This Love Won’t Let You Down

This is the final post in the series “God’s Love is the Greatest Love.” To read the previous post, click here.

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For it is not an enemy who taunts me—
    then I could bear it;
it is not an adversary who deals insolently with me—
    then I could hide from him.
But it is you, a man, my equal,
    my companion, my familiar friend.
We used to take sweet counsel together;
    within God’s house we walked in the throng.

~ Psalm 55.12-14, ESV

Next to grief, betrayal is the most lingering pain.

Some betrayals—like adultery—stagger us in their severity. Others are “microbetrayals,” slowly poisoning a relationship until it is beyond healing.

We are a faithless society. The sense of duty has been drummed out of our collective conscious in favor of passion. Passion is fickle by nature. If we love only when we feel like loving, or act only when we feel like acting, then our relationships will never have any staying power. This is why divorce is rampant, patriotism is passé, and “organized religion” is repugnant. If we tie ourselves down too deeply, we will feel the pain too profoundly.

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You’re Not As Alone as You Think

This is part 4 of the series “God’s love is the Greatest Love.” For the previous post, click here.

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“But who knows what she spoke to the darkness, alone, in the bitter watches of the night, when all her life seemed shrinking, and the walls of her bower closing in about her, a hutch to trammel some wild thing in?”

~ J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King

Loneliness has a way of seeping into the soul uninvited, slowly sapping our stores of joy until a gaping emptiness remains. Loneliness assaults us in the dead of night or kicks us in the gut as we jostle our way through the madding crowd. It metastasizes through our hearts and minds, increasing our susceptibility to temptation.

“I just wish someone understood…”

“Not a single person has walked in my shoes.”

“I don’t have anyone to talk to…”

“Even my wife doesn’t get it…”

“Everyone I see on Facebook is out having a good time, but I don’t have any close friends.”

“Since my husband betrayed me, I can’t trust anyone ever again.”

“I don’t think God hears my prayers anymore…”

Do any of these phrases sound familiar? Have you ever felt misunderstood or forsaken? Continue reading

The Greatness of Sacrificial Love.

This is part 3 of the series “God’s love is the Greatest Love.” For the previous post, click here.

 

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We mortals make much ado about our sacrifices in the name of love. I’ve heard countless people say they would take a bullet for Jesus or their family. On the other hand, they don’t want to give up Sunday sports to go to worship or put down  their iPhone to have a meaningful conversation with their kids or spend a little less on themselves to help a brother in need.They say they would give up their life, but they are unwilling to make even small sacrifices for others. They would die for others, but not necessarily live for others. Real love does both.

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The Love of our Heavenly Father

This is part 2 of the series “God’s love is the Greatest Love.” For the previous post, click here.

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One of the greatest tragedies for a young child is to grow up without a good father. For one thing, fathers provide protection, establish balance, and are often essential to a child’s understanding of how men and women should behave toward one another.

Fathers are a vital part of the family unit.

In ages past, fathers often treated their children as though they ought to be seen and not heard, rarely showing affection and often remaining aloof. This explains why many of the old preachers and pastors framed God as wrathful and distant. In our current culture, many hear “God is our Father” and do not believe He actually exists or cares because their own fathers are likewise absent or uncaring.

How we view earthly fathers directly affects how we relate to our Heavenly Father. Continue reading

8 Habits of a Forgiving Heart

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How do we heal from those wounds for which no restitution can be made? How do we extend true forgiveness when we don’t feel like forgiving? How do we ease that burning in our hearts for justice?

Forgiveness is one of the most challenging commands given to the Christian. Sometimes complete forgiveness takes more than a day, a week, a month, or even a decade. What we feel on the inside must not dictate our actions on the outside. We must make a conscious effort to obey God externally while fighting the battle internally.

In the previous post, we discussed Peter’s flawed question of how many times we ought to forgive. Today, I hope to encourage you to develop a mindset of forgiveness, particularly for those hurts which run deep.

Forgiveness is not merely an action, it is an attitude we must develop and nurture until we return to dust. Continue reading

What the World Needs Now

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Some songs make me cringe.

It’s not necessarily the lyrics—although cringe-worthy lyrics abound. Often it’s the style of singing or instrumentation. Sometimes it’s an associated memory. For instance, whenever I hear Andy Williams’ voice belt out, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year!” I can’t help but groan inwardly. I associate it with disgruntled black friday shoppers and unhappy ugly-Christmas-sweater people. I don’t know why…. it’s probably related to some lame commercial. Then there’s Burt Bacharach’s “What the World Needs Now.” The words aren’t bad, it’s just the way it was sung or the melody or… something. Think “nails on chalk.”

