If: What Do You Know of Calvary Love?

gong, without love

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

1 Corinthians 13:1-3

From Subtle Love of Softening Things…Deliver Me

I “met” Amy Carmichael in my teens one summer afternoon in a cramped trailer home that housed a Christian library I so loved. Amy wasn’t soft. Read her poems—like Make Me Your Fuel, Flame of God— and you’ll see it.

As a missionary serving woman and children in India she didn’t cow to the elite who wanted their temple slaves back. Nor did Amy pull no her punches when it came to teaching converts to follow Christ.

Amy wasn’t soft, but she was loving. And not soft-pedal-the-truth loving, but holding-out-truth-in-love loving. I ran into her poem IF, last week, in my Bread And Wine reading for Lent. And one of my JoyPrO goals is to share with you what strengthens me.

Amy’s “If’s” do. But her if’s are not meant to be read one after another. In her introduction to the book simply titled, “If,” Amy Carmichael writes,

Perhaps only one “If” will have the needed word.

But if one does, I say, then run with the one. Feel the conviction, let Christ’s love control you.

And if you’re like me and 21 “ifs” ring true, well then, back to the cross. He came, He died, He rose for these.

If

If I have not compassion on my fellow)servant even as my Lord had
pity on me, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I can easily discuss the shortcomings and the sins of any; if I can speak
in a casual way even of a child’s misdoings, then I know nothing of
Calvary love.

If I find myself half-carelessly taking lapses for granted, “Oh, that’s
what they always do,” “Oh, of course she talks like that, he acts like
that,” then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I enjoy a joke at the expense of another; if I can in any way slight
another in conversation, or even in thought, then I know nothing of
Calvary love.

If, in dealing with one who does not respond, I weary of the strain, and
slip from under the burden, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I cannot bear to be like the father who did not soften the rigors of
the far country; if, in this sense, I refuse to allow the law of God (the
way of transgressors is hard) to take effect, because of the distress it
causes me to see that law in operation, then I know nothing of Calvary
love.

If my attitude be one of fear, not faith, about one who has disappointed
me; if I say, “Just what I expected,” if a fall occurs, then I know
nothing of Calvary love.

If I cast up a confessed, repented, and forsaken sin against another, and
allow my remembrance of that sin to color my thinking and feed my
suspicions, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I have not the patience of my Saviour with souls who grow slowly; if
I know little of travail (a sharp and painful thing) till Christ be fully
formed in them, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I cannot keep silence over a disappointing soul (unless for the sake of
that soul’s good or for the good of others it be necessary to speak),
then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I can hurt another by speaking faithfully without much preparation of
spirit, and without hurting myself far more than I hurt that other, then
I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I am afraid to speak the truth, lest I lose affection, or lest the one
concerned should say, “You do not understand,” or because I fear to
lose my reputation for kindness; if I put my own good name before the
other’s highest good, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I am content to heal a hurt slightly, saying “Peace, peace,” where is
no peace; if I forget the poignant word “Let love be without
dissimulation” and blunt the edge of truth, speaking not right things
but smooth things, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I fear to hold another to the highest goal because it is so much easier
to avoid doing so, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I am soft to myself and slide comfortably into the vice of self-pity and
self-sympathy; if I do not by the grace of God practice fortitude, then I
know nothing of Calvary love.

If I myself dominate myself, if my thoughts revolve round myself; if I
am so occupied with myself I rarely have “a heart at leisure from itself,”
then I know nothing of Calvary love.

IF, the moment I am conscious of the shadow of self crossing my
threshold, I do not shut the door, and in the power of Him who works
in us to will and to do, keep that door shut, then I know nothing of
Calvary love.

If I cannot in honest happiness take the second place (or the twentieth);
if I cannot take the first without making a fuss about my unworthiness,
then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I do not give a friend “the benefit of the doubt,” but put the worst
construction instead of the best on what is said or done, then I know
nothing of Calvary love.

If I take offense easily, if I am content to continue in a cool
unfriendliness, though friendship be possible, then I know nothing of
Calvary love.

If a sudden jar can cause me to speak an impatient, unloving word,
then I know nothing of Calvary love.*
*For a cup brimful of sweet water cannot spill even one drop of bitter
water however suddenly jolted.

If I feel injured when another lays to my charge things that I know not,
forgetting that my Sinless Saviour trod this path to the end, then I
know nothing of Calvary love.

If I feel bitterly towards those who condemn me, as it seems to me,
unjustly, forgetting that if they knew me as I know myself they would
condemn me much more, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I say, “Yes, I forgive, but I cannot forget,” as though the God who
twice day washes all the sands on all the shores of all the world, could
not wash such memories from my mind, then I know nothing of
Calvary love.

