How Can I Know God?

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I often get the question “How can I truly know God?” The answer is found all over scripture, but this morning I ran into a verse that really spoke to this question beautifully. The verse is Hosea 6:3 which says:

“Oh, that we might know the Lord! Let us press on to know him. He will respond to us as surely as the arrival of dawn or the coming of rains in early spring.”

Three basic points stand out in this passage:

1) We are called to know God and God would never call us to do something impossible. The call itself is evidence that he can be known.

2) We need to press on to know him. Elsewhere God says, “You will find me when you seek me and search for me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13). Knowing God doesn’t just happen. We need to press on and pursue it the same way we pursue our earthly desires. If you are not willing to press on to know God and to continue the search no matter how hard, you will never know him. Will it take 1 day? 30? 60?A lifetime? Who knows? Press on.

3) And lastly the verse says that “He will respond”. When we seek to know God we must do so with the expectation and faith that he will respond. If you have already convinced yourself that he wont respond then you will miss his response when it happens. This is why Paul said, “Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him” (Heb 11:6). So when you seek God, seek him with expectation because He will respond “as surely as the arrival of dawn or the coming of rains in early spring”. And if that isn’t enough evidence that he will respond, in verse 6 of this same chapter in Hosea God says, “I want to show you love…. I want you to know me.”

Could it be any clearer? He wants to know you and be known by you. He doesn’t hide. He doesn’t play mind games with us or tease us with an unreachable ideal. David Asscherick got it right when he said, “People are at different levels of finding [God] because people are at different levels of seeking [him]” (see video below). So today I invite you, regardless of what stage of seeking you are in, to press on to know him, and press on with expectation.


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I Want to Be Wrong About God

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We have a greater need to desire God than to deconstruct Him.

[/blockquote]I woke up with a strange prayer pouring out of my lips, “God, I pray You’re not who I think You are.” Before I could rightly wrap my mind around what the Spirit spoke through me, I followed it with, “God, I don’t want You to be who I want You to be.” I don’t want God to be the small God I keep expecting Him to be, to do just the small things I keep expecting Him to do. I don’t want to keep thinking of God in the same small ways I’ve been thinking of Him. For example, I remember hearing a tinkering noise while driving our SUV one day and whispering a prayer, “God, please just let our truck last… … … and help me to stop praying dumb prayers like this one!” The Word says we have not because we ask not, but the follow up of that passage is that even when we ask, we ask amiss. Even when I make my requests known, my own self-focus gets in the way of making requests in alignment with God’s will (James 4:2-3).

God’s been reminding me that if He is who I think He is, then He’s not who He says He is. If our finite thoughts could fully define Him, then how infinite a God is He, really? We have a greater need to desire God than to deconstruct Him. Each time we try to define Him, we instead confine Him. God is so much bigger than my thoughts and the space that stores them; He’s so much bigger than our explanation of Him. One phrasing I saw reminds us that our requests and thoughts about God are exceedingly, abundantly BELOW what God desires to do for us [Ephesians 3:20]. Even when I think I have it right about God, I’m missing the mark, and by a lot.

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God’s thoughts and ways are more than 13 billion light years above ours.

[/blockquote]All I need to understand about God is that His thoughts and ways are above [Isaiah 55:8-9]. Maybe when we really get this, we’ll be less inclined to argue with others about who God is and who He’ll use. Maybe then we can stress a little less about how He’ll work things out for our good. As I mentioned in a previous post, the farthest object observed from planet earth is more than 13 billion light years away. God is saying His thoughts and ways are more than 13 billion light years above ours. While we can only see a few options for solving our most difficult problems, God towers more than 13 billion light years above our circumstances and has already claimed victory.

