His love will not let go

“For I am the LORD your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.” – Isaiah 41:13

His nail-pierced hands hold mine, and we walk together. Even with the scars I gave Him, He holds on to me, for the price was worth the prize of my heart. He stays with me and leads me further in love.

Tears gather in His eyes when He feels how tightly I grasp His hand. “I will never leave You. I will never abandon You. I will always be with You. I will never fail You. I am Faithful. Believe My words, I am True to them. I don’t break My promises. I don’t change. I am not like others who leave and fail your hopes and break your trust. You can put Your hope in Me. You can believe in My love. You can trust Me with Your heart.” He squeezes my hand. “I won’t let go. Ever.”

I feel the hole in His hand, and I know my sins. I want to pull away, because I don’t deserve this perfect love. It’s too good for me. I know how pure and beautiful He is, and I want to hide the ugliness of my own thinking so maybe He will love me more. I condemn myself and it hurts to know I chose myself over Him, yet He still chooses me. We stop and He has been reading my thoughts. I can’t even look into His eyes, because He sees right inside me, and when He sees my dirt, I am sure He will be disappointed.

“You are mine. When I forgave you, I forgot your sin. I made you new!” His hand turns my gaze to look at His glowing face. “You are worried about how I see you.” I look down, nodding slightly. He closes His eyes, knowing my deep fears. Then He begins speaking with such love, the force of many rivers could not compare. “I see you as pure, because when I shed my blood for you, I washed you clean. I see you are precious, because you are worth it to me. I see you as you are, the way you were made; I see the way my Father designed you, and it is beautiful. The Creator of the universe has sealed you with His signature, calling you His own. I love my Father, and I see He loved You so much He made you like Him, and I love the way you resemble Him. Will you give up that old picture you have of yourself, and look in the mirror? You reflect the glory of God. You are radiant with His light, I brought you into the light when I rescued you from the darkness! You can’t mar the beauty I see within you, because it’s permanent. You don’t need to fear what I see, or how I will respond. I can not love you less. I saw all your sin and took the weight of your shame, all at once, and I carried it for you on the cross. I forgave you then. I set you free, I have redeemed you. My love is here, it’s for you, and it’s never-ending. Will you walk with me, and I will show you just how far it goes?”

Joy filled my heart in that moment. There was nothing bad to dwell on, because I realize it was gone. The scars on His hands were just a mark of how much He loved me, how committed He was to make sure I knew that love. They were the reminder of how death was not too high a price, that He would -and did- give His own life.

He gave Himself, so He could receive me.

And He has me, I belong to no other; I place my hand in His, held out to me, asking me to trust Him and continue on. All this time, I had been afraid I would never find true love. I asked myself, Who would receive me? Who would accept me? And what was the cost I had to pay to earn their love?

But here was a love just asking that I would be theirs. Here was a love that doesn’t tell me I have to change, but a love that changes me. Here is a love that doesn’t point out every flaw and highlight every reason I am unacceptable, but holds out His arms and says, “Come here!” Here is a love that holds me close, no matter what I look like, no matter what my past, no matter if there are a thousand reasons why I am unloveable. This is love. This is Jesus.

His love will not let go.

Atlanta Day 5: Where’d you go?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011 | 11:38 pm | Salvation Army Community Center | Atlanta, Georgia

“Where’d you go?
I miss you so
Seems like it’s been forever,
That you’ve been gone.”

Those are the words of a song by Fort Minor, and they stand in the silence of voices we never hear but I heard today. I want to give a voice to four girls I met tonight.

Several IWU students heading into Peachcrest

This evening a group of about 10 of us went to Peachcrest, which I would describe as the Salvation Army’s version of a YMCA. As entered the room, I was met with the loud voices of over 100 kids. We were officially the only white people in the room, and it was one of the first observable facts that crossed my mind, but wasn’t weird for me. This entire trip has put me in new situations that differ from normal life. From the moment we entered the room, kids rushed up to welcome us; not even a few minutes passed before I had received several hugs.

Although I’m naturally a brave and adventurous person, I found myself a bit terrified when I thought of attempting to tutor these kids. Most were around 5 to 13 years old, but the thought of helping them with their homework sounded like it would be similar to me forcing them to complete some sort of self-torture (which is what most kids refer to homework as!). After a supernatural infusion of courage, I sat at a table with a few girls and a boy. I found they were really self-motivated and didn’t complain at all about doing homework. In fact, they didn’t really need my help; they really just wanted my company and to talk.

Chuck tutoring some of the boys

Our conversations began with a lot of small talk, and I was flattered that they asked me a lot of questions. They were such sweet girls, and even though they weren’t getting any homework done at the moment, they were excited to have me sitting there with them. Any fears I felt evaporated when I first sat down at their gray table on the little blue chairs: they started our friendship by admiring my red hair. “It’s so long,” one girl with braided pigtails said. I felt a hand run through my locks and the girl on my left exclaim, “You’re hair is so soft!” This of course, was followed up by several questions: “Does it change colors?” and “Is this your real hair?” Later they discussed how I would look good with a perm. Then, they saw my camera and wanted to take pictures with it (or have me take their pictures): there was a lot of laughter and silly faces that ensued.

Somewhere in the midst of paging through a yellow social science book, a Coca Cola spill, reading their hand-written stories, and arguing over Justin Beiber’s looks, we began sharing about family.

“I don’t have a dad,” Iyanna told me.

Sadness tinged my voice as I asked if he had died.

“No, he left 3 years ago. But I still call him everyday.”

“I don’t have a dad either,” Lorenna told me nonchalantly.

“None of us do, all ours left.” Savannah summarized for me.

I sat in shock. The entire table? None of them had a daddy? For years they’ve had to live without a father figure…I could imagine the impact it’s had on them, the pain they must have felt.

But I didn’t have any words. I didn’t have a solution.

I couldn’t make their daddy’s come back.

Later, I was talking to an older girl, probably around 13. We said hi, and I asked her how she was. Her face remained blank, no smile. “You okay?” I asked, sensing something was wrong.

“I haven’t been okay for three years,” she told me flippantly.

My heart felt the stab of the silent pain she was masking on her expressionless face.

“My eyes used to be your color,” she told me, gazing into my hazel green-brown iris’. “But they aren’t anymore.”

I looked into her eyes, completely black. I couldn’t even see her pupils they were so dark.

“They look like this because they change when I am sad.”

“Why are you sad?”  I asked, wishing the room wasn’t full of a hundred screaming kids playing musical chairs.

“I don’t want to talk about it. I don’t talk about it,” she answered, turning from me.

“Ariel, you can talk to me. Do you want to go over here, and you can tell me about it?”

“No, I don’t talk about it,” she repeated, turning again.

I waited a moment, then asked her another question. She kept sharing from then on, as long as I kept asking questions. The entire time she kept expressionless, emotionless. Her story finally spilled out: a couple years ago, her closest friend was acting strange one day at school and wouldn’t talk to her. The next day, he was gone. She never saw him again, he had just left. She doesn’t know why, and doesn’t know where he went. He disappeared from her life. She has one friend, a girl, but that’s it. “I always try to be nice to other kids at my school, but they don’t want to be my friend,” she told me. When we talked about her family, she also told me she didn’t have a dad.

