Tainted love

Ask just about anyone on the street and they’ll tell you that you should be able to love whoever you want however you want. It doesn’t hurt anyone. Do what makes you feel good. Love is love.

In the course of time, Amnon, son of David fell in love with Tamar, the beautiful sister of Absalom, son of David.

2 Samuel 13:1 (NIV)

So what if Amnon loves Tamar? He should be able to love whoever he wants! Right? Well, if Tamar is the sister of a son of David and Amnon is a son of David, doesn’t that make Tamar, at the very least, his half sister? Not so lovely to love now, is it? But that didn’t matter to Amnon. He had to have Tamar no matter what. He loved her after all. He deserved to have her love him back.

So he came up with a plan to lure Tamar into his bedroom. Because Amnon was her brother, Tamar figured she was safe. Until Amnon made a completely inappropriate pass at her. She tried to fight him off.

But he refused to listen to her, and since he was stronger than she, he raped her.

Then Amnon hated her with intense hatred. In fact, he hated her more than he had loved her. Amnon said to her, “Get up and get out!”

2 Samuel 13:14-15 (NIV)

Amnon, in his obsession assumed that, by having what he wanted, his needs would be satisfied. Instead, his passions were reversed.

Aren’t we like that sometimes? We can obsess over something, love something, want something so bad that we are willing to do almost anything to get it. We should be able to love whoever or whatever we want, shouldn’t we? If it makes us happy, shouldn’t we do what we can to get it?

Just because we want something doesn’t mean we should have it. It doesn’t mean it’s good for us to have it. It doesn’t mean it’s ours to have. And it rarely means what we think it will mean.

During the hippie era, free love was the fad. In recent years it’s #LoveWins. We are constantly being told that if it feels good, do it. Love what you love. You can’t help who you love. In all of the noise, we as believers must remind ourselves of what love really is. We must recognise that the world, who has rejected Jesus and the God who is love, cannot really know or experience true love unless they acknowledge the single greatest act of love in the history of humankind.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

John 3:16 (NIV)

That is what love looks like. It certainly wasn’t the thing Jesus wanted most. It didn’t feel good. It didn’t cater to his wants or desires nor did it fulfill any fantasies.

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 truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails.

1 Corinthians 13:4-8a (NIV)

Amnon’s tainted idea of what love was fell short of nearly every point Paul made regarding love in his letter to the church at Corinth. His love for Tamar was all about himself. The love Christ calls us to has nothing to do with our own satisfaction, but is all about others.

Read: 2 Samuel 13-14, Luke 20:1-26

Be happy

Be happy if you are insulted for being a Christian, for then the glorious Spirit of God will come upon you.

1 Peter 4:14 (NLT)

Happy probably isn’t the first, or even second, or third, word I’d use to describe how I feel when I’m insulted.

HAPPY: Lucky; fortunate; successful.

It may seem more than a little counterintuitive, but in order to be counted as a successful Christian, you will have to be insulted for it.

It’s not that we should go looking for persecution, but if you are living the life God has called all of His children to, it will find you. If you’ve never been insulted or persecuted because of your faith you either live in a very small bubble, or you’re not really living your faith to the extent you should be.

There is something about Christianity that rubs the rest of the world the wrong way—and they usually aren’t afraid to let you know about it. And when those those insults come flying your way, they are nothing to shy away from. We should be boldly facing them head on.

But it is no shame to suffer for being a Christian. Praise God for the privilege of being called by his wonderful name!

1 Peter 4:16 (NLT)

It is to our benefit to be called out for our faith. If we endure, we become stronger for it. And though the world would try to bring us shame, they only bring us further glory through our association with God the Father.

So even in the trials and the insults, be happy. Put the world behind you and focus on God before you.

Daily Bible reading: Ezekiel 38-39, 1 Peter 4

JOY!

JOY: The gratification of desire or some good possessed, or by a rational prospect of possessing what we love or desire; gladness; exultation; exhilaration or spirits.

I believe that there are some, or even a lot, of Christians who are under the impression that joy is not something we should feel or express on a consistent basis. Maybe someone who is struggling will be offended by our joyful mood. We don’t want to make people feel uncomfortable by being happy all the time. It’s weird to always be in a good mood.

This is another occasion where I have not been able to find scripture to back up a pervasive idea that has invaded so many churches and Christians. There is nothing in God’s Word that would suggest that Christians must be a somber folk, not given to smiles our bouts of laughter. Everything I’ve discovered would indicate the exact opposite.

What joy for those you choose to bring near,
those who live in your holy courts.
What joy awaits us
inside your holy temple.

Psalm 65:4 (NLT)

We should be joyful because God has brought us near and that joy doesn’t even have to wait because we are His holy temple. Joy should be an overwhelming experience that saturates every day of our lives.

Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice!

Philippians 4:4 (NLT)

Joy isn’t just an experience or an emotion.

But when the Holy Spirit controls our lives, he will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Here there is no conflict with the law.