What surprises us doesn’t surprise God, and what we think is right for Him to do is infinitely smaller than what He’s capable of doing. I thank God that He’s not who I think He is. I thank Him that He’s not even who I want Him to be. He’s wild, untamable, and in control. He doesn’t fit within our earthly definitions of Him. His infinitude will always bear some mystery, and with it should come a heaping measure of humility. With it should come a great deal of compassion for others and an open mind about what and who God will use to bring Himself glory. With this perspective should come a sense of peace that whatever problem you’re having right now has a myriad of solutions. A God whose love stretches from everlasting to everlasting, a breadth we can’t fully grasp, is a God I hope we’re all wrong about to some degree.

“It is not a static Christ we sing today, nor one who safely stays within the frame that history offered Him.” ~Bill Knott

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And My House Shall Be Called A House of Prayer: Charleston, SC.

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“You hurt me. You hurt a lot of people but God forgives you, and I forgive you.” Tears were in the voice of a mother who had lost her daughter to a gunman this past Wednesday in Charleston, South Carolina at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. As she saw the young man who had chosen to take her loved ones’ lives in court, she chose to give grace. And because of that, through her eyes, though misty with sorrow and tears, the world saw a glimpse of divine love against this backdrop of tragedy. However, one wonders, is a glimpse enough?

A day after the massacre, a news reporter went on air asking, “If Immanuel means ‘God with us’ then was God with them?” It is a question asked often in the face of tragedy. If God truly does sit high and look low (Psalm 138:6), then were these deaths an oversight on His part? Or was He there, and simply choosing not to intervene? Did God not care enough to save their lives?

These are questions similar to ones likely asked by Jesus’ followers as He hung between life and death two millenia ago. God, the self-proclaimed embodiment of love, did nothing to stop His beloved son from being tortured and murdered. Later on, He did not stop his followers from being fed to lions, or burned at the stake. In fact, the annals of history have been violently stained by the blood of His children for centuries. God does not always keep those He loves from harrowing death. Why? He knows something better is coming soon. As an answer to the questions surrounding tragedy and death, God promises two things: a reward in eternity that will immeasurably surpass any loss on earth (1 Corinthians 2:9), and knowledge that none of His children’s lives are ever taken in vain (Romans 8:28, Genesis 50:20). So though the fires of hate breed the ashes of hurt, from the dust, hope rises.

Along with this hope, however, must come action. For every account relayed in the biblical canon of hate and hurt that God allowed to pass without intervention, there are ample counter-examples of when He acknowledged the mistreated (Exodus 3:7), spoke up for the defenseless (Proverbs 31:8), and challenged those who follow Him to stop injustice (Isaiah 1:17). As reported by individuals at the scene of the crime, the young man who has recently captured national attention raised a gun at his victims and reminded them that their race was the reason he was going to kill them.

In order to stop hate crimes like the tragedy in Charleston, SC, or the senseless deaths or mistreatment of persons like Eric Garner or Trayvon Martin, you, dear reader, have to choose to acknowledge the mistreated. You, dear reader, will have to speak up for those defenseless against a system often stacked against them. You will have to make a conscious effort to raise the next generation to be more aware of racial bias, prejudice, and injustice. And if you choose not to, the next victim’s blood will be on your hands (Ezekiel 3:18).

When the world asks where God is in the midst tragedy, may they see you, His ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20) showing them His love by both reflecting grace, and by fighting to prevent further tragedy.

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Verses Referenced:

Psalm 138:7 Though the Lord is exalted, he looks kindly on the low; though lofty, he sees them from afar.

1 Corinthians 2:9 However, as it is written: ‘What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived’ the things God has prepared for those who love him

Romans 8:28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

Genesis 50:20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.

Exodus 3:7 The Lord said, ‘I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering.

Proverbs 31:9 Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute.

Isaiah 1:17 Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.

Ezekiel 3:18 When I say to a wicked person, ‘You will surely die,’ and you do not warn them or speak out to dissuade them from their evil ways in order to save their life, that wicked person will die for their sin, and I will hold you accountable for their blood.

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Is Your God Narrow?