I’m sharing these girl’s stories because they awoke me to the reality of a problem I had always known, but never witnessed like this.

How many children are abandoned? How many girls have no fathers to affirm them, cherish them, treat them like his princess, and hold them in their strong, safe arms?

Tonight I shared with my small group about this, and they had similar experiences: I found out (not surprisingly) that it wasn’t just the girls- many of the boys had no dads. How many boys have no positive male role model and who need a father to set an example for them of what a man is like? Is all they know about the only father they’ve had is that he chose to leave?

I asked Ariel if she believed in God, and came to found out she has a good relationship with Him. God had placed me there so I could remind her that He was still with her, He was listening, she could always talk to Him, and He would never leave her.

I’m thankful at least one fatherless girl knows of her Heavenly Father, but how many are there, still silently crying from their hearts:

“Where’d you go?
I miss you so
Seems like it’s been forever,
That you’ve been gone,
Please come back home…”

The hard thing about abandonment is that you can’t make other people come back into your life, and the pain of their absence affects you all the time. Maybe you know what it feels like, maybe you can relate- maybe you understand what life is like without a father or what it’s like to have a friend disappear from your life. It’s painful.

So what can we do?

Pray, get involved in tutoring, be a positive role model for a kid that doesn’t have one, encourage the men in your lives to reach out to children near you and be a father-like figure to those who don’t have one. I think what they need most is for us to LOVE  them and BE there.

In the end, it’s really up to us to decide. It’s up to you. You can do anything. The question is- will you?


But in Your great mercy You did not… abandon them, for You are a gracious and merciful God.” Nehemiah 9:31

Sunday, March 6, 2011 | 6:18 pm | Salvation Army Community Center | Atlanta, Georgia 

God grows beauty

We love to look at beauty.

One way I love to look at beauty is through photography. I enjoy looking at photography of different places or things I consider beautiful: green mountainsides, a river between houses in Italy, couples in love, a colorful field of flowers… I could go on for a long time.

God filled this world with beauty.

Like our Creator, we love to create beauty, too.

But our culture has changed the definition of beauty and distorted it into an obsession instead of appreciation.

The word “glamour” comes to mind, and makes me think of how showy our society has become that beauty is an object to be obtained then displayed.

Beauty is something we all are enthralled with, yet we still often overlook it. We miss beauty in the everyday blessings of breathing, nature, people; we miss beauty in our own reflection.

I love the saying, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” God’s eye beholds you and sees beauty.

God looks at us and sees beauty.

Wow.

Now, like God, can we look at others and see beauty? I believe so, when we’re looking through God’s eyes?

I really like the movie Princess Diaries. I’m thinking right now of the scene when Mia is told she is a princess, she gives all the reasons why she can’t be. I feel like when God shows us our true royal identity, we shoot back our reasons why that can’t be true. And when we finally realize our inheritance, we can be transformed into truly “owning” who we have been all along, but we never lived it, because we never knew or believed it. Mia’s grandmother was able to look at a young, insecure, shy teenage girl and see the Princess she was. She saw Mia as she was in that moment, and she saw all that she could become.

In time, Mia was transformed (not only outwardly) but also in who she was, and she did truly become a Princess and accept who her Father saw her as- so much more than she ever saw on her own.

I like to think of beauty as a transformation.

God sees us and sees all we can become; He sees the finished work.

How can we learn to look at others in that way? How can we not only find beauty in who they are now by looking through God’s eyes and see all they can become.

We end up judging people so often is because we only see them as they are now. Even if we see good, we tend to pick up on the things we’d like to change. If only we could see that there is so much hope in the future for them to grow and be transformed.

If we starting seeing beauty God’s way instead of our own, I believe He will give us a vision and hope for others. God wants to bring transformation in so many broken people, but we must be willing to see that vision of beauty He desires to bestow.

Today I was thinking about the summer internship I applied for. I would be living in Nairobi, Kenya for at least two months and working within (social justice) organizations and ministries within that area. I began reading up more about Nairobi and looking at pictures.

My heart broke as I saw the slums and the poverty of the community that lives there. It’s not a “beautiful” picture.

I asked God, “where is Your hope in this?” And He told me: He is God, nothing is impossible for Him; He desires to bring transformation. God brings beauty from brokenness.

People, communities, and ourselves… we are broken. God is a restorer, He gives us His abundant life and revives us. God bring the dead to life. He can use us to plant seeds in others, or water seeds already planted. We just must remember that God is the one who does the work of transformation.

What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.” (1 Corinthians 3:5-7)

God has created beauty all around us. There are seeds of beauty, sprouts, and full grown beauty. Be encouraged, when you brokenness…

He has made everything beautiful in its time” (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

I have been listening to this song all day; I hope it penetrates your heart like it did mine:

[Note: Sorry if my thoughts are scattered, it’s very late but I wanted to post this right away.]

obedient love.

When I think of obedience, I tend to think of having to do things I don’t want to. The next thing I usually think of is my parents, even though I am an independent college student making my own choices now. I can just hear my mom’s voice, calling from the kitchen, disrupting something I wanted to do: “Breanna, come do the dishes!” If you grew up in a Christian home like me, you probably can refer to Sunday school where you were taught about one of the Ten Commandments from Exodus 20, the one my parents repeatedly reminded me of: “Honor your father and mother.” Which happened to somehow always mean obeying.

Maybe you can relate to this view of obedience. But honestly, obedience is not all about obeying your parents. It’s about something more profound, beautiful, yet simple. Let me share with you what I’ve discovered.

Yesterday as I was sitting in a booth in my college cafeteria eating lunch and reading my Bible. I had flipped open to John 14 and began to feel excited as I read. I forgot about my salad. Let me share with you what I found.

Read John 14:15-31.

If we proclaim we are Christians that means “to be a Christ-follower”. Jesus Christ is the example we should look to when searching for how to live as a Christian. Jesus is teaching his disciples in this passage about several key things: obedience, why He is going to leave them but return and about who He is. Jesus also promises them the Holy Spirit.

The first thing Jesus says in verse 15 is the most important; so simple yet profound.

If you love Me, you will obey what I command.

Just meditate on that for a moment, let it sink in.

Think of someone you love. If they asked you to do something, would you? The problem sometimes with obedience in our relationship with God is that we are not obeying Him because we love Him. And then there are those time that although you love God so much, it’s hard to obey Him.

God has given us His Holy Spirit. In John 14:20 Jesus tells us that He is in us and we are in Him! Jesus calls His Holy Spirit “the Counselor” and “Spirit of truth”, and promises that He will teach us all things and will remind us of everything Jesus has said. We need the Holy Spirit’s counsel to understand God’s truth, His commands, and to be reminded of Jesus’ words.

Jesus is asked what the two greatest commandments in Matthew 22:36-40. He replies by saying, “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

So we have these two commandments to love God with everything and love our neighbors. It is crazy to realize that essentially what Jesus is saying is that, “All I ask is that you love.

So now we must discover what love is, and how to love. And that example is found in Jesus as well. The promises of loving God are awesome! Jesus told us in John 14:21 that “whoever has My commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves Me. He who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I too will love him and show Myself to him.”

I want to know Jesus and for Him to show Himself to me, don’t you?

Jesus set the ultimate example of love by obeying His Heavenly Father. He tells His disciples, “the world must learn that I love the Father and that I do exactly what my Father has commanded me.”

