Raise the Standard

I love you.

Three little words that every person on this planet has longed to hear. Three little words that fill hearts with joy whenever they are spoken. But what do they really mean.

Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love Me?” Peter’s response, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” Then He asked him yet again with the same response. Then a third time.

When we take a deeper look into this account in John 21 we find that Jesus and Peter may seem to be saying the same thing, but they were not.

Jesus asked, “Do you love Me?” The word translated as love here is the Greek word agape. Peter’s response, “You know that I love You.” The Greek word translated as love here is the word phileo. Both translated as the word love, but they are not saying the same thing.

Agape refers to the God-kind of love. It is God’s unfailing, unconditional love. It is completely self-less.

Phileo refers to an affection that “is based on mutual satisfaction and can feel disappointed.” (Rick Renner, Sparkling Gems from the Greek). Why can this love feel disappointed? Because “self” is a part of the equation. I love you, but what have you done for me lately.

Not so with agape.

Jesus came and He introduced to us to the God-kind of love. A love that would send His Son to suffer and die in your place. A love that is never selfish, but always thinking of others and looking for a way to give, not take. Looking to meet others’ needs. Not looking to have it’s own needs met. (Don’t just think of material needs, this can include emotional needs.) With His teachings and demonstration of the God-kind of love, Jesus raised the bar on love.

I was thinking about this today. I was thinking about those three little words and what they truly mean. What do they mean when I speak them to another? What do they mean when I say I love another?

I say, “I love you”. But am I patient and kind or am I rude and unmannerly? Am I looking for a way to give or a way to get. How far will I go in laying down my life for you?

Agape raises the standard. Are we loving according to God’s standard or man’s standards?

God has asked us to love Him and love others the same way He loves, agape. But not only did He asks this of us, but then He sent His Holy Spirit to inhabit us and His Holy Spirit poured that very same love, the love of God in our hearts.

God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit Who has been given to us. (Romans 5:5, Amplified)

Second Corinthians 3:18 tells us that we “are constantly being transfigured into His very own image in ever increasing splendor and from one degree of glory to another; [for this comes] from the Lord [Who is] the Spirit.” (Amplified) It is a process. But through this process we look more and more like Love Himself because we love more and more like Love Himself.

First John 4:19 says that we love because He first loved us.

How can you live a a life of love without your own needs on your mind? By knowing that you’re on His mind and He loves you. He’s watching out for you, while you help Him watch out for others.

Know His love for you and receive it. Know His love in you and release it. Then when you say those three little words, “I love you”, to whomever you may say them to, you can mean the same thing God means when He says them to you.

The Love Zone

It’s late on a Friday night. I just got home. It’s dark outside and there is no one home. Suddenly I’m reminded of Rod Serling and I hear his voice as he welcomes viewers to the Twilight Zone.

No, it wasn’t because of anything creepy. It was simply because of a sign I posted on my door leading from the garage into the house. The sign says, “You are now entering the Love Zone.” Just below this sign is a second sign with 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 printed on it.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails… (NIV)

These signs are on both sides of the door, leading out of the house and leading into the house. A reminder to all who live here, that when you go out, you are to walk in love with others and when you come in you are to walk in love with others.

I got the idea from our church that has a sign posted just as you are leaving the church property. The sign says, “You are now entering the mission field.” Well the same is true of love. Going out from your home or coming into your home, you are entering the Love Zone.

I was thinking about this just now. I thought of it a little differently today. Not only am entering a “zone” where I need to demonstrate His love, I am a carrier of that love. I am a love zone.

I come in contact with a lot of hurting people and one thing I endeavor to do more than anything else, is to demonstrate to them His mercy, His love and His grace. I try to be a “safe zone” for them… a “love zone”. A place where they are safe. A place where there is healing. A place of unconditional love.

One of my favorite scriptures comes to mind.

…You have loved back my life from the pit of corruption and nothingness, for You have cast all my sins behind Your back. (Isaiah 38:17, Amplified)

He is a safe place. He is a healing place. He is a place of unconditional love. He loved back our lives. And He has loved us into wholeness. We are here as His ambassadors. Ambassadors of Love. We are here as His hands and His feet. We are the carriers of that love.

The world is a crazy place these days. We can be the place where people find answers. Where people find true unconditional love. Where people find peace. We can lead others into the arms of Love Himself, by being His place of love on this earth.

