Tag Archives: Ephesians 3

Loved by God – It’s Who you Are

Note: If you’ve heard about or desired God’s love for you, but never thought it possible because of how you’ve lived your life, I have a message for you in blue below. Read on.

Last fall, at a men’s retreat at Camp Kanuga in the mountains of North Carolina, we sang the song Good Good Father.[1] It’s about God being a good Father and the fact that His love for us is our identity. I liked the song, but  had no idea how the Lord would use it later that weekend.

The weather was perfect when I ventured out during our alone time Sunday morning. A cool, musky breeze gently brushing my face as I tread on newly fallen leaves toward the labyrinth. I’d seen the circular maze the day before and at the recommendation of a cabin mate, wanted to experience it.

autumn-1072827_1280

A labyrinth is a walking path used as a tool for contemplative prayer. As I stepped onto the serpentine paths leading to the center, I did what the sign said and set aside my worries, asking God to make me aware of His presence, listening for His impressions on my heart.

labimages-2

As I walked to and fro, back and forth, I was progressing to the center, which represents the presence of God. The  center has semicircles resembling a six leaf clover. When I reached it, I paused, stilling my thoughts and breathed in the cool autumn air. I was impressed with the words “It’s who you are.” Was this because we just sang the song? I thought. But “It’s who you are” remained steady in my heart.

I moved and stood within one of the half circles and completed the thought, “Being loved by God is who I am.”

Being loved by God is who I am. No other identity needed. I could have told you that intellectually before that moment, but God wanted this truth to travel past layers of protection and false identities to my very core.

My roles of being a devout Christian, loving husband and father, successful businessman, adequate provider, faithful friend,  or encouraging brother are not the core of who I am. THE ONLY IDENTITY I NEED IS BEING A LOVED CHILD OF GOD. My other roles and identities flow out of this most important fact about me. I’m loved by God.

How many times have I felt like a failure and doubted my worth because of inadequacies in my different roles?

In the center of the labyrinth, past failures and future fears seemed to be swept away in an instant, buried deep in a sea of God’s love.

As I made my way out of the labyrinth, I knew I was different.

I thought – if this is true

 quickly a correction came to mind –  because this is true, how I live my life outside the labyrinth will never be the same.

I’m still processing the impact, but I’m seeing  I don’t need any of those other identities I’ve been fighting for. I’m at peace in who I am as God’s loved child and free to love others without needing anything in return for my validation and identity.

Challenge: Think of your biggest failure or inadequacy. How do you feel about yourself in this area? Do you ever find you identify more with what you say about yourself than what God says about you?

Now think of the thing that tends to cause you the most worry, that fear which seems to follow you around.

Being loved by God is the most important thing about you and overshadows by a million miles those things you had in mind. God’s love for you is eternal and everlasting.

Being loved by God is who you are, a fact which towers above and washes away, all failures, all inadequacies and all fears.

And when you know, truly know, God loves you, you can yield to His Spirit within to love the folks He puts in your way.

Prayer:  Lord, I know Your love for me is far beyond my knowledge. Nothing imaginable can snatch me from your great love. Open the eyes of my heart that I might continue to grow more and more aware of how very much You love me.

May the fact of Your love be the definition of who I am and the overflowing purpose for the rest of my moments. Amen.

See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are. I John 3:1a

What if you’ve never really known God’s love for you?  If you’ve heard about God’s love but never embraced it, you can now.  Cross over. There’s a great chasm between all humans and God because of our sin. If it weren’t so, the pureness of God would be spoiled. 

That chasm cannot be crossed except by living a completely sinless life. Jesus lived this life and by the spilling of His blood a way has been forged across the chasm.

If you’re experiencing  a realization that what I’m saying is true, embrace it. Cross over from death to life by realizing your great dilemma and acting on God’s invitation to surrender your efforts to save yourself and resting in His arms as your Lord and Father.

If you decide to cross over by the bridge of the cross of Christ into eternal life and would like some ideas of some next steps, please send me an email. Thank you for reading this.

[1] Good Good Father by the Housefires

 

Victory is a Person (God’s not out to change us, but to exchange us)

Victory, from the Old French word victor, means to triumph or overcome in a struggle. A personal victory might be losing weight, breaking a bad habit or making the dean’s list. There are team victories, political victories and victories in war. Most victories require tremendous strain and effort, but are extremely rewarding.

In Christian circles you hear of a “victorious Christian life,” a time when sin is conquered, fear is overthrown and love for God and other’s flows freely.

Our natural tendency is to think a “victorious Christian life,” is gained in the same pains taking efforts other victories have been won, giving it our all, trying as hard as we can to win. This could not be farther from the truth.

It is true, Jesus desires for us a life free from fear and sin, loving God and others in the same sacrificial way He has loved us, but He is not asking us to change.

