Encouraging Love

We, in the Ruff household, had some special visitors over the last week. One of our teenagers from Atco stopped by last weekend to share some candy with us. It was so great to see his sweet face and get a hello from him (and his mom). Then this Thursday we had two girls come over for dinner and to love on Hannah for a little bit. It was awesome to share some time with people we love. Part of me has “momma-like” love for them but most of my love for them is brotherly (or should I say sisterly?) love. It reminded me of my study on love and I wanted to share a little more from my studies.


In 1 Thessalonians 4:9 it says, “Now about your love for one another we do not need to write to you,for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other.” Paul is encouraging the people of Thessalonica that they do a good job of loving one another, because they have learned how to love from God. I like how Paul recognizes something they do well and encourages them to keep going in that way. To our three visitors from this week…you have loved on us in a cool way! You have shown great love and we appreciate it. To everyone else, who can you encourage this week? Share some brotherly love and lift each other up with words of affirmation. 

So many lessons

We are love abusers. We use the word love for everything. I love your outfit! I love grilled cheese sandwiches. I love my husband. Don’t you just love my daughter? Love is one word in the English language, but it has so many meanings. 

About a month ago when I was studying “love” in the Bible I came across a verse that only said the word love once, but it was assigned two different Greek words to represent that love. “Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children,” ‭Titus‬ ‭2:4‬ ‭NIV‬‬ 


This verse led to several impactful lessons for me. 

1. Philandros and philoteknos were both used in this verse. Philandros means fond or man, affectionate (as to a wife), while philoteknos means fond of one’s children. Where we used one word, there were actually two words! Before children I don’t know that I would have thought this was important or even interesting, but now…I get it! Completely! I love Kyle and Hannah in completely different ways. And I’m not quite sure how to put it into words. I love my husband and cannot image life without him. I love him more today than I did yesterday and I hope our love continues to grow as we get older. My love for Hannah was deep from the moment I held her. It didn’t take time to grow. It was a fierce love from minute one. My love has grown, but it was always there for her. It’s just different, and completely fitting that two different words represent this in the Greek.


That’s pretty cool, but I couldn’t stop there. I needed to see what was happening around this verse because it uses a pronoun (they) which I do not know who it refers to. 

“You, however, must teach what is appropriate to sound doctrine. Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance. Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God. Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled. In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.” Titus‬ ‭2:1-8‬ ‭NIV‬‬

2. This passage is directing the believers in Christ on how to live their lives. The older women should be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, or slaves to wine (vs. 3) so that they can teach the younger women how to love their husbands and children (vs. 4). This is to be done in action as well as in spoken teaching. I think about the older women who have given me advice and smile. Many of these women have spoken advice and lived it out. My mom and mother in law of course have done this for me, but so have Sarah (one of my friends who has walked me through becoming a pastor’s wife) and Carla (a sweet friend from church who sets an amazing example for my marriage). These ladies and so many more have told me how to love, but more than that they have showed me. 
3. One thing I always try to be aware of is how the teenagers watch my marriage. Because Kyle and I do ministry together the students see our marriage weekly. They observe how we respond to stress, disagreements, love, humor, and so much more. I want to be a “older woman” (you may never see me type that out again) who sets a good example for the next generation. I want to be someone that a young girl looks to for advice, but I also want to be someone who they watch working with my daughter and husband and say when I’m in that position I want to do it that way too. 
Looking into the love in this verse has taught me so much more than just the Greek word behind our English word. It has taught me about who to seek advice from and to be aware that others may be seeking advice/watching for an example from me. 

Brotherly Love

Brotherly love, or I guess in my case, sisterly love is a HUGE part of my life. Sisterly love for my little brother (who isn’t so little anymore), students at church (which feels more like mom lovin’ sometimes), students at school, co-workers, friends… the list could go on and on. In 1 Peter, Peter is writing to Christians who are being persecuted. He is encouraging them to be strong and love one another. 
“Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble.” ‭‭1 Peter‬ ‭3:8‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Love one another. Love here is philadelphos in Greek. It means fond of brethren. AKA brotherly love. We are called as Christians to be united, love, and be humble. 

Peter goes on in verse 10 to say, “For, “Whoever would love life and see good days must keep their tongue from evil and their lips from deceitful speech.” ‭‭1 Peter‬ ‭3:10‬ ‭NIV‬‬

This love is agapao which means to love. This verse is almost a quote from Psalm 34:12. “Whoever of you loves life and desires to see many good days, keep your tongue from evil and your lips from telling lies.” ‭‭Psalm‬ ‭34:12 NIV‬‬

The love in Psalm 34 that is used is ahab which means to have an affection for. Peter used the Greek word while the one in the Psalm is Hebrew. Both words mean practically the same thing. 