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I served a boss who took a genuine interest in the well-being of every employee under him. He cared about our vocational well-being: He motivated us, and fought for our promotions. He cared about our financial well-being. He shared with us financial wisdom from his life experiences, and advised us to spend wisely. He cared about our relational well-being. He didn’t hesitate to grant us leave. Encouraged us to leave home early so that we can enjoy time with family. People care about us, but God cares about us even more. When we gave our hearts to Jesus, He began a good work in every area of our life. Jesus said it this way: “My purpose is to give life in all its fullness” (John 10:10, TLB).

Some of us have a very narrow view of God.

Some of us have a very narrow view of God. To us, God only enters the picture when it comes to church or religion. But the truth is, God is interested in every area of our life: Spiritual. Mental. Emotional. Relational. Financial. Vocational. His word shows us and teaches us how we can become healthy in every area of our life.

Spiritually healthy

Here are a few habits God says you need to develop to be spiritually healthy. It starts with you knowing that Jesus loves you, and He is your Savior:

1. Know that He loves you: “We love each other because he loved us first” (1 John 4:19)

2. Love Him supremely: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength” (Mark 12:30, NLT).

3. Meet Him daily: “Joyful are those who listen to me, watching for me daily” (Proverbs 8:34).

4. Study and obey His word: “You are my friends if you do what I command” (John 15:14).

5. Love others unconditionally: “Just as I have loved you, you should love each other” (John 13:34).

6. Serve others unselfishly: “Use your freedom to serve one another in love” (Galatians 5:13).

7. Spread the good news freely: “We loved you so much that we shared with you not only God’s Good News but our own lives, too” (1 Thessalonians 2:8).

Physically healthy:

Here are a few reasons why God cares about your physical well-being:

1) Your body is His property: “For we are God’s masterpiece” (Ephesians 2:10).

2) You are connected with the body of Christ: “Don’t you realize that your bodies are actually parts of Christ?” (1 Corinthians 6:15).

3) The Holy Spirit lives in your body: “Don’t you realize that all of you together are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in[a] you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16).

4) Jesus bought your body on the cross: “God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body” (1 Corinthians 6:20).

5) He wants you to be healthy: “Dear friend, I hope all is well with you and that you are as healthy in body as you are strong in spirit” (3 John 1:2).

Mentally healthy:

Speaking of mental health, God says:

1. Guard your mind: “A wise person is hungry for knowledge, while the fool feeds on trash” (Proverbs 15:14).

2. Examine your thoughts: “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things..” (Jeremiah 17:9); “Examine yourselves to see whether you’re in the faith; test yourselves…” (2 Corinthians 13:5).

3. Renew your mind daily by His word: “..Let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think..” (Romans 12:2).

4. Never stop growing and learning: “Those who get wisdom do themselves a favor, and those who love learning will succeed” (Proverbs 19:8, NCV).

Emotionally healthy:

God says “He heals the broken-hearted and bandages their wounds” (Psalm 147:3, NLT). Many people have hurts and wounds, but God says He wants to heal them:

1. Reveal and confess your hurts to God so that he can heal you: “I kept very quiet…but I became even more upset. I became very angry inside, and as I thought about it, my anger burned” (Psalm 39:2-3, NCV).

2. Release those who have hurt you and trust God to do what is right: “Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God..” (Romans 12:19, NLT).

3. Replace those old lies you believed with God’s truth: “Let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think” (Romans 12:2).

4. Reach out to help others who are hurting: “He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us” (2 Corinthians 1:4).

Relationally healthy

Relationships matter to God. He counsels:

1. Choose friends wisely: “The righteous choose their friends carefully” (Proverbs 12:26, NIV).

2. Be genuinely interested about others: “Unfriendly people care only about themselves..” (Proverbs 18:1, NLT).

3. Have a cheerful spirit: “Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you” (Philippians 2:14).

4. Be a good listener: “Be quick to listen, slow to speak” (James 1:19).

5. Accept people unconditionally: “Accept one another…just as Christ accepted you” (Romans 15:7).

6. Help people feel appreciated: “Take delight in honoring each other” (Romans 12:10).

7. Be understanding: “Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15).

8. Stick with them in tough times: “There are “friends” who destroy each other, but a real friend sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24).

