Friday, January 28, 2011

Does Love Hurt? cont.

If you didn't read it already, a couple of days ago I posted this: In this post I discussed the pain that we normally attribute to love, the pain of losing someone or being rejected by someone whom we love. The conclusion was that that pain is not from love but from the expectation of love. In other words it is the absence of love that causes that pain. I think this is an important distinction, because love does not cause rejection or loss. God is love (1 John 4:8) and part of Him being love is that He will never leave us (Hebrews 13:5).

So this brings us back to the question of 'Does love hurt?'. If the pain that we normally relate to love is not from love than does that mean there is no pain from love? The answer is no. There is definitely a pain that can come from love. This pain can come in two different ways but both are related to one aspect of love. True and perfect love always wants the best thing for the other person. This aspect of love can cause pain both to the person loving and the person being loved.

It can be painful, for a time, to be loved. This comes through the concept of 'tough love'. It often hurts to be disciplined and discipline is a result that comes from love.

"because the LORD disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in." (Proverbs 3:12)

Discipline can hurt, but as I said, it is only for a time. As long as we accept and respond to the discipline, the pain will fade and we will come out stronger and happier than before. This is why love disciplines, because love always wants the best for the other person and knows that discipline will bring out the best, even if the initial reaction is pain. I believe that this is the only pain that comes from being loved. The conclusion of this is that when one is loved there will never be lasting pain and there will only be a 'good' pain. This is why it is so good to follow God. Because God is love, we can know that any pain that comes as a result of following Him is a pain that will grow us and make us stronger. We can also know that this pain will not last, we can get through it!

Next, we have the pain that comes to those who love. As stated before, love always prefers the other person. Love is never selfish and always selfless. This kind of love is never shown in it's perfection outside of God Himself. Humans, since the fall, have a natural tendency to be selfish. We look out for ourselves first and it is sometimes difficult to find a truly selfless act. This is the first reason why it can hurt to practice love. When we make the decision as humans to put others in front of ourselves it can hurt. Theoretically we should be happy with them, if we truly love them, but that theory does not always manifest in our imperfect love. Therefore, we must make the decision to take that painful step, to step out in selfless acts of love.

The other instance in which love causes pain is another aspect of the the imperfection of humanity. Love always wants the best for others, but people do not always choose the best thing for themselves. Anyone who has a loved one who has struggled with addictions knows this pain very well. We desire them to be free, to stop drinking, using drugs, or whatever else it might be. But they don't, and it is painful to watch them hurting themselves.We also see that God experiences pain from His love for us:

And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. (Ephesians 4:29-31)

It is an amazing evidence of God's love for us to see that when we hurt ourselves, or others, it actually grieves His Spirit!It is not a matter of Him simply being angry that we did not obey Him. It is just like when we watch our loved one destroy Himself with drugs or alcohol, God feels the same kind of pain when He watches us destroy ourselves in sin. This is why He calls us to follow Him, this is why He asks us to spread His good news, and this is why He disciplines us. He wants what is best for us, but we continually reject Him and go against Him, and through that we cause Him pain!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Does Love Hurt?

I joined a discussion yesterday about whether love hurts and if that pain is avoidable. The topic interested me enough that I thought I would write my thoughts for you to read here. Based on media representations it seems that the general consensus is that love can be painful, but that pain is worth taking the risk of love. There is the popular saying:

It is better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all.

So one of the ideas is that if you love someone and they die, or leave you than it hurts. The songs tend to come at it from a different angle. They say that love hurts because the person that you love might reject you or hurt you in some way. These are both interesting things to think about and discuss. Is it the fact that I love that person that causes the pain, or is it the absence of an expected love that causes the pain? The following quote from is what started the discussion:

One is never wounded by the love one gives, only by the love one expects.

I find this aphorism to be quite true. It is not our love that causes us pain, it is the unfulfilled expectations of love. In the case of the loved one dying, it is missing the love that they have given you that hurts. As Christians, our love for that person should cause us joy, as we know that they are in a better place. In the second instance it is that fact that we expected love in return for our love that causes us pain. If we loved them without an expectation of returned love, we would be completely happy as long as they are happy.

