What is Love-Baby don’t hurt me no more…

There’s a popular song from the 1990’s called “What is Love.”  The lyrics begin with; “What is love, baby don’t hurt me, don’t hurt no more.”  Moving past the double negative in there (and if you’re part of the grammar police like me, you’ll know what I mean) we can see how the author is writing about a broken heart.  Clearly, someone used the infamous phrase; “I love you” and then took it back.  Or at least, their actions did not back up the words.

“What is love?” is a great question to explore.  In the Greek language, there are various words used for the word “love.”  Eros is a type of erotic love, philos describes a love between friends, storge is the kind of love shared between parents and their children, and agape’ is unconditional love.  But in the English language, we have one word and that is “love.”  We use it to describe anything and anyone we feel affectionately strong about.  We say, “I love my children, I love my job, I love my dog, I love that dress, I love those shoes, I love football, etc.”  The same word…yet definitely with different meanings.  I am confident the love we feel toward our children is not the same as a sport, article of clothing or even the family pet.  Yet, it’s the same word.  And too often, it’s a word that is misused or misspoken.

At times, in a budding relationship, “I love you” is spoken prematurely. Other times in a heated argument, “I DON’T LOVE YOU” is impulsively shouted out but not necessarily meant.  With just one word with so many meanings, it’s no wonder songs are written with the question, “What is love?”

When I have questions I can’t answer, I look to God’s word.  That includes learning about love.  I could quote 1 Corinthians 13, also known as the “love chapter.”  But honestly for me, love is “patient, kind, not self-seeking, not rude, etc.” doesn’t clearly spell out to me the big picture of what love truly is.  I had to dig deeper.  The answer I found was this…GOD.  IS.  LOVE.  And as cliché as that sounds, let me show you why.

I John 4:8 clearly spells out that God is love.  Exploring the chapter farther verse 16 tells us the same thing, God is love.  What I learned was when we understand who God is we can understand what love really is.

So who is God?  The basics, God is the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  He is also our Creator, our Savior, our Provider, our Protector, our Salvation and so much more.  God is the epitome of discipline, self-control, commitment, faithfulness, justice and mercy, acceptance, sacrifice and forgiveness.  There are too many verses to list that can back this up-but if you don’t believe me, read the book of Psalms for starters.

David knew love because he knew God’s love.  His Psalms are filled with declaration of praise and adoration to his Heavenly Father even during his darkest hours because he knew God loved him no matter what.  Understanding God’s love enabled David to love even his enemies.  2 Samuel chapter 1 shows us David grieved King Saul’s death-a man who repeatedly sought to murder David.  David was a man after God’s own heart because he knew what real love was.

God calls us to know and understand His love for us so that we can show real love to those in our lives, including our enemies.  1 John 4:19 tells us, “We love each other because He loved us first.”  This means to really love others, we have to know, understand and accept God’s love for us first.  When we love others in our human strength we base it on feelings, what mood we’re in that day or how the other person is treating us. It’s based on conditions. Loving others through Christ’s strength means we choose love, we choose to show love unconditionally.  The second half of 1 John 4:16 shows us; “all who live in love live in God and God lives in them.”  1 John 4:21 goes further by reminding us that “…those who love God must also love their fellow believers.”  John 13:34 and 35 says; “…love each other.  Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.  Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are My disciples.”  Notice none of those verses say, “love others when they love you back” or “show love only when someone is being kind to you.”

God loves us.  His love never fails.  His mercies are new each day.  He commands us to love each other not just with words-but like 1 John 4:18 says “to show the truth of our love by our actions.”  After all, as the cliché goes, actions speak louder than words.

Do you know, understand and have you accepted God’s love for you?  Do you love others in God’s strength or in your own human strength?  Before you say; “I love you” again, ask yourself this: Do I love this person the way God loves me?  If the answer is “Yes”, then your words will offer that person agape’ (unconditional love.)  But if the answer is “no”-maybe you should hold off saying that three word phrase or at least seek to know Christ’s love better asking Him to equip you to love others as He loves you.  Remember-if God is commitment, justice, mercy, salvation, acceptance, sacrifice, and forgiveness, then that’s exactly what love is too.  Because, God. Is. Love.

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What is Your Testimony?

“If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”

Daniel 3:17, 18 NIV

Anyone who has ever experienced a hardship can certainly say, “I have a testimony.”  But what is that testimony?  Is it the hardship?  Is it the trial and the suffering endured?  Is it the wound we suffered?  No it’s not.

