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shaped by the love of God

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chelseaeubank.com

We are formed in our childhood. Really, in the early stages of any season. And then once we reach a point we are deciding for ourselves, and living with the impact of our decisions, we are continually re-formed. A place I’m being re-formed is allowing myself to simply be loved by God. To receive it. To come and ask Him to pour it in gallons into my soul.

It sounds a little too simple doesn’t it? As someone who can’t remember a time they didn’t know Jesus’ name or believe there was a Father in Heaven unlike any other person in their life… the practice of living loved seems a little elementary.

But maybe you can relate to this. Sometimes as the layers get peeled back, or the masks pile on, as we change and dream, as we collect perspectives and develop habits healthy and unhealthy, what’s basic can become mechanical. Operational, but not life-giving. Understandable, but not part of the marrow.

Love is what draws us to Him originally. Jesus became like us. He is the way, the conduit, of God’s great love today (Romans 5:5-8). It compels us in the present (2 Corinthians 5:14-15). We find strength by it for whatever is coming (1 John 4:15-16). What about when the love of God becomes words on a page and no longer an identity to walk in or a foundation to build from or the explanation behind the way we live?

This is where I find myself, being shaped again by the astounding reality of the love of God as my home, my energy, my roots, my calling, my joy, my gift to others.

Here’s the amazing thing: when God, by his love of benevolence, saves us and counts us righteous in Christ, and gives us the Holy Spirit, he begins a work of transformation that restores aspects of our personhood which are delightful to him, pleasing to him, which he genuinely likes about us. This is what God is doing in sanctification. via

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You are loved by God.

It’s not five words to skim over. It’s not a sentiment throughout the Bible that’s simply nice to read. It’s not to be compared to the love of a friend or family member. If being loved by another human is the size of a golf ball — let’s be generous — the size of a watermelon, the love of God is the entire universe. His love for us puts every other love to shame (in the most wonderful way), so why do I dumb it down to something that can earned, to something less satisfying than the love of the world or those around me, or to something I have the ability to deter?

The love of God is bedrock and beauty. It’s a lifeline and a safe house. It gives purpose and it comforts. It fuels endurance and it guards against destruction. It transforms lives and it gives direction. It’s a bright beam of light and a tender embrace. It cannot be earned. It’s an identity. Yours and mine. Constant. Untouchable. Unchanging. Unaltered by our inevitable failures, circumstances, and self-saturated tendencies.

He’s reminding me of the wonder and weight of being loved by the Trinity. Not because I’m useful to Him, or doing great work in His name. Not because I’m bearing a lot of fruit (John 15). Not because I’m practicing spiritual disciplines. Not because I feel like I’m doing okay on some random only-in-my-mind Christian Score Card. Not even because I’m loving others well.

But because it’s what He offers. Himself. All the time. No matter what.

May this be the rhythm of my life, regardless of the highs and lows, unhinged from my feelings or behavior, prompting joy and courage and contentment and compassion and worship and grace: fully known and completely loved. And living it so others glimpse and taste His love in mine.

Is there something of your relationship with God that has became stale or merely words on a page? How can you ask God to spark fresh zeal or understanding for you?

God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us… God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. 1 John 4:9-12, 16b NLT

More to meditate on: Romans 8:37-39, Galatians 2:20, Ephesians 2:4-5, 1 John 3:1,1 John 4:7-8, John 15:9-17, Romans 5:2-5,  Psalm 86:15, Zephaniah 3:17, Ephesians 5:1–2

stop looking at the dirt: how I’m like the rich young ruler

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Release the tight-fisted grip on your own image of yourself.

This is a sentence in my journal from the past week.

It was scribbled there after Holy Spirit gifted me with a Vegas neon sign flashing on a passage I’d read many times: Mark 10:21.

And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Mark 10:21 ESV

Jesus knew the ‘rich young ruler’ would walk away from him disheartened and sorrowful by the thought of letting his ‘great possessions’ go.

Jesus knew the young man considered choosing to surrender what he had and follow Jesus seemed impossible.

Jesus knew this man, who had kept all the rules and considered himself alright, wanted more (verse 17), but in the moment wouldn’t say yes.

And yet, looking at him, He loved him.

Later on in this chapter, while the disciples were astonished with words coming from Jesus’ mouth, He makes this profound statement: ‘With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.’

As I sat, Bible open, seeing this exchange in new light, I knew that I’ve faced this conversation with Jesus many times. It may not be about great wealth or possessions, but it is about other things I cushion myself with, I feel in control of, or bring some weak sense of satisfaction and joy.

In my own way, I approach Him and ask what must I do for more abundant life, for sweeter joy, for greater peace? I do my best to stay in between the lines the Bible draws, I strive to resist temptation and repent quickly of sin. I try to please you and honor you with my thoughts and actions. I know the ‘thou shalls’ and the ‘thou shalt nots.’ He responds with, ‘Yes, but one thing you lack, let go of these grace-ignoring scales of being loved and mattering to the world and Me, cultivate life in heaven, and follow Me and only Me.’

