Archive for December, 2014

Because God Loves Us

A new year is before me. A year of growth and opportunity! Yet, it will probably have heartache and challenge too. This makes me feel anxious as I expect some trials and tribulations.

Perhaps, it’s because I can’t control what the new year will bring that makes me nervous. I know God controls what the new year will bring, but what he brings does not always feel good. And that is what makes me scared.

What We Can Expect in the New Year

So, what can we expect from our loving Father in the new year?

Because he loves us, we can expect many good things in the new year. We are his kids for Pete’s sake! (1 John 3:1). “Every good and perfect gift comes down from the Father” (James 1:17).

Although we will not always perform well as Christians in the new year, we can still expect his compassionate response to us. “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22-23).

Because he loves us, we can expect that he will decrease our fears as we experience his loving presence. “Experiencing his love gets rid of our fears (1 John 4:18, paraphrased).

A fourth expectation for the new year is that we will experience his kindness, his patience, and his perfect will that will always be for our long-term good (1 Corinthians 13:4-7; Romans 8:28).

How to Experience His Love in the New Year

So, how can we experience all these good things, peace, compassion, and love that we can reasonably expect from our loving Father?

Well, it’s not as easy as it sounds.

Most of us have hardly experienced anything like the Father’s love before- so it’s hard to expect that we will experience that much of it in the new year.

But, we can grow in living in this reality.

One thing we can do is to give God the credit as he showers his blessings on us each day. Let’s say thank you to him many times a day, for he is behind every blessing.

Another thing we can do is to seek God in prayer each day. “Let us draw near to the throne of grace that we may receive help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16, paraphrased).

A final thing we can do to grow in experiencing God’s love is to use our imagination. God has given us the capacity to picture and experience biblical truth that engages our hearts and not just our brains. I frequently use my Grandma’s House to experience the father’s love at a deep level. It’s only there that I can deeply understand how safe, accepted, and delighted-in I really am.

May we face the unknowns of the new year with confidence because we deeply know that God loves us!




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Do You Need to Rest?

I didn’t grow up thinking that rest was all that important. In fact, the less I rested, the better. I could get more done.

Then, one day I burned out when I turned forty. I became exhausted physically and emotionally. One thing that had caused the burnout was that I had ignored my need to rest.

So, I began a three- year journey to learn how to rest, along with learning several other things. I learned the value of having a hobby that I enjoyed and relaxed me, which for me was deep-sea fishing.

I also learned that many of us struggle with resting. And there are good reasons why we struggle.

So what’s up? Why do so many of us struggle with taking time out to rest?

Why It’s So Hard to Rest

One big reason that many of us struggle with resting is that we are trying to be God. We are busy trying to become important, safe, approved of, and loved. It is hard for us to trust that God is taking care of us when we rest.

So, we stay on duty 24/7 persuing our needs, instead of relying on God to meet them. “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “You are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed” (Luke 10:41). That one thing is to trust in God to take care of us.

Resting also drives home the sometimes-scary truth that who we are depends on what God thinks of us and not on how well we can earn our identity. I often feel more secure in depending on my achievements to feel important instead of God’s gift of importance (Isaiah 43:4).

A third reason we often struggle with resting is that we try to figure out what God is doing instead of trusting that whatever he is doing, it is good. God warns us, “Trust in Me with all your heart and don’t rely on your understanding, acknowledge your need for Me and then I will guide you the best way” (Proverbs 3:5-6 paraphrased).   When we trust God, we can rest from trying to figure everything out.

How To Rest

So, how do we rest?

One thing we can do is to rest one day a week. It’s one of the commandments (Exodus 20:8-11).

I started doing this after my crash. I ceased striving for achievements on that day and did things that rejuvenated me, like resting. I chose Sundays to rest after going to church.

Another thing we can do to rest is to pray. We can’t rest when we are anxious about a number of things. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).

Probably the most important thing we can do is to rest in who we are to God. We are his children and he greatly loves, respects, and protects us (our identity). We have nothing to prove to others or our self.

