Love The Lord

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What does it mean to love the one who defines love?

Love was in the mind of the one who thought up and foreknew all that is. His voice boomed with love when He spoke all into being.

From the first sin of man to the day His perfect (all-loving!) son was rejected and crucified, even separated from God, love was at work. Even after that, after He was denied, abandoned, and all that He said that no man could have possibly known came true, His return was filled up and overflowing with love.

He showed His love for us by dying in our stead and rising again, even while we were His enemies.

Before and after that, the Lord’s love has also:

Been patient. Bearing with us through endless sinning and rejection and idolatry and selfishness (see: the entire Old Testament!)

Been kind. Giving every good gift, blessing us with His presence, peace, and an ability to live a righteous life.

Not envied, not boasted, not been proud, with the Lord Lording over us His perfection and power. Even when He has been jealous for us, He has done nothing to force us back to Him.

Has not dishonored anyone or been self-seeking. Has not been easily angered. He keeps no record of wrongs– offering for free to wipe all record of our sin and look on the sacrificial lamb of Christ instead!

His Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. So much so that all that is hidden, all we feel ashamed of, He redeems.

God’s love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. HIS Love never fails.

Familiar? That’s 1 Corinthians 13. That’s the example God has given us of what it is to love.

And He says to us in Matthew 22:

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’
This is the first and greatest commandment.”

His commandments are not impossible. Spoken and given in perfect love, the commands encompasses all others. It is as kind, patient, and compassionate as the command a parent gives their child to stay out of the road or to eat their meal. When we obey this loving command to love, we thrive. We follow God’s way –the best way.

God’s whole person is bound up in that greatest commandment –that greatest way of being. And isn’t that what all our heart, mind, and soul mean? That our whole being is to be like His by being composed wholly of love?

Think about that: to love God, we have to follow His example. Because His example is love and there is no love apart from the love He creates, defines, and exemplifies. So by loving like God loves, we love God. His love is the standard set, even for loving Him.

If you want to love God, turn your thoughts to the thoughts He has taught us. Turn your mind to the mind of Christ. Shift your heart to align with His. No greater joy is found, no greater love given or received, than to wholly give up oneself to be His.

This post is being shared on: #LifeGivingLinkup #TestimonyTuesday, #RaRaLinkup, #Intentionally Pursuing, #WomenWithIntention, and #TellHiStory.

Thoughts on Being Profound

I’ve almost written this post three times. Ironically, I chicken out when I find that it just doesn’t sound…sufficient, impressive, eloquent, or relevant. I even deleted my notes. But I think it is an important concept to consider in light of the truth of the Lord, so I’m going to try.

 

People don’t seem to like to be considered shallow. We don’t really enjoy thinking of ourselves as valuing unimportant things, or wasting our time on trivial tasks. Feelings of emptiness, of doubt, or of meaninglessness creep in enough as it is. We find we don’t need to validate these feelings by doing things that seem mundane or sound.

So, we push and dig to get to the very depths of our souls and burrow into the trenches of relationship with Christ. We push and dig through conversations trying to find purpose in them. In the things that we do, we seek out meaning and justification. And to make these things more secure in our souls, we seek recognition of our purposes and depth. Our lives, as we then live them, are made to be one of two things: meaningless or profound.

But we miss the point. To live meekly in Christ is incredibly difficult because we have to give up dreams and expectations of spiritual grandeur, like being known for how righteous we are. We have to live like Christ lived, with our eyes ever fixed on God and not on the steps we think we must take to “get to Him.”

As Oswald Chambers pointed out in his November 22nd “My Utmost for His Highest” devotion, Jesus came to us as a baby. A baby! He lived as a carpenter’s son. He traveled and ate and drank with companions like other people did. The miracles and signs he performed he often followed with a request of secrecy (“go and tell no one” -Luke 8, Matthew 16, Mark 9, etc.) When he died, it was between two criminals who suffered crucifixion as well.  Then, when He rose again, Jesus didn’t run around telling all the haters how wrong they were and striking them dead in vengeance. He went to those He loved and spent His days among them, teaching them truth.

