I was listening to Real Recovery last night- it’s one of my favorite shows. I like Real Recovery because it’s about redemption and renewal. As the show’s hosts were talking with the guest, one of the hosts asked the guest this question: “Do you chose not to sin because of the consequences or because you love Jesus?”
The guest answered he said that his old self would have said consequences and not for the love of Jesus. As I listened to them talk I questioned myself as well and I have to admit I thought immediately about the consequences of doing particular sins and didn’t really think about my “love” for Jesus.
How did you answer that question? Do you refrain from sin out of Love for Jesus or are you more concerned about the consequences?
-Re-adjusting my thought process with you, wanting a relationship and my savior’s love first.- Michele
John 13:34-35 “I give you a new command: Love One another. Just as I have loved you, you are also to love one another. By this, everyone will know that you are my disciples if you love one another.”
1 John 4:7-12 Dear friends, let us love one another, because love is from God, and everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 The one who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his one and only Son into the world so that we might live through him. 10 Love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, if God loved us in this way, we also must love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God. If we love one another, God remains in us and his love is made complete in us.
Romans 13:8 Do not owe anyone anything, except to love one another, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.
Galatians 5:13 For you were called to be free, brothers and sisters; only don’t use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but serve one another through love.
Ephesians 4:1-6 Therefore I, the prisoner in the Lord, urge you to walk worthy of the calling you have received, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope at your calling— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.
Peter Scholtes wrote the hymn “They’ll Know We Are Christians by Our Love” while he was a parish priest at St. Brendan’s on the South Side of Chicago in the 1960s. At the time, he was leading a youth choir out of the church basement, and was looking for an appropriate song for a series of ecumenical, interracial events. When he couldn’t find such a song, he wrote the now-famous hymn in a single day.
How can we bring unity to our marriage? our families? our nation? to the world? We cannot have unity without love. We need to create an atmosphere of love.
And, sadly, few of us truly know how to love one another.
I searched the scriptures for these “above all, have love” commandments. These scriptures were surrounded by instructions on how to create an atmosphere of love. I believe, if we surround our lives with these instructions, it will create an atmosphere where love will grow.
New Life in Christ. [Colossians 3:1-4] There is no love without God because God is Love. We must first look within to see if we have allowed Jesus Christ to come into our lives and transform us. Without Him, we cannot have the same attitude as Christ. [Colossians 3:1-4]
Put off wickedness and evil. [Colossians 3:5-9] If Christ is in us, then we must put off evil things. He cannot live together with evil. We must no longer have things such as sexual sin, anger, rage, spite, slander, lying, and abusive language, in our hearts and minds. We must live godly lives that exemplify Christ.
Now that we are in Christ …
We should show to others …
Compassion and kindness – Jesus said, “Treat others as you would want to be treated.” Put yourself in their shoes. Help them however you can. You don’t know what they have been through so just be kind and caring.
Humility – As Paul said in Philippians 2 “Don’t consider yourself better than others.” Get over yourself and consider the interests of others.
Gentleness – Proverbs says, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger”. How can we show love if we are yelling and screaming at each other or calling one another names?
Patience – Proverbs says that the one with self-control wins out in the end. Don’t get upset when other people succeed. Let God work it out. Psalm 37:7
Forbearance – In others words, give each other the benefit of the doubt. Put up with each other’s faults. Don’t we all make mistakes from time to time? One version of Colossians 3 says “Make allowances for one another and forgive..”
Forgiveness. Forgive, because God forgave you. Ephesians 4:32 Think of Christ on the cross. He said, “Forgive them. They know not what they do.” We, too, should forgive.
This seems hard to do,
… especially when the other party is not acting the same way. But truly this is how they will see Christ in you. It’s how they will find Christ; and thus, filled with love as well.
Indeed, we cannot do it on our own. We must allow Christ to live in our lives. We must give our lives totally over to Him so that He has every part of us. Then we will be controlled by Him and these things will come naturally. And His love will cover everything.
We must study his Word, worship Him, guide others to Him, and be thankful.
Let the word of the Anointed One richly inhabit your lives. With all wisdom teach, counsel, and instruct one another. Sing the psalms, compose hymns and songs inspired by the Spirit, and keep on singing—sing to God from hearts full and spilling over with thankfulness.
Colossians 3:16, The Voice
So it goes back to where we first started…
Find Jesus and allow Him to take control of your life.
I become overwhelmed with awe whenever I think of it. How God could love me, a sinner, enough to leave his throne in heaven, humble himself as a man, and die the cruel death of a criminal, just to conquer death and save me from that horrible death. It’s unfathomable.