As Christians we should be united in Christ, love other Christians, and not retaliate with evil words, but with love and affection. I actually wrote 1 Peter 3:8 on the chalk board in my kitchen to remind me daily to love my brothers and sisters in Christ! 


I want to de exactly what this verse says. Be like minded with other Christians, have sympathy, sisterly love, a tender heart, and humble mind. I pray that God will teach me to be what Peter has written. I want to love life and see many days, so I need to learn to control my tongue and not speak evil. I want to love!

For the Love of Money

 “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”‭‭1 Timothy‬ ‭6:10‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Can I get an AMEN? Loving money can be so dangerous! Money doesn’t lead to happiness, although many people think so. Money doesn’t make life easier. Look at Ted Turner…tons of money…very unhappy and still has problems. 

“Love” in this verse means love of money, which is philaguris in Greek. The translation essentially put the definition of the Greek word into scripture. Doesn’t seem like anything cool to study until I read a little further in the chapter. 


“But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.”

‭‭1 Timothy‬ ‭6:11-12‬ ‭NIV‬‬

The “love” here is agape, which is to love, have affection for, benevolence. So here is the cool part… Paul is writing to Timothy and warning him of the evil that comes from loving money and telling him to flee the love of money and a whole list of other things (look at verses 1-10). Instead Timothy should pursue loving with affection, and righteousness, godliness, faith,…He encourages Timothy to fight the good fight of faith! God doesn’t promise us happiness or earthly wealth when we accept salvation. But He does give us so many other promises (always be with us- Hebrews 13:5, direction- Proverbs 3:5-6, etc.). Today pursue loving with affection and flee the love of money!

Godly Friends, Godly Advice

I have a friend who talked me off of a cliff this week. Not an actual cliff, but a figurative one for sure. I’ve been worried about the cost of formula…not that Hannah eats any now…but whenever we do stop breastfeeding formula is expensive. Breastfeeding is free. I hate breastfeeding! I can hear all the moms out there. They are either raising their hands saying Amen! or they are gasping saying It’s the best time of day with my baby. No matter which mom you are,or if you are somewhere in between, I still have an amazing friend who gave me great godly advice. 

When I called to seek her mommy-advice she not only encouraged me, she poured truth into my heart. I don’t know if she had her bible out or just had it memorized but she reminded me that God took care of the birds and surely He would take care of my daughter who He made in His image. 

“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?”

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭6:26‬ ‭NIV‬‬


She spoke truth at a time when I needed to be reminded not to worry about money, food, clothing…but to trust that God would provide for us. I am so thankful to have friends like her who can listen when I need to talk, advise when I need help, share when I am in need, and speak truth when I need to hear from God. Thank you for being an amazing prayer warrior, friend, councilor, teacher, and sister in Christ! 

Book after Book

I love to read, but last year I just couldn’t read. I was so nauseous for the first few months and would get worse when I tried to read. Then I had a few months that I could read without getting sick. After Hannah came I had way better things to do than read, like shower, eat, SLEEP, feed her, stare at her, be with her… the list goes on. But this year I want to read book after book. I love to read and have a goal to read at least 2 books a month. I finished 2016 by reading For Married Women Only by Tony Evans. It is an awesome, easy read. This short booklet has a match for your husband and can be read in one sitting (if the baby doesn’t start crying, husband doesn’t need dinner immediately, or dog don’t knocks a bottle of Gatorade off of the end table). It is a look at what the Bible says our roles are as a wife. My favorite quote from the book is, “Submission has to do with function, not being. It does not signify that a wife is inferior to her husband in terms of her worth before God.” How beautiful is that? Just because I submit to my husband doesn’t mean God values me less than my spouse. We are the same in the eyes of God as long as we are saved by Christ because when God looks at me he sees Jesus! This book reminded me of my job as Kyle’s wife. I am his helpmate. I am his number one fan. I am to respect him and submit to his leading of our home. 

New Year, New Love

Love is something God has been teaching me about since Hannah arrived. This year my word is going to be Love. Love for my daughter, husband, family, Lord, church. Love! 
I want to focus on how I love people and whether they receive love that way (5 love languages has helped me in the past…just need to refocus). Kyle bought the love language books for kids and teenagers a few weeks ago. I want to apply them to my students and youth at church. I have recognized that some family members receive love in the total opposite way of how I give it…so I need to adjust to better show my love for them. 

I also want to learn so much more about how to love my husband. I have been gifted several books on loving Kyle and strengthening our marriage (I asked for them). I can’t wait to read them. Our love should only grow with each day!

The Bible has so much to say about love, God’s love for us, and how we are to love others and Him. I want to focus my quiet time on love. I want to surround myself with scripture teaching me how to love. 

So here is my disclaimer: my posts this year may get repetitive, seem mushy-gushy, and slightly obsessive with love. You have been warned! BUT I think we can all learn how to love others, ourselves, and God better. So this year I am choosing to LOVE!