Jesus’s way of saying “I love You!” to His Heavenly Father was to obey. It was spreading His arms wide, hands and feet nailed to a cross. Beaten, bruised, ripped apart, mocked, rejected by those He came to save, betrayed, and crucified- the worst death possible. Yet He still submitted to the Father’s will, because He loved Him.

Let us join with Jesus and choose to love Him through obedience. Live in a way that allows the world to learn that you love the Father and do exactly what your Heavenly Father has commanded- to love.

fearless lovers.

I’m listening to Lovesick by Misty Edwards and right now it speaks to my heart in two ways, one more personal between God and I, the other is what I want to share.

The message of this song is that only God can satisfy and expresses desire for Him alone, that “try as I may to chase another love, I find there is no other.

Misty proclaims in this song,

This is the generation that has tried everything

This is the generation of Jacob

This is the generation that’s done all those things

But only You can satisfy.

This is the generation searching for the face of God…

God was revealing to me that this generation (that I am a part of) is the next world of leaders about to step up. The old generation will thin out and soon our impact will be the most able to shape the society around us. God wants to turn the hearts of our generation toward Him before we “obtain this power”. More fearless disciples of Christ who are passionate, set-apart, and full of love for His children need to step up and boldly declare God’s love and purposes, to speak the truth in love so that hearts can know Him and be saved! We need to live with abandon for our Lord and not conform to the ways of the world but be set-apart.

I see so many Lacedean lukewarms fakes who label themselves as Christians, and I am ready to see fearless lovers! My generation is so concerned about satisfying self often (especially through satisfying others), and my generation is so concerned about appearance. I’m not afraid of what other’s think of me. God’s perfect love is casting off all my fear. I will say as David did in Psalm 118:6 “The LORD is with me; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?”

I’ve been reading Jesus Freaks, a book about martyrs for Christ. The testimonies of those who have suffered and stayed strong for Christ to glorify Him openly has strengthened me. We should not be afraid to proclaim Christ to others and to share with our generation God’s truth. I don’t care who they think I am or if they judge me, because God is my judge and I know who I am.

I may see the way my generation looks, how messed up it is, and I even know the flaws of my humanity. But I know and believe 1 Peter 2:9 (NLT)…

But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into His wonderful light.

We are God’s very own, chosen, and we can show others the goodness of God! His perfect love has cast out fear, and now the time has come for fearless lovers of God to call others out of the darkness into His wonderful light…

Paralyzed.

What stops you?

If you’re having trouble moving forward, taking the next step, pursuing the future, getting things done…I have been there. I’m overcoming. Because I had to face that, I have some lessons I’ve learned along the way- amidst the struggle. And hopefully something I can share can be encouraging to you or speak to where you are at.

There can be many things that that paralyze us- perfectionism, fear, doubt, making mistakes, obstacles, inadequacies, intimidation, insecurity, rejection, people-pleasing, past experiences, self-protecting ourselves from pain, rejection…

These are roadblocks.

The informal definition for “roadblock” is “something that stops someone from making progress” (Macmillan Dictionary).

Doubt (not trusting, believing, being unsure or uncertain) and fear (being afraid of what could happen) are roadblocks. They can paralyze you if you let them.

  • Doubt is based on what we do not know, or feel we cannot fully trust or believe.
  • Fear is the opposite of trust, and often times is irrational.

Those roadblocks can be torn down.

  • We overcome doubt by truth.
  • We overcome fear by faith.

Often doubt and fear enter in our minds and hearts when we encounter something new in our lives that we have to face or walk into. We’re all in different places in our walk, in our life journey, but for me and a lot of others I know, this is a time to pursue the opportunities God has given you. Whether that be the adventure of discovering what those are, which requires willingness for change and risk; or perhaps, like me, the opportunities are there, but you have to believe in yourself to make that choice and pursue them. There are many things that can paralyze you if you let them.

Let me share about my most recent experience. While I have struggled with everything I’ll mention in this post, specifically, a few weeks ago an ugly old paralyzer revisited me: perfectionism.

I’ve struggled with perfectionism (off and on) my whole life. This standard was not placed on me from others, but so often I find myself holding that standard for myself. In many ways, that benefited me by the fact that I do everything 110%, I’m self-motivated, I expect and do everything with excellence, and I have no problem putting in beyond the effort that is needed. When I’m confident in what I’m doing, there’s no stopping me from getting it done and I usually finish well. The problem with perfectionism is, it’s unattainable. There will be plenty of things I have to do that I won’t do perfectly or with excellence the first time, partially because they are new and I need to practice to improve my ability and get to that point. There will be tasks I’ll be responsible that I feel inadequate or inefficient in. How am I going to handle that? My first reaction is either, “Oh well, I’ll do my best, here goes…” or “I’m overwhelmed, why even try if I know I’m going to screw it up?” When I give into being a perfectionist, I either have to accept I won’t do everything perfectly and give myself grace to make mistakes (difficult for me to do), or I am hard on myself and get discouraged. I spend so much time trying to prevent making a mistake that I waste time I could be spending on doing what needs to get done. The more I care about something, the more debilitating my perfectionism is. The more I refuse myself the possibility of “screwing it up”, the firmer grip my fear has, the tighter it chokes me, the more pressure I put on myself until I can’t do anything at all. The core of perfectionism is placing a high value on the idea that your work reflects back onto you. It’s making what you do a personal reflection of yourself, but giving it power to make a statement about your value. You end up believing statements about the quality of your work define you.

When I realized how paralyzing my perfectionism was to my work, ministry, and even some of my relationships (which is where it’s most destructive…), I knew I needed to find a way to break free from it. I didn’t want to be paralyzed by it. I found a simple answer to the problem: put into practice a better attitude, take on a simple mindset, and take action.

  • Realize everyone is not expecting perfectionism from you; you are expecting that of yourself. Stop expecting perfection of yourself. Release yourself from that strict standard. It’s confining.
  • Stop thinking so much about it and do.
  • Have fun! Enjoy your work.
  • Leave room for making mistakes as part of the process.
  • Be pro-active rather than reactive.
  • Keep positive!
  • Ask yourself if your ultimate goal was accomplished (getting it done).
  • Realize if you get it done, you can always come back if you have more time and improve it some more. The work is first. The quality can be improved on after.
  • Listen humbly to feedback and but don’t take it personal.
  • Still take responsibility for your mistakes, accept constructive criticism as help, and improve where you can.
  • Tell fear to shut up and tackle your task with boldness.
  • Lighten up.
  • Don’t dwell on the mistake.
  • Put your effort into doing what you can to make your work better and completing the task as soon as you can.
  • Persevere. Be tenacious in your persistence.
  • “Don’t be nervous. Work calmly, joyously, recklessly on whatever is in hand” (Henry Miller, writer).

Honestly, you just have to do something. We have to move to break out of our paralyzed state. And once you do, you’d be amazed at how much you can accomplish and get done. You’ll produce better work just by getting something done and freeing yourself from all the pressure you placed on yourself.

