Most women love Valentine’s Day. With candy, flowers, sweet cards, and romantic dates with our forever-love, who wouldn’t? But if we’re not careful, our view of love can become tainted by the messages presented on commercials and greeting cards. True love extends beyond a candlelight dinner into the home where whiskers are left on bathroom sinks, dirty clothes on the floor, and toilet seats are left up. True love is evident in the things we do and the words we say throughout the year. Today Catrina Bradley shares the depth of her forever-love, reminding us that love is not only a gift of grace, but also a continual, consistent choice of action.

LOVE IS A VERB by Catrina Bradley

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her..”  Ephesians 5:25

My husband might be the epitome of this passage of Scripture. So much so, that, sometimes, I come dangerously close to worshipping him. He has no problem saying those three beautiful words we all want to hear – “I love you” – but he wouldn’t have to verbalize it to for me to know. From the day we became one flesh, his actions have proven it.

Brad knows my flaws and recognizes my limits. His love for me encompasses my weaknesses, and strengthens them. When I commuted an hour and a half to a high-pressure job, he encouraged me to hire a housekeeper. I wouldn’t have minded cleaning my own home, but when I dragged my body in the door at night, I was physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted. The long commute and the longer days zapped my energy and my motivation.

Only once was a “Spouse of the Year” honored at company’s annual Christmas Party. My husband was that spouse. I was in charge of the party, and he ran errands for me, purchased gift certificates for my boss, and put up with my crazy hours and foul moods for weeks. The usual stuff. He is always the winner of my Spouse of the Year award.

Before I left for work every morning, I pulled my pre-packed lunch out of the refrigerator. Brad said it was no big deal to fix my lunch; he was making his anyway. And when I returned home at night, his second load of laundry was usually drying.

More often than not, he makes our supper. He also does most of the grocery shopping, so he buys yummy easy-to-make dinners, or heat-and-eat frozen delicacies. Sandwiches are always an option, and some nights we just have cereal. He’s easy to please.

He is also is the most selfless person I know. (He’d probably disagree; he’s also humble.) I vividly remember stealing into my friend Leigh’s house at midnight to whisk her away from her abusive husband while he was at work. She, her two children, and her cat spent the next few months as members of our household. Brad doesn’t even like cats. Or children for that matter. Another year we shared our home for three months with a couple who were between house closings. Many friends in dire straits have been helped out of financial holes by my husband.

We have never been in a financial hole. Brad learned stewardship from his father and is a responsible caretaker of our earnings. He thinks of little things that add up. He won’t carry a balance on a credit card, preferring to withdraw from savings if necessary instead of paying interest. And not a month goes by without a deposit into that savings account. I was reared by frugal parents myself, and I’m no spendthrift, but I do need reining in once in a while. He is reason to my fancy.

Brad is not what you would call “romantic,” but he is oh-so thoughtful. The grocery store has four rows of my brand of deodorant, but I can hardly ever find my favorite: Original Scent Solid. One day, Brad came home holding up a bag. (Did I mention he also does the grocery shopping?) “Honey, guess what I found?” He grinned, and pulled out .. “Original Scent Solid!”

I cheered, and thanked him.

“But wait.” He reached into the bag again. “I got you not one .. not two .. not three .. or even four .. but FIVE .. Original Scent Solids!”

I know I’ve done nothing to deserve such a mate, and all too often I fail to reciprocate. Ephesians 5:22 says, “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.”  Submission might be repulsive to some women, but I have no problem with it. What I need God’s help with is being the Proverbs 31 wife. Verse 10 says it best: “An excellent wife, who can find?” Not here, that’s for sure. The more Brad shows his love for me, the more I realize that I need to get my act together!

James said that “Faith without deeds is useless.” (James 5:20)  I think the same might be said about love without deeds. Is your love more than three beautiful words? Is it a verb? Or, like me, do you need to put wheels on your words and get into gear?

Lord, thank you for Your amazing, undeserved, unconditional love. Please help me receive that love, and share it with more than just my words. Help me to be the wife you want me to be. Amen.

