Love Quest – Walk This Way

The truth of God’s love is irrefutable. Yet, why do you and I still spend so many minutes, hours, and days settling into lovelessness? Souls aching to be enveloped in strong, warm, tender embraces; not just hearing, but to knowing, in the innermost places, ‘I’ve got you and I won’t let go’ – from God.

Instead, we feel naked and lonely, tired shoulders pressed into the biting wind and asking, ‘Where is the love?’

We know the truth – that God has always loved His creation; He walked with it in perfect relationship before the fall and He consistently cared for it after.

That Jesus, in whom the fullness of the Godhead dwells, is love personified and exemplified, and ‘God so loved the world’ and ‘God loved us and sent His son.’

This is all utterly true.

But, do the unloved feelings still linger?

May I share another truth that God has been weaving into the fabric of my understanding of His love?

The truth is we’ve been loved by God before we could even say ‘I love You’ back to Him. The truth is these unloved feelings are not a reflection of God’s attitude toward us (though I have a tendency to send the blame that direction), instead they are a reflection of my attitude toward Him. They are a reflection of my direction – the way I am walking.

You and I have a role to play in our experience of God’s love.

It’s called abiding.

One definition of abide is to continue in a particular condition, attitude, or relationship.

Jesus says it another way: “Just as my Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.” John 15:9-10 NASB

So how do we abide in His love?

By continuing to walk in His ways instead of our own.

The same way Jesus abides in the Father’s love: obedience.

One key component of experiencing God’s love and abundant life here and now, is the way we chose to walk. The whole of Scripture is an invitation from God to His creation to walk His way and enjoy His love.

“but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.” I John 2:5-6

This isn’t an issue of our obedience earning His love. His love for us is unwavering. This is an issue of how we experience God’s love.

Let me give you an example:

I love my children. I love them no matter what – whether they are charming and kind or defiant and rude. My love for them will never change. But the way they experience my love is partially up to them. My husband and I provide a safe warm home and food for them to eat. If one of my children were to run away because they didn’t want to obey the rules of our house, they would no longer experience that care and love, but it would still be there.

Do you see it?

His love is always there, but sometimes we refuse it. And yet His love remains.

We have the choice to rest in the loving arms of Christ and to walk His way or to bear the cold loneliness of our prideful self-will on a path of our own choosing.

Here are some of the ways God has been reminding me to walk lately:

  1. Humbly Cast Your Cares on Him (1 Peter 5:6&7). I like to figure things out on my own instead of humbly admitting my need and asking for help. Maybe you’re struggling under a burden right now. Whether it was brought on by your own wayward choices or not, have you stopped tapping into your own flawed and frail logic long enough to humbly admit you don’t have the answers and you can’t solve it on your own? We don’t even give Him or His love a chance when we greedily cling to our problems – even the small ones.
  2. Give Thanks (Phil. 4:6; 1 Thess. 5:18; Ps. 30:40; and many more). There is an element of humility involved in giving thanks. When we give thanks, we acknowledge that we have received something, not earned it. Giving thanks forces me to recognize to Whom praise is due – and it’s not me. Maybe you feel like you have earned a lot on your own, but who is it that makes us prosper? Every good and perfect gift is from above – we have nothing to boast about. If pride keeps us from giving thanks, it’s no wonder that it keeps us from abiding in God’s love.
  3. Stop Worrying (Phil. 4:6-9). Does it seem impossible? Maybe it is, at least of our own strength. But that’s why the cure is communication with God and includes #1 and #2 above. (I’ve done some study and teaching on this topic. You can read more here).

These are just some of the ways God is helping me to course correct – to walk more closely in step with Him. So many more come to mind – Romans 12:1; 1 John 1:9; 1 Peter 3:15; Matthew 11:29; 1 Corinthians 12:1; 1 Peter 1:15-16; 1 Peter 2:19; Ephesians 4:1-6; well, pretty much the whole book of Ephesians…..for that matter, the whole Bible!