Let’s ask God to increase our faith to accept the rest he promises (Hebrews 4:9-11). Not only can we rest from trying to earn our salvation, but also rest from trying to earn our identity.




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I don’t think I have fully appreciated how important it is to be humble. I want to be successful. I want people to respect me. I want to be comfortable.

But do I want to be humble?

I guess I’d rather be humble than proud.

But do I realize how vital it is to my welfare to be humble?

Why Would We Want to Be Humble?

Jesus and Moses were humble while on earth-and they had a lot to be proud about. But why should we be humble too. God gives us several reasons why. These include the following:

“ I command you to be humble” (Ephesians 4:2, paraphrased).

“You need to be humble in order to receive My strength” (2 Corinthians 12:9, paraphrased).

“You need to be humble before I will honor you” (Proverbs 18:12. paraphrased).

“You need to be humble for Me to use you as I have planned” (1 Corinthians 1:28-29, paraphrased).

The dictionary defines humility as the absence of pride and arrogance. We know pride is not good, but will humility make us think that we are a doormat for the world?


Look at Jesus’ example. He knew he was God Almighty while on earth- yet “did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant” (Philippians 2:6-7).

Likewise, we are part of the Royal Family, and have nothing to prove. This frees us up to be treated like a servant while knowing who we really are – sons and daughters of God Almighty. Only being humble will enable us to live in this reality.

How To Be Humble

So, how can we become a humbler person?

A friend of mine expressed his determination this week to be humble, despite enjoying much ministry success. In one year of attending his church, he is now preaching the Sunday sermons in the pastor’s absence and is the leader of the men’s ministry in a medium-sized church. One thing he is trying to do to remain humble is not thinking about how much success he is having.

I suggested that he also remember that God has given him that ministry. He is enabling my friend to do it. Thanking God regularly for his work will help him realize that “apart from Me, you can do nothing” (John 15:5). My friend remembering this will help him to remain humble.

We all need to remember that, “What do we have that we did not receive from God, but if we did receive it from God, why do we boast as if we had not received it from God” (1 Corinthians 4:7, paraphrased).

Another way we can stay humble is to realize that we can never be loved, respected, and accepted enough to be satisfied unless God meets these needs as a gift, not something we earn by doing something. That humbling! The pride in me wants to earn things like importance.

A final thought regarding how to be humble is to apply the Bible to our life. God says, “If all you do is to pile up Bible knowledge in your head, you will become proud” (1 Corinthians 8:1, paraphrased). And we don’t want that to happen!

May you join with me in becoming a humbler person. Let’s practice some of the suggestions above as we cooperate with God in the miracle of becoming humble.


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The Problem with Idols

I never thought of myself as an idol worshipper. “I don’t fall down in front of a golden calf. I don’t have some statue sitting on my shelf that I pray to.”

But when I went to seminary nine years ago, I found out that I was trusting in a number of idols. One of those idols was what people thought of me. To a great extent my self- esteem depended on being well thought of by others. If they did not respect me, I had a hard time respecting myself.

Another idol I discovered was achievement. I needed to attain certain honors and successes to regard myself as important. If I didn’t, I felt the pain of  being unimportant.

But God doesn’t want us to live this way!

How Do We Live?

He wants us to know that we are always important, loved, and accepted by him, all of the time. He does not want us chasing after the idols of what others think of us, achievements, and power to earn what he has already given to us.

When we rely too much on our reputation, comfort, health, pleasure or good circumstances, we can make idols of them. We can desire them more than God’s will for our life. God says to us, “Seek first [My] kingdom and [My] righteousness, and all these things will be given to you” (Matthew 6:33).

When we pursue achievement or power, we can be relying more on them than God’s gift of worth to us. A few years ago I had to make a difficult decision that cost me considerable achievement and power in order to follow God’s will. Now, I regularly thank the Lord for sparing me a great deal of grief by following him. If I had stayed in the situation, I would have been miserable.

Our basic problem is that God has made us to depend on him, and we don’t want to. So, we fill this vacuum with idols that don’t satisfy.

