I Just Have to Share This

Yesterday, I wrote a post that in the end, I just didn’t have the heart to publish.

It needs a little more work, and I don’t think now is the right time for it.

Plus, I’m struggling just a little bit.

I won’t be officially in the School Counseling Program or able to register for any more classes until my grades are posted for the class I just finished.  I am still working on two other classes in the meanwhile.

What I didn’t realize when I started is how the classes I’m taking would affect me, my relationships, and reflections on who I was growing up to who I am now.  These thoughts extend to the decisions I have made, and still make, with my almost grown children.  It has caused me to question and think about whether or not this is something I can do even though I firmly believe God has called me to this – counseling.

I often read older entries when I write in my journal, and this morning I was reminded of the commitment to learn how to live in victory, even though circumstances and life are the opposite.  In an earlier entry, I wrote about the realization that I need to learn how to stand even when I’m overwhelmed by the tides and crashing waves of doubt and fear.

God doesn’t get knocked down.  God doesn’t change who He is.  God stands firm.  And when I feel like I’m in the undertow, flailing and trying to find where to put my feet, I just need to look to God.

So, then, I check my emails, and I read this awesome post by a young lady whom I admire a lot.  Her blog is inspiring, and it seems we often hear similar messages from God while going through different trials, at different stages of life.

Finding Life’s Sand Dollars

Not only did she find her sand dollar, but she also helped me find mine.

We are rich in spirit with Jesus Christ.

May God’s Peace be with all of you!

Get Your Shine On

It’s been a while.

I’ve missed writing. I mean, non-academic writing.

I didn’t expect to be away this long.

Here’s an update.

I’ve started the 2nd set of classes while still working on the 1st set. There’s a small 3-week overlap. I’ve been reading and writing academic style for the last month and a half. I feel like I have to write with APA style now all the time! Everything must be properly cited APA style.

Just kidding.  Not really.  No, Really!

I’ve also been participating in the last Bible study for the Spring session.

It’s called, All Things New – Bible Study Book: A Study on 2 Corinthians (Living Room) by Kelly Minter. It’s a great follow-up after Entrusted  by Beth Moore. Perfect for Spring.

We’re reading 2 Corinthians, and it’s just as challenging as the previous studies.

Over the past several weeks, there have been things I wanted to share with you.

Today, I share one, with no pictures because I have a research paper to finish and another one to start!

Here’s the main visual I have in mind.

A light is hidden under a basket with a veil on top of that.

That’s what I’ve been like. Any time I’ve moved and kept others at arm’s length. I’ve been hiding. It’s not like I really think I’m a star. Don’t get me wrong.  However, I do have the light of Jesus inside. And, when I am unwilling to get to know people, to make friends, to share, I am hiding His light.

Reading about God’s light reminded me of this verse I shared with my family when my kids were young.

14Do everything without grumbling or arguing, 15so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.”c Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky 16as you hold firmly to the word of life. Philipians 2: 14 -16 NIV

It’s related to a verse in Daniel:

New Living Translation
Those who are wise will shine as bright as the sky, and those who lead many to righteousness will shine like the stars forever. Daniel 12:3

So, when my kids, or I, would complain, we would think of this verse.

So, in this Bible study with Kelly Minter, I read these verses already having the others in my mind.

New Living Translation
So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord–who is the Spirit–makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.  2 Corinthians 3:18

Read on . . .

Paul talks about when Moses came down from the mountain with his face glowing from being with the Lord. It scared the people, so he put a veil over his face. Paul compares the glory of Moses receiving the law to the glory of Christ. This same glory shines through us only the glory Moses reflected dimmed over time – ours doesn’t.

But, sometimes, we, or rather, I, hide it.

I blame it on fear, or being too pushy or inappropriate, or just, wanting to stay separated and quiet. If I share something that is so important to me, and it is rejected then I am rejected.

It’s not just sharing the gospel that I hesitate to do. It’s sharing me. For a variety of reasons, I want to stay hidden, and I’ve been convicted. I can no longer keep this light hidden and be who God made me to be.  I have to be willing to let others get to know me, and get to know them.  I can’t do it anymore in the old style, “Let’s be friends, but not too close.”

