February 2016

Showing Love

Over the last couple of weeks we have been studying Biblical love from I Corinthians 13. Paul lists the properties of love in verses 4-7, “Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, (5) does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, (6) does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; (7) bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” What we learn is that agape or Biblical love is active, not passive; it is controlled, not unbridled; it is other-directed, not selfish; it is universal, not just for a select few; it is not necessarily emotional, but an act of the will; it takes risks with others; and it initiates the action. 

Now as we come to February, the love month, how do we practice Biblical love in relationships? How do we make others feel loved? Unfortunately, how we show love is not always interpreted as love by someone else, because we are all different and show love in different ways. Gary Chapman in his book “The Five Love Languages” helps people see how we express and receive love is based upon what comes naturally to us- what makes us feel loved.

Chapman has observed that people give and receive love in five ways:
1. Words of affirmation- It simply means making statements that show you value your spouse. They can be statements that are either spoken or written. Statements such as, “You look nice today.” “I love you.” “Thanks for taking out the trash.” 

2. Giving and receiving gifts- People say, “It is the thought that counts.” But it’s not just the thought in your head that counts, it what you do with the thought-the gift that comes out of the thought. It doesn’t have to be expensive, just something that shows your spouse you had him or her in mind when you selected the gift.

3. Acts of service- This involves doing anything you know your spouse would like you to do.  It could be cooking a meal, washing the dishes, vacuuming the floors, or putting gas in the car.

4. Quality time- This is giving your spouse your undivided attention for a period of time.  It could be sitting on the couch together, talking, going out to eat, or taking a walk.

5. Physical touch- This refers to touches, hugs, backrubs, holding hands, kissing, etc.

Now the problem comes when someone with love language # 1 dates  someone whose love language is # 4, or a # 3 marries a # 5. When you get involved or marry someone who has a love language that is different than yours (and most of us do), there is the potential danger of misunderstanding, conflict, and unmet needs. For example, someone with the love language of words of affirmation expresses their love through words and looks for love through words. If they marry a gift giver, then they will be looking for words of affirmation, but the natural expression for the spouse is to give gifts. The result is usually someone feeling unloved. The key is to recognize your love language (how you feel and desire to be loved) and learn your spouse’s love language (how they feel and desire to be loved). 

Since February is the month of love, let’s make this practical.  As you learn about your spouse’s love language, try to demonstrate love to your spouse by their love language. It might be strange and awkward for you at first, but give it a try. If you don’t know how, get help from others as to how to express that type of love in different ways. Trying to love your spouse by their language is like learning a foreign language; it will take time. But for the sake of your spouse and your love relationship, it is important that you try, try again, and keep on trying.  
So do something special for Valentine’s Day.  Learn your spouse’s love language and give their gift of love!

                                                                                                                            -Pastor Mike Kotrla

February 2014

Living with a Porcupine

A young son asked his dad if it is true that in some parts of the world a man doesn't know his wife until he marries her. The dad replied, "That happens in most countries and all parts of the world!" Marriage is a very interesting institution where two strangers fall in love, then commit their lives to one another. In the early years they think that love will solve all their problems, but eventually, they wake up and say “Oh my, what have I done? Who is this person beside me?” The wife comes to realize that her knight in bright and shining armor leaves the toilet seat up and his princess shaves her legs with his razor. Her new perspective of reality is a grumpy little boy who is late and watches too much sports. His new perspective is a moody and controlling woman who is “always emotional.” They both will realize that falling in love is easy, but staying in love is hard work! To make the marriage work, both have to learn to quit trying to change the other person and accept each other with their imperfections and weaknesses. They soon realized that they fell in love with a personality, but now they live with a character. As one woman noted, “My husband and I fight over religious differences. He thinks he is God, and I don't.” Thus, to love a special person is to understand that they are quite different from us: they come from different families, grow up in different environments, and have different personalities. 

A personality is the combination of traits which we inherited from our parents. Our personality sets broad guidelines on our behavior patterns that will influence our life as long as we live. A person's personality makes him/her outgoing and extroverted or shy and introverted; it impels some people to become art and music enthusiasts, whereas others are sports or industry-minded.  God created each person with a unique personality and unique strengths of character. These distinctions allow us to accomplish different tasks according to the Lord's plan.