Although I spent the better half of this post sharing about my latest paralyzer and how I learned to counter-act it, there are many more things that stop us in our tracks and keep us from moving forward. All of these have affected me:

I mentioned earlier doubt and fear, and how we over by truth and faith. Set your mind on the truth. Flush out the rest. We all have doubts that could swallow us whole if we gave ourselves to them. But we’re called to walk by faith. As Hebrews 10:39 says, “We do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.Doubt is never beneficial. It’s takes the rug out from under your feet, it destroys trust, it causes fear to rise up. The truth is, it’s natural to feel fear. It’s how you respond to that fear, the power you give it over you to debilitate you or the power you deny it in moving forward regardless. Choose instead to put your faith in something greater, in God, with whom you have nothing to fear.

Ever been afraid of screwing up? I have. A lot. It’s stupid. We will make mistakes. It happens! We won’t do everything flawlessly or perfectly. We will encounter obstacles. We will be inadequate and fall short at times. But it’s how we pick ourselves up and keep our heads held up despite what holds us back. You only stop if you accept defeat and believe that it’s final, instead of viewing it as an opportunity and chance to grow, overcome, and improve from.

As you pursue what you need to do, everything is not always set up. You are hardly ever completely prepared or ready for what you have to dive in and do. Accept the process, the mess, the fact that it won’t go perfectly, and have the backbone to say you won’t let any of that deter you is what it takes. Don’t let fear, mistakes, obstacles, doubts, insecurities, or the process intimate you. Go and do. You won’t know if you can do something unless you actually go and do it. I’ve accomplished the most not when I did everything perfectly, but when I put in the most work. It’s by doing- not perfection, which can paralyze you if you hold yourself to that standard, and then you get nothing accomplished.

“Real life is about reacting quickly to the opportunity at hand, not the opportunity you envisioned.”
– Conan O’Brien, humorist and talk show host

We all have times we struggle with insecurity. We all want to hide our weaknesses, perceived “flaws”, and shield others from seeing the less-attractive parts of who we are- because of our desire for love and acceptance. We project the most likeable image of ourselves to others. We shield them from the things about ourselves that they may respond negatively to, for fear of rejection. We want to be liked, and that can turn into people-pleasing…which will tear you apart if you care too much about what others think about you. You’ll end up even more insecure. Be true to who you are and don’t apologize for it; people aren’t attracted to perfection, they’re attracted to authenticity. We -well, I– need to learn to be vulnerable with others and trust them to take me as I am. The more we let the weight of how much we want others to love us and care for us push us to lose yourself. Be true to who you are. Stay strong. Don’t shut up within yourself. I’ve done this and it doesn’t do anything good for your relationships…you come off as fake because you won’t let yourself open up and be real. Free yourself from being shaped by the opinions of others and be confident in how God made you, and accept grace for the areas you need to grow and be humble about them when they are exposed to others.

“To avoid criticism,

do nothing,

say nothing,

be nothing.”

– Elbert Hubbard, writer

I know many insecurities are a product of being vulnerable with someone and they responded negatively or differently than you hoped or expected they would. I’ve experienced this, and I know it can tear you apart, it can destroy you, it can affect you for years. Forgive them. Don’t let the pain control your ability to open up or to stand back up again. Don’t wither into a safe place away inside yourself to try and protect yourself from that happening ever again. You need to heal and overcome it. Ask God to heal your heart where you feel hurt, then release it from holding on to you. Pain is debilitating, too. I think many perfectionists become that way because they want to do everything they can to avoid a pain they once experienced. Don’t let a past wound that hurt turn into a reason to avoid that pain again. If you’re always afraid of what will happen if you open up parts of who you are to others, and you’ll miss out on a lot of depth because you only let people into certain rooms of who you are, and you lock them out of the ones that need to be shared still and that are a part of who you are. Insecurities about sharing who you are with others may keep you from rejection or negative responses that could hurt you, but it also robs you of the chance to be loved more fully and experience a love that sees the less lovely parts of who you are and still not only accepts, but truly loves you. It’s the most powerful love there is. You don’t need everyone’s love. But you do need to know perfect love- which is found in Christ, and His true followers, who love like Him. Find those people. Be that person to others.

In general, people are not drawn to perfection in others. People are drawn to shared interests, shared problems, and an individual’s life energy. Humans connect with humans. Hiding one’s humanity and trying to project an image of perfection makes a person vague, slippery, lifeless, and uninteresting.– Robert Glover

I’m learning these things again…mainly because I have just now begun to put it to practice more than I ever have before. As in, it’s been in my heart as God’s teaching me, yet today is probably one of the first days I’ve seriously put actions to all my intentions. I’m growing, it may be messy, it may expose things about myself even I don’t like, but I am done being timid or afraid and letting these things hinder me. Honestly I don’t have everything put together or figured out…but my confidence is not in what I know; my faith is in God who is greater, His power in me, His Spirit counseling and guiding me, His presence with me all the way, and knowing I am done letting these things paralyze me from being and doing all I am made for. If you want more, you have to pursue it. And to pursue something, you have to do it. And when you do, you can’t expect perfection. You can’t hold yourself to an unrealistic standard. But you can see where He will take you if you’re willing to put aside everything and keep going with Him toward what He has for you. Most of us have yet to discover it because we’ve stopped. But God is calling us to pursue, to go, to do, and to be by living. Not in theory, not in thought, not in dreams- but as He created us to be: whole, free, and secure in Him.

You can be paralyzed and miss out- or you can be free and discover more. You can let fear, doubt, or insecurity stop you- or you can focus on what you know is truth and step forward in faith. We rob ourselves (and others) of so much when we let ourselves be paralyzed; and we experience such beauty when we simply allow God to tear down those roadblocks we’ve built up and set us free to see all He has for us to do and to be with Him. Freely. Fully. But we won’t know if we don’t move. So, move- and don’t let anything stop you.

 

Today.

God has great things for today.

It’s easy to get this idea that the best things are in the future. Or that what we want is there. It’s easy to get too focused on what is ahead.

I realized years ago God made me a person who always is full of endless ideas and dreams. I like to pursue what I believe is possible and work hard toward it. Being a visionary means that you’re always looking toward the future. Which can be a very good thing, helping you always have a vision and purpose that drives you forward. But sometimes, it causes you to get too caught up in your hopes and ideas for what’s ahead, when God has so much for you now. I’m totally guilty of this on a regular basis. I can get tunnel vision, where I am so focused on one thing ahead of me, and getting to that, that I ignore all that is available in the present.

God has been showing me lately that it’s more important to be faithful in the present. Obedience today is the step that takes us where we need to be tomorrow. I just need to do what He has given me for this day.

Jesus taught His disciples, “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough worry of its own” (Matthew 6:34).

Worry is fear-based of something happening that we want to prevent. God does not want us to act out of fear, but faith. And faith trusts God has things taken care of. We are free to focus on what He had given us for now, because He is taking care of tomorrow, and tomorrow will be here soon enough and He’ll be with us then, too- just like He is today.

God wants us to be thankful and grateful in where He has us now. He wants us to be faithful in what He has given us to do today. He wants our moment to moment obedience. That’s how we walk out our faith.

Along with being a very motivated visionary and dreamer, I’m also a planner. That is a good quality for being responsible and prepared, but not so great when those plans get messed with. Or, when those plans become too set in my mind. You’ll get disappointed and frustrated often as soon as they change. Often we try to control things so the end looks how we want it to. But God wants us to release everything to Him and trust Him. Even if we do not know what will happen, or if the outcome will be what we specifically want or would choose ourselves, we can have confidence that He will do what is best. If we value His will over our own, if we truly desire that He would have His way in our lives regardless of our understanding of it, we would realize the answer is surrender. Surrendering daily all that lies ahead and asking God to lead us in what He has for us now.

