Friday, February 17, 2006

What is Love?

What is Love: From what feels good to What IS Good!

There seems to be a lot of confusion about love today. Even though millions are searching for true and lasting love (evidenced by the billions of dollars internet-dating sites rake in every year), there still seems to be quite a bit confusion about love. When asked on the street, people say everything from passionate feelings deep inside to sex to something so mysterious it can't be put into words. Well, personally... I don't think its something to be confused about; I just think we've been taught a lot of junk by the world and the culture. For example, let's consider some common fallacies regarding love.

3 Common Fallacies About Love...
And the Truth about Love from God's Word:

Fallacy #1 - Love is primarily for the fulfillment and comfort of self.
This is so true when it comes to what many people believe about love. In fact, everytime you hear someone talking about how their needs aren't being met in a relationship, they're progating this idea about love. When a guy tells his girlfriend, "If you loved me, you'd do it!" Or when a girl dates the cool jock at school to inflate and raise her own social standing among her peers... regardless of which one is worse... both are primary examples of self-centered and self-focused love.
The Truth - Love is for the glory of God and for the good of others!
1 Peter 4:11 states, "that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ..." This is a universal truth of Scripture, that everything was created for the glory of God... including the concept of love. And Jesus taught us that true love is selfless, giving, and sacrificing; it dies to its own needs for the sake of others. As He stated in John 15:13, "Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends."

Fallacy #2 - Love is primarily a feeling.
This is probably the majority opinion out there, that love is just a feeling. And I must admit that this seems right because we all have feelings of affection from time to time. But feelings do not define, measure, or govern true love. I have tremendous feelings toward my wife... but if my feelings aren't matched with actions of kindness, respect, and faithfulness, then my feelings don't mean squat!
The Truth - Love is measured and governed by our actions, not by feelings.
In Mark 14:32-36, Jesus was praying in the garden the night before his crucifixion. And the Bible shows us that he prayed with great fervency and prayed that if there was any other way for the Father's plan to be accomplished (the plan of redemption) to do it another way. Jesus was looking forward to the cross... He didn't have warm, fuzzy feelings about being stripped, beaten, and nailed to a cross. He was in tremendous spiritual and emotional agony about what was about to take place! Does that mean He didn't really love us as much as we like to think? Or worse that He didn't really love the Father as much? Were His emotions a good test of His love? Absolutely NOT!! Or was Jesus governed by His emotions; did they lead and direct Him?
Absolutely NOT!! If they had, He'd never went to the cross! After all that praying, Jesus still in great emotional agony prayed, "Nevertheless, not my will but Your will be done!" Jesus proved that He loved the Father and us, but going against His emotions and facing death anyway!

Fallacy #3 - Love is out of our control.
It is most likely that many of us propagate this false notion about love without even realizing it. We say things like "I think I'm falling in love..." or "Dude, I'm just madly in love!" Stop and think about it for a second... why in the world do we describe love like falling into a pit or worse like a mental illness? What do these statements and others like it reveal about our attitudes regarding love? That love is out of our control. But why teach that? I believe the answer is because it removes all personal responsibility from our lives. You see, if love is truly some external force that effects us that we have no control over, then we can excuse and justify all kinds of behavior... and not just pre-marital sex, but lying, murder, rape, and many other sins of the flesh have all been justified before by people claiming to be in love. Is this true love? Of course not!
The Truth- Love is completely under our control.
When considering what Jesus Christ did for us... Did God the Father choose to send Christ to die on the cross or was He compelled to by some external force? Did Jesus choose to go to Jerusalem to face His death or was He compelled to by some force? In all of it... in everything God has ever done for us, He did it because He chose to. He chose to create us... He chose to love us even after we rebelled... and He chose to die on a cross in our place.
And that same choice is ours today... I can choose to be kind, loving, and respectful to the people around me, or I can choose to be selfish, mean, and cruel. It's not about being under the control of some mysterious force that causes me to do all kinds of ungodly things without responsibility, its about choosing to put the needs and desires of others above my own in whatever relationship I'm involved with.

Hollywood and MTV shows us a hot, steamy love scene between two people and says "This is love." But God the Father takes His only Son and puts Him on a cross to pay for crimes that He didn't commit and says, "No, this is real love... my love for you." 1 John 4:10-11 states, "In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another."

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Habits of Highly Defective Dating, Part 2

Continued look at the habits of highly defective dating from the excellent book I Kissed Dating Good-Bye by Joshua Harris.

4. Dating can distract young adults from their primary responsibility of preparing for the future.
We cannot live in the future, but neglecting our current obligations will disqualify us for tomorrow’s responsibilities. Being distracted by love is not such a bad thing—unless God wants you doing something else. One of the saddest tendencies of dating is to distract young adults from developing their God-given abilities and skills. Instead of serving in their local church, instead of equipping themselves with the character, education, and experience necessary to succeed in life, many allow themselves to be consumed by the present needs that dating emphasizes. Dating may help you practice being a good boyfriend or girlfriend, but are these the skills we need for marriage? Even if you’re going out with the person you will one day marry, a preoccupation with being the perfect boyfriend or girlfriend now can actually hinder you from being the future husband or wife that person will one day need.

