Monday, June 20, 2016

Love Part 4--The Unending Cycle of Love

One of the most interesting passages I've found on love is Ephesians 3:16-19, "That according to the riches of His glory He may grant you to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith-that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God." 

When I think of someone praying for strength, I tend to think of it as strength she needs to accomplish a difficult task, strength to withstand trials running runs long and hard, or strength to withstand temptation in which the flesh craves something that never satisfies. It is good to pray for strength in those times, but this passage indicates that Paul prayed for people to have the strength--strength to comprehend the love of God! While we comprehend and know God's love to a point, if we are honest we admit there is a part of us that knows to the core that a love like His love is incomprehensible!

When I realized I struggled with a stronghold of not believing I was loved, I spent some time exploring God's encounters with people--people just like you and me--who had infirmities, who were held captive by sin, who were struggling with unbelief, who were plagued by demons, who were lonely and looking to fill that loneliness in wrong places, who were longing to find significance through positions and power, many of who were mistreating others in the process that is until they encountered Jesus.

Those encounters were like no other encounters because the love encountered was pure, unselfish, unadulterated, and life-changing. His love touched lepers, restoring life to dying limbs. His love touched a woman caught in adultery, granting her life instead of stoning and silencing self-appointed judges. His love healed a bleeding woman who reached for the hem of His garment, restoring strength and giving physical, spiritual, and social life. His love granted sight to the blind, giving them the ability to see both the physical and the spiritual. His love granted acceptance to the woman encountered at the well who was rejected by five husbands as well as her community. His love touched the deaf and gave the mute a voice.

The depth, the breadth, and the height of His love becomes more vivid as we examine His prayer time in the Garden. As He entered it He felt sorrow so deep He was close to death. He wrestled long and hard with His Father's will, so full of angst His blood-tinged sweat dripped. As He prayed, His spirit was strengthened and love motivated Him to obey, to choose the cross, to bear our sin in His body, to experience God's wrath so we would not.

We are called to love as God loves, but it is impossible to do without experiencing it. We may have experienced at salvation, but we need experience daily . We do this by choosing every day to trust His love by taking God at His Word. We even do this when the circumstances we face are hard, when relationships are breaking down, and when the enemy is telling us we are unloved, unseen, and forgotten. By faith we believe and we His love to be as real and tangible for us today as it was when He walked the earth and He demonstrated it on the cross. We can find love in the difficult, broken, confusing, and loneliest places because His love never fails. When we memorize and mediate on verses that speak of God's love, His love will permeate our souls, becoming a strong, core belief that enables us to cling to Him no matter how hard life gets.

We can also read and reread about God's encounters with people. God revealed specific things about Himself when He related to the people in the Bible. When He encountered a barren couple surrounded by a culture that worshiped fertility Gods, Love called them out and provided them a man child in their old age, proving He was the Creator--the giver of life, the giver of joy, and the author of godly sex.

When He encountered young Joseph, He gave him dreams that stirred conflict between him and his brothers. They rejected him and betrayed him and sold him into slavery. But the boy clung to God who gave hope when he landed in a pagan nation. Then God provided food for him and his family in a famine by empowering the boy to love and forgive, and in doing so He preserved the Messiah's bloodline.

When He encountered the lady at the well, He ministered to her shattered heart, revealing to her and to us that He accepts, loves, and heals hearts that were used, abused, rejected, and treated like yesterday's garbage.

When He met the adulterous woman brought to Him in the temple, He exposed us to His grace, revealing that His acceptance sees past our sin to what we can become in Him.

When He reached out and touched the dying, rotting flesh of lepers, He showed He not only gives life to decaying flesh, but that His healing touch cleanses even when we feel the most untouchable.

As we examine God's encounters with people and look at those touched by His miracles, teachings, and prayers, we can't come away unchanged. Not only do each of the stories show restoration of human hearts, they show the restoration of relationships to a Holy God.

The more we meditate, the more we uncover of His grace. Through meditation we realize the first thing the Leper felt was the touch of God, the first thing the blind saw was His face, the first experience of unconditional acceptance at the well was being seen and heard by God Himself, the first exposure to grace the adulteress had was seen in the eyes of the only One who had a right to condemn.

Not only is God's love being showered on us, it is His desire to love others through us. He doesn't want us to continue to love in the mediocre selfish ways we are so prone to. He wants us to love sacrificially and unconditionally as He does. To do so we must choose to trust His love in the hard and choose to bask in it in the good. Because Christ loved even in exhaustion, grief, denial, desertion, and rejection, we can, too, with His help. His love strengthens us when we choose to love in the hard. We experience it as we love in the hurt. We experience it when we love the hard to love. We experience it as we love in rejection.

