God's Love–Are You Connected?

—Keeping yourself in the love of God in a digital age—

                Our internet Wi-Fi reception at home isn’t always reliable and often times slow. Over time I discovered a few things to improve our connection. Doing this made me think of the connection we have with God (and some ways to improve it as well).

I’m thankful God provided a way for us to have unlimited access to Him through Christ Jesus as well as eternal life (John 14:6, 1 Tim. 2:5, Eph. 3:12, John 3:16). Unlike internet access where one has to pay a monthly or yearly fee, the fee to have unlimited access eternally to God has already been prepaid through Christ Jesus as a one-time-gift (Eph. 2:8, 13). One receives a new internal operating system that’s spiritual. It’s amazing what one will hear and learn as they operate out of the inner man (1 Cor. 2:9-16)!  Unlike much computer systems that become outdated, the new or inner-man is continually refreshed in knowledge after the image of God (Eph. 4:22-24, Col. 3:10). The old (natural) operating system isn’t capable of deciphering God’s data as it’s put into a code that only the spiritual system can understand (1 Cor. 2:14).

                God’s connection ultimately is with the heart of man/woman (1 Sam. 16:7). He’s a master of scanning all hearts and understanding the imaginations of the thoughts (1 Chron. 28:9, Ps. 7:9, Jer. 11:20, 17:10, 20:12). God’s transmissions come through clearest when the receiver’s heart is humble, broken, open, and teachable (Isa. 55:8-9, Ps. 25:9, 12, 34:18, 51:17, 2 Cor. 4:7). I experienced this truth first-hand many years ago when my Dad was dying of brain cancer. I was heart-broken, vulnerable, and needy—clinging to God’s Word like never before. My heart was open and in receiving-mode for Christ to dwell fully in my heart by faith. I felt rooted and grounded in His love—able to embrace the enormity of His incomprehensible love spoken of in Eph. 3:16-19. I truly experienced the “God of all comfort” (2 Cor. 1:3-4).

                Heart health is important. Proverbs 4:23 gives this warning, “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.” If one is not careful, it’s easy to slip back into the old default settings, forgetting that “The heart (old nature of natural man) is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked” (sick unto death—incurable) (Jer. 17:9).

                As time passed and life moved on without my Dad, I learned to navigate around the hole that he left behind. Things were different. Time (in a sense) does heal (some) wounds, but leaves scars and parts of us that will forever be changed. I didn’t feel so helpless and needy. The uninterrupted connection I felt with God during my time of sorrow, sweetness, and brokenness slowly started to wane. It wasn’t God’s love that was faltering. It says in Romans 8:35-39, that there is nothing that can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus—not death, life, angels, principalities, powers, things present, or things to come. No height, depth, or any other created thing will be able to separate us from God’s love. But sometimes, just like our internet connection, our connection to God can grow weak and fade out. When troubleshooting what’s causing this to happen, some questions to ask are: Are there factors that could be interfering with reception (things not in character with the new operating system)? Am I seeking the Lord with all my heart, soul, and mind? Am I bringing every request to God in prayer? It’s the Armor of God that protects against worms that exploit holes in the system and malware that’s intentionally designed to cause damage (Eph. 4:27, 6:11-12, 16, 1 Pet. 5:8). When communication breaks down with God, so does His protection and the temptation to slip back into operating out of the old default settings. The firewall of pride only keeps righteousness out. It’s not advisable to be your own device manager instead of trusting in God. You’ll never run in safe mode and no amount of rebooting will save you from fatal system errors (or the blue screen of death) that causes your system to crash (Prov. 3:5, 16:18, Rom. 8:13). 

As believers our desire and main priority should be to have a strong, uninterrupted connection to God. So how can we make this happen? The answer can be found near the back of the Bible in the small epistle of Jude in verses 1:20-21. Jude was writing to Hebrew Christians regarding some serious evils that were happening by ungodly men (apostates). Not wanting them to stumble, he warned them and gave them three areas to focus on. Perhaps they can help us today:

· BUILD YOUR HOLY FAITH.  “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17). Feed on God’s Word daily. It’s a great heart tenderizer (Heb. 4:12). “Above all, take the shield of faith” (Eph. 6:16).

· PRAY IN THE HOLY SPIRIT.  “Praying with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit…” (Eph. 6:18). “Be anxious for nothing; but in everything by prayer and petition with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God and the peace of God, which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:6-7).

· KEEP YOURSELF IN THE LOVE OF GOD.  This requires one to be strengthened with might by God’s Spirit in the inner man so that Christ may dwell in your heart by faith. If you’re rooted and grounded in love you may be able to comprehend the boundless, endless, fathomless, and measureless love of God in Christ—and to know this love which passes knowledge (Eph. 3:16-19).

