Loving Jesus for Jesus: Dwelling With the Lord in Love Strengthens You

 
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Love beckons a lover to come and dwell.

To come and sit.

To come and rest.

To come and be.

Did you know that Jesus Himself beckons you?

That’s right.

The King of the world…

The Maker of the stars…

The Artist of the heavens…

Jesus.

God incarnate.

Jesus.

He beckons you!

Jesus beckons you to come and dwell with Him. To sit quiet with Him. To talk to Him.

To love God.

Because you love Him.

For Him.

Not just for what He can do.

Dwelling with God in love will strengthen you.

It will make you come alive again.

“Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you.”

-Psalm 63:3

But it’s hard sometimes to maintain this love for God. That’s why it must be cultivated.

It’s easy to love Jesus when we see His hand at work, isn’t it?

It’s easy to love Jesus when we’re hopeful for what He’s going to do.

It’s easy to love Jesus when we think about all He has done.

But is it easy to love Jesus when things go wrong?

Is it easy to love Jesus when He allows difficulties that hurt a lot?

Is it easy to love Jesus when what we expected is just not happening?

I’m finding that a lot of the unhealed hurt in my heart has remained unhealed because of my misunderstanding of just how much God loves me.

I keep waiting for God to do something, and all along He has been waiting for me to stop looking ahead and just look at Him.

To look at Jesus.

And stop.

Stop worrying about all that I’m worrying about.

Stop wallowing in disappointment that I can’t control.

And dwell.

Dwell with Jesus in the secret place.

Our secret place.

Where I can be made whole again.

Where I can be made new again.

Where I am loved.

Where I am held.

And our love relationship strengthens me.

“I have asked one thing from the Lord, it is what I desire: to dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, gazing on the beauty of the Lord and seeking Him in His temple.”

Psalm 27:4

A psalm of David

King David loved the Lord.

I can feel it so strongly in His psalms.

Yet He wrestled with so many difficulties in His life!

Psalm after psalm in the Bible unveils David’s struggles: fear, despair, discouragement, betrayal, depression, anxiety…

Can you relate?

I can.

No matter how old you are or young you are, you’re going to experience some difficult things in your life.

Maybe even some devastating and life-crushing things.

And it will be natural to ask, Why God? Where are you? Don’t you see my pain? Will you not move in my situation?

Confusion over why God is remaining silent in the midst of our most difficult seasons can lead to enormous despair. I have experienced this in many ways while being at seminary ironically. In a place I never expected to face so much spiritual attack. And it has been very hard to believe that God cares about me. Consequently, there have been days I’ve doubted His love altogether. And assumed that I would only get to experience it when I’m in heaven but not while I’m here. I haven’t felt taken care of by the Lord like I always have. And I’m starting to see that it’s because God has been trying to grow me and strengthen me. To wean me off of His constant protection and transition me into a place where I can stand strong and resilient in the face of trials. To mature me in areas I needed maturing. To teach me how to handle difficulties in the future.

In Psalm 27:3, David writes,

Though an army encamps against me, my heart shall not fear; though war rise against me, yet I will be confident.” (emphasis mine)

I’m so encouraged by this.

David learned the antidote to his difficulties. David always ran to God first about his struggles and let God saturate His mind with hope. David loved God for God. And his intimacy with the Lord strengthened Him because of this love.

We need to be strengthened if we’re going to make it through this life.

Did you know that?

You need to be strengthened.

I need to be strengthened.

There are powers at war in the spiritual realm fighting for the destiny of God’s chosen. And we cannot let the enemy snatch away our calling.

“Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against all of the schemes of the devil.”

Ephesians 6:11

Loving Jesus for Jesus is the way.

The only way.

Jesus is the only One who can strengthen us and we can only be strengthened if we are in a love relationship with Him.

“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

Psalm 73:26

One of the biggest barriers to loving Jesus for Jesus and loving God for God is when you put conditions on your relationship with Him.

Expecting God to do what you want Him to do is called a condition.

Withdrawing love from God because you feel hurt is called a condition.

Spending time with Him when He does something for you is called a condition.

I’m learning that if I love Jesus, I can’t place conditions on my relationship with Him. Love doesn’t place conditions on a relationship.

But why, God, won’t You come through on your promise? Why, God, won’t You do something about all I’m facing? Why won’t You help me?

All those questions are conditional.

Conditions, that if God were to answer if my favor, I would love Him more. And that’s a problem. I’m so glad God has revealed this to me. If Jesus doesn’t answer any of those questions, I still love Him because He is my God and my love. And He is more to me than what He can do for me.

Is God more to you than what He can do for you?

I encourage you to spend some time with the Lord talking to Him about this. I want this for you because it has drastically transformed the way that I look at the difficulties in my life. It has helped me to find peace and joy again in the love of God. A love that is much richer and much stronger than any trial standing against us.

He goes on in Psalm 27 verses 13-14 to conclude,

“I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living! Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!”

Dwelling with the Lord in love strengthens us.

This kind of strength sees…

…courage in the midst of fear.

…belief in the midst of doubt.

…hope in the midst of disappointment.

…loving God as the antidote to life’s difficulties.

I want the Lord to know everything about me and me know everything about Him. I want that intimacy. I’ve experienced that this kind of relationship with God is far richer than even the most exciting adventure of seeing God’s hand at work. Knowing Him is far better.

Seeing God’s hand at work is great. But knowing Him is far better. It’s more intimate.

If our conversations with God are centered on requests and expectations more than they are centered on getting to know Him and loving Him, we are missing out on intimacy with the Lord.

We must talk to God for God.

Talk to God because we love Him.

Not just for what prayers we want answered.

This kind of interaction with the Lord is more fulfilling than any other relationship we can have. And it it’s not healthy, it will negatively affect other areas of life.

We must seek Jesus for Jesus.

Seek Jesus because we love Him.

Not just for what we want to see Him do.

Love Jesus for Jesus.

He wants to be loved for who He is.

And He wants to dwell with you one on one.

Dwelling with the Lord in love will strengthen you.

I pray for you that would run to Jesus even though a million other things are beckoning you. Run to Jesus first. Without Him you won’t be able to withstand the pressures of life. I’ve learned this the hard way. And I’m finding that my love with God is the only thing that can make me whole.

The greatest love in the world is beckoning you. His name is Jesus. Whose desire is to dwell with you in return. Seek Him today. And may you find strength dwelling with the Lord in love.

“How lovely is your dwelling place,
    Lord Almighty!
 My soul yearns, even faints,
    for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and my flesh cry out
    for the living God.

-Psalm 84:1-2

 

Questions for Today:

  • How does dwelling with the Lord strengthen me?
  • How does placing conditions on my love relationship with the Lord put a barrier between me and Him?
  • How can I redirect my focus on Jesus and away from my negative circumstances?
  • Do I love Jesus for who He is or just for what He can do?
  • What next step is Jesus telling me take in my relationship with Him today?