Loving Others

From birth all of us love ourselves. We think of our own needs before others. We want what will make us happy with very little concern for the people around us or the situational circumstances. We love ourselves. So when Jesus tells us that the second greatest command is to “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (‭‭Mark‬ ‭12:31‬), we are in for trouble. 


I can’t help but think of my almost 12 week old daughter when reading this passage. When she is hungry she doesn’t care that the bottle needs to be warmed, her diaper needs to be changed, or the fact that mommy can’t drive and feed her at the same time. She loves herself (even though she hasn’t been taught to do this) and could careless about the circumstances. 

So if we are to love our neighbors as if they are ourselves, we are to care for them as if they are us. This isn’t natural for us. We want to take care of me, myself, and I before anything. Becoming a wife taught me that my husband and his needs had to be placed before mine. This was hard at first and I have to consciencely decide to put Kyle first daily. Becoming a mom taught me about this even further because my daughter can do nothing for herself, unlike my husband. I must feed her before myself, bath her before myself, dress, soothe, and care for her before me. Even as I have been writing this I have stopped several times to love and care for Hannah. 

Jesus says we should love our neighbors as ourselves. The word neighbor does not mean the people who live on either side of you or in your neighborhood only. Neighbor pretty much means any person you encounter during the day. We are to love others, not just our next door neighbors, the way we love ourselves. Think about it! Love everyone the way you love yourself! That’s crazy hard!!!

So today, and each day moving forward, I want God to teach me how to love others the way I naturally love myself. Putting them before myself. Caring for their needs, physically, spiritually, and emotionally, before my own. 

God is Love

On Sunday I shared how God was teaching me about His love for me through my daughter. He has shown me more of His love with each day since her arrival, and I can’t shake this overwhelming feeling of awe.

When I look at scriptures about love I start with the passage found in 1 Corinthians 13. “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails…” (‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭13:4-8‬ ‭NIV‬‬) This definition of love is incredible to think about. How often do I fail to love like this. But when you pair it with 1 John 4:8, which tells us that God is love, it becomes…unimaginable. 

If we put “God” into the 1 Corinthians passage instead of “love” or “it” the passage takes a new form (at least in my mind). God is patient, God is kind. God does not envy, God does not boast, God is not proud. God does not dishonor others, God is not self-seeking, God is not easily angered, God keeps no record of wrongs. God does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. God always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. God never fails…


Wow! 

I’ve read the passage several times through and still can’t imagine why God chooses to love me. He is patient in his love. He is kind in his love. He does not envy (remember that envy and jealousy are different). I could keep going… but I think you should read the passage again. 

God is patient, God is kind. God does not envy, God does not boast, God is not proud. God does not dishonor others, God is not self-seeking, God is not easily angered, God keeps no record of wrongs. God does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. God always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. God never fails…

I must remember that God is love. 

Faith, Hope, & Love

Do you ever read scripture and feel like God taught you His word in a situation who’ve walked through? I know I do…constantly. I was reading in 1 Corinthians 13, “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” (‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭13:13‬ ‭NIV), and it hit me that God has used the last three years to teach me this verse. 


Faith

The first year we tried to get pregnant we were faithful to try, try, and try again. We prayed and read God’s word and had faith that He would send a baby to us in His perfect timing. My faith was stretched and molded into something greater with each month that passed. I’m not saying I belong in the Faith Hall of Fame but I learned about Hebrews 11 first hand. “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”(‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭11:1‬ ‭NIV‬‬). I couldn’t see my future children, a positive pregnancy test, or the Lord who said he was with me, but I knew that God was with me and that He would either give me the desires of my heart or change my desires (which I prayed many times as my heart was aching). Faith was where it all began for me as I began my journey to becoming a parent.


Hope

The second year we were trying to get pregnant we had so much hope for what God was going to do in our lives. We hoped for a positive pregnancy test each month. We hoped for a baby to be sent to us. We hoped for our marriage to be strengthened through this trial. We hoped for our relationships with the Lord to be deepened. We had hope. I meditated daily on Romans 12:12; “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” I can now see that hoping for a child deepened my prayer life. I say this because I expressed my hope through prayer continuously. Those prayers were what helped me hang on to the Lord. 


Love

Since Hannah has been born (I can’t believe she is a month old already), God has been teaching me, and continues to teach me, about love. I knew God loved me, but I didn’t understand the extent to which he loved me. Until you have a child I don’t know that you can fully understand God giving his son to die for our sins. I would do, and will do, anything to guard, shield, and protect Hannah. I do not want any harm to come to her. I cannot imagine giving her up for someone else’s life to be spared, but that is exactly what God did for me and for you. That kind of love is beyond my ability to understand. Each day I pray that God would teach me to love him as fiercely as I love Hannah. 

So here I am, at the end of a three year journey, realizing why the greatest of these is love.