Someone in my life, a mate whom I deeply love, is engulfed in darkness-experiencing a hardship so foreign to them and no clue how to handle it.  The enemy is attacking hard, at times even giving this person no opportunity to catch their breath let alone have a clear thought to stand on God’s truth.   If you knew the details of the circumstance you’d be in awe at how ruthless the enemy truly is.  The devil clearly takes all as a prisoner and doesn’t hold back when you’re a huge threat to him.

A beautiful sister-in-Christ struggles with an undiagnosed illness that causes severe abdominal pain. She’s been in and out of the hospital and frequented doctors but still left mystified as to what is going on with her body.  Her dream to grow her family was even threatened by this illness. I use the word “was” because she is currently expecting her second child.

Another beautiful sister-in-Christ has a child struggling with a newly diagnosed illness also-one that could bring a lifetime of health issues including severe pain. I know a brother-in-Christ struggling with a brutal cancer and was recently told by one doctor there was nothing more that doctor could do for him.  Although I don’t know every detail of his cancer I’ve seen the ups and downs physically and through prayer requests that remission and growth in the tumor have brought to this man.

I too have faced darkness unknown to me and no idea how to handle it.  I have battled with unknown health issues and know what it feels like to see my child struggle with health issues also.  At this point you may be asking-what does all this have to do with testimony?  The answer-everything.

A few days ago, I was listening to some praise and worship music.  I was thinking a million thoughts at the same time because well, that’s just how my brain works.  I was thinking of my own health issues, my mate’s dark struggle, my friends’ struggles, and I just started praying.  I laid my hands on my throat and prayed for God’s healing touch because He has gifted me with a singing voice and the enemy has attacked it.  I prayed for my friend suffering with cancer, my other friend’s fears regarding her unknown health issues and the effects to her unborn child, my friend’s daughter suffering with a new illness and of course, for my mate and the darkness he is currently enduring.

While I was praying, the song “Overcame” started playing.  I was filled with the Holy Spirit and began declaring victory over each person’s struggle, including my own.  I literally heard myself yell out, “This situation will not defeat him/her/ me.  This situation is not his/her/my testimony-God’s deliverance, God’s redemption, and God’s almighty healing will be our testimony.  And then it “dawned” on me (I really don’t use this phrase a lot considering my first name is Dawn but saying it “Holy Spirited” on me isn’t grammatically correct.)  Our struggles are NOT our testimonies.  How God gets us out of the storms life brings to each of us, that is our testimony.

The book of Daniel is a prime example of testimony using a fiery furnace and a lion’s den.  Captivity was not Daniel and his friends’ testimony.  God’s protection and deliverance was their testimony. (Daniel chapters 3 and 6.)

In Genesis we learn that Joseph’s brothers assaulted him and sold him into slavery.  This was after he dreamt that his brothers would bow down to him.  He was promoted to the Pharaoh’s right hand, then falsely accused of sleeping with Pharaoh’s wife, and imprisoned.  But THAT was not his testimony.  He was promoted again to governor (Genesis chapters 37, 39, and 41.) In Genesis 42 we learn that a famine brings Joseph’s brothers to Egypt seeking food.  Verse six tells us “Now Joseph was the governor of the land, the person who sold grain to all its people. So when Joseph’s brothers arrived, they bowed down to him with their faces to the ground.”  Joseph endured a lot of unjust suffering, but what an amazing testimony he was gifted because of it.

The best example of testimony is Jesus’ Christ himself.  If you’ve ever watched The Passion (which I have yet to view entirely because I can’t stomach watching my Savior brutally tortured) you get a visual of what Christ endured.  But His suffering, the beatings, His barbaric death, was not His testimony.  We don’t celebrate Easter for His death.  We celebrate Easter to honor His life!  Christ’s resurrection was His testimony.  Victory over death WAS. HIS. TESTIMONY.

Are you stuck in a pit so dark you think you’ll never find your way out?  Are you or a loved one facing an illness that feels like it’s sucking the life right out of you?  Whatever hardship you are enduring-it does not define you.  It is NOT your testimony.  When you surrender it all to Jesus, when you cry out to Him and trust Him in the process, His deliverance, His redemption, His provision and healing WILL. BE. YOUR. TESTIMONY.  How do I know?  Because God delivered me from abuse, near homelessness, scary health issues and he even delivered my son from a life sentence of asthma.  I know because my life is a living, breathing, walking testimony and I give God all the glory!!!