 

“What A Beautiful Name” by Hillsong Worship

 

The Peace of Paul: “What has happened… has actually resulted in…”

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“And I pray this: that your love will keep on growing in knowledge and every kind of discernment, so that you can determine what really matters and can be pure and blameless in the day of Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” –Philippians 1:9-11

As we dive into the letter to the Philippians, we find the apostle Paul writing to the church at Philippi.

In the above verses, Paul is praying for the welfare of the church at Philippi. Interceding for them. Encouraging them. At first read, this seems ordinary and normal considering this is the Bible after all. And Paul is a great man of God. Of course Paul would be praying for the Philippians. What else would he be doing!

But did you know that the apostle Paul was actually in a jail cell when he wrote this?

That’s right.

A jail cell.

Paul had been imprisoned by Rome for preaching the words of Christ. For doing what God had instructed him to do. For doing the right thing.

So it seems that Paul would be upset, right!?

Wouldn’t he be angry at God for orchestrating his landing at a Roman jail?

Especially considering he had been appointed by God to carry out the mission of God. Wouldn’t God have wanted Paul to not be captured and keep preaching and ministering? Couldn’t God rescue him? Couldn’t God have stopped him from being captured and imprisoned by the Romans?

Surely God could have.

God could have prevented Paul from going to prison unjustly. But He didn’t.

Why?

To Paul, the answer is clear:

“Now I want you to know brothers that what has happened to me has actually resulted in the advancement of the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard, and to everyone else, that my imprisonment is for Christ.” –Philippians 1:12-13

Wow.

Paul isn’t angry.

Now that is a faith in Christ that cannot be shaken.

What has happened…has actually resulted in…

Hmmmm…

It seems Paul is starting to think about how this can be used for God’s glory…

Hmmm….

It seems Paul is starting to see how others can hear about Jesus by him being there in the prison…

Hmm…

It seems Paul is finding joy in jail…

It seems Paul is seeing God at work…

It seems Paul trusts God’s hand in his life in any and every situation he goes through…

Wow…

What has happened…has actually resulted in…

Plug in your situation… has actually resulted in…

Being in jail…is actually helping others hear about Christ.

Being persecuted by others… is helping me fellowship with Christ in His sufferings.

Experiencing conflict… is actually growing stagnant areas in my life.

Not having what I think I need… is actually elevating my trust in God as my provider.

Feeling unloved… is actually drawing me nearer to the Lord who loves me extravagantly. 

Remaining in a difficult situation… is actually shaping me into the person God wants me to be.

Whatever has happened…God will use to result in something beneficial! For you and for His glory!

“No one takes up the case for your sores.

You have nothing that can heal you.

But I will bring you health

and will heal you of your wounds…” –Jeremiah 30:13 & 17a

Remember: love seeks the welfare of others. And God is love. So God seeks our welfare. No matter the situation, God seeks our welfare in that. Aren’t you glad to know you have one person on your side in this life seeking your welfare? And not just anyone! But God! The God of the universe is seeking your welfare!!! And He’s never gonna stop.

Paul may be limited to a jail cell.

But God is not limited.

God is still seeking the welfare of Paul.

Even in the jail cell.

God is using Paul’s situation to do exactly what He intended all along.

And in the middle of it, Paul also starts to reflect the love of God by seeking others welfare as well. Paul starts to pray for others even in the midst of his own suffering.

Do we?

Are we seeking the welfare of others when we are in pain? When we are upset? When we feel ignored, rejected and passed over?

Paul did.

Paul demonstrates the purity of love by praying for others and seeking their welfare, instead of dwelling on his own unfavorable circumstances.

In verse 10 of the first chapter, Paul says something very meaningful that particular sticks out to me: “so that you can determine what really matters…”

What really matters.

What really matters.

Paul discovered what really matters.

Paul found that what has happened… is actually helping him to discover what really matters. 

→ Saying yes to God at all costs.

That really matters.

“For me, to live is Christ, to die is gain,” (1:21).

So whether Paul is alive: he says yes to Jesus.

And whether Paul is dead: he sees Jesus.

Either way, he says yes to Jesus.

He follows Him.

Are you?

“So then, my dear friends, just as you have always obeyed, not only in my presence but now even more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” –Philippians 2:12

Are you following Jesus at all costs? Am I following Jesus at all costs?

Recently I have been thinking a lot about the songs I listen to that talk about my faith in God.

Songs that say, “take it all…”, “you can have it all, Lord…every part of my world…”, “I surrender all…”, “should this life hold nothing but my Savior, I will praise you always…”… And to me, these words are very serious words. These are not just songs on the radio to sing along to. They are serious vows. Serious vows to the Lord.

When I sing “You can have it all, Lord…” do I really mean it?

If so, why am I surprised when God takes it all??

When we sing “I surrender…” do we really mean it?

If so, why do we try to take control over God and do things our way??

What we commit to in our relationship with Jesus is very serious. It’s not to be said whimsically. If I say to the Lord that he can have it all, I better expect for Him to take it all and I subsequently find joy in that. Just like the apostle Paul did.

Paul meant what he said when he said “to live is Christ, to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21)

Paul walked what he talked.

Paul sang praises to Jesus while chained in a jail cell!

Paul found joy in God taking everything from him. And I just can’t get over it. It helps me so much to learn from Paul’s contentment in the Lord when his situation could have been incredibly miserable. From Paul’s humble submission to let God do anything to him, no matter how much it hurt. From Paul’s willful obedience to follow the Lord even unto death. To choose Jesus over every other thing he could have. His whole life revolved around Jesus.

Paul would go on to be executed by the Romans.

For him, saying “to die is gain” would be a quick reality.

And Paul was ready.

Paul was willing.

Paul was joyful.

Paul was glad to give his life for Jesus.

Are we?

I pray we would think about what really matters. And that our inclination during a difficulty would be to say “what has happened…has actually resulted in…” for the glory of God.

→ Just like the picture above after a forest fire, the flames were hot and the devastation discouraging. But the forest will regrow. And look at what you can see now. Beauty is just along the horizon. What has happened… has actually resulted in… 

May our confidence in the Lord blur every over worry, discouragement, stressor, anxiety and assailant of our joy. God is fighting for you and He’s on your side. Let us recall the posture of Paul’s heart when we go through what seems like hopeless situations in our lives. For surely, God it doing something glorious.

 

“But our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for a Savior, The Lord Jesus Christ. He will transform the body of our humble condition into the likeness of His glorious body, by the power that enables Him to subject everything to Himself.”

–Philippians 3:20-21

 

Questions for Today:

  • What did Paul say that redirected his potential misery into peace?
  • How can I learn to be thankful in the midst of unfavorable circumstances?
  • How can I fill in this sentence to reflect my own response to my current situation? → “what has happened…has actually resulted in…”
  • What next step can I take in my relationship with the Lord today?