The Light of the Gospel

1Thereforesince we have this ministry because we were shown mercy,a we do not give up.b 2Insteadwe have renounced shameful secret things, not •walkingc in deceit or distorting God’s message,d but commending ourselves to every person’s conscience in God’s sight by an open display of the truth.e 3But if our gospel is veiledit is veiled to those who are perishing4In their casethe god of this agef has blinded the minds of the unbelievers so they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ,g, h who is the image of God.i 5For we are not proclaiming ourselves but Jesus Christ as Lord,j and ourselves as your •slaves because of Jesus6For God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,”k has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledgel of God’s glorym in the face of Jesus Christ.  2 Corinthians 4:1 – 6  Holman Christian Standard Bible

So, today, I’m not making this pretty and perfect.  But, I am sharing what’s important to me – what God has impressed on me to do.

And, I haven’t forgotten about you, the ones who are reading this blog.  I’m interested in hearing from you.  Leave a comment about how you let the light of Christ shine.

Together, let’s get our “Shine On!”

Someday List

I wasn’t going to post anything today.  However, I really want to share a couple of thoughts from some things I’ve heard and experienced that I think you will find interesting. Again, I find it amazing how God moves among His people.  Only He can put things together in a way that cause so many variables to connect at just the right moments to meet just the right needs. Like when you hear just the right song when you’ve just been praying about a particular need.

If you’ve been following my blog, you know I began writing when my expectations for this season in life were suddenly blocked.  It is an obedient act of faith to write publicly about my faith, the struggles I’ve overcome, and to do it without really knowing where it’s heading, or who is receiving the message.  My main hope is that my obedience is a blessing to those reading it.

My dreams and desires have been altered.

As a mom, as a teacher, as a friend, there is nothing more exciting to me than seeing the ones I love grow.  When I was teaching, we had something called a “Someday List.”  It was a list of books students wanted to read in the future and didn’t want to forget.  I have in my mind a “Someday List” of prayers and dreams.  More than a “Bucket List” of activities to do before I die, the “Someday List” is a list of prayers I’m waiting to see God answer.  I don’t know if I will see everything resolved the way I hope, but I know I have to have faith and cooperate with Him.

Right now, what I previously believed of my ability and dreams is being stretched in  directions different than I ever imagined.

Some of you may have dreams on hold.  You may have dreams which seem unattainable.  Or, you may have some dreams which have been dashed.

One of the big things on my prayer “Someday List” is for Christians to become stronger in our faith, able to stand against the cultural tide moving against us, and to be able to reach those who need Jesus.

This past Sunday was the last in our church’s series on Obstacles to Movement. Each Sunday began with a personal testimony video. Today’s obstacle was culture, as in living in a culture that is opposed to God. As soon as I heard the video, I knew I wanted to share it with you. The descriptions of cultural obstacles are poignant.

Obstacles to Movement: Ben Robertson from Williamsburg Community Chapel on Vimeo.

Our pastor, Travis Simone, followed with a sermon with practical applications using Jeremiah 29 as an example.  You can follow the link to the sermon here: http://wcchapel.org/watch-listen/chapel-media/preacher/travis-simone/

He did suggest a book which he recommends.  I haven’t read it yet, but I expect to soon; To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World by James Davison Hunter.

Then in a podcast I heard about pursuing dreams, a book was mentioned several times.  Since the impetus of my blog had to do with certain dreams and expectations being dismantled, and some of you are either waiting or going through something similar, I thought I would share the title with you:  The Dream Giver by Bruce Wilkinson.

So, I give you the start of a book Someday List, but also the idea to think about a prayerful Someday List of dreams.  The books and videos are relevant towards the theme of why I am writing this blog – living out one’s faith in purpose and action.

What’s on your “Someday List?”

 

A Bookworm’s Battles

This week is the last Bible study meeting for Entrusted .

Last week was my first week of classes for my master’s program in school counseling.

books

It’s a little interesting that as we are getting to the end of Entrusted, I am finding it difficult to figure out how to handle the new commitments and the old. I can’t do everything I want to – the blog, the master’s program, the next Bible study, exercise classes, not to mention the responsibilities I have to my family and home.

