Christian Living

Immersed in God’s Love

You have to work to immerse yourself in God’s love. That’s one of the things Beth Moore talked about in one of her studies–I’ve forgotten which one at this point 🙂 It struck me though. Sometimes we don’t see ourselves as beloved. We’re just average–why would God love us that radically? Or we get comfortable with God’s love like an old T-shirt we hardly notice we’re wearing anymore.

God’s love can change everything.

It can change how you view every moment. Because if God’s love is so radical that He sacrificed Himself/His son for you, you can trust Him with now. You don’t have to worry about the future. You don’t have to worry about whether you’ll have money to pay your bills. Compared to how priceless His sacrifice is, money pales. Not that hard to come up with money. A lot harder to give your life.

And His love gives us a foundation to trust God when He tells us the best way to live. Our Creator (who knows how we’re designed to live) and Savior (who sacrificed Himself for us) is not going to tell us to go play in the street! His laws are for freedom’s sake, not to make us weighed down. Hypocrisy is what causes laws to weigh us down.

Obviously, I’m not saying that it’s easy to obey God–because it’s not. Sometimes I don’t want to obey. Frankly, there are times when I do it because I trust God and I’m not gracious about it. It’s much more a resentful “I hope you appreciate this” kind of obedience 😉 But God’s ways always get us closer to where we really want to be.

And I think sometimes we get a mixed-up view of God’s love based on bad experiences we’ve had in the Church. Which is sad because God’s love is the antidote to the wounding and confusion that comes when His children treat us poorly.

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us that we should be called children of God and that is what we are.

I really love that verse! God lavishes His love on us. He’s not stingy. He’s not grudging or resentful. He lavishes love on us. I think if we really understood and reveled in that fact, we would have a different perspective on our lives. We would see obstacles as opportunities. Plateaus as preparation for growth. Pain as opportunity to be held by God.

I know I would have a different perspective on stressful things in my life if I were 100% steeped in God’s love. I know because when I’m stressed and I take time to meditate on God’s love, the way I look at things shifts. And when you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change. Beliefs change decisions, decisions change actions, and actions change our lives.

So what does it look like to be steeped in God’s love? I think it’s like tea. If God’s love is the tea bag and we’re the water, we want the tea to permeate us. And that takes time and exposure. As with any growth, a great place to start is to ask God to grow you in this area–to show you where you’re weak and what steps you can take to grow in those areas. Another helpful item is to keep verses handy. Do a Bible search on God’s love–there are thousands of verses about it! I have verse cards (a spiral bound book of 3×5 cards), and I write down verses that strike me in my journal. I read through one or the other (or both) almost every day to remind myself of truth.

I also think taking time to meditate on God’s love makes a huge difference. As I said, my perspective shifts when I take time to remember how much God loves me and all the ways He’s reminded me of that fact. That’s another piece–ask God to show you His love. God’s love is very specific to each individual. The things that remind me of His love might not remind you of His love. I’ve had experiences where I’ve prayed for something and the way God answered was lavish. For instance, I really wanted to see a bear while we were in the Smoky Mountains and instead we got to see a Mama bear and her two cubs (from a safe distance). It was so cool seeing how God answered my request in something so small and unimportant in such an abundant way! Anyway, ask Him to show you His love in the ways that make you feel loved and then meditate on those things.

God’s love can change everything in your life.

How are you getting exposure to God’s love over time?

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Christian Living

How do you know what you know?

Raise your hand if you’ve ever had a crisis of faith that involved how you know what you know. I remember in college when we were covering epistemology (how you know what you know) coming down for breakfast one morning and announcing I was having an existential crisis 🙂

It still makes me smile even though it felt so serious at the time. How we know what we know is a serious matter. It’s the underpinnings of everything in a lot of ways. How do you know that you exist? How do you know that I exist? How do I know that this computer exists? What about the library table I’m blogging from?

And what about the Bible? Without a solid method of figuring out what’s real and what’s not, there’s no reason to hang onto the truth found there. These no reason even to believe in a God or in truth itself. And from there, we all devolve into not having any best way to live, we’re ships adrift in a strange sea without a compass.