 

“Fullness” (Acoustic) by Elevation Worship

God Did Not Create Us to Hate Each Other

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The recent events surrounding unjust killings along with the steady escalation of racial tension in America are grieving to witness. This isn’t what we were created for. This is not who we are. No one wins in this.

God created us to be like Him.

To reflect His goodness.

To demonstrate His grace.

To show His Kindness.

To be different.

God created humans in the form of a beautiful tapestry of humanity to enjoy one another, complement one another, love one another and sharpen one another.

But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from all sin.” –1 John 1:7

We possess a God-designed identity for humanity’s family on earth.

A family that was meant to be holy and set apart for God.

God did not create us to hate each other.

He created us for each other.

We’re meant to be a blessing to each other.

 “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” –1 John 4:11

“Bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.” – Galatians 6:2

 “For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.” – Romans 12:4-5

And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” -Colossians 3:14

Sin tries to ruin our God-designed identity as humanity’s family.

Sin tries to put enmity between us.

Sin tries to divide us.

This is nothing new.

It’s been happening ever since Genesis 3.

“Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” (Genesis 3:1)

“Did God really say…” says the devil.

“Did God really say…” whispers our flesh.

The devil wanted to make Eve question God.

The devil wanted to plant division within the human heart.

Enmity.

Division.

“The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’ ” (Genesis 3:2-3)

Eve knew what God said.

That wasn’t the problem.

The problem was that what she knew was about to be threatened.

And this had never happened before.

Eve was not prepared for truth to be attacked. Eve all the sudden had an invasion of normalcy. Unity with God as it was intended to remain was about to be assaulted by the one who has been scheming against God from the very beginning. Satan. Eve did not know who she was up against.

And soon, humanity would never be the same.

“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:4-5)

Satan’s determination to break the design anointed on God’s humanity was wrapped up in a promise of eternal life.

How ironic.

Eve didn’t need his promise. She was already designed for eternity. But that’s how evil does.

Evil always makes a counterfeit promise.

And it never comes through.

It tricks every time.

Eternal death was Satan’s hidden agenda and turning her against the one who created her was just what he needed to complete his mission.

“When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.” (Genesis 3:6-7)

This is where everything changed for Adam and Eve.

No more watering the flowers in luscious Garden of Eden bliss…

No more singing with the bluebirds in the sun…

No more dancing with the bunnies of the forest…

No more peace…

No more calm.

Satan was about to damage humanity forever. All with one lie. And creation was sabotaged. Our design for unity hacked and rewired.

Hatred spewed in like the breaking of the Hoover Dam.

It was never meant to leak in.

But it did.

Thankfully, Jesus has come to save the day. And He will come again to rescue us into the real eternal life that only He can promise and fulfill.

But we’re still here in this broken, grieved earth. The same earth assaulted by Satan in Genesis 3.

Now Satan along with sin continues his assault….whispering lies in our ears causing misunderstanding… skepticism… disunity… prejudice… bitterness… and on and on…

Lies that break our original design for harmony.

Lies that cause us to assume the worse about others.

Lies that cause us to doubt each other.

Lies that plant animosity and hatred within humanity’s family on earth.

Lies that causes some people to carry out their evil desires and hurt others.

Lies that kill.

We have become estranged it seems.

Throughout the Bible and throughout all of history, we have witnessed story after story of division within humanity’s family and how that division attempts to ruin our identity.

You don’t even have to pick up a book to confirm this.

Many stories are already imprinted into the fabric of our memories and ancestral histories.

And it hurts.

Sometimes, it hurts so much that even we are who God’s people are tempted to rebel against our God-designed identities as well and let these negative feelings overtake us. Sin continues to stir negative emotions within the human heart that lead to anger, rage, division, prejudice, pride, and selfishness. And it can be hard to push aside.

I myself have difficulties experiencing some of these emotions at times.

The devil hates us.

And he wants nothing more than to make us to hate each other and wreck our God-designed destiny for humanity’s family here on earth.

It’s working isn’t it?

The devil seems to be winning.

Seems.

It seems humanity does hate one another.

War after war. Violence after violence. Killing after killing. Prejudice after prejudice. Rudeness after rudeness. Belittling after belittling. Sin after sin.

What’s problematic is that so many forms of hatred are masked by human rationality.

Human nature causes us to find a “reason” to hurt one another.

Just like Satan did.

Satan had a “reason” for why Eve should disobey God.

Sin always has a “reason” for why it’s okay to do the wrong thing.                         

A “reason” that’s always disturbing.

Hitler wanted to kill Jews out of a communal-unity-purity “reason,” ISIS kills out of a religious-ideological “reason,” thieves steal out of a lack-need “reason,” slavery existed out of a financial-greed-economic “reason,” I sin against God out of self-preservation “reasons.”

“Reasons” that hurt other people and/or ourselves are never okay!…”

Reasons saturated by sin are an abomination to the brain-functioning capabilities.

It’s freaking messed up what humanity capable of!

“Reasons.”

Too many reasons.

Why did you do [that]? asks the judge every time.

“Well, because…”

There’s always a “because…”

A reason.

A disturbing reason.

A disturbing reason for doing the wrong thing.

Sin always persuades you with a reason.

Don’t fall for it.

It hurts.

Satan has contaminated our identities and he’s trying to make us act like him when we were created to act like Jesus. Too often we fall for it. How grateful I am for Jesus’ grace.

It’s human nature to try and justify a wrongdoing according to what we think is good for us.

And that’s a problem!

Because it causes innocent people to get hurt. Even killed.

My hearts hurts for the families of… Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, Michael Brown, Freddie Gray, Trayvon Martin, the 5 Dallas police officers, the now 3 Baton Rouge police officers and so many countless billions of others recently and throughout history who have been harmed and/or murdered unjustly.

My heart grieves at the animosity boiling in our country between black and white.

My heart is unsettled over the fact that so many are hurting and unheard and misunderstood.

Battling each other will never solve anything.

I’m not here to offer up the perfect solution.

I don’t have one.

I wish I did.

But I do know we need to seek to learn how to love each other better, understand one another, and feel what others are feeling.

Feeling what others are feeling and cultivating empathy is incredibly important.

Empathy is one of the strongest cultivators of love.

Why?

Because what you feel drives how you: think, respond, and act.

And that’s what Jesus did to draw us to Himself.

Jesus came down to be like us so He could feel what we feel.

Empathy.

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him… Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” –1 John 4:9, 11-12

We need to go out of our way to do whatever it takes to understand each other’s pain so that we can share in empathy with each other.

Paul exhorts us in Romans 12:15 to “Rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep.”