I want to abide in His love, experience it. My guess is you do too.

Let’s walk His way together.

This verse is my prayer for you and for me:

“For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height- to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God [!!!!!!!!!!].” (Ephesians 3:14-19)

Divisive Love

“I love you,” my 7 year old daughter cooed…….

……..as an invisible fist punched my soul.

I don’t consider myself a jealous person – but it’s what struck me in that moment.

My daughter’s affectionate words were not meant for me. Or her dad. They weren’t for a sibling (wouldn’t that be great though??). Not for a cousin or a grandparent or aunt or uncle.

She gave her love to someone else.

For a split second I felt betrayed. I am her mother after all; how dare she love someone else outside of the family? It’s not natural! – is it? A child’s greatest affection is supposed to be for her parents and family, right?

And after the feelings of betrayal, insecurity took over: what if she stops loving me? Am I a bad mom?

Yet in my spirit I knew these feelings and questions were not right, were not of Truth. They were rooted in fear, selfishness and pride.

Yes, pride. Because if I want my kids to love me more than anyone else, I am setting myself up as God in their lives; making myself an idol for them to worship, fear, obey.

Often when I think of love, I think of it as something that brings people together; as a unifying force. But if that is the extent of our understanding of love, then we miss the mark – we misunderstand the depths of love.

I’m coming to understand that a unifying love is first a dividing love. A pure and holy love, in its very nature, must first separate itself from any impure and unholy loves of this world.

Psalm 97:10 – Hate evil, you who love the Lord….

I John 2:15 – Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

Jesus makes it even more personal. Painfully personal.

Matthew 10:37-39 – He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it.

It’s hard enough for me to follow Christ this fervently; can I bear to allow my children to follow Him in this manner too? To tell them to think of me as nothing so that they will sanctify Him as everything in their hearts?

I hope my children will obey Christ’s greatest commandment to love God and love others. I even pray it over them. But have I really meant it all this time?

Meaning it requires me to relinquish my claim on their love.

If I really want them to experience Supernatural love, I have to be prepared to offer up the natural love of mother and child on the altar of my heart.

One day, I fervently hope and pray that each of my children will declare with their mouths and by their lives that they love Christ more than all else – even me.

Maybe that ‘one day’ is beginning now. What if the whole point of parenting is to guide our children away from us and toward their Heavenly Father? They are born attached to us; naturally. But from the moment of detachment from the womb, maybe our number one purpose is to reflect the love of God so vividly that it propels them toward a perfectly pure and holy re-Birth and attachment; supernaturally.

And maybe, beyond the logic and reason and rationale of earthly genius, this division leads to a greater unity because of our unified love in and for the triune God.

When I point my children in the direction of the Savior and urge them to depart from me, we will actually journey together toward a deeper unity.

No longer will it only be a unity based on biology, but instead a unity based on eternity!

The natural for the supernatural.

It’s the way God has always seemed to deal with His people, Old Testament and New. He called out the nation of Israel, separated them from the rest of the nations, loved them uniquely, and unified Himself to them in that love. Through that unity, His people were a beacon for the nations to join in that same relationship.

He has called us out of darkness and into His marvelous light – together with Him and His people. We are a Holy, Royal, and Chosen people belonging together to Him. Through this unity, we are messengers of His excellencies to the nations – proclaiming that all may enter this beautiful relationship

Natural affection is clingy, jealous, and limiting of the beloved. It’s the invisible fist that assaulted my soul at my daughter’s declaration of love for someone else.

Supernatural love divides for the sake of greater unity. It’s what prompts me to declare, “Yes! Daughter! Love others! Love Your Creator! Our supernatural unity as sisters in Christ far outshines our biological bond as mother and daughter!”


Matthew 12:46-50 –  While He was still speaking to the crowds, behold, His mother and brothers were standing outside, seeking to speak to Him. Someone said to Him, “Behold, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside seeking to speak to You.” But Jesus answered the one who was telling Him and said, “Who is My mother and who are My brothers?” And stretching out His hand toward His disciples, He said, “Behold My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother.”