God is not looking for a changed life. He is offering an exchanged life.

He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. 2nd Corinthians 5:21

Christ has exchanged His life for ours. Not only did He die in our place to rescue us from eternal separation from God, but He also imputed His righteousness to us. We have become the righteousness of God.

There is not trying hard to be righteous. In Christ we are righteousness.

But you say, “That might be true, but how is victory realized in my own life? How is sin defeated, fear banished, love unleashed and joy experienced?”

The answer is still the same. With His exchanged Life.

Consider the great summary verse Paul wrote about the Christian life:

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

The victory is not in trying harder. The victory is in embracing the death of our old nature on the cross and depending upon the newness of our life in Christ. Christ did not die so that we could be changed. He died so that we might die with Him and be raised with Him in newness of life.

Victory is in realizing our crucifixion with Christ and depending upon Christ in all we do. Yielding to His abiding Spirit, we bear fruit for the glory of God. Apart from His work in us, we can do nothing. ( See John 15:5)

We need to stop trying so hard to pattern our lives after what we read about Jesus in the Bible. There’s only one person who can truly live the victorious Christian life and it’s not us. It’s Jesus in us.

We have been made new. In Christ we have all the love, joy, peace, patience and hope we will ever need. Ours is to realize our newness in Him (counting as fact the death of our old self (See Romans 6:11) ) and yielding to Christ in us to love whoever get’s in our way.

Victory is not in trying harder. I’m pretty sure we’ve all tried that.

Victory is in remaining in the love of Christ and yielding to His Spirit.

The old has gone the new has come.

Challenge:  Consider an area of your life in which you feel defeated.  Trust that Jesus wants you to have victory in this area even more than you do.

Bring this area before the Lord right now:

Lord, you know  how discouraged I am in this area. I’ve tried so hard to be like you, but have failed miserably. I know now that victory is not in trying harder, but in resting in You. Open the eyes of my heart that I might know your great love for me. Teach me to remain in your love and yield to your Spirit in me as I allow you to become my victory in this area.

Lord, You are my Victory.

 

Running to your Love

 The Lord your God is in your midst;  he is a warrior who can deliver.  He takes great delight in you;  he renews you by his love; he shouts for joy over you.” Zephaniah 3:17 (NET)

Can You Come Play?

During a recent trip to Walmart, I had a delightful surprise. I was in ”get-er-done” mode, wheeling my buggy toward the area I hoped I’d find camping chairs, when my Fitbit informed me I had a call. Looking down and seeing it was my daughter, I tapped my blue tooth and answered it. But it wasn’t my daughter, it was my four year old grandson. “Can you come play?” he asked.

If you’ve reached the stage in life where you’ve been blessed with grandchildren, you understand how his question made me feel. My heart absolutely over flowed with love for him.

There’s a different dimension of love I’ve experienced with our five grandkids. We don’t love them more than our children, just differently. Without the responsibility of direct parenting, I feel freer to love. In fact, in a very real sense grandkids help me experience the moments of life more fully and God’s love more deeply.

God’s Love

The next day in church, there was a phrase in one of the songs about running to God’s love. It’s a great concept, but understanding God’s continual open arms to us can be extremely hard to grasp. Speaking of Christ’s love, Paul prays we might comprehend its vastness and know this love which surpasses knowledge. With our limited minds, this picture of unending, unchangeable love can only be believed by faith, especially in light of our human failings.

When I think of how I’ve disappointed God, seeds of doubt creep in. Are his arms still open? Does he still desire our embrace?

Pop’s Love

What love I experienced when my grandson called me! If I wasn’t an hour and fifteen minutes away, I’d have driven straight there. And even with the distance, surprising him crossed my mind. Being “Pop” to my grandchildren has expanded my heart to measures I didn’t expect, but my love for them is a mere shadow compared to God’s love for me.

Expanding My Concept of love

When we think of our children or grandchildren, and really ponder our love for them, we can understand a deeper dimension of God’s love. Those closest to us can cause the deepest pain, but no matter what a child or grandchild does, would I ever refuse their desire to run into my arms?

Challenge:

Close your eyes and picture God holding out his arms to you for a running embrace.  Is there a hesitation? If so, what are you afraid of? Whatever it is, it’s a lie.

 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Romans 8:38-39 (NASB)

Prayer:

Lord, thank you for giving me a picture of your love for me, when I think of my grandchildren. Allowing me to be a grandfather helps me understand your love for me even more.

But sometimes there’s a “disconnect” in my heart. Your love is true. Like the Father in the story of the prodigal son, you have open arms for all your children. Whether we’ve been in the distant lands of false affections or striving to earn your love at home, your love never fails.

Your arms are always open and you delight in us running to you. In fact, when you see us running to you, because we are in Christ, you see your Son.

