love

Keep Calm and...Choose Grace!

Ok, I know that’s a pretty tall order, and thankfully the Holy Spirit helps us to become more and more like Jesus… if we LET Him.  So the other night as I was tucking my 10 year old into bed, we went through ‘the routine’.  (Who knew that when I made up my own words to ‘You Are My Sunshine’ when he was an infant that I would still be requested to sing those same “homemade lyrics” 10 years later?!  Tip: If you’re a new parent, choose your bedtime routine carefully; you very well may be repeating it many times for years to come! Lol)  Anyway, it was during this sweet time that we began talking about why God wants us to repent of our sins even though He already knows what we did.  I shared with him that James 5:16 says that we should also confess our sins to one another;  “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.”  

It was after I read this that I asked my son, “Is there anything you want to confess to mom?  God says you will be healed, and this can also mean that you will feel better inside.”  I then waited in silence, praying in my mind that God would encourage him to share with me.  It seemed like I waited a long time and then suddenly his little face began to twist and I saw his bottom lip start to quiver.  I kept praying silently, waiting, & hoping he would confess to me.

“Mom” he said, now sobbing, “I put an app on my iPod about 15 minutes ago that you told me you didn’t want me to download.”

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In my mind I started thinking….really?!  15 minutes ago you did this?  Where was I?  What app?  Why did you do this? and based upon my thoughts I knew I had a choice.  In this moment I could FREAK OUT or I could remain calm and choose grace.

As he continued to cry over his disobedience, my heart broke and all I wanted to do was hug him!   I knew that he was truly sorry for his behavior.  I led him in a prayer to ask God to forgive him since God has commanded us to “obey your father and mother” and he hadn’t obeyed me, and then I told him how much I loved him. I also told him that while honest confession may not always mean that there will not be a consequence, God did promise that healing would come.  And it did for him!

While leaving his room that night, I sensed I got to experience in a small way how God must feel when we confess to Him and are truly repentant.  As a parent I felt closer to my son, and I thanked God that I could remain calm and demonstrate the same grace to my son that God grants to me everyday.

Written by: Jamie Shaver

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God's Love Made Manifest

We have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and God has told us that the wages (cost) of this sin is death.  Yet, God does not want us to die, He has great love for us.  In fact, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  This is how God shows His love for us!  

(Romans 3:23, 5:8, 6:23)

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It is amazing to me that God loves us this much!  God owns everything, “…the world and it’s fullness are mine.” (Psalm 50:12b) He owns all things and has an abundance of created things with which He can do with what He pleases; and yet, He chose to sacrifice the one thing that He did not have in abundance.  “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) He gave His “only” Son.  God’s love is sacrificial.  God did not give out of His abundance to forgive our sins, instead He gave Himself!

Do you know that you are loved by God 1 John 4:8-10, 1 Peter 2:24, Hebrews 12:2-3, Philippians 2:8, 1 Corinthians 1:18, Hebrews 2:9, Psalm 30:12

The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins! 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!”   Look to Jesus beloved, He is the founder and perfecter of our faith, and for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider Him, love Him and look to Him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.

And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled himself by becoming obedient to death– even death on a cross!  God’s Word tells us that the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God!  Are you asking for His power in your life or are you trying to do things in your own power?

But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because He suffered death, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone.  That my glory may sing your praise and not be silent.

    O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever!

Written by Jamie Shaver

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Tips for Joyous, 'Unoffendable' Holidays

The holidays are a glorious time when we get together with family and friends.  However, the joy can also be accompanied by angst knowing you will be spending time—perhaps extended time—with the very person or people who most easily can ‘get under your skin’. Author Joyce Landorf calls them ‘irregular people”; often related to us, they are the people who tend to say or do the very opposite of what we would prefer to hear or to have happen. For instance, we seek to hear a word of love and encouragement and instead we hear a word that leads us to feel criticized, unappreciated, and even worthless. In their presence we can easily be offended, and if we are not mindful, we can easily offend them.

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 It is when we are with those with whom we have a history of disappointment and pain that our ‘flesh’ can easily rise up and show its ugly head. If we are not careful, rather than seeking God’s will, His righteousness and His ways, our focus will be on our will, our ‘rights’, and doing things our way. We must be intentional about having God’s perspective or we will easily sin against the other person in thought or deed, and our sin against others is ultimately always a sin against God, our— and their— Creator.