Catrina Bradley grew up in Iowa but now makes her home in Georgia where she serves her church as Admin & Ministry Assistant. She has been blissfully married for over 20 years and has a beautiful, talented daughter and two precious puppies. Her Christian poetry, essays, fiction, and devotions have been published in numerous on-line and print venues. She posts quasi-regularly at her blog Scattered Seeds and monthly at Jewels of Encouragement.

Visit her online at Scattered Seeds.

Last Sunday our youth pastor, Joe Nelson, gave such a powerful message, I asked him if I could share it here. He started with the song, How He Loves, which just happens to be one of my favorite songs. Apparently, it’s one of his, as well. (Below is a shortened version of the original message. To listen to the message in its entirety, click on the link following this article.)

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In the picture: Joe Nelson and his family

I absolutely love that song, it has to be one of my favorites. I think we often forget how God loves us, and that is where I think we should we start this morning. When I sing this song and think about how He loves me, I can’t help but swell up with emotion. What if we lived every moment of our lives like that? My favorite part of the song is when verse two ends and we return to the chorus. We sang, “I don’t have time to maintain these regrets when I think about the way He loves.” I don’t focus on my mistakes, I am consumed by His love.

I have a hard time grasping the extent of God’s love. This is something I have been wrestling with a lot this summer. I was reading in my quiet time this week and I came upon these verses, maybe not new verses for many of us, but they really spoke to me. Ephesians 3:17-19 ”so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (NIV)

I think we lose sight of the love God has for us. We forget the height, depth, and width of His love. We take it for granted.  In the Ephesians passage, Paul is praying for the early church, that they would be able to fully comprehend God’s love. And this is where God has me right now.  I need to pray this very thing for myself and for our church daily. And honestly, I have never even thought to pray like that.

You know how I know we are missing it? If we fully understood or appreciated the Love God has for us, our lives would be radically different than they are.

Listen to what James says in James 2:14-20 “What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, ‘Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, ‘You have faith; I have deeds. Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder. You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless?”

Some may say that James’ teaching here contradicts the teachings of Paul that we are saved through faith alone, not by works, but that’s not the case. There were essentially two pendulums to the faith/works debate and both men where trying to argue against each side. When Paul talked about works, he was addressing legalism. James is referring to the works that are a natural outpour of faith in Christ. Some people were twisting faith in Christ to say that no expression of works was necessary. I think many Christians in our culture would swing to this side of the pendulum, which is why I’m addressing it.

We are quick to argue that salvation comes through faith alone, and usually want to stop right there. But as James points out, faith alone, without outward expression, is dead, useless, and incomplete. Love and action work together.

As I prepared this sermon, I thought of a little friend we made this year in Mexico. Her name is Emily, and we think she has bad allergies and maybe asthma. She has had trouble breathing and has even passed out a couple of times. One time for several minutes. While visiting with her and her family, they showed us the medicine they needed to get for her. It’s Singulair, but they didn’t have the money. They knew their little girl could pass out one of day and never wake up. But there was nothing they could do. If Renee and I had said, “We hope you find the money,” we would have been useless.

Jesus told us to love others as we love ourselves, and if it had been our children in need of medicine, we would do whatever it took to get it for them. We knew what we needed to do. It meant we would have less cash to buy junk at the market. We gave them the money the next morning and that afternoon they brought us the receipt and showed us the medicine. Before we left, our entire team had pitched in and Emily had four months worth of life-saving medicine.

This is love followed by action. It is useful; it is helpful.

If our team would have known about the need, had the power to help, and not helped it would have been useless right? So is our faith without deeds–when people say they have faith but don’t back it up with their action. Is that you? Are you guilty of claiming to have Christ in your life, but not really living it?

Click here to listen to the sermon in its entirety.

Joe Nelson holds a B.A. in psychology from Southwest Baptist and a Masters in Counseling from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He currently serves as youth pastor at Northland Baptist Church in Kansas City, MO.