Sooooo…in this season of my châzaq (see my previous post), every teaching, reading, song, and Holy Spirit whisper seems to speak of one thing: love. Not the “I looovvve ((COFFEE))” type of love…or the love I have for sister-girlfriends…or even the parent-love I have for our kiddos…God has been talking to me about Agape love…what I call “Lord Love.”
This type of love collides with our common sense and human judgement. It sees beyond masks and reaches beyond appearances and behaviors. It knows no boundaries and is the most powerful and effective and influential tool a Christian has access to possess and use. Like any other gift and Godly character trait beyond salvation, Lord Love must be accessed, possessed, developed, and activated.
Here’s the sad truth…for all the numbers in man’s history who have received the work of Jesus unto salvation, I’m guessing that a sobering, small percentage have moved far beyond the assurance and into the abundance. Let that ruminate a minute if you are offended and resonate a minute if you are convicted…
This love…what is often referred to as “unconditional love”…is a love feast, charity in its translation. Well, what do we know about charity? It is not what our American culture has made it…giving to others what we are comfortable giving…what we feel like giving…when we feel like it…when it makes us feel good…when it makes us look good (ouch)…when the emotion of a circumstance or tragedy is strong and fleeting…on our terms. No, if we look at the ministry of Jesus – Who is the living Agape – charity love is giving others what they need instead of what we want to give. Charity is seeing beyond those masks and behaviors of other human beings, who were created in the image of God, and into their brokenness, their deepest needs. It is recognizing their need for healing, hearing their life’s groaning for a Savior, caring more about their eternal freedom than our own temporary comfort.
Charity is not convenient and is not comfortable (at first) because it requires us to look beyond the perimeter of “me” and into the soul of another. Just as Jesus did, it may require us to go to the person in need. Charity doesn’t say, “Call me if you need help” or “Go to so-and-so to get this-and-that.” No. Jesus sought out those who had need and met them right where they did life. He extended Himself into the lives of broken people and gave Himself to their greatest need.
Jesus delivered the leper with a touch…something the afflicted man had not experienced in YEARS and probably craved deeply. He not only came close and talked to the leper, but He reached out His own hand and touched the man with tenderness and healing. (Mark 1:35-42)
Jesus delivered the woman at the well with living water. She thought her thirst was physical and practical, but Jesus revealed to her that her true thirst was spiritual and radical. He drew from the well of charity love and satiated her soul with forgiveness and acceptance. (John 4:1-26)
Jesus delivered the grieving mother with the resurrected life of her son. He saw her great grief and was moved to command life take over where death had staked a claim. He reached into this widow’s greatest, deepest level of grief and flooded her with compassion that does more than feel, but does. (Luke 7:11-15)
Faith. Hope. Love. Why is the greatest of these “love?” Well, because love is eternal.
Good News: In Christ, when we are translated from this world into the presence of God, faith and hope will be fulfilled, but love will remain. In the fullness of His presence, love will be mature and eternally lived.
Fatal News: Without Christ, those who are translated from this world receive the wages of their sin by spending forever upon forever separated from the presence of God…and the full knowledge and torment and punishment that they are separated from Him by their own choice. The opportunity for faith is expired. Hope is bankrupted. Love – on creation’s account – is overdrawn.
Love God. ((Our greatest need is Jesus.))
Lord-Love others. ((Their greatest need is Jesus.))
Are you feeling pursued and looted by the enemy? Strengthen yourself in the LORD and recover what the enemy has taken!
“You have been and You will be
You have seen and You will see
You know when I rise and when I fall
When I come or go You see it all
You hung the stars and you move the sea
And still You know me…
Nothing is hidden from Your sight
Wherever I go, You find me
You know every detail of my life
You are God and You don’t miss a thing
You memorize me”
This song. These words. Today. Although I am so small in the midst of all time…and all creation…I am so very big in God’s heart, so very loved, so very significant, so very forgiven. He sees me. He knows me. He whispers to me. I am wholly His. See His fingerprint? Feel His breath?
That’s all I need and more than enough.
Learning and Growing With You ~. Tammy
I had forgotten, but recently one hour into a youth group’s Bible study reminded me of an intimate God session that had consumed my soul…the kind of Rhema-instruction that totally opens your understanding to an element of Scripture. It was about this time last year. Our Ag teacher had asked ((more like cashed in an obligatory favor 😜)) if I would help tabulate scores at an archery competition he was putting together for his students. Hey…he knows my (seriously lacking) math skills and still asked. I’ll submit myself to the torture of simple, mental math for a friend. Wouldn’t you?
