4 Ways to Love God with Gusto (Part 2 of 2)

In September, my church hosted a 5K to raise money and awareness for foster care. For those not familiar with running terms, that’s a little over 3 miles.

Running didn’t come naturally to me, but now, it’s a lifestyle I’ve learned to enjoy. My fiancé, though athletic, hates running. But to his credit, he ran the race with me, adopted my pace, and even smiled for photos. He got out his comfort zone, and it meant so much to me.

Last time, I shared on BigSisterKnows.com how we can love God volitionally, which involves a choice or act of the will. In my case, my fiancé chose to run even though he didn’t want to. In addition, he invested time and physical energy to show up and finish.

This example, though perhaps cheesy, brings me to another way we can love God: with all our strength.

Loving God through Our Actions

As author Gary Chapman explains in his book The Five Love Languages, physical touch is one of the primary ways people express and receive love. Although we can’t physically “touch” God, we can still love him through our actions.

In Scripture, we see examples of believers performing acts of service again and again.

  • The Shunammite woman and her husband built an upper room for the Prophet Elisha so that he had a place to stay when he visited them (2 Kings 4).
  • Martha opened her home to Jesus and served him dinner (Luke 10). For all the bad rap she gets for being too busy to simply listen like her sister Mary, Martha deserves credit for her hospitality and generosity.
  • A widow gave everything she had to the temple treasury (Mark 12).

Of course, Jesus himself modeled service to others time and time again through miracles, washing his disciples’ feet, and ultimately dying on the cross.

No matter our situation, we all have varying degrees of physical ability. Some people can travel for mission trips or volunteer locally. Others serve behind-the-scenes doing preparation work no one seems to notice. For someone with limited physical ability, this action might look like a hand-written note of encouragement or even a whispered prayer.

The bottom line is that when we act to help others, we please God. When we love “the least” of the people who cross our paths, we’re loving him too (Matthew 25:31-40).

Click over to BigSisterKnows.com to read one more way we can love God with everything we have.

I’m grateful to my friend and author Ashley L. Jones for inviting me to share this two-part series on her beautiful blog.

~ Kristen

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When we love “the least” of the people who cross our paths, we’re loving God too. – @BigSisterTweets & @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

4 Ways to Love God with Gusto (Part 1 of 2)

Thanks to author Ashley L. Jones for hosting this week’s post on her blog at BigSisterKnows.com. Check out her site for more godly encouragement.

One of my favorite books is called I Dare You by William Danforth, and in it, he challenges his readers to live what he calls “the four-square life.” Following Jesus’ example in Luke 2:52, he dares us to grow mentally, physically, spiritually, and socially.

And Jesus increased in wisdom (mentally) and stature (physically), and in favor with God (spiritually) and men (socially). (NKJV, parenthesis added)

The other day, I was reading Mark 12:30 and realized that we are not only to grow in those key areas of our lives, but we’re also supposed to love God with four related areas.

“And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart (emotional/volitional), with all your soul (wholehearted), with all your mind (mental), and with all your strength (physical).’ This is the first commandment.” (Mark 12:30 NKJV, parenthesis added)

Coincidence? I don’t think so! God wants us to live for him and love him with all that we are. What does that look like? Let’s dive a little deeper into these four areas and see what Scripture has to say.

Love God Volitionally

When we typically think of our “heart,” we usually think about our emotions. Although our emotions are part of the idea here, “heart” goes far beyond them to include the will.[i]

In other words, love is more than a feeling but a choice, and we must exercise that choice in our relationship with God. He didn’t make us mindless robots, pre-programmed to love him. Instead, he gave us the privilege of deciding to love him and made it possible by loving us first.

In the educational world, we call that “modeling.” It means showing someone how to do something before expecting them to try. God modeled perfect love when he gave his own Son to mend the broken relationship between us and God, caused by man’s first and all consequential disobedience. By doing so, he offers restoration and the ability to love him back, “because he first loved us” (I John 4:19).

