Romans 13:8: “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.”

Love is more than a feeling. We may have feelings for a person on a sunny afternoon, but then reality kicks in the following day and then we feel differently. Feelings are fickle. They come and go. And then there’s this aspect of: “I love you more”, when there is rivalry of any kind. Love is no competition. Love is a lifestyle.

“You owe me one!” we hear sometimes when somebody went the extra mile and did something extraordinary to our benefit. Imagine God said that to you and me: “You owe me one!” after He sacrificed His Son. How would we feel about that? Thankfully, God does not think or say that. This is not who He is.

God is extremely generous. Pouring out His love is His daily habit. He simply goes above and beyond, which is why He owes us nothing. If we have trouble believing that, it’s mostly our perception of Him that gets us in trouble. A tainted view of God will taint our view of pretty much everything. We will also have a tainted view of love.

Looking at God’s habit of loving every person on this planet, that’s the lifestyle of love Paul talks about in his letter to the Romans. There are no checks and balances when it comes to loving people. To love is as natural as to breathe. Not to love is as unnatural as not breathing. Actually, not breathing kills us – just as much as not loving kills our spirit.

To love or not to love is really not the question. Ultimately, it’s easier to keep on loving than to keep on hating, because if we hold on to a grudge we only hurt ourselves. God’s Spirit will breathe meaning into this four-letter-word that has been misinterpreted and abused ever since there is people. Love is really not that complicated, but it’s sometimes hard to do. I don’t think it was easy for Jesus to love His enemies. He loved them anyway.

Love is a lifestyle choice. It’s not hard to find God if we choose this lifestyle, and it’s not hard to love when get to know Him.

Deuteronomy 30:16: “For I command you this day to love the Lord your God and to keep his commands, decrees, and regulations by walking in his ways.”

Attached is a picture of my husband Bill serenading me as we were camping at Yosemite in California. Bill loves to be creative while he is in the shower. He calls them his “shower moments.” He comes up with song ideas or a genius solution to a nagging problem. The other day another light bulb went off in his head and he shared it with me:

“Law without love is slavery. Love without law is still love.”

What he says makes perfect sense to me considering that there was no law at the beginning of mankind, but there always was and has been – love. I believe everything that came into being was conceived out of love because our Creator loves His creation. Deprived of love, we all die. Love is why we live.

Love preceded the law; people came first and the law came later – almost like an afterthought, so it seems. Nevertheless, God gave us a conscience. It is common sense that stealing is harmful to human society. It is no rocket science to figure out that cheating on the spouse will hurt any marriage relationship.  It is obvious that no one can replace the person who was just killed.  So, without spelling it out – the law has always been in place, and love is the key to obeying all these laws.  Apply love to the law, and the Ten Commandments look something like this:

Love has no other God but the Lord; Love does not idolize; Love does not abuse the Lord’s name; Love observes the Sabbath rest; Love honors the parents; Love does not kill; Love does not pursue sexual relations outside of marriage; Love does not steal; Love does not lie; Love does not covet.

Love – and we are home free. Isn’t that the truth? Bill would say: “Yepper doodle!” Here’s to you, Bill! Here’s to love!

“And even though we ain’t got money. I’m so in love with you, Honey
everything will bring a chain of love”             Kenny Loggins

1 John 3:18: “Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.”

There is a difference between paying lip service and actually jumping on the band wagon. Love is more than just a word; it implies action. The Lord Almighty was the first One who dared to love. The result of His love is a hustling and bustling universe with planets and life forms and beauty and wonder. His love leaves distinctive footprints wherever He goes – for us to discover.

If we trace His footprints we will be reconnected to the source of our being. Meeting God Almighty, we get to experience love in the first person. God’s very essence is love. Waking up to the reality of God’s love is wildly wonderful.

God helps us love ourselves. In a crisis, when we tend to put ourselves in a harsh light, we need to remember that God knows us better than we know ourselves. He is greater than our worried minds and will not condemn us. He puts our minds at ease and our hearts at rest.

Through shifting circumstances God’s love remains rock-solid. Bad times come and go, but His love does not go away. Every time we choose to love we choose life. Speaking up in love we speak God’s language. Seasoning our actions with a grain of love we find ourselves close to His heart and as alive as can be.

“I’m aware of the treasure that I own
And I say to myself
It’s wonderful, wonderful
Oh, so wonderful, my love” – Ben Raleigh / Sherman Edwards

Proverbs 14:22: “Do not those who plot evil go astray? But those who plan what is good find love and faithfulness.”

