God’s Great Plan decreed our inheritance before creation. “He chose us before the creation of the world.” Ephesians 1:4
His Great Plan laid the foundations for a supreme sacrifice. He knew. And he came. He wanted us to be with him. He wants us to be with him. All his desire is for us to be with him. All our desires should answer his. Imagine the unbounded greatness – the meeting of our great desire with his. Like worlds and galaxies colliding. The shockwaves of love that move mountains and shake the stars. Imagine living within the hub of that intensity in perfect peace. No harm. No fear. Not easy, but no fear. Life is still messy, but inside the hub is light and peace.
But there’s only room for one. We must each love him to the edges of our desire, our own worlds colliding with his. Only after we attain the hub do we join together to create an even stronger unity. Is it correct to say we live in a hub? He is a strong tower, a fortress, a wing of protection. I think hub fits.
I learned to pray the hard way. Sometimes we just find ourselves in seasons where we need help. When it hit me, I thought I knew what to do: trust God. Jesus said, Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? (Mat 6:25) He said He would take care of us.
So when I ran out of money and couldn’t find a job, I trusted God. I would spend my devotional time telling Him how much I trusted Him, that I knew He would take care of me, that He would open doors of opportunity. I trusted Him. But nothing changed. Small jobs would come my way, but nothing that would help significantly. It frustrated me because I believed I was doing what He wanted me to do in that position. The problem was, I was still looking at my problem.
Then something changed in my attitude. Instead of telling Him how much I trusted Him, I began telling Him how good He is. I filled pages in my journal praising Him and loving Him. I poured out all the greatness that belongs to Him in every way I could think of. It wasn’t an action that I felt I had to do, it was genuine and loving.
Almost immediately money started coming my way. I knew that I’d need to continue to rely on God’ provision going forward, but it was going to be ok. It was amazing.
As I sat back and thanked Him for all that He was doing for me, I began to think about a nice hot chai latte. I love chai lattes, but I had not allowed myself any indulgences because all my money had to go to paying expenses. I heard the Lord say, “Go get one.” I said, No, I can’t. I still have bills to pay. “Do you think I will stop providing for you if you spend $5 on something that will please Me?”, He said. Why would it please You?, I asked Him. “Because it is a form of worship when you obey Me.”
This astounded me. He has promised to give us life abundantly, but the only way we can enter into that is to trust Him and enjoy who He is and what He is doing for us. I would never have considered spending $5 on a chai latte as a form of worship, but because I could trust Him to continue to love me and provide for me, He wanted me to enjoy something that He knew I would love. So I did, and I loved it, and I praised Him for it.
This lesson that I learned was to seek first the kingdom of God, and all these things will be added to us. It’s true and it works. Take you eyes off the problem and look to God’s amazing goodness. Then watch what He will do.
I think that there are many in the church who understand what it is to serve others. They work in the kitchen, feed the homeless, and pick up trash. But we have to be careful about doing works for the sake of works.
Yes, it’s good to feed the homeless. Yes, it’s good to work in the community. But ask yourself why you would do that? Because people are hungry! Because it needs to be done! But let’s remember this: And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing. (1 Cor 13:3)
Are you serving or a servant? There are a few ways to look at that. One way is to see serving as an act and servant as a mindset. To be a servant to others is to intentionally put them first. Yes, it’s nice to do good things for others, but to do them in sacrifice, in love, goes to the heart of God. I could give my body to be burned for others, but if I do it out of obligation or merit, I would suffer for nothing. My actions must be to truly care about people.
The next time you volunteer to clean up after a potluck, pick up someone who needs a ride, or pay for someone’s lunch, stop and look at who you are helping. See the person inside. They’re just like you and they want to be loved as much as you do.
Serving with a heart of love is enormously different from serving to get a job done. Love will reach out through the action to touch another soul.
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:34-35)
If you’re like me, change is something to be avoided at all costs. Change requires us to let go of ideas, habits, attitudes that we held onto for a reason. We’re comfortable with what we know. We allow new processes into our routine when it suits us. The problem is how we react when it’s God introducing them?
Sometimes God has to shake things up in our lives. He may point to a certain direction for a long time, and if we are not responsive to Him, He may turn our lives upside down to get us where we need to be. In most cases, that’s not a pleasant experience. But He does it for a reason. He always has our best in mind, and He’s not afraid to make us uncomfortable to get it.
If change is thrust upon you, turn to God and look to see what He’s doing. We always need to be more loving, kind, generous, forgiving. If God is rearranging your life, it’s because He wants to give you more of His Spirit. Go with it, you’ll grow as you do.
