Fast and Pray

I recently came across this website and have started getting their emails. I thought this would be an appropriate link to end my little, often-posted-on-the-wrong-day series on love.

“Praying for Connection” from Fast and Pray

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Christ Awareness Day

For me this year, the day after Valentine’s Day was even harder than Valentine’s Day.

On Monday, I really didn’t have a hard time with the fact that it was Valentine’s Day. I had a good time in the Word and, by God’s grace, was able to spend much time thinking about God’s love for me and Christ’s ultimate expression of His love for me–dying on the cross and rising again, so I could have new life. I was also given chocolate and roses and cookies and cards from friends and students and received two packages from friends in the States and a card from my brother and sister-in-law with pictures of my niece, so I felt loved by God, family, and friends.

But on Tuesday, when I started seeing pictures of flowers and fancy dinners and heard of relationship status changes and read sappy posts on Facebook, I started to have a more difficult time.

I recently read an article entitled “Why Facebook (and Your Church) Might be Making You Sad,” which provides a helpful explanation and corrective for the slight depression that can come from looking at pictures of happy couples and families. I reread this article on Tuesday, because I felt bombarded with pictures and reminders that I was alone and not posting cheerful pictures on Facebook.

I was embarrassed to tell my students how I celebrated Valentine’s Day: I went running with a dear friend (definitely a good hour in my day), ate a lovely vegetable stir fry (by myself), and then went to school and graded papers (also by myself). I was very much tempted to be jealous and to start feeling sorry for myself and my single state.

However, on Tuesday evening, as I was pondering “Singles Awareness Day,” as some of my friends called it, and wondering what a Christ-centered response would be, I realized that “Singles Awareness Day” was really a “Christ Awareness Day.” During Valentine’s week, I most needed Christ and needed to find my satisfaction in Him. Human love is all well and good (and most desirable–don’t get me wrong!), but Christ’s love must satisfy me completely.

Psalm 36

5 Your love, LORD, reaches to the heavens,
your faithfulness to the skies.
6 Your righteousness is like the highest mountains,
your justice like the great deep.
You, LORD, preserve both people and animals.
7 How priceless is your unfailing love, O God!
People take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
8 They feast on the abundance of your house;
you give them drink from your river of delights.
9 For with you is the fountain of life;
in your light we see light.

10 Continue your love to those who know you,
your righteousness to the upright in heart.

Romans 8

1 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written:

“For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 

God’s love

I meant to post some verses about God’s love last week with my post about God’s unending love, so here they are . . . just a little late.

Exodus 34:6-8

6 The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7 keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.” 8And Moses quickly bowed his head toward the earth and worshiped.

Psalm 13:5-6

5 But I have trusted in your steadfast love;
my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
6 I will sing to the LORD,
because he has dealt bountifully with me.

Psalm 36

5Your steadfast love, O LORD, extends to the heavens,
your faithfulness to the clouds.
6 Your righteousness is like the mountains of God;
your judgments are like the great deep;
man and beast you save, O LORD.

7 How precious is your steadfast love, O God!
The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
8They feast on the abundance of your house,
and you give them drink from the river of your delights.
9For with you is the fountain of life;
in your light do we see light.

10Oh, continue your steadfast love to those who know you,
and your righteousness to the upright of heart!

Psalm 59

16 But I will sing of your strength;
I will sing aloud of your steadfast love in the morning.
For you have been to me a fortress
and a refuge in the day of my distress.
17 O my Strength, I will sing praises to you,
for you, O God, are my fortress,
the God who shows me steadfast love.

Psalm 103

1 Bless the LORD, O my soul,
and all that is within me,
bless his holy name!
2 Bless the LORD, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits,
3who forgives all your iniquity,
who heals all your diseases,
4who redeems your life from the pit,
who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
5who satisfies you with good
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

6The LORD works righteousness
and justice for all who are oppressed.
7He made known his ways to Moses,
his acts to the people of Israel.
8The LORD is merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
9 He will not always chide,
nor will he keep his anger forever.
10He does not deal with us according to our sins,
nor repay us according to our iniquities.
11For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
12as far as the east is from the west,
so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
13As a father shows compassion to his children,
so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him.
14For he knows our frame;
he remembers that we are dust.

