How’s Your Love Life with God?

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your life and with all your strength”—Deuteronomy 6:5

Valentine’s Day focuses our minds and hearts on those we love and we want to show expressions of that love. Of course, the greatest expression of love is “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believers in Him should not perish, but has everlasting life” (John 3:16). Charles Wesley wrote a hymn about this:

“Amazing love, how can it be, that Thou my God shouldst die for me!”

We can never love Him enough to repay what He has done for us, but He calls us to love Him with all our heart, and with all our soul, and with all our might.

The Hebrew word for love in that verse is “ahav.” It is one of those onomatopoetic words that sounds like what it means (like the word “buzz”)—“to sigh, yearn for, long after.” It is like when I first fell in love with my wife Kathy. I would talk to her on the phone, sighing, “O Kathy, I miss you; I wish I were with you.” Are we in love with God like that?

Just repeat this word a few times yourself: “Ahav! Ahav! Ahav! Doesn’t that sound like you are sighing after God Himself? That you love Him and want to be near to Him? And to realize that God “ahav’s” you—that He sighs and yearns to be with you and to communion with you! Several psalms express this yearning for God:

“As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.”—Psalm 42:1-2

“O God, You are my God; I shall seek You earnestly; My soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You, In a dry and weary land where there is no water. Thus I have seen You in the sanctuary, To see Your power and Your glory.”—Psalm 63:1-2

“How lovely are Your dwelling places, O Lord of hosts! My soul longed and even yearned for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God.”—Psalm 84:1-2

“Bless the Lord, my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy name.”—Psalm 103:1

God calls us to long after Him with our whole being, our whole insides, our whole mind, our emotions, our speech, our passion, our whole body, our everything. Let us fall back in love with Jesus again, to return to our first love.

Standard

How to Make a Marriage Last 45 Years

“Enjoy life with the wife [or husband] whom you love all the days of your life which He has given you under the sun.” —Ecclesiastes 9:9

I was asked to give a Valentine devotional on this theme for a men’s group yesterday. So while this was geared for men, I have adapted some of these points for both men and women.

My wonderful wife Kathy and I have been married 45 years last December. It has not always been easy, and we still have our rough spots, but we are best friends and are more in love now than when we married. I could tell many stories and illustrations, but here, briefly, are some of the things I and we have learned through the years. 

  1. Forgive, forgive, and forgive again. “Love does not keep an account of a wrong suffered” (1 Cor 13:5). 
  2. Admit you are wrong, ask forgiveness—this is especially difficult for a guy.
  3. Communicate, communicate, communicate! Don’t shut down. Don’t assume the other understands. Listen—really listen—focus.
  4. Be sensitive to one another; guys—especially be sensitive to her. Give one another space.
  5. Romance her every week; Tell her you love her every day. (This applies to both)
  6. Share your life together—take an interest in one another, her/his day, what he/she likes, doesn’t like, what went wrong. Be each other’s best friend.
  7. Pray for each other every day; pray together.
  8. The Golden Rule: Treat your spouse like you want to be treated and your spouse will treat you like you want to be treated. Give her/him want she/he wants and he/she will give you what you want.
  9. Do more than your share. Sacrifice for one another. This is especially directed by Christ at the guys: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church & gave Himself up for her.” (Ephesians 5:25).
  10. Learn to negotiate (not manipulate)—take turns, trade off (Your kind of restaurant this time; my kind of restaurant next time, etc.)
  11. Guys: Lovingly, gently lead. Be a servant leader like Jesus. Learn from your wife. Learn from your kids.
  12. Guys: Don’t ever pull, “I am the man of the house” or “The Bible says you are supposed to submit.” That’s not servant leadership like Jesus. 
  13. Guys: Your wife is your radar antennae—she will pick up things you are not aware of. There are many times I should have submitted to my wife’s counsel and did not.
  14. Show you are proud of each other. Respect each other. Make your spouse proud of you.
  15. Guys: Treat her like a queen. Treat your children like princes and princesses. 
  16. Compliment each other in front of your children and in front of others—don’t ever criticize your spouse in front of your children or others. Don’t have to be right all the time. Even when you think you are. Don’t push each other’s buttons.
  17. Guys: If you don’t want to be nagged, don’t give her cause to nag you.
  18. Guys: Don’t make a mistress out of your work or hobby.
  19. Be faithful. Avoid porn—spice up your love life—Read & dramatize the Song of Solomon together. Read Christian books on sex. Pray with each other before you make love. It is a sacred moment.
  20. If you have a miserable marriage—pray for your spouse and be faithful. I know a man whose wife was mentally ill, but he remained faithful to her for 60 years. That is love. 
  21. Most important of all, make Christ the center of your marriage. We have a classic painting of Jesus on our mantle above our fireplace in our living room. It reminds us that Jesus is always at the center. We don’t live for ourselves. Let your whole life and family, and work and play revolve around Jesus.

There is much more that I have learned through 45 years of marriage that would take pages to share. And I am still learning and growing in my marriage. A couple in the church I retired from last fall have been married 72 years! I have nothing on them. They have much more to teach me. Hopefully, some of these steps that have strengthened our marriage will strengthen yours as well. Ultimately, it comes down to loving like Jesus loves:

Love is patient, love is kind, it is not jealous; love does not brag, it is not arrogant. It does not act disgracefully, it does not seek its own benefit; it is not provoked, does not keep an account of a wrong suffered, it does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; it keeps every confidence, it believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.” —1 Corinthians 13:4-8 

Standard

Psalm of Life-Mentored by My Dad Through Longfellow

During my devotional prayer time this morning I was reminded of a lengthy poem my Dad taught me to memorize when I was in high school—”A Psalm of Life” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. In fact, when he was a substitute teacher, his favorite form of discipline (although I am not sure of its effectiveness) was to require a wayward student to write out this poem by hand. Although I have forgotten parts of it, much of the poem remains etched indelibly in my brain more than 50 years later.

My father was far from perfect and we had our issues with each other from time to time, not only as a teenager, but throughout life. Yet I am grateful that one act of engraving the words of this poem in my memory has impacted my worldview and way of life ever since. May these words and thoughts be imprinted in your memory as well. I encourage you to ponder each line and become your philosophy of life:

Tell me not, in mournful numbers,

Life is but an empty dream!

For the soul is dead that slumbers,

And things are not what they seem.

Life is real! Life is earnest!

And the grave is not its goal;

Dust thou art, to dust returnest,

Was not spoken of the soul.

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,

Is our destined end or way;

But to act, that each to-morrow

Find us farther than to-day.

Art is long, and Time is fleeting,

And our hearts, though stout and brave,

Still, like muffled drums, are beating

Funeral marches to the grave.

In the world’s broad field of battle,

In the bivouac of Life,

Be not like dumb, driven cattle!

Be a hero in the strife!

Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant!

Let the dead Past bury its dead!

Act,— act in the living Present!

Heart within, and God o’erhead!

Lives of great men all remind us

We can make our lives sublime,

And, departing, leave behind us

Footprints on the sands of time;

Footprints, that perhaps another,

Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,

A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,

Seeing, shall take heart again.

Let us, then, be up and doing,

With a heart for any fate;

Still achieving, still pursuing,

Learn to labor and to wait.

Standard