If interruptions annoy me, and private cares make me impatient; if I
shadow the souls about me because I myself am shadowed, then I know
nothing of Calvary love.

If souls can suffer alongside, and I hardly know it, because the spirit of
discernment is not in me, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I become entangled in any “inordinate affection”; if things or places
or people hold me back from obedience to my Lord, then I know
nothing of Calvary love.

If something I am asked to do for another feels burdensome; if,
yielding to an inward unwillingness, I avoid doing it, then I know
nothing of Calvary love.

If the praise of man elates me and his blame depresses me; if I cannot
rest under misunderstanding without defending myself; if I love to be
loved more than to love, to be served more than to serve, then I know
nothing of Calvary love.

If I want to be known as the doer of something that has proved the
right thing, or as the one who suggested that it should be done, then I
know nothing of Calvary love.

If I do not forget about such a trifle as personal success, so that it never
crosses my mind, or if it does, is never given a moment’s room there;
if the cup of spiritual flattery tastes sweet to me, then I know nothing
of Calvary love.

If it be not simple and a natural thing to say, “Enviest thou for my sake?
Would God that all the Lord’s people were prophets,” then I know
nothing of Calvary love.

If in the fellowship of service I seek to attach a friend to myself, so that
others are feel unwanted; if my friendships do not draw
others deeper in, but are ungenerous (to myself, for myself), then I
know nothing of Calvary love.

If I slip into the place that can be filled by Christ alone, making myself
the first necessity to a soul instead of leading it to fasten upon Him,
then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If my interest in the work of others is cool; if I think in terms of my
own special work; if the burdens of others are not my burdens too, and
their joys mine, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I wonder why something trying is allowed, and press for prayer that
it may be removed; if I cannot be trusted with any disappointment, and
cannot go on in peace under any mystery, then I know nothing of
Calvary love.

If the ultimate, the hardest, cannot be asked of me; if my fellows
hesitate to ask it and turn to someone else, then I know nothing of
Calvary love.

If I covet any place on earth but the dust at the foot of the Cross, then I
know nothing of Calvary love.

THAT WHICH I KNOW NOT, TEACH THOU ME, O LORD, MY GOD.

For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died;

And He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died for them and was raised again.…

2 Corinthians 5:14-15

Truth In Love? Or, “If You Love Me, You Would…”?

Friend helping friend climb, love defined

Asking you to tolerate whatever I do or say because you say you love me is a fundamental misunderstanding of what love is and what love does. Much of what we think love is simply isn’t love after all.

-Paul David Tripp, New Morning Mercies

If You Love Me, You Would…

Have you ever said that? Has anyone said it to you? If you love me, you would ___________. Fill in the blank: scratch my back, stay up late, wear a mask, don’t make me wait.While it’s absolutely true that love is kind and seeks not its own, love does not mean anything goes.

We know this intuitively. Which is why I don’t bite when my 13 year-old says loving him means I allow him take a phone to school. Or when the 15 year-old insists loving him means I let him go deep with an ominously named gaming stranger.

But, as helpful as are, the love languages they might hurt us here. Because if I assume that for love to be love it must always come in my preferred language—and feel good—I’ll miss and misinterpret a whole lot of love.

I know this because the Lover of my soul doesn’t always speak my preferred language or love me how I would choose to be loved. He didn’t with Mary and Martha either.

Jesus loved them enough to let Lazarus die—yes, to die—so that he could raise him up in a majestic way and so that they would see the his glory. And I guarantee that Mary did not say, Master, if you love me, please wait to come until Lazarus dies.

I Wanna Know What Love Is

We’ve got to know what love is. And Jesus can show us.

Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was (John 11:5-6). Jesus loved them so much he didn’t save Lazarus from dying. He didn’t spare Mary and Martha that pain.

Love is doing whatever you have to do — or whatever God has to do — at whatever cost, in order for the glory of God to be shown. If that sounds like no definition of love you’ve ever heard, like it’s straight out of left field, please reread John 11:1-6. (If that definition is still confusing, you might listen to “Even When It Hurts,” where John Piper explains this definition.)

Because seeing the glory of God is the greatest good. And love, we know, is helping the beloved enjoy the greatest good.

5 Things I Know About Love

1. Love Is Anchored In Truth

I know it must be anchored in truth. It cannot contradict truth. It cannot exist without truth.

