Thursday, September 20, 2018

Fully Known and Fully Loved

Have you ever looked back on your life and seen nothing but poor choices and piles of regret?  I try not to do that.  Sometimes, however, it's hard for me not to be crushed by my bad decisions and mistakes.  On those days, I truly feel like a reject.  My inadequacies and insecurities cover me like a blanket of darkness and the weight of my guilt barely lets me take the next step.

Today, I have realized what a huge waste of time that is.  Those moments in which I have allowed myself to be smashed under my own stupidity are nothing but moments I have surrendered to the enemy.

I cannot continue to let my precious time go down the drains dug by the schemes of the devil!  I must stop giving him the control that belongs only to the Holy Spirit.  I must stop allowing him to usurp the place that belongs only to Christ!  The father of lies must not take what belongs only to my Heavenly Father!

This life is not meant to be lived by our own power.  We can't go through the hardship of the everyday grind without God.  The enemy knows that.  And he exploits it to his advantage.  He makes us believe that we are not worthy of God's love.  He deceives us into thinking that no one who knows us could love us...because there is nothing worth loving in us.  The way the enemy tricks us into believing this is by igniting our insecurities and by reminding us of our past missteps. 

The truth will set us free (John 8: 32), however!  And the truth is that Truth is a Person.  He lives in us.  And He reminds us of His presence whenever we need it if we pay attention.  Like today, as I was running some errands, feeling the familiar wave of inadequacy begin to stir in my heart, a song popped on the radio...a gentle, beautiful tune sang by Tauren Wells, with much inspired words.  The line that injected truth into my veins was:  "I'm fully known and loved by You."

WOW...

I mean, really...let's read that again:  "I'm fully known and loved by You."

This verse reminds me of one of my favorite Psalms:  139.  In this precious piece of Scripture, God reminds us of the most basic truth:  He knows us intimately, better than anyone else for He created our inmost being...and, nevertheless, He loves us still for He just can't help it...I was created to be His...to be the object of His affection...to be His masterpiece!

How quickly I forget the truth.  That is why I must always remain in His Word.  That is the only way to be near Him...that is the only way I would be able to only listen to His voice and block all the lies of the enemy.

Have you ever looked back on your life and see nothing but poor choices and piles of regret? 
Remember, the antidote for this venom is God's Word.  Next time this happens, pick up your Bible and read Psalm 139.  It will remind you that no matter what, you are "fearfully and wonderfully made!"  And that you are "fully known and loved by Him!"

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

His Work of Art

What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us,who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Romans 8: 31-32

What a magnificent promise!   "If God is for us, who can be against us?"  WOW!  What can anyone say to this, but Praised be the Name of The Lord!

But...how much do I truly believe it?  How much do I accept this words as truth in my own life?

Sigh...

Why would God be "for me"?  I mean...me?  Really? Does this promise really include me too?

I am no good.  I forget.  I walk on the wide road way too often.  I ignore.  I gossip.  I doubt.  I lack faith.

I read in Jon Courson's Commentary, something that made me pause, while considering this verses: "God views His people very highly and loves His people very deeply.  Why?  Because He already sees the end product.  We're already glorified in His eyes."

WOW...

I never thought of it this way.  He can see what I am supposed to become because for God, my future is His past.  From His point of view, He sees all of me, not just who I am today, but who I am meant to be.  Gosh...wouldn't that be nice?  I would love to be able to see into my future and realize that everything worked out well.  

The funny thing is, however, that, in a way, I can, indeed, see into the future!  I have God's word telling me that everything already IS OK...more than, OK, actually.  We are victorious!  "...we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." Romans 8: 28  And "we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. Romans." 8: 37

We see a glimpse of what God sees by reading His word!  He loves me.  He made me.  He knows me.  He holds me in His arms as He is molding me into His work of art!

And nothing will change that, for

I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Romans 8: 38-39

Monday, September 17, 2018

We Live by Faith!

Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. Mark 11: 24

I love this verse!  It's so...bold!

It speaks of faith without limits.  It alludes to complete trust.  It illustrates the power of the Most High!  It implies that prayer gets answered even before we finish uttering it!

"Whatever you asked for, believe that you have received it!"  

WOW!  To pray with such force!

So many times I feel like I'm limiting God.  How ridiculous is that?  Why would I do that?  Is it because I'm trying to not be disappointed?  

I don't know.  I supposed it's gotta be something like that.  Otherwise, how would I explain the fact that I am expressing such timid prayers?  Our God is an Extravagant God!  I mean, what is more extravagant that the kind of love God shows to us?

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. John 3: 16-17

Why would I then think that such an extravagant God could not handle big and out of the ordinary type of prayers?