We must start with ourselves when it comes to each of our individual roles in this whole family of humanity and the sin that divides us. We are all living here on earth. We are all involved. We are all contributors, whether by action or inaction. We must each analyze our hearts and recognize the sin that is cultivating any kind of division within humanity’s family, and change it, so that we may seek the welfare of one another.

I have to examine my own heart and discover the wickedness within me before I can expect anybody else to change.

What I am encouraged by is this: there is a lot more good than evil.

I am encouraged but what I have witnessed so far in Dallas surrounding the police officer shootings, with people coming together and seeking to better understand one another, acknowledge that we have not done our best to love each other well, create dialogue and conversation regarding the escalating tensions surrounding race, and seek healing together.

This is an opportunity to show the devil who we are in Christ!

To show who we as humanity were created to be!

The good news is, 1 Peter 2:9 declares WHO WE REALLY ARE!

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” (emphasis mine) – 1 Peter 2:9

God has called us out of darkness.

Into His light.

We were not created to hate each other.

We were created to display the beauty of God together: every race, every culture, & every color. It’s beautiful just like God created it to be!

We were created to love one another no matter how much it costs us.

We were created to mourn with those who mourn no matter how uncomfortable it is.

We were created to pursue justice, love mercy and walk humbly with our God no matter how inconvenient it is.

For we are God’s chosen people!

This is who we are.

May we take back our God-designed identity as humanity’s family.

May we be known by our love.

 

“Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselvesnot looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”

Philippians 2:1-4

 

Questions for Today:

  • What role have I played in the injustices of our world?
  • Is there any hostility, prejudice, anger, pride, or other negative emotion remaining undealt with in my heart?
  • How can I better understand and empathize with my fellow brothers and sisters?
  • What is my posture towards racial injustice and racial reconciliation and what am I doing for the cause of Christ to make a positive impact?

 

The Relief of Release: Nothing Messes Up God’s Will

butterflies flying away out of jar

If there’s a burden you’re carrying.

You don’t have to carry it anymore.

It’s not up to you to carry it.

Release it.

The Lord can handle it.

“Cast your cares on the LORD and He will sustain you; He will never let the righteous be shaken,” says Psalm 55:22.

The worry that keeps you from sleep at night…the fear that halts you from moving forward…the stress over feeling like you have to do this and that to ensure God’s plan…whatever burden you’re overwhelmed with….…let God have it…He’s competent enough to take it from you and do something with it that will actually help you out.

But it’s hard to do sometimes.

Sometimes I like carrying around my burdens and worries.

They’re like pretty butterflies in a jar, not like chains. I forget that they’re actually the things weighing me down.

But I can’t release it out of fear that what I’m worried about will be lost forever if I stop worrying. I don’t want to let go and God never give me what I want because He assumes I’m fine now and not worried. So I keep my worries, burdens, and stress to myself, hoping it will get better. But it never does.

Yet, I fear that if I let go then I will for sure miss out.

I fear that releasing my worries to the Lord will ensure my permanent loss of what I hope for.

I fear that peace will replace my angst, and that in losing my angst, the hope, of which produced the angst, will be forever lost.

I don’t want to lose hope.

And as long as I have some angst, I have some hope.

But if I feel like all my angst is gone, I have nothing to hope in. Hope produces angst because I become restless in what I’m hoping in: thus, the angst.

So, what if I hope in something but want to eliminate my angst?

Is it possible?

Can I both hope and be at peace simultaneously?

I don’t know how to.

But I want to. This is my great predicament right now.

How do I be at peace while hoping in something? Hope makes me excited, on edge, restless, eager….not peaceful…

Because I’m anxiously awaiting that which I hope for…

But having no hope at all makes me discouraged, depressed, purposeless, weary…not peaceful.

So eliminating hope itself is not the answer to eliminating my angst. Eliminating hope is not the answer to peace.

But if hope causes me stress then what do I do?

What is the answer?

I couldn’t finish this part of the blog. Not until today.I haven’t been able to figure out the answer until God spoke to me through an Uber driver.

Yes, I said Uber.

On my way to the airport, I was talking to the Uber driver and she told me something.

She said, “If God wills for something to be in your life, ain’t nobody can stop it.”

I heard it, but I didn’t really hear it.

I didn’t really believe her. I just nodded my head. I’ve heard it before. And usually I’ve believed that too. But right then, I just didn’t believe it. Too many things in the way for me to believe that God could still accomplish His will.

But she kept going on about it.

“…ain’t nobody who can open a door that God shuts… ain’t nobody who can shut a door that God opens. Nothing gets in God’s way. He’s God.”

I started to think about what she said.

And questions wrestled in my mind…

Then why did that happen? If nothing can get in Your way, God, then why did this get messed up like this? Why do I feel like it’s up to me? Why do I feel like if I don’t do enough I won’t receive what You’ve willed? Why do I feel so much pressure to do everything myself? Why does everything get messed up even when I try to do the right thing?

Life, sin, my disobedience, others’ disobedience, the fallen world, unfavorable circumstances… all these things get in the way don’t they?

At least that’s what I’ve been believing.

I’ve been believing that there’s so many factors that hinder God’s will in my life and I’m terrified of doing anything that will mess up God’s will. I feel like I’ve already failed.

God’s will seems impossible to me.

Deep down, no matter how powerful I believe God to be, I also believe that I or someone else has the potential to mess up His plan. Thus, I feel like it’s up to me to make sure I don’t do that. And thus, the angst over what I’m hoping for.

This is the problem.

My burdens and worries are rooted in fear that God’s will is only possible if I do enough to make it happen. But I can never do enough. And it stresses me out more and more. 

But maybe, it’s not up to me. Maybe God really is more powerful than all of this. Maybe He can still accomplish His will even without me.

The Uber driver was right.

Nothing and nobody can get in the way of God.

Nothing and nobody can stop God from doing what He wants to do in my and your life.

Nothing and nobody will shut the door on His will.

Not even me.

Not even you.

Job knew this was true when he saw the faithfulness of God and the blessings that came after his time of being assaulted by the devil.

Job says this in Job 42:2,

“I know that You can do anything and no plan of Yours can be thwarted.”

Talk about confidence!

Yet Job questioned God a lot though his season of hardship.

And Job constantly went to other people asking then about why all the bad things were happening to him in His life. Nobody could give him an answer. It only made him more confused and more stressed out. Yet at the end of his life and in the last chapter recorded in the book of Job, we see that Job has shifted from angst to peace. He finally believes what the Uber driver believes and so told me: that nothing can stop God’s plan.

In Job 42:3b, Job goes on to say this when talking to God: “Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.”

Job finally knew who He was talking to.

God.

Not somebody up in the sky distant from his life and pain.

Job finally understood that his angst, stress and burdens surrounding his hardship was fueled by his misunderstanding of God.