Being Loved by God is Who I Am.

At a recent men’s retreat at Camp Kanuga in the mountains of North Carolina, we sang the song Good Good Father.[1] It’s about God being a good Father and the fact that His love for us is our identity. I liked the song, but  had no idea how the Lord would use it later that weekend.

The weather was perfect when I ventured out during our alone time Sunday morning. A cool, musky breeze gently brushing my face as I tread on newly fallen leaves toward the labyrinth. I’d seen the circular maze the day before and at the recommendation of a cabin mate, wanted to experience it.

autumn-1072827_1280

A labyrinth is a walking path used as a tool for contemplative prayer. As I stepped onto the serpentine paths leading to the center, I did what the sign said and set aside my worries, asking God to make me aware of His presence, listening for what He might have to say.

labimages-2

As I walked to and fro, back and forth, I was progressing to the center, which represents the presence of God. The  center has semicircles resembling a 6 leaf clover. When I reached it, I paused, stilling my thoughts and breathed in the cool autumn air. In my heart I heard “It’s who you are,” then again, “It’s who you are.”

I moved and stood within one of the half circles and completed the thought, “Being loved by God is who I am.”

Being loved by God is who I am. No other identity needed. I could have told you that intellectually before that moment, but God wanted this truth to travel past layers of protection and false identities to the very core of my being.

My roles of being a devout Christian, loving husband and father, successful businessman, adequate provider, faithful friend,  or encouraging brother are not the core of who I am. THE ONLY IDENTITY I NEED IS BEING A LOVED CHILD OF GOD. My other roles and identities flow out of this most important fact about me. I’m loved by God.

How many times have I felt like a failure and doubted my worth because of inadequacies in my different roles?

In the center of the labyrinth, past failures and future fears seemed to be swept away in an instant, buried deep in a sea of God’s love.

As I made my way out of the labyrinth, I knew I was different.

I thought – if this is true

 quickly a correction came to mind –  because this is true, how I live my life outside the labyrinth will never be the same.

I’m still processing the impact, but days later I already see  I don’t need any of those other identities I’ve been fighting for. I’m at peace in who I am as God’s loved child and free to love others without needing anything in return for my validation and identity.

Challenge: Think of your biggest failure or inadequacy. How do you feel about yourself in this area? Do you ever find you identify more with what you say about yourself than what God says about you?

Now think of the thing that tends to cause you the most worry, that fear which seems to follow you around.

Being loved by God, even if you don’t respond to it, is the most important thing about you and overshadows by a million miles those things you had in mind. God’s love for you is eternal and everlasting.

Being loved by God is who you are, a fact which towers above and washes away, all failures, all inadequacies and all fears.

And when you know, truly know, God loves you, you can yield to His Spirit within to love the folks He puts in your way.

Prayer:  Lord, I know Your love for me is far beyond my knowledge. Nothing imaginable can snatch me from your great love. Open the eyes of my heart that I might continue to grow more and more aware of how very much You love me.

May the fact of Your love be the definition of who I am and the overflowing purpose for the rest of life’s moments.

Amen. 

See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are. I John 3:1a

 

[1] Good Good Father by the Housefires

 

Victory is a Person

Victory, from the Old French word victor, means to triumph or overcome in a struggle. A personal victory might be losing weight, breaking a bad habit or making the dean’s list. There are team victories, political victories and victories in war. Most victories require tremendous strain and effort, but are extremely rewarding.

In Christian circles you hear of a “victorious Christian life,” a time when sin is conquered, fear is overthrown and love for God and other’s flows freely.

Our natural tendency is to think a “victorious Christian life,” is gained in the same pains taking efforts other victories have been won, giving it our all, trying as hard as we can to win. This could not be farther from the truth.

It is true, Jesus desires for us a life free from fear and sin, loving God and others in the same sacrificial way He has loved us, but He is not asking us to change.

God is not looking for a changed life. He is offering an exchanged life.

He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. 2nd Corinthians 5:21

Christ has exchanged His life for ours. Not only did He die in our place to rescue us from eternal separation from God, but He also imputed His righteousness to us. We have become the righteousness of God.

There is not trying hard to be righteous. In Christ we are righteousness.

But you say, “That might be true, but how is victory realized in my own life? How is sin defeated, fear banished, love unleashed and joy experienced?”

The answer is still the same. With His exchanged Life.

Consider the great summary verse Paul wrote about the Christian life:

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

The victory is not in trying harder. The victory is in embracing the death of our old nature on the cross and depending upon the newness of our life in Christ. Christ did not die so that we could be changed. He died so that we might die with Him and be raised with Him in newness of life.

