Tuesday, September 23, 2014

He Doesn't Love You!

My parents separated when I was six years old.

While growing up, I often heard the words, "Your father doesn't love you! If he loved you he would do . . . this, that, or the other thing."

I was a Daddy's Girl, so to hear these words crushed my heart. At the same time, I suspected they were true. After all, I experienced times of terror when I was with my father. Yet, despite all his mistakes, I still loved him and longed to be loved by him.

"Your father doesn't love you! Your father is a manipulator! YOUR FATHER . . . . "

After hearing those words over and over again, and knowing some were true, I couldn't help but ask the question, "What is love, anyway?" How does someone "know" if they are loved? So . . . I went on an exploration to discover the answer because deep down the real question taunted my thoughts, "Does my dad really love me?"

He hugged me a lot, taught me a lot, and said he loved me. Wasn't that love? At the same time, I remember when I was younger being terrified of my father and even wishing he was dead. Talk about a love/hate relationship.

Yep, pretty messed up.

While on this trek of discovery, I asked my school psychologist (I regularly saw the High School shrink because of my lovely, pleasant, wonderful childhood experiences), and I asked her, "What's the meaning of love?" She gave me some great advice during this time (which will be revealed later in this post), and she gave me an answer about love that I didn't quite understand. I also discovered that she was busy seeing a psychologist herself and was having a hard time, revealing to my already confused mind that we in this world were ALL a MESS. So . . . I moved on.

That's when I came upon a school counselor, and he was happy to invite me into his office when I asked him my question in the hall. I sat at the other side of his desk when he leaned over and whispered, "I'm really not allowed to share this with you, but because I can see you believe in God, let's just keep this between the two of us." I was more than willing to keep that promise, after all, God was our shared confidant, we had God in common (and by now, this man is likely retired or in his grave, so it's safe to reveal his secret). He proceeded to draw out a pyramid of sorts and explained how love was all based on "trust." He built this pyramid or graph, and after listening to a message that was as unclear as my psychologist's words, I asked him, "Is this what God really says love is?" Nodding and offering for me to take his drawing, he heartily confirmed that his definition was "God-Approved."

I studied the man closely as he tried to convince me that his definition was directly from our Lord and Savior, and as he continued on, all I could wonder was, "When did this man ever meet God? How can he be so confident that this complicated and confusing definition was really from our Lord? As a matter of fact, how can anyone know the truth or be right when none of them have ever met God in person? Seriously?" I thanked the man, because he did work very hard at helping me, and went home thoroughly, utterly lost and confused.

What did "trust" have to do with whether or not my dad loved me?  How did trust work in our situation? I knew one thing was certain, I didn't trust my dad. But that didn't tell me if HE truly loved me.

So . . . I moved on again. This time, I approached a cute guy at church, an excuse to have a conversation with my latest crush. He also just so happened to be a Bible student. I asked him, "What is love? How do I know if my dad loves me? Do you know if there's a verse in the Bible that talks about love?"

That's when he showed me 1 Corinthians 13. I eagerly opened my Bible and started reading. A verse that actually DEFINED love! Who knew something like this was in the Bible?! As a brand-spankin' new Christian, I certainly didn't!

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 says,

"Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not SEEK IT'S OWN, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things" (emphasis mine).

Hmm, was my dad any of these things? Well, he was kind of patient because he didn't pester me about not speaking to him. Yeah, I'd cut off communication with my dad for several months, and this was after he baptized me. Was he kind? Well, he did study the Bible with me and that's a nice thing to do.

Suddenly, a thought stuck me like a lightning bolt.

Here I was wondering if Dad was "love" and if he matched up to the definition, and so far he was doing pretty good and fitting the bill. But . . .

was I?

Was I "love?" Was I pleasing to God? Was I patient? No, I really had no patience for my dad. Was I kind? Well, not really. I wasn't even speaking to him at the moment. ARG! This meant, I was the one that was NOT loving my dad!