But is change happening because you’re fighting against God? Maybe He needs you to show more forgiveness and kindness. Are you running away from something that God is using to shape you? It’s miserable to live in a situation that stresses you, but allow God to open the doors. Don’t kick them in yourself. Those times of trial are meant to bring you closer to God. Even then, you can find peace, you can find joy.
Don’t assume that when the bottom falls out of your life that you’ve done something wrong. Maybe you have. Maybe you’ve made bad decisions, but it may be God loving you more than you realize.
I think I’ve been guilty of reading scripture to my benefit, not necessarily the way it was intended. For instance, Philippians 4:19 “And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” I’ve trusted this scripture to be true for a very long time. And it has been. God has been faithful to supply all my needs. Some how I’ve always been cared for in all the ups and downs in my life. But now I read more into that passage and I wonder how I’ve missed it.
To read that verse in context, Paul is thanking the Philippians for sending him aid when no other church did. He was grateful for their generosity and said that God would supply them with all their needs. The implication is that God will repay their generosity.
This is not a new concept. Jesus said in Luke 6:38 – “Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.” The command is to first give.
We love the part where God says that He will supply all that we need with overflowing blessing. It’s unfortunate that we gloss over the part where we need to be generous ourselves. Many people are good that way, but I know that personally, I need to be better. I admit that when it comes to giving, I feel a catch in my spirit that I have to overcome. There is some inner selfishness that doesn’t want to let go. But when I do, I know that God smiles because He knows that it was an act of will on my part.
I pray that God will make me more and more generous. I want a heart like His heart. I want to give because I have been given so much. It may take work, but it’s all part of God shaping me into His image, and that’s my heart’s desire.
We are way too concerned about what churches we belong to. We ask people what church they go to and we size them up, like we determine who we agree with based on their politics or fashion. Do we agree with that church’s teaching, type of worship, formality/informality? So we rate them. Some are awesome, and some are woefully misguided, according to us.
I love home churches. I love the intimacy of the fellowship, the worship, and care. I belong to two different home churches. One was formed on purpose, and the other by accident.
A few years ago, I had three different people ask to meet with me regularly for fellowship/prayer/friendship. It felt like mentoring and I didn’t feel that I had the bandwidth to meet with each of them separately, so I suggested that we meet as a group and we could encourage each other. Two of the three agreed to do that, so we did. At first it was awkward because we had no agenda or format, but soon we were a tiny home group fitly knit together.
In this little group, our main reason for meeting is worship. We sing out of tune with a freedom that blesses my heart. Our worship is passionate and honest. Then we pray over each other with love and kindness. We talk about what we have learned from God and how He is blessing and teaching us. Then we share communion to honor Jesus and all that He did for us.
And it recently came to me that what we had was church in it’s purest form. We didn’t mean to start a church, we just wanted to get together to encourage each other and worship with a freedom that we don’t get in churches with agendas and time schedules. Sometimes others will join us when they can. It doesn’t matter. We’re not trying to grow. It doesn’t matter if we never do. What we have is fantastic and blessed with the presence of God every time we get together.
Don’t get me wrong, I think that traditional churches have a lot to offer, especially with the ability to touch the community, but they will never be for me what my small family is.
It’s all about love. Full stop. It’s about you knowing how completely, and divinely loved you are, and how to love everyone. The first part gets you to the second part. Until you get how much God loves you, you’ll never really love others like you could, and should.
Does that make you squirm a little? It did me, because I wasn’t a natural lover. I put people at arm’s length and smiled from a distance. But then I started reading the Bible like my life depended on it, because it does. I learned some things.
Like:“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ (Matt 7:21-23) You can’t know Jesus and not love. The very reason He sacrificed Himself was out of love (John 3:16). If you know Jesus, then you are connected with His love and it will be part of you. If you don’t love, then take a good, hard, reality check look at your faith and ask yourself if Jesus knows you.
Then take a look at I Corinthians 13. Read that a few times and let it sink in that God values love over just about everything. How do you walk the extra mile? How do you give your coat, your sweater, your jacket and your shoes? How do you forgive over and over and over again? It’s not about scoring Brownie points; it’s about living out of love because you honestly feel it.
But what if you come to that scary realization that you don’t love at all? Maybe be a tiny bit, but not like 1Cor 13? You repent. You hit the floor on your knees and you pour your heart out to God and tell Him what’s really inside you. You ask Him to forgive you, then you hand the whole mess over to Him. Then you ask Him to fill you with His love, everyday. Ask Him to show you what His love looks like. Ask Him to show you how much He loves you. Then look for situations where you consciously respond in love. Don’t do it because you think you’ll score points with God. Look at that person and see how your kindness will help them and bless them. Let it touch your heart.