The same reason I was hesitant to believe my Uber driver when she told me nothing can get in the way of God’s plan is the same reason Job was questioning God. I was speaking and thinking of things I did not understand…I was seeing everything in my life as dependent on my ability, not God’s ability. I did not understand God. I did not fully understand His power.

The problem is that I thought God’s power was contingent on my activity.

But this is incorrect.

God’s power is contingent on my heart posture, not my activity.

Ephesians 2:8-9 says that we are saved by grace not by activities or works. So if we are saved by grace, aren’t we sustained by grace too? 1 Corinthians 1:8 says Jesus Christ will sustain us until the end. And if we are sustained to the end by God Himself and not by our own selves, then why do we put so much pressure on ourselves to achieve God’s will by works?

It’s not about works or activity.

It’s about seeking Jesus with our hearts.

“You will seek me and find Me when you seek Me with all of your heart,”

Jeremiah 29:13

We have to ask ourselves individually: How is my heart postured towards God?

→Does my heart seek Jesus Christ and long to follow His leading no matter what?

→Or is my heart cold and indifferent to Jesus, not caring to follow His leading?

This is the only thing that matters when it comes to God’s will.

Does your heart want God? Or not?

If you do, then God will lead you into His will.

“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” – Matthew 6:33

A heart postured towards God, seeking Him and following Him, will never be able to thwart God’s will.

So… I am finding my solution: hope + peace simultaneously.

What a relief.

When I believe 100% that God’s plan for my life cannot be stopped, I can have peace in the midst of what I hope for.

I can release my angst, and trust that God will take care of what I hope for without my help.

Before, I thought it was up to me to “do enough” to help God’s plan happen in my life. I thought I needed to help Him out.

You see, I’m a very get-things-done, proactive, work-for-what-you-want kind of person and this has been hemorrhaging into my relationship with the Lord. I assume that if God wants something for me or I want something for me, I partner with Him to get it done. I feel like I have a responsibility as a human being to put my hands to the plow and be actively involved in what God is doing in my life. I can’t just sit back and do nothing. But I have gotten to the extreme of thinking that it’s all up to me. And that if I don’t do a certain thing – that I believe God could have used and multiplied in His way of orchestrating things – then I think I have messed up everything and delayed or even ruined what God wanted to do in my life. Thus, I feel incredibly stressed out, overwhelmed, burdened and anxious trying to make sure I do enough for God to have something to work with and that I don’t do anything stupid to mess up what He is doing. This has been causing me so much stress if you can imagine.

But now, I’m releasing this.

I’m releasing my belief that it all is up to me to achieve God’s will.

I cannot achieve God’s will.

Neither can you.

God’ will is a gift.

I call it a gift.

I call it a gift because whatever is wrapped up in “God’s will” for your life is the best thing you would have never even known to ask for. And if I would have never known to ask for it, then I also would have never known to work for it or help God achieve that which I didn’t even know existed. Thus, I can take the pressure off of myself. It’s not up to me anymore. It’s up to God.

Wow how this is so freaking freeing!!!!

I feel so light right now I cannot even describe.

Coming to this realization was like climbing Mount Everest for me.

I want you to see it and believe it too…

You don’t have to put pressure on yourself to achieve God’s will. If you are truly seeking the Lord, He will naturally guide you into it.

“I will instruct you and show you the way to go; with My eye on you, I will give counsel,” says the Lord in Psalm 32:8.

God gets more glory anyways when it’s only Him doing it.

And God likes getting all the glory.

He alone deserves it.

“Not to us, Yahweh, not to us, but to Your Name give glory because of Your faithful love, because of Your truth.” – Psalm 115:1

And also know… if God wants you to do something, He will tell you. If you are seeking the Lord, you know that there is a BIG difference between doing something because you think it is right and doing something because the Holy Spirit nudged you (Prov 3:5-6; John 14:26, 16:13; James 1:5-6; 1 John 4:1; Isaiah 58:11). This is helpful for me and anyone else who likes to be able to do something, while recognizing that it’s important to yield that autonomy to the Lord and let Him be the lead in our decisions and activities.

Relief rests in release.

Don’t feel like it’s a failure to release everything to Jesus.

It’s not.

But if you’re like me, you may feel that way. I don’t like to release something and let someone else be in charge. Then I don’t feel like I have any power.

However, we need to understand that it’s not healthy for us to have all the power.

It’s only healthy if God has all the power first. And then we let Him assign power, influence and authority that He wants us to have for specific reasons and giftings for His glory not ours.

Whatever you’re hoping to receive from the Lord, thank Him for that gift of hope.

Whatever you’re anxious about hoping for, release that to Jesus and know for certain that God can accomplish it in His own.

Whenever you feel like you’re out of control, release that to the Lord and find comfort in God knowing exactly what to do.

Whatever you feel like you’ve messed up His will, release that to Jesus and know that God is actually powerful enough to use it to your advantage as You seek Him.

Whatever you’re confused about, release that to Jesus and let Him guide you to the answer in due time.

Release…

Relief.

Release…

Relief.

Release…

Relief.

That burden you’re carrying… that hope that’s becoming too heavy… that striving after what you want the Lord to do………let Jesus have it.

Release it.

Give it to Him.

And let the peace of the Lord give you relief.

I pray for you that you would believe God is powerful enough to accomplish His will in your life. Even without your help. For if you are seeking Him, He will guide you there. God is not waiting on you to “do enough” so that you can be the one to achieve His will. God’s will is not something you achieve. It’s a gift. I pray you would believe it and receive peace. I pray blessings upon you and the Spirit of the Lord to be strong in you so that you will know His voice above all others. Thank you, Jesus for your patience and faithful love.

 

“For I, the LORD your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I am the One who helps you.”

–Isaiah 41:13 –

 

Questions for Today:

  • What is burdening me right now?
  • Why can’t I release it to the Lord?
  • Do I fear I will lose something?
  • Do I want control?
  • Can anything mess up God’s will?
  • How can I have peace amidst what I hope for?

 

“Call Upon the Lord” by Elevation Worship

Waiting for Jesus

trust

I wonder what it will be like seeing Jesus for the first time…

After all the time spent getting to know someone so deeply who you’ve never seen, never touched, never spoken to directly…all of it will change in a moment and suddenly there’s no more hoping anymore, no more wondering anymore, no more waiting anymore…

Jesus will be right there in front of your face.

Staring into your soul.

Touching your hand.

Embracing you.

Satisfying the deepest places of lack in your heart.

Finally.

I’ve always wondered how Jesus will be able to be with everybody in the New Heaven and New Earth if there will be so many people up there…

I just don’t know what I would do if I had to wait in line to see Jesus!

Waiting in line to see Jesus?

Hmm…

I would get so antsy waiting to see Him!