I’ve been in a battle this week and last.   There have been reminders of difficult experiences, relationships, and habits of mine. I’ve been overwhelmed with doubt, fear, and a general sense of maybe I am misunderstanding what I’m supposed to be doing.

Then, Beth Moore, who always has the kind of homework you need to concentrate and spend time doing, has us do a timeline from birth to present marking specific things about our walk as Christians. It was an exercise following the topic of teachers and mentors in the faith. In being reminded last week of my failings, I was surprised at what I found. By this exercise, I was able to hear God saying to me, “But you, Melissa . . .”

Painful Reminder #1: I moved and still move too much to have a constant present friend and companion other than my husband.  In my youth, I read ALL THE TIME. I often felt alone and unknown. It was my escape. Reading is my thing even now. I do have a few exceptional long-standing friendships, but we still don’t get to be physically present with each other. I miss y’all!

Painful Reminder #2: I have a real issue with time management. Everything I do takes longer than I expect. There is even the challenge of getting to the right place at the right time. There is a particular horror of bringing your daughter to the first birthday party she’s been invited to in a new town, a week late. Or how about driving your husband’s brother and family around looking for that “Apple Festival” two weeks too soon? These are the special issues that keep one from achieving success. I’m supposed to get a master’s?

Painful Reminder #3: Even though I know how to pray, I know scripture, and I know what I’m supposed to do, I really don’t know how to look at life with the expectation of victory. I get through things. I don’t necessarily win things. Grin and bear it. If it’s hard, I must be doing it wrong.

So, here’s what I learned from last week’s homework, and what I am realizing. Maybe you can relate.

First, on the timeline, most of the people who have been influential in my life are people I have never met. They are authors. Of course, I already mentioned some, Beth Moore, C. S. Lewis, Max Lucado, and others. There are many others. Being a bookworm has been a good thing for me. Reading has given me insight and knowledge that I’ve been able to apply when I didn’t have someone to talk to. What a blessing. “But you have resources to share with others because of the time you’ve spent reading. You haven’t been as alone and isolated as you thought you were.”

Second, I do have to be more mindful of time in a practical sense. Can I say, though, that it is very reassuring to know that God doesn’t show up on the wrong weekend. His plans prevail. He doesn’t get lost or overwhelmed. Even if I do mess up, it doesn’t mean I’ve messed up His plan for me. In every move, looking backward, I can see how He’s been with me, guiding me, even in churches where I was there, but not present. “But you have never been out of My reach, neither time, place, or season.”

Third, I’ve come to realize the battles are God’s way of strengthening me. I’m not supposed to go through life’s battles with a feeling of defeat or fear that I misunderstood what I’m supposed to be doing. It is through these battles that I get to see Him be victorious. In those victories, I’m learning how to fight the good fight with confidence. Battles don’t mean I’m doing something wrong, it means I’m being pushed and stretched. I’m through using the wrong form and getting hurt. I’ll take the discipline willingly if it makes me stronger. “But you have already been given victory, every gift for the plan and purpose I have for you through the power of the Holy Spirit.”

This morning, my boot camp instructor and some others were talking about pushing us to our limits. When I started the first week, I felt like I would throw up before we were even half way through. I don’t feel that way now. I’ve gotten stronger. Last week, this little bookworm felt pushed to the limit in spiritual battle. But guess what, now I feel stronger.

So for now, I may have to post only every other week instead of every week. I think I will spend the next several posts sharing with you some of the different books I’ve read with more specific details and reflections. Coming soon, a link to Amazon. This blog is part of what I’m supposed to do.

Holman Christian Standard Bible
Proclaim the message; persist in it whether convenient or not; rebuke, correct, and encourage with great patience and teaching. 2 Timothy 4:2

And as we press on, here’s a great song to keep going. Steady Me by Hollyn

What is Beautiful?