Premeditated crime and crime of passion are two entirely different issues.  In court, one of the determining factors of a murder case is to find out whether a person was killed accidentally or in cold blood. Plotting to kill a person makes for aggravated murder and, depending on court location, may lead to lifetime in prison or even death row.

It is the plotting that makes matters worse.

Neuroscientists have discovered that habitual thinking patterns can be traced back in our brain. Establishing good habits can rewire our minds and set us up for greatness as much as evil intent can become addictive and set us up for self-destruction.

Our minds can change the world – for better or for worse.

Evil scheming can do tremendous harm, but it will not destroy what love initiates. It is actually the other way around; love destroys evil – certainly God’s salvation plan did! The apostle John wrote in one of his letters (1 John 3:8):

“The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.”

Jesus was insulted, tortured, hurt beyond repair, and yet he did not respond to cruelty with hate. And if evil is not provoking more evil, then the buck stops right there. Jesus did not defend Himself – and that is exactly how He overcame evil and destroyed the works of the devil.

We need Jesus when we are discouraged and dragged down by bad things happening. If everything falls apart, Jesus remains standing. He is the ship that sails through the stormy night. Jesus is the Rock we can rely on. His love is a beacon, a power to be reckoned with, in fact – it is His love that changes everything.

“Be strong and keep your mind inside of your heart” (Matt Kerwin – Music For All – YouTube)

1 John 4:18: “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”

Have you ever been there? You needed to jump, but fear held you back and all you could do was freeze? I can completely relate. Here is my story:

All things music and art have always come natural to me. Math and science on the other hand not so much! Professionally, instead of going after my natural talents, I signed up for a profession less suited to my abilities. My reasoning was, rather than trying to make it as an artist it was much safer to apply for an administrative position. And so the story goes – until 40 years later. My husband and I have been going back and forth on the issue for a while until finally in October 2018 I resigned from my safe corporate position and became self-employed. Evelyn’s Art & Music Entertainment was born.

It is always against our instincts that we perform a leap of faith. This is exactly what makes the leap so challenging. On the other hand, avoiding risks at all costs, we may just miss out on an adventure of a lifetime.

Against all odds, the love of God somehow manages to overcome anything and everything. There is trial and error, there are good days and bad, but overall I am a happier person because I do what I love to do. We have a very good reason not to be afraid. God’s love empowers us to be bold. Walking with God, we can face our daily uncertainties. His love drains our fears, and we know we are safe in His hands.

“If happy little bluebirds fly above the rainbow tell me why can’t I?” Yip Harburg

Romans 13:9-10: “The commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not covet,’ and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.”

If a robot asked us “what is love?” wouldn’t we need to download a descriptive manual to explain what love is all about? – I know this seems a little far-fetched, but just humor me for a minute. – The Ten Commandments are like a manual explaining that we show love when we do not steal, when we do not lie and refuse to take advantage of someone’s misfortune; all the while we help our neighbors, give generously, conduct fair businesses and show respect by upholding the so-defined love standard.

Granted, we are no robots and the word “love” should mean something to us; unfortunately, not all of us are born into very promising circumstances, and then love may not make a whole lot of sense. Looking at the people of Israel around the time when they received the Ten Commandments from God, they were refugees roaming the Sinai desert – escaped slaves. A slave is considered a prized possession at best and mistreated like an abused animal at its worst. All day push and pull; do this, don’t do that!

600,000 men of military age were counted when the Israelites left Egypt. Israel’s exodus may have ended for them the Egyptian tyranny, but a former slave had to redefine his entire existence. Multiply this times 600,000 and we are looking at a major identity crisis of an entire people group.

I believe issuing the Ten Commandments at this point in history was extremely helpful. It turned a motley crew of refugees into the people of Israel who made it through the desert and are still around today. – What about now? Are the Ten Commandments still relevant today? – Well, does humanity still have issues with this thing called love?

While commandments written in stone are no replacement for love, they represent a road map showing us how to get there. Most importantly, the commandments all point to its Author – God Almighty – and finding Him, we find everything.

1 John 4:11-12: “Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.”

Love expresses itself in practical help. There are humanitarian relief efforts that alleviate the pain and distress in this world by feeding the hungry, providing medical services, building houses for the homeless, building wells to provide access to clean water and the list goes on and on. We are caretakers of this planet, so this is a wonderful thing that we reach out to make a difference in places where help is sorely needed.