Count the Cost

…For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20, KJV)

Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. For if the blood of bulls and goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? (Hebrews 9:12-13, KJV)

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son… (John 3:16, KJV)

I remember reading an autobiography of a mighty man of God many years ago. The things he did for God shocked me. I remember thinking, “If this is what it takes, I quit”. Thank God that I am going from glory to glory into His image! I’m not the same person that read that book many years ago.

I also remember early on when God spoke to me about forgiveness I thought, “There’s no way”. But these days, He doesn’t even have to mention it. When something happens I am quick to forgive because of His love, His Holy Spirit, His grace in me.

There was a time many years ago, He asked me to apologize to someone. My response to Him was, “I’m going to have to meditate love a little longer for that one.” Thank God His mercies are new every morning!

The Christian life has not always been easy. It is most definitely the road less traveled. And just when I think this is getting pretty easy, He asks a little more of me and it feels like I might break.

I won’t break. It’s just part of the process that is molding me into His image. And as I yield to His Holy Spirit in me, His grace in me, His love in me, the process isn’t quite so hard.

Jesus said in Luke 12 that those who would be His disciples should count the cost.

Today, as that phrase came up in my heart, it occurred to me that God counted the cost before sending His Son.

Redeeming us, cost Him His Son. And He decided you and I were worth the cost.

Jesus when He looked toward the future and the sin, disease, death and separation that He would have to endure on the cross and in hell decided you and I were worth it.

…who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross… (Hebrews 12:2, KJV)

He counted the cost and endured the cross.

Often times we consider what it will cost us to follow Him. But when the things we are asked to lay down seem just too hard, let us look back to what it cost Him.

But God shows and clearly proves His [own] love for us by the fact that while we were still sinners, Christ (The Messiah, the Anointed One) died for us. (Romans 5:8, Amplified)

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son… (John 3:16, KJV)

Follow After Him

My soul followeth hard after thee… (Psalm 63:8, KJV)

My soul clings to You… (Psalm 63:8, NASB)

My whole being follows hard after You and clings closely to You… (Psalm 63:8, Amplified)

And the ones sown among the thorns are others who hear the Word; then the cares and anxieties of the world and distractions of the age, and the pleasure and delight and false glamour and deceitfulness of riches, and the craving and passionate desire for other things creep in and choke and suffocate the Word, and it becomes fruitless. (Mark 4:18-19, Amplified)

What are you following after? Are you still on track?

The scripture in Mark chapter four uses some very interesting wording. First let’s look at the term distractions. The Webster’s Dictionary from 1828, defines distraction as, “Confusion from a multiplicity of objects crowding on the mind and calling the attention different ways…”

Second, let’s take a look at the word creep. No, not the guy sitting next to you on the subway. According to Webster’s once again, it means, “To move slowly… to move secretly; to move so as to escape detection, or prevent suspicion… to steal in; to move forward unheard and unseen; to come or enter unexpectedly or unobserved…”

(As an interesting side note, Noah Webster included this phrase at the end of the above definition, “…as, some error has crept in to the copy of a history.”)

So these distractions, these things that would crowd our minds and draw our attention away won’t always arrive suddenly. We won’t always be aware that they’ve drawn us away. They will creep in undetected and we will be distracted and drawn away without even noticing or knowing it.

I remember listening to a well known minister once say how very busy she was. Running here an there and actually quite unhappy about it. Not enjoying her life. She took a look at the things she was spending her time on and realized many had just crept in. They were not things the Lord had asked her to do. They were not things she took pleasure in doing. She had been distracted and drawn away. Not too far. She was still loving and serving the Lord, but other things had come in to crowd her mind, her heart and her time.

My soul followeth hard after thee… (Psalm 63:8, KJV)

My soul clings to You… (Psalm 63:8, NASB)

I love this verse. It reminds me of Pslam 42:1.

As the hart pants and longs for the water brooks, so I pant and long for You, O God. (Psalm 42:1, Amplified)

Matthew 6:33 gives us some very important instruction on all this.

But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. (Matthew 6:33, KJV)

All these other things say, “Seek me. Follow me. Go after me. Cling to me. Trust in me.” They are all distractions. Seek Him. Go after Him. Follow after Him. Cling to Him. Trust in Him and all these things will be added unto you.