Thursday, March 29, 2012

This is Love

"This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another…we love because He first loved us."
1 John 4:10, 11…19

What is love? Is it an emotion or a choice? I used to wrestle with this question every time I heard a pastor say that love is a choice or an action. A while back I was attending a Bible study in which we were asked if it was okay for Christians to fake love. The discussion was so lively and thought provoking that I came home and searched the Scripture. As I read through Colossians, I found that Paul said some interesting things that really resonated with my heart. First, we were loved by God and we were reconciled to Him. Because of this, we are free from the penalty of our sin. Someday we will also be free from even the presence of sin in our hearts as well as our surroundings. But, in the here and now we live in human bodies and we have human emotions and very human thoughts. The only way we can be free from the power of sin is to choose to live by faith. That faith includes the belief that God is powerful enough to help us to do His will. In Colossians, Paul called it putting off the sinful nature and clothing oneself with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. He also said that we are to bear with and forgive each other. Because Paul chose to use words like "put on," it seems to me that we do have a choice to treat other in a loving way, maybe even a choice to love or not to love. That implies that love is in part an action. This fits with what the verses above say. Let's gleam what we can about God's love and see what kind of love He is calling us to demonstrate
First, God was the initiator of the love relationship that we have with Him. He chose to do this when we were His enemies and were living independently of Him. We see this by His decision to send His son, Jesus, who in love took on the form of human flesh so that He could demonstrate the depths and the riches of Both the Father’s and the Son’s eternal love to us. Were we lovely in our rebellion? Were we lovely in our selfishness? I seriously doubt it. Nothing about us would have caused God to do what He did. He did it because He chose to.

God chose to because it was His desire for us to experience love, and to be drawn back to the life He created us to live. Secondly, God paid a huge price for our benefit -- His Son. He placed him in the hands of one of His creations and made the Son who had no needs dependent on His creation for survival. He sent Jesus from glorious heaven to humble circumstances. He sent Him from the presence of His perfect love to a place that is full of hatred. He sent Him from a Holy sinless place to a place surrounded by all sorts of perversions and selfishness. He sent Him for a place where eternal life is the norm to a world in which all creatures are moving towards a physical death. It was in His death that the sinless Christ atoned for our sin and our selfishness and imputed to us His perfect goodness. Was it easy? I don't think it was. I think it was painful for God to watch His Son die. We know there is great joy and celebration in heaven for every sinner who repents, but I can't help but also wonder if there isn't grief when a person reaches the point that his heart is so hard that all of heaven know that he will never repent.

We are called to love like Jesus loved. What does that mean? It means that we will initiate love relationships with others. Our natural tendency is not to seek people to love, but to get people to love us. However, in Christ our supernatural tendency is to be lovers. As we learn to bask in the truth of God's endless sacrificial love we will be able to initiate love to others and invite them into relationships, not only with us, but the One who enables us to love as He loves. In Him, we will be filled so that we won't wait for other's to invite us, we will seek them out. It means that we will make sacrifices to show love to someone else. It may be monetary sacrifices; sacrifices of time or a sacrifice of something like our pride. For example, what will your friends think if they see you talking to certain people God calls you to love? If your friends assume the worst, will you choose to love anyway? Lastly, the motive of our love will be for the benefit of the other person rather than for us.

In closing, there will be times in our humanity that love will be warm and fuzzy and easy to do. There will be times where we will have to choose to put it on in the form of patience, forbearance, compassion and kindness. There will be times we may have to fall on our knees before our God who so lavishly demonstrated His love for us and confess that we don't have it in us to love someone and ask Him to shed His love abroad in our heart. I don't think that is fake, but it is the reality that we face as human beings living in bodies that are affected both by sin and a fallen world.

Sometimes, I find myself just longing to be with the Lord, knowing that His presence will once for all perfect His love in me. But, until I am face to face with Jesus I will at times only be able to love in His power and strength. So, how are you doing in the love department? Have you initiated any friendships lately? Have you made any sacrifices to demonstrate His love? Have you done a loving act solely for the recipient’s benefit, not your own?

Prayer: Father, Thank you for initiating a love relationship with us. Thank you for Your sacrificial love and for atoning for our sin with the blood of Jesus. Please help us to bask in Your great love and fill us with the desire to walk in Your love and to love the way You do. Help us be bold in initiating relationships and put it in our hearts to sacrifice our time, energy, and our pride so that others might know they are loved not only by us, but by You as well. Amen.

