Love is a Choice

“If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing. If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.
Love never gives up.

Love cares more for others than for self.

Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.

Love doesn’t strut,

Doesn’t have a swelled head,

Doesn’t force itself on others,

Isn’t always “me first,”

Doesn’t fly off the handle,

Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,

Doesn’t revel when others grovel,

Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,

Puts up with anything,

Trusts God always,

Always looks for the best,

Never looks back,

But keeps going to the end.”

(1 Corinthians 13:1-7 MSG)

When I read what the Bible says about love, I am always lead to the same conclusion: love is a choice. 

After reading the four gospels recently, I did not come away with the idea that Jesus just fell in love with His followers because they were so wonderful and charming. As a matter of fact, many followers were only enchanted by His miracles and what they thought He could do for them. Most of the tremendous crowds that clamored to hear His teaching did nothing to love Him in return. Even His closest friends and most devoted followers continually doubted Him and failed to understand the important things He was trying to tell them. When He was betrayed by His friend Judas and arrested, all of His disciples deserted Him. Peter even denied knowing Him three times. Jesus was beaten, tortured, and brutally executed on a cross while His friends and followers looked on. Yet He loved them through it all. 

Not only did He love His followers, but He also loved His enemies. In His tremendous suffering on the cross, Jesus went as far as praying for them saying, “Father, forgive them; they don’t know what they’re doing” (Luke 23:34 MSG). Jesus willingly died on the cross to save His friends from the power of sin and death and give them the opportunity for eternal life.

Everyone knows Jesus was (and still is) awesome at this whole sacrificial love idea. But He is Jesus, after all, so that is to be expected. 

But what about the rest of us? 

Can we really love like that? 

Do we have the capacity to truly love others even when they don’t deserve it, don’t want it, or don’t accept it?

If we take a look at our world’s cultures, it’s not difficult to see that humans are doing a pretty terrible job at loving each other well. From family feuds and domestic violence to sex trafficking and international terrorism, people are clearly better and more practiced at hate than they are at love. 

Even within the Christian culture we can see many examples of selfish and destructive behaviors that obviously place “me” above all others, bringing grief to the heart of God. It seems to me that self-focus and general apathy toward others are the most pervasive and subtly destructive attributes of this love-lacking culture.

Marriages, which are intended to be life-long covenant relationships, are flippantly abandoned in the name of self-preservation. 

Nationally, somewhere around 40-50% of all marriages will end in divorce. Subsequent remarriages have an even higher rate of failure. 

Christian marriages tend to fail just as badly as that of other non-Christian marriages. But how can this be? How can someone who has believed in Jesus as their savior and received the gift of the Holy Spirit actually break their vows and give up on their marriage?

 It’s not necessarily lack of faith or wrong beliefs about God that allow this to happen. Although there are numerous reasons people cite for getting divorced, I believe they all essentially come down to one common cause: choosing not to love. 

I know that may seem oversimplified, but if you think about it, how many broken marriages could have been saved if both partners chose to simply love each other unconditionally? I am not saying that nagging wives, unappreciative husbands, liars, and cheaters don’t deserve to be punished and alone. They do deserve the consequences of their actions. But so do you and me

Love, as Jesus gives, does not simply return to someone what their actions deserve; a husband who really loves gives when he doesn’t receive, and a wife shows appreciation when she is not appreciated. 

True love holds on when all others would have already let go. 

My point is this: love is a choice. We must all choose love every day, in every circumstance, in every argument, in every relationship. Of course we will fail at times, but we must persevere.

Those of us who are married are called to love our spouses unconditionally and forever. But we are not called to do it alone; we are given God’s Holy Spirit who fills us and empowers us to live holy lives. 

Love is a choice that we can really only make when we first choose to surrender ourselves to God and rely on Him to sustain us. 
What are some practical ways you choose to love your spouse? To love others?
Please share your thoughts and comments on Facebook or in the Comments section below.

Advertisements

Listen: Where is God when we suffer?

Suffering and death have touched us all in some way and whenever tragedy strikes, many people begin to question God. We ask tough questions about why terrible things happen and why God doesn’t intervene. Things happen in life that just don’t make sense and are not fair. 


While I don’t claim to have all the answers, I address some of these tough questions and offer hope for those who are hurting in my recent message titled Where is God when we Suffer?

click here to listen
The main scripture I reference is Romans 5:1-11 which says that we can rejoice in our suffering because of the hope we have in Jesus and a reconciled relationship with God. 

I hope you are encouraged by this message. 

How to parent more effectively with less guilt: dealing with anger as a Christian parent

“That’s it, go to your room,” I said. “No!” said my four-year-old son.

I quickly responded, “Yes! Go to your room right now! One…two…”

“Nooooo! I hate you!” he shouted back.

As I quickly reached my boiling point, I threw him up onto my shoulder and carried him back the hallway to his room, kicking and screaming the whole time.

I put him down not so gently on his bed and told him he needed to stay in his room until he could calm down and improve his behavior. To this he responded with an ear-drum-blowing scream that I’m pretty sure broke some glass. I left the room quickly and slammed the door.

As I rejoined my wife in our living room, we talked over his screaming and crying saying things like, “I don’t know what else to do; I don’t know why he gets like this,” and “I shouldn’t have lost my temper like that but he just makes me so mad.”

