Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise - the fruit of lips that confess his name... Do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased. (Hebrews 13:15&16)
A few years ago, a friend of mine was in the midst of going through a treatment program to overcome a particular addiction. Since her family lived far away, she asked me to accompany her to her rehabilitation meetings because the sponsors of the program had encouraged every participant to bring a supportive "family" member. I agreed.
Each gathering was filled to capacity with teenagers addicted to smoking heroine and/or stronger substances, mothers who had shopped away their family's savings, husbands out of control with pornography and sexual addictions, men and women of all ages desperate to stop drinking alcohol in excess, etc. etc, etc. It was heartbreaking to see first hand how extensively sin can truly enslave mankind.
At these meetings, I held the hands of many people... people who lived in my own community who were struggling helplessly alongside their distressed spouses, mothers, fathers, children, siblings - all there to support each other. All desperate to find a solution to overcome whatever habitual bondage had affected their lives... praying that this time would bring lasting change.
I particularly remember an elderly Christian woman who came to support her husband - a man who had squandered away their entire life savings to feed his sinful hunger. This was their third time going through rehab. This was their third formalized cry to seek lasting freedom from what had ensnared every aspect of their life. Through tearful eyes, this quiet woman snuggled close to her husband, an empty shell of a man, and repeatedly whispered words of support and encouragement to him. She squeezed his hand no matter how many terrible things he said or did to her. Yes, she removed herself from harms way when necessary. She protected herself and responsibly took over certain life matters in order to invest in their future needs, but she never stopped being this man's wife. She never stopped praying for him and trusting God for answers. Throughout the course of their problems, they had separated several times and had lost just about everything this world would consider worthy of holding onto... but she never gave up. She never stopped loving and respecting her husband while still standing against and hating his sin. She never stopped being this man's helpmate. She loved him and was disciplined and committed to show up on his behalf - no matter what. Her covenant to love was God's covenant!
I walked away from these meetings with many learned lessons and prayer requests. However, what stood out the most to me was the living testimony of this one quiet woman and her choice (yes, choice) to love. It has always brought me back to my own commitments - to my husband, my family. Will our love stand the test of time - even if faced with the most strenuous and trying of circumstances? Will I be able to follow God's intended plan and remain a unified helpmate, a constant support, a co-pilot to the man I offered my hand to in marriage almost two decades ago? Will I be able to live wisely and sacrificially give myself to serve my Master, my Savior, my King and the others he has placed before me? Will I be able to love like Jesus in my marriage, my relationships, my life?
Ladies, I share this story with you to stress our need to stay close to the Savior. This world is filled to the brim with sin and disappointment and the enemy is doing everything he can to infiltrate our homes, our churches, our lives. Too often, we forget that this is spiritual WAR and our enemy wishes for us to be dead, useless, broken shells. He wants our existence to be tarnished rather than glorifying God's holy Name. We must never forget that if there is a weak point in our marriage, Satan will find it and monopolize on it. If we are faced with a selfish hunger for a habitual practice or substance, Satan will serve it. He is a ruthless enemy who will attack our spouses, our children, our parents, our friends... our hearts. With this in mind, I write today's blog to remind you of your focus... to love. Love like Jesus.
How do we love like Jesus? The only way to do this is to know Jesus. To be close to Him and reflect His character to those in our lives. To understand what sacrifice truly is. To agree to the disciplined life He has called us to live and to extend His arms out through our own. We are to be mirror images, imitators of God, living each day loving others as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us.
Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children, and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Ephesians 5:1-2)
To love the Lord with all our heart, and with all our soul, and with all our strength, and with all our mind, and to love our neighbor (anyone we know or will come to know) as we would love our own self... this is clearly not the way this sinful world would exalt. It is not a path that promotes separation, isolation, self gain, or comfort. To love like Jesus is a choice to be humble and sacrificial - just as our Savior was as the thorns dug deeply into His scalp. Just as our Messiah lived and died and LIVED again on behalf of our eternal safety. Such a choice can prove both physically and emotionally challenging... but I promise you, it is the correct and right way to live. And it is possible in His Name!
The world would tell you to do what selfishly feels right and your heart, soul, mind and strength will benefit and be fulfilled from it. But Jesus teaches us that the ways of this world will never satisfy. Only He is able to free and fulfill us. Only His loving presence is capable of giving us LIFE. He must remain our one and only focus. He must truly rule our every breath, our every decision... our every choice!
Ladies, let us be women willing to offer everything over to our King so that He may share His love through our existence. We were made for one purpose... to glorify His Name! Let our lives promote the freedom and eternity that awaits us because of the One who has redeemed us. Let us never walk away from any trial in defeat with our heads low... but rather, let's allow God to work in us and walk through every difficulty with Him (no matter how long, or challenging, or distressing). Let us stand up for Christ and love like Jesus, holding the hands of those He has put into our lives and supporting, nurturing, caring, giving - just as Jesus did for us. And let us do all this always praising His Name.
This is our opportunity to show others WHO Christ is with our very lives... our living testimony. I encourage you to stay close to your Savior and to love... love like Jesus!
But I, with a song of thanksgiving, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. Salvation comes from the LORD. (Jonah 2:9)
Indeed, salvation comes from the Lord alone! Let us share His love. Let us live in Christ no matter what the trial. He is faithful and has promised us so much in His Name. Let's believe Him, ladies... no matter what obstacle the enemy may throw our way. Always remember, we who have accepted Christ are part of His kingdom... we are the living redeemed! So, today let's live like it and LOVE LIKE JESUS!
Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come and has redeemed his people. (Luke 1:68)
We love because he first loved us. (1 John 4:19)
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