Love Is Not All We Need

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Several months after Vickie’s death, I was visiting with a friend of mine for lunch. He asked, “Do you think that you will be able to love someone like that again?” It wasn’t a heartless question, for with the question, he reinforced it with a story about himself. He was a man my age and had never married. In college he had dated a beautiful young lady who very much wanted to marry him. The more she pushed the more it pushed him away. Finally, she stopped dating him and found someone else. He said, “I have never found anyone that I loved as much.”

There is no doubt in my mind that my love for Vickie was greater on the day of her death than it even was on the day that we got married. Would I even want to put myself in a position of losing someone that I love again? To love at all is to be vulnerable. To love anything, we run the risk of being hurt. Don’t want to be hurt? Don’t give our hearts to anyone or anything. And our heart will never be broken. But they will also be as empty as the man, with whom I sat at the table.

Valentine’s Day is a time of love. When we talk of love, we talk of love in a mystical sense. Unpredictable. Randomly. In scripture God talks about three type of love.

The love of God for people. JOH 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son….

The love of people for God. DEU 6:5 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.

And the love of humanity for humanity. MAT 22:39 And the second is like it: `Love your neighbor as yourself.

But isn’t it interesting that the place that talks the most about love is in Corinthians?

A young man once asked, “Why is it that when the church speaks about love it is always on the topic of marriage?” Good question! For the Church, love is a part of a long-term and public commitment. Even in marriage, love does not exist apart from commitment. However, the interesting twist to this story is that while this passage of Corinthians is often used at marriages, the 13th Chapter of First Corinthians was not written for marriage, but for the Church. Not just any Church, a conflicted Church. A Church that was fighting, didn’t know how to get alone. A Church that was at odds with each other spiritually. If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.

That which separates us from our enemies is our ability to love. There is nothing mystical about love, it is hard work. 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.

My natural mother died just as I turned 18. I was just beginning my Senior year of High School. Who was I to live with? My older brother & sister’s marriages were rocky. My natural father never even offered. We had lived a very conflicted existence, our values were so very different. And he had refused to have anything to do with me since I refused to lie for him in the divorce settlement. Now a few years later the news is out, I may be adopted by the McConnell family. A real home, with a mom and a dad that want me. It is my birthday and I am at my aunts home helping her with her garden. My natural father comes and give me a birthday card with some money inside. It is signed “Love, Dad.” If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.
Never had he given me a birthday gift before. Never had he given me a Christmas gift. Never had he told me that he loved me. THIS IS EMPTY, THERE IS NO LOVE!

A young girl starving to hear the words, “I love you,” finds it in a young man who really only wants sex. And they find themselves trapped. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. So it really wasn’t love, only an illusion.

A wife who truly loves her husband must wrestle with thoughts of leaving because he is abusing her. He tells her he loves her. But he hits her and lies to her. But then always says he is sorry and it won’t happen again. How can you leave someone who loves you? But love is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered…It always protects …. Love never fails.

The Beatles put out a song entitled, “Love Is All You Need.” Love is not all that we need. The verbal, “I love you,” is of no benefit unless the non-verbal I love you reenforces it. Love is more action than it is words.

What is missing? God! We need God, in every relationship. I don’t think that we can even understand how to truly love apart from God. When Jesus says, MAT 10:37 “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me….How can it be? Because you will never really understand how to love someone, until you understand how to love God.

Parenting: God’s Plan

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Danny protested vehemently when his mother told him to take his younger sister with him when he was going fishing, but mother insisted, so Danny obeyed. They returned only a few minutes later, and Danny’s mother said, “That certainly didn’t take very long. I hope your sister didn’t make too much noise.” Danny replied, “Oh, it wasn’t the noise. There just wasn’t much use staying after she ate all the bait!”

King David writes (Psalm 127:3) “…children a reward from him. There is always great excitement about having a baby and yet no matter how much preparation we have had, we are ill prepared. A person was having difficulty with their children and came asking for help. They said, “I am an introverted co-dependent dysfunctional mother, what should I do?” The first thing is to quit reading all those books. A lot of parenting is by the seat of the pants! It is common sense. Jesus said, “Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Parenting is a learning process, that we learn as we parent.

The Sheriff’s Office in a Texas city once distributed a list of rules entitled “How to Raise a Juvenile Delinquent in Your Own Family.” Begin with infancy to give the child everything he wants. This will insure his believing that the world owes him a living. Pick up everything he leaves lying around. This will teach him he can always throw off responsibility on others. Take his part against neighbors, teachers, policemen. They are all prejudiced against your child. He is a “free spirit” and never wrong. Finally, prepare yourself for a life of grief.

The greatest need for children today is, that they need parents. We want to be their best friend. They don’t need another best friend. They need a mom and a dad. Parents feel that they have to have the approval of their child. Parents tolerate things their children do so that they get their child’s approval. Discipline is a serious problem because we don’t like having our child upset with us. My kids have many times said, “It’s a power thing.” Or, “everyone is doing it.” I don’t try to be their best friend or win their approval. My role, and what is in their best interest, is to be their Dad.

There are three Biblical teachings about parenthood. As one would suppose, love is the key factor. It is important for that love to be verbalized, they need to hear it. But even more importantly, that love must be present in time, discipline and training.