Real, biblical, self-sacrificing, God-honoring love never compromises what God says is right and true. Truth and love are inextricably bound together. Love that compromises truth simply isn’t love. Truth without love ceases to be truth because it gets bent and twisted by human agendas. If love wants and works for what is best for you, then love is committed to being part of what God says is best in your life. So, I am committed to being God’s tool for what he says is best in your life, even if that means we have to go through tense and difficult moments to get there.

Paul David Tripp, New Morning Mercies

This, for the record, is one of the marks of a true friend. And lest we misconstrue Tripp’s words, it’s not as if one person in the relationship is always the “truth tool” while the other is always the “project.” Holding out the truth in love, or “truthing it in love” ala 4:15, is to be reciprocal. The subject and object are not fixed. Heidi truths it with me and I truth it with her.

What’s more, speaking the truth in love is not the main point. It’s not. The grammar of Ephesians 4 is clear. Truthing it in love is not an end in itself. Me correcting you or you proving a point factually true, or even us rooting out our idols together, is not the point.

Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ…

Ephesians 4:15

Do you see the purpose of Ephesians 4:15? The end for which “speaking the truth in love” is but a modifier?

It’s grow up. We are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ. That’s the goal.

Speaking truth in love is not the endpoint. Growing up into Jesus is.

2. Reasoning Frankly Averts Hate

Jesus may have quoted Leviticus 19:18 more than any other verse (Matt 5:43,19:1922:39Mark 12:31). You probably know it by heart:

You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

But what you might not know off the top of your head is what comes right before it. Here’s the famous command in context:

You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.

Leviticus 19:17-18

That jumped off the page when I read it last week. Because most of us are conflict avoiders. It’s so much easier to walk away when we see a brother do wrong. And if the wrong hurt us, well, we might walk away and nurse a grudge. Because, if I’m honest, to hate my sister in my heart takes less effort than to reason frankly with her.

When conflict comes we are tempted to think God has left the building. In peacetime we feel God’s presence; his providence is sweet. But the moment a fellow sinner hurts me, we imagine God left. But God said Love, don’t hate. And God said the way out of hate and the way into love is reason frankly.

Speaking truth in love includes “reasoning frankly.” And, done right, it not only benefits my sister it also helps me. Because the alternative to reasoning frankly with her is “incurring guilt” myself. The guilt could come if I take vengeance, bear a grudge, or get passive-aggressive. And she could be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness (Hebrews 3:13). In both cases, reason frankly is God’s preventative against incurring guilt, against harm.

But this is hard. Because reasoning frankly and holding out truth in love can cost a lot.

3. We All Need Influencers

But I’m learning that silence is costly too. To the extent that I feel I can’t speak truth—because a friend is that sensitive— it is equally hard to feel love. My closest friendships are the ones who truth it love, side by side, with me. They say, “Smile more, talk less.” They ask, “Do I hear discontentment?”

I read this paragraph last night. It doesn’t use the word truth and it doesn’t mention love, but it’s on point. Here, a main character—The Man in the Wing Chair— describes his mother.

She just has her own opinions, and they’re the only tribunal that’s permitted to judge her when she makes a mistake. Can you imagine what you would be like if you didn’t have anyone close who was capable of influencing you? Anyone to point out your flaws, to confront you when you went too far, to correct you when you did something wrong?

Natalia Sanmartin Fenollera, The Awakening of Miss Prim

Isn’t that so sad? When I read the paragraph, I dropped the book and asked myself, Who is close enough to correct me?

Now I ask you, Who in your life is close enough to dare correct or confront you?

4. Speak Soft Words And Give Hard Reasons

I won’t grow if I stay blind to my faults, blind to my sin. As a Christian, I know that the Word of God and the Spirit of Christ can convict me. I don’t always need a fellow sinner to show me my sin. Sometimes it comes to light without him.

But.

But God uses means. I wrote about the large chocolate spot I obliviously sported one night. The lesson: friends tell friends.

But how we hold out truth matters. And I’ll be first to admit that I don’t always get the how right. My family and friends will tell you that. But I do aim to apply C.H. Spurgeon’s advice:

If you see that a stick is crooked, and you want people to see how crooked it is, lay a straight rod down beside it; that will be quite enough. But if you are drawn into controversy, use very hard arguments and very soft words. Frequently you cannot convince a man by tugging at his reason, but you can persuade him by winning his affections.

That might sound like this: Kelsey, your voice is gorgeous. And I know you want us to be drawn to worship Christ not be focused on your clothes. That’s why I wanted to tell you I was distracted by your clothes the last few times you led singing. But I don’t doubt your love and I thank you for your hard work.

