I don’t have many memories of my mom singing to me (probably for a reason—let’s just say she wasn’t a gifted singer– but I do have memories of her on the rare occasion singing “I love you a bushel and a peck, a bushel and a peck and a hug around the neck!” Just in case you are wondering, a bushel is 32 dry quarts, and a peck is 8 dry quarts. If you are not aware, the song comes from the musical Guys and Dolls and was sung by Doris Day in 1950.
For some reason that simple refrain brings back one of the few fuzzy, warm memories of my mom during childhood. I can still see her singing that song to me when I was little. In some ways it eases the more frequent memories of her criticisms when I was growing up. (Just for the record, in her late thirties my mom went to nursing school and once she had a career, she was a much happier woman and it showed in her parenting.) I found a picture with the saying, “I love you a bushel and a peck” on it and I gave it to my mom for Christmas one year. Since Mom’s death it has hung in my home, a constant reminder to me of a happy occasion.
February is a month when many people focus on love. With Valentine’s Day coming up on February 14, many individuals will have mixed emotions. There will be those who just think this day is all about retailer’s making a profit (and they do), or this is a stressful day when you buy valentine cards for your child’s classroom (how annoying is that?). Or it is a day when some will experience profound sadness because they lost their spouse, or they never had one to begin with, and they experience more loneliness on that day.
Whatever the reason, the focus of Valentine’s day, and mostly the month of February, is on love. So, let’s talk a little about love. In the Greek language there are four types of love that are mentioned in the Bible. You may already know these, but just in case, here they are:
Storge- Familial love (the love a brother has for a brother or a mother for a child)
Eros – sensual or romantic love (as mentioned in the Song of Songs book in the Bible)
Phileo – Brotherly love (church sisters and brothers, friends. It is the root for Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love).
Agape – God’s love, unconditional and sacrificial love.
It important that we have a deep recognition that God loves us. In internalizing that love, we can more easily love others. Did you know that in the NIV version of the Bible, the word love appears 551 times. That’s a lot of love.
Love is at the very core of the essence of God and God is constant in his love. Isaiah 54:10 says, “For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,” says the Lord, who has compassion on you.”
Of course, most of us are familiar with John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
God’s love for us is so great he sent Christ to earth so that he could not only show us the way we should be living, but also become the sacrifice for our sins. The power of that love cannot be underestimated. In Romans 5:8 we read, “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
If we study scripture, we know that God loves us. However, love needs to be a two-way street if we are his children. Jesus states that the greatest commandment is to love God with all your heart, soul, and mind. (Matthew 34:37-40) and the second greatest is to love your neighbor as yourself (which I will address in an upcoming post).
You would think it would be easy to love God in return for all he has given us. The very idea that he sent us his son as a sacrifice for our sins demands our attention. The question is, how do we show God our love?
Here are four ways I think we can show our love for God.
Abide in him.
The apostle John talks about abiding in Christ. And he is a man who knows what it takes to abide. Not only did he walk with Jesus and was intimate friends with him, but he also changed his whole life after his encounters with the son of God. It is interesting that Jesus called James and John “sons of thunder,” probably for their tempers and boldness. John is the only disciple who died a natural death, but he had plenty of trials while he was witnessing for the Lord. And yet, he abided.
In John 15:5 Jesus says, ”I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”
1 John 4: 15-16 “By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.”
If we abide in Christ and stayed connected to him, we will thrive and grow. The more intimate we become with the Lord, the more our love for him will flourish.
Obey his commands.
In 1 John 4:19 it says, “We love because he first loved us.” If we love God, then we need to obey his commands. In fact, Jesus says, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15)
While it sounds simple, sometimes we have difficulty obeying his commands. But the more we do, the closer we will become to being Christ-like in our attitudes and actions.
Don’t forget what he has done for us and praise God for his many blessings. Write a gratitude journal. Take a walk and just look at nature. It is a well-known fact that people who are grateful are also happier and more content.
Practice spiritual disciplines.
We need to continually seek God. We can do that through Bible study and practicing spiritual disciplines, such as prayer, meditation, fasting, solitude, and confession, among other things. Practicing these disciplines in our lives leads us to be closer to God. God promises that he is near when we call on him. “The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.” (Psalm 145:15 ESV)
Loving God. While we celebrate loving others, celebrating loving God is the best Valentine’s Day gift ever!