Wow! So how do we reciprocate? We can love God volitionally when we:

  • Choose to accept his salvation made possible through Christ’s sacrifice (John 3:16).
  • Choose to praise him when circumstances don’t go our way (I Thessalonians 5:18).
  • Choose holiness over what the world tells us is acceptable (I Thessalonians 4:3-7).
  • Choose an attitude of truth over how we feel at the time (Philippians 4:4-7).

Love God Wholeheartedly

The second way to love God is with our “soul.” Wait, aren’t the heart and soul similar? Isn’t “heart and soul” an expression to mean “all of me”? Or what’s the difference? I’m no Bible scholar, so I did some digging.

When I graduated from high school, my aunt gifted me with a copy of Strong’s exhaustive concordance which has been a priceless reference for me. Strong’s reveals that “soul” comes from the Greek word “psuche,” from which we get our modern word “psyche.” According to dictionary.com, the word’s origin literally means “breath” or “to breathe, blow, hence, live.”

Okay, stay with me. Strong’s further clarifies that the related Hebrew word means “heart (+ily), life, mind, soul …”

I paused on the word heartily, because it instantly reminded me of Colossians 3:23.

“And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men …” (NKJV)

In other words, we’re supposed to love God with everything we’ve got, or, as my friend and author Ashley L. Jones often reminds us, with gusto!

Can you think of some ways we can do that? What might loving God with gusto look like for you on an everyday basis?

~ Kristen

 

[i] Faith Bible Ministries Blog does an excellent job of breaking down the biblical meaning of heart if you’d like more information.

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Revolutionary Love

Love perseveres in spite of obstacles. Love gives without any guarantee of receiving. Love sacrifices until it hurts and then sacrifices some more.

If I told you those themes are part of my latest novel, you might guess I’m a romance writer, right? Well, they are, but guess again. The Revolutionary is a dystopia.

Wait. Dystopia? You mean one of those futuristic novels so dark they make the problems of our own world look like a walk in the park? Yes and no. Though dystopian novels have certain bleak characteristics, I think that setting paints the perfect contrast to the hope characters are fighting (and sometimes dying) to gain.

How can a dystopia present an accurate view of love? I’m glad you asked.

#1 – Love perseveres in spite of obstacles.

Obstacles are everywhere in dystopian novels, and The Revolutionary is no exception. The first chapter in this sequel to The Revisionary opens with my heroine Portia in a satellite slave camp where prisoners die like rabbits, and no one cares—no one but Portia’s protector Gath. Whether he’s trying to shield her from the freezing wind or take a lash for her, he selflessly destroys his own health to preserve hers.

As a result, Portia struggles with guilt. Surely, he has already done enough for her. How can she ever repay him? But then, there are those horrible rumors about Gath. Does he feel he owes her a debt because the accusations are true?

But that’s the thing. Love doesn’t keep score. Whether or not Gath is as guilty as people say, Portia resolves to rescue him and the other prisoners.

#2 – Love gives without any guarantee of receiving.

When a spy ringmaster helps her escape the satellite, Portia could try to run and get her life back. But the reality is that without her new role as a plant inside the capital of Crystal, her brother and friends won’t have any chance of learning why the ruling Dome wants to execute prisoners in mass.

Plus, unless she takes this job, she’ll never learn if her long-time friend Luther is on her side and cares about her the way she does for him. But when she sees him again for the first time in months, her blood curdles. He keeps company with the ruling echelons, the very people who want her dead.

They seem stuck on two different ends of a pendulum, never knowing when their paths will cross and if they have the same motives. Yet they desire the other’s good, even when they don’t know what that will mean for them.

#3 – Love sacrifices until it hurts and then sacrifices some more.

When God reaches into someone’s life, He can transform even the cruelest person into a new creation. In Acts 9, the Bible tells the true story of the transformation of persecutor Saul into the Apostle Paul.

Gath’s character arc in some ways parallels that of Paul. His faith enables him to love others—even his tormentors—in a way few people understand.

