Archive for the ‘God’s Love’ Category

My family and society trained me to perform my way into receiving their approval. Just being me was not good enough. I had to please and impress to receive what I wanted from others. This led to me being hard on myself and often demanding more than I could deliver.

These beliefs were then brought into my relationship with God. I believed God was demanding too. My focus became doing the right things and not on being the right person. I also tended to think knowing the Bible was the same as living the Bible. But it wasn’t. Much of what I knew had little impact on my heart.

But our hearts are what God is most interested in. He says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it” (Proverbs 4:23). We can do right but for improper reasons. Our doing will be pleasing to God if our hearts are healthy. “First, wash the inside of the cup and the dish, and then the outside will become clean, too” Jesus tells us in Matthew 23:26.

A friend with significant financial problems has been recently serving our church in several capacities. At first church leadership was suspicious of the person’s motives. They thought the person may be doing the ministries to receive help from the church. But after several weeks of witnessing this persons’ behavior, the church concluded their behavior flowed from a healthy heart. They rewarded this person by loaning them a car.

Many of us believe we need to please and impress God in order to receive his approval and love. We don’t see them as gifts but as something to be earned. But he desires us to rely on his grace. We need to pay attention to what we depend on deep within to feel good about ourselves. Does it take a promotion, impressing the people at church, and being the best golfer in the foursome to regard ourselves as important? Or can we accept God’s gift of importance and be whatever he wants?

God desires us to be real with him. He wants us to know the truth about ourselves and to share it with him. “He desires truth in the innermost being and in the hidden part he will make me know wisdom” (Psalm 51:6).

He desires our love. Jesus says the greatest commandment is to “love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. We can only do this when we receive his gift of being loved with no strings attached. Then he wants us to love others in the same way. God tells us we “love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:9). This means treating people with patience, kindness, and always with their best interests at heart (1 Corinthians 13).

We also have to face the humbling truth we can’t do great things for God without him. He hopes we will depend on him. This week our church revealed a God-size vision for what he plans to do through our church. I was excited but puzzled about how insane these plans were and wondered what impossible things he planned to do through me?

God does not want us to turn away from what he asks of us. Instead, he wants us to rely on “”I am the LORD, the God of all the peoples of the world. Is anything too hard for me?” (Jeremiah 32:27). He hopes we will go beyond our human limitations and be bold enough to trust him for the impossible as he leads.

What does God want from us? He desires our hearts, love, honesty and dependence. May we keep these in focus as we fight the battles of everyday life.

 

 

 

 

 

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You Are Loved!

Many of us have a distorted experience of being loved. This is because we had to please and gain approval before we could expect being love. It was conditional, and if we didn’t meet the conditions we could expect criticism, loss of status, and punishment.

However, my Grandma gave me a different experience. I didn’t fear punishment or criticism from her. She seemed to have already decided that I was okay and special and I didn’t feel pressure from her to always perform to certain standards to feel her love. She looked at me with loving eyes and seemed to like what she saw. I relaxed when she was around. God used her to give me a taste of how he loves me.

But for much of early my life, I didn’t experience this kind of love. Not until I became a Christian when I was twenty-six and a couple who introduced me to God and then discipled me, did I experience being deeply loved. Later, my wife enabled me to experience God’s gentleness, affection, and faithfulness. Also, the love of God has shone through in the lives of the people who have been in my small groups.

Then, twelve years ago, I started seminary and began to connect to God in a deeper, more experiential way. I began to relate to God in a more contemplative manner where through faith I sat at the feet of Jesus and received his gift of love.

What Does Being Loved By God Mean?

God’s love for you is not based on you–it’s based on him. You are loved because he is in the business of loving unlovable people, of which we all qualify. So, don’t look for a reason in yourself. Every other kind of love you experience has conditions attached to it. With God’s love, there are no strings attached if you are his child through receiving his gift of salvation.

This means that God is always patient with you. He is kind, forgiving, and always seeks what is best for you. And he believes in you, always hoping and expecting the best from you (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).

God’s love for you will never stop. No sin or failure will take God’s love away from you. He loves you so much that he wants to always share life with you. He honors you will his presence. Throughout your life he will plead, urge, and encourage you like a good father does, and care for you as a good mother cares for her children (1 Thessalonians 2:8-12).

Why His Love for You is Important to Experience

Experiencing God’s love drives out your fears, as God says to us,” Perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18). It’s more than just knowing what the Bible says, but feeling and living like it’s true.

Another reason to experience God’s love is so that you can be godly. The bottom line that God uses to measure your life is how well you have loved. Unless you experience being loved, you can’t pass his love on to others. You fail as a Christian if you fail to love well, both God and others.