Christ’s life was not rich, it was not attractive, he was hated by many, and he had all the needs we did….that’s how He was fully man and able to tempted as we are tempted.

What was different, then? What made His life profound and eternally significant when he never made a big deal out of Himself? What kept Him from being shallow when He lived so simply?

That Jesus was the Lord. That Jesus humbly obeyed, even in what He ate and drank and who He spent time with. Nothing human about life on earth was below the Lord. And the only “thing” above Him was the Father.

Consider Matthew 6. Notice the number of instances in which Christ reminds us not to do things in the sight of this world for the rewards of this world. Being profound and earning a reputation of depth, when done to appease a sense of meaninglessness in ourselves -as is the case when we seek to find purpose in how others see us- is seeking wrongly.

While usually the verse is quoted about worrying, I think perhaps Christ said it in relation to the rest of what He was saying, especially in Matthew 6, not just worrying….

“For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

-Matthew 6:32+33

It’s a simple point. It isn’t deep or incredibly shocking or profound or anything new and cool. We must fix our eyes on the Lord and seek Him only….and that includes not seeking meaning and purpose and depth to appease that which only He can fill.

 

On Jesus’ Team

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A few basic rules to keep in mind as we “press on toward the goal.” Simple and straightforward, I pray these help us work together with our spouses and loved ones to glorify God, “running the good race set before us.

  1. Encourage one another
  2. Strategize according to what is right
  3. Give grace when mistakes are made
  4. Practice doing good even when you’re weary
  5. Point each other to the goal
  6. Hold each other accountable for following the rules of the game
  7. Take extra steps to be present and engaged even when it’s not your job
  8. Listen to the coach together

Gratefully linking up with:  Woman to Woman WednesdayWomen with Intention,TellHisStory,Thought-Provoking Thursday, Missional Women, and DancewithJesus

Not Getting Ahead of God

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From where you are standing, there is much ahead. It might be a ton of busy, crazy, chaotic, and rewarding. Maybe the future is daunting. On the other hand, when you look ahead, you might see a whole bunch of nothing or vast space that could be filled with –who knows?

God does.

You want to be where He wants you to be. If you’re anything like me -and most everyone I know- getting where you should be is a priority.

It’s not always about “getting ahead” or “getting more,” but simply growing or following well. You know God has plans for you and sometimes it seems like a lot to keep up with. You don’t want to avoid the step He asks for next, so you prepare yourself as best you can for it.

The decisions you make at work are made with intentions for the future in mind. You choose to take classes, read books, and meet people now so that later you will be equipped for what you think (or dream) will happen. We want to be where God wants us to be, when He calls, without hesitation. It gets stressful, doesn’t it?

Worry is all about tomorrow.  Fear is most powerful in the future tense. God is in the present. And when the present turns into the future, He’ll be there too.

God is not 3 steps ahead of you, waiting for you to catch up. He is with you now.

Though it is wise to open your eyes to bigger picture or your life and to prepare yourself appropriately, the decisions you make now –including those about your future- should be made as He asks.

That future that you think you know too little about or too much about cannot separate you from the love of Christ. Neither can the present (Romans 8:38.) When the Psalmist said that “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble,” He did mean that God is even present in our present life, concerns, and matters (Psalm 46:1.)

Paul testified to this truth in Acts 26:22, saying “To this day I have had the help that comes from God, and so I stand here testifying both to small and great.Imagine speaking those words when you question what your future holds –or when others ask and you don’t know.

Speak this truth to yourself and to others as worry and planning and looking forward keep your eyes off of Him who is all the way up there –and also right here with you.

This post is being shared on: #TestimonyTuesday, #RaRaLinkupIntentionally Pursuing,Titus2sday, and Thought-Provoking Thursday.