Gentle words, with gratitude and hard argument, rooted in truth. We speak this way so that we will grow into Christ and not incur guilt.

5. We Love People When We Love God

That was a big takeaway for me as I studied 1 John. Since God is love (1 John 4:8), it stands to reason that if I don’t understand God rightly, I won’t understand love rightly. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments.

But isn’t that out of order? Hasn’t John explained that the main way show our love for the God who we can’t see is by our love for our brother we do see (1 John 4:20)? Yes, he did: We cannot love God without loving His children.

But that answer just kicks the can. How do we love people? In 1 John 5:2, John explains that we love others by loving God and keeping his commands.

That brings us full circle. So what about, If you love me you would…? Jesus is the only person who could say with impunity, If you love me you would.

Do you know why? Because he and the Father were one. The God-Man had no sinful nature to taint his If you love me you would. He knew with certainty what would help us see His glory. So he said, If you love me you will keep my commands.

Truth without love is abuse. Love without truth is neglect.

The doctor that conceals a cancer diagnosis is not “loving” his patient. Remember the prophets who “healed the wound of the people lightly, saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace” (Jeremiah 6:14)? Perhaps out of self-love or fear of disappointing, the prophets did not act in love for God’s wounded people.

Love covers offenses and sins (1 Peter 4:8, Proverbs 10:12). But it also exposes and rebukes (Matthew 18:15, Proverbs 27:5-6). Soft, gracious words do not abuse and hard, biblical reasons do not neglect.

Paul David Tripp writes,

Love doesn’t call wrong right. Love doesn’t ignore wrong and hope it goes away. It doesn’t turn its back on you because you are wrong. Love doesn’t mock you. And love doesn’t go passive and stay silent in the face of wrong. Love moves toward you because you are wrong and need to be rescued from you. In moving toward you, love is willing to make sacrifices and endure hardships so that you may be made right again and be reconciled to God and others. God graces us with this kind of love so that we may be tools of this love in the lives of others.

Love moves toward you because you are wrong and need to be rescued from you. Jesus did that for me. He—Love—covers a multitude of sins, but also shows me my faults.

And as much as I want to be a tool of this kind of love, sometimes it’s hard to discern which path love takes.

What I Don’t Know About Love

There are so many things I don’t know about truth in love. The God-Man alone, could rightly say, If you love me you would… Because he knows all things. He alone knows all that is good.

I do not. Which is why I can’t always tell if my friends and sons are right when they say or imply, If you love me you would….

And I don’t know how much truth love tells. I’m not always sure when love conceals and when it reveals. I often don’t know the best, the most loving way to hold out the truth in love or if I should say a thing when I don’t feel the love.

But I do know that I want to be pure for the day of Christ. And I know I need a discerning love.

Thankfully, there’s a prayer for that.

And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is best, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ…

Philippians 1:9-10

10 Reasons I’m Glad I Married Him & 1 Marriage Tip

Bride and Groom married walking down aisle, hand in hand
January 4, 1997

1 Marriage (& Friendship) Tip

Hair fades, brows crease, and it is all grace that our marriage has endured to year 25.

But even with 24 years under my belt, I’m no marriage expert.

I do have one quick tip, though. I call it the THAT’S WHY I MARRIED YOU game; AKA: CALL OUT THE GOOD, or I LOVE THAT ABOUT YOU.

Single? No worries. It works with friends, too. Just call it, THAT’S WHY YOU’RE MY FRIEND.

In fact, I advise my single friends, Keep your eyes wide open before marriage, then half-closed after the wedding. This, I think, is an active way of keeping our eyes half-closed—closed to negatives we can’t change in others—and wide open to their praiseworthy ways.

To clarify, calling out the good does not mean we don’t see the bad. It only means we choose to dwell on the good, à la Philippians 4:8,

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

Not Blind, Just Focused

So playing this “game” doesn’t imply you’re smitten down to the pinky toes. It just means you’re choosing to see the good in them. It’s not blind devotion. It’s proper focus.

But maybe you feel like you made a mistake in choosing your marriage partner. I hope this surprising quote from lessons for incompatible soul-mates encourages you.

Nearly all marriages, even happy ones, are mistakes: in the sense that almost certainly (in a more perfect world, or even with a little more care in this very imperfect one) both partners might have found more suitable mates…But the ‘real soul-mate’ is the one you are actually married to.

Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, pp. 51-52

And you’re real soul-mate will thank you and feel more like your soul-mate if you practice this one tip.

Don’t save your loving speeches for your friends till they are dead; do not write them on their tombstones, speak them rather now instead. 