And though he’s merely a shell of his old self, he volunteers for a one-way mission, even when he finally has a chance at his own happy ending.

True love is sacrificial, not thinking of its own interests but of “the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4 ESV).

Closing thought

Whew, heavy stuff, right? I didn’t say dystopias are all sunshine and roses, but even they can present a beautiful, though battered, representation of what true love looks like.

Maybe you’re thinking, “That’s all well and good for make-believe, but that’s not real life.” If fiction doesn’t mirror real life, then there’s no point in reading it.

Besides, real life offers its own examples. Just look through the Bible for story after story of sacrificial love in action.

  • Jonathan willingly gave up his right to the throne for his friend David.
  • Ruth turned her back on her own people to care for her mother-in-law.
  • Esther faced the king on behalf of her people at the risk of her own life.
  • The Apostle Paul endured unspeakable torture for the gospel’s sake.
  • Then, there is the ultimate example, Jesus, who died on the cross for thankless sinners.

Sure, there are many failures in Scripture as well, but I find those examples encouraging, too. (And trust me, my characters make their fair share of mistakes.) However, through mistakes, we can discover second chances. In spite of past hurts, we can learn to love well.

Now that’s a revolutionary view of love.

~ Kristen

I’m grateful that this post first appeared on Christi Perry’s blog Not Born Fearless, which offers an honest, transparent look at dealing with fear and uncertainty in everyday life. 

 

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How to Have a Happy Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day might be the one holiday that leaves people feeling polar extremes of warm fuzzy or arctic cold.

Honestly, it’s a holiday that holds a mixed bag for me, too. I had one boyfriend call our relationship quits on Valentine’s Day (necessary but not exceptionally thoughtful). Other years, I’ve celebrated “Galentine’s Day” with my girlfriends instead. This year, I’m focusing on old and new friends alike.

I guess somewhere along the way, I realized that I can celebrate Valentine’s Day, regardless of my relationship status.

Let me say that again.

Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to be about our relationship status. 

That’s where we go wrong. We see the heart candies, roses, and those ridiculous large bears and start to daydream of our romantic relationship or lack thereof.

There’s our problem. We make the day about us. Did get a card? Did he remember to send me flowers? Did she get me a gift?

When we make the day about us, we’ll be disappointed every time, because there is usually a gap between expectations and reality. I’m not saying we shouldn’t give gifts or send flowers. Not at all! Those things are wonderful and can be thoughtful expressions of love.

But here’s the kicker: We don’t have to have a specific relationship status to do so.

Valentine’s Day can be a day to celebrate the people we love. 

Maybe that person is a significant other or spouse, and if so, celebrate that special relationship with gusto. Relationships are gifts, and couples should enjoy a day set aside to honor their love.

However, we don’t have to limit ourselves to romantic relationships. Instead, we can expand our horizons so we don’t miss the other people we’re blessed to love. Maybe that person is a father, mother, brother, sister, son, or daughter. Maybe it’s the teens in our youth group or peers in our Bible study.

Bottom line: Make the day about someone other than you. Cook dinner for your parents. Send flowers to your little sister in college. Bake brownies for the church teens, or host a game night at your house. And if you do have a special someone in your life, find a way to show that person how much you appreciate him or her.

After all, Jesus Himself commanded us to love (John 15:12). He said that we’re to love one another as He loved us—and He didn’t just say He loved us; He showed it by dying on the cross for us (John 3:16). The love God wants us to model isn’t sappy or shallow but sacrificial.

My college Bible professor captured that idea in a simple definition of love. It’s one I haven’t forgotten and hope I never will:

“Love is purposing the good of another person.”

Isn’t that what I Corinthians 13 says? The “love” chapter is all about giving of ourselves selflessly. Love is not “self-seeking” but generous (I Corinthians 13:5 NIV).

This Valentine’s Day week, look outward, not inward, and see how you can shower the people in your life with love. I think you’ll find that when you do, you’ll have the happiest Valentine’s Day yet.

~ Kristen

I’m grateful to DailyPS.com for sharing this post on their website. Visit DailyPS.com for more practical and encouraging ways to live intentionally.