I don’t know if I could wait…I would find myself cutting the line and sneaking up to Him tapping Him on the shoulder from behind. Jesus, I’m sorry but I just couldn’t wait in line to see You…I need to see You now! But what about everyone else? I can’t just cut everyone else. Natalie, be patient…I will see you shortly… Sigh. But No, Jesus, I need You now! Please don’t make me wait anymore… I can see it now all playing out. Surely Jesus wouldn’t tell me to go away…

Surely this is not how it will be!

Surely we won’t have to wait in line to see Him!

So I try to remember He is omnipresent. God’s Word says He is everywhere and always with us (Jeremiah 23:23-24, Isaiah 57:15, Acts 17:27, Ephesians 4:6, Psalm 139:7-9).

But I still wrestle with this fear because, logistically, how can one physical entity be with me and be with everyone else too when we are all together in eternity?

The Bible says in Revelation 21 that there will be no crying in heaven and no pain. No sorrow and no anxiety. Nothing bad!

Yet when I think about having to share Jesus with billions of other people it makes me think I will hardly get to see Him and it stresses me out. But I don’t want to take away other people’s opportunity to see and be with Jesus either. So what will we do? If there is no stress in heaven, I know I won’t be stressed out. So somehow it has to work out and be okay.

I just hope that God is able to be with every single person at the same time in some supernatural way that only He can do!

Then I wonder…

What if Jesus gets sick of me?

I just want to go and find Jesus wherever He is and be with him 24/7 so I fear that He will get tired of me wanting to be with Him all of the time. What if He is having an important discussion with someone really high-up like Moses or Peter or his own mother Mary and then I’m right there having to wait to get to be with Him. I don’t want Jesus to get tired of me for always trying to be with Him. I get so scared that I will scare Him away.

I really need God to help me with these fears. Because I’m realizing that the way I view my future relationship with Jesus in Heaven is also what I fear in real relationships. I fear loving someone so much that I lose them. I fear pushing them away.

So I’m asking the Lord to help me see me the way He sees me and to believe that He does want to be with me just as much as I want to be with Him.

I love this verse in Jeremiah 31:3 as a reminder to my heart that Jesus loves me more than I believe:

“the Lord appeared to him from far away.
I have loved you with an everlasting love;
therefore, I have continued to extend faithful love to you.” (emphasis mine)

We all need to focus on the “continued to” part.

I know I do.

God loving you is a continual thing, not a one-time thing.

Real love never stops.

Real love never gets tired of you.

Real love never neglects you.

Real love pursues you forever no matter what.

Jesus won’t stop loving me. He wont stop loving you either! No matter how much I think I’m bugging Him, no matter what I do to fail Him, no matter how I mess up, Jesus will never get tired of me. He will never get tired of you. He will continue to love me. He will continue to love you. I can’t even describe how much this truth comforts.

I want you to know that Jesus will love you forever and He will never get tired of you being with Him!

I mean, Jesus possesses a kind of love that is radically different from anything we could fathom…He loves sinful people like you and I…and He came and died while we were still in the middle of our mess…He extends His hand to us while we are still in the middle of our mess…that’s love! Love that will never stop! Love that you can count on. Love that goes on and on and on…

Romans 5:7-8 affirms this,

“For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (emphasis mine)

That’s love.

My heart is at peace knowing this kind of love exists.

It’s what reminds me that God’s omnipresence has to be real because if God loves us that much, there is no way that we will be left standing in line waiting to see Him in Heaven.

He will make a way to be with each and every one of us all of the time. That’s just what I believe. I know Jesus’ heart of love would not neglect any one of His children even for one second. So we can be confident that we will have access to Jesus forever at every moment.

Let your heart be refreshed today knowing there will come a day when we get to step into eternity with God forever. And I pray for you that you would know God loves you and He will never get tired of you! He will never grow weary with you! He will never stop loving you! It’s not possible. Let Him love you. I pray that you would be overcome with peace and comfort today. Thank you, Jesus.

“Then I heard a loud voice from the throne:

“Look! God’s dwelling is with humanity,
and He will live with them.
They will be His people,
and God Himself will be with them
and be their God.


He will wipe away every tear from their eyes.
Death will no longer exist;
grief, crying, and pain will exist no longer,
because the previous things have passed away.”

-Revelation 21:3-4-

 

 

“Shine A Light” by Elevation Church

God is Satisfied in You

IMG_20160311_195823

Do you ever feel like you just can’t live up to the life God has called you to?

Do you ever feel like you don’t measure up?

Have you ever felt like you’re just not enough?

If you’ve ever felt inadequate or incapable… insufficient or invisible… a disappointment or a failure… I know how you feel. This post is for you.

I want you to know that God sees you as so precious and fully enough, no matter how empty and inadequate you may feel!

You are always enough to Him!

God is satisfied in you.

The Lord has been reminding me of this truth today, in a season of life where every day I feel like I don’t measure up.

I feel inadequate.

I feel like there is something I’m supposed to live up to and I just can’t cut it. I can’t live up to it. I feel overwhelming pressure to measure up to everything and prove that I am good enough. But all it does is make me feel worse about the fact that I can’t ever prove that I am. I never feel good enough. It makes me want to give up. Too many things I fail. Too many things I mess up. I never feel like I am capable to live whatever life God wants for me. All these thoughts are like repeat in my head. It keeps whispering and whispering. And I know that it is the enemy trying to mess me up and make me give up. He wants me to fall apart.

I know the enemy does not want me to be confident whatsoever in anything of God.

So he attacks me with lies over and over again.

The problem is I can believe them.

I can believe the lies and become so paralyzed by fear that it may actually be true, and I shut down. I don’t know how to overcome the anxiety in that moment.

Until God begins to whisper His truth a little louder…and a little louder… And I am reminded that God is STRONGER than any fear I may be distracted by.

I love the verse Psalm 56:3. I used to say it when I was little. And my dad reminded me of it last week. It says, “When I am afraid I will trust in You. In God, whose Word I praise…”

God is strong enough to ease your fears!

God is strong enough to fight for you when you are weak!

God is strong enough to destroy the enemy when He tries to whisper lies to you!

God is strong enough to lead you when you don’t know which way to go!

God is strong enough to protect you!

“No weapon that is fashioned against you will succeed, and you shall refute every tongue that rises up against you in judgment. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord and their vindication is from Me, declares the Lord.” – Isaiah 54:17.

May God be praised!

He will protect us.

“The LORD is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; and He knows those who trust in Him.” – Nahum 1:7.

I’ve never been more confident in this than I am now that God is strong enough to help me. If He weren’t I would fall apart. Because I need Him so bad right now!

You know why God chooses to protect you?

Because you are VALUABLE to Him!

1 Corinthians 3:17 says this,

“If anyone destroys God’s sanctuary, God will destroy him; for God’s sanctuary is HOLY, and that is what YOU are.” (emphasis mine).