I immediately drove all the way to his place, dreading every mile as I got closer. "God! I don't want to have a relationship with my dad, and I know this apology for not loving him will reopen that door! I don't want it! I DON'T! But I know I have to be "love." I have to live up to the clear and obvious definition you put in your Word. So, I stood on my dad's doorstep for God, not for my dad. But the tears on my dad's face softened my heart a bit, despite the fact that I still didn't want to be near him. Yet, none of that mattered because I knew my heavenly Father above was proud of me. He was the one smiling. Perhaps shedding a few tears? Nah. He wouldn't do that. Or would He?

Not long after this, my mom ranted at me again with the oh-so-common words, "YOUR FATHER this that and the other thing!" I remembered my High School shrink's words, and with angry tears turned and snapped, "Don't you mean YOUR ex-husband?!" Apparently, I took blame upon myself for my dad not being what he should be, all because of the words, "YOUR father."

For the first time, Mom backed down, stepping away several feet from the sharp swing of my words, and gazing at some distant place in the room that no one could see but her. With sorrow and shame clouding her face, she opened her mouth to speak again, but this time . . .  she apologized. And what's so amazing about that moment is she truly was sorry because she NEVER said "your father" again.

Thank you, Mom.

But now, here I was stuck in a relationship with MY father, and it was one I really didn't want. It's taken many years, as I'm now 43, but it was just this year that I learned something quite valuable. Am I being the definition of love, or am I trying to GET love? Is it all about me, or about the other person? What am I looking for in my relationships? My father is never going to love me the way I "want" or "need." Does that mean he doesn't love me? No. He loves me. I know that now. Does he mess up and make mistakes in loving me? Yes. Do I do the same? YES on ALL accounts. So, I've finally learned, even if I "have a right" to that love I'm looking for, it should not keep me from being what love is.

I love my dad for God's sake. I love my dad because I love my God. I no longer love my dad for myself and what I can get out of the relationship, or even for what he should give me. Not anymore. And because of that, I'm not "looking for anything" from him and being let down and disappointed and HURT. I have no more expectations. I've released all of my "wants" and even my "rights" to what I should receive or wish to receive from him. Doing that makes it a nice surprise when he does do something I "want" or "need." It's a pleasant surprise when that happens. But I don't then turn back to him, looking for those things. Instead, I lift my eyes to my heavenly Father who does know "how" to love. Who loves me, even when I fail at loving Him. THAT my friends is true love. God knows how to love. He does it even while we're in our sin. "While we were yet sinners, He died for us!"

So . . . for now on, when you're not getting what you want from someone or what you need from someone, or even what you have a "right to," don't worry. God doesn't get from us what He desires either, but . . . He still loves us. He will still satisfy those needs through other people, or He will simply expect you to grow during that time in the desert.

Just be "love," no matter what. Be LOVE.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Our Armor

We must study and develop an understanding that isn’t contrary to God’s teaching. Anyone can read the Bible and make it say whatever they want, twisting it to suit their own desires.

2 Timothy 4:3-4: For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.

Galatians 1:6-9: I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!

It’s important that we set aside what “we think we know” and “our own will,” and simply read each passage and let God’s word do the talking, not add to it or take away from it.

Let’s go back to Ephesians and take a closer look at this battle we’re in. After all, Ephesians is giving us instructions on armor and weaponry.

Ephesians 6:14-18 says, Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints.

Okay, so here's our armor:


Now the question is, how does the Bible (God's word) define this armor? We want the correct definition so we’re using the Bible and not our own opinions and ideas.

TRUTH: John 17:17 says, Thy Word is truth. Pretty simple definition, huh?

RIGHTEOUSNESS: There are several verses that define righteousness, but these two sum them all up quite nicely. Ezekiel 18:9: if he walks in My statutes and My ordinances so as to deal faithfully-- he is righteous and will surely live," declares the Lord GOD.

Romans 5:19: For as through the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous.

So, “righteousness” is the state that results in doing right and being made right in Christ. How do we know what’s “right”? We learn right and wrong by studying God’s word.

THE GOSPEL: 1 Corinthians 15:1-4, which says, Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.