I hope you can see why it’s important to know how you know what you know.

So how do we know what we know?

We don’t. Not without there being someone who can tell us what’s true. We need a third-person perspective on the nature of reality in order to know what’s true. Like the fish in a fishbowl. They don’t even know that they’re in water because it’s what they live in (I actually expound on this in my book, Tales from a Spacious Place). Or like the characters in a book who can’t know everything. It’s impossible for us to know everything about our universe. We need someone to tell us about it. We also need a creator who created the world to have coherence with our senses–a world where we can learn about what’s true through what we see, hear, touch, taste, smell, and feel (sixth sense sort of feeling). Without that, I may perceive this table as smooth and hard whereas you may perceive it as fluffy.

This is why God’s transcendence is one of my absolute things about God! Transcendence means He is completely other than everything else. He has a true third-person perspective on reality. He created the universe and knows all there is to know about it. He is outside of our “water” (time), and able to see things from the beginning to the end. He knows people’s hearts. There’s nothing that He doesn’t know.

Which is why we can know stuff. He provides methods for us to learn about His creation: our senses, the Bible, and inventions He’s given us the materials and ingenuity to create (microscopes, telescopes, x-ray machines, etc., etc.).

This week on our podcast, Epic Every Day, we got to talk about how all truth is God’s truth. That’s such a huge part of my worldview. If I didn’t believe God had created ways for us to learn truth, I think I would never get out of bed. My soul shrivels up when I’m not doing things that matter, and I’d go nuts if I had no idea what was important.

One of my friends and I were talking about how confusing it is when your parents tell you something is both true and not-true. It leaves you unsure of your own judgment. If someone you trust tells you that something is white and you think it’s black, you question yourself. If they consistently give you conflicting information, it’s impossible for you to trust that you’ve got things right at any given time.

Some of you have had parents like that. But God isn’t that way. He tells us truth. And that gives us the foundation to be able to explore, to study, to learn, to grow. To do things that matter.

God is also a God who listens, so if there’s something we don’t understand, He’s more than willing to answer. James 1:5 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you” (NIV). I’m continually in awe of the fact that God doesn’t tell us how dumb our questions are. He doesn’t make little sarcastic comments when we ask for help. He’s patient and tender with us, like a loving Father with the child He delights in (Prov. 3:11-12).

I love that we can ask God to tell us about life!

Knowing how I know what I know is why God’s transcendence is one of my absolute favorite things about God.

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Christian Living

Room for Suffering

Anybody else glad July is over? Picture me cheering. Not that July wasn’t awesome for getting stretched and practicing handling stress, but I’m glad it’s over. I love fresh starts! There’s just something about having an extra opportunity to reground in who I am and what I’m passionate about, to let go of the past.

This past week I have been so thankful that Christianity has room for suffering. It’s actually one of the things that drew me to Jesus. There seem to be two main strategies (apart from God’s) to handle suffering: pretend it’s not that bad (for example, “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff–It’s All Small Stuff”) or drown in how awful it is.

God, on the other hand, says that He bears our sorrows (Is. 53:4). Jesus wept (Jn 11:35). He’s not aloof from suffering. The incarnation is such beautiful proof that God is in the middle of our suffering. Jesus got hungry and tired and weak (e.g., John 4:6, Mark 11:12). He dealt with emotional hurts–being betrayed or not trusted by His closest friends (Matt. 16:21-23). Being alone. The list goes on and on. God doesn’t downplay our suffering. Paul says that they were pressed beyond their ability to bear to the point of despair (2 Cor. 1:8). Don’t you love that we don’t have to keep a stiff upper lip?

But we don’t have to stay in the “it’s awful” stage because Jesus transformed suffering from the inside out. Without the cross, suffering is awful and purposeless, senseless. With God’s redemption, He is always working. He says that He’s always working His children’s best (Rom. 8:28). As far as the rest of the world, I believe that suffering showcases God’s gracious gift of free will, that it proves man’s sinfulness and justifies God’s condemnation of sin, and that it provides people with opportunities for change–opportunities to cry out to God.