Financially healthy

Speaking of financial well-being, His word says:

1. Trust God as your provider: “Everything comes from him…” (Romans 11:36).

2. Put Him first in your money: “The purpose of tithing is to teach you always to put God first in your lives” (Deuteronomy 14:23, TLB).

3. Save and invest: “The wise man saves for the future, but the foolish man spends whatever he gets” (Proverbs 21:20).

4. Set up plans to pay debt: “Let no debt remain outstanding” (Romans 13:8, NIV).

5. Have a budget for spending: “Good planning and hard work lead to prosperity, but hasty shortcuts lead to poverty” (Proverbs 21:5, NLT).

6. Be happy with what you have: “Enjoy what you have rather than desiring what you don’t have” (Ecclesiastes 6:9).

Vocationaly healthy

His counsel on your vocational well-being:

1. Know that God is your real boss: “Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people” (Colossians 3:23)

2. Work enthusiastically: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart” (Colossians 3:23, NIV).

3. Know that God uses difficult circumstances to build your character: “For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow” (James 1:3).

4. Care about your work colleagues: “Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too” (Philippians 2:4).

5. Exceed what is expected of you: “Servants, do what you’re told by your earthly masters. And don’t just do the minimum that will get you by. Do your best” (Colossians 3:22, MSG).

6. Expand your skills and learn continually: “Using a dull ax requires great strength, so sharpen the blade. That’s the value of wisdom; it helps you succeed” (Ecclesiastes 10:10, NLT).

7. Dedicate you work for God’s purposes: “Commit your actions to the Lord, and your plans will succeed” (Proverbs 16:3).

God cares about every area of your life because you are His child. If it matters to you, it matters to Him. Sometimes we have a narrow view of our heavenly Father’s concerns for our life. He says I want to bless every area of your life. Commit it to Him.

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John Mendis is a member of the Shiloh Seventh-day Adventist church in Sri Lanka and a financial consultant by profession. He runs his own blogsite at everlasting-gospel.blogspot.com

Divergent

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I finally watched the 2014 film, Divergent, which was based on a science-fiction book of the same name. The story is set in a post-apocalyptic, dystopian society where everyone is expected to choose one of five subcultures to live and work with. Each subculture, or faction, requires strength in and conformity to specific attributes, such as bravery, selflessness, intelligence, etc. The faction system is designed for control and predictability. However, as with all systems, there are flaws, one being when a person doesn’t neatly fit into any one category because they have strengths in all five areas. A person who doesn’t fit just one faction, but instead could fit many, is called “divergent.” Divergents, like the main characters, are a threat to the system because they can’t be pigeonholed into others’ preconceived notions, and they can’t be controlled. They are freethinkers who approach problems and solutions in ways others don’t, and quite frankly, can’t. Their thoughts and abilities far exceed the parameters of the five factions.

We have a God who is wild, uncontrollable, incomprehensible, and paradoxical.

If you’re human, like me, you rather enjoy some measure of control and predictability in your environment; you rather enjoy your compartmentalized systems. The flaw in your system, though, is that God is divergent. He doesn’t think or act like you do. He doesn’t conform to your system. Deep within us, we want a God who isn’t sovereign over us, but is subject to us, a God who is predictable or at least fully understandable by some stretch of our imaginations. Instead, we have a God who is wild, uncontrollable, incomprehensible, paradoxical — in short, He’s divergent. In fact, His ways diverge so much from ours that He’s said higher than the heavens are above the earth are His thoughts than our thoughts and His ways than our ways {Is. 55:9; Ps. 103:11}.The farthest object observed from planet earth is more than 13 billion light years away. God is saying His thoughts and ways are more than 13 billion light years above ours.

