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Tag: God’s love

Inseparable love

by Dawn Aldrich

Image by Rudi Schlatte Flickr-com_2427705114_a686cd8456_CC BY-AND 2.0

Image by Rudi Schlatte
Flickr-com_2427705114_a686cd8456_CC BY-ND 2.0

After a week of spiritual awakening the enemy sought to anesthetize me. Sitting around the campfire listening to stories of God’s movement in the lives of my peers, I knew God had challenged me, too. He asked me to pick a side; His or the enemy’s.

You see, on the outside it appeared I was on God’s team, but I held secrets behind closed doors; secrets that I’d never admit to anyone except my future husband. They were free-will liberties I regularly practiced. It was those secret liberties God asked me to lay down at the cross. And, it was those very same things the enemy used to accuse me that night. Read the rest of this entry »

Shooting Stars

by juste buzas

Image by Sergiu Bacloiu flickr.com_8282853841_4370aa05a8_CC BY-ND 2.0

Image by Sergiu Bacloiu
flickr.com_8282853841_4370aa05a8_CC BY-ND 2.0

There is no speech nor spoken word [from the stars]; their voice is not heard.  Yet their voice [in evidence] goes out through all the earth, their sayings to the end of the world. Psalm 19:3,4a (AMP)

I’ve always been mesmerized by God’s creation – from the enormity of the night sky to the quietness of the butterflies fluttering from flower to flower in my grandmother’s garden.  Even when I was young, I noticed everything.  Every detail and intricacy of God’s creation.  I felt close to God – I knew Him – as I climbed trees, danced barefoot in the grass or skipped rocks along the glassy surface of the river on my uncle’s farm.

One summer night I was outside alone, watching the night sky.  It was a remarkably clear night.  I stood on the back porch, looking up into the wide Missouri sky and talked to God.  Out of nowhere, a bright streak of light blazed across the horizon and disappeared; a shooting star!  Never seeing one before then, I stood there dumbfounded, speechless, over come with awe.  Love swelled up within me, and I was filled with solemn wonder at the vastness and nearness of God.  I realized, in that moment, that the God who was, and is, and always will be was real. Very real.  I began to praise Him. Read the rest of this entry »

“He Would Have.”

by Wendy

by bp6316_93/365_Flickr.com_3410006685_3064e380a5_z.jpg_CC BY 2.0

by bp6316_93/365_Flickr.com_3410006685_3064e380a5_z.jpg_CC BY 2.0

 A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver. Prov 25:11, ESV

“He would have, you know.”

It was a soft comment, but I felt its weight.  As usual, Jesus’ voice  surprised me.

I was trying, hard, to burrow into the root of an issue.  Once again life’s daily tumbles had triggered me into shame, anger, worthlessness and ultimately, despair.  For weeks I’d skirted the problem but couldn’t make progress.  Now, finally, curled up on my bed, I found my voice – and His – and watched Him point the way.

As usual, the problem originated long ago in childhood.  “There was no one to protect me, no one to stand up for me or advocate FOR me,” I whispered to Jesus.  I could “see” His eyes; in my imagination they were warm and kind, encouraging me to continue.

looked far back and found a few places of victory – times when my kind father saved me from fears or taunts. He was so dear and I cherished those few memories. My mind ran over those crystal-smooth surfaces again and again, but I knew those times were rare. My feelings ran deep, but they stayed inside and he did not know them.

Warfare he understood, but emotions, not so much. I was a tender little girl, a being totally unfamiliar to him, and with very strange needs. Most times he backed away to let my mother and grandmother fight my battles.

Unfortunately, like so many other strong mothers of their generation, they fought me instead of my battles.  Intimidated, I gave up and became the victim of my peers.  Not once did I learn how to handle a bully, and there were many.

“I wanted him to protect me,” I admitted to Jesus and that’s when I heard His quiet response.

“He would have?”  My eyebrows pulled together as I tried to understand Jesus’ words.

“He would – he wanted to – but he didn’t know how,” Jesus replied.  Oh! My father would have protected me if he had the right tools and answers.  I imagined how he might look in heaven – strong, confident, able to teach me to stand even amid hurled threats and shoves that left my heart cringing and trembling in the corner.

“He WOULD have!” I thought with relief, and suddenly Jesus’ three words filled in holes I didn’t know were there.  The “he didn’t” pain was replaced with Jesus’ strong arms and impenetrable back, showing me what my father would have done. if he could have.

