These are socks…Love

16 01 2015

This is my final devotional in this series.  It has been based on how Coach Wooden, the legendary basketball coach for UCLA, would begin his first practice.  He started off each season by teaching his team how to wear their socks.   He believed the basics are what wins the game.

What are the Christian’s socks?  What are the basics we have to remember to be effective?  I believe there are three; faith, hope and love. Today I want to focus on love.

Love is the most overused word in our vocabulary.  Everyone has their idea of what love means.  I think there are two distinctive for the unconditional love we need as socks.

First, it must come from a place of strength.  John 10:18 is a uniquely powerful verse.  Jesus says he has the authority to lay his life down and pick it back up.  In other words, he was the only one who could die sacrificially in place of humanity.  This is critical to understand.  There are a lot of people who would die for another person.  While that is admirable, it does not have the same power as what Jesus did.  When Jesus laid down his life, reality was fundamentally changed.  Our relationship with God was fully and completely restored.  God did this out of the purest form of unconditional love.  There were no strings attached and no other agenda except love.

As Christians we tap into that love.  This is why Jesus says the two greatest commandments are to love God and love others.  It is only in my relationship with God I have the understanding to unconditionally love anyone else.

As a pastor and a Chaplain I have often seen people who love from a place of weakness.  They do things because they need to feel accepted, they want to portray an image or they want to cover up an area of their life.  The majority of the time they are not doing it with evil intent.  They are doing it because they are longing for love.  They will join churches and even go into ministry all with the hope of being good enough or accomplishing something significantly enough that will let them feel loved.  Sadly they are missing the true depth of Christian love. They are missing their socks.

God’s unconditional love comes from a genuine place of strength.  When I accept this type of love, it transforms me.  I rely on God to show others love.  In other words I operate from God’s strength.  Will there be sacrifice?  Of course but it comes from pure motives and a right perspective.  It is truly powerful and transformational.

This is a deep concept so I encourage you to meditate on it and talk to God about it.  Once it clicks, I promise you will be amazed and in awe of God.

The second aspect of unconditional love is boundaries.  Healthy relationships have boundaries.  The very concept of love implies a relationship so it makes sense there would be boundaries.  A great example is the marriage relationship.  If I say I love my wife but hurt her or cheat on her you could legitimately question my love.  Because God has invited us to freely choose to enter a relationship with him, it is reasonable that we would live within the boundaries of that relationship.

We need three things to know God’s boundaries.  First, we have to have an active prayer life in which we are not just asking God to do things for us but we are slowing down to listen for God’s voice.  Second, we have to read the Bible.  This is the sacred text of Christianity.  We believe it is inspired by God and unique in both it’s power and authority.  Finally, we have to be connected to a healthy church.  In a healthy church we can have good relationships to keep us grounded and help us grow and mature.  I know I often sound like a broken record when it comes to the importance of being connected to a church but I see the difference in lives of people who are connected and those who aren’t.

So do you have your socks on? I hope this series has given you something to consider.  Let’s make sure we have our socks on and let’s get into the game.





Is my love selfish?

14 12 2011

Have you ever noticed how quickly we can become dissatisfied with what we have? We could really want ice cream. Once we get it, we start wanting particular flavors. Once we have a variety of flavors we want a variety of toppings. Heaven forbid we ever go back to not having any ice cream and just have to hope for it. We have this tendency of having our desires fulfilled only to have them become expectations that need to be met. When they are not met, we become frustrated and angry even if we really don’t need it.

The real danger is when this perspective seeps into relationships with people we love. One danger is we only love the person if they do what we want. As long as they are meeting our needs, we will love them. What is more common is placing expectations on a relationship that should be unconditional. In either case, as my needs are met I slowly increase my expectations. Even if my needs are met I become dissatisfied and have more needs. Life is drained out of the relationship.

In Exodus 15:22-17:7 you see this happen in the relationship with the people of Israel and God. First, they have bad water; God makes the water drinkable. Then, they are worried about starving; God provides them bread called manna. Next, they want meat; God provides them quail. Back to needing water, God once again comes through and provides them water. This all happened after they watched God do incredible miracles to get them out slavery. They grumble and complain and damage their relationship with God.

It is easy to pick on them but I am guilty of having the same perspective in both my relationship with God and those around me. I can find myself asking, “What have you done for me lately?” As faithful as God has been, I can still forget when I am frustrated by a current situation. It is even worse in relationships with other people because they are humans which mean they make mistakes and sometimes don’t know what I need or expect from them. Either way I drain life out of the relationship. It makes me ask the question: do I really understand what unconditional love is suppose to look like?

What do I do?

It starts with my relationship with God. We see God’s incredible unconditional love for us. It makes us ask if we are giving it back. Do I only love God if he answers my prayers the way I want them to be answered? Am I willing to follow God no matter what my circumstances are? Can I see God’s faithfulness in my life and am I truly grateful? I hope there are even more questions that are coming to your mind. Take the time to pray about them and look to see what the Bible has to say. It may also be really good to talk with someone who is spiritual mature and you respect. I believe this is the foundation that helps us look at unconditional love in all our other relationships.

I will just briefly touch on three key relationships.

In marriage, we have it the easiest. (It is okay if you find yourself smiling because it may be the hardest.) In marriage we have one person we can focus on loving and making sure their needs are met regardless if our needs are being met. The reason it is easy is because if each of us is focused on the other person, then both of our needs can be met.

In parenting, we have the opportunity to freely give love. Let’s face it. A six month old child is going to be very needy and not be able to do anything about our needs, especially our need for sleep. Sadly, many parents place expectations on their children to meet needs they are not capable of meeting. When there is unconditional love, parents have a profound influence on their children and children have an opportunity to truly honor their parents.

In friendship, we have the opportunity to support and encourage one another that helps us grow. Ideally, our churches should be places where deep unconditional love for one another is nurtured and developed. In fact Jesus said, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35)

I encourage you to take some time and really be honest about how you are showing love. If you find you are being selfish and are expecting the other person to meet more and more needs, then stop, ask for forgiveness if necessary, and learn how to be unselfish and unconditional in the relationship. You may need to have a serious talk about expectations and the health of the relationship. You may find that you need to talk with someone else to help you. It will cause you to be more transparent with who you are and what you need. It won’t be easy but it will be worth it. As I learn more about unconditional love, I fall more in love with God and a foundation is laid for me to fall more in love with the people around me. Trust me, it is incredibly rewarding.