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  Unlike much computer systems that become outdated, the new or inner-man is continually refreshed in knowledge after the image of God (Eph. 4:22-24, Col. 3:10).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                                                                    

PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT

I remember as a young girl practicing scales on the piano. It wasn’t my favorite part of playing. I wanted to play the songs right away, but in order to play the songs well, practicing the scales and doing the drills were necessary.  It was the same when I played basketball in high school. Our team had to work on the drills and practice the plays so we’d have more success in game situations. Really any activity from golf to painting, cooking to sewing, or even training a puppy the basics of ‘sit’, ‘stay’, etc. requires patience, perseverance and practice to prepare for success down the road.

                When life is looked upon as a giant practice field where opportunities of discipline and training exist in preparation for the resurrection life that is to come, even disappointments, hardships and irritating situations will become purposeful.

                To be able to walk worthy as a believer is called to, one must first be familiar with God’s instructions. The only way to do this is to prioritize reading and studying the Bible each day and then prayerfully putting what it says into practice.

                As in mastering an instrument, one must be able to recognize the notes before you can play it. Or in basketball, memorizing the plays before you can run them—so it is with the Christian walk. How can one practice what God has instructed if they haven’t read what He’s written for them in His Word? 

                To have any success in knowing God’s Word and practicing it effectively, it takes more than scanning through some verses here and there. It requires diligence, work, and careful care—dividing the word of truth in a way that’s approved unto God (2 Timothy 2:16). The payoff will be a mind that’s renewed, as well as the ability to discern God’s good, acceptable and perfect will(Romans 12:2, Col. 3:10, 2 Tim. 3:16, Heb. 11:6, Jer. 29:13, Gal. 5:22-23).

                ‘Practice’ isn’t based on outward works displayed to impress others with false humility. It deals with the inner man. The Proverbs are full of wisdom re: the heart of the inner man (Prov. 2:2, 4:23-27, 14:30, Prov. 23:7, 12…). The apostle Paul, in his prayer for the Ephesian believers, asked God for them to be strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man. A strong inner man/woman has their senses trained to discern both good and evil (Eph. 3:16, Heb. 5:14).

                How we respond when we’re tired, stressed, or don’t get our way matters. Do we display impatience, snap at others, raise our voices, complain, gossip, etc.?  All areas that incite our fleshly nature to act out in these ways are opportunities ‘to put into practice’ God’s ways, displaying the fruit of the Spirit instead (1 John 2:16-17, Gal. 5:16, 19-26).

                It’s not always easy and I fall short too often, but God’s grace is sufficient and His mercies are new every morning (2 Cor. 12:9, Lam. 3:22-23).  We all struggle in different areas of the flesh that we need extra ‘practice’ in. Some of mine are in the ‘verbal’ realm. Whether it’s dominating a conversation or trying to debate with those with differing ideas, opinions or beliefs than my own, I am convicted (sometimes afterwards) of God’s words of truth: “…be swift to hear, slow to speak” (James 1:19); “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself” (Phil. 2:3); “Don’t be rash with your mouth, and let not your heart say anything hastily before God…Therefore let your words be few…a fool’s voice is known by his many words” (Eccl. 5:2-3); or lastly “…a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition…” (2 Tim. 2:24-25). These exercises, even as I fail at them, remind me that it’s back to the ‘practice field’ awaiting another opportunity to hopefully ‘nail it’ next time, while accepting God’s chastisement in humility as He corrects in love.  Although it may not seem pleasant at the time, afterward it’ll yield the peaceable fruit of righteousness when we allow ourselves to be trained by it (Heb. 12:5-11, Gal. 5:22-23).

                The key for success on the playing field is to become aware of our areas of weakness that need to be crucified and replaced by the Lord Jesus Christ, which makes no room for the flesh (Gal. 5:19-21, 24, 1 John 2:16-17, Rom. 13:14). This is crucial as well as taking more care to pray up when a situation arises that one may be more inclined to be tempted to sin in (Phil. 4:6). Don’t be too hard on yourself when you fail—if at first you don’t succeed, ‘try, try again’. You can be confident that He Which has begun a good work in you, will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ (Phil. 1:6).

So put forth your time exercising and practicing toward the things that will make a difference on ‘game day’ (1 Tim. 4:7-8, 2 Cor. 4:16-18).

Laura