Here are some tips for how you can have an ‘unoffendable’ holiday:

  • Above all else, be prepared with prayer! Ask God to give you His heart of love for all the people with whom you’ll interact, and especially for the person who tends to hurt or aggravate you most.  Ask Him to enable you to see the person as He sees them. Ask Jesus to purify your heart so you can be what He has called and created you to be—a vessel through which His unconditional love flows from Him, through you, and to others. Ask Him to give you His grace to obey John 13:34-35: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
  •  Ask God to give you His eyes to see yourself:  you are His Beloved child: the daughter of the ‘King of Kings’ and ‘Lord of Lords’! Keep in mind that you are living to please an Audience of One, and His name is Jesus.  It is between that other person and God how he/she treats you; it is between you and God how you treat that person.  Seek to please God and to hear His voice above the voice of all others. It is only His view of you that truly matters.
  •  Go with realistic expectations. Don’t rehearse past hurts but also don’t expect the person to be someone they are not. Remember, sinners are going to do what sinners do—-which is sin.
  • Choose not to be easily offended.  Ask God to give you an ‘unoffendable heart’. If the person says something to stir you up, immediately ask God to put a seal over your mouth so you don’t say anything that will ‘fuel the flames’ and hurt them and grieve God.  Remain silent until you can respond out of God’s heart of love.
  • Humble yourself and quickly apologize if you do offend.
  • Forgive freely as you have been freely forgiven.
  •  Look to give love, not to get it. Put the other person’s interests above your own. For example, initiate conversation about their interests. For example, if that person is a football fanatic, even if you aren’t, ask him about his favorite team and make sure to engage with your eyes, ears, and mind as he responds. And don’t be thinking, “So when are they going to ask me about my interests?” or “I’ll show an interest in them after they’ve shown an interest in me.”
  •  Listen! With your heart, not just your ears! Many times, especially with people with whom we’ve had past conflicts, we tend to focus our thoughts more on what our response will be rather than truly listening to what they’re saying with the intent of understanding them.  Determine to seek to understand the other person, not focus on being understood.
  • Be willing to die to your ‘right to be right’ in order to be in right relationship with the other person, and more importantly, blameless before God.
  •  Remind yourself that you are a sinner in need of the grace and mercy of God…just like the other person who has offended you in the past, and extend to him or her the love that God has so graciously extended to you.

 In other words…put into practice God’s love:

Love endures long and is patient and kind; love never is envious nor boils over with jealousy, is not boastful or vainglorious, does not display itself haughtily.It is not conceited (arrogant and inflated with pride); it is not rude (unmannerly) and does not act unbecomingly. Love (God’s love in us) does not insist on its own rights or its own way, for it is not self-seeking; it is not touchy or fretful or resentful; it takes no account of the evil done to it [it pays no attention to a suffered wrong].It does not rejoice at injustice and unrighteousness, but rejoices when right and truth prevail.Love bears up under anything and everything that comes, is ever ready to believe the best of every person, its hopes are fadeless under all circumstances, and it endures everything [without weakening]. “1st Corinthians 13:4-7 Amplified

Written by Julie Van Gorp

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'As You Wish'

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One of our family’s favorite movies is the romance-comedy adventure Princess Bride, a tale of ‘true love’ between Wesley and Buttercup. Wesley, a poor farm boy woos the beautiful Buttercup by responding to her every request with, “As you wish”, and happily complying with her request.  Wesley’s response to her every desire demonstrates to Buttercup that he loves her, and eventually she too falls in love with him.

That movie —and far more importantly the cross of Christ—illustrates to us the essence of ‘true love’:  it is self-sacrificial and always moves the one who loves to action that proves that love. 1st Corinthians 13, the ‘love chapter’ in the Bible gives us a picture of agape love, the kind of love God has toward us and has called us to have for one another. I love what Rick Renner, author of Sparkling Gems from the Greek wrote regarding the meaning of agape:

‘Agape occurs when an individual sees, recognizes, understands, or appreciates the value of an object or a person, causing the viewer to behold this object or person in great esteem, awe, admiration, wonder, and sincere appreciation.  Such great respect is awakened in the heart of the observer for the object or person he is beholding that he is compelled to love it.  In fact, his love for that person or object is so strong that it is irresistible.  Agape love knows no limits or boundaries in how far, wide, high and deep it will go to show that love to its recipient.  It will even sacrifice itself for the sake of that object or person it so deeply cherishes.  It is the highest form of love…self-sacrificial that moves the lover to action.  Not self-seeking; looks not at how much it can get, but for what it can give.  Compelled to love, regardless of the response of the recipient.”

Were you convicted as you read that definition? I sure was! And I thought of how many times I have not demonstrated ‘true love’ for my husband. I realized that it is often how I respond to the  ‘small’ things’ that reveals the true condition of my heart and whether I am self-demanding or self-sacrificial, whether I love myself— or him— more.

