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Month: August 2015

Where Are You on the Grace Journey?

Return of the Prodigal Son by Rembrandt via Wikimedia Commons
            Return of the Prodigal Son by Rembrandt via Wikimedia Commons

Where Are You on the Grace Journey?

No matter what’s going on in your life right now, you are on a journey of the heart to your Abba Father. Those very circumstances that cause you pain or joy are being used by our loving Father to bring you closer to Him.

Are you turning to Him? Or are you turning away from your Father to an addiction or other distraction? Are you experiencing His grace and love and sharing it with others? Or is your heart broken and closed off? Are you daily enjoying the Lord’s presence or do you hide from Him in shame and guilt?

Take a few minutes and quietly in your heart, ask the Lord to show you where your heart is on this journey. Are you hurting, angry, fearful, anxious or joyful and resting in the Father’s heart. Be honest. You can journal. You might like to share with a close friend. You can also email me at christine@gracebreakthroughs.com. I’m happy to be a listening ear.

The Heart of Abba Father

One of my favorite authors, Henri Nouwen, wrote a book called, The Return of the Prodigal Son. The book is an in-depth study of Rembrandt’s painting and the Parable of the Prodigal Son. Look at the image above. You can easily pick out the Father and the Prodigal Son.

Rembrandt pictured the elder son at the right in the same scene. Both sons needed to come home to the Father. Jesus told this parable in answer to the grumbling of the religious leaders of that day, “This man receives sinners and eats with them” (Luke 15:2).

This parable is really about the heart of the Father. He is always waiting and longing to lavish His love on both sons.

The younger son sinned so openly and was surprised by His Father’s love and acceptance.

The elder tried to earn His Father’s love by doing everything right. Look at the older son’s stance in the painting. He rigidly judged his brother. He did not understand the Father’s heart nor did he experience and enjoy His love.

The amazing conclusion of Nouwen’s book is that the goal is for us to have the heart of the Father toward others. “We love because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). Experience the depths of His love for you and that love can’t help but overflow from you to others.

Where are you on the journey to the heart of your Abba Father?

In one sense you are already there. Jesus brought you to the Father by His death on the Cross (1 Peter 3:18). When you believe and receive Jesus, you become His child (John 1:12).

You are His beloved child and He is your Abba Father. The Father loves you as much as He loves Jesus, the Son.

In another sense, you are not yet there. Here’s what I mean:

You are on a journey to understand and experience Abba Father’s love and grace.

At times of confusion and deep pain, I needed to see that events in my life were not just random and without purpose. When my dreams were shattered, my hope was that I am on a journey to know God. The point was not my comfort or happiness, but the ultimate purpose of knowing His grace and love and sharing His glory with others.

When the pain of shame and fear nearly overwhelmed me, I had to “see” the compassion on His face, the tender love in His eyes. Without a growing understanding of His love and grace, I would not have survived. That may sound a bit dramatic, but that’s the truth.

Knowing my Abba Father and His Son Jesus Christ in an intimate love relationship is life (John 17:3). He is my Life!

Dear friend, the Father is drawing your heart to Himself. Open your heart to Him. Tell Him where you’re at. Ask Him to reveal His love and grace to your heart. Turn to Him. He knows what you need. You can trust Him.

Let me know if I can pray for you. I would love to hear your story and how you are growing in the grace and knowledge of the Lord (2 Peter 3:18).

In God’s amazing grace and love,

Chris

christine@gracebreakthroughs.com

P. S. Check out the “Recommendations” tab for books to read for your encouragement. You can order Henri Nouwen’s book through my affiliate link here, The Return of the Prodigal Son.

 

3. Powerful Grace Lesson from Japan

Grace Breakthrough Connection Blog

Journey Together to the Father’s Heart

 

Called and chosen to be in an intimate love relationship with the living God! He longs to lavish His grace upon you. He has been leading you on a journey to His Heart of Love.

At times the way is through dark valleys of betrayal, loss and confusion. The road seems to lead away from His love. Your heart is in such pain that you cry out, “Where are you, my Abba Father?”

Other times the way opens up into the bright sunlight of His loving face. You have some moments of rest in His love. Inexpressible joy flows. You are refreshed and ready to continue on this inner journey of the heart.

Suddenly you look around and see you are not the only one on this journey. Your Abba Father is leading countless others to His heart, too. They are your brothers and sisters.

You long for connection, to belong, to feel safe with your fellow travelers. You were created for relationship with them, too.

But a long-buried terror rises in your heart. You tremble in fear.

You remember how certain ones nearly destroyed you. They stole precious jewels from your heart. They trampled your worth under their feet. You still bear the wounds and pain as you continue on your journey to the heart of the Father.

Isolation seems the better option. No pain. Really? Or how about control so no one hurts you like that again. Protect yourself at all costs. Keep your heart closed.