Many years ago I was introduced to a behavioral model that identified four basic, yet different, personality styles. This model helped me understand the strengths and weaknesses of each personality styles. However, when you understand your personality style, then you are able to see your strengths and weaknesses in a proper perspective, as well as seeing others as normal even though they are different than you. Here are the four styles:

# 1- “D” Style- Active/Task Oriented: A person who is dominating, directing, daring, driving, demanding, determined, doing and decisive. However, this person needs to learn: that you need people; relaxation is not a crime; some controls are needed; self-control is important; adhere to personal deadlines, and to be sensitive to other people’s feeling. Paul would be a Biblical example of a “D” personality. 

# 2- “I” Style- Active/People Oriented: A person who is inspiring, influencing, impressing, interacting, impulsive, and interested in people. They are emotional, trusting, pleasant, sociable, and generous. However, this person needs to learn: time management; deadlines are important; being responsible over being popular; being objective in decision making; learn to control emotions, be more realistic when appraising others, and be more firm with others. Peter would be a Biblical example of an “I” personality.

# 3- “S” Style- Passive/People oriented: A person who is steady, stable, shy, security-oriented, servant, submissive, specialist, loyal, patient, deliberate, team-oriented, predictable, protective, undemonstrative, and passive. However, this person needs to learn: change provides opportunity; friendship isn’t everything; discipline is good; boldness and taking risks is necessary; flexibility, feel that their accomplishments are worthwhile; and receive sincere appreciation. Moses would be a Biblical example of an “S” personality.

# 4- “C” Style-Passive/Task Oriented: A person who is cautious, competent, calculating, compliant, careful, contemplative, fact-finder, accurate, diplomatic, systematic, conventional, analytical, sensitive to criticism, and detailed-oriented. However, this person needs to learn: to work with others; make quicker decisions; show a willingness to delegate; have respect for a person worth as much as their accomplishment; deadline must be met; develop more tolerance for conflict; and more optimism will lead to greater success. Thomas would be a Biblical example of a “C” personality.

Identifying your personality profile will help you understand yourself and how you relate to others. Realizing that God made each person with a unique personality style should cause us to do two things: First, we should have a proper perspective of ourselves.  Romans 12:3 says, "for through the grace given to me I say to every man among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.  Second, we should be willing to accept others with their strengths and weaknesses. Romans 15:7 says, "accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God.”

Falling in love with a person is one thing. Staying in love with a person is another. It is like two porcupines that have to get warm in the winter. They have to learn how to get close without stabbing one another with their barbs. Out barbs are our personalities. And to create intimacy with the person we love, we have to learn and understand their personality trait, so that we can blend ours personality with theirs. And it is not always easy, because that other person (even though we love them) is different from us. Thus, make your “porcupine” feel love by understanding their personality and practicing unconditional “agape” love!
                                                                                                                           -Pastor Mike Kotrla 

February 2013

Feeling Loved

Philosopher Aristides, describing the first century Christians to the Roman emperor Hadrian said this, “They love one another.  They never fail to help widows; they save orphans from those who will hurt them.  If they have something, they give freely to the man who has nothing; if they see a stranger, they take him home and feed him.”  That’s Biblical love. It is not “intellectual speak” or saying “I love you” because that is what you are supposed to do, but it is practically touching or helping another person where they actually feel loved. James writes, “What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him?  (15) If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, (16) and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and be filled," and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? (17) Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself” (James 2:14-17). James is simply saying that faith has to be expressed, and when it is expressed others feel it. There is a difference in loving someone, and actually making someone feel loved. 

The Greek word for love, “agape,” is one of the rarest words in ancient Greek literature, but one of the most common words in the New Testament.  Unlike our English word, it does not have a romantic or even sentiment connotation. It is not a demanding love that hides behind flattery to get what it wants-it is simply doing what is best for the one loved. It is being unselfish and more concerned with giving than receiving; caring than comfort. And those who belong to Jesus Christ are encouraged, exhorted, and commanded to love one another this way. 

There are times when love might not be received as a positive feeling, because Biblical love is expressed by admonishment, rebuke, or correction of sin. But most of the time, love should give a positive feeling. It is responding to a person through the lens of I Cor 13:4-7, “Love is patient, love is kind, and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” Patience, kindness, forgiveness, etc…can be seen and felt by the recipient.