                1 John 4:9 says the reason that the love of God was manifested toward us through Christ was so that we might live through Him. When we do we’ll be capable of transmitting His love to others around us (1 John 3:11, 4:11). 

Allow God full access to your heart.

Laura                                                                    

Letting the World Define You?

Psalm 139 artFeeling like you don’t have it all together—-like you don’t measure up?
According to whom?
Sadly most of us continue to measure and compare ourselves by the world’s standard and other people (and most of the time merely by the outward appearance of things).
No matter the outer façade of ‘perfection’ (via social media posts or otherwise), the reality is that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23, Ps. 14:3, 53:2-3). We live in a world that’s becoming increasingly filled with the hypocrisy of the Pharisees of Jesus’ time (those quick to point out the flaws of others while harboring hatred in their own hearts) (Matt. 23:27-28).
It’s actually wise (and freeing) when one realizes that their own fallen heart (inborn sinful nature) is deceitful (crooked) above all things and desperately wicked (naturally bent on deception) (Jer. 17:9). It’s incurable and can’t just be made ‘better’ through good works and deeds (Rom. 8:7).

Thankfully God, our Creator, knows our substance, thoughts… ‘warts and all’ and still chose to die for us (while we were still sinners) (Psalm 139, Rom. 5:8). Ephesians 2:4-5 says this, “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved).”  Salvation is a gift received through faith. It’s not based on anything we can do or work for. We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works (Eph. 2:8-10). These good works are not from our own ideas generated from a mind that’s bent on doing things to glorify oneself in front of man. Rather these works have already been prepared by God beforehand and are only able to emanate from a mind that’s been transformed and renewed in knowledge according to the image of the Creator (Rom. 12:2, 1 Cor. 2:9-16, Eph. 4:23-24, Col 3:10). God’s in the business of substituting something new rather than mending what man has messed up. Some examples of this from God’s Word are: a new man/creation (2 Cor. 5:17-18, Eph. 4:24, Col. 3:10); a new heart & covenant for Israel (Ezek. 36:24-29); a new spiritual body (John 3:6-8, 1 Cor. 15:45-49); and a new heaven & earth (2 Pet. 3:13, Rev. 21:1,5).

What’s unseen is essential. God looks beyond appearances in His all-knowing, wise-beyond-our-comprehension, infinite-in-all-capacities nature (2 Cor. 4:18, 1 Sam. 16:7). He’s not looking for flawless robots but rather those with broken, contrite and obedient hearts (1 Sam. 16:7, Psalm 51:17, Phil. 2:3-8, Eph. 4:1-2). His light truly does shine brightest through this type of humble vessel, where the power is clearly of Him, not of man (2 Corinthians 4:6-7). Such examples from the Bible are: Rahab (Josh. 6:25, Matt. 11:5); Gideon (Judges 6:15); David (1 Sam. 16:7, 11-12); the disciples (Matt. 18-22); Paul (1 Tim. 1:15), as well as the list in Hebrews 11.

IT’S A GRAVE MISTAKE TO LET THE WORLD DEFINE US. Competing and comparing ourselves with others is a great distraction from the devil to divert us away from God’s divine purpose.
I’m amazed at how many deceptive thoughts continue to circulate around in my own mind—trying to trick me into believing things contrary to God’s truth (Eph. 4:22). I find when I allow God to search my heart & try me (because He knows all my anxieties & dark thoughts), I’m able to bring them into captivity where they can be cast down and put to death (Psalm 139:23-24, 2 Cor. 10:3-5).

It’s a waste of time and energy to keep striving to conform to the world’s deceptive way of thinking. Rather than trying to gauge our status and performance to fallen man’s vain, hollow and finite measuring stick, our thoughts should turn toward the One Who created us uniquely for His purposes (Col. 2:8, 3:1-3). His ways are perfect and it’s not in His nature to lie (Deut. 32:4, Ps. 18:30, Titus 1:2). It’s key for one to grasp how much God loves them apart from anything they can do and understand that they’re “complete in Him” through Christ’s great sacrifice and finished work on the cross (Col. 2:9-14, 1:10-12). To know that nothing can separate a believer from Christ’s love is the needed catalyst to compel him or her to walk in a worthy manner (2 Cor. 5:14-15, Eph. 3:18-19, 4:1-3, Rom. 8:35-39, 11:33-36, 2 Tim. 1:9).