We will be more motivated to love when we remember His greatest act of love was expressed through the pain of the cross. As we we are rooted and grounded in His love, we are strengthened to begin to comprehend it, which strengthens us to love as He loves which strengthens us to comprehend it which strengthens us to love. No, I didn't accidentally repeat myself. For as long as we are fully present and plugged into our relationship with God we are in an unending cycle of comprehending His love and loving as He loves. I pray that God will strengthen you to comprehend the heights, the depths, and the breadth of His love.     

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

God Loves us through His Revelation -- How God Demonstrates Love Part 3

If I were asked to define eternal, at one time I would have said, "life that lasts forever" or "life that begins when I get to heaven." But my answer changed when I came across John 17:3, "And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent." The more I think on this verse, the more I realize that it is a very rich verse.

As children grow up there is a progression in the way they relate to others. When a mom first invites a child to play with her child, she soon realizes play is not automatic At age one a child is generally content to be in the same room with a friend, but each child is playing by themselves with their own toys. The interaction is very limited to and is usually a glance at the friend every now and possibly a push to get the other's toys. Over a period of time they will learn to play with toys together and will carry out quite creative, interactive stories with each other.  

When a child is first asked to describe a friend the description will be about external features like the color of hair or size. The description may also contain over behaviors like being loud, chatty, or mean. As children grow developmentally they see past the physical and communicate thoughts, ideas, viewpoints, hurts, and joys. At this point their descriptions of friends will include internal characteristics and one can get a clear idea of the character and personality of their child's friends. 

I think we do the same thing with God. When we first come to Him, we mostly know about Him. When I began to understand that eternal life is about knowing God I began to search my heart to see if I viewed God as an acquaintance or a more intimate relationship. I know the Bible reveals the character, thoughts, heart, and actions of God. So I knew if there was  lack of intimacy between me and Him it was on my part. I began to ask myself, "Do I really know God or do I only know about Him?" It is difficult question to answer and those who are task oriented may not give it much thought. However, those of us who are more relational by design contemplate the question long and hard and are often prone to shame in the process. To avoid that shame I've had to frequently tell myself all relationships, including the relationship I have with God takes work. 

I know I am a person who needs to guard against falling into the trap of thinking of God as an ideal, a law, or a being that is high and aloof. He is a living person with whom I can have an intimate relationship in the here and the now. It is God's very nature to communicate and it's His desire for me to know Him intimately Christ used terms like servants, brothers, friends, and children to describe His relationship with us and these terms denote intimacy to me. A. W. Tozer points out in his book,  The Pursuit of God, "God is a loving Person who is always present, speaking, pleading, loving, working, and manifesting Himself when we have the receptivity necessary to receive the manifestation." 

God wants us to experience Him! I found the following verses that really indicate that! Notice the senses He calls us to use:

Psalm 34:8 -- Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!

Palm 48:8 --  Your robes are all fragrant with myrrh and aloes and cassia. From ivory palaces stringed instruments make you glad

John 10:27 -- My sheep here my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.

Matthew 5:8 -- Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

If I'm not experiencing God continually, I need to examine my heart and discern why. It could be that I lack knowledge and can rectify that through His Word. It could be because something in my past causes me to doubt that God wants to relate to me in the same ways He relates to others, especially those named in the Bible. But a careful read of His word dispels that lie and shows me me that the people in His Word were as human as me. They were just as fail, just as sinful, and even just as victimized as me. There is not a one of us to whom God doesn't want to reveal Himself. I may at times struggle with the lie that God's daily presence in my life is for others, but the lie is from the enemy. I can choose to confess the unbelief and choose to sit before Him, soaking up His truth, exclaiming I believe and asking Him to help my unbelief.

So, how do I make our relationship with God come alive? First, I have to check my thinking. Do I think of God and the spiritual world as a reality or a fable? I must be ever be mindful that God is a person who thinks, wills, feels, loves, desires, and suffers as we do. I need to remember that to know God is to come face to face with a real person, not an idea, or a theology, or a system. Because He is holy and I am not--I can trust that a face to face meeting with Him will forever change me in some way. God desires me to experience Him and He is not now, nor ever will He play hide and seek. Hebrews 11:6 says, "And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him." He also says that it only takes a mustard-seed-sized faith! 

I can also come to know God through His Words. John 5:39 says, "You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me." If I want to know God, I can spend time in His word, not just reading it, but meditating on it and looking at it as a personal love letter from a very personal God. Psalm 46:10 says, "Be still, and know that I am God." Our culture calls us to busyness and I for one am prone to rushed quiet times in which i quickly read a passage and then deliver a quick dissertation of my wants or demands. But my strength, my safety, my security, my joy, and my transformation will never  come in the busy, noisy, messy places of my life, they will come in quietness at the Savior's feet as gaze at Him. 

We will never really desire to spend time in God's Word until we come to recognize and believe that our God is not silent and that His Words are relevant to us today. The Scriptures will help us come alive as we that God uses His Word to articulate His love in very real and personal ways. As we begin to comprehend God's love, we will begin to respond to His love with the desire to love Him in return. 