Valued by the Creator

"Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows."
Matthew 10:29-31

What is it that I really value? I know I tend to value things like my home, my car, and anything else I consider to be a big budget item. I also tend to value sentimental things like a ring given to me by loved ones, family photos, or letters from friends and relatives that have passed away. I value people with whom I have relationships. However, I have struggled with my own value and worth as a woman. I work in a ministry that has support groups for eating disorders and survivors of childhood abuse and sadly many of the women in those groups struggle as well because they suffer great shame and self-condemnation. There are a lot of different reasons women don't see themselves as valuable or precious to anyone, even the Lord. A while back I heard a lady make a statement that drove a God's truth deep into my heart. She said, "The way we measure the worth of someone is by the length that someone will go to for them."

I thought long and hard about that statement. Most of us know we are precious to God because we are a part of his creation. We have all heard that, but sometimes it just goes in one ear and out the other. Now in light of the lady’s statement, we can also deduce that Christ went to great lengths to show us how much He values us and loves us. The first thing that Christ did was to leave the comforts of His heavenly home and take on the confinement of a human body. It’s hard to imagine how God who has limitless creativity, power, and knowledge would want to inhabit a human body with all of its needs, limitations, and aches and pains just to reveal His Father’s heart to His creation. Secondly He was beaten, mocked and then died a cruel death on a cross so He could solve our sin problem. Psalm 103:10-12 says, "He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us." He died a horrible death so He could remove sin and shame from us. When we really think about that we can't look at ourselves in a negative way. For whatever reason and with all that we have done wrong, God valued us enough to send His Son to earth. Christ valued us enough to submit to His Father's will by taking on flesh, suffering pain, persecution, death, and shame for us and paying the ultimate price for us to be reconciled to God–amazingly we can’t do anything to make Him value us more than He already does.

It’s important to realize we can do nothing that would cause God to value us less. Isaiah 49:15-16 says, "Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me." Nursing is one of the most precious, tender, and intimate acts between a mother and a child and it’s neat to see that God uses that to describe His care for us. Humans are fallible and often pain is caused when a child's needs aren’t met. Yet, God promised us that He will never forget us and that we are ever before Him. We can't help but wonder if the engraving He is talking about in the passage was a reference to the future suffering He would go through on the cross. Even after He was raised from the dead His scars remained. A God who has power over death or who could heal a man of leprosy could have healed His body without the scars--yet He chose to leave the scars–maybe as a reminder of the value He placed on us. We aren’t worthless–He bought us with His life!

I can’t help but wonder if you struggle with self-worth as I did. I hope you have a deep understanding of your value as a child of God. I wonder if those of you who don’t value yourselves have been deeply wounded by another. I wonder if some of you were like me and struggled with such strong perfectionism that you despised yourself because you fell so short of the standard you set. Or maybe you struggle to believe the God who created you can get past your sin or imperfection to love and value you. Can you grasp that His value of you was shown in the death He died for you? Can you believe He holds you near and dear to His heart in ways no other person can? Can you let His truth transform your negative worth into a healthy self love?

Prayer: Father, we thank You that when we were sinful and enemies of Yours that You still loved us enough to send your Son to earth. We thank You that He valued us enough to live among us and to suffer pain and even death for us. When we are getting knocked around in this life and tempted to believe the lie that we have no worth help us to remember what lengths Christ went to so He could demonstrate to us how much You valued us. Apart from You we are depraved and hopeless. But in you we have purpose and eternal value. In You, we can rejoice because we are being molded in to the women you designed us to be. Amen.


"Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 
No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs—
he wants to please his commanding officer.
Similarly, if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not receive 
the victor's crown unless he competes according to the rules.
The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops."
2 Timothy 2:3-6

Have you ever wondered what you would tell your family or friends about Christ if you knew you were never going to see them again? That is what the book of 2 Timothy is about. It is Paul’s letter of encouragement and exhortation to Timothy to live fully for the Lord. I remember having the same urgency in wanting to express all I knew about Christ to my children as they were leaving home. Desperately wanting them not only to know and understand how much the Lord loves them, but also wanting them to know how to honor God with their lives. In this passage Paul gives Timothy three examples to follow.