And yet… Continue reading

Help! I need somebody, not just anybody… (Day 25 of the #encourage marathon)

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I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord is your keeper;
the Lord is your shade on your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all evil;
he will keep your life.
The Lord will keep
your going out and your coming in
from this time forth and forevermore.

Psalm 121, ESV

Welcome to mile marker 25 of the #encourage marathon! (If you missed yesterday’s post, you can read it here.)

Someone out there is struggling alone. (At least, they feel alone…) It might even be you.

If you’ve ever heard the Beatles’ song “Help!” You’ll recognize their lyrics in the title. We do need help from “somebody,” and not just “anybody.” We need help from the Lord.

When life gets hard—it does, and it will, if it hasn’t already—we find ourselves in a state of loneliness. Our eyes and heart look down, our feeling of isolation grows, and we cast desperately about for support. The danger is in looking for help in all the wrong places—drugs, alcohol, friends, weapons, etcetera. Hills may offer high ground and hiding places, but they are incomparable to strongest helper of all—the Lord.

How is the Lord a strong helper?

He made heaven and earth.

There is a tendency to gloss over this point. Consider, for a moment, the vastness of the earth and the far more incomprehensible reaches of the universe. Yeah, the God that I serve made all that. Now, flip that around and consider the invisible atom or the microbes that can only be observed under high-powered microscopes. The God I serve is so observant, that he knows the number of all those trillions of microscopic entities. No problem of ours is so great he cannot tackle it, nor so minor that it escapes His notice.

He doesn’t sleep.

When the prophet Elijah stood on Mount Carmel and defied the prophets of Baal, he had a good laugh when they made futile supplications to a non-existent God. “Elijah mocked them, saying, “Cry aloud, for he is a god. Either he is musing, or he is relieving himself, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened.” (1 Kings 18.27)

Our God never has to be roused to hear our prayer. He knows what we need before we ask Him; He just waits for us to bring our troubles. While we are asleep, God is still working. He never sits idle.

He is our keeper.

A keeper is, by definition, a guardian or caretaker. God is our guardian. The remainder of the Psalm emphasizes some of the ways in which God guards and cares for us. He watches our goings and comings and is concerned with every moment of our life, and the lives of the billions of people around us. Warren Wiersbe writes,

“In writing about the sun and the moon, the psalmist was saying several things. To begin with, in that part of the world, the burning sun is menacing (2 Kings 4:18-19Jonah 4:8), but at night, the sudden drop in temperature is both uncomfortable and unhealthy, if you lack warm covering. Day and night, our Father is with us to shelter us from that which could harm us. The Jewish people followed a lunar calendar (81:3), so the writer was also referring to days (the sun) and months (the moon). From day to day, from month to month, from season to season (Gen. 1:16-18), from year to year, our Father is with us in the many challenges and changes of life.(To read more, click this link to visit Bible Gateway.)

Are you seeking help from God first or do you come to Him only at the end of your tether?

Go to the One who is all-powerful, all-seeing, and far wiser than any human who has ever, or will ever, live upon this earth.

It could be today you feel alone and helpless. No mountain is too isolated, no storm too strong, no prison so impenetrable that God cannot reach you.


It’s almost over! Tomorrow we reach the finish line of our 26-day #encourage marathon! I hope you will join me on FacebookTwitter and here at Elihu’s Corner as we reach the end.

Feel free to download and share the graphics of these verses/passages on your Twitter feed or Facebook page with the hash tag (#encourage), or email them to a friend who needs encouragement.

Make some time to copy down these posts. Some of them are a bit long, but it only takes a few minutes. Ask your kids to do it with you. Don’t just be encouraged, encourage others!

If you missed the original post listing all 26 passages, click here to download the PDF list. All these posts will be available here under the #encourage tag. You can also type #encourage in the search window at the top of the page.

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What is Your ‘Why’?

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In the race of life, there are moments when we forget why we are running. We focus on how to be better, faster, and stronger. We waste fruitless hours bemoaning the uneven ground, the unexpected rocks, the sand in our shoes, and more. We see something lovely,  our breath momentarily suspended, only to trip over our own feet and hit the ground.

It’s a long, hard race.

(Can I get an amen?)

In this race, every person, at some moment in time asks the question, ‘Why am I here?’ or ‘Why am I doing this?’.

Indeed, why are you here?

Why do you do what you do?