Fear – Be My Guide

“Fear is a deceitful aid. It can embitter one’s pleasure, make life laborious and miserable, make one old and decrepit; but it cannot help one to the Good since fear itself has a false conception of the Good – and the Good does not allow itself to be deceived.”

Soren Kierkegaard

Maybe I’ve got fear all wrong. Maybe instead of protecting it’s been oppressing.

If you haven’t read it yet, read my blog post Confronting Worry: My Story (Part 1). It’s about my new found fear of flying – especially over the ocean.

After my terrifying flight across the Pacific, I was elated to be grounded and I never wanted to lift my little toe off of planet earth again. So, when my husband asked if I would consider going, once again, on the same mission trip to Japan, I’ll admit, I seized up with panic. The ‘holy’ response would have been, “Yes! That will be great! I love to serve God and I love ministering with my husband.” But, my actual inner response was, “AHHHHH! I don’t know if I can possibly fly over the ocean again! If I do, is there something I can take to knock me out for the entirety of the flight?”

I simply told my husband I’d think about it, pray about (because that’s the pious thing to do, right?), and get back to him.

But I knew, in that goading of the Holy Spirit kind of way, I just knew that I must go on this trip. Because my sole reason for saying no was fear.

What am I to do with this fear?

Should fear be a more trusted guide than the Holy Spirit?

What if, when fear screams ‘no,’ it’s a signal to boldly answer, ‘yes’?

What if the frightening, completely out-of-my-control path, is exactly the one God wants me to take?

What if fear was always meant to make us run, but we’re just running in the wrong direction?

What if, as Kierkegaard says, fear will never help us on our path to the Good – to God?

What if giving in to fear is giving up my privileges as a child of God?

What if I’ve been letting fear beat me up when I should be letting God lift me up?

George MacDonald says:

“… that is the way fear serves us: it always sides with the thing we are afraid of.”

Fear makes us all slaves.

As I contemplate this, I hear that whisper of a question that Jesus asked Peter 2000 years ago. The question Jesus asked Peter after he had fled the scene of Christ’s crucifixion. The question which reveals our true motivations. Do you love Me?

Like Peter, I’ve often feared the opinion of others and feared for my life.

Jesus, through His questioning of Peter, offered the only antidote for fear – love. Specifically, the love of God. (Were you starting to wonder what all this fear talk had to do with love? ;))

I’m beginning to recognize in myself that fear for my life is anti love for God. The two can never coexist. The only fear compatible with love is the fear of God Himself.

“Teach me Your way, O Lord; I will walk in Your truth; Unite my heart to fear Your name.” (Psalm 86:11)

Fear of anything besides the Lord reveals double-mindedness in our souls, and that, as James tells us (1:6-8), leads to an unstable life; tossed around an off kilter by all the loves, fears, desires, and temptations the world has to offer. Unity and stability are only found in fear-mingled-love of God.

So, because I want to serve God and not fear, in two weeks I will walk down that cold plastic tube into an awaiting airliner and soar over the ocean with faith. Not faith in the pilot or aircraft, but faith in the Sovereign over all. The One who holds the keys to life and death. The only One worth loving. The only One deserving of my audacious defiance of fear.

  

Don’t get me wrong, I still want to tremble when I think of what’s coming. And fear has influenced my decision – but in the opposite way it usually does. My fear for self propels me into obedience of my Savior. So in an inside-out way, fear is my guide.

“The issue is not the absence of fear, but whether or not we are building the way we live on a memorial to fear, or a memorial to trust.”

Margaret Manning Schull

 

I choose to build my life as a memorial to the only stable, sovereign and faithful One. I choose a legacy of faith in the Lord rather than a legacy of fear.

