A Life of Crazy Love

In my experience, debate/ argument is valued by many Christians. Honestly, I used to be included in that group. I loved a good debate, where I made my point (and of course won 😉 ). My desire to be right has diminished in recent years, which I’m sure I can only attribute to God. I still enjoy having challenging conversations about things that are important, but I think I have a stronger value for how the other person feels during the discourse.

A couple weeks ago, I turned on my Bible app’s audible reading option. Because I was busy coloring, I listened to Romans 8 all the way into the next book, 1 Corinthians! It was eye opening to listen to all those passages strung together. (I highly recommend listening to big passages of Scripture read out loud. You get so much out of it!) Anyway, a theme came to my attention. Our actions as believers should be chosen because of our brothers and sisters in Christ.

“Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.” (Romans 12:9-10)

“Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.” (Romans 13:8)

Paul specifically addressed how to live with those who had different convictions on what was okay to eat. Today, this can be applied to diet restrictions or any other kind of restriction a person places on them self because they feel led to. It is made clear that each person will give an account to God and that it’s not the place of any other believer to judge their choices.

“As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions.” (Romans 14:1)

“Therefore let us not pass judgement on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother.” (Romans 14:13)

What a humbling way to live: for others. To make every decision based on how it  would effect the people around us seems a little crazy! We have been given the perfect example of this kind of living in Jesus, though. He showed love, sought after others, did not seek to quarrel, and ultimately died for people who didn’t deserve to be loved. We are called to be like Jesus. It takes a whole lot of vulnerability and humility, but it flows from our receiving this very mind-blowing gift ourselves. We’re just passing along a little bit of what we have been given.

So how can you put your brothers and sisters in Christ first this week? And beyond the family of God, how can you show this crazy love to those who don’t know Jesus?

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Growing in Grace

My life has been in upheaval quite a bit so far this summer. (And it’s only nearing the end of June!) My goal has been to just go with it and keep taking the next step. And it’s worked. I’m actually starting to thrive off the busier, all-over-the-place-ness that is my schedule. It seems like God is teaching me a million things right now, but a big one is being willing to step out and into what He wants for me. That often means leaving my anxiety behind/ acting in spite of it. One of the ways my anxiety manifests itself is in relation to other people. I tend to keep my distance and not engage because of that. If people come to me, that is usually okay because I actually genuinely love people a lot.

Sharing the love of Jesus is hard when fear keeps you from striking up conversations  with your co-workers or walking across the room to a group of people. Unlike other times in my life, right now, this is a battle worth fighting. I know so many people who are great at reaching out to people and making them feel accepted. I’ve benefited from this on many, many occasions. It is one of the best feelings- to be drawn out and have someone be interested in you and your life! I want to offer that gift to the people I come into contact with. (Er, the ones I could be coming into contact with…)

Walls must come down; having open hands is necessary. As a Christian, I have received love, grace, and forgiveness, and still do receive them daily. Why would I feel the need to protect myself when I belong to God? Letting what had been given to me flow freely to others is the only way to actually experience the freedom those gifts were meant to give.

As the person who likes to stand back and observe, this all means I need to step forward and be the one who speaks, pursues relationships, and acts kindly toward others. It means I stop worrying about what someone will think of me if I say or do something. It means that I start acting more and observing a little less. It means that I look beyond myself in action taken and words spoken.

Yet, I cannot count how many times I have done the opposite when the opportunity arose. I have been glued to the ground, unable to open my mouth, left conversations unfinished, and far too often have not even been able to make eye contact with people. All because of my anxiety. It’s so frustrating and heaps shame on me. In those moments, I have to accept the grace to not engage just as readily as I would need to accept the grace to overcome and engage. I have to take to heart God’s power and love in a whole new way just so I don’t drown in guilt. Second, third, and hundreth chances are the way God rolls, though, because He’s not keeping track. Thank goodness!

Hosea

“For she did not know that I gave her grain, new wine, and oil, and multiplied her silver and gold– which they prepared for Baal.” (Hosea 2:8)

This portion of Scripture is talking about a harlot, a wife who is unfaithful. It is an analogy that represents God’s people, Israel, though. Even now, Christians are called the Bride of Christ. We belong to Him.

In chapters 2 and 3 of Hosea, the man’s wife only comes back to him when she can’t receive sustanainse from her lovers. It wasn’t clear to her that her husband was providing quite well for her, but rather she thought her lovers were. She used the bountiful gifts given to her by her husband to serve other men, foreign god’s, and her own self.

The analogy is pointing to God’s people serving other gods with what He has given them. Specifically, Baal was named here, but in our American culture, our gods could be success, busyness, or influence.

Because the woman did not recognize the gifts as from her husband and used them to serve the purposes of worshipping false gods, they were taken from her. (Hosea 2:9-11) All that she had received from her gods and her lovers will be taken from her. (Hosea 2:12-13) Then, when she has been brought low, her husband brings her out to the wilderness and comforts her, gives her gifts, and restores the love relationship. (Hosea 2:14-16)

I love this story! As God’s people, how often do we forget that everything we have is from Him and for Him?  Yet, in our forgetfulness and rebellion and focus on other things, God’s goal is to bring us back into a restored relationship with Him. That restoration involves spending time in the wilderness. Who really wants to go to a desolate place? But if it is a place where God comforts us and draws us back to Himself, maybe we shouldn’t be so scared of it.

