Never Alone

Characteristics of Love Series

There have been times in my field of work, better yet field of ministry, when I have been overwhelmed with the heartache and tragedy that people have gone through.  Times when I have just wanted to cry at what I was hearing, tragedy beyond our imaginations.  Yet, due to the goodness of God, there have been more times when I have cried at the power of His love at work in the lives of people (and even my own).

Psalm 23:6 says, “Surely your goodness and love will follow me ALL the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”  (emphasis my own)

So as much as evil seems to follow people around sometimes, the love of Christ follows harder and relentlessly.  According to Psalms 23:6 we are never left without His love…never alone.  Even Romans 8:38-39 proves that the love of God never leaves us.  It is the love of God that sets people free from all sorts of bondage, whether physical, mental, emotional or spiritual.  It is the love of God that never leaves us in our dark times, pain or brokenness.  It never leaves us when others do.  His love makes the ultimate commitment and that fact overwhelms my human heart.

Has there ever been a time in your life when instead of feeling that you are never alone, you feel quite the opposite…forever alone?  Remember that the bible is a character reference for God…it describes who He is.  If God promises that He will never leave you, then you are never alone.  Characteristic of love #1 : it never leaves us alone.

a sufficient scandal.

grace.001

I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!  Galatians 2:21 (NIV)

I am not sure how many times I have cried out to the Lord, “If I could just encounter you face to face, like the woman who touched the hem of your garment, I would never be the same.”  There have been many times in my walk with Christ that I have been superbly agitated with my imperfection.  Why, afterall, can’t I get it right?  I “know better” because I know what the word of God says about a particular situation.  I haven’t always rejoiced in my weakness because it reveals the strength of Christ (2 Corin. 12:9)…I don’t know that I have always even fully understood that.

The law could not prevent sin, but only to point it out and when Jesus came along and began saying He was the son of God and the way to heaven was through Him…well let’s just say that was scandalous.  Jesus was speaking a shocking language, if you will, they called Him all sorts of names and eventually He was crucified.  Yet, while the human mind and weakness (and the enemy for that matter), thought it was their will He die, it was all a part of God’s plan.

Jesus died to prove something, that because of the love of God we could be free, we could live in His grace and not by the law in which we would continuously break.  (Yes, we all know grace is not an excuse to sin.)  Jesus came to make access to the Father easy…it is by faith, this was the opposite of what had been tradition, which was by works.  This can be scandalous to our human minds and wills, because we think, “I’ve got this.”  Scandalous is just another word for improper or shocking and grace can be very shocking to our human will and weakness.

The other night as I was laying in bed talking to the Lord, I was reminded of the times I had cried out, “Lord if I could just encounter you face to face, all this mess would just break away and I would never be the same.”  Then, the Lover of my soul spoke directly to my heart and said, “You need to know I love you in the mess.”  …insert a profound heartfelt sigh…

But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions-it is by GRACE you have been saved.  And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus  – Ephesians 2:4-6 (emphasis mine) NIV

We all need to know He loves us in the mess, because that is His grace being sufficient.

Unrestrained and often unrequited

Unrestrained Love.

To love someone unconditionally is something that changes your life.  I am not referring to a child or a family member.  To love unconditionally is to love without expecting anything in return and can be a challenge as a human being.  When we love we expect to be loved back.

While on an outreach yesterday, I had the privilege to experience unconditional love.  I was able to witness God’s furious, passionate love by reaching out to others.  Others who may have never experienced someone saying, ‘I love you’ or say that they are beautiful without expecting anything in return.  That is just like God though, He loves us no matter what, knowing full well that many will not love Him in return.  Jesus died on the cross for us knowing full well that many would not believe in His existence, let alone believe that He died because of a furious love.  It was an amazing opportunity to be a part of God’s unconditional, passionate love for people who do not even know Him.  To give them love and gifts without expecting anything in return was a perfect way to experience what it is like to love without limits, without restrictions, without hope of anything in return…true unconditional love.

Remember, Christ loves unconditionally…you and those who do not know Him.

We as human beings cannot love perfectly, but we can know and experience a perfect love, an unfailing and never ending love.  We can also, despite our imperfections, do a simple act of unconditional love (without expectations) for someone and watch the world change one heart at a time.  I know my heart is full, and I wasn’t even the recipient in this case.

**For those whom I may have offended by using God’s love and furious in the same sentence: according to dictionary.com furious also means unrestrained energy….

God is unrestrained love.

A Love that Protects

January has been named Human Trafficking Awareness Month and January 11th is Human Trafficking Awareness Day…a large step in the right direction for America.  Maybe it isn’t a coincidence that this comes before the month of “love”…February and Valentine’s Day.

Our culture has a problem with slavery today because it indulges in lust not true love.  The lust after one another has created a dark society of prostituted women and children, women and children forced into pornography, brutality, murder and the complete devaluing of human life and the feminine form.

We could look out to other nations and say, “well we aren’t as bad as they are.”  I’m not so sure about that.  While it is true that women are valued more highly in the US than say, in India or China, we still have a deep lust lurking in the hearts of many and it is only masked better here in the United States than elsewhere.  Did you know that prostitution is illegal in Las Vegas, but that Las Vegas is one of the world capitals for traffickers to bring their victims?  Did you know that the prostitution of women and children isn’t just happening in places like Vegas, Los Angeles, and New York City, but it is happening in the small towns of America?  Did you know that at least 17- 18,000 women and children are trafficking annually in the United States?  That doesn’t include those brought into the US from other nations.  Did you know that the average age of entry into the sex trade in the US is the age of 12? THAT’S RIGHT 12!