Anyways, the competition had three phases: High-point from 10 meters, High-point from 15 meters, and “21” from 15 meters. As I sat there and observed these kids taking their practiced stance as they held their bows in position…taking careful and patient aim to draw back the arrow that was notched into the bowstring…and the rapid, fluid release as the arrow quickly met its target…I was intrigued. Ten meters and practiced shooters made for clustered arrows in the center of cluttered targets.
Then, fifteen meters. Welllllll…I will just say, THIS is when God got my soul’s attention and “took me to school.” The outer rings of the targets – and even the white space around the targets – were not neglected by the kids’ arrows in this round. There was not such a party going on in the two, inner orbs of yellow and red anymore! What made such an impactful, difference? Same kids, same bows, same arrows, same targets.
Not the same proximity. There were now five more meters of gymnasium real estate between their stance and their target. Distance made the marked difference in the physics stuff involved with the accuracy of their archery-ness…ya know, stuff like velocity, air conditioner wind interference, vision (for those poor ol’ near-sighted kiddos), oscillation, Archer’s Paradox, inertia, yada…yada…yada…
Now to the good stuff…God spoke to me about sin while I watched these kids take aim and miss the bullseye more often than not. Many applications of the word “sin” (Greek is hamartano) means to “miss the mark (and so not share in the prize)…to err…” What is the mark we aim at? Metaphorically, it’s that small, yellow circumference in the middle of the target. Realistically, as Christians, we are aiming at looking like Jesus Christ, which is narrated for us in the Scriptures…and especially and particularly in the Gospels through Jesus’s earthly ministry.
For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace. ~~Romans 6:10-14 (NKJV)
The analogy is this…the target is the Word of God, the life of Jesus Christ, the yielding to the Holy Spirit. To aim at our goal, we must get in position and focus on it…and the closer we are to the mark, the more accurate our aim. Here’s a kicker, though: much like those kiddos with their bows and arrows…before we can shoot for the target, we have to let go of something, release, surrender. Ouch. Sometimes we find false comfort in maintaining a practiced stance and hanging on to what’s in our hands. Sometimes…it is hard to commit and follow through in that release.
Also, when we move away from the target (notice the target does not move), it becomes more difficult for us to aim and hit that target. Every time we sin, it’s like taking a step away from the goal. The common-sense way to close that relational distance is to move closer to the mark. I’m no Katniss Everdeen, which is why I have to stay close to God with His goal for me in sight. I have to practice my stance and continue releasing and surrendering. As my favorite disciple once said…
“Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” ~~Paul in Philippians 3:12-14
Know your target. Get as close as you can. Focus. Take aim. Release.
Learning and Growing with You ~
((This is a guest post from a precious, sister-girlfriend who wishes to remain anonymous. I hope this poignant and beautifully raw post reaches in and stirs you as it did me.))
I wouldn’t know where to start with describing myself, but the terms “hermit” and “quiet” have been thrown around a lot. “Salted snail” was once used to describe how I interact with strangers by a dear friend I’ve known since the third grade. For someone who doesn’t know me, I tend to catch them off guard (in some cases scare) when they come across me on a day I’m being loud and goofy. In the same way, they (and even people I’ve known awhile), don’t consider that a person who enjoys quiet and solitude also has moments where they crave company as well.
I can only speak for myself, but I crave and long company the most when I feel like I don’t want to be alone with my own thoughts. I don’t want to use the words “desperate” or “pathetic,” but, mentally and emotionally, that’s how I feel going down the contact list in my phone trying to find a friend to intrude on so I don’t have to be at my own house by myself.
Ironically, it’s these moments when everyone happens to be doing something at the same time or isn’t up for company at the moment. It’s when I need someone the most, I find myself alone and back at the house listening to my dog snore in his sleep.That statement comes off depressing at first, but once I finally sit down, whether I’m trying to listen or not, God always finds a way of speaking to me. When I finally give up the fight of trying to escape both my mind and my house and sit down and just be still, God speaks.
Earlier I said I felt desperate and pathetic when I needed someone else’s company, and I know that stems from knowing I’m being codependent when I’m a person that prefers to be independent. As a believer of God, though, codependent is what I’m supposed to be. Codependent is how we are made. However, in my times of frantically seeking out another person or a different house, I should be going home to my prayer table and Bible and seeking out my God.
Philip Yancey writes in his book A Skeptic’s Guide to Faith that an entomologist named Annie Dillard told him of an experiment where entomologists enticed male butterflies with a painted cardboard replica that was larger and more enticing than the females of their species. Repeatedly, the male butterflies mounted the cardboard painting, and each time, as the male chose the painted replica instead, the living female butterfly opened and closed her wings in vain.