As I meditated on agape love, the following came to my mind as ways we can demonstrate love for our husbands in the ‘everyday’ situations of life:

  •  Cheerfully, without quarreling, and without delay  do what your husband asks you to do. Don’t roll your eyes, sigh, or in other ways verbally or non-verbally indicate a lack of willingness to comply with his request. Instead, smile and have an, ‘as you wish’ attitude as you cheerfully submit to his request. If your husband has shared with you something he’d like you to do and you haven’t yet done it, ‘Just do it!’ For example, my husband appreciates it when I ‘unclutter’ my side of the bathroom.  That’s not a priority for me, but I have learned (it’s taken 34 years, but it’s finally sunk in!) that my cleaning up is a small but important way I can show my husband that what is important to him is important to me.
  •  Seek his blessing regarding doing something that’s important to you.  This may sound old-fashioned and ‘modern-day’ women may balk, but this is essential if you desire a harmonious, joyous marriage. Soliciting your husband’s approval for something you want to do demonstrates love and respect for him. In contrast, if you just go ahead and do what you want to do— or insist on doing something despite your husbands’ objections—it communicates that you do not value your husband’s viewpoint or your respect for his God-given role as the head of your household. For example, if you want to go to the movie with your friends, ask your husband if it’s all right with him if you go rather than telling him you’re going out.
  • Express an interest in your husband’s interests and activities, whether it be his job, hobbies or his dreams.  Listen with your heart as well as with your ears to what he says. Ask your husband’s viewpoint about something that’s important to you and really listen to his response. Make sure if he gives you an opinion that’s contrary to yours that you don’t belittle him and tell him all of the reasons why he’s wrong. Seek to hear ‘his heart’ and the ‘whys’ of what he believes; be intentional about affirming him. If you disagree about something, seek to find a place of agreement. At all times remember it’s more important to be in ‘right relationship’ than it is to ‘be right’.
  •  Take the initiative to do those things that you know your husband appreciates without him asking you to do them.  For instance, I know that my husband appreciates it when I  make his favorite meal or give him a back or foot massage; those are just a couple simple ways for me to demonstrate that I treasure him. You know your husband best and what would be the very thing that might please him.

The little things we do on an everyday basis may seem insignificant, but they can have an enormous impact in communicating that we love, respect and cherish our husbands. That is not only what we are called to do, but also a joy to do when we love. It also cultivates the soil in which ‘true love’ will grow and flourish.

Is the Holy Spirit convicting you of a way that you can demonstrate respect— agape love— for your husband?

Written by Julie Van Gorp

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Who Do You Really Love?

While I was at Costco the other day I was struck by how many different nationalities and languages were represented just at this one Costco location.I admit that my first thought was that the America that I had grown up in my WASPISH hometown of Valparaiso, Indiana has certainly changed.I don’t ever remember as a child going anywhere in my town and seeing people who didn’t speak English, dress similar to me, or in essence ‘look and act’ like me.

The Lord brought to my mind that people “from every tongue, tribe and nation” will populate heaven (Revelation 5:9). How wonderful it is to know that we will be worshipping and spending eternity with Jesus and with brothers and sisters from every corner of the world, from every time period in history, for all eternity!

I am aware that there are many who have seen the changes in America who resent the change in our demographics. I admit that I am troubled not by the fact that there are other people groups coming to the United States, but that some of them are bringing to America their belief in false gods.

Then it occurred to me that perhaps God has brought so many varied people groups to the United States because, for the most part, the Church in the last half century has failed to obey Jesus’ command as recorded in Matthew 28:19, to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them inthe name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.“

Perhaps since we who have been immeasurably blessed haven’t been very faithful to use the resources He’s bestowed upon us to go out into the world, He is bringing people from ‘throughout the world’ to America for us to disciple.He has entrusted us with the privilege and responsibility of sharing the good news with those who don’t know it so that they can be freed from the penalty and power of their sin by putting their faith in the atoning work of Jesus on the cross.

I was immediately convicted about how easy it is for me to nod at others, smile at them, maybe even make small talk, and then go on with my life. I recognized that’s particularly true for those who seem ‘different’ from me.I thought of how many ‘missed opportunities’ I’ve been given to share the life-giving news of Jesus with others.

I recalled hearing of a man who was on the streets of New York who boldly and with a huge smile asked some people as they passed by, “Have you heard the good news?”The people responded, “What good news?”And he replied, “That Jesus the Son of God came to earth to die so that you don’t have to!”Wow!How convicting it was to hear of this ‘man on the street’ sharing this simple yet profound message. Obviously, this man loved Jesus, and he also loved others so much that he was willing to ‘die to his pride’ and share what in reality is the only message that can change lives for all eternity!