This scenario plays out often in my house. My son misbehaves then throws a tantrum when he is corrected, then me or my wife lose our temper and “talk” to him louder than we should, then we feel guilty for being “mean” to him. We try to be patient and reasonable; we try to give him second and third and fourth chances; we even try explaining consequences to him clearly and giving him choices. But often he chooses to continue misbehaving, being defiant, or just completely ignoring correction. He pushes our buttons so effectively that our anger can go from “0 to 60” almost immediately. Of course our anger blows up more quickly when we are exhausted, which is most of the time.

The Bible says, “in your anger, do not sin.” So experiencing the emotion of anger is not in itself wrong or sinful; however, it can easily lead to sin if we let it. As a Christian parent, where is this line? And how do we avoid crossing it in the heat of the moment?

When my son screams at me I get really irritated; when he ignores my correction I get mad; when he slaps my wife in the face I get livid. I don’t think its wrong for me to feel these various degrees of anger or even to act on them.

It is wrong for a child to rebel against his parents, to ignore correction, and certainly to slap his own mother at any age.

I should respond to my sons misbehavior with discipline and teach him to obey his parents.

I should punish him, as well as instruct and encourage him.

But when I respond to his screaming with louder screaming, or when I follow up his slap with another slap or make ridiculous threats and do things just to hurt him back, I cross that line into sin.

Whenever I react out of anger, I let my emotions in that moment determine my actions. Unfortunately, my emotions don’t often make good decisions that are consistent with what I believe and the kind of parent I want to be. If I respond to my son’s sin with more sin, how can I expect him to ever grow or change for the better?

If you’re like me and my wife, you need to learn to put some process into place to avoid this vicious cycle of misbehavior, angry blowups, and lingering guilt. Although we are still very much in the trenches, I believe there are at least 3 things we can do now to help us parent more effectively with less guilt.

  1. Plan Ahead

    I once heard the definition of stress is what happens when you experience the difference between your expectations and your outcomes. So to reduce stress, you need to modify one of these. If you expect your child to behave perfectly and follow all of your rules, I’m sure you will be disappointed every time. But expecting misbehavior and deciding in advance what your response will be can help you avoid an angry blowup. Setting clear rules and communicating expectations to our kids also needs to be a part of the plan.

  2. Act, don’t React

    My son told me that it makes him really mad when we use “mean words” or yell at him. This usually happens in response to his use of mean words and yelling. Its easy to react to another person in the same manner they have acted toward you. However, if we follow the rule that we should treat others how we want to be treated, we won’t simply spit back the same disrespect they throw at us. Especially with our kids, we need to focus on leading and teaching them what it looks like to live this way, showing them that its possible to respond in a loving way even when we’re angry.

  3. Debrief well after the fight

    Even when you make a plan, communicate expectations, and try your best to respond instead of just react in anger, there will still be times when you just lose it. You will say and do things you’re not proud of and you know are not helpful to your kids. But all is not lost, because you still have the chance to talk about the fight after its over. Once the dust settles and the smoke clears, make sure to have a follow-up conversation in which you apologize for losing your cool and give your child the opportunity to both apologize and be forgiven. As parents, we can’t have a big screaming fight with our kids, punish them, then just pretend it didn’t happen and assume everything will automatically be smoothed over.

 

QUESTION: What other ways have you found to parent more effectively with less guilt? I would love to hear your response in the Comments, on Facebook, or you can send me an email

Other articles you might like:

 Why is parenting so hard?

For the Weary…and the Busy

The Truth About Marriage (series)

 

This article appeared first on tylerjbrooks.com 

 

 

For the Weary…and the Busy

Matthew 11:28-30 (NLT)

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.

Do you ever feel weary or like you’re carrying a heavy burden? Do you ever feel like you’re at that point where you just might fall apart?

I’ve been there before. With two young, active kids at home, me and my wife are exhausted more often than not. Sometimes it seems like everything that could go wrong does—the kids are sick, the house needs cleaned, the cars need fixed, I had a bad day at work and I come home to find one more thing that broke that I can’t afford to pay someone else to fix and then my son decides to throw a tantrum over nothing.

If this was one unique, happens-every-now-and-then kind of day it might be more bearable.

But its more of a normal day that happens over and over again with only a few details changing.

When one day is tough and drains my energy, it usually runs into the next day which in turn starts out on the wrong foot as well. Then that day does the same thing to the next day. And the day after that.

Of course not all days are exactly the same and they are not all ridden with crises—but when I allow the bad days to knock me down and affect the attitude of my heart, even the good days can get tainted by it.

I recently asked my wife what she wanted to do for her birthday. She thought about it and responded that she would really like to check into a hotel room, even for just one night.

Of course I was intrigued at first, until she clarified that she would like to do this alone—by herself, no kids, no husband, no expectations. She just wants to get a break from the daily grind and the occasionally-controlled chaos that is our lives. She just wants to watch TV, then go to sleep without interruptions.

I often feel this way as well; I just need a break and some rest. But I rarely find it.

Jesus invites us to come to him, especially when we are weary, with heavy burdens. He says he will give us rest—that is, rest for our souls.

The phrase take my yoke upon you refers to two oxen being connecting together by a common yoke—they would carry or pull their heavy load together.

Jesus is saying that he wants to help you carry your burdens. He wants to teach you and guide you and give you rest in your relationship with Him.

You need only to take the step of coming to Him.

I’ve had a relationship with Jesus most of my life, but I often get caught up in my mess and forget that he doesn’t want me to be anxious, overwhelmed, and exhausted. He wants me to lay my burdens on Him; to rely on Him to guide and teach me and to give me real rest that lasts.

In what ways can you come to Jesus to find rest?  Share your thoughts, you never know who might need to hear them.

Comment below or share on Facebook.