Then your Lord Jesus comes to your side. (You know, He is the way to the Father.) He hands you a beautiful white orchid. “This is who you are and who you are becoming,” He says to you with a compassionate smile.

“What do you mean?” you ask.

“Your new heart is beautiful like all the shining jewels of the world. You are righteous and pure by my gift to you. I became sin for you. Your shame and guilt are taken away by my death on the Cross.”

He continues, “Now look at the face of the orchid. How would you describe it?”

“Exquisitely fragile and open. So delicate and yet so open. Yes, open.”

Tears begin to slide down your cheeks. You sense His deep love for you. At the same time with a sudden burst of insight you know what He is asking of you.

As you walk this healing journey with Jesus, you open your heart to receive the restoring love of your Abba Father. And by the power of grace you love your brothers and sisters.

White Orchids

Lesson 3 — Loving One Another Is Experiencing the Love of God

“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 17:22-23, ESV).

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:9-12, ESV).

Beloved one, meditate on these verses (and all of John 14-17). Your Abba Father loves you as much as He loves the Son. Jesus loves you as much as the Father loves Him. You are in union with the Father and the Son and indwelt by the Holy Spirit. To love one another is to experience the love of God.

Yes, I had precious experiences of the love of God in Japan. I continue to learn and experience more of His love. Everyday I need His love and grace.

Another amazing joy is to experience God’s love by loving one another. Grace breaks through our hearts. We open our hearts to love our brothers and sisters. We are empowered by grace through faith to love. We love one another and experience even more of Abba Father’s love. Amazing grace!

“We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19 ESV).

May you be filled up with all the fullness of His love.

With much love in Abba Father,

Chris

 

2. Powerful Grace Lesson from Japan


Journey to Heart of the Father

Journey to the Heart of the Father

You’re here and excited about the journey ahead. You know where you’re going. You know what you’re going to do. And you know why you’re going. This is the greatest day of your life. You’ve planned and prepared for this moment, and now it’s going to happen!

For you this might be your wedding day, the birth of your first child, or graduation from college. Maybe you’re starting your first job or your dream job or retiring and finally getting to do what you always wanted to do. Whatever it is, you know the excitement and the anticipation.

For me this journey was going to Japan as a missionary. This was my calling and dream since junior high school. From an abusive childhood background to a self-destructive lifestyle…out of that mess the Lord saved and called me.

I was certainly not a very likely candidate for mission work and especially not for the difficult work environment of Japan (see my previous blog posts). As a single missionary I left my family behind and stepped foot into my exciting new life of service to the Japanese. Sounds great, huh?

The Journey of the Heart

My loving Lord had called me to Japan to share the good news of grace to the Japanese. That was the outward journey. He was also taking me on an inner journey of the heart. The Lord would use the outward circumstances to woo me, to cause me to hunger for Him, to bring me great satisfaction and joy in His presence.

In fact, what was happening on the missionary road whether joyful or painful was being used to help me along the inner journey of the heart. The love of my missionary family and Japanese friends, the struggles of language study and cultural adjustment, the rejection of some and conflicts with others–all the joys, the stress, the discouragement and loneliness were leading me on the deeper Journey to the Heart of the Father.

Ever wonder what God is up to in your life? Here’s one possibility:

Our Lord is guiding you to the Father’s heart where you will experience the depths of His love for you.

Nothing on this earth compares to this love. There is no greater joy than to know Him by experience. This is far greater than a mental assent to the facts of the Bible.

I’m talking here about encounter with the living God that turns your life right side up. Knowing Him will “ruin” you in a good way. You won’t be satisfied with those sinful pleasures that once captured your heart. You won’t be able to run with the same friends if they are leading you down a road away from the Father.

Lesson 2 — God Chose Me to Bring Me to His Heart of Love

So this is the second powerful grace lesson I learned in Japan and continue to experience and learn. The Trinity is about relationship with us. The Father sent the Son to die for us to give us life with Him. He sent the Holy Spirit to enable us to live in a love relationship with the Father and Son. The Holy Spirit pours this love into our hearts (Romans 5:5).

Why does it take so long to get it? To understand and experience this love? You may have understood God’s love when you first believed or even later down the road. But for those of us who have been wounded and deeply hurt–well, to believe and receive this life-changing love may seem impossible. Here’s why:

  • “Father” is not a heartwarming word to many of us due to past painful experience.
  • Trust in someone’s word, especially someone you can’t see with your eyes isn’t easy. Trust itself is near impossible for some of us.
  • Woundedness causes us to isolate and close our hearts off from the love we so desperately want and need.
  • We might be angry with God because He didn’t prevent or stop the pain and wounds.
  • Control is the only way we know how to survive. We will get what we want on our terms.
  • God is unpredictable and wild in His love toward us. That scares us. We can’t control Him.
  • Surrender to anyone feels like death. We are afraid to lose ourselves. We fear being hurt again.
  • We haven’t forgiven those who have hurt us so bitterness is choking out the love that could be ours.
  • What would you add to this list?