While we can only see a few options for solving our most difficult problems, our Divergent God, who towers more than 13 billion light years above our circumstances, sees our end from our beginning, and God foresaw our darkest days before we ever took a breath is the same God who orchestrates our brightest moments, loved us from before time began, and has promised to work all things together for our good. If we have committed to being submitted to such a God whose thoughts and ways are so above, then we’re choosing to give up any semblance of control. We’re choosing to give up what we thought our stories would be so we can fully embrace what He’s still writing out in our lives. When we follow the calling of a Divergent God with complete obedience, we relinquish the option for things to make complete sense. We have a God who is both full of wrath and full of mercy, a Man of War and Prince of Peace, a Lion, a Lamb, and a Shepherd. He’s above. HEART CHECK: Will you trust God is divergent when He seems silent? Will you obey His commands, even if they seem to counter human logic? Does a Divergent God have to make sense to your five senses, the five factions you believe His thoughts and ways should fit into?

God’s thoughts and ways are paradoxical to human logic and expected experiences. When a Divergent God wants to set us free, He makes us His bondservants. When He wants us to see Him, He causes blindness. Ask Paul. When a Divergent God wants us to follow Him, He chases after us. Ask Jonah. When a Divergent God wants someone to speak for Him, He chooses a stutterer, and to showcase His power, He’ll send you with a dried up stick! Ask Moses. When a Divergent God sets out to exalt your position, He takes the pathway through a pit and wrongful imprisonment. Ask Joseph. When a Divergent God wants to save His children, He does so by sending His Only Son to die!

As long as we are in control, God can’t be. In the film, the divergents make others uncomfortable, so they try to purge their society of divergents altogether. The divergents threaten the system of control, but in so doing, they save countless lives. Living in submission to a Divergent God is uncomfortable, and sometimes we want to get rid of HIS way, altogether. He threatens our systems of control, but but in so doing, He saves countless lives.
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God Wants to Break Your Heart

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The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise (Psalm 51:17)

 

If you’re a Christian and you’ve ever suffered loss, ever felt vulnerable and unprotected, ever felt you were sinking, drowning, crumbling at your core, then you’ve probably also wondered what I have, “Where are You, God?” or simply asked God, “Why?” If you’ve prayed to feel His presence and instead felt absence, prayed to hear His voice and heard deafening silence, prayed for a restored marriage then numbly watched the divorce finalized, prayed for healing and watched loved ones die, if you’ve placed your trust in Him and still felt that burning sting of disappointment, then you’ve encountered the God of which I speak, the God who wants to break your heart.

If we’ll ever fulfill our God-ordained purpose, we’ll have to be broken to fit the God-shaped mold for our lives

Of course I’m not suggesting God is some aloof, or worse, sadistic being, deriving pleasure from our pain. However, I am saying that if we’ll ever fulfill our God-ordained purpose, we’ll have to be broken to fit the God-shaped mold for our lives. In “Finding My Way Home,” Henri Nouwen asserts that when Christ cried out, “It is finished,” He didn’t only mean what He’d done, but also what others had done to Him – that He stayed on the cross until all that needed to be done to Him could be done in order to fulfill His purpose. If we’re committed to God and truly passionate about adopting His desires, His thoughts, His ways, then we’ll welcome His process, His breaking, His remaking. We’ll allow His breaking to fulfill our life’s purpose.

I believe God breathes on us in a gentle way to bend our will into submission to His, but much like Jacob, we wrestle. In our striving, though, we encounter the God who loves us enough to break what will not bend. Pastor Howard-John Wesley said, “God knows that life outside of His will is not in your best interest, and He loves you too much not to use everything in His sovereign omnipotence to get you to surrender to His will…we serve a God who, if blessing you doesn’t change your life, [He] has enough love to break you in the right place.” I believe the “right place” for God to break us is our hearts, the wellspring of our inconsistent desires and stubborn wills.

