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Month: September 2015

3 Ways God Expresses His Love

Father and Daughter Hugs

 

3 Ways God Expresses His Love

Do you want to experience God’s love and grace everyday? Once you’ve tasted that love, you become thirsty for more. That love fills your heart, covers your sin and shame, and empowers you to love others.

Who could push that love away? Who would turn away from Abba Father’s love?

I did.  Many times. Still do sometimes.

In my “Prodigal Daughter” years

When overwhelmed by the pain in my heart

When circumstances seemed to deny God’s love

While enjoying the temporary pleasures of sin

When looking at the Word through the eyes of law

When discouraged or depressed

When I didn’t understand Christ’s finished work on the Cross

Recently I saw Meagan White’s cartoon on Facebook:

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My first response was “Yeah, be nice to hug my dad and stepdad again.” I’d like to hug my mom again, too.  Even one more time. I miss them. All three of them.

However, I began to think and feel more deeply about the picture. Sadly, I did not have affectionate, loving relationships with any of my parents. I didn’t receive the nurture, protection and loving discipline of a father or the emotional nurture and loving counsel of a mother.  I miss more what I didn’t receive.

I am grateful for what they did give me—an introduction to my Savior, to church and moral living, food, clothing, shelter, birthday and Christmas celebrations.

I still love them. I expressed my love to them while they were still living. I forgave them. I believe my mom and stepdad forgave me for my anger and unkind words. I know I’ll see all three of them again in heaven.

The heart-brokenness from the neglect and abuse from my early years causes me to hunger more for the love of my Abba Father. The pain dug out a hole in my heart that only He can heal and fill with His love.

So how does God reveal His love to us? This expression must touch our hearts in life-giving and life-changing ways. This love must penetrate our numbed emotions. This love just might open up a flood of deeply buried pain and memories. Oh, but this love of Abba Father will be healing and empowering. The love of God is not mere words.

Here are 3 ways God expresses His love:

1. The Word – devotional times with the Lord, personal Bible study, sermon messages from pastors and missionaries

Some years ago I did a personal Bible study on the heart of God in the Old and New Testaments. I was especially captivated by God’s Heart revealed in the Book of Hosea.

God told the prophet Hosea to marry a prostitute and then to buy her back from that slavery.

God used this parable to show me how broken-hearted He is over the waywardness and spiritual adultery of His people. The Blessed God and Creator of the universe opens up His heart to feel the pain of our disobedience. He cries out through the prophets, “Return to Me.” He longs for loving, heart-to-heart relationship with us.

Hang out in the Word. Dig deeply into the Word to know His love for you.

2. The Cross – Jesus died for you on the Cross. Words. We mentally agree with them. We believe them. Has the Cross touched you deeply? This is the greatest expression of the love of God.

“In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him” (1 John 4:9, ESV)

We know life came to us through His death.

I was applying for a teaching position at a Christian school. The interviewer wanted to make sure that I was a Christian. He asked the standard question:

“ If you died tonight, and stood before Jesus at the door to heaven, how would you answer His question, ‘Why should I let you into heaven?’” (Honestly, I can’t imagine Jesus asking this question. When we see each other, we are going to have the biggest bear hug ever! Or I’ll just fall at His feet. No tears in heaven or I’d be doing that, too. Anyway back to the question…)

Right now I’m sitting in Starbucks and my eyes are getting watery as I think of my answer.

At the interview I got emotionally choked up as I answered, “I would point to the wounds in His hands, feet and side.” The only time I cried at an interview! The Cross and what Jesus had done for me had penetrated my heart. (Yes, I did get the job!)

Study the Cross. Ask the Lord to deeply, deeply teach you the meaning of the Cross. You will be humbled and forever grateful. You may already know how much you are loved as shown by the cross. Let’s worship Him together!