How to Experience This Love

If you have read this far, I know you want to experience this love. You know this is what you are seeking. Your pain is driving you to the comfort of His loving embrace. You know nothing else but His love will calm your anxiety and fear.

You may be asking, “What should I do then to experience the heart of God, His love for me?”

Let me ask you, “If you’re a parent, what does your child have to do to experience your love? Do they have to do anything?”

The Father says to you, “Come. Sit and rest. Enjoy my presence. I delight in you. I want to hear your voice. Just be with Me. Let Me love you. Open your heart to Me. Be aware of what I’m doing in your life to capture your heart and bring you to My heart of love. My grace will breakthrough your wounded heart. My love will overwhelm you and heal you. As you travel on this journey, look for My love. I will reveal Myself to you.”

“May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God” (2 Thessalonians 3:5a).

How would you answer this question: How can I experience the love of God?

1. Powerful Grace Lesson from Japan

God's Grace and Glory Fills All the-2

Ever notice a pattern in the difficulties you go through? They seem to come back around at you. Only the people and places change. They also may cut deeper the next time around. Or you may go through the same cycle with the same people over and over again. You might ask, “What in the world is God up to?” Let me share the first of three powerful Grace Breakthrough Lessons I learned through my missionary years in Japan. This may help answer that question:

Lesson 1 — God Chose Me and Does Not Reject Me

Ever feel rejected and unloved? Life throws some tough stuff at you. In the middle of the mess, you may feel like no one really cares. At least not the one or ones that you really want to love and accept you.

Then you open the Bible and read what God says to you. A verse seems to jump out and grab your heart. You see the truth and reject the lie. You rejoice in the Lord. You’re empowered to get up and face your difficulties. The circumstances don’t change but your perspective does. God’s Word connects with your heart. And the awesome truth is you connect with the heart of God.

Now that’s the ideal scenario. That’s happened many times for me. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work that way.  You may not be able to find a verse that speaks to you. Or if you do find one, you may struggle to believe it. For years.

You might be listening more to what you believe your life experiences are telling you. Your pain and confusion may be shouting so loudly that you can’t hear the truth. I’ve been there.

The Truth

“I have chosen you and have not rejected you.” Isaiah 41:9b, NIV

“He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world.” Ephesians 1:4, ESV

“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide.” John 15:16 NIV

This is a grace truth. You and I can do nothing to make ourselves worthy of being chosen.

My Experience

I was always looking for that special person to affirm and validate me. To accept me no matter what. I expected from people what only God could give. And I was always afraid of being rejected.

Talk about a pattern that kept repeating itself!

  • Unrealistic expectations of people
  • Demanding (oh, I hate to admit this!) from them what they couldn’t or didn’t want to give
  • Not relying upon my Father for what I needed
  • Result: Feeling rejected and so hurt

This was a hopeless and very painful cycle. Only our loving Lord knows how to break any sinful pattern that hurts us and those around us. Yes, though this behavior came out of my woundedness, the sin was still lack of love for others and self-centeredness. How was that ever going to change?

So where did I wind up going as a missionary? God gave me a heart for Japan, also known as the “graveyard of missionaries.” Why is it called that? Because the Japanese are known for their rejection of foreigners, “gaijin,” translated “outside person.”

Does God have a sense of humor or what? Why would He send me to a country known for rejection?

  • To face my fear of rejection
  • To go through the rejection by the grace of God
  • To experience the Grace Breakthrough–the truth that God chose me and does not reject me
  • To learn to live in freedom to love even in the midst of fear and rejection

Look again at the verse above:

“I have chosen you and have not rejected you.” Isaiah 41:9b, NIV

This is the verse that follows:

“Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. 

Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God.

I will strengthen you and help you.

I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10, NLT)

I experienced that verse in the midst of feeling rejected by a small group of Japanese. They sharply criticized me for not meeting their expectations. Did their words hurt? Yes, of course.

At the same time I sensed the presence of the Lord with me, giving me strength and help, holding me up and shielding me. That made all the difference.

Have I felt rejection since that time? Yes, I have. Feeling rejected or ignored still hurts. I have also sensed the presence of the Lord with me at times when I needed Him the most.

The soil of Japan was fertile ground for learning this Powerful Grace Breakthrough Lesson: God chose me and does not reject me. This is one of the foundational grace truths that empowers me to love others.

Your Experience 

Are your present circumstances fertile ground to learn what God so lovingly wants to teach you? Maybe a Grace Breakthrough is just around the corner. Feel free to share what you are going through and learning.

Stay tuned for the 2nd powerful Grace Breakthrough Lesson learned in Japan, probably the most important and foundational lesson of all.

(Just to let you know–Japan was not all rejection. In fact, Japan was more about deep, loving relationships that were formed. God blessed me with some very special relationships. See my first blog posts about the 2 Japanese sisters.)

 

 

Photo Credit: Leung Cho Pan via Canva