does not equal happily-ever-after.  I know this is contrary to what you’ve seen in the movies, but also know this; God is not against romance.  Adam was the first man to write poetry to Eve in a garden.  God is not against sex because he is the one who created it and you can find a whole book about it in the bible called Song of Solomon.  God’s goal for dating is a crazy upside down love and much wiser than the world’s.

Let me share with you the best bible verses on dating that I’ve ever come across.  Paul told us in Ephesians 5:1-2, “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.  And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” 

To become an imitator of God means you are on a journey of becoming the right person instead of looking for the right person.  I said God’s ways are upside down from ours.  Your goal is to imitate God in the way you relate to your date.  Here’s the bonus to this goal, as you work on becoming the right kind of person that someone would want to marry, you are more likely to find the right person.  So don’t go looking for the right person but become the right person.

How does one imitate God in our relationships?  Paul took Jesus’ command to “love one another just as I have loved you” and gave it different words but the same meaning.  He said, “Walk in love as Christ loved us.”  Paul took Jesus’ imperative to love others and turned it into a pair of shoes.  Then he said walk in those shoes as you connect and interact with others in the same way Jesus loved you.  All of us are to walk in these shoes whether you are dating for the first time or you’ve been married for decades like myself.

What is Jesus’ love like, and how do we walk out this love?  By imitating Jesus.  His first thought is to offer you his unconditional love, not to determine if you are worthy of his affection.  Jesus’ love is about what he gives to you, not what he can get from you.  Jesus only offers a pure love that will honor his Father in heaven.  When it says that Jesus gave himself up for you it is saying that Jesus’ loved you, even at the cost of his own life.  Now I’m not saying you are going to take a bullet for your date but Jesus did.  The lesson is that you are not to be selfish in your love but selfless.

Everything will change for you when you seek to be an imitator of God empowered by the love Jesus has for you.  But to experience Jesus’ love you will have to surrender your heart to him.  I did and my life changed, so did my dating. 

Dating is not about finding the right person but being the right person.  So what’s your goal for dating?

Monday, February 8
If I asked you to complete the sentence, “Love is ___________.”  How would you answer?  I just discovered there is a cartoon called “Love is.” The cartoon says things like, “Love is the bubble that lasts forever.”  “Love is getting constant cuddles.”  Or just simply “Love is awesome.”  Do any of these fit your blank?  If we’re honest love doesn’t always feel awesome nor do we always want to snuggle with the person with whom we just had a knock-down-drag-out fight.  If this is what love is, then it seem just as uncertain as modern marriages or blind dates and each time it fails we get a little more disillusioned.

Valentines Day is this Sunday and our hearts turn to love, so let’s talk about it.  Love is something we all desire regardless of our age and search for it regardless of how many times we have failed at it.  I was talking with a someone the other day who had gone through several painful marriages and decided to give up on that whole gig.  Instead he found a girlfriend and they bought house together.  This lasted for 15 years until that relationship recently imploded.  Now in his 80’s he’s started searching again to find that right person through online dating services.  He’s in his 80’s!  We all need love and we never give up on our quest to find it, but something is amiss in our culture’s understanding of love.  What to do?

Let’s turn to the one who put the desire to be loved into the DNA our souls.  We hear from the heavens the words on Jesus’ lips, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”  What better way to start this Valentine season than to know you are deeply loved by God himself? 

Love is God’s idea and it is his foundation for all relationships.  If there is something wrong in our relationships there is something wrong in our foundation.  Jesus said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.  And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-39).  This is the message of the whole Bible:  Love God, love your neighbor, love yourself.”  Jesus even included our enemies in the definition of neighbor when he said to love them too.  This is so radical and seems so impossible.  When we do not love God, or do not love others, or do not love ourselves there will be problems for us.

Are you still wondering what this has to do with Valentines?  For us to have good relationships we need to be good relaters.  For us to be good relaters we need to know what love is.  And Jesus just told us.  Did you miss it?  Jesus said love is a verb.  Love is not finding the right person who makes you feel dizzy inside.  When we treat love like a noun we will demand too much of the other person.  When we treat love as an adjective we will be disappointed because the feelings just don’t last.  It is so important to understand love as a verb that Jesus made it the most important of all the commandments.  Does this strike you as strange, that God would command you to love others?  How can you command someone how to feel about another person?  But that’s my point, you can’t.  In a great relationship it’s not what you feel that matters most but what you do.  Feeling dizzy for someone is not bad it’s just not reliable.

You might be saying at this point, “That sounds like a lot of work” Yes, it is.  You might also say, “I don’ t know if I can do that” Probably not, at least not without help.

God’s love is a crazy upside down love in contrast to the world’s love because it is non-contractual.  It’s not I will love you and long as you do your part.  It’s an un-conditional love that makes a lot of sacrifices.  If you choose to love someone God’s way by what you give instead of get, you might just find that true love and romance you were looking for.  But like I said, you probably can’t do it anyway, at least not without help.  Nobody can just give and give forever without receiving at least an equal or greater love back.  But Jesus knows this and created a new commandment on love.

 Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.”  It’s new because it flows from your experience of receiving love from Jesus and then turning around and loving another person the same way Jesus has loved you.  But if you do not know what it’s like to be loved by Jesus then you are missing the key to great relationships.  God didn’t just command our love but gave his love to you and me through his son Jesus Christ.  How does one begin to experience God’s love?  Simple, hear what Jesus’ is saying and believe God who sent him; then your life will never be the same.  Oh, by the way, believe is not a noun either but a verb.

We’ll, we will talk more about love tomorrow.
Now, complete this sentence, “Love is . . .”