Friday, May 25, 2012

Remain in His Love

Most of us have wondered how much we are really loved. Amazingly, God tells us the answer to that in John 15:9-12. "As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you.  Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in His love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this; Love each other as I have loved you." Christ tells his disciples that He loves them just as His Father loves Him. When we think about that it has a lot of implications. Jesus was loved with an eternal, radical, unconditional, abiding, consistent, and bold love. It was a love that motivated Him to action and it was a love that was sacrificial. Christ demonstrated that love for us in His life and His death. His Father demonstrated His love for us by sending His son to pay for our sin and by giving us His Holy Spirit as a seal, comforter, and teacher. 
What does it mean to remain in His love? Christ tells us that if we obey His command we will remain in His love. At first this seems like God loves with a conditional love. However, it wasn't a condition as much as recognition of the way we react when we sin. When Adam and Eve disobeyed God, they hid from Him and He pursued them. Peter left his ministry and returned to his fishing profession when he denied Christ and Christ pursued him to restore him to ministry. As children, we hid form authority figures when we did something wrong. And as adults, we are no different than the Biblical characters who hid. If we are honest, we probably still have a tendency to want to hide the things that we feel shame over from friends and mentors. For me personally, my hiding comes from the fear that I will be rejected if I share the “bad parts of my heart.” But the more I understand about God and His unconditional love, the more comfortable I am sharing my faults with Him and the more I trust He will help me grow. 
          The main thing God wants us to do is to love one another as Christ loved us. That means He wants us to extend grace and speak truth. It means accepting a person where they are and then gently reminding them what God wants them to become. If someone shares a struggle, we need to accept that that is where he or she is at the moment. If we listen and love first, we earn the right to encourage him or her to let God remove the struggle and replace it with godliness. We are more helpful when we remind them that their God is bigger than their struggle. If someone shares that she is struggling with temptation, we can accept the truth of the struggle with out judgment and then offer support and accountability as we remind her that her God is bigger than her sinful urges. If someone is struggling with an addiction we can remind her that her God is bigger than the angst of addiction and walk her through the struggle. If someone is struggling with sins of the tongue, we can remind her God is big enough to help her control the impulse to use the tongue in a negative way. We can encourage a person to get to know God, who is powerful enough to change even the worst of sinners. 
          When we are struggling, it is wise to make sure we are real and have people who love the real us. They can’t if we wear a mask to cover our struggle with sin. We know it is risky, but we are called to live in the light and confess our sin to one another. Sometimes fear drives us to wear masks so others won’t reject us. The truth is that some people won't love us if we are real no matter how hard we try to get them to. Little children who grow up in a secure environment are great because what you see is what you get. They are happy one moment and angry the next, silly one moment and crying the next. We need other believers in our lives that allow us to be that real. If we cover up our struggles with love, temptation, anger, and forgiveness, we don't give the people God places in our lives the opportunity to love the real us—when someone loves the “fake person” we present, we still feel unloved. We need people who not only accept our goodness, but our "badness" as well. And we them to be bold enough to encourage us to work through our struggles and grow in Christ. If we love each other, we remain in Christ's love and we will experience His joy and our own joy will explode. 
           When we feel unloved, we can be real with God about that and cling to the truth that Christ has loved us in the same way and the same depth that God has loved Him. We can trust His love no matter what we have done or what we have thought. When we feel unloved, we can remember the time we were most aware of His love and know that love is still radically true. We can look for hidden sin and confess it and know that forgiveness is sure. We want to be like John, the apostle, who stayed as close to Christ as He could. We want to abide against His chest where we can hear His heart beat and listen to His words--"as the Father has love me, so I have loved you.   

Prayer:  Lord, thank you for loving us like You do. Help us to remain in Your love and to love others in the same way. Help us to remember when we fail and want to hide that You want us to remain by confessing it to you. Lord fill us with strength to know and understand you love.  Amen.                  

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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!