There is so much freedom and joy in giving everything to God, trusting Him completely, and rejoicing in what He has for us today.

Every day is an adventure with God and we have so much to discover about what He has for us now if we simply make ourselves available and willing. If my attention is so fixed on the future or what’s next, there is a good chance I will miss the opportunity right there in front of me.

Every day is special with the Lord. Every day He gives us is a gift. Every day we have something to praise Him for, to rejoice in, to thank Him about.

And every day, God is inviting us to join in the work He is doing. To see what He can do.

The other day I was praying about the future, and I heard God just impressing on my heart, “Focus on the now. Ask the Holy Spirit. Be obedient in the now.” Because the things God has us doing now prepares us for what He has for us in the future. Like King David, who fought wild beasts as a shepherd boy before defeating he greatest giant in the land. He didn’t know someday God would have him doing that, but God had made him ready for what he needed to do and brought him there to do it in His own way. He’ll do the same with us. He’ll prepare us for the future with what He has for us now.

It’s easy to get impatient, discontent, or restless in where we are. But with God, we can wait on Him to lead us, obey Him as He directs us and speaks to us, rejoice in the day He has given us today, and find rest in Him. Faith does call us forward. Having a vision and a purpose to pursue is good. But everything that is ahead is dependent on what God is going to do more than what we will make happen.

It makes such a difference to be free in where God has you now and simply make it your first priority to love God by being obedient to what He has for you now. Cultivate faithfulness. Be thankful and find reasons to praise God for today and where He has you. Be open to what He has for you now, and listen to what the Holy Spirit speaks. Trust God with the future and let Him work. There is such peace in putting our confidence in God’s ability to lead us and bring us to exactly where He wants us and when.

“Today is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it!” – Psalm 118:24

Christ is sufficient always & in everything.

I’ve been working two jobs and for one of my jobs, I have to get up while the moon and stars are still out. This morning I came to work feeling tired and asking God to continue to give me the energy and upbeat attitude I needed as I worked. When I woke up at 3 a.m., I wanted to lay back down in my bed. But already God has given me what I need for today, and everything I do today comes out of that.

Since every day I’m opening at the fitness club, I’ve been getting to know the members who come in. They usually make jokes and  tease me about how I’m always there and act a little amazed because they understand  how hard it is to even be there at 5 a.m. themselves. Today someone asked me how I wake up this early every morning and am always so cheerful. I told them. “Jesus.” I told them I pray and God helps me. That’s the complete truth and there’s no other reason I could do this, except I know God has placed me here at this job for a purpose and I have faith He will enable me to do it- and with joy! That is the power of God at work in me. His strength is made perfect in my weakness. There is power in the name of Jesus and I’m living from it, even in the small things.  I’m not going to attribute that power that I know comes from Him to anything else, no matter if other people believe me or look at me like I’m even more crazy. They don’t have to get it or agree with my beliefs. But they can’t deny they don’t see the evidence of something out-of-the-ordinary that takes something special to be able to do. They are the ones who noticed and pointed it out! I will not credit it to myself or anything else when I know God should be glorified. He’s my strength, my joy, and the point of everything I’m doing -no matter what it is- is because of Him and for His glory. Not only does He strengthen me and give me joy to do my job, He gives me a vision for why I do it and a love to motivate me (for Him and for the people I encounter daily).

I know if I was not looking to Christ and relying on His power, there would be shifts and work days I would be even more exhausted and have a poor attitude. But all it takes is putting your faith in an unfailing God. There comes a point you realize that you’re always going to be exhausted and struggling with your attitude, focused on your lack and the deficit, or you’re going to stand firm in the truth that, “No matter where I lack, no matter how I feel, what I have to do, or this circumstance, Christ is sufficient.”

But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

“I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13)

“Not to us, O LORD, not to us, But to Your name be the glory. Because of Your loving-kindness, because of Your truth.” (Psalms 115:1)

“I will glorify Your name forever.” (Psalm 86:12)

“Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” (John 14:13)

Open spaces // Quiet places.

I remember when I went to Brazil in 2005, I got to sleep on a small beach in the Amazon near a river. It was exotic, beautiful, green, lush, and the sand was soft to sink your feet into. I remember only three summers ago, I studied abroad in Kosova (Europe) and got to travel all over the small country, seeing places like Prizren and Peja. Even with the rubble leftover from the war that had ended the decade before, everywhere I went was beautiful, imprinted with their unique ethnic culture. One day I got to drive out to a lake with a couple from the church I went to while I was there, and just enjoy the scenery as we drove to and from. They and the taxi driver spoke in Albanian at speeds I couldn’t keep up most of the time, so I mostly sat quietly and took in everything from my window. Those moments and memories touched my soul, somehow. It wasn’t just experiencing somewhere new and beautiful; it was encountering wonder.

Prizren, Kosova

Prizren, Kosova

I still have those moments here, without being in a foreign country or discovering somewhere different. Even while I was in college living on campus, I escaped to open and quiet places on my own to get away. To rest. To rediscover the beauty around me. To enjoy it with God and be alone with Him. Even though I love a good deep conversation and engaging people, I love just as much to be quiet and at rest. To soak in the moment for all it’s worth.

Lately, I’ve been working a lot. I have two jobs, which I both enjoy and am thankful for. But I can feel myself fraying. Like, this isn’t what life is supposed to be- a cycle of repeated things you have to do. I feel like I don’t have a life, I just work all the time; which I know many other people can relate to, too. I need moments to just be, and to enjoy life. That sounds like a luxury, but it’s a necessity. While we do have to work hard, prioritize, get things done, and participate daily in the mundane…we can’t lose sight of appreciating the wonder and beauty of life. We need our retreats to recharge and rest.

I found myself thinking tonight how wonderful it would be to escape somewhere open and quiet. Somewhere to just be silent and breath it all in. Like the ocean…I have no memory of ever standing at the edge and getting to take it in, water that reaches further than I can see. That sounds majestic. The only real mountains I’ve been on were in Mexico and Kosova; I’ve only drooled over pictures and dreamed about all the places in my own country I’ve wanted to see. But I don’t have to go far, I know, to find a open and quiet places.

There are places around us filled with wonder and beauty; and they are vastly undiscovered. And we need moments to get away to somewhere quiet, somewhere open, somewhere that doesn’t need anything but your presence to complete it. I’ve found little places like this everywhere I go, my “hideaway” places, where I go to be alone and enjoy it. Some mornings it is waking up and taking off in a run see the sunrise after it breaks through bedroom window. Some days it’s going to my favorite park and laying in the grass, soaking up the sunlight. Sometimes you can’t plan moments like those. You just have you appreciate them as they come.