God asks us, “Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare” (Isaiah 55:2).

How Do We Get Rid of Idols?

How do we shed our idols and embrace the true and living God?

One of the first steps we can take is to become aware that we have idols. Many of our idols are hidden from us. For example, I didn’t know that an influential man in my life was a father figure to me and I was projecting father issues on him.

I didn’t realize that I had made this man an idol by depending on him to get my need for worth met. When I realized what I was doing, I was able to transfer my dependence off the man onto God to feel important.

Because our false dependencies are often hidden from us, we need to rely on the Holy Spirit to reveal them. He is in the business of revealing our idols (Psalm 139:23-24).

We also need to know who we are in God’s eyes and “love the approval of God rather than the approval of man” (John 12:43, paraphrased).

It does us no good to know that God considers us precious for just being who we are, if we live our daily lives striving to earn our worth. We show in our striving that we really don’t believe that we are worth that much. We are hooked on the idol of impressing people.

A final thought is that it is impossible to be freed from our idols on our own. We can’t escape our dependencies on achievement, pleasures, what people think and good circumstances- unless we rely on God.

God says to us, “I have freed you of your idols when Jesus died on the cross. Now, depend on Me, and I make this freedom your experience” (Romans 6:6, paraphrased).





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What should I write about this week? Often I choose to write about some work God has done or is doing in me an exciting way- in hopes it will help you in your journey with God. In many ways, we are all cut from the same cloth.

However, this time I chose a topic that I consider to be the most important truth of the Christian life, not necessarily a truth I live deeply.

That truth is experiencing God’s love for us. It is the reason he saves us from hell, and is the reason he prospers our life. My hope is that my thoughts may help you in your relationship with God.

I have experienced God’s love in dramatic fashion a few times in my life. For example, living in my Grandma’s house as a child, I felt loved and accepted without being good or strong. I could be myself, without fear of rejection. I knew I was loved for being me, not what I did. I could relax, knowing that Grandma would never reject me.

Only in recent years have I realized that this is how God loves me.

Why Experiencing His Love For Us Is Important

Experiencing God’s love for us enables us live the Bible that we study and listen to sermons about. “The goal of the Bible is to help us to become a more loving person” (1 Timothy 1:5, paraphrased). And “How can we love unless we have first experienced God’s love for us” (1 John 4:19, paraphrased).

Our experiencing God’s love enables us to grow to become a mature Christian (Ephesians 3:18-19). To fail to experience his love makes us a noisy gong that others will consider a hypocrite (1 Corinthians 13:1).

If you are a fear-based person like myself, experiencing God’s love will drive out our fears over time. “Perfect love drives out fear” (1 John 4:18).

Another reason to experience God’s love for us is so we can trust him in the darkness. So much of life is a mystery to us and we can be clueless to what God is doing and where he is leading us. Experiencing his love for us helps us realize that whatever is happening is for our good because God loves us (1 Corinthians 13:5; Romans 8:28).

How We Experience His Love

So why is it so hard to live our daily lives experiencing God’s deep love for us?

One reason is that we were born not to experience his love – and then our families, school and society trained us that way. We often don’t want God to love us because we are sinners from birth and want to be independent from needing God. We were also trained by the world that there is “no free lunch” and its pure fantasy that God will give us his love without earning it.

These are examples of our heart beliefs that hinder receiving the experience of God’s love for us. Through the Holy Spirit’s help, we need to be freed from these lies, and embrace the truth that God loves us because of who he is, not what we do (Romans 5:8).

I have talked to people who have never experienced this kind of love. If this is our case, the generous use of our imagination to picture what this love would look like in everyday life can help us to experience his love.

We can also experience God’s love for us through a small group fellowship. God often uses his people to love on us and give us a taste of his deep love.

Finally, we need to respond to his inner guidance about when we are not living in the light of his love. Sin can keep us from experiencing his love for us. Acknowledging our sin to God restores the fellowship and connection to God and the reality of his love for us (1 John 1:9).

So, may we seek the most important thing, experiencing God’s love for us!

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