The Importance of Love in Parenting

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Researchers have discovered that one of the most important elements involved in transmitting one’s faith to children is emotional bonding or love.  Within tight-knit religious traditions, the chances of passing on faith are highly dependent on the quality of parent-child relationships.  This may run counter to advice about effective religious socialization in these communities that emphasize parental piety as the crucial factor–setting a good example, teaching the right beliefs and practices, and keeping strictly to the law.  Without emotional bonding, this is not sufficient for transmission.  A distant or non-affirming parent-child relationship–particularly with the father–is a catalyst for conversion to another faith or dropping out of religion altogether (Families and Faith, pp. 78-79).
Emotional bonding involves feelings of love and warmth.  A child must feel connected to his/her parents in a meaningful way.  Cold, distant, authoritarian parenting or ambivalent or mixed-messaging parenting (sometimes cold sometimes warm) is not sufficient.  Strained or preoccupied parenting won’t work either.  This occurs when parents are distracted by marital, financial, health or substance abuse problems.  The bond of love must be real and must be felt strongly in both the parent and the child.  Parents should read I Cor. 13:1-13 to learn how to love in a dynamic and effective way.  Authentic love must be shown in a personal and impactful way in the home.
The gender of the parent also plays a significant role in religious transmission.  Having close emotional bonds with the father is strongly associated with transmission of one’s faith to the next generation.  Fathers must lead spiritually in the home.  “And ye fathers provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4).  Fathers must take the lead in demonstrating love for mom and for children in the home.  Love must be more than lip-service.  Love must be communicated both verbally and through concrete actions that leave no doubt about the strength of the emotional connection.  Through authentic love and fidelity to God parents have the greatest opportunity to transmit their faith to the next generation.

No Greater Love

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Bill O’Reilly in his book, Killing the Rising Sun, relates many short stories to give the brief history of World War II and the use of the first atomic bomb.  He relates the story of Desmond Doss, a recipient of the medal of honor.  Doss is one of 3,500 individuals that have been decorated with America’s highest award for valor.  O’Reilly relates, “It is Saturday on Okinawa, the Sabbath for PFC Desmond Doss.  It is to be a day of rest and prayer (Doss is a Seventh Day Adventist-DS), even amid the ongoing battle for the Maeda Escarpment.  His leg is bruised and bleeding from falling over the side of the cliff last night, and he can barely stand.  As the sun rises, Doss leans back against a rock, thinking of is girlfriend back home and reading his Bible.
A week has passed since Doss’s squad launched their attack.  The seesaw battle for the escarpment continues; the Japanese are utilizing a “reverse slope” defense, in which the Americans are allowed to occupy the forward portions of the summit but the crest and the reverse side of the mountain remain in Japanese hands.  In the process, the Americans have been pushed off the summit many times, only to fight back and regain the high ground. Each day, PFC Doss has climbed the great rope ladders (about 60′-DS) to treat the American wounded (Doss is a medic–DS). His uniform has turned the color of dried blood from all the men he has treated, frantically performing first aid amid grenades and small-arms fire.  Doss refuses to seek cover as he applies tourniquets, stanches blood flow, injects morphine, and dragged men from the line of fire. B Company has been reduced from 200 to 155 men, and it is Doss who has tended to each of the fallen, alive or dead, he has lowered their bodies off the escarpment to safety.
…Doss’s wounded leg throbs, but he remains on the summit.  The company has no other medic.  An American attack on the well-fortified pillbox fails, and more men fall.  The dead and dying are spread out across the escarpment as the order to fall back is issued.  Every able soldier retreats to safety, scrambling back down the cargo net.  Left atop the cliff are Doss, a hundred wounded Americans, and the Imperial Japanese Army.
Doss refuses to leave.  “I knew these men; they were my buddies, some had wives and children.  If they were hurt, I wanted to be there to take care of them,” Doss would later write.
Working tirelessly, exposed to thick gunfire and exploding shells, the private treats every one of the fallen.  The wounded who can shoot provide covering fire as they await their turn to be rescued. Ignoring the searing pain in his leg, Doss grabs each of them under the shoulders or by the heels and drags them to the edge of the cliff.
As a child, Desmond Doss once helped rescue victims of a flood.  It was then that he was taught a special knot with which he could fashion a sling using a short section of rope.  The memory of that knot, something that he had not thought of for twenty years, suddenly comes back to him.  Using this impromptu technique, Doss lowers man after man over the side, then rushes back across the escarpment to get another. “Just get one more,” he says to himself over and over. “Just one more.”
Japanese soldiers take aim at Doss, but they miss.  When they advance with bayonets, sometimes coming within just a few feet of the medic, wounded Americans summon the strength to shoot the Japanese soldiers dead.
By nightfall, PFC Desmond Doss has single-handedly saved the lives of seventy-five men.
“I can state without reservation that the actions of this man were the most outstanding display of bravery I have ever seen,” First Lieutenant Cecil Gornto will marvel.
“I wasn’t trying to be a hero,” Doss will tell a newspaper reporter much later in his life. “I was thinking about it from this standpoint–in a house on fire, and a mother has a child in that house, what prompts her to go in and get that child? “Love,” he will respond, answering his own question, “I loved my men and they loved me…I just couldn’t give them up, just like a mother couldn’t give up the child.”” (pp. 110-112).
“No greater love” is the love that we have for another when we would be willing to lay down our life for him/her.  It is the supreme act of devotion.
Jesus accomplishes the supreme act of love on the cross. His death for us and in our behalf represents a selfless love that is powerful to conquer sin, death and the human heart.  “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).
Jesus instructs His disciples to possess and display this same love for one another. “This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you” (John 15:12).  All of the elements of love are on display at the cross.  There is forgiveness, inner strength, a higher, nobler purpose, salvation of others, compassion, suffering, sacrifice, and resolution to face death.
Love is transformational!  Love can change a family, a military unit, a football team, a community, a congregation of God’s people, and, yes, it can change the world! What’s the proof? Jesus’ love has already changed the world.