How My Marriage Saved Me

I was a 22 year old mess when I married my husband. Poor guy hardly knew what he was getting himself into! I had yet to overcome the oppression of fear, insecurity, and anger that seized me in my teen years. 1 John 4:8 says, “He who does not love does not know God.” This was me. I was a Christian, but I didn’t understand God because I didn’t understand His love and I certainly didn’t know how to share it with others.

Twelve years have gone by now. God has taught me so many things about Himself through my marriage. And thankfully, God has used my husband as a key player in His ultimate plan to heal me by His love.

A couple years ago, I sat down to write a note to my husband for our tenth anniversary. I couldn’t help but think about the transforming power of God’s love through him and the tremendous change wrought in my soul as a result.

To  My Dearest Husband,

“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear”

[This is 1 John 4:18. Not sure why, back then, I used the version with archaic language……]

For so long, even since childhood, fear has had a strong grip on my life. I would even say at times it has paralyzed me. I so desperately longed for close relationships yet they seemed so elusive because I felt so inept and fearful. This cycle only proved to bring me down and to prevent me from the growth I needed. But God in His kindness has not stopped working in my life. As I grew to better understand His love for me, fear has slowly slipped away. And as God has shown me, through you, that another person can love me just the way I am, even more fear is relieved and is replaced with a sure confidence in who I truly am and what God really thinks of me because of His Son.

Your role in this growth is monumental. Without your unconditional love, I know I would still be the same fearful, angry, hurting teenager that I am so glad to be rid of. Thank you for showing me that I too can love this way. I think this will be my next great challenge – now that I am finally learning to be loved, I can truly begin to love others unconditionally. I am convinced that the most powerful catalyst for change in someone’s life is God’s love, especially when it is manifested through those who love Him.

Please know that I mean this all with the greatest sincerity and that I truly desire to show you even more how much I love you in the 10 years to come!

I love you so much and wouldn’t trade our life together and our family for the world!

Lovingly,

 

 

God used my marriage to save me. It saved me from a loveless life. It took one person and his unrelenting love and commitment to me to break through the pernicious walls of fear and lies I had constructed to ‘protect’ myself. My husband’s willingness to be a conduit of God’s love served to draw me in, closer to God’s love.  

But he’s not the only one who has shown me God’s love: parents, siblings, extended family, friends – the list is massive – have all contributed too. That’s the beauty of the Body of Christ! We are truest to our identity when we Love. Period.

That’s what it takes for any of us to be healed by Love. It doesn’t have to be marriage. Maybe it’s a brother, a sister, a friend. Whoever it is, God’s love at work in His people changes lives. It changed mine. And I wouldn’t trade it for anything!

Can I offer some encouragement to those of you feeling fearful, insecure, and angry? To those feeling a bit – or a whole lot – of a mess? Tune your minds to the Love around you. It is there. God is living and active in His people. Maybe, like me, it’s been so easy to get wrapped up in your own feelings that you miss the love your spouse, family member, or friend is showing you. They aren’t perfect, but neither are you. Intentionally see the love – and then accept it. You have a responsibility to recognize and reckon with the truth. If you chose to shirk this responsibility, then you are ultimately the one to blame. I can boldly say these things because I have been there. We are not victims to our emotions or to lies, we are culpable for what we choose to believe. Don’t be like the nation of Israel in Malachi 1:2: “‘I have loved you,’ says the LORD. Yet you say, ‘In what way have You loved us?’” They dared to say this back to God after his millennia of favor toward them. Have regard for the lavish Love of your Heavenly Father!

And to those of you spouses, friends and family members doing your best to share God’s love with someone like me: Don’t give up. Don’t grow weary in doing good (Gal. 6:9). Keep loving with God’s love. Your love might be returned with injury, but please, please, please, don’t stop! God’s love streaming through you can save a life! And remember, that sometimes love is tough. It doesn’t put up with lies and self-pity and it doesn’t bow to the whim of the loveless person’s emotions. God-love stands firm on God’s truth. My husband does a wonderful job of stopping me in my tracks when I go down the path of lies. He simply won’t let me continue. I can recall many occasions where he left the room when I was spewing caustic insults and lies his way. You don’t have to stand there and take it. But continue to speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15). Stay rooted in your walk with the Lord so you will abide in the resource of His love to pour out to others.