The Love of God
Could we with ink the ocean fill And were the skies of parchment made Were every stalk on earth a quill And every man a scribe by trade
To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry
Nor could the scroll contain the whole
Though stretched from sky to sky
Oh, love of God, how rich and pure! How measureless and strong! It shall forevermore endure— The saints’ and angels’ song.
There are no better words to describe how I feel that have been laid out in this poetry. You must read this beautiful story of this hymn.
Lehman wrote “These words were found written on a cell wall in a prison some 200 years ago. It is not known why the prisoner was incarcerated; neither is it known if the words were original or if he had heard them somewhere and had decided to put them in a place where he could be reminded of the greatness of God’s love – whatever the circumstances, he wrote them on the wall of his prison cell. In due time, he died and the men who had the job of repainting his cell were impressed by the words. Before their paint brushes had obliterated them, one of the men jotted them down and thus they were preserved.”
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.
Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.
And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.
And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”
Things are Different Now
Things are certainly different these days. Covid-19 has drastically changed life as we know it. School is different. Work is different. Doctor appointments are different. Holy Week and Easter were different. Life is just radically different from what we are all accustomed to. Suddenly, an illness, flu unlike any other, has brought the majority of all humanity to a screeching halt. Just like a traffic jam, we wait. We creep. We proceed with caution. Oh, what an enormous change this is from our fast-paced lives!
It is weird. It is scary. But in a surprising twist, in an odd way, it seems to have brought about a calm leisurely pace that industrialized countries have not experienced for a long, long time.
It seems that families are having meals together, playing games together, working in the yeard together. I’ve seen and read stories of the very fortunate doing what they can to help those who are very financially strapped because of the situation. I have heard and seen stories of neighbors checking on and doing for neighbors that they have never met.
I know of teachers who go the extra mile to make sure that their students and their parents are able to tackle online learning and classes. Worship services are being broadcast over social media, enabling thousands upon thousands of people to worship even though we are socially distanced. The word of God is reaching some people who have not been listening for quite a while.
Is God Trying to Get our Attention?
I’m inclined to believe that the Lord has been trying to get our attention for a very long time. It appears that, as in the old testament times, a plague of sorts has caused mere humanity to stop and take notice. Suddenly, the bubble above our heads reads,
“Hello! You are not in charge! Almighty God is!”
And so, we are suddenly seeing more love, more compassion, more humility, more gentleness, and more patience displayed in our lives. In many ways, life is more peaceful and quiet. People seem to be more thankful for the little things in life.
Since we have no choice but to slow down, to assess everything we do carefully, to be mindful of others, now is our opportunity to live love. Now is our opportunity to let those around us see Christ more vividly than ever before. Why? Because now, everyone has slowed down enough to notice! Live love. Live Jesus. Show Him to others, and let God do the rest!
It is often asked, “Why is God so angry in the Old Testament and so loving in the New Testament?” But if we look closely we will find that God shows a lot of love in the Old Testament. And indeed, we can find His anger in the New as well. So possibly, we need to understand the difference between God’s wrath and man’s anger.
Let’s Dig into God’s Wrath vs. Man’s Anger
Man’s wrath most often comes from being wronged or misunderstood. It is usually motivated by selfishness and focuses on punishing, hurting, or destroying people while perpetuating, or justifying one’s own sin and selfishness.
God’s Word says, “…the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God”. (James 1:19-20) Notice the connection between understanding and anger found in Proverbs 17:27, “Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding.”
The wrath of God is righteous anger. It is “revealed from heaven” (verse 18). God is holy and righteous, and He cannot be in the presence of sin and evil. He is angered at the evil ways man has chosen to follow while He upholds all that is right and just. He is angered because He loves His people deeply, but sin has separated Him from mankind. (Isaiah 59:2)
Man’s Attempt to Live a Pure Life
Under the law of the Old Testament, man could not live a righteous life because they would always fail to perfectly keep the whole law. The law reminded them daily of their sin. They felt the guilt and the wrath of God every time they broke the law.
Every year they would return to the temple with sacrifices to atone for their sin as they asked God to forgive them. But it didn’t stick because the blood of animals can never atone for sin completely, only a perfect sacrifice could do that. (Hebrews 10:4) Sin and its guilt always returned. (Hebrews 10:2-4)
But under grace in the New Testament, there is forgiveness once and for all because Christ, as the perfect sacrifice, gave Himself for us. (Hebrews 9:26) There is no condemnation for our sins when we are in Christ! (Romans 8:1-4)
Christ, the High Priest, has opened the way for us to be completely forgiven, once and for all. (Hebrews 10:10-14) Because of this Covenant of Grace, God’s love seems more prominent than His Righteous anger.