God sees you as priceless and so worthy of His own love. His love! How crazy is it that the God who created the universe and everything in it would choose to love a mere human?

Because you are far from inadequate.

You are far from invisible.

You are far from unworthy.

You are far from not-good-enough.

God chooses you, beloved.

He chooses you!

He fights for you!

You are so valuable that God was going to do whatever it took to be able to have you live with Him in His Holy dwelling forever. He came and lived a really hard life, knowing all along the plan was to be murdered by His own people – just so He could pay what it would cost to have you be His forever. He wasn’t about to lose you. No sir. He went after you! He wants you that much! You are that valuable to Him.

You are far from incapable.

For you, precious son and daughter are made in the very image of the most high God.

His very image!

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27). I can’t believe that God would choose to make us like Him. He wanted children who would reflect His glory and beauty.

And let me tell you…God is radiantly glorious and beautiful…and so naturally that is what YOU are!

Radiantly glorious.

Radiantly beautiful.

Every hue of your skin, every shade of your hair, every glimmer in your eyes, every creative idea in your mind, every desire in your heart, everything about you… it comes from God by His own expertise to design you. And what He designs is always breathtaking.

Psalm 139:13-16 speaks of God designing you,

“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.”

For anyone who doubts their ability to live up to God’s standard, I know how you feel.

I’ve been there. And in many ways I still am. So I want to encourage your heart today that you don’t have to measure up to anything!

Jesus Christ measures up to God’s standard and He stands in Your place reconciling you to God. It’s not your job to measure up anymore. That’s Jesus’ job. And it’s already been done. You can receive Him.

Jesus Christ covers you.

Therefore, God is satisfied in you.

Let that sink in.

God is satisfied in you.

I want you to know it!

God is satisfied in you…

The real you.

Not the “achievement” you.

Not the “hard worker” you.

Not the “educated” you.

Not the “all-done-up” you.

Not the “successful” you.

Not the “all-put-together” you.

No.

God is satisfied in you just how you are…

“You” on a bad day.

“You” when you mess up.

“You” when you cry.

“You” when you fail.

“You” when you sin.

“You” when you cuss.

“You” when you lie.

“You” at your lowest.

“You” when you get back from the gym all sweaty.

“You” when you have road rage (or maybe I should speak for myself : ) )

“You” when you feel like you’ve let everybody down.

“You” when you feel you just don’t measure up.

God is satisfied with that “you.”

That’s the “you” He chooses.

That’s the “you” He’s satisfied in.

Know it, my precious friends. Know it. God is satisfied in you just the way you are. And so are the ones who love you.

“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.” –Romans 8:38-39

I pray boldly as coming to the throne room of the Lord that you would believe God is satisfied with you the way you are. I pray this for my heart too. May you overflow with joy as you ponder the magnitude of what it means for Christ to choose you. May you smile at the thought of God looking at you with a grin on His face and love in His eyes…for you beloved, for you. May your heart be free today knowing that God is satisfied with the real you. Thank You, Jesus for how You love.

 

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;

I have called you by My name, you are Mine.

when you pass through the waters, I will be with you;

and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;

when you walk though fire you shall not be burned,

and the flame shall not consume you.

For I am the LORD your God,

The Holy One of Israel, your Savior…”

Isaiah 43:1b-3a

 

Questions for Today:

  • Do I believe that God is satisfied with the real me? me at my lowest?
  • If not, what keeps me from believing this truth?
  • Why does God see me as valuable?
  • Why did God make me in His own image?
  • Why is it crucial that I believe that God is satisfied with the real me?

 

“Resurrecting” by Elevation Worship

 

 

Why Love God?

One-True-Love

Why love God?

Why want Him?

Is He really worth our devotion? Worth our very lives?

In effort to love God, I find that I fail every day. So why even keep trying to love Him?

Should I give up and stop trying? Surely not.

Should I abandon Him? Surely not.

For quite some time, I’ve been in a very difficult place in my emotions, well-being and trust in the Lord. I finally feel a release in my spirit. But it’s taken me a while to get here. I’ve been stuck in this disbelief that God would still care about me. God , why are You doing this? God, why is this not happening? God, do You not care about me? God, don’t You love me? I thought You said You loved me but… And I base my relationship with the Lord on what I see and what I don’t see.

God is asking me now, Natalie, do you love me? OR do you just love what I can do?

Dang…that’s a harsh question.

And ultimately, God is saying, You’re not loving Me the way you were designed to love Me. Your love for Me is broken. It has ulterior motives.

But I debated with God on this.

Surely, God, I don’t love You just for what You can do! You know I really want You! Just come back now! If I could choose for You to come back for me right now, I would say yes. I really do want You.

But God said to look at where my heart has been over the past year in terms of what I love most.

And He said my love for Him has not been enough.

Not enough, God? What do You mean!? It will never be enough! You know I cannot love You how You deserve! I wish I could but I fail too much! What do You want from me?

God is saying, I don’t want you to love Me for what I can do. That’s not enough. That’s not even what I want from you, Natalie. I want you to love Me for Me.

Love Me for Me.

Wow.

God is right.

I haven’t been loving Him for Him.

My heart is really breaking over this.

God is showing me that my love for Him over the past year now has been primarily tied to what He is either doing for me or not doing for me. And it’s been fluctuating up and down because of that.

What God wants from me is to love Him the same no matter what…

…To love Him as if He were to never do another thing for me.

…To love Him as if I had never seen Him do anything.

…To love Him for Himself.

…To love Him for His character.

…To love Him because I love Him.

Not because of anything He can do for me.

Many times in my life I’ve gone through a season where I have seen God do crazy things or awe-inspiring things and it makes me “love” God more. Because I think, Wow, God is so cool! I can’t believe He can do that! OR seasons of blessing, and I think, Wow, God you are so good! Thank You thank You thank You! I love You so much! OR seasons of change in me and I think, Wow, God You are so powerful to do that! I love how You can do that!

And honestly, it really breaks my heart that I’ve been “loving” God like this… “loving” Him for what I’ve seen Him do and for what I hope He will do in the future.

That’s not love.

That’s admiration. That’s wonder. That’s awe. And yes, we need to marvel at God for what He can do and be astounded at His power. But it’s not love. It’s not love. We need to esteem God for what He can do, yes, but way more, we need to love Him for who He is!

This has been such a powerful realization for me.

Think of it this way…

…nobody wants to be loved for what they have done, or for what they do, or what they can do. Nobody does. Nobody wants to be loved for their accomplishments, their job, their status, their potential, their looks…nobody wants to be loved for those things. We ALL want to be loved for who we are as a person. Deep down, I want somebody to love me for me. Good and bad. Mess and all. I want somebody to love me for me. Not for what I do or don’t do.

Everyone wants to be loved for who they are at their core. And God wants that too.

God’s not interested in being loved for His mighty power.