What do you want to be remembered for when you cross the finish line?

For myself, the past seven years have been like a never-ending obstacle course. I’ve bounded over hurdles, climbed ropes (and mountains), dodged flying objects—all in the effort to keep forward momentum. I cannot count the times I hit the ground and wondered aloud, “why on earth am I here?”

The answer is simple: I am here to glorify God. That is, and always has been, God’s intended purpose for my life and the lives of countless others. That is my “why.”

My “why” should dictate how to best serve God, my family and those within my circle of influence.

Whys from the Word

Why #1: I serve Christ

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward.
You are serving the Lord Christ.

~ ‭‭Colossians‬ ‭3:23-24‬ 

Why #2: I fear the Lord.

The end of the matter; all has been heard.
Fear God and keep his commandments,
for this is the whole duty of man.

~ Ecclesiastes 12:13

Why #3: I love God and my neighbors.

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God,
and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.
Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.

~ 1 John 4.7-8

 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels,
but have not love,
I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.

And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge,
and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains,
but have not love,
I am nothing.

If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned,
but have not love,
I gain nothing.

~ 1 Corinthians 13.1-3

We glorify God when we serve Him, fear Him and love Him.

“But, my job is lousy and my boss is a jerk!”

Who are you working for? You are working to provide for your family because you love them. You are working to provide for yourself so as not to burden others. You are working for the Lord. Remember your “Why.”

“My spouse/kids/parents fail to appreciate anything I do!”

Did Jesus’ disciples appreciate everything He did for them? Not really. If we love God and love others, we will love like Jesus loved.

“I can’t talk about God at work or at school. I’ll get fired/disciplined.”

Who do you fear more? God or people? Be an example of joy, hope, faith, and love. Be prepared to give an answer for the hope within you. Don’t hesitate to give credit where it is due. If you are working diligently and cheerfully in a lousy situation and someone asks, ‘How can you possibly be happy in this doing this?!’, you reply, ‘I’m working for the Lord.’ In doing this, you will have shown and spoken your purpose. Fear God.

Is life frustrating and purposeless for you? Make a list of the things which seem meaningless and ask yourself if you are fulfilling the purpose of the Lord by doing these things. If you are not, you need to re-evaluate what you are doing and adjust how or what you are doing to fulfill the Lord’s purpose for you.

 

7 Marriage Principles We Should Teach Our Children

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Many parents squirm over the prospect of their children dating and marrying—and for good reason. We who have been through that stage of life are well-acquainted with the pitfalls, dangers and temptations. We have observed (or experienced) them and are more than a little reluctant to let our kids face that particular gauntlet.

Because we live in a society in which people choose their marriage partner, it is absolutely vital that we actively teach our children what marriage is and what to look for in a spouse.

#1: Dating/courtship is for the purpose of finding the right person to marry.

Dating/courtship is a vetting process like a job interview. Get character references (not necessarily in writing), get to know that person’s friends, learn how they behave in various situations. We need to remind our children that when they date someone, they need to closely examine that person’s character:

1. Do you they walk with the Lord or do they merely go through the motions?

2. Do they anger easily?

3. Do they have emotional imbalances?

4. How does a man treat his mother? How does a girl treat her father? Odds are they will treat you the same way after you are married.

4. Do they give in to vices—drugs, gambling, overeating, overspending, alcohol, etc.?

5. Are they lazy or hardworking?

6. Do they treat you respectfully or try to lead you into temptation?

7. Are they willing to wait until marriage to have physical intimacy?

Teach your kids these principles in any conversation about potential dating prospects. I saw an example recently in which a mother told her daughter to insert her boyfriend’s name in place of “love” in 1 Corinthians 13 and determine whether he possessed some of the attributes (patient, kind etcetera). It was an eye opener for the young girl!

#2: Marry a true fellow Christian.

I am certain there will be many who disagree with me on this one.

I have seen 3 cases in which an unbelieving spouse turns toward Christ and becomes a strong, dedicated Christian. It is possible—all things are with God. However, it is a phenomenal risk. Do you really want to place the spiritual future of your unborn children on the line?

Another thought: it is much easier to pull someone down than to lift somebody up. The relationship between a husband and wife is one of the strongest, most intimate earthly bonds. How can two walk together unless they are agreed? You will each keep trying to pull one another down disparate paths, leading to contention, separation, or one side caving to the other. I don’t care how strong you think you are, you set yourself up for a troublesome path if you choose to marry someone who doesn’t love the Lord.