Because I am one of the "ye of little faith" that Matthew talks about in chapter 8, verse 26th.

It's kind of funny.  Tonight at class, I was talking to my students about the importance of faith and how it affects every aspect of a person's life.  We were talking within the context of an old Afro-Caribbean legend that deals with slaves being the recipients of a miracle performed by this African goddess.  The legend ends telling us that this goddess sort of disappeared after performing that one miracle.  The people of the region, however, continued to believe in her.  I asked my students why did the people kept on believing in her even though she disappeared while the cruelty of the slave trade continued?  One student said:  "because she didn't need to help them all for them to believe."  

I was intrigued by that reply, so we explored it further.  And we concluded that the goddess didn't need to save all slaves for them to believe in her because they had faith.  And when you have faith, the impact of circumstances is diminished.  

How much more faith should we have in Our God then?  For He is the God who is All Powerful and Mighty!  He is Love and Infinite!  He is Ever Present!  And even though our circumstances might not seemingly change on this side of the world, we continue to have faith because our faith is not based on what we see.  Our faith is based on Who He Is!  And He doesn't have to fix it all up to fit our self-prescribed plan.  For what we are after is the treasure of His Presence, not the wealth and comfort of the material realm.

Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. Mark 11: 24

I don't want to limit God anymore.  I claim His Victory in me!  I know He has already healed me.  I trust You, Lord.  I choose to live by faith, not by sight!  Praised be Your Holy Name!




Sunday, September 16, 2018

Can Love be Too Passive?

Can love be too passive? 

Does loving others always involve actions?

Can we love while being still?

I'm not very going at loving others well.  But I'm trying to do a better job.  However, often I find myself feeling trapped into a mindset that pushes me to do more and more in order to show that I really love.  And, I don't know how good that is either?

Then, I think back at what I was talking about the other day...yes...that whole thing about allowing God's love to flow through me and into those to whom I'm trying to show love...and then it hits me:
most of the time, in order to let God's love flow uninterrupted from me to others, I must be still.

I kind of have to remove myself from the picture so it is He whom they see, not me.  If I keep insisting on doing, doing, doing...all others will perceive is me.  The love I am trying to demonstrate would be centered on me.  Besides, when I focus on doing things, I get so stressed out that whatever fun might have come out of it gets killed by my anxiety.  Therefore, I need to remember to be still and let God be God... Sometimes I need to just watch His love move and fill the void in our hearts as He dissolves the tensions and soothes the anxieties.  That way, by being still, we can all concentrate on His marvelous hand taking care of all as we remain the recipients of His work.

As I find rest in My Lord, I become in tune with His frequency so I can listen to His guidance and follow His path. 

Can love be too passive?
In this day in age where everyone is rushing, resting in God's love might seem too passive.  However, that is the best way to be in touch with His love, which we so desperately need.


Thursday, September 13, 2018

Loving Others Well ... including the Neighbor's Dog

I took advantage that it wasn't raining and I went for a walk early in the morning.  I love walking.  It allows me to think and to pray.  I was uttering a silent prayer: "Please, Lord, help me love others well..." when, I lift up my eyes only to see a huge German Shepherd charging toward me!  His deep, coarse bark shook my core.  I've always been terrified of dogs!  For a second, I was paralyzed.  Then, I turned around and started walking back the way I came.  I could hear the dog still coming toward me.  I knew my approach was not the best, but I was saved from my stupidity by the dog's owner who called him and made him stop before he got super close to me. 

I never looked back.  I kept walking, hoping my shaky legs would hold me all the way home.

The thing is that, instead of praising God for bringing the dog's owner out to my rescue, I cursed the poor woman!  I had only harsh thoughts in my mind toward my neighbors and their very scary dog.  I even thought about writing a nasty letter of complaint to the Home Owners' Association!  And I can assure you, none of the words in my imagined note spelled L O V E...

Sigh...

How quickly had I fallen off the love wagon again?  As soon as the slightest inconvenience popped up (though, it could be argued that today's inconvenience was, indeed, rather large!), I became my old angry-selfish, unloving self...again...

I don't know how to love my neighbors well.  Literally!

Jesus seems to give two prescriptions for how to love others:
1.   “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another."  (John 13: 34)

2.   “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12: 29-31)

From where I stand, I detect also two complications:
1.  How would I ever be able to love like Jesus loves?
2.  How can I love others the way I love me, when I do such a poor job loving myself?

Sigh...

Well, the way I see it, this could only be done by the Power of the Holy Spirit in me.  There is no way I can love others well without the guidance and fuel of the Heavenly Helper directing my every step and emotion.