Galatians 5:22-23 (NLT)

Joy is a byproduct of the Holy Spirit being active in our lives. According to Proverbs 17:22, a cheerful heart is good medicine. Nehemiah 8:10 tells you not to be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength! Our joy should be contagious, infectious, making us stronger.

By allowing ourselves to experience a gift that God has given us, we not only strengthen ourselves, but we then have the opportunity to pass on that joy and strength to others. Google a video of a baby laughing and see how long you can keep a straight face. Joy is meant to be shared.

When you obey me, you remain in my love, just as I obey my father and remain in his love. I have told you this so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!

John 15:10-11 (NLT)

Joy is simply the overflow of the love of God in our lives. Try spreading a little joy today. Smile at a few strangers. Laugh with a friend. Take note of how you are affected. See if you can improve someone else’s day.

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 65-67, Romans 2

Why so sad?

These days, if you watch or read the news, it can be pretty difficult to keep yourself happy and encouraged. Most news stations report mostly bad news. We’re gluttons for the horrific stories and are drawn to the most sinister of reports. Good news gets buried in the heaps of the atrocities surrounding us.

It begs the question, how then do we remain happy, joyful, and encouraged when all we hear are awful reports?

Why am I so discouraged?
Why so sad?
I will put my hope in God!
I will praise him again—
my Savior and my God!

Psalm 42:5, 11 and 43:5 (NLT)

Three times in two chapters we see this refrain. It must have been important to the descendants of Korah for it to have been repeated so many times.

How often have you asked yourself those questions? Why am I so discouraged? Why am I so sad? And how often are we unable to come up with a reasonable response?

The writer of these Psalms had a solution—put your hope in God and praise Him. Is it really that easy? Yes, I believe it is. James 4:8 tells us to come close to God, and God will come close to you. And Psalm 22:3 says that He inhabits the praises of Israel. Our praise brings us closer to God. God inhabits, dwells, lives in our praises. How can we be anything but joyful and encouraged when God is right there, near to us and living in our praise?

Hope in the temporary will only lead to disappointment and discouragement. This will all pass away. But hope in the everlasting, the eternal leads to joy and encouragement.

Through each day the Lord pours his unfailing love upon me,
and through each night I sing his songs,
praying to God who gives me life.

Psalm 42:8 (NLT)

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 41-43, Acts 24

Delight

The English language really is a wonder. We have so many words that mean so many things. The language is constantly evolving and new words are added all the time. However, some words have also lost meaning. We tend to replace some words with others and make words that don’t really mean the same thing interchangeable.

When you think of delight, is it temporary or permanent? Is it affected by circumstance or state of mind? Delight. Joy. Happy. Content. We often use these words in place of each other. But what does delight really mean?

DELIGHT is a more permanent pleasure than joy, and not dependent on sudden excitement.

A high degree of pleasure, or satisfaction of mind; joy.

With that in mind, take a look at some of the verses in Psalm 37.

Delight yourself in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Psalm 37:4 (ESV)

But the meek shall inherit the land
and delight themselves in abundant peace.

Psalm 37:11 (ESV)

The steps of a man are established by the Lord,
When he delights in his way;
though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong,
for the Lord upholds his hand.

Psalm 37:23-24 (ESV)

None of these references have anything to do with being happy. No outside force is implied when David tells us to delight in the Lord, in abundant peace or God’s ways. Even in the hard times, as David explains, if we delight, if we find our joy in God and His will, His ways, we will find the blessing of peace.

The salvation of the righteous is from the Lord;
he is their stronghold in the time of trouble.
The Lord helps them and delivers them;
he delivers them from the wicked and saves them,
because they take refuge in him.

Psalm 37:39-40 (ESV)

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 36-37; Acts 23:1-11

Joy!

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds.

James 1:2 (ESV)

Joy? Really? I’m supposed to have joy in trials?

I will readily admit that joy is not usually my go-to response to a difficult situation.

But what is joy? Joy is not equal to happy. Let’s set that one straight.

HAPPY: lucky, fortunate, successful, prosperous, having secure possession of good.

So if joy isn’t happy, what is it?

JOY: a delight of the mind, from the consideration of the present or assured approaching possession of good. To rejoice; to be glad; to exult.

In Acts, Paul and Barnabas stirred up a bit of a ruckus. They had spent several weeks preaching the Good News of Jesus and people were responding. Of course, the leaders of the city would have none of this and they stirred up people against the boys. Paul and Barnabas left the city, shook the dust off their feet and moved on.

And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.

Acts 13:52 (ESV)

Were they happy that they got kicked out of a city where the population was responding to their message? I doubt it. Yet they still had joy because they still had a purpose and they still had the Holy Spirit. The leaders in the city couldn’t take that away.

The next time you face trials and difficulties, try to separate your happiness from your joy. Happiness comes and goes, by joy comes from the Lord.

Daily Bible reading: Job 33-34, Acts 13:24-52