Sara Groves in her song, “The Journey is My Own”, with verses like: “When I stand before the Lord, I’ll be standing alone, this journey is my own”, and “Now I live and I breathe for an audience of one”, encourages us to look to the One we live and move and have our being in (Acts 17:28).

Allow God to be your director, audience and gentle critic. Trust in the role He’s uniquely cast you in, along with the script that He’s written for you alone. As you do you’ll find your time spent focusing on His cues and direction rather than being misdirected by the world (Phil. 2:12-13, 3:20). So press on—you’re a work in progress! (Phil. 1:6, 3:12-14)
Laura

 

God’s Love & Public Relations

“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.”  -A.W. Tozer-

If there was anyone who needed better PR in our world today, it would be God.

There has been an all-out negative campaign to spin (overt deceit to manipulate the public) to destroy God’s image. He has been sadly misrepresented and His holy words have been reduced to sound bites, often taken out of context, even by those who profess to believe in him.

For many God is an uncaring, cold, distant & angry Father who could care less about them.

Nothing could be farther from the truth.

As a child one of the first songs I learned was Jesus Loves Me“Jesus loves me this I know for the Bible tells me so.” I loved singing this simple song but really didn’t fully grasp how much God truly loved me until I was much older.

Though ultimately God is incomprehensible (beyond what our finite mortal minds can grasp), He, in condescending love, has revealed and declared certain things to be true of Himself.

Only in the Living Word, and in the pages of the Written Word, can we get to know God.

“Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love (1 John 4:8).

How does “the Bible tell me so” as the song says? (2 Peter 1:21; 2 Tim. 3:16)

The love of God is a grand reality. But only by the direction of the Spirit of the Lord can one come to know it. And then it’s not a question of our understanding what God may mean, but of believing what He’s said. In revealing Himself at all God has to condescend to our capacities, using language which must be understandable by us; but which can never fully reveal Himself because that which is finite can never explain the Infinite—Here’s how the Bible communicates God’s love for us:

  • God’s love for the world came in the form of a gift of His one & only begotten Son. For those who receive & believe in this gift– eternal life with God is theirs (John 3:16; Eph. 2:8).
  • God showed His love among us by sending his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him (1 John 4:9).
  • God’s love isn’t manifested towards us because of anything we have ever felt or done—it’s not based on us loving Him first, because He beat us to it & loved us first (even while we were still sinners Christ died for us) (Titus 3:5; 1 John 4:19; Rom. 5:8; Eph. 2:4).
  • God does not force His love to be accepted. He desires for us to choose Him and the precious gifts He has freely given to us. He grieves, like any loving parent, when we make bad choices and opt to believe the lies of the destroyer instead of Him ( John 8:44; 1 Pet. 5:8; Gen. 3:13; Deut. 30:19; Josh. 24:15; Prov. 1:29, 3:31, 12:26; 2 Cor. 11:3; 1 Tim. 2:14).
  • Because God IS self-existent, eternal & everlasting–His love has no beginning or end—it’s immeasurable/infinite & everlasting (Rev. 1:8, Deut. 33:24, 1 Tim. 1:17, Ps. 90:2, Gen. 21:33; Eph. 3:18).
  • Because God IS immutable, unchanging & almighty—His love is pure, true, faithful & powerful (Titus 1:2; Heb. 6:17, 10:23, 13:8; Gen. 17:1; Ps. 91:1; Rev. 19:11).
  • God IS patient, longsuffering & merciful (2 Pet. 3:9, 15; Num. 14:18; Ps. 86:15).

Don’t take my word for it. Look in the Bible & see for yourself. Faith comes by hearing & hearing by the Word of God (Rom. 10:17). May Christ dwell in your hearts through faith so that you may be able to start to grasp the love of God in Christ & when you do it will affect everything else in your life (Eph. 3:17-19).

Love, In Christ, Laura

The First Sunday of Advent

ADVENT: the coming into place, view, or being; arrival.

Today is the first Sunday of Advent–the beginning of the Christmas Season that Christians celebrate the anniversary of God’s first coming into the world–the birth of Jesus Christ.

It’s more than man’s mere mind can comprehend–God, Who created the world and everything in it, stooping down to be born in human form (John 1:1-3, Phil. 2:6-7), but that’s what was foretold in prophecy & what transpired.

Immanuel: God with us (Isaiah 7:14, Matthew 1:23).

David, in Psalm 8, ponders God even being mindful of man–but mindful of man God is–and purposeful. He came in human flesh to become the perfect sacrificial lamb that would take away the sin of the world (John 1:29).  The gift of eternal life would be for all who believe and receive Him (John 3:16, Eph. 2:4-9).