Love lives in me because God is Love!  And, the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. This is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4: 9-10)

It is not my love.  It is His love what needs to pour out of me and into those who I encounter in my walk.  Therefore, when Jesus says to love one another the same way that He has loved us, what I need to do is to open up the chambers of my heart so His love, which came into me first, could flow out into the world.  It is not my love I have to concoct.  It is Jesus' love I have to share!

And I do love myself, because He lives in me, and He is love, so even in my imperfect way of loving, I demonstrate His perfect and unique love for me by loving myself!

I'm not sure I understand what I'm saying.  All I know is that I pray to the Holy Spirit to make His love overflow and spill out into those whom He has placed as my neighbors...including their unruly and scary dogs!





Allow Him to Love You

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

This verse has always intrigued me... This is the kind of statement that jumps out of the passage...among several others, to tell you the truth.  But, for some reason, this one totally makes me stop in my tracks.  It is tucked in between a lengthy statement of how God is Love and if we acknowledge Him, He lives in us; as well as how, if one loves God, one must also love his/her brothers and sisters. (verses 15-21)

Then...right there, almost in an understated manner, one of the most profound revelations is given...the only reason we are even remotely capable of starting to love is because He has loved us first...

WOW...

Isn't it funny?  I mean, strange?  Maybe not for you...but for me, this truth, the truth that God loved me first is stunning.  

I struggle with the ability to find anything lovable within myself.  Then, here it says, God loved me first!  How is that possible?  Why?  Why would He love me?  Like, why would he intentionally and deliberately choose to love me?  That's just crazy!  

But He did and He still does.

That's unfathomable!

He loves me even though I would never, EVER be good enough to deserve His love.  He loves me even though I will continue to mess up.  In fact, nothing can separate me from His love!  Nothing!  The love He feels for me stands the test of time, circumstance, behavior, distance...all of it.  It is an eternal love...not like the cheesy 80s song, "Endless Love."  Not at all.  This is the real thing!  And He loved me first!  It's not even like, we got to know each other well, and then He fell for me...NO!  He loved me first, even before Jesus died on the cross!  Actually, because He loved me first, He sent Jesus to die on the cross for me...little, horrible, imperfect, wretched me.

And how do I react?  In disbelief...

I don't want to doubt His love anymore!  I want to embrace it.  I want to allow Him to love me!

I know, that sounds ridiculous!  Like, who am I to say I'm going to "allow" God to do anything, right?  Well, yes, I am going to allow myself to receive His love.  I'm going to be open to receiving His love without doubting it.  I'm going to allow Him to love me without reservations and I'm going to rejoice in His extravagant love for me...and from the bottom of all my flaws, I'm going to love Him back.  

"There is no fear in love," (1 John 4: 18)  there is no fear...I love You, Lord!




Wednesday, September 5, 2018

The Road of Acceptance is Hard...

I went for a nice, long walk this afternoon.  Yeah...I know, crazy, right?  But, I have to tell you, I love being involved in the melancholic haze of a hot, late summer afternoon.  That's when the cool breeze you catch in the shade feels all the sweeter.  The sweat drops rolling down my forehead make me feel like I'm working hard, and the lush green that still holds in the surroundings, make me think of my Mom...

Today, she would have been 93 years old.  WOW...I can't even imagine her as an "old lady."  It's like she is frozen in time, and in my mind, she will always be in her early seventies.

The void she left in our hearts, when she went to be with the Lord would never be filled.  But the memories that linger bring a smile to the faces of those who had the privilege of knowing her.  Today, I praise God for having given her to me for as long as He did.  And, even though it hurts me to think that she never got to meet my kids, I know someday, she will.

It's never easy to let go of those whom we love.  We can't help to think about death as so final.  But I hang on to the promise of a family reunion with Jesus in Heaven, for eternity. 

The road to reaching that point of total acceptance, however, is very rough, bumpy and never straight.  It takes a lot of intentionality.  It takes a level of maturity.  I takes total trust in the One who promised that:

John 14:2 In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?

and that,

Revelation 21:4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

These words, when not spoken or heard in faith, may sound trite and hollow.  The truth revealed in them loses impact when looked at in the bitterness of loss.  The comfort that they bring dissolves when the  heart is closed in grief.  

The good news is that Our All-Compassionate Father knows all these.  He knows the heart needs time to heal.  He knows that the wounds of loss stay open for a long time, and that even when they are mended, they always leave a scar...that's why we always remember...

Sigh...

The road to reaching the point of acceptance is hard...like a hike in the melancholic haze of a hot, late summer afternoon...but that's how you notice the soft breeze that brings relief while in the shade.

Happy Birthday, Mom!