The Trustworthiness of God’s Lovingkindness

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The word in Hebrew that corresponds to the English word grace in the New Testament is hesed.  This is a beautiful word.  The definition of this word is: “unfailing love, loyal love, devotion, kindness, often based on a prior relationship, especially a covenant relationship (Strong’s Concordance, p. 1389).
The word is used of a quality of God’s nature that is manifested in the covenant relationship with His people expressing His unfailing love or loyal love.
The constancy of God’s love is the basis for our surrender and obedience to God.  God’s lovingkindness invites and motivates our love for Him.
The word lovingkindness is found in Psalms 26 times.  Lovingkindnesses is found four times for a total of 30 times.  This word (hesed) occurs throughout the Psalms and indicates an awareness the Israelites had of God’s love and kindness which produced mercy, redemption, salvation and forgiveness.
Lovingkindness is an aspect of the Divine Nature.
Hesed is always attributed to God in the Psalms.  It is a feature or aspect of deity that is described as:  marvelous (Psa. 17:7); excellent (Psa. 36:7); Good (Psa. 69:16); and better than life (Psa. 63:3).  It is hard to find something that is “better than life.” But, when you discover God’s loyal love, His lovingkindness, you have found something truly wonderful.
Lovingkindness is associated with three important things:  mercy, life, and truth.
“Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions” (Psa. 51:1).  Forgiveness is the result of God’s loyal love.  “Quicken me after thy lovingkindness; so shall I keep the testimony of thy mouth” (Psa. 119:88).  “Consider how I love thy precepts: quicken me, O LORD, according to thy lovingkindness” (Psa. 119:159).  To quicken is to make alive.  God’s loyal love produces real life which is spiritual life.  God’s loyal love is connected to truth.  “I have not hid thy righteousness within my heart; I have declared thy faithfulness and thy salvation: I have not concealed thy lovingkindness and thy truth from the great congregation” (Psa. 40:10).  “I will worship toward  thy holy temple, and praise thy name for thy lovingkindness and for thy truth: for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name” (Psa. 138:2).
The lovingkindness of God produces our salvation (Psa. 17:7).  God’s trustworthiness in lovingkindness invites surrender in us.  Surrender of the human will precedes obedience to God.  Obedience without surrender is shallow and vain.  Obedience with surrender is rich, meaningful and produces devotion to God.  Our faith in God is prompted by His loyal love.  We can trust God because it is not possible for Him to disappoint us.  We are crowned with lovingkindness.  “Who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies” (Psa. 103:4).
The mercies of the LORD are new every morning (Lam. 3:22-25).  This is the basis of our salvation and hope.  We can confidently put our trust in God whose loyal love will never fail us.  We must surrender to His will and trust in His power to save us.