So that was pretty simple. The Gospel (a.k.a. "Good News") is the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

FAITH: Hebrews 11:1: Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

SALVATION: Acts 2:38 says, Peter said to them, "Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. There are several examples in Acts of people being saved: Acts 8:4-13, 35-39; 10:44-48; 16:14-15, 25-33; 18:8; 19:1-5; and 22:1-16.

SWORD OF THE SPIRIT: Ephesians 6:17: . . . sword of the spirit, which is the word of God. 

Didn't have to go far for that one.

PRAY AT ALL TIMES: Prayer is our communication with God and can't be emphasized enough. Prayer is best illustrated through Romans 8:26 in that man does not know how to pray to (speak, address) God, but we need the Holy Spirit to intercede for us (i.e. properly addressing God and explaining our thoughts). Interesting that the intercession is described with “groanings,” implying that we are “complaining, lamenting, begging” maybe? Perhaps that is why prayer is often discussed in connection with “supplication.”

Notice how the "word of God" is mentioned twice in this list of armor . . . twice, under TRUTH and THE SWORD OF THE SPIRIT, and you can even find it implied in the definition of RIGHTEOUSNESS. That means it's pretty important.

All these answers were found in the word of God. In the Scriptures. Therefore, "It is written . . ." should be our response to our own spiritual battles.

Hebrews 4:12: For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

Monday, September 1, 2014

It is Written

I didn’t grow up in the church, and oftentimes I found myself in complete confusion about what God wanted and what I needed to do for Him. My parents were divorced and they each had their own answers to my questions. None of the answers were the same. So, when I got confused, I'd go elsewhere (usually to a school counselor or someone like that).

I remember "running all over the place" in search of answers and everyone always had an "opinion." Of course, all these different people had their own unique answers to my questions (again, none were the same), and that’s when I thought: “How do they know they're right when they're just as human as me and my parents? What makes their answers the right ones?" I can remember thinking they never actually "met God," no more than I had, so . . . how can I really know that what they're saying is true? That's when I gave up asking everyone for answers. It became overwhelming. All the answers were different. How could I know what was true? 

That was the beginning of my battle, and I wasn’t even a Christian yet.

I’m sure many of us are familiar with the following verses in Ephesians 6:10-13.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.

How in the world do we defend ourselves against such unearthly beings?

During my time of confusion, I must have been surrounded by a spiritual army shooting their arrows to confuse me and keep me from the truth. Finally, by the time I was sixteen, I learned that if “the answers” aren’t in the Bible (the authority of our faith), I didn’t have to listen to them. Our “armor” and the answers to all our questions are in the scriptures.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, ALL Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work (emphasis is mine).

Hmm . . . all doesn’t leave much out now does it?

Remember when Satan tried to tempt Jesus? Look at how Jesus responded to Satan every time: Matthew 4:4: It is written . . .  In Matthew 4:7: . . . it is written . . .  and Matthew 4:10: . . . it is written . . . . Jesus fought against Satan with the Word of God. Of course, they didn't have the New Testament at that time, but they had the Old Testament scriptures, and that's what Jesus referred to each time Satan put a temptation before Him.

But what about those who also use scripture to prove their point? When Satan tried to tempt Jesus he quoted scripture to convince Him to go his way. How do we handle that?

Now remember, at one point Satan had Jesus stand on the pinnacle of the temple, so He's up pretty high. Here, Satan throws "IT IS WRITTEN" back at Jesus. Interesting that their "sword play" (which wasn't "playful" by any means at all) is being done with the Word of God (a.k.a. the sword of the Spirit):

Matthew 4:6 says, And [Satan] said to Him, "If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down; for IT IS WRITTEN, 'He will command His angels concerning you'; and 'on their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone'" (emphasis is mine).

If you ask me, that’s a pretty convincing scripture. After all, Jesus is standing on the pinnacle of the temple. Why not use this opportunity to prove to Satan that Jesus is the Son of God?

However, this was Jesus’ response:  Jesus said to him, "On the other hand, IT IS WRITTEN, 'You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.'" 


That's definitely one of those YAY GOD moments! I love Him! And it tickles me to see Him in a fight, to witness how He battles the enemy and WINS! 

This goes to show how important it is that we know and understand the scriptures