15As for man, his days are like grass;
he flourishes like a flower of the field;
16for the wind passes over it, and it is gone,
and its place knows it no more.
17But the steadfast love of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him,
and his righteousness to children’s children,
18to those who keep his covenant
and remember to do his commandments.
19The LORD has established his throne in the heavens,
and his kingdom rules over all.

20Bless the LORD, O you his angels,
you mighty ones who do his word,
obeying the voice of his word!
21Bless the LORD, all his hosts,
his ministers, who do his will!
22 Bless the LORD, all his works,
in all places of his dominion.
Bless the LORD, O my soul!

Jeremiah 31:3

The LORD appeared to him from far away.
I have loved you with an everlasting love;
therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.

Romans 8:35-39

35Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?

36As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.

37Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.

38For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,

39Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

I Corinthians 13

I’d been thinking about I Corinthians 13 and planning to write about it for Valentines’s Day, so I was happy to come across this quote this week on a blog I read occasionally.

God is Patient and Kind

At the end of one of his lectures, Gordon Fee recalled a time when he was writing his commentary on 1 Corinthians, especially the morning he arrived at the famous words in 13:4, “Love is patient and kind.”

I remember the morning when I came to this passage: “Love is patient, love is kind.” It’s actually a verb: “Love does patience.” Or better yet, the KJV: “love suffers long.” Patience is what you show when your computer doesn’t work. Long-suffering is what you show when people don’t work, and you’ve been around them a long, long time. That’s what it means to suffer long. And I looked at those words and then realized that Paul was here describing God’s character. Those are exactly the words he uses of God back in Romans 2. Then it dawned on me, the first (long-suffering) is the passive side of His love; the other (kindness) is the active side of His love. And then I started to cry for a long time. It took me a long time to return to my computer. What if God was not like this toward us?

I Corinthians 13

1If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2And 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. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things,endures all things.

8Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 9For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

13So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

In recent years, I’ve been convicted repeatedly of how unloving I am. So often, I am the exact opposite of all the characteristics listed in this chapter; I’m impatient, unkind, arrogant, and irritable. I’m thankful, though, that Christ is patience and kindness personified and that He deals with me in loving ways. May I reflect more of His character as He continues to save me from my sin.

“I Love You More Today Than Yesterday”

For the month of February and especially since Valentine’s Day is next Monday, I’m going to try to post something about love each Monday. Don’t worry. I won’t be sappy or anything.

I’m not a fan of turning love songs around to talking about God. I don’t think that’s a good practice at all, actually, but this song made me think about God because of the contrast.

When describing human relationships, I think this is a good song, but this song does not at all reflect God’s love for us. (I’m not implying that the composer intended to make this about God; I understand that it’s not.)

God cannot love me more today than yesterday, and He won’t love me more tomorrow. He loves me the same everyday, whether I’ve done my best to please Him and live worthy of His name or whether I’ve sinned and disgraced Him. He loves me infinitely, eternally, unchangeably.

My love for God should be more today than yesterday, but if it’s not, God doesn’t love me any less. My love for others should grow, and this song accurately reflects many relationships in our lives, but it should not reflect our thinking about God’s love for us–unless to serve as a useful contrast.

Valentine’s Day Poetry

I liked these poems from Ted Kooser’s new book Valentines. He was the Poet Laureate from 2004-2006.

A Map of the World

One of the ancient maps of the world
is heart-shaped, carefully drawn
and once washed with bright colors,
though the colors have faded
as you might expect feelings to fade
from a fragile old heart, the brown map
of a life. But feeling is indelible,
and longing infinite, a starburst compass
pointing in all the directions
two lovers might go, a fresh breeze
swelling their sails, the future uncharted,
still far from the edge
where the sea pours into the stars.

If You Feel Sorry

If you feel sorry for yourself
this Valentine’s Day, think of
the dozens of little paper poppies
left in the box when the last
of the candy is gone, how they
must feel, dried out and brown
in their sad old heart-shaped box,
without so much as a single finger
to scrabble around in their
crinkled petals, not even
one pimpled nose to root and snort
through their delicate pot pourri.
So before you make too much
of being neglected, I want you
to think how they feel.

For NPR’s article on Kooser’s book and more poems, click here.