Lately, there have been so many coincidences in my life; I can say without a doubt God is doing something. It’s exciting, but I still don’t know exactly what it means. Just a quick update – I’m starting classes for my master’s program this week. It’s a real thing now. The Beth Moore study, Entrusted, is incredibly timely for this transition. I’m being shown how God has been putting together all the events and people in my life for His purposes. I’m doing things I didn’t think I could and being more open to new adventures. It’s fun as I discover all kinds of places of His matching and meeting needs in unexpected ways.

Last week’s post was about God’s holiness. I struggled with it because I wanted us to think about the pure goodness, love, and perfection that is God. No matter how I tried to frame it, I couldn’t just make that picture without bringing in my own sin. I did say it’s hard to understand. I’ve been thinking a lot about how we cannot understand it properly because we just aren’t perfectly good, don’t know how to love properly, and are naturally full of selfish desires.

Many of us have had a lot of snow lately. Looking at fresh snow on a sunny day is beautiful and painful. It’s too bright. God’s holiness is like that – pure, clean, beautiful and powerful.  God’s holiness is like His glory.

snowy-field

New Living Translation
His face shone like lightning, and his clothing was as white as snow. Matthew 28:3

New Living Translation
The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God, and he sustains everything by the mighty power of his command. When he had cleansed us from our sins, he sat down in the place of honor at the right hand of the majestic God in heaven. Hebrews 1:3

I am the one who walks our dogs in the mornings. There have been occasions when I’m the first one out after a snowstorm. It always pains me to break the perfect layer of glittering beauty to let the dogs take care of their business. I always feel regret at having to ruin the pure whiteness with our steps and other remainders. Even if it’s not me, the plows come by, the cars, and everything gets pushed to the side. It all becomes a slushy, ugly, mess. It becomes hard to see the beauty.

We can’t violate God’s holiness. It stays. It’s firm. It can’t be polluted. We can’t step on it and leave our footprints marring the perfect, seamlessness of it. Yet He wants us to be with Him. He knows us. He wants to have a relationship with us. We, who are so NOT holy or pure. He knows we can’t help it. We’re born this way.

I recently shared with my daughter this quote:
1233499

Every time I think of different pieces coming together to create unity, I can’t help but think of God’s plan for us. Jesus Christ, through obedience to God’s will, who is also God, has made a way for us to be with Him. He has given us grace.  Because of grace, we, who are broken and sinful, get to be made whole, made acceptable, through Jesus Christ. It takes our believing in Him through faith.

You can see it in John 13: 31-32:  New Living Translation
As soon as Judas left the room, Jesus said, “The time has come for the Son of Man to enter into his glory, and God will be glorified because of him. And since God receives glory because of the Son, he will soon give glory to the Son. 

New Living Translation
“Come now, let’s settle this,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool. Isaiah 1:18

English Standard Version
And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:18

Many of us have experienced some kind of brokenness. At some point, our lives have been shattered, our hearts broken, or we have struggled through pain. The pieces come together through Jesus Christ to create a beautiful masterpiece. What is more different than the holiness of God and the brokenness of mankind?  Yet, He brings them together to create a beautiful kaleidoscope of unity through Christ.

fractal-with-verse

A masterpiece of this magnitude doesn’t take place easily or quickly. It takes planning, time, and endurance with a focused determination. Through His work in us, we get to reflect His glory. This is Amazing Grace!

There are so many songs in my mind I want to share with you reminding me of God’s acts of love. One is “The Broken Beautiful” by Ellie Holcomb.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gpOXrY4BHMA&list=RDgpOXrY4BHMA#t=6

Do you have other songs that express this beauty? Share them with us. I would love to hear from you.

 

 

Not That Big of Deal

We’ve talked a lot here about why we should trust God and His love for us. This time, I want to address the holiness of God, especially in the context of obedience. Merriam Webster defines the word holy as “exalted or worthy of complete devotion as one perfect in goodness and righteousness.”