I think what I love most of all is that I feel close to God there. Creation reflects His glory, His greatness. For some reason, His presence seems to fill quiet, undisturbed moments when I’m alone with Him than any others we share. Maybe it’s removing all the distractions, or a pause from the busyness, or just the space to breathe everything in uninterrupted…but those moments are golden, timeless. I know I need more of them, and I think even more so when we get busy or life gets hectic. If all we ever know is the fast-paced, demanding, crowded places we go to day in and day out, we’ll lose something in that by missing these moments of rest and quietness. God created so much beauty and wonder around us, and His presence is best enjoyed when we are fully present to be enjoy Him… we just have to create a little space sometimes and get away from everything else to appreciate the simple things. To find the wonder and beauty God has created all around us to enjoy.

@breasipple instagramWe’re most refreshed in His presence. I know each person experiences it different ways, but I think in the heart of every human being God created, there is an appreciation for the beauty and a sense of wonder for experiencing Him in this way- in the quiet places and open spaces.

“My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?” Psalm 42:2

Perspective matters. (Part 1)

We learn so much through trials and testing. The perspective you have while you go through hard times can make all the difference. The way we look at them will affect what is produced out of it: life, or death. If we focus on the negative and the things we can’t control or change, we’ll feel defeated. If focus on the positives, we’ll see what we can gain from it and we’ll grow.

Perspective matters.

God has been adjusting mine a lot lately. I noticed that I’m very guilty of often getting hung up on circumstances. I’ll get frustrated, stressed, sad, or discouraged if I can’t change them or make them how I want them to be. Or if they things aren’t happening that I’m hoping for in my timing. We all do. It’s a normal human response, but God has a better way for us to “deal” with what we go through.

If you stay in the cycle of letting circumstances dictate your attitude or emotions each time you go through every time something that is contrary to your hopes, desires, or expectations, you’d only get more discouraged every time you encounter another one. And we will go through that our whole lives, over and over. You’ll face all kinds of trials, obstacles, and circumstances. Building a better perspective for when you are going through those will help you to overcome them.

God can use trials and the circumstances we go through in life to teach us and grow us in areas we need to mature. He can strengthen us.

Over the past five years especially you could read through what I’ve written and see that most of what I’ve learned has come from trials I’ve gone through. God taught me as I went through circumstances about seeing things from His perspective. That will be a lifelong process for me as He grows and matures me to be more like Christ. I will struggle and not always have the perfect perspective or attitude; but the more I look to God to teach me in those times, the more I will begin to see more clearly through His eyes.

Because there is so much God has taught me about perspective in trials, I’ll just share a few at a time as I can. Here are the first two:

It’s not about just me.
One of the greatest encouragements God has been showing me lately was that everything I go through is not all only about me. One of the worst things I can do is focus on myself when a circumstance arises. Yet all too often, that’s our natural human reaction. We’ll look for ways to protect ourselves, prevent certain things from happening, or control the outcome in our favor. We’ll focus on what we want. God, though, asks us to surrender and trust Him. He wants to open our eyes to His greater purposes in our trials.

My eyes are opening. I’m beginning to see that everything I go through can be used for God’s glory in ways I never imagined.

The other day, I got frustrated and angry that men kept creeping on me at work. At times I felt violated with the way they were treating me or looking at me, and it just made me want to either slap them or hide away from them (neither of which were options). The next day, a co-worker’s father came up to me. He asked me to look out for his daughter because a man was loitering around her all the time and making her extremely uncomfortable to the point she felt unsafe. I was able to sympathize a lot more, and understand what she was going through, because of the day I’d had before and what I went through. I was able to encourage her in how to handle the situation in the future and offer her help and support. I may not have been as courageous in addressing it if I hadn’t of experienced a similar circumstance myself. I realized that maybe God allowed me to have to deal with that the day before so I could comfort her in the way I had wanted to be, and so I could know to offer her the security and support I knew she needed. This was just one circumstance that God showed me that maybe the things I go through that try me actually prepare me to minister to others who are going through something similar. We can’t control what happens to us sometimes, but we can decide what perspective we’re going to have as we respond and work through it.

Whatever you are going through, ask God to use it to give comfort to others. When you overcome and make it through because of Him, what a testimony that will be to give Him all the glory; and an encouragement to someone else of what a difference it makes to have His presence with you through it, and faithfulness to the end of it.

God is the compassionate comforter. You may be wondering, but what comfort does that give us in our trials? What about when I need someone? Well, the honest truth is God is present and He is enough in all things we go through. Many of my trails in life I felt like I was alone as I went through them. Sometimes He brings us someone to comfort and encourage us in the perfect timing and way we need it. Sometimes we need to reach out and find community, support, and encouragement on our own. And other times, He uses those trials to draw us closer to Him. God knows what we need. My greatest encouragement is that Christ understands any trail or struggle we face. God is a God of compassion. God has given us His Holy Spirit who lives in us and is our Comforter. (John 14:26 KJV, Jeremiah 8:18).

There have been times that I desperately needed God’s comfort, and I felt like in that moment, I asked Him for it and did not feel it. I expected an instant soothing of all my emotions. Instead, God spoke to me and said, “Accept my grace for you right now.” He wanted me to understand it was okay to struggle and experience what I was feeling. It was valid, it was okay. I needed to learn grace for myself instead of the easy fix of God just taking away the weight of what I was feeling. He could have, but He allowed me to feel it for a reason to humble me I think. The next day, He encouraged me so much, and it was even more refreshing because of that one evening of wrestling through it. He will be patient with our hearts so we can realize what He has for us and stretch our faith He will answer that prayer; and teach us to wait on Him as we look to Him to do that.

Whatever you go through, remember that God is with you, He’s present there through it all, He will comfort you, and He understands. He will answer your cry; and He will teach you to put your faith and trust in Him as you wait on Him. He’s not expecting you to carry the burden alone, but He wants to cast them on Him so He can sustain you (Psalm 55:22).

In our trials, we can ask God to open up our eyes to see His perspective. He loves to, and He will! Ask Him to show you how what you’re going through is not just about you and to take your eyes of yourself. Ask Him to help you see His purposes in it and the bigger picture. Ask Him to teach, grow, mature, and make you more like Christ through it. Ask Him to use it for the comfort and encouragement of others, and for His glory. Ask Him to be your comfort and to sustain you as you cast everything on Him. The trials we go through are not for dragging you down, but producing growth. Look to Him and He will help you see them through His perspective. It will change everything.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.”

– 2 Corinthians 1:3-5

Living Hope

“After fourteen years, he just decided he wanted to retire and left me to move to Florida. What hurts is I was so easy to leave after that long. Of course I chased him, I tried everything to get him back, I didn’t understand and didn’t want to let go, even though he had.”

I sat listening, my heart breaking with compassion for the woman standing across from me. We’d just met and she was pouring out her heart to me. I could almost feel the wall of bricks she’d built up inside that kept her voice strong and the pains of the past few years unfolded from her lips. She’d loved and lost her love, and I could tell her hope for anything that great to ever happen again to her was gone. That was it. The rest of her life was going to feed off the memories of those good times, and she’d decided it was enough.

I ran out of time that day to get to share with her Hope. Hope that doesn’t run out. Hope that doesn’t disappoint. Hope that never fails. Hope that is eternal, found in Christ. I know her heart was ready to hear it existed, but maybe not ready to believe it. She was still hurting. It’s hard to hope again when yours is torn down completely in a way that changes your whole world. Yet I could see it on her face, in her eyes and laced in the words that fell from her lips; she was yearning to know hope is real for her. The hard part for me was seeing she’d given up that was possible.