Three words and a lifetime of healing in three seconds.

He does that, you know, with just a few words.  He undoes time and pain and winds them backward, resetting who we are in the process and transforming us more and more into who He created us to be.  Prison doors drop open and we walk away, released.

What words do we need today from the One who would set us free?

Consider the Serpent

by Mike McKinniss

For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it (Luke 9:24, ESV).

Consider the serpent.

He has but one instinct: self-preservation. Survive and produce progeny—that is his one and only goal. But mostly, it’s about survival. It’s about himself.

Look at him, flicking his tongue through deviously curled lips. Always in search of his next meal, the snake is never satiated. A gluttonous beast.

The serpent roams the forest floor alone. Ever solitary, he has no companion, desires no companion. But for fleeting utilitarian encounters with the opposite sex—and this only to preserve his line—he would eternally be a low-lying island.

Oh, the serpent is not indifferent to the rest of the world. He is not solipsistic. But to the snake, every other living thing, if it is not food, is an enemy. See how he curls himself up in a tangled thicket—the only embrace he will ever receive. It is protection the serpent seeks.

The serpent is driven by fear, and so must protect his life at all costs. Fear compels him to cast a slitted eye toward every creature. Wary of all, the serpent is intent on grasping tightly to his own life. He has no room in his heart for anything save himself.

Now he slithers in the dust, for his fear has brought him low.

But you are no serpent.

You are not made for fear. You are not made to cling and protect, to scratch and claw for your own existence. You are not designed to use others for your own benefit alone, to regard the world as existing for your sole benefit. The fear and solitude of the serpent’s life is not yours.

A child of God, you are made for love.

A voice you were given. A voice to reveal the innermost parts of yourself and to share your secret thoughts. Likewise, two ears hang on either side of your skull to listen to another’s story and so commune with the world. Moreover, a heart beats within your chest, a heart that longs to swell within the embrace of another.

You are made for love, and a life of love desires to stretch itself, to touch all the world—not to overpower and subsume, but to know and to be known. Love longs to serve the world.

But to live so is to risk, for a serpent lies in wait. Strike he will, often without warning or provocation. And he may, with a flash of fang and a shock of pain, inject poison into your veins. To live from love is to open yourself to death.

Die you may.  Nay, die you will. But when you live from a place of love and seek not to preserve yourself, when you reject fear and its solitude, you live as you are created. Vulnerable you may seem, yet you live and you die in the safest place on earth. For the life of love rests in the arms of the resurrecting God of love.

Love, and you will rise to new life, while the serpent remains on his belly.

No Greater Love

by Rob Dunne

United Nations Photo courtesy of https://www.flickr.com/photos/un_photo CC BY - ND 4.0

United Nations Photo
courtesy of https://www.flickr.com/photos/un_photo
CC BY – ND 4.0

Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. John 15:13

Katie asked me what we were hoping to do on our trip to Guatemala. The team was comprised of three adults and four teenagers. “We wouldn’t mind doing some physical labor while we are there.” She said she would see what she could do.

A week or so before our trip, heavy rain produced mudslides in the region we were traveling. An entire village washed away, displacing hundreds of people. Many lost their lives – men in particular.

The day after our arrival, the head of the ministry approached us. They owned an abandoned school that was converted in to a storage facility. “There are some things we need to move from the school to a warehouse. Can you help out? It is going to be hard work.” “How bad could it be?” we asked ourselves.

The next few days were spent hauling 110 pound bags of beans from one storage facility to another. Honestly, I don’t think I have ever worked that hard in my life. Returning to the ministry each day, we spoke with teams from other parts of the U.S. “What did you guys do today?” we asked. “We hiked to this really cool waterfall and did some cliff jumping. You?” “We hauled bags of beans all day long.”

This interchange happened two days in a row. Finally, I begged their youth leader for help. Without it, this temporary shelter was not going to be completed. Curiously, it was the teenagers on his team that convinced him to participate. Fortunately, they agreed to help us and the shelter was up and running by weeks end.

People can be selfish. Cliff jumping sounded really fun and my team wanted to do it. However, the thought of helpless people not having a place to lay their heads seemed more important. Sacrificing our desires to help others was clearly the right thing to do.