Goodbye Shame, Goodbye Guilt

It hit me the other day just how much our society likes to measure us up. It starts with school. Each assignment is measured according to a number and letter system. The higher the number, or lower the letter, the better. It seems like a lot of life includes some sort of grading system like this. It becomes part of our mindset to try to perform well and wonder how we measure up. When we start viewing God as though He’s grading us, though, things go awry.

A big part of why we see God like this is because we focus so little on the relationship, and instead, end up focusing on the action part of faith. We do all the right things because we’re supposed. But living as though God were waiting for us to mess up so He could be mad at us is not good motivation for living a moral life.

In any healthy relationship, the people involved feel free to be themselves. The same thing applies to a relationship with God. He won’t hate you if you mess up, but He will convict and encourage you toward real holy change. Patience is an incredible attribute of God we can easily forget about.

We will mess up; we will sin. This is a fact, not something any one of us can defy with the most meticulous work. “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8b) If that isn’t encouraging- that we are loved even when we’re at our worst- than I don’t know what is.

You and me will never be “too far gone” to approach the throne of grace. Any moment is a good moment to talk to God. And maybe by realizing His forgiveness and love for us, we can begin to let that define how we see ourselves.

It is the enemy who wants to destroy us with guilt and shame and fear; God brings peace and joy and love. That is the kind of relationship and life we are offered.

69. Walking in Grace

Grace. It seems like I’m always coming back to grace. “Our job is to gracefully interpret the story of our lives.” -Robin Jones Gunn (That’s loosely quoted… the book went back to the library already.) Anyway, the concept struck me when I read it. This world, the Enemy, and our flesh do a fantastic job of helping us forget the position we hold under the blood of Jesus- forgiven, guiltless, loved. Living in grace means living in these realities.

Being a Christian should not be a constant guilt ride. At times the Holy Spirit will point out sin, but He also highlights a way of escape- He doesn’t leave you wallowing in guilt. Instead, the Christian walk is one more of encouragement and motivation. We walk in love. One thing that always reminds me of this love and encouragement is reading about how Jesus prayed for those who would come after Him – specifically for you and me. Jesus thought of us when He was about to endure the cross. (Honestly, He was probably thinking of us throughout the entire event. To save us was the reason He went experienced such anguish.)

 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. -John 17:20-23

Jesus is now sitting at the right hand of the Father interceding for us and the Holy Spirit helps us and prays for us. Even though there are times when it’s hard to feel this, our journey of faith is overflowing with help, encouragement, and grace upon grace.

63. Love and Power

There are times when we see and feel God’s love clearly. Then those times come when we don’t feel or see anything. I’m beginning to see that this is not always the simple equation:

sin in your life = feeling far from God.

Sometimes God just seems further away, and while it may be disappointing, it’s not fateful. You can spend time in prayer and reading the Bible and not feel like you met with God, but you still spent time with Him. It only seems like we haven’t. And it’s only for a limited time; we will feel the intimacy once more.

Lately this pattern has been on a shorter, day to day basis for me. It’s been a practice in remembering the sweet things He has promised to fulfill in me. Even more specifically, I’m learning to step out into that promise. So often I don’t feel like living the life I’ve been called to. Yet, the Spirit will make it possible to do so if I’m willing.

“I am at work in you, giving you the desire and the power to fulfill My good purpose for you.” Philippians 2:13

I’ve met some amazing people who don’t follow Jesus, but in my experience, without His strength, I’m not going to make any truly lasting growth.

In my life right now, that verse looks like: saying hi to people I don’t know at school, being intentionally caring toward friends, focusing more on God than anxiety, practicing the presence of God…

But it’s also realizing that all this comes from God, who made the first step toward us. It means living in and from the unconditional love that Jesus extended. “My love for you is not based on your love for me.” 1 John 4:10

Once again, I find the Gospel at the center: that good, good story is a recurring theme. I hope I never escape it, either.

What is it that God is giving you the desire and power to do right now?

50. Love Is

Grace flows down on us in the same way that Niagara Falls would if we were standing right underneath them. At times, this truth seems far from true. My brokenness can feel so big. For that reason, I can easily make grace about me and fixing my problems. But I hold the hope of cure; even though I’m broken, I know the One who brings healing. Even more than that, I have forgiveness of sin and security in death.

That’s more than a lot of people have.

Christianity is not a self-help program. Lived out, it’s all about relationship and sharing this good news about Jesus.

Romans seeks to explain how incredibly amazing it is that Gentiles (anyone who isn’t a Jew by birth) have been invited into the family of God. Then it says,

“How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!'” (Romans 10:14-15)

There are so many people who can accept the good news of Jesus, but they don’t know it’s an option. Or maybe they don’t understand how valuable an inheritance they’ve been offered.

We are to pour ourselves out for their faith. Both Jesus and Paul are great New Testament examples of this. “By this we know what love is: Jesus laid down His life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.” (1 John 3:16)

This applies in many ways, including a very current situation:

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That is the most extreme circumstance, but we read about such occurrences in the NT just as we see it in the news today.

Why? Because of radical love- because of Jesus.