“Those times were the best, and I’ll never have anything like it again. It’s over for me. And you know, I- I’ve lived a full life. I can accept that that’s it and that I’ve already lived the best.” She was in her mid-fifties. She’d already decided the most enjoyable and happy times in her life were behind her.

But there is a hope that never ends in Christ. There is abundant life in being loved by Him.  In Christ, we come alive in a living hope. (1 Peter 1:3). A hope that never dies. A hope that is eternal as He is, because it comes from Him.

I hope I get an opportunity to listen and talk with that woman again soon, but I want everyone to know that hope that is in Jesus Christ. There are so many people who have given up on hope. Hope for love. Hope for living. Hope for joy. Hope for healing.

Jesus Christ is our living hope for all things. He is literally our hope.

Everyone loses hope sometimes. Everyone needs restored.

The way we find hope is to believe. We have to believe hope exists and trust that it’s not in vain we have hope. It requires faith. It requires a complete trust that takes everything we would doubt on our own and finds hope in Christ.

I’ve lost hope before, and it’s heart-breaking. It takes away your dreams and desires. It traps you in a place where you don’t feel free or joyful. It drains you. Even if you carry on, you get worn out from trying to stay strong and keep yourself going.

God is the one who restores our hope. He’s the one who breathes our dead hearts back to life and revives the dreams and desires of our hearts. He’s done that for me, at one of the most discouraging points in my life, and I know that if God could touch my heart to believe in hope again, He can do that for anyone who simply asks Him. I wasted so much time without hope and it never did much for me. But when Christ become my hope, when literally all my hope was placed in Him, I have never been more amazed at what happens. Not only do you come alive, but there’s more life in your life.

It’s not over. Even when you think it is. The best is not past; you’ve barely stepped into it.

“‘No eye has seen,
        no ear has heard,
and no human mind has conceived’
    the things God has prepared for those who love Him—” (1 Corinthians 2:9; Isaiah 64:4).

We don’t know all that God has in store for us, but that is not a fearful thing; it’s exciting! If we know Him, how good and faithful and loving He is, how sovereign, just, wise, and powerful He is, we know we can put our full trust in Him. If we take one look at just how unchanging His character is, we’d cast our whole lives into His hands without question because we’ll see how unfailing He has always been. There is so much more that He has for us than we realize, but we have to believe that in leading us, He is good.

I’m sure the disciples lost hope on some level when Jesus died on the cross. They expected Him to set up His kingdom on earth and rule, and instead He laid down His life. Son of God, crucified and wrapped up lifeless in a tomb. But death couldn’t keep Him, and He willingly went to the grave so we could see that our living hope cannot die. Our hope overcame death and will live forever.

“Surely there is a future, and your hope will not be cut off” (Proverbs 23:18). Sometimes our hope feels cut off. There are many things we experience in life that try to destroy our hope, and it’s painful. It’s hard to hold onto hope and not let it die. Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10). Our hope doesn’t have to be stolen, killed, or destroyed; in Christ, we can have full hope that is alive.

I know that sometimes we don’t know what we are hoping for, like David, who wrote, “And now, O Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in You.” (Psalm 39:7). The important thing in those moments is knowing Who your hope is in.

God is a God of hope. He pours out His hope into our hearts through His Spirit living in us as we believe in Him (Romans 15:13). And we know hope does not disappoint, “because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Romans 5:21).

Hold onto hope. Share the hope you have with others, because they desperately need to know it. We all do. Let others know why you have hope, and keep putting all your hope in Christ.

“You are my hope.” (Psalm 71:5)

 

My Wife Has Tattoos: Marriage, New Birth, and the Gospel

I love this.

Unspoken

Image Photo credit: Todd Balsley

by Spencer Harmon

Today is the day of my wedding.  And I am not marrying the girl of my dreams.

If you would have told me when I was a teenager that my wife would have seven tattoos, a history in drugs, alcohol, and attending heavy metal concerts, I would have laughed at you, given you one of my courtship books, and told you to take a hike.  My plans were much different, much more nuanced with careful planning, much more clean-cut, and much more, well, about me.

You see, it wasn’t my dream to marry a girl that was complicated.  I never dreamed that I would sit on a couch with my future wife in pre-marital counseling listening to her cry and tell stories of drunken nights, listing the drugs she used, confessing mistakes made in past relationships.

This isn’t my dream – it’s better.

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Being love.

 

What if every morning we woke up to begin the day and instead of running our minds through a task to-do list, we simply chose to make it our joy to love the most we can? The the most important thing is not getting all these things done, but the most important thing becomes looking for ways to love in everything we do.

That’s how I want to start my days. To wake up and view each day as an opportunity to love.

Consider how that would change every task you may have to do: “Can you take out the trash?” Yes, I’d love to. It’d be a joy. Why? Because serving others is a way to love. Because your actions are flowing from a heart full of love. If it takes love to do it, then I want to. The more we choose to love, the more loving we become; the more we become like Christ. I want God to grow my love for others and I want to live it out; even in the little things.

There have been times when my day was full of things I didn’t really enjoy doing, but I needed to do. I was getting tired and worn out just trying to get it done. God stopped me for a moment in the middle of it and helped me realize that if I viewed everything I was doing as unto Him, it would be more fulfilling. I started saying, “I do this because I love You,” as I did each thing, and almost immediately it became a joy- because I do love the Lord, and I want to love Him with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength! Love can be simply a conscious decision to love. It isn’t always because you feel like you want to; it’s in choosing actions that love that the joy of love becomes more real.

Love takes action. We can’t just say we love God or others and not do things that require love. And real love requires laying down ourselves . It’s not about what we get out of it; it’s about giving freely of ourselves -our time, our energy, anything we have- to truly love others. And in that, it’s not about striving and our efforts. Love is about the heart before it ever is about the hands or head.

Chris Suh said,

“Spiritual maturity is not just knowledge and wisdom. Knowing the Word doesn’t make you mature. Your maturity is shown in your ability to love. To lay down yourself and love.”

Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). Greater love dies to self to love. Love dies to our impatience, selfishness, anger, forgiveness, our own needs, desires, agenda, and self-interest; and anything contrary…and lets love overcome.

I think if many Christians want a deeper understanding of God’s love, they should live it. Take a day and get to know some people who are homeless. Serve in your church by cleaning it on a evening when no one’s around see that you did it. Get involved at a women’s shelter. Work with children who’ve been abused. Have people over to your house for dinner. Pray for strangers when you see they could use it. Start finding ways to love people like Jesus does and your understanding of His love will deepen. You’ll start to realize how amazing His love is when you participate in it.

1 John 2:6 says, “Whoever claims to live in Him must live as Jesus did.” If we know the way Jesus lived, it was completely selfless. He ultimately laid down His life in love for robbers, adulterers, thief’s, murderers, those who betrayed and rejected Him and crucified Him… the whole world of sinful people. There’s no one He couldn’t love because His love is not based on how worthy we are, but on who He is. Jesus embodied love. God is love, so to do loving things was not a task, but simply Him being who He is.

That’s the way I want to live. That love is not simply even a decision I choose, or an action I do, but it’s who I am. It’s in knowing Christ and being transformed to be like Him, we take on His character. We’re made new into the image of our Creator as His daughters and sons.