Do you have questions about God and the Bible? Follow the Questions study at Gracefully Truthful this month for some answers. If you would like to dig deeper on the subject of God’s anger, continue reading my post at Gracefully Truthful Online Bible Studies for Women this week under the theme – Questions. My study will continue on Thursday, March 5th on GT.
In today’s society, many would want you to believe that God is distant or uninterested in our lives. That’s is if He exists at all. But I find Him very near to my heart. Ever watching and directing my life.
Today, I’d like to show you how God strives to be near us. I recently read Dee Brestin’s new book study, The Jesus Who Surprises. In the past, I have seen Jesus throughout history but this book study brought new excitement about how much Jesus (and God) has been involved with us since before the creation of the world.
Thou has formed us for Thyself,
and our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee.
Augustine, The Confessions
God has always desired to be near us.
He created us for the very purpose of having a relationship. In the very beginning, God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit existed together as one. They were (and are) the epitome of LOVE. That love grew to the point of desiring more fellowship. So They, the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, together created the universe.
Puritan Richard Sibbes wrote that the Father, Son and the Holy Ghost were happy in themselves and enjoyed one another before they created the world but that this kind of love cannot help but spread. He spoke of the living God as a life-giving, warming sun who delights “to spread his beams and his influence in inferrior things, to make all things fruitful.
Dee Bristen, The Jesus Who Surprises, chapter 2
His spirit hovered over the darkness waiting for someone with whom to be relational. God created the earth, the waters, the mountains, the skies. He said, “It is good.” (Genesis 1)
Then finally, He reached down with His hands and took the dust from the earth and created Adam in His own image. He bent low to the earth and breathed breath into Adam’s lungs. [Genesis 2:7] [He was not distant.] Because He didn’t want the man to be alone, He took a rib from the man and created a woman for him to love. Then He said, “It is very good.”
God Maintained Fellowship with Adam
Every evening God came down to earth to fellowship with Adam and Eve. God loved Adam so much; He did not want to force Him to return His love like a robot. So He gave man the opportunity to choose for himself. He set rules before him that would give him a wonderful life and would allow him to fellowship with Him continuously. There was only one DO NOT given, Do NOT eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. [Genesis 2:15-17]
Fellowship was Broken by Man
Sadly, Adam and Eve thought what would be the harm of eating from the tree. So they ate. And then they knew the harm. They suddenly felt the shame of their disobedience. And they covered themselves with leaves and hid in the bushes. [Genesis 3]
When God came that evening to fellowship together with them, they could “not be found”. God called to them, “Where are you?” But their shame made them fearful to present themselves to God knowing that they had sinned. God’s desire for fellowship never changed, but Adam and Eve chose to be distant.
But God Did Not Want to Be Distant with Adam and Eve
So he provided a way for them to restore that fellowship. Again, He remained near to solve the problem. He killed an animal to use the skins for a covering. The spilling of blood would be the only way to cover the sins of man. At least for then, God promised that one day He would provide a perfect lamb to cover their sins.
Yes, God could have remained distant right then and left a chasm between Himself and Man. But He came down to them. He gently brought their sin to their attention, but then He provided clothing. And He promised to provide an advocate, Jesus.
God Works Through History to Restore Man to Himself
All through the centuries, He came near to them, guiding and directing their lives. They would turn away and become distant from Him and He would gently draw them back to Himself. He promised to take their hearts of stone and live within them. So many times, mankind turned away, but God came close again and again. [ Ezekiel 11:19; Ezekiel 36:26; Jeremiah 31:33; Hebrews 8:10 ] Again let me share the words of Dee…
The Bible isn’t about us but about Jesus. Jesus is the greater Adam, who resists the temptation that felled teh first Adam. He is the greater Isaac, who is sacrificed for our sin. Jesus is the greater Moses, who leads His people out of slavery and into the Promised Land. And Jesus is the great sacrificial lamb, the perfect Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.
He came to earth to live with us. His son, born of a virgin, he came as a man, yet still God. His name was Jesus. [ Luke 1 & 2] He lived among them and taught them. But mankind again turned away. They refused to believe it was God in the flesh. They crucified Him on a cross made for thieves and murderers.
BUT GOD, raised Jesus to life again, defeating the grave, death, and evil. [Matthew 28] Once again and for all time the chasm between God and man had a bridge. The Distance was removed and we can fellowship with Him once again. Our sins are covered because Jesus paid the full price of the punishment.