The first example he gives Timothy is that of a soldier. He told him that a good soldier is willing to endure hardship and will stand firm in the face of opposition, hatred and discomfort. These were all things that both Paul and Jesus had endured. He also reminded him to keep his focus and not let everyday things draw his mind away from the things God called him to. We often think the stage in life we are in is what is making it difficult to focus on God, but the truth is every stage of life has its distractions. Students are distracted by school, young men by their careers, couples by wedding plans, moms of preschoolers by the never-ending demands of young children, moms of school aged children by everyone’s busy schedule, middle aged parents are distracted by the burden of college expenses, and then there are the grandchildren. In each stage of life we have to choose to let Christ to be our focus for all we do. Lastly, a good soldier chooses to live so that he pleases his commanding officer. Every decision we make needs to honor God.

Paul also suggests that we follow the example of athletes. We know an athlete trains and prepares for the race. A part of the preparation is learning the rules and boundaries of the race. If an athlete doesn't follow the rules completely, he can't win. That means as Christians we need to live consistently and always ready to give an answer for the hope in us. We also need to realize everything is sacred for us and that means it is important to our relationship with the Lord that we maintain integrity at all times -- even when nobody is looking. Our culture is a culture of relative values and we need to remember partial obedience isn’t obedience and sin is sin even when everyone is doing it.

Most of us, as Christians, love to talk about the gospel with other believers. However, we are usually unprepared and sometimes not even aware of the opportunities we have to share Christ or to at least cultivate "the soil" for future sharing by loving and building relationships with unbelievers. If we want to partake of the joy of sharing Christ, we need to live as farmers do – fully focused on the job of preparing the soil, planting the seed, watering and feeding the plants, and plucking the harvest. That means we would be constantly busy loving and building relationships as we allow others to observe our lives. It means we are busy sharing the Scriptures, our testimonies, and opening discussions about God. Lastly, it means we are discerning and ready to "reap the harvest" by inviting others to make a decision about Christ.

Again, we have to accept that the Christian life is not a life of ease, but a life of discipline and of intentionality. Sharing Christ sometimes includes enduring hardship while remaining focused on the Lord and choosing to live a life pleasing to Him. We are called to constantly be in the process of sharing the gospel. The questions are: Are we really will to live obediently? Are we focused and diligently working to build relationships so we can share Christ? Last, what are we willing to endure so that others may gain freedom from sin, death and hell? Are we willing to endure a dirty look, physical discomfort, loneliness, hardship, pain, or even death? We need to mature to the place that we’re willing to endure what Christ endured for us? I hope that we never forget to that Jesus for enduring the cross and the shame of our sin for us. I hope we never take it for granted. When we find ourselves tempted to do that it would be wise for us to begin to name each of our individual sins – the sins we commit with our actions, thoughts, and our words as well as the sins we commit due to our inaction, lack of loving words, or neglect to think on Godly things. He desires to help us develop endurance in us, will we yield to His work?

Prayer: Father, Christ was such a wonderful example of the life that you want each of us to live. He was focused, full of integrity, obedient, and willing to endure hardship so that You might be glorified and honored and so that we might be saved. Help us to follow His example. Help us to live lives that are pleasing to you, obedient and constantly busy doing your will. Help us stand firm and strong and to endure until you call us home. Amen.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Sacrificing our “Isaac’s”

"Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God -- this is your spiritual act of worship."
Romans 12:1

Have you reached a point in your walk with the Lord that you honestly can say that all that you are and all that you have belongs to Him? Have you, like me, tried giving your whole life completely to God, but know deep inside there is still something you are holding back? Are you afraid that He may require something of you that you really don't want to do or something you don't want to give up? It could be a career, your family, a relationship, your college plans, a ministry, or some kind of provision that makes you feel more secure about the future.

I dedicated my children to God the moment they were born and I was content in that dedication until two of them were in the military and we faced the possibility of them being deployed to fight in a war. I told myself they were God’s, but then found myself pleading for Him not to test my faith by taking them to war.

In my struggle God brought to mind the story of Abraham and Isaac from the book of Genesis. God took Abraham from his home and promised to make of him a mighty nation. Abraham followed God and time passed and his wife was barren. When they were in their 90's God came to Abraham and renewed his promise of children. In the face of barren, aged bodies they miraculously bore a son whom they dearly loved. When Isaac was a young man, God asked Abraham to offer him as a sacrifice. When I think of all that Isaac represented to Abraham, I think I get a clearer picture of what God was asking him to do. Isaac was the son they had desperately desired during many painful years of infertility. He was also the son who fulfilled God's promise to Abraham. That means Isaac was the proof of God's favor towards Abraham. When I think of sacrificing any of my children, my heart hurts. Even though they are a tremendous blessing, they are not the foundation of God’s plan as Isaac was. So, it had to be a very confusing request and emotionally difficult for Abraham to obey.