What a difference it would make if all of us who profess to be followers of Christ actually followed His command to share the life-saving news of His life, death, and resurrection with others!If we clearly envisioned every person we meet as either knowing Jesus, and therefore as a ‘brother or a sister’, or as a potential ‘brother or sister’ who hasn’t yet been brought into the family, think how differently we might respond to people.

The question I realized that I have to ask myself is, “Whom do I really love?”If I love Jesus, I will obey His commands (John14:15).If I love others—no matter their nationality, language, or socio-economic background– I will share with them the gospel so that they too can have abundant life on earth, and spend eternity with those from ‘every tongue and tribe’ worshipping Jesus in Heaven. But if I love myself more than I love Jesus or others I will remain silent and keep the good news to myself.

Who do you love more?Jesus?Others? Yourself? What impact do you think it would have on whether you share the gospel or remain silent if you considered that there may come a day when you look across the chasm between Heaven and Hell and see people who’d you’d encountered on earth who ask you, “Why didn’t you care enough to share the news about Jesus with me when you had the chance?”

Written by Julie Van Gorp

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What To Pray After You've Been Hurt

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Recognizing that the greatest challenge you will face after being wounded by someone is keeping yourself free from anger, bitterness, and resentment, I suggest that your first prayer should be for yourself.  Our role is to be pure vessels through which the Holy Spirit can freely flow.  We must not harbor anything that will block the flowing of His Spirit within and through us.

Example of a prayer for yourself:

  •  If you are unable to love and forgive the person, confess that as sin to God.  “Lord, forgive me that I have not loved  ___ (name of person) as you have loved me (John 13:34-35); that I have not forgiven _______ as you have forgiven me (Ephesians 4:32). Give me Your heart of love and forgiveness for________(the person who wounded you). Please give me ‘a heart of flesh rather than a heart of stone’ (Ezekiel 36:26), and ‘create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit within me’ (Psalm 51:10).  Give me eyes to see ________ as your child whom you love and with whom you long for me to be in unity by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Empty me of all that stands in the way of you having full reign in my life, and fill me with Your Holy Spirit! Help me to love you with all of my heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love others as you have loved me. (Matthew 22:36-40 )

If you are tempted to harbor anger, bitterness, and resentment against the person who wounded you, immediately take the thought captive (2ndCorinthians 10:5). Instead of focusing on the sin against you, look to Jesus who bore both your sins and the sins of the person who wounded you.  We’ve been commanded to love and pray for others, even our enemies (Matthew 5:44). “God is rich in mercy, full of compassion, not desiring that any should perish but that all should come to know Him and have eternal life. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you,not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reachrepentance.”(2nd Peter 3:9).  Do for the other person what Jesus does for you: intercede!

Example of a prayer for the person who wounded you:

  •  “Lord, break his/her heart over that which breaks Yours!  Give him/her a revelation of how deep your love is for them; draw them to Yourself where they alone can find forgiveness, peace, joy and true and everlasting love.  Give them a vision of eternity that they might humble themselves, confess their sin, and turn from it to You. Give him/her the gift of faith so that they might comprehend how deep, wide, long and high is Your love for them so that they might be filled to the full measure of You (Ephesians 3:14-19). May they have “love that abounds more and more in knowledge and depth of insight,so that they may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ,filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.’ (Philippians 1:9-11)

You cannot pray for someone with love for them and at the same time hold bitterness toward them.  Which are you going to allow to grow in your heart….seeds of bitterness that lead to death, or seeds of intercession that spring forth new life? What you choose to do will not only affect the person who wounded you, but even more importantly, it will determine the intimacy of your relationship with Jesus, the most important thing in your life.

Written by Julie Van Gorp

Are you curious to know how much fear, worry and anxiety is impacting your life? Take our free quiz to learn how fearful, worried and anxious you really are?

God Loves Because He Loves!

What can we do to earn God’s love? That never works when we try to transfer our human ways of earning love and rewards to the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are His ways higher than ours! Praise God!

He loves because He loves. He does not love because of anything, it’s who He is, it is His very nature. He does not change. God is Good!

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John 3:16 in BOLD below says it all: words in brackets added for emphasis of God’s great love.

For God {the greatest good}

so loved {the greatest action}

the world {the greatest need}

that He gave {the greatest example}

His only begotten Son, {the greatest sacrifice}*

that whoever {the greatest invitation}

believes in Him {the greatest response}

should not perish {the greatest horror}

but have everlasting life {the greatest gift}.

*note that God did not give out of His surplus. He gave the only limited thing He had....Himself.

I pray that today you are certain you have accepted this invitation to believe in His son, and receive the gift of eternal life. How have you experienced God’s love?

Written by Jamie Shaver

To see the above bracketed phrases in a mini-movie by Igniter Media: click here

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