The Most Important Thing

The older I get, the truer it rings:
“These three remain: faith, hope, and love.  But the greatest of these is love” 1 Corinthians 13:13

Yes, the older I get, the more I experience this Truth; how everything comes from and back to love. 
   This Easter, we remember everything God did for love;  everything He has said and done to  replace the guilty conscience for the clean, the broken, empty identity of self for the opportunity to find our identity in the Savior himself.
   For this post, I do not desire to write long, but to share the most powerful, life-transforming truth I’ve ever known:
The Creator of all things, life itself,  l-o-v-e-s  y-o-u.  I spelled it out because, if you’re anything like me, it’s those seemingly simple truths that we hear all the time that seem to evade our hearts and minds sometimes. 
This Easter,  may I remind you, pray that you remember?  “No greater love has any man than he lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13
You. Are. Loved.
Come to Jesus, He’s still the Way.
Rest in His love, it is more than enough. 

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I’m thankful for….Me?

I admit, it was a little foreign to write it down on the paper leaf with the Bible verse on the other side that said “every good and perfect gift” came from Him.

But, at the same time, there was a quickening in me that just knew I had to.  Because I was fighting it again.

You see, we women, mothers, daughters, and sisters — it’s not that we don’t get selfish and sinful and self-obsessed and needy.

It’s just sometimes we think the gift we give is what we do, and that’s it.  And that the gifts we give can only be good if they are compared with other gifts and found to be more.  But the gift…it really is– who we are.  Beloved. Because knowing that you are a gift– remembering this– destroys these questions of worth that cycle me around like the laundry, spinning all the motivation and compassion right out. Because this:  I can only love, if I first know I am loved.  And He said it right there! “We love because He first loved us.”  And the liar is always roaming around looking to eat those words before they take root in me.

And is this the very problem with us?  How did the blushing of the cheeks when called beautiful and loved turn into a barricade of protection against that which would save me.  Acceptance.  Again the Gospel quiet shouts the simplest and most profound message.

And, if my Father is dancing over me– if it’s my name and your name engraved across the lines of his Mighty Hand;  If His banner over me is love– if His delight is in me…

Then, I am thankful, truly thankful…for me.

…And I hand her the pen, this daughter learning and watching like a hawk.  She writes it too, unblinking.

As a family we are writing our daily thanks each night at dinner!  On these leaves that we hang on our “thanksgiving tree”!  Great idea from Mrs. Voskamp!  Just copy the URL below and  paste it in your address bar to see and print for yourself!!

http://www.aholyexperience.com/2012/11/a-christian-family-thanksgiving-activity-the-thanks-giving-tree-free-printable/

When mountains move

“I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

A friend of mine recently wrote a great blog about a similiar passage I thought was worth sharing, you can find it here http://weaklyexperience.blogspot.com/2012/08/fig-trees-and-mountains.html

I was thinking about these ‘moving mountains’ today, too.  About how the ego in us wants to be involved even in being the “best” Christian, the spiritual giant of our time.  Then, I was thinking how Jesus always seemed to be pointing us to be doing the secret, almost imperceivable things to be great in His kingdom.  I wondered, how can our faith moving a mountain not get us some kind of spiritual clout?!  What does moving massive boulders have to do with loving others?

Here are some thoughts:

Perhaps, it has to do with the prayer of faith that literally changes the atmosphere.  That that which was once an immovable obstacle to a fellow sojourner has disappeared as we join our faith with the heart and will of God.  That, when we trust in Him, lean not on our own understanding, acknowledge Him in all our ways, He makes our paths straight.

That, when we strengthen ourselves in the Lord, we “make level paths for our feet, so that the lame may not be disabled but rather healed.” Heb. 12:12-13

“See to it that no one misses the grace of God..” Hebrews 12:15a

What do you think?

“You have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom and storm; to a trumpet blast or to such a voice speaking words that those who heard it begged that no further word be spoken to them, because they could not bear what was commanded…

But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God.  You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven.  You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.”  Hebrews 12:18-19, 22-24

When you don’t feel it

“He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.”

1 Peter 2:24

I don’t know what particular set of events, genetics, or personality make-up in me contribute, but I have been one who, in the past, was absolutely consumed with guilt.  There were times when my guilt was appropriate.  When I stole a piece of candy at the store on vacation when I was 6.  When I lied or gossipped behind a friend’s back.  The list of my infractions could go on.   But there have been times, too, when I’ve turned from my sin through God’s power, asked forgiveness, yet did not feel forgiven at all.  What does that mean?  If Christ says that I am forgiven, then isn’t it so?

  I came to accept Christ’s payment for my unrighteousness when I was 17.  Understanding that there was nothing I could do to overcome my sinful nature in my own power, I fell head over heels in love with a Saviour who came to earth and said He would make it possible, and then did.   Jesus, the Son of God, lived a sinless life, was fully God and fully man, able to empathize completely with our weakness and struggle, and the only one able to overcome through a perfect life and sacrificing that perfect life on behalf of every human who would receive the gift.  This news absolutely changed my life.   For a time, my faith seemed so solid.  I genuinely felt forgiven when I asked for it.  It seemed there was unlimited power to overcome the things in my life that weren’t pleasing to God.  It was obvious, I was a new creation.