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Love, Truth, Love

You are in for a treat! My friend and writer Ashley Jones of BigSisterKnows.com is my guest here today. She and her husband Robby demonstrate how differences can complement each other. Are you more like Ashley or Robby? Read on to learn how each personality type has its own strength and weakness … and how these blended styles help us make the most of our relationships.

Guest blog by BigSisterKnows.com

My husband Robby and I have been happily married for over six years now. One of the reasons we work so well together is that neither of us likes drama. We prefer the simple life. But, sometimes, stuff happens and you just have to deal with it. And that’s when our complementary personalities really shine. You see, Robby is a natural-born peacemaker, and I’m…well…scrappy. As you can imagine, we didn’t always see this difference as positive thing.

Early into our relationship, Robby’s “can’t we all just along?” temperament grated on my “why can’t everyone just do it right?!” attitude. It wasn’t long before we realized some very important things about ourselves.

Truth, Truth, Truth

I am a “truth, truth, truth” kind of person. Not only do I want to know the truth, but I want to relay the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, at all times. If that hurts your feelings, I’m sorry—but not really, ‘cause I can’t help that it’s the truth.

Love, Love, Love

Robby, on the other hand, is the quintessential peacemaker. He is a “love, love, love” kind of person. Yes, he wants to be truthful in all things, but if he has to pick, he’ll choose a loving silence over a truthful discourse any day.

Truth or Love?

At one point, we talked about what was more godly: truth or love? Fortunately, I was taking Bible classes at that time, and we looked into the following verse:

 “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:24 NAS)

The teacher suggested that “in spirit” means “in love,” since we know that “God is love” (1 John 4:16 NAS).

Although the context of John 4 is worship, all of our activities can be considered worship if we do them as unto the Lord. (See Colossians 3:23.)

Pulling these concepts together, I realized that my words and actions should be as loving as they are truthful.

Love, Truth, Love

That’s when Robby and I made a pact. He would be more upfront with the truth, trusting that I wouldn’t overreact or blame him for passing along difficult news. And I would be more loving, sweetening each word of truth with love. Now, we’re both striving to be “love, truth, love” kind of people—sandwiching the necessary truth in love.

I have to admit that this has made me a better person, wife, and friend. It’s also enabled me to minister to others in a meaningful way.

Learn to Love

If you’re a truth-focused person like I am, take heart! You can learn to be more loving in your interactions with others. Here are a few tips.

  • God first – Remember, the great commandment is to love God, and the second is to love your neighbor. (See Matthew 22:37-39.) We can’t fulfill the second commandment until we fulfill the first. It might help to think of the image of the “love cup.” Focus on your love for God first, letting that fill your love cup. Then let God’s love overflow and pour through you into your relationships with others.
  • Fake it – In the meantime, “fake it ‘til you make it.” I don’t mean that you should be a fake person, but if you make an effort to be nice and caring, you’ll find your emotions follow suite.
  • Pray – You can’t dislike someone you’re praying for—at least not for long—so pray daily for their welfare.

Learn to be Truthful

If you have a hard time telling difficult things to people you love, you can learn to be more truthful.

  • Right motives – We should never speak the truth out of a sense of self-righteousness or judgment. However, we should speak truth in love if it will help the other person in some way. This could be as small as telling your friend that she has spinach in her teeth; or it could be as big as confronting her with her addiction to alcohol. Just make sure your motives are righteous before you speak.
  • Faith – If you need to say something, then have faith in your friend and in the strength of your relationship. Even if the truth rocks the boat a bit, your friend should appreciate that you said what you did in love.

What about you? Have you struggled with speaking truth in love? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.

“But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13 NAS).

~ By Ashley L. Jones of BigSisterKnows.com

Thank you, Ashley, for sharing this guest post! You can follow Ashley on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

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Adored Giveaway!

Thank you to everyone who participated in and shared about last week’s Adored giveaway.

Congratulations to the winner, Elizabeth!