We learn how to obey and respect authority first from our parents. I think it’s safe to say no one grew up with a holy parent. However, generally speaking, they did their best to teach us right from wrong. When I look back on my childhood, I see significant times when I disobeyed my parents and suffered serious consequences. In most cases, I didn’t think what I was doing was a big deal. For example, there were no laws about seatbelts and car seats when I was young. My brother and I both wanted to sit in the front seat while we went with my dad on some errand. My older brother and I are less than 2 years apart, and we were just a little bit competitive with each other. If he had something, then I had to have it, too. I wanted to be just like him, and I wanted the same privileges he enjoyed.

As we were riding along, I proudly leaned against the seat in the space between my dad and brother, standing so I could see out the window. My joy was disrupted upon hearing my brother telling my dad I should get in the back seat because the door wasn’t shut properly. I reacted as one would expect any strong-willed 3 year-old sibling. Speaking clearly, I told them I wouldn’t get in the back unless my brother had to also. My brother and dad were now both frantically telling me to get in the backseat. I thought a compromise would work better such as sitting down instead. Within a matter of seconds, my dad was reaching over to me, enforcing his command. I yelled, “NO,” pulled away from him, and promptly fell out of the car. Thankfully, my dad had already begun slowing down to pull over. I wasn’t hurt badly, but there were some scratches and bruises. It made such an impression on me; I still remember it to this day. I rebelled and got hurt.

Both my older brother and my dad recognized the danger I didn’t. I was certain I would not fall out of the car, and I had no idea when I pulled away I was that close to the door. I reasoned if my brother could stay in the front without falling out, I could too. I didn’t want to be denied the pleasure and importance of sitting up front.

romans323

How many times has God told us the right way to live,
and we have refused to listen? Perhaps we think this small act of disobedience doesn’t really matter. It’s not that big of a deal. Maybe we rationalize our choices and actions based on what we think is fair. Maybe we just want to have fun and think if it doesn’t hurt anyone else, then we can handle the consequences. For me, that could be sitting on the sofa playing just one more game connecting brightly colored candy. It’s not that big of a deal, until I realize I’ve been playing over an hour, my family has all gone to bed, and I’ve lost that time with them. Or, maybe we think we won’t actually be punished.

 

These thoughts are just the little ways we eventually find ourselves further from God than we realized. To our Holy God, even a little sin matters and separates us from Him. We can’t fully appreciate His perfect goodness and righteousness when we don’t understand it. When I try to fathom what it means that God is holy, and I am not, I feel intimidated. How can I approach the one, true, Holy God when I know how sinful I am? If we stop there, we allow fear to paralyze us. God is Holy, and God is love. It is because of His holy love that He offers grace to us. Remembering this allows us to approach Him with humility and confidence instead of fear. Perfect love drives out fear. (1 John 4:18)

One day, all of us will stand before God – even those who don’t believe in Him now. Remember, God is not dependent on our belief or unbelief. He is real. God will judge each of us. Some will be found righteous and have eternal life, while those who refused His mercy and grace will perish. Our righteousness has nothing to do with our works, but with our faith in the grace He has provided through Jesus Christ.

Below I’ve listed verses for you to read about think about this week. I’ve linked each verse to biblehub.com, where you can see the verse in context or read different translations. These verses are from a list of scriptures used by an organization I’ve been part of called Moms In Prayer. I hope they guide your thoughts this week as you consider God’s holiness.

New Living Translation
No one is holy like the LORD! There is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God. 1 Samuel 2:2

Holman Christian Standard Bible
God, Your way is holy. What god is great like God? Psalm 77:13

New Living Translation
But the LORD of Heaven’s Armies will be exalted by his justice. The holiness of God will be displayed by his righteousness. Isaiah 5:16

New International Version
Who will not fear you, Lord, and bring glory to your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship before you, for your righteous acts have been revealed.” Revelation 15:4

Exodus 15:11           Psalm 99                    Psalm 111:9              Isaiah 57:15-16

Luke 1:49               Acts 3:13-15            1 Peter 1:15-16           Revelation 4:8

 

 

 

 

 

If You Love Me . . .

 

Last week, I included the verse, John 14:23. “Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.” (NIV)

Some of you may be more familiar with the verse that came a little earlier in the chapter, “If you love me, keep my commands.”  John 14:15 (NIV) This is the kind of short, easy verse some of us may have memorized in Sunday School when we were young.