The admonishment in Joel 2:12-13 is to “rend your hearts, not your garments” and return to the Lord with your whole hearts. The message is that the outward appearance of repentance, contrition, and obedience mean nothing if our sinful hearts remain unbroken and turned away from God. The good news is that God waits on us. He waits to be gracious toward us and show us mercy (Isaiah 30:18). My mentor shared her belief that God sometimes withholds His provision until we seek His presence. Perhaps what we’ve thought was God’s silence was His megaphone to help us diligently seek Him. Perhaps what felt like God’s absence was His patience. Perhaps God knows that only desperate, broken hearts can receive His transforming love.

Once GOD breaks you, nobody else can.

Shannon Alder said, “Blessed are those with cracks in their broken heart because that is how the light gets in.” God wants in, and a broken heart provides a blessed route.I believe God is determined to do a new thing in and through us, and the old places won’t facilitate new growth. In a recent sermon, Pastor MyRon Edmonds said that unless we learn to get vulnerable with God and get broken, our old ways will keep taking us down the same road. But the blessing of God’s breaking is that “once GOD breaks you, nobody else can!” Heart Check: Do you trust God to break those parts of you that won’t bend in submission to His sovereignty? Do you believe the breaking He’s sending is better than the blessing you’re seeking? God wants to break your heart. Will you let Him?

photo credit: rachel_titiriga via photopin cc

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A God I Don’t Have to Perform For

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I’m a pretty good performer. I’ve been doing it since I was young. Whether in church, at school or at work, I figured out my parts. Growing up a pastor’s daughter, I had a “stage” pretty early. While my parents never made me feel I had to act a certain way because of my “pk” (pastor’s kid) status, I knew people watched me. Some pk’s resent this. But I rather enjoyed the attention. I learned how to act in front of the adults. I knew how to dress, how to smile, and how to speak. I was a “good” girl. And it made me feel valuable.

I learned to act at school too. When I failed the “coolness” test early, I learned how to hide my pain. I didn’t let them know how the rejection affected me, crying my tears in my private bedroom instead. I was quiet, but I could somehow get up on the stage for a talk or a school play and shine brightly. I may not have been cool, but I was smart. I could achieve. I would prove myself worthwhile – somehow.

When I got to high school, I had a chance for a new start. A new state, a new school, a new me. I was determined not to repeat my past social failures. So I worked hard to learn to act like everyone else. I listened to the music they did. I watched what they did. I dressed like they did. I learned that too “good” was not cool. So I developed more parts to act – one for parents, teachers, and my church “audience,” and others for my peers. I knew if I could just get this right, then I’d be accepted.

Then the working world came along. That called for still more new parts. It wasn’t just about my peers anymore – now I had to make my mark on the world. I had to be responsible. A leader. The top. So I worked hard, and I did well. I enjoyed the praise that comes with achieving. But when God came more into my work picture, some of that changed. My paradigm of what was important in life changed. And so instead of achieving for the world, now I wanted to achieve for God. It was a good choice – but one that required even more performing than before. Now I not only had to be good at what I did, but I also had to be good at who I was. I needed to be spiritual, kind, selfless, mature, and well… pretty much perfect. I mean, why would God want anything less?

But admittedly, sometimes I got tired of performing my spiritual parts. Then I’d just want a break from all this God stuff. After all, all this performing He wanted me to do was hard work! I got tired of being so “good.” But this time it wasn’t as much about my peers as myself. I wanted to know I was real inside…. I wanted to let out the pain, rebellion, and “badness” that always needed to be stuffed down under that “got it all together” front. Yet I feared what people would think if I did let it out. So I kept those outlets private. I mean, if it was private, it wasn’t really real, right? “Real” is what you let others see…. Still I envied my friends who got to live “normal” lives with their relationships and fun. I was tired of being alone. Tired of having to “be” __________ to whoever. I felt like people liked me for what I did, not who I was. I mean, who was I anyways? To be honest, it was hard for even me to know.