God’s not interested in being loved for His miraculous wonders.

God’s not interested in being loved because of how He gives.

God’s not interested in being loved because of how He heals.

God is much more than all that.

God wants to be loved for who He is.

He wants us to love Him for Him.

For Him.

The Alpha and the Omega. The beginning and the end.

And then…once we love Him for Him…we praise Him for all He can do. There’s a difference between love and praise. Both go together. But love precedes praise. Always! You can’t praise God with a right heart if you don’t first love Him for Him…otherwise, it would just be admiration of a good thing. But if you love God for God, then your praise to Him turns into something real and it truly honors Him.

I love this passage in John chapter 6 where Jesus’ disciples are at a relational crossroads with this new teacher they have been following. It relates so much to how we love God.

These disciples have to decide, do they love Jesus enough to keep following Him? OR is this all too much for them?

We pick it up in verse 53:

“So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.

60 Therefore, when many of His disciples heard this, they said, “This teaching is hard! Who can accept it?

61 Jesus, knowing in Himself that His disciples were complaining about this, asked them, “Does this offend you? 62 Then what if you were to observe the Son of Man ascending to where He was before? 63 The Spirit is the One who gives life. The flesh doesn’t help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life. 64 But there are some among you who don’t believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning those who would not believe and the one who would betray Him.) 65 He said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to Me unless it is granted to him by the Father.”

66 From that moment many of His disciples turned back and no longer accompanied Him. 67 Therefore Jesus said to the Twelve, “You don’t want to go away too, do you?

68 Simon Peter answered, “Lord, who will we go to? You have the words of eternal life. 69 We have come to believe and know that You are the Holy One of God!” (emphasis mine).

Jesus makes it clear that following Him means doing just that: following HIM. His flesh. His blood. Himself. He in Himself is the way to life. Jesus wants them to love Him for Him. Not for what He can do.

All of the ones following Jesus up until this point saw His miracles.

Jesus just fed 5000 men, likely 15,000 including women and children earlier in chapter 6. Jesus healed a man in chapter 5. Jesus turned water into really good wine at a wedding party in chapter 2. They saw Jesus do things they had never seen before. They saw what He could do.

But when it came time to decide if they wanted Jesus or not, some just didn’t want Him.

Verse 66 says that “many of His disciples turned back…”

Only 12 remained.

But those 12 were loyal to Jesus Himself. Not just His miracles. Not just His healings. Not just His charisma and following. No. Now, they know what this whole deal is really about…it’s about following this man Jesus. And they decide that they really do want Him.

“Lord, who will we go to? You have the words of eternal life.”

I just love Simon Peter’s humble and beautiful response. He wanted Jesus. He knew that there was something special about Jesus.

What stands out to me about Simon Peter is that he loved Jesus for His identity as “the Holy One” instead of loving Him for all the miracles and healings He had performed.

And we can see how Peter falls in love with this man Jesus over the course of John’s gospel. He affirms it in chapter 21:15-19. But it all started with the initial decision to follow Jesus Himself. Jesus the Messiah. Jesus, God’s Son. Jesus, God in the flesh.

May we learn from Simon Peter’s response.

You may push back and say, but why should I love God? What’s in it for me?

Let’s think about that…

Well, I think anyone who’s ever been in love knows how good it feels. That person you love all the sudden becomes more important and you long for that person to be whole in every way possible. You don’t even think about yourself. You think about that person. You stop worrying over your own happiness. You just want that person to be happy. You don’t really care if you hurt. You just want that person you love to not hurt. You don’t really care what it costs you. You just want to give to that person. That person’s well-being becomes priority to you… and you lose yourself in a sense, when you’re in love with that person. And because you lose yourself, you feel good all the time because you’re not worried about satisfying yourself. Ironically, satisfying the other person ends up satisfying you. Selfless love always benefits the giver. So it is with the way we love God. It always benefits us to love God.

Because as we truly love God and fall more and more in love with Him, it fills us with joy, much more than any love relationship on earth ever will. And it makes us feel good to get to love God back. Even in the feeble way that exists in our human capacity to love.

So why love God?

Love God because…

1) He wants to be loved

2) He deserves to be loved

3) Loving Him teaches me how to love others

4) My soul satisfaction depends on me loving Him.

We know that God doesn’t need our love to exist. But He wants to be loved and He wants to impart His love to us.

The same disciple who wrote the gospel passage we just read also wrote this letter. He says this about love in 1 John 4:7-19:

Dear friends, let us love one another, because love is from God, and everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, because God is love. God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent His One and Only Son into the world so that we might live through Him. 10 Love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Dear friends, if God loved us in this way, we also must love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God. If we love one another, God remains in us and His love is perfected in us.

13 This is how we know that we remain in Him and He in us: He has given assurance to us from His Spirit. 14 And we have seen and we testify that the Father has sent His Son as the world’s Savior. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God—God remains in him and he in God. 16 And we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and the one who remains in love remains in God, and God remains in him.

17 In this, love is perfected with us so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment, for we are as He is in this world. 18 There is no fear in love; instead, perfect love drives out fear, because fear involves punishment. So the one who fears has not reached perfection in love. 19 We love because He first loved us.” (emphasis mine).

If we can only love because God first loved us, then I need to ask God to love me more. You need to ask God to love you more. Or really…I need to learn how to receive His love more. You need to learn how to receive His love more. Because God’s love is already poured out to me and to you in full. Why? Because as God loves us, we can love Him back. And then we can love others more.

It’s a cyclical kind of love.

God loves me → I love God → God loves me → I love others. And again and again…

Love is from God.

It’s a gift.

And each of us gets the privilege of receiving this precious gift.

There’s nothing more valuable than God’s love being imparted to us and channeled through us.

Without this love, our world would be misery.

We all experience love in a plethora of ways because of God’s kindness that He even gave it to begin with. And my prayer is that we would absorb this love and pour it out in the world. For we will find that we are most free when we are in cyclical love with the Lord. Because it empties our hearts of ourselves and we are consumed by a love so much greater.

Loving the Lord gives purpose.

Loving the Lord breathes life.

And we can only experience this if we first receive His love for us.

Ask Him to love you. And receive it.

Don’t worry anymore about all the things you want God to do.

Don’t let your love for Him depend on that.

Let your heart be free today.

Love God for who He is.

Love God for God.

And He will take care of the rest.

 

“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”

–John 15:13–

 

 

Questions for Today:

  • How is it that love even exists?
  • Do I receive the love that the Lord has for me?
  • Am I loving God for who He is or only for what He can do?
  • How does loving God change my heart?
  • Why should I love God?
  • What can we learn from Simon Peter in John 6:53-69?
  • What next step is Jesus asking me to take in my relationship with Him today?

 

“Never See The End” by Amanda Cook, Bethel Music