This then brings another question to the table. Are there not instances in which we have a right to expect love in return? Shouldn't one have the right to expect love from a spouse, parent, child, sibling, good friend, etc. My answer to that is; yes. Yes we have a right to expect love. Especially in the sense of a spouse (traditional vows include loving each other 'til death do us part'), but even in the sense of another family member or a best friend, who we love, we do have a right to expect love from them. We have this right in the same way that we have the right to respond to evil with evil, but Jesus asked us for more.

Jesus said: “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’f]"> But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. (Matthew 5:38-39)

What I understand from this verse is that when someone takes our eye, or our tooth we have the right to take the same from them. When someone slaps you then you have the right to slap him back. But Jesus tells us that we need to give up that right. In order to follow Christ we must learn to give up the rights that we have. It is the same way with expecting love in return for love. We may have the right to, but the love that Christ has called us to does not expect anything in return. That is the very definition of true love: selflessness. Hence, the pain that we so commonly associate with love actually has nothing to do with love, but the unfulfilled expectation of returned love.

So if the pain that we associate with love, is actually not from love, then that brings us back to our original question: Does love hurt? As this post is becoming long I will continue to tackle this question in a later post.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Living Martyr by Wagdi Iskander

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Awesomeness of God

"My last sermon before I was arrested was on the awesomeness of God. My congregation didn't understand it. Neither did I, I wondered about what I said. Now I begin to understand, because I understand less and less what God is doing with me" Richard Wurmbrand (If Prison Walls Could Speak)
I found this quote in a book I'm reading and it really hit me. We always talk about how God is awesome, and we are usually referring to how good he is, or maybe a specific thing that He has done for us. We rave about how awesome God is when He fits in the box that we have created in our minds for Him. Then, when He does something that we don't understand, we begin to question Him:

Why are you doing this? What happened to your goodness? Where are you now?

Then as we go through it and eventually see Him work the good out of the situation, we begin to understand, and again talk about how 'awesome' He is. It is like we limit His awesomeness to our understanding. As long as we can see and understand how what He is doing is good, He is awesome. But when we don't understand it then we question His goodness and His awesomeness. There are even a multitude of people in the world who have rejected God because they did not understand Him. We often hear the question:

If there is a good, all powerful God then why is there evil in the world?


How could God just be, how could He come out of nothing?


Why did God have to take the punishment of sin on Himself, why couldn't He just do away with the punishment altogether?

We hear all these questions and then we as Christians try to make up rational explanations so that it can make sense. We think that in order to convince people that God is real and that God is awesome, that we have to get them to understand Him. But by definition the fact that we do not understand Him is the very thing that makes Him so awesome. It is the fact that He does not fit in our man-made box that inspires awe in us, or in other words, if we could understand Him perfectly He would not be awesome.

I think it is great that we can not understand God. For one, it gives us something to strive for. We can spend the rest of our lives seeking after Him and attempting to better understand Him and when we get to heaven we will still be shocked, and in awe for eternity at how great He is and how wise He is. Secondly, what kind of creator would He be if His creation could fully understand Him. Think about the science fiction movies with the robots. Even though robots are always more intelligent than humans, because they can simply enter data and store it, they will never understand their creator. They are always trying to understand humans but never can. Why do humans do things that are against logic? Why do humans cry? or laugh? The creator is always more complex than the creation! So why do we continually act surprised when God does something that we do not understand? Why do we wonder when He does something differently than we would?

We need to continue to strive to know God more, but we must also understand that we will never completely understand Him. Maybe I understand Him better than a new believer, because I have spent more time studying His Word, and more time in His presence, but there is still so much that I do not understand. This is why we can learn from anyone. This is why we can always learn more. Keep striving after God! He is awesome!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Where is your Authority?