When we look at relationships, especially marriage, the goal of making another person feel loved becomes extremely important. Cary Chapman’s book “The Five Love Languages” helps couples see that expressing and receiving love has nothing to do with gender, but is based upon what comes naturally to us-what makes us feel loved. So realistically, we all want to feel loved-that is how God made us. Selfishly, we seek our love and use people to love us. But as Jesus Christ has changed our life, we now have the capacity to truly seek out and love others so that they feel loved.  Chapman has observed that people give and receive love in five ways: (1) Words of affirmation; (2) Giving and receiving gifts; (3) Acts of service; (4) Quality time; and (5) Physical touch. The goal of love in a marriage is to understand your own love language (how you feel and desire to be loved) and learn your spouse’s love language (how they feel and desire to be loved), then to love your spouse so that they will feel loved. However, we will always be fighting our own human tendency to want to feel love and be loved. But to create a truly intimate relationship, you need to discover your spouse’s love language and try to meet his or her love needs. 

I will be the first to tell you that this premise is hard, because we have to put our feeling aside and do what it best for the other person. Deep, down inside us is the thinking that if I love this way, I might be taken advantage of and my love need will not be met.  Yes, that is the risk you must take, and we all have been burned at one time or another, but that is God’s way, and He will provide for us in any and all circumstance.

                                                                                                                            -Pastor Mike Kotrla

February 2012

Romantic Love 

Being in love is a wonderful thing. Yet, why is romance usually dead after marriage?  For many, why do the days of marriage seem so dull, even boring?  These are real and difficult questions. Truly, marriage is based on a commitment, but as you read the book of Song of Solomon you see that God intended the love relationships to be filled with romantic love. Solomon gives six insights to romantic love in 2:8-17.  

Be enthralled by your lover’s name (8,9)
"Listen! My beloved! Behold, he is coming, Climbing on the mountains, Leaping on the hills! (9) "My beloved is like a gazelle or a young stag.” She calls Solomon “my beloved” 27 times in this book.  It is a Hebrew term that denotes a lover.  Notice her pet names: gazelle and young stag. In ancient times the gazelle was a symbol of sexual virility, and was a most complimentary term. 

Be enthusiastic about your lover’s coming (8,9)
"Listen! My beloved! Behold, he is coming, Climbing on the mountains, Leaping on the hills! (9) "My beloved is like a gazelle or a young stag. Behold, he is standing behind our wall, He is looking through the windows, He is peering through the lattice.” She is enthusiastic about his coming. “Leaping and skipping” implies joy and happiness.  As he is looking for her, he can hardly wait to cast his eyes upon this lovely creature. And of course, this causes her to be thrilled with anticipation. This passage shows that when you find that right person, you will be excited and enthusiastic about his arrival!  This is a clue for romantic love, if you are not excited about the person coming to you, or not sad when he or she is gone, then there is probably something wrong with the relationship.  

Be enticed by your lover’s companionship (10-14)
"My beloved responded and said to me, 'Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, And come along. (11) 'For behold, the winter is past, The rain is over and gone. (12) 'The flowers have already appeared in the land; The time has arrived for pruning the vines, And the voice of the turtledove has been heard in our land. (13) 'The fig tree has ripened its figs, And the vines in blossom have given forth their fragrance. Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, And come along!'" (14) "O my dove, in the clefts of the rock, In the secret place of the steep pathway, Let me see your form, Let me hear your voice; For your voice is sweet, And your form is lovely."  The bottom line of these verses is that she enjoys being with him and finds it very attractive to be next to him. Out of all the people that you enjoy being with, your partner should be number one-your best friend.

Be energized by your lover’s commitment to resolve problems (15)
"Catch the foxes for us, The little foxes that are ruining the vineyards, While our vineyards are in blossom."  This is definitely not a description of a fox hunt date.  It is a commitment to work together based upon a real-life picture. The foxes are the small foxes that would get through the walls surrounding the vineyard.  It is a symbol of the little problems that threaten love, a relationship, and a marriage.  The idea is of ridding a couple’s vineyard of the small foxes that could damage the fruitfulness of their love.  Anyone who is in love, must also be committed to resolving the problems that threaten a relationship. 

Be encouraged by your lover’s loyalty (16)
"My beloved is mine, and I am his; He pastures his flock among the lilies.” This woman is encouraged by the intense and unwavering mutual loyalty.  One of the great things that bind a couple together is the sense of belonging. This belonging or loyalty produces security. 

Be excited about your lover’s time  (17)
"Until the cool of the day when the shadows flee away, Turn, my beloved, and be like a gazelle Or a young stag on the mountains of Bether." She knew that Solomon had many duties and would be away, but she anticipated their time together and could not wait for his return.  Every couple needs time alone to rekindle the romance and heighten their love. 

Romance shouldn’t be dead, especially after marriage! Our love relationship shouldn’t be dull and boring. It is each person’s responsibility to make our spouse feel loved. This month, work at rekindling your romance!                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            -Pastor Mike Kotrla