Jesus sacrificed everything for us. His followers abandoned Him. The people He healed, fed and loved rejected Him for a murderer named Barabbas. He suffered unimaginable physical pain from His arrest until His dying breath on the cross. He became sin and was separated from His Father for the first time.

There are times in life when God may seem distant. Occasionally, we don’t feel His love for us. During these times, we have to remind ourselves of the cross. The cross is where God demonstrated His unfailing and eternal love for us. The cross is where God proclaims, “You are valuable. I believe in you. There is a plan and a purpose for your life. Let’s figure that out together.”

God created us in His image. That means that we are called to live life the way that Jesus did. Jesus never thought about His wants, needs or desires. Rather, He thought about us and what His death would accomplish for us.

God encourages us to be like Him. He asks that we esteem others more than ourselves. That is what it means to put on His love. It is what God’s kingdom looks like. In the end you will find that loving others like that is not a sacrifice at all. Rather, it is a complete joy.

Love Me

by Dawn Aldrich

“Your unfailing love will last forever. Your faithfulness is as enduring as the heavens.” Psalm 89:2 NLT

“I need someone to love me!” she shouts impatiently from her princess toddler bed.

“I’ll be right there,” Mama reassures her, “as soon as I lay your baby brother down.”

Oh isn’t that the cry of everyone’s heart? Toddler princess or not, we selfishly desire love–an all-knowing, unfailing, soul-deep love. We crave attention, reassurance that our existence matters; that who we are in this great big world makes a difference to someone

Mama finally arrives and kneels beside her bed.

“My heart is so full of love, Mama, so I need to love you,” the toddler princess explains. “And, I need someone to love me.”

Isn’t that the way unfailing love cycles? Love fills and spills and fills again – without fail – without fear. Perfect love never fails.

Through reassuring whispers and gentle strokes, Mama’s hands run through her hair until the princess toddler’s breath falls into a peaceful rhythm. Mama’s love expels her fears and sleep comes for perfect love casts out all fears.

“Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear.” 1 John 4:18

If Mama loves her little girl with such perfect love, how much more does our heavenly Papa love us? How perfect is His love for us that casts out fears much greater than the monsters under our princess beds? How much more can he fill our hearts with an everlasting, unfailing love – a love that always satisfies, always fills to overflowing?

Heavenly Papa,

Love me, today. Fill my heart with your perfect love. Fill my heart to overflowing that your love spills onto those around me. Become the object of my love, God, so that when I love, it’s you they see, not me. Amen.

Box-Buster Jesus!

by mymorethanme

Busted Box by Karl Baron  https://www.flickr.com/photos/kalleboo/2240045517 CC BY-ND 4.0

Busted Box by Karl Baron
https://www.flickr.com/photos/kalleboo/2240045517 CC BY-ND 4.0

My heart has been on my mind. Sometimes it seems that’s as close as it gets. I have often felt I have so much cluttering my attic, yet so little furnishing my living space. How do I get all the treasures upstairs, downstairs where they can be fully experienced, enjoyed and shared with others?

Feelings are such funny things. We need them. We can’t live alive without them. Sometimes they strive to run the show. Who hasn’t wanted to call out of work or blow off a commitment or break a promise, just because? How many important decisions have been made based on emotion rather than on what we had previously set out to accomplish or stick with?

Other times it’s as if we have evasive, evaporating emotions. Where and when they went we do not know. We just know they’ve gone and we’re left feeling stone dry, desolate, detached…empty.

Having a history of addiction, I know well what it’s like to attempt to control my emotions. I wanted to feel, but only what I wanted to feel, and only when I wanted to feel it.

Years ago, when getting clean, uncontrolled emotions began returning. I was no longer inducing euphoria or numbing pain; I was simply feeling. What a scary place to be for the first time. Of course, you don’t need to be a recovering addict to relate. I used many things before I used drugs and alcohol. We’ve all used something at some point to try to control our feelings. Food, shopping, sex, television, power, religion–choose your drug. We’ve all been there and done that.

Underlying the desire to control my emotions was a deep fear of rejection. I felt rejected, so I shut down. I’m not going to trust, I’m not going to be vulnerable, I’m not going to put myself out there just to get sucker punched again, thank you very much. Me ‘n my heart are going to stay right here, nice and safe in this bare little box, and ride this life out pain free from now on. Pain free…but not free. Broken in and in bondage to that bare little fear box. Lifeless, loveless and blind.