The Blessing of Endurance

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Isn’t it interesting that we tend to count our blessings most when “bad” things happen?

It is after a major accident that we are glad to be alive, or post loss that we are grateful for those who truly love us. It seems that we need disruptions to remind us that life isn’t actually in our control and that there is something more important “out there”.

Yet the faster we get over things, the sooner we forget these pseudo-lessons. Reminders seem fleeting and unable to impact us in a way that changes something in our hearts.

This, the Bible suggests, is the blessing of endurance. Troubles and suffering that endure teach us, rather than remind us, to rely on our Lord and to look on our lives in light of Him. We are to glory in our sufferings, God says in Romans 5:

” And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”


If God chooses to, He can heal the sick, prevent accidents, and delay the time of death. There are certainly times that He has. We often find that this is what we pray for. Or, if not such extreme miracles, we pray that recovery is speedy or that joy come quickly. Why do we fear suffering, tribulation, and uncomfortable emotions? Surely no one needs to desire or wish for trouble, but when it comes, as it did for Jesus, we are to trust in God’s will. And He produces much in our hearts in our times of need.

Consider what Psalm 105:19 says about God’s work in the suffering of Joseph (who was sold into slavery and thrown into jail for no sin of his own!):

“Until the time came to fulfill his dreams, the LORD tested Joseph’s character.”


In Psalm 73, we are given an example of one who begins to slip from righteousness because He focuses on how wicked people seem to have no trouble at all. The writer begins to look around and grow envious of how happy others earthly lives. Meanwhile, his own Godly life is one of affliction. He comes to this conclusion in verses 20-28:

“They are like a dream when one awakes;

when you arise, Lord,

you will despise them as fantasies.

When my heart was grieved

and my spirit embittered,

I was senseless and ignorant;

I was a brute beast before you.

Yet I am always with you;

you hold me by my right hand.

You guide me with your counsel,

and afterward you will take me into glory.

Whom have I in heaven but you?

And earth has nothing I desire besides you.

My flesh and my heart may fail,

but God is the strength of my heart

and my portion forever.

Those who are far from you will perish;

you destroy all who are unfaithful to you.

But as for me, it is good to be near God.

I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge;

I will tell of all your deeds.”

Sometimes life is a lot to endure when we look around and see how other’s lives seem to go. Particularly when we suffer. Yet our endurance, when rooted in the Lord, can be a blessing.

The “end goal” of our lives as Christians is that we are near to our God. Joy is not the goal. Prosperity is not the goal. These might be a means to our end goal, but we must realize that suffering can also be a means.

It is good for us to be near our God. He is our desire and our glory. If it is in suffering that we spend our days seeking Him, learning from Him, and relying on Him, than we can count our having to endure as a blessing.

In light of our Savior, our hope is secure. He is faithful. His love is unfailing. Time and time again, He has proved Himself merciful. Our suffering does not change the Lord, but the Lord can certainly draw our hearts, shaping them as His, through our suffering.

Suffering is suffering. Having to persevere is what it is. We don’t have to feign joy and peace, or pronounce platitudes to get by effectively. Our hope is in the Lord. His Spirit is poured into us…isn’t that enough? Isn’t His provision sufficient so that we are not “put to shame,” but are all the more able to glory in Him (Romans 5:5)?

 

When Communicating Seems Impossible

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Marriage is a place in which we learn just how difficult the basics of communication really are.

I’ve learned in my marriage that what means one thing to him doesn’t mean the same to me. His use of words is often full of hyperbole and expression, I’m often literal. He says what he thinks, I think about all the different things I say. It’s hard to figure out at times which thing that was said was a decision, and which was just talking. Our lines get crossed.

This isn’t just my marriage.

There are stories of marriages that fall apart because a wife works day and night to make the home perfect and spotless, and, never receiving thanks or compliments, wears herself thin trying to improve it further. Meanwhile, her husband is pleased, but he never expresses it. His displeasure grows, however, as she seems less and less interested in him and more obsessed with the home. They end up in counseling because she feels overworked and underappreciated, and he feels like she doesn’t care about him.

