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Saturday, May 24, 2014

LOVE IS NOT A FEELING!

If you don't already know this...adoption is HARD!  Adoption is PAINFUL!  Adoption is full of LOSS and SUFFERING!  But how could it be anything less?  Our adoption into God's family was HARD!  Our adoption, into God's family, was PAINFUL!  Our adoption, into God's family, was full of LOSS and SUFFERING! 

And our adoption, into God's family, was PLANNED BY GOD!  

WHAT? 

You mean, God "PLANNED" our adoption into His family so it would include PAIN and SUFFERING? 

Of course He did!  God, being the author of salvation, could have designed the way of salvation to be obtained any way He wanted and certainly that plan could have been without any pain and suffering.  But He didn't. God planned for Jesus, His only Son, to become almost overwhelmed with having to embrace "the cup" God had planned for Him.  So much so, He confessed to His disciples in the garden, "My soul is overwhelmed with the sorrow to the point of death."  Even His sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground as He deeply contemplated the path God had planned for Him. 

God planned for Jesus to be beaten until He almost died.  He planned for Jesus to be crucified on a cross, the most torturous way for Him to die.  But Jesus' suffering for us went so much deeper than the physical pain He endured, that you and I most often are repulsed by and reduced to tears by.  Jesus was about to become "sin for us"!  SIN for YOU and for ME!  Jesus, who was without SIN!  And His Father hates sin!  And not just sin for you and me, but sin for all and for all time.  I cannot even begin to imagine, with my human-mind, what that was like for Jesus, our Creator God clothed in human flesh, or what it really entailed. Nor do I have a clue about what truly happened between God the Father and God the Son at that moment in time.

When Jesus cried out, "My God!  My God!  Why have You forsaken Me?", we have no idea all the implications which accompanied His exclamation.  We just cannot comprehend it because...we are not God.   But once again, we are trying to make sense of the Creator God--creator of all we can see and all we cannot see--and His plans with our finite limited human minds.  Jesus, the Son of God, fully man and fully God proclaimed to the world that the One He was One with had forsaken Him.  What did God feel in the midst of all of this?  But, what would cause Jesus to shout such a question to His Father that would be recorded and shared forevermore?  Was it simply the result of the physical pain He was having to endure?  It was not.  Was it a fulfillment of prophecy?  Yes, but it was more. This is the same Jesus that took His own life, "gave up His spirit", when He had completed the Father's will on that cross.  This plan of God's, this plan of salvation for you and for me, this was how God wanted to prove to us His love for us.  Through so much pain and suffering?!?  YES!  Strange, isn't it?  Ironic, isn't it?  That an ALL-LOVING God would use the very thing you and I think HIS LOVE could never encompass--pain and suffering--to draw us into relationship with Him.  And yet, that IS the very way God chose to prove His love to you and to me then and that IS the very way God chooses to continue to prove His love to you and to me, everyday...through our pain and suffering!  


Jesus suffered greatly on that cross as He died physically, but His suffering emotionally and spiritually is beyond anything you and I can ever comprehend.  Isn't that really where all our challenges, here on this earth, are birthed...emotionally and spiritually from within each of us?  Oh the depths our God was willing to go to prove His love for us, not just physically, but emotionally and spiritually, as well.  And so He could identify with us in our pain and suffering.  Have you embraced that kind of God-love, yet?  If you haven't, it is freely given to all who are willing to do so.

Now the act of earthly adoption, or the "bringing home" a child to connect with and become part of an earthly family could be equated to God's Holy Spirit's convicting us and leading us to connect with God and become a part of His family, to bring us "home".  In the adoption world the phrase "adoption is a life-long journey" can easily be likened to this life-long journey you and I share in the family of God as adopted siblings with God as our Father.  Once we have been connected to God through His Son, Jesus Christ, we begin that life-long journey, yes, with Him, but also with each other here on this earth.  Can you and I imagine how our Father feels when He see us treating each other the way we do? Can we? I suspect it is often how adoptive parents (and biological parents, as well) feel about their children and their behavior toward their siblings and then their brothers and sisters in Christ. 