A third reason to experience God’s love is to keep you from idols. We have a deep need to feel loved and if that is not met in an intimate relationship with God, we seek to realize it in idols. Those idols could be in a spouse, people’s approval, or being needed. The sad reality is that idols never give you the unconditional love that you long for.

Finally, experiencing God’s love can help you to face the sometimes-terrifying future. After running for his life for many years David could write, “Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life” (Psalm 23:6). No matter how bad the circumstances looked, he had confidence that God loved him and would bring much good into his years ahead.

May we all grow in accepting that we are loved. This is who we are. This is our primary identity. Not a failure, not an engineer, and not a mother, but a person who is deeply loved by God.

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Wrong Ideas

I have always wanted to be happily married. But as I searched for the “perfect” wife, I had many wrong ideas about what a happy marriage was and how to have one. Two of the biggest wrong ideas were:

  • My wife would solve all my big problems and make me happy
  • Marriage was a getting thing, not a giving thing

Fortunately, I got these wrong ideas corrected before I got married at age 32. This has helped us enjoy a happy marriage for the past 38 years.

Kehoe's

The Secret of a Happy Marriage

Probably the most important secret is that the deepest, most satisfying marriages stem from God empowering the relationship. Marriage is God’s idea and he has purposes for it that go beyond our enjoyment. He also is giving a picture to the world of the intimate love relationship that he yearns to have with each of us. He gives us our marriages not just for our pleasure, but also for his ministry to others.

Another secret of a happy marriage is for us husbands to love our wives as God loves us. “What? I can’t do that,” you may say. “That means I need to put her needs ahead of my own and nurture and cherish her” (Ephesians 5:29, paraphrased). But no one said that being happily married was going to be easy- even with God’s help.

Another secret of a happy marriage is that wives need to submit to their husbands in everything (Ephesians 5:24). “Are you crazy? He will walk all over me if I do that,” you may say. But God says, “You wives must accept the authority of your husbands. Then, even if some refuse to obey the Good News, your godly lives will speak to them without any words” (1 Peter 3:1, NLT).

This doesn’t mean that you wives are to be squashed or dishonored, for God commands that husbands honor their wives and to seek what is best for them.

“But what happens if my husband doesn’t love me as he is supposed to?” you may ask. “Aren’t I free to rebel against him?” No, you aren’t, unless your safety or obedience to God is threatened.

Instead, God wants us to overcome evil with good and to “suffer according to the will of God and entrust ourselves to a faithful Creator in doing what is right” (1 Peter 4:19).

This also applies to us husbands when our wives are rebellious. We are still to love them and to treat them with dignity and respect.

Final Thoughts

Satan hates godly marriages. This is probably why marriages are in such bad shape these days. We can’t have a godly and happy marriage without God’s protection from the One who comes to steal, kill and destroy. May we learn to rely on God to help us fulfill our responsibilities so that we can have a deep, satisfying, and happy marriage that God can use to bring much praise to himself.

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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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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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Sadly, for many of us, the fact that God loves us makes little or no difference in our lives.

It made little difference in my life for a long time. I acted like I had to earn his love by achieving, doing good things, and being strong. But God loves me without achieving, doing good things, and being strong.

Paraphrasing 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, God says to us, his children, “I am patient with you, I am kind with you, I act in your best interest, I do not hold a grudge towards you, but celebrate your progress in the faith, and I expect you to succeed. I say these things to you because I love you.”

Relying more on God’s love for me has freed me to be who I really am, a dearly loved child of God.

I am freer to do things that are right for me, rather than what gives the most prestige. I am freer to do things for the right reasons, rather than trying to earn his love that I already have. And I can be more honest about my weaknesses, which do not diminish God’s love for me even a “smidgeon.”

What other differences can accepting God’s love us for us make in our lives?

Accepting that God loves us so much that He died on a cross for us will get us to heaven (John 3:16). What a difference that makes?

Relying on the fact that God loves us will require us to reject much of our prior training and how the world operates. What a difference that will make!

Training such as “There is no free lunch” and “God can’t love us unless we earn it”. “But God demonstrates his own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

Yes, it is too good to be true, but it is true that God loves us just the way we are.

Another big difference in living in the reality of God’s love for us is losing many of our fears. Experiencing God’s love for us will drive out our fears and replace them with peace. “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love” (1John 4:18).

Relying on God’s love for us will also empower us to love others. “We love because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). We can’t love others like God does unless his love for us has made a difference in our lives.

May the fact that God loves you make a difference in your life. May you avoid the sad fate of “the word they heard did not profit them, because it was not united by faith in those who heard” (Hebrews 4:2).

Ask God to help you to live in the reality of his love for you today. What is one difference you think that it will make?

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