Stealthfully, subconsciously, the idea that I was valued for these parts I performed started to seep into my image of God as well. And since I knew He could see my inside parts as well, I knew I was failing. Sure I knew God loved me. He has to love everyone. But how could He really like me? Was God the boss I could never please? I determined that if this was Christianity, it just wasn’t working for me. I couldn’t live up to it. I was miserable with it. And I wanted out. But on the other hand, I realized that I hated myself without God as well. I knew that life was empty. So I was stuck. Was there anything that “worked?” Fortunately, in my frustration and desperation, I said, “Okay, God, if You don’t want me to ditch this and leave, I need to know who You really are.” And thus, finally, I started a journey toward being “real.” Because as I was to find out, I couldn’t know who I really was until I learned who He really is.

I can’t say this has been an easy journey. It hasn’t been easy to let God break down the walls that hold in things like bitter, broken insecurity. But in order for me to know Him and His love, He has to have access behind the stage. It’s hard not to resist some – when playing the parts seems more necessary and achievable than the messy alternative. Real forgiveness and grace can seem so… foreign and “too good to be true.” But where I’ve let Him chip holes into my façade, I’ve seen glimpses of freedom shining through – glimpses of a God I don’t have to perform for. A God who can make scattered parts into a whole.

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For the Love of God

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I’ve settled on the belief that my finite mind cannot yet fully grasp the entirety of God’s infinite love. I’ve also come to the conclusion that if we’ll ever love the way God loves, we’ll have to forgive the way God forgives. There’s no getting around this fact and no reducing it to fit our dwarfed desires to love the way we’d prefer, to love in a way that requires less of us, demands less sacrifice. Desiring any less is ultimately contrary to the love and will of God. The bible tells us that God IS love, and He so loved the world that He gave. What DID He give? Christ’s very life was the price that was paid. So, we see that love doesn’t just give; love dies. HEART CHECK: As Annie Lobert mused: You think you have passion but aren’t willing to suffer for another? Real passion dies for someone!

Do you love others to death, even those who hurt you most? Is your desire for restoration stronger than your desire for vindication? Dan Allender defines bold love as “a movement of grace to embrace those who have sinned against us” and “a commitment to do whatever it takes (apart from sin) to bring health (salvation)” to those who’ve harmed us most. HEART CHECK: Who are you loving boldly? Who are you depending on GOD to help you love? Do you desire to meet those who’ve pierced you deepest with an embrace that yearns for their restoration?

There IS no middle ground. Either we desire those who’ve hurt us be utterly destroyed by God’s fiery wrath or we desire that they be absolutely restored by His flaming love. HEART CHECK: Do I want this person, as terrible as their actions may have been, to be destroyed or to be restored? God’s heart is bent toward restoration. He loves. He forgives. He restores.

God sees the worst in us and forgives; He sees the worst, and yet He loves. I’m convinced we can’t love the best in people until we can forgive the worst in them, because even their best is filthy rags compared to a holy God! When I choose to love you, I’m choosing to love something born in sin and shaped in iniquity. How dare I then recoil from the sacrifice love demands of me? Love requires us to exchange our desire to see revenge for an equally strong desire to see redemption. Proverbs 10:12 says love covers all wrongs, and 1 Peter 4:8 says love each other because love covers a multitude of sins. HEART CHECK: Who’s done wrong by you? Who’s sinned against you, and how are you covering them? Love covers.

I can’t think of one person I genuinely love where I don’t have to submit my selfish desires in order to fully connect or reconnect with them. Love is built on a foundation of willingness to subject our will to the will of another, and not just any other, submission to the will of God. Letting this mind be in us, which is also in Christ Jesus, means adopting GOD’S view of others. God loves the people you can’t stand. Ask Him to show others to you in the way HE sees them, so you can love and forgive the way He does. The video below shows the steps to a 30-second forgiveness exercise many have found helpful. Pray about whom God wants you to forgive, and know that sometimes it begins with self-forgiveness.

photo credit: ‘Ajnagraphy’ via photopin cc

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