However, Scripture indicates Abraham immediately obeyed. It would make me feel better if there were at least one objection from Abraham recorded. Maybe he did it in his heart or maybe he had resolved earlier in his life to fully trust God. We do know Abraham knew the promise of being a father to many nations was still in effect and had been told by God that Isaac was the one to fulfill that promise. He also seemed to trust that God's ways are not our ways and that He can operate outside the norm to achieve His greatest purposes.

Had Abraham not bound Isaac and placed him on the altar, he would not have seen God's provision. He would not have had the prophetic picture of God's provision of a sacrificial lamb. He would have not had the intimacy with God that came from facing one of his biggest fears–that of losing the child of his old age. It had to hurt Abraham to think of sacrificing Isaac, yet it was in the giving of his son that God provided a substitute sacrificial lamb. I wonder what made it possible for Abraham to let go of the son he had longed for most of his life. I believe it was because Abraham believed God is good and that He was provider of all that Abraham needed in his life. He obviously chose to trust God to be true to the character reflected by His names--loving, faithful, just, and holy. I am betting Abraham practiced obeying God in the small stuff so when the big stuff came it was more natural to obey. 

When my husband and I were moving away from Mississippi I did not want to leave. I loved our church and looking back, it was an "Isaac" to me. I talked to our pastor about the move and he told me he wished we could stay. Then he said something, I will never forget, "You have grown so much here and I don't know why God would have you move. However, I do know God is love and God is good. He will bless you through the move." What he said was true. I cannot tell you how many people and blessings I would have missed had we not moved. I have also learned many lessons and grown in intimacy with God through the circumstances and "moves" I have encountered since. I did not do it as graciously as Abraham--I left crying outwardly while kicking and screaming inwardly. I adjusted slowly and painfully, but God was faithful in His blessings and work in my life.

Is there an "Isaac" in your life to which you are clinging? Are you afraid to trust God with it? Could you give Him what you cherish most? God shared His Son with you so why would you withhold anything from Him? God is sovereign and deals with us individually so He may choose to return your "Isaac" to you or not–can you praise Him no matter what He does? Can you trust God's character with what you hold dearest in your heart? Those are the questions I continually have to ask myself. Will you lay your "Isaac" at His feet--for it is in that sacrifice of our Isaacs that we receive God's best.

Prayer: Father, your sovereignty is a scary in that we are not in control. Help each of us lay all that we have and all that we are at your feet. When we cling to anything we lose focus of who you are and become more fearful and selfish. Please help us to let go and rest in your perfect love and infallible character. Our faith isn't faith until it is tested. Give us courage to remain true to you in every circumstance. We love you. Amen.


Several years ago I realized that I often sped through my Scripture reading and gave it little thought. Yet, when I had meaningful conversations with friends or family members I replayed them over and over in my head. One day it occurred to me, that if I thought more about what God says in his word that I would not only know more about Him, but I would come to know Him in a personal way. I would know more about His thoughts, His character, His intentions, His passions, and His actions. So, I began to take one verse at a time and think on it and then journal about it. At the time I was served as a volunteer in youth ministry and shared my “Thoughts on God” with those girls. For a while I have been rewriting and posting them on this blog. I have realized when I am in the Word or move through my day focusing on God's presence that I have wonderful opportunities to Meet God in the Everyday. The Everyday can include storms, blessings, hard things, scary things, exciting things...just any where, anyplace, any time. I hope that you will be able to engage with what I write with both your head and your heart. I also hope you will be challenged to love, trust, and know the God of the Scriptures. It is my prayer that as you read you will experience Him at a deeper level and share pieces of your journey in the comments. It is my desire that we form a safe community of believers who pursue the God who loves us radically, eternally, and without reserve. As a precious pastor once told me, "Don't forget, Wendy, God is Good!" I find myself compelled by His Goodness and His Love to share so others can know Him through all the ups and downs of life. Please feel free to dialogue back and to share how each passage impacts you. If if there is a passage you would like me to write on or if you would like to be a guest blogger, please let me know. I am just learning to navigate this blog and appreciate the kind comments you have made in the past...I promise I will even try to respond if you leave a note. If you are blessed please share the blog with friends!