When it comes to introducing God to the world we mostly think of charity – Helping the disadvantaged and thereby introducing the gospel – however, the apostle John wrote in his letter that God introduces Himself through His children. No one has ever seen God – but He will be visible to the public eye by the way God’s children relate to each other. People who don’t know God are able to see the Lord when God’s children are respectful with one another. In fact, God’s love is made complete when His children love one another.

Amazingly, God’s love is brought to full fruition in His children. Think about that for a moment. God’s extravagant love is expressed in the way His children live, day by day, week by week, month by month and year after year. Unfortunately, if there is division and strife among the people of God, then people who don’t know God will have trouble seeing the Lord.

Regardless their imperfection, God has used frail human beings to represent Him here on earth. Only God could have come up with such an idea. His children may not be perfect, but if their intentions are, they complete God’s intentions to pour out His love all across the universe and specifically in the neighborhood – right in front of our door step.

Romans 8:38-39: “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

There is power in separation. The builders of the atom bomb knew that as a fact when they succeeded in splitting atoms. And yet, there are things that no separating force can divide:

God’s attachment to His creation

More powerful than the splitting of atoms, more powerful than all negative forces put together, is the power of God’s love.

In Jesus we see God’s love acted out. Jesus shows us in a million ways how God loves us. His follower John once wrote that our world is too small to carry the amount of books that had to be written to describe Jesus’s life on Earth. Yes, our world of misunderstandings, pettiness and warfare is much too small to conceive of a love that generous. The love of God is counter intuitive and counter cultural. It is all invasive and all inclusive. It is a love that stops nowhere and goes everywhere – and even embraces mortal enemies. Jesus prayed for His torturers before He died and said (Luke 23:34a):

Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.’”

I rest my case.

God will not give up on loving us, not in a million years. It is something to remember in our worst hour. His love puts us back together and heals our brokenness. His love is both soothing and infectious. Inspired by His generous affections, we go out and do the same. We spread His love. And it all starts with receiving His.

1 John 3:11: “For this is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another.”

Cain and Abel – the brotherhood that didn’t work out!

Cain was her firstborn, and Eve was fascinated with him. Anyone with a first baby can probably relate. She looked at Cain, counted all his fingers and toes, took note of every little detail about him, looked at his face and detected family resemblance. Proudly she turned to Adam and exclaimed (Genesis 4:1):

“She said, ‘With the help of the Lord I have brought forth a man.’”

Eve gave birth to more children, but Cain remained the special someone, the first child she ever had.

Cain grew up to become farmer while his brother Abel learned to take care of his father’s flocks and herds. Adam and Eve taught their sons and daughters from an early age to express their thankfulness to God by bringing choice gifts. When the time came to offer his gift to God, Cain brought a selection of his produce while His brother Abel brought one of the most promising looking specimens of his flock.

As it turned out, Cain’s gift was rejected while Abel’s gift was well-received; and Cain was not smiling. His frustration was written all over his face and quickly soured the relationship with his brother. God addressed the issue at hand (Genesis 4:6-7):

“Then the Lord said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.’”

But Cain had his mind already made up and refused to listen. Soon after, he killed his brother in cold blood. This is the incident the apostle John was referring to in his letter (1 John 3:12):

“Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother’s were righteous.”

Why God favored Abel’s gift over Cain’s is unclear, but we know that there are all kinds of wrong reasons to give gifts. Absolutely no good comes out of envy, hatred and deceit. God is only interested in offerings given for the right reasons. Love is the determining factor; it’s love that makes everything shine.

Proverbs 30:19: “The way of an eagle in the sky, the way of a snake on a rock, the way of a ship on the high seas, and the way of a man with a young woman.”

Love is a beautiful mystery. We cannot predict the way of an eagle in the sky and neither can we predict the unfolding of a love story. The overarching love story is God’s love for His creation. His love is the glue that holds this universe together. God’s love is remarkable, to say the least. When the Son of God walked this earth, people were attracted to Him. From the beginning Jesus struck them as unusual, even though they could not put a finger on it. The Apostle John elaborated on the mystery of Jesus in his letters (1 John 1:1):

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life.”

People were clearly touched when they met Jesus walking the roads of Israel, and we still wonder about Him today. How God loves is a strange concept to the human mind. – Who would come up with the plan of turning God into a human being? This is something that completely blows my mind. How does He get these unusual ideas? Thankfully, we do not need to understand God to love Him back. All we need to do is open our hearts and receive His love.

Let the love of God sweep you up, embrace you, heal you, carry you, and reform you – one day at a time – and the world around you will get a taste of the mysterious Son of God who walked this earth 2000 years ago – by seeing Him alive and well inside of you.