In Matthew 28:18 Jesus told his disciples “…all authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.” (NKJV) He then sent His disciples out in this same authority to spread the Gospel. The church of today seems to be losing this authority that once was so evident. In the book of Acts it was always “what I do have I give you” (Acts 3:6) but in today’s society it often seems to be ‘what I’ve learned I’ll teach you’. We have preachers without conviction and teachers without love, then these leaders produce disciples that are the same. There were times where the church grew with little or no effort from the people, but now we have people working twice as hard and a decreasing church as a reward.
What’s the difference between today’s church and the book of Acts? What do we need to change to get back to the place we should be? Where is this place that we should be? If you’ve asked yourself these questions then keep reading, but be sure that your ready to make a change. In James 4:8 God promises that if we draw near to Him, He will draw near to us, that means He looks to us to make the first step. That step is rarely easy to make but in the end it’s more rewarding than we could ever imagine! In this case the step is a decision. We need to decide what our goal is, and how much we are willing to pay to fulfill this goal. Every Christian, at some point in life, is presented with a decision between a radical life with God, filled with sacrifice and reward, or a comfortable life with a simple goal of making it to heaven. If our goal is simply to get out of hell and get into heaven then we will never live in the authority of the early church, but if we decide to sacrifice our own desires and our own comforts then “with God all things are possible”! The Bible makes it clear that we are “saved by grace through faith” and “not by works lest any man should boast” but there should be something else that drives us to do what we do. We need more Christians in today’s church that like Jeremiah have God’s Word “in [their] heart like a burning fire shut up in [their] bones”! (Jeremiah 20:9)

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Are you Afraid?

Are you afraid? I've said it before, this world needs leaders. They need people that will stand up with a vision. A vision not only for their own lives, but for society. They need people that are not afraid to take a stand. Recently I ran across a song from which the lyrics of the chorus really hit me:

I'm not afraid
To take a stand
Come take my hand
We'll walk this road together, through the storm
Whatever weather, cold or warm
Just lettin you know that, you're not alone
Holla if you feel like you've been down the same road

We need more people who are willing to say this. We need more people that are not afraid to take a stand. But the real reason this song hit me has to do with who the singer is. Some of you may have heard this song but many of you probably have not. It is "Not Afraid" by Eminem. What hit me is that if we are afraid to take a stand then there is going to be someone who is not. If we are afraid to provide leadership to this generation they will find someone to follow.

This increases the urgency of strong, Christian leaders rising up. Often I've seen people in the church afraid to say "follow me" and have even heard sermons on how we should never follow a man but should only follow Jesus. This claim is backed up by the fact that none of us are perfect and therefore we will always be led astray if we follow a human being. As true and Christian as this may sound, it is not the view we see in the Bible. Paul said:

"Imitate me just as I also imitate Christ." 1 Corinthians 11:1

I think that nowadays most Christians are afraid to say this. They are afraid that because they are not perfect they will make to many mistakes to say this, or they are afraid of the responsibility that comes with it. Maybe they are afraid of people's response. But we need Christians today who are willing to say with Paul "I am not ashamed of the Gospel", or with Eminem "I am not afraid, to take a stand"!

So I ask you; Are you afraid? Because if you are afraid there is someone that is not!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

2010 A Year of Firsts

Last week I wrote about looking forward to the coming year and setting goals in my post at We do need to continually look forward. God speaks over and over again about the importance of vision in the Bible, but there can be a benefit to looking back as well. When we look back it is often easier to see God's blessings and protection over our lives. It is also easier to learn from our mistakes. So here am I looking back at the year 2010:

2010 for me was a year of firsts. For some things it was the first time ever in my life, whereas for others it was my first year returning. Here is a list of the firsts for me in 2010:

Nov 2009 - My wife and I came to the United States, meaning 2010 was my first full year back home, and my first year here with my wife.

Jan 2010 - We had the first youth meeting for Connection Youth Ministries.

Jan 2010 - I was hired to my first full-time paying job in four years at Northwest Mental Health

Feb 2010 - The first youth outing for Connection Youth. Generation Unleashed 2010!

Apr 2010 - My first promotion to a supervisory position. Which brought new experiences as a supervisor.

May/Jun - Tigist and I celebrated our first birthdays together.

Oct 2010 - We celebrated our first anniversary of our wedding.

Dec 2010 - Started this blog with the first post

This was an amazing year and God has been amazing in the ways that He has provided and blessed us. Now's to looking forward to a year of growth in 2011. My marriage, our youth ministry, my job, and of course my relationship with God, I know will have amazing growth in this new year. It will also be interesting to see what new firsts come about in this time.