Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Lessons on Love

Part 4: Love for God’s Kingdom

A young woman sits in her chair during her break at work. She’s thinking about some of the people at her church. The congregation she attends is having some problems. The preacher taught a lesson that some of the members didn’t like…but everything he said made sense. It wasn’t an unscriptural lesson, but the people were raising a big stink over it…especially some of the women. He obviously felt it was a lesson that needed to be taught, and she felt that it was, too.

She remembers after that particular service, she was talking with a few of the ladies, and they talked to her about how horrible the lesson was, and how they were going to try and get him fired. She sat quietly and didn’t say anything, even though she knew that they were wrong. But…what could she do? She had developed some strong friendships with these older women, but she also knew that if she said anything about how she disagreed, that could cause some serious issues with their relationship.

She knew she needed to do something, though. But what?

I’m sure there are many scenarios like this that happen. It makes me so sad when I hear of problems like this occurring in a congregation. I’ve seen a few things like this first hand, as well. It’s amazing how easily Satan can slip through the cracks of a group of God’s people, and then find a way to tear them all apart.

How does this occur? It happens when people take their eyes off of God and think only of themselves. That’s the bottom line. They throw away love, and forgiveness, and become consumed with hatred.

The truth is, love has to start with us! If we want for there to be love within our congregations and for the rest of the Church, we have to make the decision that God’s will is more important. We must swallow our pride, and remember 1st Corinthians chapter 13:4-8. Make the decision to strive to do all the things described in these verses.

The girl above should do something. She, for one thing, should decide to not to get involved with the gossip, because it’s a sin (Proverbs 20:19, Romans 1:29). She should use her words to encourage others to do the right things (Ephesians 4:29). She should pray for the women in her congregation, and encourage her other friends to pray with her (James 5:16). It might also be helpful for her to go to the elders and deacons to let them know what’s going on to let them handle the situation in a responsible manner.

The world might say in these situations to be completely confrontational, and get revenge. But, really, where does that get anyone? All you’re left with is a bunch of hurt, bruised people, and anger that goes on for years and years, or even the rest of your life. Is anything really worth destroying His Church over? (Or is it even worth making your life more miserable?) We as young women are the future of the Lord’s Church. We must realize that we have a duty to be loving people (1 John 4:7). We must remember to "do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith" (Galatians 6:10). When we all decide to love, the Church will become even stronger, showing the world the love that comes from our almighty God.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Lessons on Love

Part 3: Love Thyself!

We can’t seem to run from the media, can we? You turn on the TV, there’s a tall, fit, tan, and immodestly dressed girl shaking her rear on a commercial. You see the same kind of girl on a billboard only this time she’s wearing a bikini, and sitting on a car. You turn on the radio, and there’s a man singing, “Look at your physique girl, you are a beauty. Well I am a beast. They must have been trippin’ to let me off a leash.” (Yes, these are lyrics from a real song. It’s very popular right now, too. The lyrics get much worse than this)

With so much of this information being shoved into our minds on a daily basis, it doesn’t surprise me that girls are feeling so bad about themselves. The media seems to describe (although, it’s slowly getting better) certain ways that they think a girl should look like, or that they should be immodest to be worth something. In the new “kids” movie, Rio, the main female character who is kind of nerdy doesn’t get “proper” attention from a guy until she wears a sexy outfit. We see this in real life quite a bit, too. A lot of girls feel that to get attention from guys to feel like she’s “loved”, she must dress immodestly or do things with him she knows are wrong.

I think we all know that these kinds of things aren’t going to give her the kind of love she needs and craves. We all know from the first lessons that as Christian girls God should be the first love of our life, and that we need to love our family. We also need to realize that God does want us to love ourselves. Some girls seem to have a mindset that if you love yourself, you’ll become arrogant. But, this really isn’t always the case. Sure, you can’t think so highly of yourself that you become a snob, but the key is to realize that you are imperfect (in actions and thought), but you love yourself anyway.

In the bible, the body is described as the temple of the Lord (1st Corinthians 16:9). Our bodies’ are not ours (which is contrary to popular belief), and God expects us to take care of them, and not abuse them. When you look at yourself in the mirror and call yourself ugly, you’re abusing your mind. When you commit sinful sexual relations with someone outside of marriage you’re abusing the temple (1st Corinthians 6:19). When you use drugs, alcohol, or cigarettes, you’re abusing the temple of God. If you cut, or purposefully injure yourself, you are abusing the temple that God gave you.

Girls, why do we do these things to ourselves? All that these things do is avoid the real issues. Part of being a Christian is being honest with ourselves. We must examine ourselves to find out why we do these things so that we can overcome them. It is a commandment to do so (1st Corinthians 13:5). When we fail to examine ourselves and try to find where we fall short, a wall comes up between us and God as we try to find our own ways to cope.

Think for a moment. If you’re calling yourself ugly, why are you doing that? Is it because you have built up an unrealistic vision in your mind of what beautiful is? If you’re being promiscuous, are you trying to use that as a way to cope with long-term depression, or are you trying to find more “love”? The first can also go for drug use, and self-injury. When we sit down and face our problems (which is what God wants) we can ask Him for help with those issues. He’s not going to take them away, but He’s going to help give you a new perspective on yourself, as well as give you the tools you need to overcome whatever you’re dealing with.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Lessons on Love

Lesson 2: Loving your Parents

A lot of young people would probably say this about their parents: “I can’t live with them, but I can’t live without them.” They get so frustrated with them, and they sometimes feel like their parents just don’t get them. Maybe in some ways, your parents might not understand, but they probably understand better than you think they do.