God’s Love and Our Sonship

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John declares, “Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not” (I John 3:1).  There is a vital connection between God’s love and our sonship.  John marvels at the love of God that makes it possible for us to be His children.  If we are the children of God, then we are heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ (Rom. 8:16-17).
Divine Love Is A Spiritual Reality That Is Perceptible in Its Effect.
The word “behold” means to note, discern, or understand.  This word refers to the astonished and joyful contemplation which penetrates deep into the revelation of the mystery of God (Spicq, Agape in the New Testament,vol. III, p. 109). It discerns the divine love in the present and concrete fact that the believer is begotten of God and is a child of God.  God’s love produces wonder and delight in us.
The Nature of Divine Love.Divine love is a manifest, active, expressed love, having its own reality, existing in itself and communicable to mankind.  The divine love exists as a part of the nature of God (God is love-I John 4:8,16).  This love is expressed in the unspeakable gift of His Son-Jesus Christ.  “In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him” (I John 4:9).  Consequently, we can learn God’s love through God’s acts.  God’s love is made known by providing us everything essential to our physical lives through His creative acts and everything essential to our spiritual lives through His redemptive acts. The bestowal of the divine love in the gift of Jesus Christ is a once and for all act (unrepeatable).  Ultimately, Jesus’ death upon the cross makes it possible for us to become the children of God.  He purchases us to Himself by His blood and redeems to Himself a special people who comprise His church.  The divine love pursues us as God seeks our highest good and acts for our greatest benefit.  If we respond to this love by loving God back, then we can enter into His grace and become His children.
Divine Love is Active in Securing Our Sonship.
Divine love impacts us and leaves its imprint upon us.  God’s love can transform sinners into saints by the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ (Rom. 1:16).  The begettal to new spiritual life is brought about by God’s love (I John 3:1); by God’s Word (I Peter 1:21-23); by our love (John 14:15, I John 4:19); by our faith (Gal. 3:26, 27); and our new birth (John 3:3-5) –baptism in water and regeneration by the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5).  The new birth produces a new creature, i.e. a child of God.  We are called (because we actually are) the children of God and we stand to inherit all that God has (Rom. 8:16-17).  God’s love makes union with Him and communion with Him possible.  This communion with God makes communion with the world  an impossibility (I John 2:15). You cannot love God and, at the same time, say that you love the world (worldliness). John was filled with wonder as he contemplated what God’s love had done for him. It can do the same thing for you!

Priorities in Love

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“And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord; And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment” (Mark 12:29-30).  Jesus affirms a moral hierarchy of the heart.  In Mark 12:29-31, He gives an order:  first, then second.  First, love for God must be supreme.  Then, love for neighbor.  There is none other commandments greater than these.  This does not mean the other commandments of God are not important, but that these two rank high in our understanding and practice.
Our relationship with God must be defined by our love for Him.  Love for God must be supreme, complete, intense, and authentic.  Love for God encompasses our entire being.  When we love God supremely, then obeying all of God’s commands follows.  When we love God supremely, then we will love our neighbor as ourselves.  Love for neighbor worketh no ill toward our neighbor.  It involves seeking the highest good for our neighbor and acting to accomplish it.
Love for God (Mark 12:29-30); love for the kingdom of God (Matt. 6:33); and love for spiritual things (Col. 3:1-2) outrank other loves.  Consider some examples:
-When we put our own desire for recreation ahead of worshiping God, we have violated the moral hierarchy of the heart.  Love for God ranks above love for golf or any other form of recreation.
-If we love our family above love for God, we have violated the moral hierarchy of the heart.  “He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:37).
-If we seek to preserve our lives from persecution and so deny the faith, we violate the moral hierarchy of the heart.  “And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:38).  Love for God is greater than love for life if and when I am called upon to give my life in service to my Lord.
-Love for your children is more important than love for your job.
-Love for truth is more important than love for popularity.  If someone tells you something in confidence and you tell it to others in order to seem important, you have placed the love of popularity (love of self) above love of friendship.  You have violated the moral hierarchy of the heart.
-When you demand your rights to the destruction of the souls of weaker brethren, you violate the moral hierarchy of the heart.  Romans 14:13-17.
Often when we violate the moral hierarchy of the heart, we are  putting self ahead of God and others.  Selfishness is the opposite of love (I Cor. 13:4-8).
A final thought comes from the writings of the apostle Paul.  Faith is important and essential, but it is not greater than love.  Hope is important and essential to Christian living, but it is not more important than love.  “And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity (love-DS)” I Corinthians 13:13.  Love is the more excellent way!  Love has its priorities and these priorities define the moral hierarchy of the heart.