I have trouble with this verse because it sounds conditional. I’ve always been under the impression God’s love is unconditional, so why the ‘if . . . then’ statement? “If you love me” has always struck me as a manipulative phrase. I would never have trusted that coming from anyone without suspecting an ulterior motive was at its core or the person didn’t trust my love for its own sake. Is God trying to manipulate me? Do I have to prove my love to Him? Doesn’t He already know my heart? This just doesn’t seem right. I already know trying to be good doesn’t work.

Remember, if we don’t study scripture in context, we won’t understand it properly. What we have here is the record of a conversation between Jesus Christ and His disciples shortly before his crucifixion. Read the following with a little more context:

15 “If you love me, keep my commands. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be[a] in you. 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. 21 Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.”

Jesus is explaining to His followers that once He has died, been resurrected, and ascended to heaven, He will send His Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, to remain with them. He will not leave them alone in this world. Rather than a manipulative statement, John 14:15 is actually a cause and effect statement. If the love of Christ is in us, we will keep His commands – because we love Him. Each part of the trinity is at work for the unity of love. Keeping His commands is a direct result of the love of God alive in us. Here’s one more verse, again, just a little bit earlier:

11Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves.

In this verse, Jesus says at the very least, His good work is evidence of the Father in Him. By comparison, our keeping the command to love God first, and loving others, is evidence of our knowledge and belief in Jesus Christ. Our obedience comes from the love God Himself gives us and empowers through the Holy Spirit.

There are some conditional statements by God throughout the Bible. Mostly, those have to do with promises. Even the covenant between Abraham and God was dependent on the Israelites keeping their side of the agreement.

Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.” Exodus 19:5 – 6 (NIV)

Much of God’s promises depend on our being faithful or obedient. We make choices. In the Old Testament times, they had the prophets, laws, and sacrifices. Today, we still have the law, which let’s us know of our need for redemption, we have salvation through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, and we have the Holy Spirit to help guide us into truth.

God does not need to manipulate us. Manipulation occurs when someone needs to cause another to do something that serves a selfish purpose. God doesn’t need anything from us, and He certainly isn’t selfish.  Think about this:

12if we endure, we will also reign with Him; if we deny Him, He will also deny us; 13if we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.14Remind the believers of these things, charging them before God to avoid quarreling over words; this is in no way profitable, and leads its listeners to ruin. 2 Timothy 2:13 (NLT)

Let me encourage you. I write about this because I want you to trust God’s love for you. I want you to understand the truth. The truth is God is love. Love is patient. So, God is patient. He does know you, and He wants a relationship with you. God is not dependent on any of us. He’s trustworthy. He’s also forgiving. That’s the whole point of the cross. Our obedience is derived out of our love for Him.  Living things grow.  The more our love grows, the deeper relationship we have with Him, and the stronger our desire is to obey Him.  It takes time.  Let it grow!

Blind to Love

We cannot love without trust, nor trust without love.

This is true in friendships, marriages, and our relationship with God. I may say I know God loves me, but there are times when it doesn’t seem true. His love doesn’t seem real when things are bad and prayers are unanswered. Often, this mistrust shows up in my ignoring Him, acting in ways contrary to His law, or refusing His will and grace. John 14:23 says, “Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.” (NIV) If I disobey, does that mean God doesn’t love me? Or, will He love me less? How do I know? To clarify things, let’s ask the primary question: Do I trust God’s love for me?

For me, the answer is – sometimes. There are times when I feel so secure in God’s love for me that I believe I can do and go anywhere, and I can feel His Spirit right there with me. Other times, I feel like I’m in the dark, hidden, and forgotten. I just can’t see it.

When I was about 12 years old, it occurred to me the only time my mom called me was to do some chore. I decided to test it. I hid in an out of the way place to see if she missed me, or to see if she only came looking for me because she wanted me to do something. After a while, she did come searching for me – because she had a chore for me. The thought stuck in my head, “See, your mom doesn’t really love you. She just wants you to work for her. That’s the only good thing your mom sees about you.” Now, I know that is a brazen lie. I knew it then, too, but I was angry and let the thought fester and grow. Requests for help after that were an echo and reinforcement of that lie. I like to help. The lie undermined our relationship for a while and stole the joy I should have felt at being kind and helpful.