Time: Time is the single most important gift that you can give to your child. Remember how important it was to spend time with your spouse in order to marry them? You wouldn’t dream of marring someone you didn’t know. Neither should you parent a child that you don’t know. You have to know something about that child’s uniqueness of what makes she or he, who they are. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son….God entered our world! You have to get into that child’s world. It is a busy world with lots of activities. Some families have a Family Night. We have our evening meal together.

Discipline: (Hebrews 12:5-6) “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.” There is a difference between discipline and punishment. You can punish anyone that is smaller you. You can only discipline those that you “know.” In rearing Brooks and Jonathan, Vickie and I used a wide range of options of which spanking was one. We would talk to them, have time outs, take away privileges, reward, etc. But there are some things that children decide is worth the punishment. The last recourse is spanking. I usually sat on the coffee table. You could almost hear the drum role. (Prov 13:24 He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him.) Children must learn boundaries. The art of holding on and letting. Discipline has less to do with fairness than it does with trust. You cannot always be fair to a child. Ever watch a child share a cookie? They divide even the crumbs. Sure you listen to them and hear their side of the story. But you must discipline based on what is in the best interest of the child, that is trust – I am doing this for you.

Training: Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it. Brooks had a flat tire once. I went to where she was with the flat tire. But I made her change the tire. Why? She needed to learn. As parents, part of our job is to help this child find his/her identity. I am not talking about preparing for a job. I am talking about morals, character and personality. My children can grow up to be brilliant scientists but if I haven’t instilled a strong sense of value and a love for Christ, I have failed. I want them to grow up being a human being not a human doing. Training comes in role playing. They learn by seeing you. They have to see our limits and our short-comings. They learn when they find we make mistakes and admit our mistakes. Training is only effective when it is accompanied with time and discipline.

You never know when you’re making a memory. When little Jimmy returned home from summer camp, his parents asked him if he had been homesick. He replied, “Not me, but some of the kids were who had dogs.”

A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold. Rich and poor have this in common: The LORD is the Maker of them all. A prudent man sees danger and takes refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it. Humility and the fear of the LORD bring wealth and honor and life. In the paths of the wicked lie thorns and snares, but he who guards his soul stays far from them.

A Party?

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A while ago my friends were amazed to hear their five year old daughter, Lindsay, telling her little friend about Jesus. The children were sitting on the front steps of the house, and the parents snuck up to the window to see and hear better. Lindsay told her friend that if she believed in Jesus and prayed, He would forgive her sins and she would go to Heaven. The little girl was convinced, and prayed. When she was done praying, she looked up at my friend’s daughter and asked, “Will my mommy be in Heaven too?” Lindsay thought for a moment and replied, “Yeah, if she believes in Jesus. But if you don’t want her there, don’t tell her about Jesus!”

Ernest Campbell said that the biggest problem with American Christianity is that we have a Loving Father Gospel in an Elder Brother church. Some of the people who have the most difficult time with forgiving are Christians. A few weeks ago, when the first woman since the Civil War was executed in Texas, it was interesting to watch the public’s response. I was amazed to hear Pat Robinson of the 700 Club appeal for clemency. Would normally be odd for a minister to appeal for clemency except Rev. Robinson has always taught “an eye for and eye, a tooth for a tooth.” Not quite what we expected.

My associate in Pine Bluff had a very unusual funeral. The man was not a Christian and had loved being a cowboy. Instead of flowers on the casket they put a cowboy hat. For the music they played “Happy Trails.”

There are things that we do in life that are wrong, not because they are immoral or illegal, but because they are inappropriate. The same action, at another time and place, would be fitting.

There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, `Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them. The story is filled with the unexpected – why would any father go ahead and give his child half of the estate? Many of us couldn’t afford to do that. Even if we could, it is simply not wise. Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. One of our problems as parents is giving everything that our children ask for to them. A father was telling me that he had just given his daughter a new car (BMW). This is the same daughter who had just flunked out of college. I said, “Let me get this straight, she flunks out and you reward her with a new car?” “Well, she’s had such a struggle, and was so upset over last semester. I didn’t want her to take her failure the wrong way. I thought she needed a boost.” Now, there are times and places where such a gift would be appropriate. But a parent who rewards failure is asking for trouble. That was the wrong things to do at the wrong time.

After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to feed pigs. He is getting what he deserves we say. But I thought Christians were to be forgiving? This young man has to learn a lesson. But to feed pigs, which is offensive, is the worst job possible.

When he came to his senses, (do we know what it is to “come to our senses?)” he planned his strategy for forgiveness. “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.”

So he got up and went to his father. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. “But the father said to his servants, `Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.

Wait a minute, where is the older son? “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. If you were the older son wouldn’t you want to be invited to the party? When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. `Your brother has come,’ he replied, `and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’

“The older brother became angry and refused to go in. Wouldn’t you? A party? After what he had done! On top of that, he hadn’t even been invited to the party. So his father went out and pleaded with him. “`My son,’ the father said, `you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.

Isn’t it God who has always done the unexpected? Jesus said, “What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. (Matt 18:12)

Here we are in Lent, a time of prayer and repentance. A time to be mournful and sorrowful for the lives we have lived. But it is hard to be sad when someone has found God. When the long lost child has come home.

LUK 15:7 I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent. (NIV)