In the next chapter he writes that our Creator seldom imposes Himself upon his own creatures. “It requires attention and effort on our part to ‘remember your Creator,’ because the Creator slips quietly backstage. God does not force his presence on us. When lesser gods attract, God withdraws, honoring our fatal freedom to ignore him.”
These “lesser gods” come to each of us in their own ways, constantly and at all times; the things in our lives we seek out and put first, far before God usually. Whether it be work or money, looks and name brands, a vehicle, TV, food, working out, laziness, or even craving the presence of another person; is God opening and closing His wings in vain as we chase after something that seems larger and more enticing in place of Him?
In a society where we are mostly free to do whatever we want and almost anything is easily available to us, we forget to use our gift of freedom to remember and honor our Creator. With our boredom and freedom, many enterprises and corporations have flourished and profited. There are markets full of beautifully painted replicas cashing in as we continuously mount them while God, the real void-filler and problem-solver, opens and closes His wings for us.
I have had the privilege of attending a Quinceañera that my daughter was invited to. A Quinceañera is a Hispanic girl’s rite of passage from little girlhood into young womanhood. With its dedicated mass service, separate dinner, and celebration that includes elaborate decorations, cloth-covered tables and chairs, centerpieces, cake, dancing, and damas and chambelanes (female attendants and male escorts), it feels much like a wedding.
In the midst of this beautiful and intricate and expansive celebration, there is one moment in the evening that resonates in my spirit as the Lord counsels a word to me. After my daughter’s friend – who is adorned in a gorgeous, flowing, bold-red, jeweled-bodice ballroom gown – performs a dance with her male escorts (no less stunning in their military-style uniforms with sabers), she sits by herself in a chair in the middle of the dance floor. Traditional, ballad-style music begins to play. Her father kneels down in front of his daughter, and a woman delivers a decorated basket holding a pair of high heels. The father tenderly removes his daughter’s flats and replaces them with the high heels, as he lovingly buckles the straps of the heels for her.
Next, her mother comes out to the floor and crowns her daughter with a delicate and beautiful tiara. She affixes this crown to her daughter’s hair with attention and care.
Following this, my daughter’s friend enjoys her first dance of this ceremony with her father as hundreds of eyes are transfixed upon them. My own eyes leak as God speaks a significance to the heart of this little girl living in a woman’s body and life.
I am His princess. You are His princess. Our daughters are His princesses… In HIS eyes.
Yet, often and unfortunately, we are not in our own eyes. What influences this? It is lack of understanding the fullness of our inherited identity through the risen Christ. It is lies the enemy speaks that we believe. It is society’s false definition of who we are as women. It is [not] the fact that we are treated by others less than what we are, but that we allow others – as daughters of The King – to treat us less than what we are…and we unwittingly pass this down to our own daughters.
The picture God gave me as I moved from being a physical spectator of this specific ceremony through tear-filled eyes into spiritual clarity was this…
Fathers…You need to treat your daughters like the princesses that they are. You need to equip their feet to take them in places where God would desire them to go. What does this look like? Treat them the way that you would want future boyfriends and a future husband to treat them. This starts with the example of how you love your wife in front of them. This continues as you dedicate father-daughter times to model for them a very high standard of speech and behavior and treatment, so they will not settle for less when they begin to date. Just as the father I observed fit and secured those grown-girl shoes to his daughter’s feet with such tenderness and love, so you ought to tenderly and lovingly help your daughter get acquainted with the Savior and the daily, transformative application of God’s Word by fitting her feet with the readiness of the gospel of peace.
Mothers…We need to treat our daughters like the princesses that they are. We need to crown their heads not with our own insecurities and failures, but with the Word of God through encouraging, transparent direction and with the Truth of who God says they are. This starts with the example of how we honor our husbands. Even if we are divorced and he is the vilest of the vile, the deadbeat-est of the deadbeats, we can honor the seed of that man without honoring his life choices. When we openly dishonor or disrespect who he is, our daughters take that dishonor upon themselves at some level because his seed was part of the equation of her life. [As my Gramps would often say, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything a-tall.”] This crowning continues as we dedicate our speech and our lives to agape love of others and model a life of honest sanctification before our daughters. It’s showing our girls what the helmet of salvation is about in practical, every day living.
Finally, God spoke to my spirit that we must show our princess-daughters what it is to dance with the Father. We must put our hands in His, as we lean into God and close our eyes to the world, tune in to His voice and movement, and give our feet permission to follow His lead.
This. Is. Beauty.
If we fathers and mothers were to make an honest and intentional and sustained effort in these areas with our daughters, maybe they would not find it necessary to dress/speak/act promiscuously to attract the wrong types of guys. Perhaps they would not need to turn to alcohol, drugs, cutting, eating disorders…and…and…and.