5. Dating can cause discontentment with God’s gift of singleness.
God gives us singleness—a season of our lives unmatched in its boundless opportunities for growth, learning, and service—and we view it as a chance to get bogged down in finding and keeping boyfriends and girlfriends. Recreational dating causes dissatisfaction because it encourages a wrong use of freedom. God has placed a desire in most men and women for marriage. Although we don’t sin when we look forward to marriage, we might be guilty of poor stewardship of our singleness when we allow a desire for something God obviously doesn’t have for us yet to rob our ability to enjoy and appreciate what He has given us. Dating plays a role in fostering this dissatisfaction because it gives single people just enough intimacy to make them wish they had more. Instead of enjoying the unique qualities of singleness, dating causes people to focus on what they don’t have.

6. Dating can create an artificial environment for evaluating another person’s character.
As in a game of basketball, anyone can look like a pro when the basket has been lowed several feet, but that’s only because the standard has been lowered. Raise it back up to 10’ and the same guy won’t look quite so hot. In a similar way, dating creates an artificial environment that doesn’t require a person to accurately portray his or her positive and negative characteristics. On a date, a person can charm his or her way into a date’s heart. He drives a nice car and pays for everything; she looks great and acts as sweet as she can be. But who cares? Being fun on a date doesn’t say anything about a person’s character or ability to be a good husband or wife. What they really need to do is see each other in real life situations. They need to watch each other serving and working. They need to see how they handle stress and troubles. How does the person interact with the people who know him best? How does she react when things don’t go perfectly? These are the kinds of questions we need the answers to in considering someone as a potential mate—questions dating just won’t answer.

7. Dating often becomes an end in itself.
To often instead of dating being the bridge between friendship and marriage, it becomes the destination—not ending but not moving on either. We just date to date. Singles who grow accustomed to this dating limbo often find it difficult to leave. It’s so comfortable! Because they can experience many of the emotional and, sadly, even physical privileges of marriage in their dating relationships, many people (men in particular) find little motivation for committing themselves to marriage. And in a secular mindset, why should they? Why make huge commitments, when they’re already getting all they want? As the old saying goes, “Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?” For the man or woman who is ready to get married, the dating scene and the habits it encourages aren’t helpful. It can seem like you’re making something happen but you might just be getting into a holding pattern of one short-term relationship after another.

If you’ve done any dating, this all probably sounds familiar to you. I think that for too long we’ve approached relationships using the world’s mindset and values, and if you’ve tried it, you might agree that it just doesn’t work. Don’t waste any more time wrestling with the swerving cart of dating. It’s time for a new attitude.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Habits of Highly Defective Dating, Part 1

1. Dating tends to skip the Friendship stage of a relationship.
In real friendships, you’re not pressured by knowing whether or not you “like” the other person or that they “like” you. You’re free to be yourself and to be able to do things together without spending 3 hrs in the front the mirror. In dating, romantic attraction is often the cornerstone of the relationship. The premise of dating is, “I’m attracted to you; therefore, let’s get to know each other.” The premise of friendship is, “We’re interested in the same things; let’s enjoy these common interests together.” If romantic attraction forms after the friendship, it’s an added bonus. Intimacy without friendship is superficial. A relationship based solely on physical attraction and romantic feelings will last only as long as the feelings last.

2. Dating often mistakes a physical relationship for love.
When we consider that our culture as a whole regards the words love and sex as interchangeable, we should not be surprised that many dating relationships mistake physical attraction and sexual intimacy for true love. Just because lips have met doesn’t mean hearts have joined, and just because two bodies are drawn to each other doesn’t mean two people are right for one another. A physical relationship does not equal love. Focusing on the physical is plainly sinful. God demands sexual purity. He does this because He is holy, and He does it for our own good. Physical involvement can greatly distort two people’s perspective of each other and lead to unwise choices. Physical involvement in a dating relationship does not equal love; it equals lust.

3. Dating often isolates a couple from other vital relationships.
By its very definition, dating is about two people focusing on each other. Unfortunately, in most cases the rest of the world fades into the background. In a relationship where both people are serious and are prepared to move toward marriage, then giving the relationship primary attention is not wrong. However, for people who really aren’t ready for commitment, this dating tendency is especially detrimental. Why? First, because when we allow one relationship to crowd out others, we lose proper perspective (Prov.15:22), therefore we have a much higher risk of making poor decisions. Second, if two people haven’t defined their level of commitment, then they’re particularly at risk for getting hurt. In Passion and Purity Elisabeth Elliot states, “Unless a man is prepared to ask a woman to be his wife, what right has he to claim her exclusive attention? Unless she has been asked to marry him, why would a sensible woman promise any man her exclusive attention?” Dating isolates a couple from other vital relationships like with their parents, siblings, friends, and fellow believers in Christ. Friendship, not dating, is a much wiser and safer route to go until you are ready for commitment.