Miracle Making or Miracle Baking?

I am neither a butcher, a baker nor a candle stick maker.  In a nut shell-I am no “Martha Stewart.”  So when I heard a sermon recently about being the active ingredient in our miracles, I “googled” bread making for a better understanding of the concept.  I had to “google” it because, well, I’ve never actually baked bread.  I’m so undomesticated I felt I’d never be a Proverbs 31 woman simply because I also don’t know how to sew.  Thankfully I’ve had a few studies on that chapter to realize I don’t need to know how to sew or cook to be a Proverbs 31 kind of woman.  But I digress…

What does bread baking have to with miracle making?  The answer is, they both have an “active ingredient” and without the active ingredient, neither turn out the way they’re supposed to.  You see, in bread making, the active ingredient is yeast.  Why is yeast so important to the bread?  It makes it rise-it makes it fluffy-it MOVES the bread.  Without it, you have flat bread, plain and simple.

Yeast is a very sensitive active ingredient.  In bread-making research, I learned there is a special way you must prepare the yeast in order to properly activate it.  You only use a small amount, mixed with just the right temperature of water.  Too much yeast-your bread will over rise.  Get the wrong water temperature in your mixture and your yeast won’t activate.  All these tiny mistakes can lead to a big disaster in your oven.

There are a lot of references in the Bible regarding yeast.  Most are instructions given to the Israelites and specific to food preparations that prohibited the usage of yeast.  But there is one verse I found that really describes the power of yeast as an active ingredient.  Matthew 13:33 says; “…‘The Kingdom of Heaven is like the yeast a woman used in making bread. Even though she put only a little yeast in three measures of flour, it permeated every part of the dough.’” (NLT)  Jesus was explaining how mighty the kingdom of Heaven really is-so powerful that everything is affected by it.  Here’s where the miracle making comes in to play…

God places desires upon hearts.  Psalms 37:4 reminds that if we delight ourselves in Him, He gives us the desires of our hearts.  But we also know that a God-given desire can take a VERY long time to come to fruition.  Abraham is a prime example from our biblical history showing us how God is not in a hurry, but always on time and He’s definitely not opposed to making us wait lengthy periods of time before our dream becomes our reality.  That’s where our role of being the active ingredient in our miracle takes place-in the waiting season.

God told Abraham about Isaac twenty-five years before Isaac’s birth.  And what did Abraham do? He left his home country and went where God told him to go.  He tried to manufacture his own miracle and fathered Ishmael.  But when God reminded Abraham what He had promised, Abraham slept with his wife and God opened Sarah’s womb to carry Isaac.  Romans chapter four reminds us of Abraham’s faith:  “Abraham never wavered in believing God’s promise. In fact, his faith grew stronger, and in this he brought glory to God. He was fully convinced that God is able to do whatever he promises.  And because of Abraham’s faith, God counted him as righteous.” (Verses 20-22, NLT)

Like Abraham, we too, are called to be the active ingredients to our miracle.  When God shows us the dream, when He lights the steps we are to walk to make that dream a reality, we must get going and walk the walk.  Waiting is not about sitting around expecting fairies to plop our miracle right in our lap.  Waiting means walking in faith, trusting God’s process and in His perfect timing.  It also means being the active (not passive) ingredient to our miracle.  We are the yeast to our miracle-like the Kingdom of Heaven reference in Matthew 13, we are only a small portion of our miracle but because the miracle involves our life and His purpose for it, our obedience permeates every aspect of the miracle.

So when God gives you a dream-activate your faith, trust His process and ask Him to show you how to be the active ingredient in the miracle He wants to give you.  Why?  Because God didn’t just promise greatness to Abraham and the other guys in the Bible-His promises apply to everyone who has gone before us, everyone who will come after us, and everyone in present day, including you and me.  Don’t believe me?  Believe Romans 4:23-24 then, “And when God counted him as righteous, it wasn’t just for Abraham’s benefit. It was recorded for our benefit, too, assuring us that God will also count us as righteous if we believe in him, the one who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead.” (NLT)

Just make sure you’re activating correctly-activate too much and you’re manufacturing your own miracle.  Activate in your own strength and you’ll end up like bread with no yeast-going nowhere.