Maybe then, just maybe, they would look to the Scriptures and to God for their identity and validation…not us, and certainly not the world. Perhaps, if like my daughter’s friend who looked and was treated like a princess for a moment of her life that night, we would treat our daughters like spiritual princesses every day, they might start to live as such.
I wish I had known my Savior much earlier in life than 26. I did a lot of wrongful and harmful searching-for-validation in my Before Christ years. I have also failed my daughters in numerous manners and times. However, I do not live in or with regret because regret brings death (I Cor. 7:10). I can only move towards fullness today – the day I have been given – and intentionally choose life in my actions and words in the rest of my tomorrows.
“But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.” I Peter 2:9-10 [NKJV]
For a transparent and beautifully raw look into identity from a young woman who is blogging her journey, look at beautybeyondbones.com.
His Princess, Growing and Learning With You ~~
We’ve all done it. We know it the moment it happens. And we cringe inside. Our internals knot up. Sometimes…we feel physically ill. We allow words to pass ((or fly)) through our lips without first consulting our heart and mind…or perhaps we choose to ignore the messages of those two, vital organs altogether…
“Everything is going to be okay.” ((but we don’t believe it will))
“I don’t know why I said/did that.” ((but we really do))
“I’m sorry.” ((but we’re really not.))
“I forgive you.” ((but we really don’t))
“I will pray for you.” ((but we know we won’t))
…And then there are those times we believe something so strongly that our mind is shouting, our heart is pounding, and their shared message is at the door of our lips, but we allow fear or pride to kill our voice. Resounding, painful silence.
There is a situation that begs for truth. ((silence))
There is a relationship that yearns for reconciliation. ((silence))
There is a legitimate offense that needs our apology. ((silence))
There is a need to forgive another…or even again. ((silence))
There is someone who needs our prayers…now. ((silence))
These are the things that resonated in my spirit when I was meditating on what is now my favorite salvation call in all of the Scriptures…Romans 10:8-13 (NKJV):
But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach): that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.
For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him.
For “whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.”
I asked God, as one who had already been born again and adopted into His kingdom, I asked Him, “God, why believe and confess? Why is it not enough For someone to believe in their heart? Why is it not enough for someone to confess with their mouth? Why both?” Now, I wasn’t asking God out of doubt or challenge of His sovereignty. I really wanted to know.
El Yeshuati: Do you remember times when you have spoken things you didn’t believe and how that felt?
El Yeshuati: And do you remember times when you believed something so strongly and wanted to say it, but you didn’t?
And there was His breath of understanding. The fingerprint of His Word. He knows how distracted (on a good day) our hearts and mouths can be, and He knows how deceitful (on a really, really not good day) our hearts and mouths can be. When we enter that moment of surrendering our lives to His Lordship, He wants our heart and mouth to meet and agree on who Jesus is and what Jesus did for us.
When we confess with our mouth that Jesus is Lord, we are acknowledging, agreeing, and making verbal covenant that Jesus is who He is revealed to be in the Gospel. When we believe in our heart that Jesus was crucified for our sins and resurrected from the dead, we are demonstrating faith in God and entrusting our very self – our spiritual and physical life – to His deliverance, protection, healing, preservation.
This is available to anyone. ANYONE. It says so in the above verses. Twice. It’s even available to that co-worker who acts so ugly. It’s available to your momma’s-friend’s-son who stole something very precious from you. Anyone has access to salvation while on this planet…even and especially those who abuse, mistreat…deal harshly or speak lies…murder and thieve…and also those who live good, moral lives without regard for God.
Whoever..WHOEVER…all, any, every, the whole and as many as choose Him…
Will. Be. Saved.
Saved from what? I’m so glad you asked. Saved from spending eternity separated from God…saved from spending an eternity in ultimate, indescribable darkness with gnashing of teeth and torment and punishment and unrectifiable awareness that you denied Christ because you did not believe and confess when you had the opportunities and ability.
I was rescued from that end in October 1995 on a Sunday night in a pile of brokenness on my daughter’s bedroom floor. There was no “repeat-after-me prayer”…no Romans Road…no formulaic prayer. It was just a very transparent me bringing the overflow of my fractured and surrendered heart through the honest confession of my mouth to a holy, forgiving, loving, compassionate, merciful, patient, kind Father who received me with fullness and rejoicing.
You can have this assurance, too. All you need is a heart and a mouth. Even if you can’t articulate audible words, God hears your thoughts and reads your heart. Just confess and believe.
Learning and Growing with You ~ Tammy