But then Jesus got in my box and when Jesus gets in your box everything changes. There’s no box big enough to hold Jesus! Jesus busts boxes apart–He breaks in and breaks through! I was no longer rejected; I was accepted. I was no longer worthless; I was worthy. I was no longer forsaken; I was cherished…loved. Over these last nine years Jesus has been taking me deeper, healing me more fully than I ever imagined possible. I still get tempted to give into my emotions and do what I “feel” like doing. Jesus is collaborating with maturity to work this out in me. I also get tempted to shut down emotionally and check out. Play it safe. Put up walls and take a long nap. This is my greater struggle. But when I give my heart, my emotions, my fear to Jesus–because I have purposed to, not because I feel like it–He does the impossible. He makes me live and trust; He makes me safe and whole. He makes my winter spring and my death to self life in Him.

Today I purpose to pursue the One who has a plan and purpose for my life. Plans for peace and well-being, plans to give me a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11). Today I choose to receive Truth and reject lies. God is always willing, always giving, always speaking. Am I willing, am I receiving, am I listening? It takes discipline to act and not react, to remain in love and be loved, to send faith to the door when fear knocks. We have this ability in Jesus. We have His love, power, self-discipline, and sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7). Thank You, Jesus–You are so good at unpacking our attics and filling our living spaces! Thank You for breaking in, breaking through and busting up our boxes!

The shocking truth about love

by mandyade

heartimage

Christianity is often very different than we expect… it’s really all about receiving. Yep, our faith journey has a lot more to with receiving than it has to do with giving.

You see Jesus first loved us. Until we catch the beautiful revelation of His love we will be unable to love God back. We can only love Him as a response.We can’t initiate love for God, God alone initiates love by loving us…like a hurricane!

 If we can receive such a radical love,

 If we can believe we are so beautiful to Him,

 If we can accept that we are His darling,

Then we will respond as lovers respond to each other.

We were not created to love on command; that is impossible for us. When we strive to love God we create a religion. When we let Him love us and simply respond we create a relationship.

The greatest, most extraordinary works done by the church were done in response to love, not in response to law. The world needs another extraordinary work from heaven.

Religion will choke the world, but a people who know how loved they are will water the world.  And all we need is to be watered by His love more than anything else. We are all loved by God, but those who know it will live it!

We love because He first loved us.“1 John 4:19

I Thought I Knew What Love Looked Like

by Dawn Aldrich

firstloved

The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them. John 14:21

“Most live life with love gone much unsaid.” These narrated words from a new BBC series pricked my heart as I thought about all the years I withheld my love from my father; repressed my childhood affection from the one who walked away and yet returned with a repentant heart. We’d lost so much time play-acting our roles as father and daughter all those Saturdays of my youth, that when he returned in my college days, I didn’t know what to do. Showing affection was awkward, at least, and risky. I allowed the fear of rejection to build an impenetrable fortress around my heart, keeping everyone at arm’s length, especially my father.

We lived most of the rest of his life with love gone much unsaid until God took hold of my heart about nine years ago. That’s when God pried open my soul and revealed to me my earthly father through His eyes. For the first time, I was able to accept him for who God created him to be and honor all his traits in me without shame. But it wasn’t enough to only ponder these revelations alone. God challenged me to forgive my father face-to-face and to speak my love out loud to him (talk about fear and risk). It took me a long seven months of God working on me to gain the courage to face my father and risk it all, but I’m glad I did.

My earthly father passed over a year ago knowing how much I loved him and forgave him. We left no words unsaid, he and I. I thought his passing restored all lost love between us and ended my father journey, but recently God taught me differently. For I learned that I could not possibly know what a father’s love looked like (or felt like) without experiencing it first. While God restored my love for my earthly father, it was far from that innocent, untainted love between a father and his daughter. My heart yearned for that which was lost from my childhood; a love that now only God himself could restore, for my earthly father was gone.

I stood amongst a few others while the leader of the small group stood on a chair above me, putting me in the posture of a young girl and her father. He then recited my personalized scripture as though God were reading it himself:

I cherish you with an unending, undying love. I pull you near and hold you close with my absolute, dependable kindness. Though your world be shaken and the familiar be removed, still my love for you remains–my boundless, unending, immovable love. My covenant, my word, my promise of peace also remains, for I AM tender, gentle and compassionate towards you, always. (Jeremiah 31:3, Isaiah 54:10 personalized)

In that moment I felt four-years-old again, standing beside my father, protected and encircled in his love. God stirred my heart like never before, lavishing His love on me in such a way words cannot adequately explain. Not only was it a time of restorative love of an earthly experience from my childhood, but more so a present and breakthrough experience of the depth of God’s love for me as my heavenly Father.