He Desires a Marriage-like Relationship with us
Throughout the Bible, you will find descriptions of the kind of relationship God desires with us likened to a marriage. That is how much He loves us. Think of your first love; how you wanted to be with your love every moment. And when you were apart, you could only think of them. This is how God desires to be with us. God created marriage as a beautiful relationship so that we could understand the possibility of having a relationship with Himself. Songs of Solomon is the perfect Biblical example. There is nothing distant about a marriage relationship. God desires the ultimate love story with us. Dee Brestin put it this way.
This earthly love storypoints to the ultimate love story, that of Christ and His bride. A metaphor that the bride uses in this Song [of Solomon] to describe her beloved has penetrated my heart and helped me to trust Him when He hides.
Dee Brestin, The Jesus Who Surprises, Chapter Two
There are many more marriage metaphors within the Bible: Ruth and Boaz, Hosea who married a prostitute to and kept redeeming her to show us how God keeps running after us even when we sin, and absolutely we can look to Revelations 19 and the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.
God has given us the choice to be distant from Him or not distant. He has given the choice throughout scripture. The most obvious is when Joshua told the people to choose.
“If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”
in the Psalms
King David shares in the Psalms many times that God is guiding and directing us. Showing us the way to go. He desires us to choose Him but ultimately, the choice is ours to make.
I have chosen the faithful way; I have placed Your ordinances before me.
Let Your hand be ready to help me, For I have chosen Your precepts.
Who is the man who fears the LORD? He will instruct him in the way he should choose.
Psalm 119:30; Psalm 119:173; Psalm 25:12
In the Gospels
When he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.
But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
in the Epistles of Paul
For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved.As the Scriptures tell us, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be disgraced.”
Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.
Romans 6:23; Romans 10:9-11; Romans 13:2
Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.
And Finally, in the New Earth
As we study the Bible and see Jesus in everything, we will realize that this world is not our home. our Desire to be united with Jesus will increase more and more. This world and its evil will be destroyed. God will renew all things. The New Earth and the New Jerusalem will come down. We will live in the New Eden in perfect fellowship with God once again. The prophet Isaiah said and is quoted by the Apostle Paul.
No eye hath seen, nor ear heard, not the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him.
1 Corinthians 2:9
What a day that will be! C.S. Lewis said,
If I find in myself a desire which no experience in the world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.
Let me close with one last quote from Dee’s book.
But indeed, the invitation to our real home is open to all who choose to receive the free gift Jesus offers. He paid the price He did not owe so that we could have the life we do not deserve. It is a free gift, but you must come to Him in repentance and faith…. This is the Good News of the Gospel.
My hope is that seeing this same story from Genesis to Revelation will give you great confidence in the reliability of the Scriptures and the truths they hold. For Jesus that surprised the two on the road to Emmaus, and surprises us in our everyday lives, is not at all finished surprising us.
Dee Brestin, The Jesus Who Surprises
God is Not Distant
I pray that you know Him today. If you are skeptical or if you love Him and just want to celebrate His beautiful plan, Please get your hands on one of these study books. You won’t regret it.
P.S. Dee Brestin’s book is available now for purchase as well as her free videos studies. Find them here.
I just finished watching a movie, The Same Kind of Different as Me. I had to come to tell you about it immediately while my heart was still moved. This movie is based on the true story of an international art dealer who cheated on his wife. His wife forgave him but for penance, she required him to come with her and serve at a local homeless shelter. She dreams of an angry homeless man that is very wise. Low and behold he showed up at the shelter. Deborah tells her husband to befriend him. It took time and several tries but he finally makes friends with him and the story begins. I don’t want to spoil the story so I will stop there.
I will say that the homeless man taught me two things I hope to not forget:
We are all homeless, just looking for the way Home. Everyone has a past we are not proud of and we are homeless because this world is not our home. We need to look beyond what we see (race, status, education) and realize that God is the only way home. We are all the same kind of different and we need to come together to help each other make it home.
Some people need to have the “hell” loved out of them. Sometimes, we must look deep, really deep to find the good in people. But it is there. We can’t give up on them. Keep loving them until they find the God that loves them.
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Same Kind of Different is based on the book written by the actual people that experienced this God Story. It has some great actors like Jon Voight, Greg Kinnear, and Renne’ Zellweger. You will also love a beautiful song by Brad Paisley, Stubborn Angels.
Brad Paisley’s Stubborn Angel
True Story Told by Those who Experienced it.
If you are more of a book reader than a moviegoer, you can pick the book up in hardcover, softcover, Kindle, audiobook or CD MP3. There’s is even a children’s version to help you teach your children about kindness.