Following only Jesus means submission. Letting go of my way, my desire for control, my desire to be great, my want for approval. Following Jesus means practicing a willingness to submit to His lordship, not my queenship of my little kingdom. Some moments He reminds me of this call, and I say yes. Other moments, for a while I walk away staring at the dirt.

And yet, if I looked into His eyes, I would see love. He will always know the way I will choose. He knows my weaknesses before I know them. He knows my heart right now and He can see it 5 years from now. He knows how much I love Him and knows how much more I could love Him. He knows my desire for Him and He knows the moments I’ll choose lesser loves. He sees me completely, from now through eternity, and loves me entirely. Because nothing is impossible with God. And His conquering of the impossible begins and ends with Jesus.

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another knock against comparison

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If you’re a female, I hope at some point in your life you have had someone challenge you not to compare yourself to other women – especially in a way that tears you down or causes you to feel superior to others. Growing up in the church, as a young woman I heard it every other week it seemed. And it’s a great message, applicable in almost every category of life, and often a culprit when we find envy, anxiety, or pride bubble up in our hearts.

Comparison is a heart habit I’ve spent a great deal of my life beating down. The circumstances were different – beauty, brains, capability, athleticism, personality, confidence – and the people encouraging me away from it range from peers to mentors. Today, to a good friend, I said, ‘you’d think I’ve have it handled it by now.’

Lately, comparison isn’t handicapping me in relation to appearance or hobbies, but in loving God.

Like many I’m sure who will read this, my insides are whirring with feelings, doubts, ideas, desires, and Truth. Things we want to do, ways we wish we were doing better, sin we’re burying (or trying to battle), worries about circumstances, wondering if we’re on God’s path, etc. Right? Comparison has stolen a good bit of freedom and joy in God from me lately because I’m believing my loving Him must look the same as someone else, or even as it looked for me 2 years ago.

The same friend from earlier shared a story of a conversation between she and her son. He was basically saying the 10 commandments was a lot to keep up with and remember. She encouraged him with the two greatest commandments Jesus gives us, where “all the Law and the Prophets hang on” them:

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:37-40

His words: this is the first and greatest commandment.

Not a particular Bible-reading method, or copying another’s habit of prayer, or being able to teach a class on the book of Exodus, or going to a popular exercise class, or never watching Netflix, or not reading as much as I used to because my schedule is more full, or attending every ministry activity no matter how tired you are.

Okay, so those are random, particular, possibly extreme examples. But I think Holy Spirit is prompting me to consider the why more important than the what or the how.

Comparison will take a friend’s story about how she felt the presence of God while she tended to her children and distort the gratitude I could feel into insecurity that maybe my faith isn’t strong enough.

Comparison will take someone’s Biblical encouragement or teaching and distort the excitement over Scripture I could feel into guilt I’m not studying it enough.

Comparison will take a pastor or author I admire sharing the peace and confidence they have in God and distort the joy in God I could feel into shame for not being as disciplined or mature or strong as they are.

I could continue writing scenarios, right? Maybe some come to your mind. I am in the middle of this, and I think it boils down to one thing — Jesus’ first and greatest commandment to me, to us, is to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind. My heart, soul, and mind are continuously changing — prompted by unexpected circumstances, tempted by sin, renewed by the Bible, challenged by Holy Spirit. My loving God can look different, from year to year, or month to month, and from everyone else, but it’s the loving Him with all that I am that matters.

When my faith is weak or strong, when I’m tired and only want to numb with distractions, when I’m full and pouring myself out, when I’m happy in Him and when I’m prone to wander… love God. What am I saying to Him? How am I loving Him? How am I showing Him I genuinely like Him? How often am I thanking Him? What is He seeing in me?

At first blush, maybe considering the why more important than the what or how looks like this…

In the morning before I get out of bed, and all throughout the day, telling my Father I love Him, and asking for the help and heart to love Him even more, no matter how it looks or what I’m doing.

A recent article by Scott Hubbard had two statements I consider profound:

You may lose yourself when you give yourself up to Christ, but only those parts of yourself that deserve to be lost.

We begin to discover that we become most us when we forget about ourselves and become consumed with him. We will discover that we are happiest when we care least about how unique we are, or what sort of personality we have. We would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of God, gazing upon his face, than hold a mirror to our own in the tents of wickedness (Psalm 84:10).

Comparing my how and my what to others conditions my eyes to fix on them or myself, and hardly ever on God. In my experience, comparison fuels self-reliance by putting on unnecessary not-from-God pressure to always do more and be better. Comparison handicaps the practice of allowing God to inform our being and our life, and puts in its place our own understanding, paving the road for habits that don’t prompt worship of God like pride, doubt, or insecurity.

So.. what if for a little while things were simpler? If my greatest life is found in loving God and people, then whenever the ‘how’ or ‘what’ changes and shifts, there will be grace upon grace, because I’ll be met with His love all. the. time. He is enough. He is worth it. He ultimately satisfies.

His kingdom come. His will be done. On earth as it is in Heaven (Matthew 6:10).

How might the habit of comparing be influencing your relationship with others or with God?

(P.S. Photo explanation: My husband works in the timber industry. Nice tag, Georgia Forestry Association. I like it.)