Jesus said, “A new command I give to you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13:34 NIV). How can we adequately love another if we have not experienced that love from Jesus first? We can read how Jesus loved and try to love as he did, but we cannot offer the extent of his love unless we first experience it from him. This teaching blew me away (First Loved to Love seminar by Rev. Mark Fee). All these years, I’ve tried to love my father as Jesus had taught me to love and honor him, but I hadn’t experienced that type of father-daughter love from my heavenly Father at all. It hadn’t even crossed my mind to ask for it.

So, how do we love as Jesus love so that we in turn can love others? One way, as Mark Fee teaches, is personalizing love scriptures like I did above. Then, read it aloud several times (I found it most  effective when someone else reads it to me, like my husband) until you can actually feel the Holy Spirit’s presence. Then ask the Holy Spirit to embellish His thoughts regarding this scripture for you personally. Record what He says to you and meditate on that throughout your day. And in addition, love others as God is loving you.

All these years I thought I knew what loved looked like, but God is showing me so much more. He is showing me how high, how wide, how deep is His love. He’s longing to show you, too. Won’t you risk it?

Extravagance

by Wendy

extravagance

Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!   2 Corinthians 9:15

“It’s too much,” my husband said, shaking his head in that predictable “no” way of his. My shoulders drooped and I looked down, part dejected, part defiant as I imagined my gift idea withering, evaporating into the atmosphere. My friend was no better. “It puts people off,” she scolded. “They feel like they can’t measure up.”

This refrain was not new. As far back as elementary school I would hatch big plans. Like a hungry animal eyeing a tempting large morsel of food, I latched onto “THE” new idea — the bigger and better birthday gift, the glossy front cover of the school report (complete with hand-drawn illustrated cover); the roadside stand to sell my cherry tomatoes; whatever it was, every new notion captured my imagination and I could not let it go.

Here I was again, shamed and disappointed to see yet another brilliant proposal shot down. Yes, it cost more than it should have. Yes, it was “more” than we had agreed upon. But still, something niggled at the back of my brain. The thought refused to be silent. I couldn’t hear its words, but something… something wasn’t right.

Tired and frustrated, I resorted to friend therapy, dumping my resentment and defensiveness in a verbal garbage heap at my girlfriend’s feet. “He just doesn’t GET it!” I moaned

All day, I muttered. A bit less intensely, but I muttered nevertheless. “I know I have to learn to do less, but what about generosity? What about abundance? They don’t understand!”

“No, they don’t,” a voice whispered. Wait… what? I knew that voice.

“Extravagance.”

Ahh, there it was. The word I was looking for, and coming from the Holy Spirit’s nudging, it had a holy overtone.

Unutterable, unfathomable abundance, more than I could ask or imagine. Heh. GOD spoke my language of lavish giving and huge schemes.

He didn’t skimp on creation (He made how many kinds of trees and leaves??); nor on the salvation story (“you want to save the whole world???”); nor on the birth of Jesus (He sent an angel to Mary to tell her what?); nor on His amazing death and resurrection (“He gave His only Son to be killed just to make an Easter miracle for us?”)

In fact, perhaps His Jesus gift was His biggest coup.

The biggest scheme in the universe unfolded, not watered down, not compromised. We didn’t see its grandeur until the resurrection, but oh, it was there, and even the stars in the universe sang in wonder.

Extravagance. God gave everything, a very part of Himself, to communicate His love. He cloaked it in humility so we wouldn’t be intimidated; He gave anonymously so we wouldn’t compare. But He gave in such huge measure that no one in the universe could trump His gift.

Extravagance. He didn’t mind the excess, and He wasn’t pressured to conform.

He got it. His language of giving was always big, if quiet. He knew I had bits of His image in there (“in the image of God He created them…”). He knew why the ideas took hold. He understood. His generosity leaped all over creation from the beginning of time, and He was not ashamed.

Smiling, I quietly put the castigated gift idea aside, bidding it goodbye. There would be other ideas, more appropriate ones. The Creator left a hint of His glory inside me, and the extravagant giver would not be silenced.

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