Coincidentally, I believed that God showed favor on people who served in the ministry more than those who didn’t. If I really loved God, and He thought I was good enough, He would call me into church ministry. He didn’t. I came to understand God’s love for me was obligatory. Generally, as in For God so loved the world, and I was part of the general world.

Maybe you also believe lies about the love God has for us. It’s a lot like the doubt the serpent put in Eve’s mind. “Did God really say . . . . ..” (Genesis 3:1) The things that make us doubt God’s love for us and keep us from trusting Him can come from places of real pain and hardship. It can be prayers spoken year after year before seeing an answer, if at all. It can be rejection from someone who is supposed to love you; cutting you to the quick. It can be circumstances that seem impossible to overcome like health issues, financial needs, and broken relationships. Or, it can be things you’ve done you think are unforgivable. How do we know God loves us when things are so hard?

God wants a relationship with us more than good works. His level of love is not determined by whether we are good enough, our circumstances, or any of the other trials we face. Instead, trusting God’s love increases as we spend more time getting to know God and understanding His ways. This helps us get through trials with greater confidence and peace. When we trust God’s love, we can serve Him in obedience, whether it’s in church ministry, at home, or elsewhere. Trust also helps us accept His grace and run to Him when we mess up.

Don’t let yourself be blind to the love God has for you. Determine to find ways to spend time getting to know Him. His love for you often shows up in scripture, prayer time, music, acts of kindness or service through other people, and even displays in nature. If you doubt God’s love for you, allow the Holy Spirit to show you what is causing the doubt. Then wait and see. Listen. Be still. He is faithful. You may find He’s been showing you He loves you all along.

Here are some places to start.  Because God made you, He knows everything about you. He will meet you where you are if you are willing.

New Living Translation
You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed. Psalm 139:16

New Living Translation
But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. Romans 5:8

English Standard Version
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

New Living Translation
May the Lord lead your hearts into a full understanding and expression of the love of God and the patient endurance that comes from Christ. 2 Thessalonians 3:5

Berean Study Bible http://biblehub.com/context/1_john/4-15.htm
15If anyone confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16And we have come to know and believe the love that God has for us. God is love; whoever abides in love abides in God, and God in him. 17In this way, love has been perfected among us, so that we may have confidence on the day of judgment; for in this world we are just like Him.  18There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear, because fear involves punishment. The one who fears has not been perfected in love. 19We love because He first loved us.

What is love?

Hi Friends,

I missed posting last week due to an exciting development I want to share.  I’m pressing forward with going back to school for a master’s degree in school counseling.  I had to take the GRE with very short notice and took all the time I could to prepare for it.  The test has been taken with some measure of success.  It’s another part of moving forward while I’m waiting.  It won’t be an easy or quick undertaking, but at least now I’m putting the dream to action.  It’s kind of funny.  I was spurred to talk to my husband more seriously about it by a number of events; one of my former co-teachers encouraged me in that direction, a late night phone call, and  . . . the music and theme in my exercise class, Body and Soul.  The theme being, “What’s Next.”  Really.  My husband provided the final push to set it in motion.

One more thing, in my last post, I invited you to join me with doing the Entrusted Bible study by Beth Moore.  It’s a 6 week study on 2 Timothy.  Because I live where the big snowstorm came through, we didn’t get to start it.  Our first session will be this coming week.  I would love to know if you are participating with me by leaving a quick comment.  Even if you can’t do the Bible study with a group, you can still read the scripture, contribute to the discussions, and benefit from sharing in the experience.  Depending on your response, I may do a separate post for 2 Timothy on Wednesday’s or Thursday’s for the duration.

In the meantime, I want to continue with the purpose and theme of this blog:  inspiring others to grow in faith and love.  Or in other words, help each of us become healthier Christians.  I’ve been thinking about what makes a healthy church and  a strong Christian for a while.  One of the challenges we face is learning how to love properly.  We may say the words, we may love to a certain degree, but do we understand what it means to truly love?  I sincerely believe growing in faith, having healthy relationships, and getting closer to God, is learning how to love well.