Ana Cumens

Do Not Withhold Good

Directions for use: Simply call out the good when you think it. You notice when a friend keeps her word when it hurts, call it out. Your husband unloads the dishes, acknowledge it.

Don’t save you loving speeches. Praise the praiseworthy. Don’t be stingy with it. If you think a complimentary, affectionate, kind-hearted thought about your husband (or friend) share it.

Bonus Points: Call out the good in front of others. I try to play “that’s why I married you” in front of the boys. It sounds like, “He gives great hugs. That’s why I married your dad.” Or when you’re having coffee with Meg and some mutual friends you casually ask, “Doesn’t Meg give the most thoughtful gifts?”

And without any more ado, here’s why 24 years after the wedding, I’m glad Jim’s my man.

10 Reasons

In no particular order, here are 10 reasons I’m glad I married Jim:

1. He makes me laugh. Refer to the infamous Stanley Park incident and ask him Inspector Clouseau at Walgreens.

2. He is a handyman of handymen. Look what he installed for forest-dwelling, sun-loving me.

3. He fears God. He greatly delights in his commands.

4. He is kind. And—shhh— I don’t even think he even knows about the 30-Day Challenge.

5. He is a tidy. He puts dirty clothes in the bin, though I still struggle to put the clean away.

6. He forgives me. Yes, to #7 of those 8 marriage quotes: A good marriage is the union of two good forgivers. 

7. He gives the best back rubs. ‘Nuff said.

8. He plays games. With the boys and with me, he plays to win (and usually does) and for that I’m glad.

9. He reads to me. It was Churchill’s Trial in bed last week.

10. He keeps his word. Jim’s word is golden; never have I ever doubted that.

That’s how CALL IT OUT looks around here on our 24th anniversary night. But remember, it also works wonders with friends.

Before I close, I’ll let you in on a little secret about this “game.” Playing it is a gift. But the gift of gladness is as much to yourself as it is to your spouse or your friends.

So do not withhold. Call out the good.

Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it.

Proverbs 3:27

WHITE HORSE: An Advent Song For Harassed Hearts

I’d like a white horse for Christmas. I wouldn’t mind some Florida sunshine, strong coffee and a stronger back rub, but a white horse tops my list.

Bring me a white horse for Christmas
We’ll ride him through the town
Out into the snowy woods
Where we will both lie down

Underneath white birches
Our faces toward the sky
We will make snow angels
With our white horse standing by

Hush now, baby
One day we’re gonna ride
Hush now, baby
Our white horse through the sky

Bring me a white horse for Christmas
We’ll ride him through the snow
All the way to Bethlehem
Two thousand years ago

I wanna speak with the angel
Who said do not be afraid
I wanna kneel where the oxen knelt
Where the little child was laid

Hush now, baby
One day you’re gonna ride
Hush now, baby
Your white horse through the sky

No bridle will he be wearing
His unshod hoofs they will fly
Keep a watch this Christmas
For that white horse in the sky

Hush now, baby
One day we’re gonna ride
Hush now, baby
Our white horse through the sky

Hush now, baby
Let every angel sing
Hush now, baby
One day we’ll ride again

Over The Rhine, “Snow Angels”

Keep looking up. The baby of Bethlehem will ride.

Is this white horse on your Christmas list?

Advent Darkness

It’s only the first week of Advent, but 2020 has had feel of an eternal Advent with all the waiting for relief and cries for peace and longing for right.

White horse face

I feel the ache. This week left me second guessing a lot of things I thought I sort of knew. About how to love like Jesus loved and live not by lies and walk in the truth. About the right times to tear and to sew, to keep silence and speak, to love and hate, for war and for peace. In darkness.

This first Advent week my convictions are getting all muddled and despite seeking God’s will, I was the more befuddled.

Because relationships are messy business. So is love. When love is feels cruel it makes you wonder, is the lover deceived or the beloved blinded by feelings? Or are both or neither true?

I don’t know.

A White Horse Comes

But the darkness in the world, in my mind makes me wait more. And that’s what Advent’s about, right? The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.

I know Jesus is coming. And I want to be one of those looking up, like Paul was, longing for his appearing (2 Timothy 4:8). Longing for Him. While I don’t always know how to love His world, I know that I love Him and He loves me. And I know the Baby of Bethlehem will come again and take his children to be where He is (John 14:3).

And that knowledge is hushing my harassed and burdened heart this week. Will you join me in these long last days and short three weeks and bear the weight of sin until He brings his peace to reign?

Will you lift up your head and be on the lookout and get yourself ready for the coming of the King?

Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords. 

Revelation 19:11-12, 16