I am not gonna list for you the many ways we mistreat each other, because it would never encompass all and it would be too convicting to do so.  Ask His Spirit to show you how you harm each other, brothers and sisters, with words and actions, and lack thereof.  This is a prayer God will answer faithfully, I know.  And I am not gonna list for you every way you and I break our Father's heart when we refuse to accept His best for us without a fight.  Just ask God's Holy Spirit to show you the error of your ways...trust me, He will! 

You and I both know how hard and how painful this journey with each other can be sometimes.  Sadly, I am reminded of two infamous statements ascribed to you and to me.  "Christians shoot their wounded" and "If it weren't for Christians, I would be a Christian" (Gandhi). 

Strange...or is it...the vast majority of the scriptures are focused on how we are to treat one another...as brothers and sisters?  Ultimately, God knew that would be our greatest challenge on this planet.   Loving one another.  However, that is exactly what Jesus told us in John would be the path all others would know Who's we are, "By this everyone will know you are my disciples, if you love one another."  We DO so many things to "show" others we are disciples of Christ.  So many things.  If we stopped doing and simply began loving one another, everyone will know we are His disciples.  What better evangelistic tool is there, than loving one another, Brothers and Sisters?

Some of us are so focused on showing the love of Christ to those who do not know Him, when in fact if we instead showed the love of Christ to each other, as God prescribes in numerous ways, those who are lost will run to be included in that kind of God-love.

Love is not a feeling!  LOVE IS NOT A FEELING!  I dare you to read 1 Corinthians 13 and show me where love is a feeling!  LOVE IS A COMMAND FROM GOD!  LOVE IS A CHOICE!  TO LOVE OR NOT TO LOVE...IS OUR CHOICE!

If we cannot love our Brothers and Sisters, can we truly love those who are not?

Loving each other, especially in times of pain and suffering, impacts this world far greater than so many things we do to try and "earn" our discipleship diploma.  I am talking about the challenges you and I face when we are confronted with getting along with one another as God so desires and constrains us to do, along with those hard and painful things, emotionally and physically, God allows to grow us in a stronger and deeper relationship with Him.  In those places and times He leads us where we have no choice but to either depend on Him more fully or succumb to utter desperation, helpless and hopeless, without Him and without those brothers and sisters He has strategically placed around us for support.  And with the by-product to prove to the world we are His disciples.

I search for and crave reading the pain-filled stories of my brothers and sisters as they do not just endure their pain and suffering, but actually thrive--to grow vigorously, to flourish--in the midst of it.  How can they possibly do this?  Humanly, they cannot.  It is the supernatural work of God and His Holy Spirit at work within them and it is the supernatural work of God and His Holy Spirit working in their brothers and sisters that walk the pain-filled road with them.  If you have not yet tasted the supernatural strength that comes through those who bear your burdens with you, you have not yet experienced all that God has planned for you in the midst of pain and suffering.  

Why do I obsess over understanding how our all-loving God and pain and suffering can be reconciled? 

I so desire to embrace those scriptures that tell us:  

"Consider it pure joy when we face trials of many kinds".

"For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong."

"For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us."

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God."

Without pain and suffering we would only know God on a very superficial level.  True intimacy with Him could never be attained apart from you and me experiencing pain and suffering. Of course, God designed His plan this way!  He so desires for you and me to know and experience Him intimately.  Then we can share what we have learned in that intimacy with Him with our Brothers and Sisters.  

Why do I obsess over understanding how our all-loving God and pain and suffering can be reconciled? 

Because I know those brothers and sisters who feel God's promises to them have been broken because of their pain and suffering or the pain and suffering of those they love and are now living in disbelief and even denial of His great love.  God forbid!  Because I so desire for me and my brothers and sisters not to miss ALL God has planned for us in the midst of pain and suffering.  Because I want God's truth, all of it, to be the motivation for your life and for my life.  Because God's promise to us, right here and right now...is a life of abundance.  That does not mean an abundance of material things, but an abundance emotionally and spiritually welling up from within.  

If you and I cannot wholeheartedly accept this kind of God-love, in the midst of pain and suffering--ours and others--and allow it to consume every moment of our lives, we will never experience that abundant life He has promised to each of us, right here and right now.  When will we realize it is our living in that "abundant life" that becomes the avenue by which God uses to draw us and others into a more intimate and more dependent relationship with Him?

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"For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are--yet he did not sin." ~Hebrew 4:15



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