There is room for suffering in Christianity without falling to one end of the spectrum or the other. It’s a beautiful thing. On a practical level, it means we can mourn and weep and get stressed, etc. while still taking that to God and letting Him redeem it. As Paul says, there’s hope. I don’t know about you, but that reality gives me room to breathe even when things are hard.

Romans 5:2b-5: And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

Christian Living

How many truth-tellers are in your life?

Truth-tellers–the awesome people we have in our lives who tell us like it is, regardless of what we’d like to hear. I really, really appreciate the people in my life who do this. One of my values is to be someone who is open to correction.

It’s hard to be corrected. It hurts and is embarrassing, but I grow because of it. I’ve been thinking about 1 Timothy 4:11-16 where Paul says:

Command and teach these things. Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity. Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through prophecy when the body of elders laid their hands on you. Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers. (NIV–emphasis mine)

I hate when people see my mistakes. It’s really hard for me to be open enough with anyone to admit my flaws, let alone have them point out my flaws. As I was thinking about all that, this passage struck me. If people are seeing Timothy’s progress, that means he wasn’t starting out at the finish line; he wasn’t perfect. Paul is encouraging him to be open enough that the people around them can see his growth.

I wonder what our churches would be like if everyone followed that advice. Would we be more accepting of people’s flaws? Would we be more accepting of our own flaws? Would we be better able to encourage each other and to point out small issues before they become big problems? What else would change?

Have you ever looked at someone else’s life and seen where they bring problems on themselves? My husband and I were just talking about how we need people outside of our family to see the obvious things we could change. Sometimes things look obvious from the outside but are less simple from the inside, but sometimes they really are that simple to fix.

I’m also consistently in awe of people who can put themselves out there like this. Brene Brown talks about how important vulnerability is–that without it we can’t have joy, love, creativity, or innovation. It’s vital to a thriving life. It also takes a lot of courage to live so openly.

Those are the two sides to having truth-tellers in your life: being open about your life and being willing to be corrected.

So how about you? do you have truth-tellers in your life? Are you the kind of person who is open to correction? Are you the kind of person who can be vulnerable enough for people to see your life?

Christian Living

Faithfulness: Aligning with Reality

Normally, I write about things that I learned over the previous week/month in the course of Bible study or daily life. Today, I’m going to write about something I learned today because I’m super excited about it!

Okay, so this morning in my Bible study (I’m still doing Beth Moore’s Living Beyond Yourself) I started the section on faithfulness. Now, I don’t know what you think of when you think of faithfulness, but I usually think of doing something consistently regardless of how difficult it is because it’s the right thing to do. Hmm, guess that says a lot about my life, eh?

Anyway! Beth Moore quoted The Complete Word Study Dictionary where they defined faithfulness this way: “firm persuasion, conviction, belief in the truth, veracity, reality or faithfulness” (Spiros Zodhiates et. al., ads., The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament [Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 1992], 1162).

Now the part that struck me was that “reality” bit. It actually cracked me up because Beth Moore made a similar point only a paragraph later–after I’d already scribbled in my margins. The thought I was having is that faithfulness equals living according to God’s reality or aligning with God’s reality.

Why am I so excited about this?

Aligning with something is kind of the easy part–at least in my experience. You don’t have to figure out where to cut if there’s a pattern you’re following–you just cut on the lines. Aligning with God’s principles works the same way: we just follow the pattern.

In Tai Chi, we talk a lot about body structure and how to align your body with the way it’s designed to work. If you’re out of alignment–for example, bending forward when you’re trying to lift something or trying to grab something with your arm behind your back–it takes a LOT more work to accomplish anything. Aligning with God’s principles actually makes life easier. It may not feel like it sometimes–Lord knows, there are days I wish I could eat whatever and still be healthy, but that’s not the way my body is designed to work–but it actually is. When we do things God’s way, we miss out on the consequences. As you may have noticed, I’ve been blogging a fair bit about money lately because I’m working on changing my perspective. If I come at money from a fear standpoint, I won’t handle money well (regardless of how much or how little I actually have). Aligning with God’s principles means recognizing it’s all God’s money anyway and just being intentional about how we spend it.