If you look around our world, watch the news, or even scroll through Facebook you will see that our world seems to be all upside-down. People seem to have completely lost sight of the things of God. Or worse, they have defied Him and blatantly speak evil as if to dare God to do something about it. At times, my heart becomes fearful at what God will do. It may not be here on earth but one day there will be a judgment for all who have not bowed down to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
But isn’t God a God of Love?
You might ask about this loving God and think, “If he loves us all, surely He wouldn’t send us to hell and the burning lake of fire. He would love us too much to do that, right?” Well, do you ever punish your children because you love them. Do you warn them and warn them until finally you have to say, “Ok, you’ll have to learn this one the hard way.”
I recently heard Greg Laurie explain it this way. God loves us so much that He gives us a choice. He doesn’t force himself on us. If we want to choose Him, we can live with Him forever in heaven. However, if we wish to get as far away from God as possible here on earth, then he will give us our desire in eternity and allow us to be with Satan and His demons in Hell.
An Upside-Down Kind of Love
In essence, the problem is that we have become completely mixed up about the love of God. We use the word love in so many ways that it has lost it’s meaning completely. We love ice cream and we love God in the same breath. How is that possible and what does it really mean to love?
In secular usage, love is also more passive than active. Love is something that happens to us, something over which we have no control. We speak about “falling in love.” We equate falling with an accidental action, not with a decision. We fall when we slip or are pushed or otherwise knocked over. The old ballad declared, “I didn’t slip, I wasn’t pushed, I fell … in love.” Another old standard celebrated the passive power of love with the words “Zing went the strings of my heart.” Our heartstrings do not go “zing” because of a conscious decision of the mind to engage in a certain action. This view of love portrays it as a romantic power that creates flutters in the heart, trembling in the knees, and flip-flops in the stomach. On the other hand, the biblical view stresses the active side of love. For example, we are commanded to love not only our neighbor but even our enemy. How does one fall in love with an enemy? To love one’s enemy presupposes that enmity is real. We really do have enemies, and we usually do not like them very much. But the command is not to like our enemies; it is to love them. But how do we love someone we don’t like? Sometimes lovers declare that they do not only love each other but like each other as well. The cultural view of love suggests that it is possible to love without liking. That may be true if love is used as a synonym for a sexual or chemical attraction. But it makes no sense if love is defined in terms of personal affection. In that sense, love goes beyond and builds on liking. To love our enemies means primarily that we behave in a loving way toward them. We treat them with the same kindness and integrity that we treat our friends. Herein is the active aspect of love. It is action that is commanded by God, not a feeling.
The Definition of Love
The fact is, there are many different definitions of love. Even in the original Greek, The Bible uses several completely different words for “love”. Here are four of them I retrieved from Precept Ministries International
Φιλἐω (Phileō) – This is brotherly love. The love you have for a friend.
Ἀγάπη or Ἀγαπάω (Agapē or Agapaō) – Unconditional love. Love that keeps on loving even when love is not returned or when a person is unworthy of love, or unlovable.
Στοργή (Storgē) – based on chemistry. It is a quiet, abiding feeling within a man that rests on something close to him and that he feels good about
Εροσ (Eros) – erotic love. Love based on self-satisfaction.
My experience of love these past two years has been heartbreaking. But when I look back- it’s the areas that broke my heart that taught me the most.
Broken expectations leave a person left with what remains. And what remains is the truth, no matter how painful that truth may be.
Often in family and friendship- especially the kind of friendship that is viewed as family, we expect these friends and family to always have your back, always be there for you. After all, when we think of love, that is one aspect that seems most definitive of it.
The truth of love, however, is that the depth of it runs differently for each person. Their depths of love are based on their understanding and perception of love and those things are based on a person’s experience in life.
Unconditional Love is rare
All that to say, love, true, unconditional love, is rare. Love that doesn’t expect things in return and isn’t based on anything other than simply wanting the best for another person, because you simply and only care about that person’s wellbeing- that experience, is rare.
When experience breaks your heart enough- soon expectation is broken. And it’s there that humans are left to decide how they will allow love back in their hearts.
Allow Truth to Define your Heart
What I have learned is that your heart, is your responsibility. Giving someone the power to influence it is a big gift and it is one that shouldn’t be done lightly. You’re responsible for allowing what shapes and defines your heart. It is very important to have a healthy boundary for yourself and to allow truth first to define your heart. Truth takes awake selfish ambition, truth keeps you humble enough to know you’re not perfect and brave enough to know when to stand and speak up.
I’m not sure that this post is so much about love as it is about self-respect, but I believe one cannot love from a truthful place without first having self-respect.