Forbidden Loves

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God does not approve of loving everything.  Some loves are forbidden.  Consider the following scriptures that indicate this important truth.
First, Matt. 6:24, “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other.  Ye cannot serve God and mammon.”  Jesus states that you cannot serve the God of heaven and the god of mammon at the same time and in the same place.  The god of mammon represents the idolatry of materialism.  If we love God, we will despise the god of mammon.  Love for mammon is forbidden by love for God.
Second, John 3:19-20, “And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.  For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.”  Jesus is the light of the world (John 8:12).  The light represent truth and righteousness.  Those who love darkness, hate the light.  If you love the light, you will hate darkness (evil).  You cannot love both light and darkness at the same time.  Love for darkness is forbidden by love for the light.
Third, I Tim. 6:10, “For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”  Love for money is forbidden by love for righteousness.  Love for money is part of the idolatry of mammon.
Fourth, I John 2:15-16, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world.  If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.”  Worldliness is condemned by John.  Sinful actions constitute worldliness.  Love for the Father forbids love for the world including its lusts of the flesh.
Fifth, Rom. 1:26-27, “For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was meet.”  The affection involving sexual attraction and conduct of one man for another man or a woman for another woman (commonly called homosexuality) is a forbidden love.  The objects of the affection are forbidden by God and the affection is called by Paul a vile (dishonorable passion) affection.  Also, Paul calls the sexual attraction a “burning in their lust one toward another.”  What is sometimes called love is not love.  It is dishonorable passion involving the lusts of the flesh.  This is a form of worldliness and constitutes a forbidden love.  There is no way to make homosexual marriages “honorable” when in fact they involve dishonorable passion and forbidden love.  Love for God forbids this type of dishonorable passion.  The marriage of a man to another man or woman to another woman is a sinful act that places both souls in peril.  Love for neighbor is violated whenever we act in such a way as to put another’s soul in danger of condemnation from God.  The sins of men and women put Jesus on the cross.  He died to redeem and to reform each of us.  Redemption involves forgiveness.  Reformation involves sanctification which is separation from the world for a holy purpose.  If we truly love the Lord Jesus Christ, we will not violate His Will nor crucify afresh the Son of God by sinful conduct.
Love for God is the first and greatest commandment.  “Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.  This is the first and great commandment” (Matt. 22:37-38).  Love for God is violated when we love that which God forbids!

Love and Obedience

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Jesus connects love and obedience in three passages in John 14.  They are John 14:15, 21-24, and 31.
John 14:15, “If ye love me, keep my commandments.”  John 14:21-24, “He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me:  and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.  Judas saith unto him, not Isacariot, Lord,  how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world?  Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.  He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father’s which sent me.”  John 14:31, “But that the world may know that I love the Father; and as the Father gave me commandment, even so I do.  Arise, let us go hence.”
Jesus and the Father
John 14:31 is the only passage in the New Testament where Jesus explicitly affirms that He loves the Father.  The love Jesus has for the Father motivates Him to obedience to the commandment of the Father.  Love disciplines the heart and makes compliance to its object a natural part of its relationship with the object.  The strength of love is tested by obedience.   In Jesus’ case, obedience meant facing death upon the cross for the redemption of the sins of mankind.  The writer of Hebrews comments on this, “Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him” (Heb. 5:8-9).
Consider the alternative which is disobedience.  Disobedience to the Father means a lack of love for the Father.  Lovelessness leads to lawlessness which causes a breach in relationship with God.  Disobedience involves the desire to fulfill one’s own will rather than God’s will.  This is selfishness.  Disobedience involves the desire to please self at the expense of relationship with God.  Disobedience is a failure to accomplish the desire of the (supposed) beloved.  When we say we love God and disobey Him, we lie.  The disobedient person really loves himself!
Jesus’ love for the Father was intense.  His obedience involves great suffering and sacrifice.  Where there is great love for God, there is authentic compliance to His Will.
Jesus and You
John 14:15, “If ye love me, keep my commandments.”  Love comes before obedience.  It is possible to obey God without loving God.  But, you cannot love Jesus and disobey Him.  In Mark 10:17-23, the conversation between Jesus and a rich young ruler occurs.  In this conversation, the rich young man asks what he must do to inherit eternal life.  Jesus tells him to keep the law (the man was under the Law of Moses at this time).  The man replied that he had kept the law from his youth up.  Jesus told him that he lacked one thing.  Jesus told him to sell all that he had and give it to the poor.  The man refused and went away sorrowful for he had great riches.  The man loved material things more than Jesus.  Jesus loved him, but he did not reciprocate that love.  Here is a man who kept commandments without loving God.  Without love, obedience is vain (I Cor. 13:1-3).
Obedience to God is a test of love for God.  Jesus said if a man love me, he will keep my words.  Jesus affirmed that the words He spoke were from the Father.  To reject Jesus’ words is to reject the Father.  The Father loves those who love and obey Jesus.  Jesus and the Father will come and make their abode with those that love and obey Jesus.  Disobedience indicates lovelessness.  Where there is no love for Jesus, there is no relationship with Jesus.
How can you be in covenant relationship with Jesus when you disobey His will?  In Matt. 7:21-23, Jesus mentions those that claim relationship with Him but, in fact, because they have not obeyed Him, they are not known by the Lord and identified as workers of iniquity.
No one has ever been saved by faith alone.  To affirm such is to affirm that love is not an essential part of one’s relationship with God.  Faith and love are both essential to salvation.  The scriptures teach that we must trust and obey and that we must love and obey.

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