Typical American Dating: Is This Really God's Best for Teens Today?

I can’t speak for most youth pastors in general or even most evangelical youth pastors, but for me personally the issue of dating is an extremely hot topic and burden on my heart regarding today’s young people. I strongly discourage young dating (under the age of 18) for several basic reasons.

First, because I have “been there-done that,” and I can speak from first-hand experience that not only is it a big waste of time, but it’s also a dangerous mind-field, loaded with the potential to destroy teenagers physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

Also, typical dating not only hurts individuals, but it hurts the unity of the youth group and church as a whole. There’s just nothing like a bunch of failed, romantic relationships in the youth ministry to destroy the effectiveness and unity of the group.

And finally, as followers of Christ, we should desire God’s best, and I am absolutely convinced that typical, American dating is far from being God’s best. But I guess what grieves me more is that most Christian teens (and adults for that matter) seem to just blindly accept the ways and methods the culture claims to be the norm when it comes to relationships without first asking, does God have something better for me now? Is this really God’s plan? Is this really what He has in mind for me? I submit that typical American dating is not God’s best, and in fact is highly defective for everyone that participates. God has a far better plan for us concerning relationships, if we will only be honest enough and care enough to take the time to find out.

In the next couple of posts, I will give 7 reasons that typical American dating is highly defective. The resource that I have found to be a wonderful resource on this subject is a little book entitled, I Kissed Dating Goodbye by Joshua Harris. In this book, which I strongly recommend, Harris takes a good hard look at typical dating from a Biblical perspective, and makes some very honest conclusions.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Living a Life of Genuine Purity

This post is a recap of a recent lesson that I feel is absolutely vital to today's young people. With the maddness of our culture the way it is so crazed with sex, and with the whole "Whatever feels good, do it" philosophy abounding today, God's Word still speaks right to our need. In 1 Thes. 4:1-8, we find the Apostle Paul pleading with the early believers to excel the area of purity in their lives. And though we are not living in the 1st century any more, God has not changed and neither has his standards for our lives. And so from this passage, the Spirit of God speaking through the Apostle Paul is calling all of us who call ourselves followers of Christ to excel in the life of purity! But the question is how do we do this? What does a life of genuine purity look like? Well, from this passage, I find at least 5 marks of a genuinely pure life.

1. A life of genuine purity recognizes the Lordship of Jesus Christ. (vs.2)
+Do you recognize that Jesus is Lord of your life?
+When you have to make decisions, do you stop and ask what would God want me to do, or do you just do what you want?
+Do you ever read and study God's word to find out exactly what Jesus demands of us?
Those who are serious about living pure before God will recognize His Lordship.

2. A life of genuine purity is not satisfied with just getting by (vs.1)
+Regarding the area of personal purity, are you happy just getting by, or do you pursue holiness and righteousness with all your heart?
+Do you see purity as a line that you can go racing up to... trying to do as much as possible without feeling guilty?
+Or is your heart's desire to flee as far as you can from sin and compromise, in order to be as close to God as you can be?
-Purity isn't a line; its the direction of our heart away from sin in full pursuit of the knowledge and holiness of God .

3. A life of genuine purity disciplines itself to keep natural desires under control. (vs.4-5)
+By His power, are you able to subdue & conquer those natural, unholy desires that we all have?
+Would you consider yourself in control of your actions and behavior, or do you find yourself too often loosing control?
-The key of course is knowing God in a personal, intimate relationship through Jesus Christ.
-No man (or woman) has the power to conquer his own sinful nature without the grace and power of God working in his/her life.
-As Gal.5:22 states, "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy,... and self-control."

4. A life of genuine purity demonstrates genuine love for others. (vs.6)
+First, how do you define love and is it the proper definition?
+Do you see love as a mental illness or condition of the heart that removes responsibility for our choices and actions? (Ex: "I was madly in love, I just couldn't control myself.")
+Or do you have a Biblical definition of love? Which the Bible defines as a choice to be kind to others and to seek their well-being even above our own, regardless of what they do.
+Second, if you genuinely love others, how will that effect the way you treat them?
-Example: A guy who genuinely loved a young lady would not pressure her to have sex.
-Likewise: A girl who genuinely loved a young man would not wear seductive and alluring clothing, that is going to make him stumble b/c of temptation.
+Is genuine love demonstrated in your relationships?

5. A life of genuine purity reveals a true commitment to Christ. (vs.8)
-The Spirit of God was crystal clear in the passage, that the things he was writing was coming from the Lord Jesus Himself.
-It was and is today God's will for His people to be pure, separated, and holy in all of their relationships; especially with the opposite sex outside the covenant of marriage.
+Based on this passage, does your life reflect a genuine commitment to Christ?
-If so, Great!
-If not, the Bible says "if we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:9)
+Do you need cleansing today?
-God is waiting to hear from you.
-May God help all of us to seek to live lives of genuine purity!