The first commandment is, “Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” Deuteronomy 6:5 (NIV)  We are also instructed to love our neighbors as ourselves.  Then of course, there is 1 Corinthians 13: 4 – 8.  (ESV)

eLove is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  8 Love never ends. 

I know I can’t love like that with all my prejudices and self-centeredness.  I can’t love others, much less God, in my own strength.  More importantly, do we believe God really loves us like that?  If not, therein lies some of the trouble.  If I don’t trust that God really loves me in the way love is described in 1 Corinthians 13, how can I love Him with my whole heart, soul, and strength?  Not to mention loving other people.

We are told God is love, “The one who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” 1 John 4:8 (HCSB)  Also, throughout Psalm 136, the constant refrain is, “His love endures forever.”  Of course, there is also John 3:16, “For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” (HCSB)

English is sadly inept in describing all the different values and degrees of what we call love.  The kind of love here is agapaó; from Greek.  There is a book called, “The Four Loves,” written by C. S. Lewis, in which you can read more about the different kinds of love.  If you are someone inclined to want to know more, I recommend reading this book.  I think you will find it enlightening.

Spend some time this week thinking about who,what, and how you love.  My prayer for you is that not only will you be inspired to love better, but you will also be reminded, personally, of the extent of God’s love for you.  May each of us abide in the love of Christ!

img_1937

Next week, I plan on focusing more on what happens when we accept God’s love for us.

What’s the Good Word?

Today’s post is a little lighter, but just as important, as my previous ones.

Devotion books and Bible studies have made a significant impact in my spiritual growth over the years.  We need to know what God’s word says in order to recognize and know what is true.  The more we learn, the more we can sense God’s presence and activity in our lives.  Bible study and quiet times are so important!  Spending time reading the Bible can be done a little at a time, or in a more disciplined setting with a group of people.  Both are important.

First, please understand the Holy Bible is a collection of many different styles of writing with many different translations.  It’s easy to become overwhelmed with what to read, the reason for it being there, or what you’re supposed to get out of it.  Just because something is recorded in the Bible doesn’t mean it is approved by God.  For example, there is a lot of history written in narrative form, and there are some pretty horrible things recorded.  Therefore, you have to understand the context, culture, and purpose of what is written to really benefit from reading the Bible.

This is where Bible studies and devotions can really help.  There are many authors who study the scripture more deeply than you and I and know how to explain things more clearly.  I always compare what is written in the Bible with what is being taught.  It’s important to let the Holy Spirit and God’s word guide our understanding and compare what the author is teaching to what is written. There are a variety of books for different audiences, knowledge level, and length of time commitment.  Devotions are usually designed to be read independently, while Bible studies are most often designed for groups.

The most recent Bible study book I’ve done with a group is The Armor of God by Priscilla Shirer.  Even though I was familiar with the particular scripture, I gained a lot of practical applications and encouragement from what Priscilla presented in the study as well as from the comments by other women in my group.  Sharing different ideas and perspectives enriches the whole experience for everyone.  This is one advantage to doing a group Bible study.

I’ve also finished reading Wait and See by Wendy Pope on my own.  I was able to go at my own pace, answer the questions in a very personal way without having to share them, and allow time to let certain things sink in.  I wrote the post, “The Rock Tumbler,” based on what I was reading at that time.

I am about to start a Beth Moore study, Entrusted, on January 11, 2017,  with a group at church.  I know it will influence what I’m thinking about for the next few weeks.  I invite anyone else doing the same study to comment and share when I post something related to it.  I’ll put “Entrusted” as a tag so you can find those posts easily.

Thank you for reading my posts.  I do hope this blog is something that encourages you to grow a closer relationship with God.  I am starting a small list of studies and devotions under the Books and Bible Studies tab.  As I add more resources, I’ll figure out the best way to organize them.  For right now, it’s just a list.  I am also happy to say that I’m finally adding my profile picture!  I think it’s really starting to come together.

Happy New Year, and may God’s peace be with you!