Tozer also pointed out that the people of the Bible who knew God were never completely satisfied with the depth of their relationship with God. They always longed for more. Moses, who saw God's glory in ways others hadn't expressed this desire in Exodus 33:13, "Now therefore, I pray thee, if I found grace in thy sight, shew me now thy way, that I may know thee, that I may find grace in the sight." 

I do not want to settle for knowing about God. Nor do I want to let the complex society I live in or church system I participate in replace the joy of knowing God. Life and all that it holds will always have a way of drawing me away from the true treasure--but those earthly treasures can never satisfy the deep longing for God written on my heart when I was knit in my mother's womb, proof in itself that He desires a relationships with me. Knowing God requires an experience of the mind as I interact through His word, the will as I stand against temptation and choose Him, and my emotions as I sit at His feet to experience His joy and His peace. 

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Limping to His Table

A few years ago I shared that one of the Old Testament stories I'e fallen in love with is the story of Mephibosheth.  His name is a mouthful, but. his story is an amazing story. It is a beautiful picture of our reconciliation to God. Mephibosheth was the young son of Jonathon and the grandson of Saul. It would have been customary for Jonathon to become king when Saul died, but because of Saul's sin, God appointed David to become the next king. Though David faithfully served the king, Saul was filled with a hot jealousy of David and his God-given abilities. He was also jealous of David's victory over Goliath and resulting popularity with the crowd and his anointing as the future king. In a fit of jealous rage, he tried to kill David and David realized through no fault of his own that the king viewed him as an enemy. This grieved the hearts of Jonathon and David who had a close friendship. Jonathon helped David escape and David vowed to show Jonathon and his family favor when he became king.

Eventually, both Saul and Jonathon were killed, leaving behind Jonathon's young son Mephibosheth. When Mephibosheth's nurse heard of their deaths, she feared they would be taken captive and killed and she fled with the young boy. In her hurry, she fell and injured both of his legs, leaving him crippled.

After David was established as king, he remembered his promise to Jonathon and he called one of Saul's former servants and asked him if there was anyone left from Saul's house to which he could show favor. When the servant told him about Mephibosheth, David sent for him.

I can't imagine how scared Mephibosheth would have been when he was called to the palace of the king his grandfather had tried to kill. He could have run, but he chose to answer the invitation. When he arrived, he humbly bowed before David and David, much to Mephibosheth's relief, told him not to be afraid because he planned to show him favor. When he came to the palace, Mephibosheth offered himself as a servant, but he was given a seat at the king's table,which meant he was now considered one of David's sons. He was also given all of his Grandfather's land so servants could work it and to provide all that he needed, which gave the crippled Mephibosheth dignity. Mephibosheth bowed low and said, "What is your servant, that you should notice a dead dog like me?" There is no answer given to Mephibosheth in that moment. But the answer is wrapped up in the love that David had for his friend Jonathon.

I love this story because each one of us is Mephibosheth! We were born enemies of God because of Adam and Eve's sin. Each of us have also been crippled by sin we have committed and the sin that has been perpetrated against us. We have been crippled in our ability to do good, crippled in our ability to manage our emotions, crippled in our ability to discern the truth from lies, crippled in our ability to love well, and crippled in our ability to worship and to honor our Creator.

Yet, just like Mephibosheth, we have been invited to the palace of the King of kings. But this palace doesn't belong to an earthly king, it belongs to the Lord, God Almighty. Like Mephibosheth we've come with nothing to offer our King. Just as Mephibosheth found mercy because of David's love for Jonathon, we have found mercy because of the Father's love for Jesus and His payment for our sin. Like Mephibosheth, we who didn't even deserve to be servants have been made joint heirs with the Son of God. That means that we, too, have a place set at the King of king's table.

There is a reason this story is so precious to me. A few years ago, I suffered a severely broken ankle. After seven months in a cast, I was finally given permission to walk without crutches and without the cast. At first, my ankle joint was frozen and my walk, as one friend called it, was a slow, labored hobble. Oh, how I hated the hobble, until God reminded me of Mephibosheth's story. I could so relate to him making his way to the king's table. I could even imagine the sound of his labored steps as he came to the table. Over time the joint loosened a bit and on good days the limp is barely noticeable. However, occasionally I overdo it and I hurt and the limp becomes more pronounced, reminding me once again of Mephibosheth and how he, who was once David's enemy, came to be seated at the king's table. And once again I am reminded of our stories and how we, who were once enemies of the King, are seated at His table. I am also reminded that through through His divine power He has given us every thing we need for a godly life through the knowledge of Jesus who called us by His own glory and goodness. Over time I've let go of the shame I associated with my limp and have grown thankful for a very real physical picture of how I have been reconciled to the King of kings. I know that as we, God's crippled children  hobble to His table, we are met with grace and mercy and we are loved with a love that has been shown through Christ's work of reconciliation. We come limping, but the Father sees us as we will be in glory.


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!