Lastly, just because someone says they are a Christian does not mean they live like one. Observe their conduct both in worship and when surrounded by worldly people.

#3: Marriage is a lifelong commitment.

Our society has been eroding this concept for decades. The homosexuals didn’t destroy marriage; heterosexual married couples beat them to it. Divorce rates have been high since the 1970’s, with the result that marriage is—to quote Mary Poppins—a “pie crust promise, easily made, easily broken.”

Emphasize the importance of commitment to your kids. If your children promise to do something—no matter how small—hold them to it! If they fail to keep appointments, show up for jobs, fulfill agreements  etc, let them suffer the consequences. If they learn to be committed to their word, they will carry this over into their married life.

#4: Husbands should love their wives.

Duh.

This may seem obvious, but it’s often neglected.

Husbands, take the initiative to set up a date night with your wife away from the house. Show your wife affection in front of your children. I’m not suggesting that you be inappropriate about it, just give her small tokens of affection such as coming up behind your wife to give her a hug, holding her hand when you’re out walking, opening the car door for her when you get ready to leave, or  giving her a kiss whenever you part from each other. Women crave romance and affection, no matter what their love language might be. Random acts of romance are great too!

One last thing: praise her often, especially in front of the kids. They need to see that their mother is cherished and appreciated by their father so they will model it in their own relationships. They need to know that women are not doormats, nor are they goddesses—they are a valued partner in the marriage relationship and ought to be treated as such.

#5: Wives should respect their husbands.

I was surprised to learn that Aretha Franklin’s hit song “Respect” was written by Otis Redding—a man. It wasn’t meant to be a feminist mantra; it was a husband’s plea to his wife!

Just as women crave affection, men long for respect. Our culture has gone out of it’s way to demean men in an effort to promote women. This isn’t equality, folks, it’s selfishness. Why do you have to tear someone else down in an effort to build yourself up? Men should show respect to their wives, but wives should also respect their husbands.

Wives, do NOT demean your husband behind his back or to his face. Speak civilly in front of the children. Find the good that he does and praise him behind his back and to his face. Ask his honest opinion and consider it without rolling your eyes. Build him up, don’t tear him down. This makes a huge difference for your children as well. If a wife disrespects her husband, the kids will also disrespect him. If there is really something irritating you, take it first to the Lord in prayer and then communicate it to your husband privately once you’ve considered the best way to approach it.

#6: Married couples should be a team.

I think two of my three children have tried the “daddy-said-no-so-ask-mommy” routine (or vice versa) at least once. They quickly learned to discard this tactic. If we disagree about something with the kids, we do it behind closed doors. In front of the kids, we are a united front. They’ve learned that we aren’t to be manipulated or turned against each other.

#7: Married couples may disagree, but they do it respectfully.

Have discussions, not arguments in front of your children. I’ve heard people say that kids should see married couples argue so they know that “it happens” and doesn’t mean the marriage is over. I’m not so sure about that. I recommend discussing things (in a civil manner) in front of the kids. Children should see that spouses disagree (it’s reality), but that it can be done without resorting to anger. (Remember:  don’t argue about your kids in front of your kids—keep those discussions private!)


We cannot force our children to choose good partners or to have good marriages. Even in good marriages, there may come a time in which one spouse is lead away by temptation or crumbles under pressure.

Here is what we can do: 

  1. Pray for your child’s future spouse—daily.
  2. Actively teach these principles
  3. Be an example of the above principles!

What if I’m a single parent?

If you are widowed with children at home, you have a challenging job dealing with grief and caring for children. Pray diligently! Seek out families with good parents that your children can spend time with so they can observe good marriages. If you choose to remarry, tread carefully and make sure to do your due diligence in researching that person.

If you are divorced, you have a tough mountain to climb, depending on the age and maturity of your child. Don’t spend all your time running down your ex. You cannot control that person or what they say; you can only control what you do with the time you have with your child. Love them, teach them, and point out the pitfalls of divorce—they see it firsthand though they may not grasp it. Be an example of steadiness and stability. Above all, pray ceaselessly for your children—divorce is hard for them to handle too!

If we want to see stronger marriages, we need to start by strengthening our own and teaching our children these principles.

What marriage principles are you teaching your children? What would you add to the list?

And the greatest of these is….? (Comparison Cure #5)

 

This is the final post in the series on Comparison Cures. To read the previous post, click here.

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It always comes down to love, doesn’t it?

Do you rejoice when your child does well? How about your spouse? Why? Because you love them!