And finally, I love that it’s reality. This is the rubber meeting the road. This the way things actually are. This is life-changing on a day-to-day basis. One of my very favorite things about God is that He is transcendent–He has a third-person perspective on the nature of reality; He knows the truth of everything. When God tells us a principle about the world, we are absolutely guaranteed to prosper when we follow that principle–whether it’s a moral principle (for example, don’t lie or don’t have sex outside of marriage) or a life principle (“the borrower is servant to the lender”[Prov. 22:7 or “stress makes you sick” [e.g., Prov. 3:7-8; 14:30; 17:22; ]).

Why can we be faithful? I love that Beth Moore talked about both the fact that faithfulness is part of the fruit of the Spirit (and thus only possible via the Holy Spirit’s work in us) and that our faithfulness is a response to God’s faithfulness. We can be faithful because God is faithful. We can believe God because He’s always trustworthy and honest. We can align with God’s reality because it’s always the real way the world works.

How sweet is that?! I love that we can trust God and that He never leaves us.

So, now that you have this perspective on faithfulness, are there any areas where you need to align your life with God’s reality? And if so, how?



Loving the Truth

This morning when I was doing my Bible study, this verse jumped out at me: 2 Thess 2: 10b They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. (NIV)

Now, obviously, if you read 2 Thessalonians this passage is talking about people who reject God, however, I think there’s a principle there that you see applied to believers throughout Scripture: loving the truth saves us from more than just hell. It’s like that passage where Paul talks about how a little yeast spreads throughout the whole dough (Gal 5:7-13). I have that marked in my journal along with a note about how the lies I believe can affect more than just the areas they seem to be related to.

It’s so easy to believe lies. Lies the culture tells us. Lies the people in our lives tell us. Lies our pasts tell us. Lies we tell ourselves. And lies lead us into dangerous situations, places we don’t want to end up. It was so crazy: last week I was shelving our Bible study books, and I came across this study I did a few years ago on moderation by Dee Brestin. It was a good study, but the reason I chose that particular study was because I felt out of control in my eating habits. Looking back though, I can see that I felt so out of control because I had been dieting for so long that my body was literally starving. So the healthy solution was to eat more, rather than eat less. But because I believed various lies, I thought my hunger showed a lack of self-control. Lies can get us crazy places.

The story I’m currently working on is about two realities that intersect and a character that’s stuck travelling between the two. It’s actually coming out of a recurring nightmare that I’ve had for over a decade. In my dream, I’m shifting realities, and I can’t tell what’s real and what’s not–sort of Thirteenth Floor-ish if you’ve seen that movie.

I hate situations where I have no clue who or what to believe. It’s actually why if you were to ask my what my favorite attribute of God’s is, I would answer His transcendence. I can’t tell you what a comfort it is to me that God has a third-person perspective on reality and can tell me what is actually true.

Anyway! Getting back to loving the truth. I think there’s something there. It’s more than just accepting the truth or tolerating the truth. Loving the truth seems to involve actually spending time with it–pursuing and hanging onto it. I was reminded of that old sermon illustration about banks and how they train tellers to tell the difference between real money and counterfeit money–not by having them study counterfeits, but by having them study real money. If I really love the truth and know it in every fibre of my being… if I revel in it to where it’s deep in the essence of who I am, I’m not going to accept lies.

But there’s also something there about wanting the truth too. I think this is the hardest thing for me. There are lies I believe because I want to believe them, because the truth is so hard and so painful that the lie seems preferable. Anybody else have that problem? But I’ve learned that avoiding those truths is actually sacrificing the future for the sake of false-comfort in the present.

One way I’ve been trying to put this into practice in my life (which I may or may not have already shared here) is to use my journal. I’ve kept a journal since junior high. The past several years it’s gradually evolved into a place where I write the things I’m learning–whatever God showed me in my Bible study, things that hit me from sermons I’ve heard, books that I’ve read, random events God uses as object lessons, etc., etc. Anyway! Writing it down has helped me remember things quite a bit, but last Fall I started starring important entries and then reading back through those entries almost every day. It really grounds me in what’s true, in who I am and who I want to be.

It’s clear from this verse that we have a choice whether or not we love the truth. May God show us the lies we’re believing and help us to choose to love the truth.