Lust is a counterfeit of love.  Jesus is pure love and He came to set captives free.

It’s time our culture stops indulging in a counterfeit and goes right for the real thing.

We must stop failing to love one another and begin valuing life as a beautiful thing, not something to be used and tossed aside.  When we begin to love one another and not lust the demand for women and children to be used horrifically will cease.

As it says in 1 Corinthians 13:4- 8 (emphasis my own):

Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does NOT DISHONOR others, it is NOT SELF SEEKING, it is not easily angered and it keeps not record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  IT ALWAYS PROTECTS, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

LOVE NEVER FAILS…

**All statistics can be found at sharedhope.org or polarisproject.org

Perfect Peace

You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are stayed on You, because they trust in You.  Isaiah 26:3

I must be odd.  Either that or God’s infinite peace is becoming a greater reality for me.  I keep seeing how many of God’s people have been put into a panic over the current administration’s policies…should we be concerned…yes…panicked?  No.

While on Facebook I was reading a post by a woman (of which I’ve seen several times as well as online) who grew up in Austria during the 1930’s-40’s when Hitler invaded.  He came across as trying to help the Austrian people, causing them to depend solely upon the government, turning the educational system into an indoctrination and sporting event, and many other things that caused Austria to grow further under his thumb and under a dictatorship.  The woman retelling her life story was warning America.  She drew direct parallels to what is happening now.  For many reading it added fuel to their panic fire…oddly for me I felt comforted.  God took care of the situation then and He will now.  It doesn’t matter what our circumstances around us look like, doesn’t matter at all.  Either God is faithful or He isn’t.  God is either for us or He isn’t.  If you think He isn’t…then I think you may not understand the height, width and depth of His love.

Ecclesiastes 1:9 says this, “…there is nothing new under the sun.”  Therefore all this has  happened before and God took care of it then.  I find that comforting, not placing me in a position of complacency or apathy, but in a place where I go before God in confidence not in panic.

Our action should not be one of panic, but instead of seeking Him and acting from there.

After all…

“What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.”  Ecclesiastes 1:9

Any time panic, fear or worry in your life tries to set in -say to yourself “God has got this.”

A Whale in the Water

There is no fear in love.  Perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment…
1 John 4:18

Lately, I have been reading the Word of God to let it reveal His character to me, who He is, what He thinks and it has led to some amazing discoveries.  Not too long ago, I was talking with my daughter about the story of Jonah, when an idea “dawned” on me.  Growing up Jonah was a bit of a scary story…don’t do what God says and a whale just might be the price of disobedience.  I know many Christians look at that story and think Jonah ended up in the belly of a whale for outright disobeying God’s direction.  Yet, as I sat talking with my daughter about the story and who God is (because I think it is very important to teach our children about the character of God, not just His “rules”), I suddenly had the thought, quite possibly heaven inspired, that God never told Jonah to jump ship.  I decided to check that out in scripture and sure enough God did not tell Jonah to jump overboard…heck his shipmates didn’t want him to jump overboard.  Jonah knew he disobeyed God out of fear and felt guilty and decided to punish himself.  Does that sound familiar to anyone?

God had great compassion on a city of brokenness and told Jonah to go to the city of Nineveh to warn them.  Yes, God has compassion.  He didn’t have to send anyone to tell the people of Nineveh anything.
Jonah knew the city’s reputation and decided against doing what God said.  Sure, God caused a storm to rock Jonah’s boat, but here is some food for thought:
God never told Jonah to throw himself overboard, right?  I am pretty sure an apology and grabbing the next ship to Nineveh, quite possibly, would have sufficed, but Jonah got scared, jumped ship and… God’s plan was waiting in the water.  Have you ever considered that God sent the whale to save Jonah’s life?  When we sin, when we disobey, when we screw up…God’s plan is there waiting.  Our first inclination is to punish ourselves, either verbally, mentally or even with a fast or even jumping ship and leaving church altogether.  How about next time pushing aside fear and immediately going to God, getting into His presence and see what He says?  Don’t take matters into your own hands, no self-punishment, and for crying out loud…no jumping ship!

What does Jonah’s life have to do with the scripture 1 John 4:18?  Jonah’s fear sent him overboard (into a mindset of punishment) and in the opposite direction of God…the perfect love of God.  God wants us to know He isn’t waiting to punish us (a VERY common misconception).   Jesus took care of that, God is waiting to make us whole in His perfect love.  Punishment and fear do not keep you on the right track for very long, knowing that you are loved no matter what…who wants to sin when they know that?

I love the phrase in this verse “drives out fear,” it is such a better phrase to me than say, “casts out.”  It gives  quite the mental image of who our God is…He doesn’t just “tell” fear to go, His love drives it out of our lives, because it has no place.  Fear has no future, remember?  You have a future according to Jeremiah 29:11 and therefore you and fear are incompatible.  Period.

Remember, God loves us passionately and will use whatever He needs to rescue us from fear, circumstances, or ourselves…He’ll even use a whale in the water.