Paul Washer said,

“You must be serious not so much about what you do; you must be serious about what you are. Because what you do will flow out of what you are. It’s who we are that affects those around us, not just what we do.”

If we want to love, we must actually become loving; it’s our heart, not just our outward actions that need transformed.

If we want others to come to know Christ, we are His representatives. Charles Spurgeon said,

“The Bible is not the light of the world, it is the light of the Church. But the world does not read the Bible, the world reads Christians! You are the light of the world.”

Jesus said in Matthew 5:14-16, “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

Our actions and who we are in this world is a light to others; and we are the ones God has placed here to shine light in dark places where people don’t know God’s love, who haven’t experienced anything like it. Remember the first time you encountered God’s love as real? It was like… I can’t believe a love like this exists.

There are people who don’t know it does.

It’s our purpose to love others with the same love God showed us in Christ. And the way we show that love to others is by loving like Christ did: being love, laying down our lives.

By this we know love: that He laid down His life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for others” (1 John 3:16).

Jesus said, “By this all people will know you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).

Love must be lived. Love comes through dying daily to ourselves. So when I woke up this morning, wanting to take my day as an opportunity to love, the first thing that requires is that I die to self; and then letting the Spirit fill me with His love. We can’t love out of our own strength or efforts; we love because God has poured His Spirit into us that enables us to love. It’s out of the love we’ve received that we give.

“God’s love has been poured into our hearts through His Holy Spirit, who He has given us” (Romans 5:5).

Jesus told His disciples in Matthew 16:24 that if anyone wanted to be His disciples, “He must deny himself, pick up his cross, and follow Me.” If we want to be like Christ and walk with Him, we have to die to self and follow after Him. And if we die to ourselves, it means that old, contrary nature is gone, and now love abides in us, and we’ll continue to die to anything that is not love as we follow Christ.

If we want to become loving, if we want to live love out in all we are and do, John 3:30 should become our prayer- daily:

“I must decrease, He must increase.”

We first ask God to take away everything that hinders love; and then we lay ourselves down, and then we come to Him to be filled with His love so we can pour it out by His Spirit to others in everything we are, everything we do, so they can know and experience the love of Christ.

The only One.

There is nothing more humbling than revisiting the past to reflect on all that Jesus has redeemed me from while at the same time being presently aware of His grace of me being in the process and secure in His love for me.

Today I was filling out an application for an organization I’d love to serve with and one of the questions was: “What have you struggled with in the past? What do you struggle with currently?”

I was brought to tears. All I could think was,

“Jesus died so I could be set free and forgiven of these things.”

There was no other way. Jesus is literally the only One who can make me holy. He is my righteousness; I am not anything I am today apart from Him; I am a product of grace.

He didn’t want me to stay depressed and lonely or hating myself. He didn’t want me to be starved for love but convinced I was unworthy. He wanted me to know His love. He didn’t want death to pull me away. He wanted me to come alive in Him.

Jesus wasn’t looking at the filthiness of my sin, but the treasure of my heart.

He wasn’t criticizing the cracks of my brokenness; He longed to touch my wounds where they hurt most.

The compassion of His heart toward me was greater than I can still grasp to this day. Every time I think about it, I’m humbled. Jesus loved me when my thoughts were far from Him; Jesus loved me when I was in sin; and most amazing of all, Jesus loved me just as much then as He does now. He doesn’t love me less or more dependent on how holy I am; He loves me because He is love. Nothing I can do can change that. And nothing can separate me from the love of God in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:38-39).

Jesus had such a love for me even while I chose to love my sin more than Him. And now I know His love is greater. Because of Christ, I am healed, restored, whole, loved. I died to sin and I am alive in Him; those things that used to ruin and rule me have no power because He has overcome my heart with His loving-kindness. None of those things have a place in my life anymore. Sin has no power over me. Christ set me free. If you have sin in your life, if you are struggling with something, run to Christ. He loves you. There is nothing you can bring it to Him that He can’t make new. Jesus didn’t die so we’d stay in bondage or trapped in constant guilt. Repentance is sweet. Surrender is freedom. For those who are in Christ, there is no condemnation (Romans 8:1). Jesus speaks a better word; you are not your past. And the only way you overcome it is in Him. “We are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Romans 8:37).

There is so much joy in knowing I am loved and forgiven and free. The sin that used to keep me bound has no hold on me. I know no struggle I face is ever going to rule me or overcome me; Christ in me is greater. I’m not the same person I was; I’m redeemed by the precious blood of Jesus Christ.

I am thankful for the grace God has given me.  I am thankful for Christ and what He did for me so I could be set free and forgiven, so I could know truly know His heart and know His love. I praise God that I can see myself through His eyes. Thank You Jesus for loving me. Thank You for doing what only You could do.

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” – Galatians 2:20

The only One.

There is nothing more humbling than revisiting the past to reflect on all that Jesus has redeemed me from while at the same time being presently aware of His grace of me being in the process and secure in His love for me.

Today I was filling out an application for an organization I’d love to serve with and one of the questions was: “What have you struggled with in the past? What do you struggle with currently?”

I was brought to tears. All I could think was,

“Jesus died so I could be set free and forgiven of these things.”

There was no other way. Jesus is literally the only One who can make me holy. He is my righteousness; I am not anything I am today apart from Him; I am a product of grace.

He didn’t want me to stay depressed and lonely or hating myself. He didn’t want me to be starved for love but convinced I was unworthy. He wanted me to know His love. He didn’t want death to pull me away. He wanted me to come alive in Him.

Jesus wasn’t looking at the filthiness of my sin, but the treasure of my heart.

He wasn’t criticizing the cracks of my brokenness; He longed to touch my wounds where they hurt most.

The compassion of His heart toward me was greater than I can still grasp to this day. Every time I think about it, I’m humbled. Jesus loved me when my thoughts were far from Him; Jesus loved me when I was in sin; and most amazing of all, Jesus loved me just as much then as He does now. He doesn’t love me less or more dependent on how holy I am; He loves me because He is love. Nothing I can do can change that. And nothing can separate me from the love of God in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:38-39).

Jesus had such a love for me even while I chose to love my sin more than Him. And now I know His love is greater. Because of Christ, I am healed, restored, whole, loved. I died to sin and I am alive in Him; those things that used to ruin and rule me have no power because He has overcome my heart with His loving-kindness. None of those things have a place in my life anymore. Sin has no power over me. Christ set me free. If you have sin in your life, if you are struggling with something, run to Christ. He loves you. There is nothing you can bring it to Him that He can’t make new. Jesus didn’t die so we’d stay in bondage or trapped in constant guilt. Repentance is sweet. Surrender is freedom. For those who are in Christ, there is no condemnation (Romans 8:1). Jesus speaks a better word; you are not your past. And the only way you overcome it is in Him. “We are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Romans 8:37).

There is so much joy in knowing I am loved and forgiven and free. The sin that used to keep me bound has no hold on me. I know no struggle I face is ever going to rule me or overcome me; Christ in me is greater. I’m not the same person I was; I’m redeemed by the precious blood of Jesus Christ.

I am thankful for the grace God has given me.  I am thankful for Christ and what He did for me so I could be set free and forgiven, so I could know truly know His heart and know His love. I praise God that I can see myself through His eyes. Thank You Jesus for loving me. Thank You for doing what only You could do.

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” – Galatians 2:20