Jesus said that we are supposed to be perfect. Yikes! That’s a tall bill. Who can do that? Do you know anyone who is perfect? No, I didn’t think so. Yet Jesus said we should be.
Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect. (Matthew 5:48)
The thing is, God’s definition of perfection is different from ours. We think we would be perfect if we never made a single mistake, never said the wrong thing, and every single project we attempted came out, well, perfectly. But we fail and fail and beat ourselves up because our humanity gets in the way.
And that’s where the definition of perfection diverges. What we believe and what God believes are two different things. See, He knows we’re human, believe it or not. He has no expectations that we will be “perfect” in everything we do. He’s not as interested in that kind of perfection as you may think. God is more interested in our heart.
In the scripture quoted above, Jesus was talking about loving our enemies. That’s not at all what we think of as living perfect lives, but it’s everything to God. His idea of being perfect is being changed by the Holy Spirit to become more and more like Him.
Can you suddenly start loving your enemies? Probably not. So how do you become perfect in the way God is asking you to? Seek first the kingdom of God. Everything you need in life, and everything God is asking of you is in Him. Discover the Lover of your soul. Delight yourself in Him. Be hungry to know Him more. Spend time in worship and praise. Be still and listen with your heart.
The more time you spend in His presence, the more you are changed by Him. As you are changed by Him, and become able to love your enemies, you become more and more perfect in your spirit. Your heart responses become like His. You begin to see glimpses of His ideas and ways that are clearly not yours. His perfection radiates through His love. This is not a sudden transformation that happens in our heart. We learn line upon line. We grow from glory to glory. That’s His plan. That’s He way. And don’t try to measure yourself to anyone. Your journey is personal and your lessons are for you alone. When you put yourself completely in His hands, perfection is happening. Thank Him for it.
There is such a danger to arrogance. We are essentially selfish people. It’s our natural instinct to think of ourselves all the time. But it’s just as dangerous to consider the opinions of others. How many times have you made decisions because of how you thought you’d be seen by other people? Think about the clothes you wear, the music you listen to, friends you hang out with. We can be absolutely controlled by what we think others will approve of. And it’s wrong.
There is only one opinion that matters, and that is God’s. His opinion of you is given in love. He loves you, end of story. Take it to the bank. You are loved. There is no higher opinion than that. The opinions of people are fickle, but God’s is eternal. It is stead–fast! Meaning firm and dependable. Knowing that you are loved and that you do not have to live and die by the opinions of other people is absolutely freeing.
Be who you were meant to be, not what you think others want you to be. It may be hard to do if those other people happen to be your parents, with very strong opinions. Listen to your heart and trust God. That’s the key. Defiance in itself is a bad thing. If you are not hearing God, then nothing you do will make you happy anyway.
And what happens when you begin to do what you love and start to get praise for it? Be careful! That’s where arrogance can slip in and take root. There has to be a balance between doing what is excellent and walking in humility. Do all things as unto the Lord. If you boast in anything, boast in God. He loves an excellent spirit, but He also hates arrogance. There is beauty in being excellent with grace. Ask God to teach you how to do that. Know when to keep your mouth closed. Know when to give God the glory. You don’t have to deny that you had anything to do with doing well, just go to your quiet time and give the praise to God. If what you’re doing is all about you, then you’ll want more praise for yourself. Seek to be humble and be excellent in what you do. Public opinion, good or bad, shouldn’t matter.
When we have the Bible available to us, we have no excuse for not obeying it. The problem is, we are so familiar with it that we forget to live it. Take for instance, Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Mat 5:3) Another way to look at that is, if you are not poor in spirit, you have no part of the kingdom of heaven.
Being poor in spirit does not mean being spiritually destitute. Think in terms of opposites. Poor in spirit is opposite of arrogance, pride, and selfishness. We have to be told to be poor in spirit because our natural tendency is to be selfish. We are born “me first”. To live counter to that inclination takes work and thoughtfulness. Are you doing that? Do you have an interest in living in God’s kingdom, that very place of salvation? Then you’d better consider your attitude in life. God smiles on humility. If the Son of God, the magnificent Son, could be born in a barn, then we can live humbly before Him.
That, however, does not mean that you lose out on anything. Jesus said to take the lowly seat and you will be invited by others to sit in a higher place. (Luke 14:10) Bless are those who are poor in spirit. Blessed! What God gives is highly valued. Don’t assume that what you can acquire for yourself is better than what God will favor you with. You’d be wrong.
Pay attention to the scripture and consider how you live it. You may have an eternity to wish you did.