The resulting phrases are familiar to us:

  • “How can you possibly say that? Or think that?”
  • “Haven’t you paid any attention?”
  • “Why didn’t you say so?!”
  • “What do you think I’m doing all this for??”
  • “If you had just…”
  • “That’s not enough. Don’t you know how to put yourself in someone else’s shoes?”

When words like these start flying, it’s time to bring in a third party. Or rather, the first party: the Lord.

Ever considered that just like God made you (and the whole world, including your spouse,) He also made language? He made communication in every form. Nonverbal, demonstrative, literal, actual words, in written form. All by His design.

He also designed marriage, with all of its cracks, potholes, and gaping gulfs of “we just aren’t able to connect.” Let Him span all of that. Let Him unite the two of you in such a way that at long last, those impossible communication gaps are bridged.

All others things that we unite in in marriage won’t last. Causes, personality traits, commitments, passions, and hopes will change over time. The Lord will not. All of those little things that get lost between two people as they try to work together are known to the Lord.

Unite in Him.

I’ll say it again, in this rambling, poorly communicated post: unite in Him.

If your words to each other aren’t working: pray. Together. You’ll find that there is more grace, more possibility, and more opportunity to be one when the One who matters gets to speak first.

Gratefully linking up with:  Woman to Woman WednesdayWomen with Intention, TellHisStory,Thought-Provoking Thursday, Missional Women, and DancewithJesus

Recognizing the Voice of Truth

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You wake up and hear your spouse’s voice. Then your pets. Probably your kids. As you head out the door, you hear people in the neighborhood. People on the radio talk and sing. Your co-workers and boss speak, play music, and send you signals of the verbal and nonverbal variety. Friends text you. You read announcements, billboards, and emails. The phone rings.

By the end of the day, you’ve heard the voices of a hundred or so people, programs, papers, and media outlets. That’s a lot to sift through.

Even if you try to listen to Christian music, watch decent television, and keep solid company close by, you’re bound to absorb information that distracts from the one thing you need to hear: the voice of truth.

John 10:4-5 tells us that “he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.”

That’s a lot of running away, isn’t it?

So much of what we hear does not possess the voice of the Lord. Unfortunately, to sort out the good from the bad, we rarely listen to the voice speaking in order to make a decision. Rather, we decide based on the content.

Often the words and messages that bombard us are full of worldly content and urge us, ultimately, to focus more on ourselves. We take to heart messages with content that is practical or that gets our emotions surging. Words that comment on the things dear to us are used to steer us.

But that’s not what Scripture says.

To discern the voice of truth, we must listen to know who is speaking.

Consider how firmly and clearly Jesus rebuked Peter when he spoke, not of the Spirit, but as one approaching from the concerns of the world (Matthew 16:23.) His words were “get behind me, Satan!” In another example, we see how Bartimaeus chose not to listen to the crowds telling him to hush because he knew that the voice he needed to hear was Christ’s, regardless of what might be said (Mark 10.)

Here’s what we know about the one who speaks:

  • His voice is one of stillness (see Job or Elijah)
  • His tone bears the fruit of the Spirit, like gentleness and kindness
  • His words are clear because He is not an author of confusion
  • All that is wrong trembles at the sound
  • He speaks through unifying voices, like loved ones who agree
  • His perspective does not change and does not conflict with the Bible
  • He calls us by name
  • His purpose is life-giving

Listen for that voice –His voice- among all the others. It’s simpler than we tend to let it be. We don’t need to weigh the words to decide which way to go.  Like sheep, we should simply listen for the one we know and follow, ever listening to the sweet sound of the one who knows THE WAY. 

This post is being shared on: #TestimonyTuesday, #RaRaLinkupIntentionally Pursuing,Titus2sday, and Thought-Provoking Thursday.