As time passed, the feelings became less powerful.  And somehow I connected my faith with my feelings.  I doubted that God was continuing to forgive and work in my life because I didn’t feel it.  James says that if I say I believe, and my actions don’t show it, I don’t really believe and I’m lying to myself. (James 1&2) He didn’t seem to think feelings were as relevant as actions in connection with my beliefs.  

I see this same paradigm, not just with faith, but with all of God’s gifts.  For instance, Love.   “Love is a verb.  It is a choice, not a feeling.”  Wise words that stuck with me and rang true in my core.  After 9 years of marriage, I can say I agree wholeheartedly.  When everything is not about me.  When things do not go my way.  When I do not feel romantic or have butterflies in my stomach.  When I am hurt.  Love is not a feeling.  It is a choice.  It’s interesting that psychology tells us that there is a circular behavioural pattern involving: thoughts–>feelings–>actions.  That you can choose to change one of those and the others will automatically be effected.  For me, dealing with the thoughts and actions arena has proven most helpful.  And I love that God reminds us through Paul that, “whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, or praiseworthy–think on these things.” (phillipians 4:8) Word in, Word out.  When I change my thoughts or actions, slowly but surely, my feelings line up.  I cook dinner when I don’t feel like it because I want to love my family, warmth oozes in.  Give a massage to an achy husband– love in action, a butterfly flutters.  Suddenly, I am feeling love.  With Service: give to someone in need, feel more blessed.  It is the same with forgiveness; Fall short, fall on knees, fall on grace; get up with the knowledge that I am white as snow, eyes catch a glimpse of Him.  Feel it or not, I’m forgiven because God said so. When I can’t choose the feeling, I can choose the thought, the action.  It is a hard process, but so worth it.  I had never read the Bible before I was 17.  I have never hungered for anything like I do the Living Bread.  I need it.  My process has been messy.  We’re all a bit broken.  That is why He came.  That is the good news!  That when I don’t feel it, He is true.  That when I am so infantile and have so much to learn, He is the Grace I need to get where He is leading.   I can trust and believe by acting like it and thinking like it.

 Word in, Word out.  Change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.  “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Romans 12:2)

Have you heard the Good News of what Jesus has done for you?  Yes, you!  Jesus said, “For I have not come to call the righteous, but the sinners.” And when the “church people” of Jesus’ day saw him eating a meal with folks who were looked down upon in their community they questioned why He would eat with the “sinners”.  Jesus responded, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.”  You see, Jesus had nothing to offer the folks who thought they had it all together.  Even though they claimed to love God, follow all the rules, and even deprive themselves for ‘religious’ reasons, Jesus said they were “hypocrites”, “white washed tombs”, and “snakes”.  So, if you find yourself among the “not enough on your own”, knowing there is an inner life that He sees and desires to make right, there is a place in His Kingdom for you.  He is the Door.  We can only enter through Him.  His death on the cross is what we can accept for our righteousness.  This is where we all begin the real life.  You can take a step in faith by seeking more. For more on new life with Christ, read the Bible, begin to talk to God, (I know that sounds crazy, but He is real and He wants to have a relationship with you), find other Christ-followers.

What is real?

“Therefore, we do not lose heart.  Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.  For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:16)

Some of my most cherished times are those when I am reminded so intimately of the grandeur of Himself, His plan.  Though, of course, I don’t know the details of all He has in store- but the bigness of it all.  And this God, who makes me sway and hug tight in His Perfect Father arms, makes me awe and coo, enables me to laugh in strong arms.

Who can laugh with peace?  In these days of all too serious.  To laugh, it would seem, would be to deny reality.

Those who laugh with peace.  Who are they?  Those blinded idealists?  Those blissfully ignorant of pain? I have been the cynic.  But who hasn’t seen it here?  Who could hide?

To laugh with peace there must be a reality- by nature, the only one- that is secure, safe, perfect.

“Rejoice with those who rejoice, mourn with those who mourn.” (Romans 12:15)

It is not a denial of the real suffering we find here.  Perhaps, an acknowledgement that it is temporary, though.  The agreement of something eternal.  The clinging of the eternal Spirit emerging from the earthen temple, crying, “King of Hope!  God of Joy!”  Is that where this peculiar, holy hope, peace, joy, faithfulness and love begin?

It is only the working of evil forces, rotting flesh playing illusion that make this Spirit-fruit look boring, mundane, unnecessary.  Isn’t Spirit-fruit  the very sustenance for the nations, multiplying?  Joy-smiles ripple effect like salt waves.  Internal peace spills Christ proclamations, stars in black night.  Patience kneels, damming up the waters roaring, enduring until the time is right, water subsides.  Goodness quiet shouts!  Of right, wrong, the Truth, the Way, the Life.  True humility ignites hope when kings and kingdoms are all left with the same lot as the poor and needy: only a question.  The Messianic question:  “Did you receive My Love?  My Grace? Me?”

What is real is what will remain.