I was sinking deep in sin

Far from the peaceful shore

Very deeply stained within

Sinking to rise no more.

But the master of the sea

Heard my despairing cry

And from the waters lifted me

Now safe am I. 

Love lifted me

Love lifted me

When nothing else could help

Love lifted me!!!

~ James Rowe

Love Quest

When the bandwagon comes, I usually sprint in the opposite direction. Maybe it’s that independent, non-conformist PNW influence.

But I’m stepping into 2016 and hopping onto two different bandwagons. Ahhh! What’s wrong with me?!

The first is the pick-a-word-for-the-year bandwagon (I’ll write about the other in a later post).

I’ve seen this idea pop up the last few years and the Holy Spirit has been circulating one word through my mind over and over; so I figured I might as well turn around and saunter on over to the bandwagon this year.

Really, though, it’s a word for my entire life. I would argue it’s the most important concept that Jesus taught because, in it, all the law is summed up and fulfilled. And because of it, Christ died and rose unto our salvation.

LOVE

Love your neighbor. Love your enemy. Love your spouse. Love your children. Love the Body of Christ. Love God. Love yourself.

Does love ever feel like more of a burden than a joy?

When I think of all the people I’m supposed to love, on top of loving God (whom, let’s be honest, I will never be able to love nearly the way He loves me – yet one more thing I can’t grasp), I feel like a failure before I’ve even crossed the starting line.

Why even try? Besides, do I want to pay the cost of loving another?

C.S. Lewis sums up what I’m sure many of us only secretly admit:

“Of all arguments against love none makes so strong an appeal to my nature as ‘Careful! This might lead you to suffering.’ To my nature, my temperament, yes. Not to my conscience. When I respond to that appeal I seem to myself to be a thousand miles away from Christ.”

To draw near to Christ requires that I draw near to love.

But love is not my natural inclination. I’ve refused many offers of love – God’s and other peoples’– believing that they couldn’t really love me because I was unlovable. Misconstruing the whole idea of love. Making it something I had to earn or deserve. Entwining love with a sense of pride instead of humility. And those very feelings have made it a strain for me to sincerely love others as Christ first loved me.

Before I became a mom, I worried that I wouldn’t be capable of loving and connecting with my children (but now I realize it’s nearly impossible to NOT love your children ;)). I don’t have those cutesy-love feelings for babies or baby animals like some women do. I’m not naturally very generous. I drag my feet to forgive. I walk a short path to impatience. I can be too concerned with my own comfort to consider another’s.

However, it’s those moments of ‘love-revelation’ that have galvanized my faith and propelled my sanctification. It has cast out fears in frightening times, provided rest in weary times, assured safety in perilous times, and cradled me in tearful times. It’s those rare glimpses and truest instances of understanding the tiniest drop of God’s great love that have wrought healing, change, and peace in my soul.

The natural man is still striving with in me – within all of us – but we have the glorious gift of being elevated by the Supernatural.

Maybe you, like me, have experienced the excruciating work of mustering up love for someone you know you should love, because that’s what God commands, but you find it humanly impossible to do so? Or maybe you’ve experienced that aching desire to be loved?

That’s why I’m starting a Love Quest.

I want to better understand what it means to abide in His love (John 15:9) and bear fruit that is nourished by love.

I want to continue to learn how to love God and others with His Agape love, not my exacting and forced love.

So I’ll be posting as I learn and grow in Love. God’s love for me, for all of us; my love for God, my love for others.

I’m counting on Love to continue to change me and mold me into the woman God desires me to be. I am sharing this journey (and another to come) in hope that a few of you might be my companions along the way. I would love to hear from you!

How has God’s love transformed and challenged and changed your mind, heart, relationships etc…? Is it difficult for you to accept God’s love or other people’s love?