Why do other people have it so easy?” was the question that began this series of posts on comparison cures. This minimizing of our blessings and maximizing the perceived blessings of those around us entraps us all at some point with the unfortunate result of creating bitterness, envy, resentment, and ingratitude.

There are cures for this sickness. To date, we’ve covered four: contentment, acceptance, humility and compassion. (Click on each word to read the previous posts). Each cure is a learned behavior. We do not employ these remedies to be self-righteous, create positive chi, or even to feel better. We seek them because we love God and we want to be like him. Like so many things God calls us to do as Chrisians, it all boils down to love. The love God desires from us is a selfless love; a love that demands us to put our needs on the back burner; a love that is learned; a love that puts God first, others second and us last.

How much do we really love others?

If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.”

~ 1 John‬ ‭4:20-21‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Are you ready for a truth bomb? There are many people who are difficult to love and strive to make themselves as unloveable as possible. Yet loving others is not optional, it’s commanded! Take a look at the above passage from First John. If we fail to love our brother whom we can see, how can we love God whom we cannot see?

When I look at my neighbors, friends and fellow Christians and resent the good things that happen to them, two things are happening: I am failing to showing gratitude for the blessings I already have and I am failing to cultivate love. It’s not for me to decide whether they deserve what they have. I certainly do not deserve the blessings I have been given!

We are commanded to pray for our enemies and bless those who curse us. We are commanded to love. If we cannot even pray for those “undeserving” neighbors, friends, and fellow Christians, how in the world will we be able to pray for our enemies?

Ask the Lord to help you love the unloveable and quench those feelings of envy, bitterness, resentment and covetous. This type of love runs contrary to our nature. Godly love is not easy, but it is powerful. Imagine how different the church would be if we worked on growing our love and squashing our enviousness?

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.”

~ 1 John 4.7-8, ESV

I want to know the Lord, but in order to do so, I must start crushing my selfish nature and pursue love that seeks the best for others.

What is Genuine Love?

So, we know we are commanded to love, but how do we show love when we don’t feel love? We want to obey God, but we think that if we show love without actually feeling love, we are, in fact, disingenuous. This is a tricky problem.

In Romans 12.9, the NKJV reads, “let love be without hypocrisy.” In Greek and Roman culture, actors were called hypocrites because they created a “counterfeit persona” and were often considered to be untrustworthy because of their ability to affect emotions that they weren’t truly feeling. We don’t want to be hypocrites, right?

Here’s the thing: Just because the emotions are absent, that does not necessarily make you a hypocrite. For example: ask any solid, happily married, veteran couple (married 10 years or more) what “love” is, and they will tell you that love is more than a feeling. When a couple first marries, they do things for the other person because of how they feel. A couple that has been married 10, 20, 30+ years will tell you that they often do things for their spouse in spite of how they feel. They aren’t riding cloud nine every day, but they work to keep the spark alive because their love has grown into something much stronger than emotion—it is a deep, abiding commitment.

So, when we try to rejoice with those who rejoice (even though we don’t feel like it) we are doing so, not from some noble, transcendent emotion, but rather because we are choosing to do what is right. We want to be like God, we want to love God, so we make it our choice to demonstrate love. The feelings will come. It’s not hypocritical to choose to do right even when your feelings are against you.

Did God show you love when you became a Chrisian? Did Jesus deserve death? Did he forgive your sins? Does he continue to extend grace to you?

If that is so: shouldn’t we also extend love and grace to those around us? Are we more deserving of God’s grace and mercy than anyone else on the planet?

Before concluding, consider this passage from Colossians:

“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved,

compassionate hearts,

kindness,

humility,

meekness,

and patience, bearing with one another

and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.

And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body.

And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

~ ‭‭Colossians‬ ‭3:12-17‬ ‭ESV‬‬, emphasis mine

“Love… binds everything together in perfect harmony.” It really does. It’s no coincidence that Jesus said the greatest commandment is to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength; and the second is to love your neighbor as yourself. It’s a commandment and we must strive to fulfill it with each breath we take. Let’s find joy in contentment, peace in acceptance, patience in humility, grace in compassion and connection in love. When you feel the stirrings of envy that come with comparison, ask yourself if you love that person the way God wants you to. Run down your list: Am I being content, accepting etcetera? Set your mind on what is true, noble and praiseworthy.


This concludes the series on Comparison Cures. I hope the series has strengthened you as much as it has me! I hope you’ll leave a note in the comments and share which one was the most helpful to you.

May the Lord be with you, my friends!