Some of your parents may be pretty lenient with you; some of your parents may be very strict; and some may be pretty well-balanced with you. But, either way, no matter your situation, there is a way that you are supposed to treat your parents, even if it’s not so easy to do. God is very clear on how you’re to deal with your parents.

The bible talks a lot of about obeying your parents and respecting them (as well as respecting those that are older than you). In the Old Testament, one of the Ten Commandments was to obey your parents (Ex. 20:12), the punishments for not doing so were pretty severe. But, now that we’re under the New Testament, those punishments no longer apply (Refer to the book of Hebrews about the separation of the old and new testaments). I believe we can definitely say, however, that God is very serious about young people honoring their parents.

In the NT, Jesus references the OT in reference to honoring your parents (Mark 7:10, Matt. 15:4). We also read this in a few epistles (Eph. 6:2-3, Col. 3:20). Now, the question is, how do we honor our parents? We love them. 1st Corinthians 13:4-8 says, “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude; it does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice with wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails…”

Let’s look at some of these things and apply them to how we treat our parents. Don’t get impatient with them if they do not understand where you’re coming from (“love is patient”). They’re not you, and they’re older so they have a different perspective on things. Listen to what they have to say, and don’t lose your temper and start yelling or being disrespectful to them (“it is not arrogant or rude”). Don’t take your frustrations out on them (“it is not irritable or resentful”). Do as your parents tell you to do without attitude (“it does not insist on its own way”).

I’m not saying it’s easy; trust me, it’s not. I’ve had some issues with treating my parents respectfully and with love, too. But, I’m much better than I used to be and continually getting better. If you really want to get better with it, you will. You just have to make the decision first and foremost that you want to please God rather than yourself. That’s an important part of the Christian life is putting God’s desires way ahead of your own, and humbling yourself (James 4:10).

Now, let me bring this up: maybe it is your parents who are in the wrong. I know that they are out there; parents who are super overbearing; possibly abusive, are struggling with drug, alcohol, or other addictions. Maybe they don’t care much and don’t want you to bother them. Maybe you’re a Christian, and they’re not. In these cases, you continue to uphold God’s will. Pray for them, and treat them with respect. Remember the Golden rule? It applies here as well (Matthew 7:12). Even if they tell you to do something that seems completely ridiculous and silly, just do it without complaint (unless it goes against God’s word). Remember that “love never fails”. It may not give instant change, but, over time, it can change a lot.

I pray that this article has given you a new perspective on loving and honoring your parents!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Lessons On Love

Part One: The First Love, The HIGHEST Love!

Many young women date, and many can tell you who their first love was (Or, maybe it wasn’t someone they dated necessarily, but someone they cared about very much). They can either remember it with fondness, with pain, or with no feelings at all. But, I would like to look at the term “first love” in a different way in this article.

I’ve heard many girls say that God is the first love of their life-and I have said this too…only to have a friend misunderstand and say, “But, I don’t really see God as the Lover type.” What this really means is that God is THE priority of your life, and You love Him first and foremost, above everything else.

But, the question is, what does it mean to love God, and how does God define that love? To find the answers to these questions, we must consult God’s holy word. First off, when we read the bible, we see that we are commanded to love Him (Luke 10:27, Mark 12:30, Matthew 22:27 and it is mentioned many times in the book of Deuteronomy). The fact that God has commanded us to love Him tells us that He believes if we really want to we will; which can only mean that the love of God is not an emotion. It’s rather hard to control how you “feel” about things, is it not? Sometimes, the only thing we can control is what we do with those emotions. So, therefore, we can conclude that it’s a choice. How do we make that choice?

Jesus says in John 14:15, very simply, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” So, when we love God, we will strive to keep all that He has told us to do, and to trust Him. That is how we love God. We see an extension of this in many places. In James 2:17 we read: “Faith without works is Dead.” What does this mean? It means your faith is meaningless if you don’t actually do what God tells you to do.

The truth is, Christians must be logical people. We can’t go by our emotions alone; for if we go by our emotions, we will be no better than the animals who act solely on instinct. We must study God’s word so we can know what He expects from us, and what He wants so that we can learn self-control; which is a commandment of God that we develop. 2nd Peter 1:5-6 shows how we grow in faith for God : “For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with Godliness…”

This shows that when we study, and gain knowledge, it encourages us to act, and develop self-control. Developing self-control means that we pause to think about our actions and their potential consequences, and then we make the right decision based on the facts given as to what we should do. When we use logic to aid in developing self-control, we can better do as God has asked us to do. We do things based on whether or not it will be pleasing to Him as defined by His word. That’s what God defines as love toward Him…it is action, not necessarily feeling. (But, I’m not going to lie…it does feel great to do what He wants me to do!)

I hope that this has taught you something. In this series of lessons, I pray that you gain a better perspective on love!