Victory is in realizing our crucifixion with Christ and depending upon Christ in all we do. Yielding to His abiding Spirit, we bear fruit for the glory of God. Apart from His work in us, we can do nothing. ( See John 15:5)

We need to stop trying so hard to pattern our lives after what we read about Jesus in the Bible. There’s only one person who can truly live the victorious Christian life and it’s not us. It’s Jesus in us.

We have been made new. In Christ we have all the love, joy, peace, patience and hope we will ever need. Ours is to realize our newness in Him (counting as fact the death of our old self (See Romans 6:11) ) and yielding to Christ in us to love whoever get’s in our way.

Victory is not in trying harder. I’m pretty sure we’ve all tried that.

Victory is in remaining in the love of Christ and yielding to His Spirit.

The old has gone the new has come.

Challenge:  Consider an area of your life in which you feel defeated.  Trust that Jesus wants you to have victory in this area even more than you do.

Bring this area before the Lord right now:

Lord, you know  how discouraged I am in this area. I’ve tried so hard to be like you, but have failed miserably. I know now that victory is not in trying harder, but in resting in You. Open the eyes of my heart that I might know your great love for me. Teach me to remain in your love and yield to your Spirit in me as I allow you to become my victory in this area.

You are my Victory.

 

Loving Without Expecting Anything in Return

A few years ago, my oldest son Jonathan and I were tending a burn pile down by the barn. As we sat in camping chairs, water hose ready, watching the dried limbs and brush blaze, he had something to tell me that was very hard to hear.

As my eyes followed a black ember dancing upward in the billows of smoke, he said, “Dad, growing up I felt as if you cared more about the relationship than you did about me.” He went on to explain that he knew I loved him, but he could tell I cared a lot about being viewed as a successful Father.

Jonathan’s words pierced my heart. At that time my identity was very closely tied to success in all my roles. I feared failing as a husband, father, provider, brother and friend. This is exactly what he was pointing out to me. My love was not pure. I needed to know I was doing a good job and depended on the response of others for assurance and validation.

My conversation with Jonathan was very hard, but it was exactly what I needed.  I’m so glad he cared enough about our relationship to point out how he was feeling. His honesty helped me understand that I loved with a selfish love, expecting something in return.  I thanked him for his boldness and sincerely apologized. I asked God to heal this part of me which craved affirmation and the approval of others.

God has and is answering my prayer. I’m now much freer to love others with the sacrificial love of Jesus, but I also know He’s not through with me yet. At times, I still find myself expecting certain responses from others as I seek to love them.

My prayer is that I will love others as Christ loves me, not with a faulty human love, but with the love of His Indwelling Holy Spirit.

Consider the following verses:

Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come forth from God and was going back to God,  gets up from supper, and lays aside His garments; and taking a towel, He girded Himself.  Then He pours water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded. John 13:3-5

Right before Jesus performs a service, done normally only by slaves, John, inspired by the Holy Spirit, gives us a peak into Jesus’ mind:

Jesus knew who He was and where He came from.  Jesus is the Son of God. His Father sent Him forth, giving all things into His hands so that He could rescue us and restore us to right relationship with God. Jesus didn’t need anything from those He came to rescue. He was completely filled with His Father’s love.

If we were sent to an ant colony to rescue the queen from an anteater, to return when the job was done, would we really care what the ants thought of us while we were there? No, we could care less how the ants felt, we were visiting from another place.

As believers, our citizenship is in heaven. Like Jesus, our true home is not this world. We are free to love others as Christ has loved us, needing nothing in return.

For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; Philippians 3:20

Because this world is what we see, it’s easy for us to operate on its terms, looking to society to tell us how we’re doing. But consider the following amazing fact, spoken by Jesus concerning you and me.

Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; Remain in My love. John 15:9

Jesus loves us just as much as God the Father loves Him. Let this soak in before you read on.

Ours is to remain in this great love, a love we did nothing to deserve to begin with. Remaining in the love of Jesus allows us to love freely as He did.

If we remain saturated in the love of Christ, untethered from the need for human validation and approval, we love freely, expecting nothing in return.

But how do we remain in His love? Read the following verses carefully for the answer.

If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full. This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. John 15:10-12

We remain in His love, by loving others as He has loved us. His love flowing through us, completes our Joy. Our life becomes a continual rhythm of receiving His love and giving it away. Free to love because He loves us..

  • Jesus loves us as much as God loves Him
  • We can do nothing apart from Jesus, including loving others

Challenge: Think about a time recently when a person didn’t respond to your love as you would have desired; a time when your feelings were hurt or when you found yourself fishing for a response.

Ask the Lord to wash away your expectations and hurt in His great love. Ask him to open the eyes of your heart that you might get a glimpse of how much God loves you. His love is wider and deeper and longer and higher than your mind can understand. But His can speak to our hearts and reveal His ocean of love.

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:14-19