3. Circumstances – Allow your daily circumstances to reveal His love to you.

Looking back after long years of dealing with painful circumstances from childhood and facing the pain that is inevitable in daily living in this world, I see that my loving Abba Father has worked everything together for good—my good, others’ good and the good of the kingdom of God.

God does not have to prove His love to me. I know and believe His love. The Word and Cross have revealed that love to me in a deeply heart-capturing way.

Driving to work one day, I asked my Father to reveal His love to me. Though I know by experience that God loves me, I want His “heart hugs” that are daily expressions of His affection for me.

Not long after that, I parked my car, paid for parking, and unknowingly dropped my wallet. I had just parked my car in Richmond, infamous for its high crime rate.

About 5 minutes later I realized my wallet was gone. I hurriedly walked back to my car. I hoped I had just dropped my wallet in my car.

But no wallet in my car! I walked over to where I paid for the parking. No wallet!

Just then I saw a woman walking across the parking lot towards me.  “Did you lose your wallet?” she asked. She had found my wallet and had turned it in to security at her company. Just at the moment when I started to get desperate, she came looking for me!

Wow! I considered that a heart hug from my Father.

Yes! I’d love to be able to give my dad, my stepdad and mom another hug, an expression of my love for them. One more hug!

Now more than anything I want those heart hugs from my Abba Father. And I want to give heart hugs to Him by how I live and love the people in my life.

Abba Father, reveal Your love to this dear brother or sister through your Word, the Cross and daily circumstances. We praise and worship You! 

How has God revealed His love to you?

 

5 Reasons to Focus on Grace Everyday

Reasons

5 Reasons to Focus on Grace Everyday

I was studying the Bible at Prairie Bible Institute in Canada, and I was miserable! How could I be so unhappy? I was finally preparing for missionary service. I was following the dream God put in my heart. Why the depression and discouragement then?

I Did Not Understand Grace!

I did not understand grace. That’s the answer. Plain and simple. Not understanding grace and studying God’s Word put tremendous pressure on me to be and act like a saint, a very loving and kind Mother Teresa-type saint. Yet I felt like a horrible sinner. How can you live up to what the Bible says you should be?

The Bible condemned me. That’s how I felt. That was a lie from the pit of hell.

Romans 8:1 is the truth: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” I didn’t get it.  Not yet anyway.

I looked at the Bible through the lens of law. I focused on me and not on Christ and what He had already done for me on the cross.

Of course, I believed that Jesus had died for me. I just could not stop feeling condemned for who I was and the sins I still committed. Sins like being unforgiving and bitter and acting in unloving ways with my attitude, behavior and words.

I did not need to try harder. I didn’t need to rededicate myself to God. I needed to understand and receive grace.

“Either we live under pressure to grow, or we celebrate grace.”

(Dr. Larry Crabb, Finding God, Page 132)

 For many years as a Christian I lived under pressure to grow and to change. That was miserable bondage. Thank God! He set me free!

Can you relate to what I’m talking about? If you can, let me tell you, there is freedom!

The process to understanding grace for me was a long one. The Holy Spirit, the Word, books about grace, and loving relationships with people taught me grace. In fact, they still teach me grace.

Can you imagine the change that would take place if you and I focused on grace everyday? Wow! What a daily celebration that would be!

Five Reasons to Focus on Grace Everyday

These reasons will motivate us to seek to understand and receive grace everyday. Here are 5 of many reasons to focus on grace everyday:

1. To develop a trust relationship with God instead of trying to live a Christian life on your own.

2. To enjoy an intimate relationship with God instead of running from Him.

3. To live a life of freedom instead of living in legalism (under law) or license (taking sin too lightly).

4. To understand our worth in God’s eyes instead of living in shame and self-hatred.

5. To pursue God Himself who is grace instead of seeking to fix ourselves.

How does this work out in real life? Let me explain further.

When I didn’t understand grace, the focus was on me fixing myself. I was driven to work on myself so that I would be acceptable to God, others and myself. I had to feel good about myself.

And how did that work for me? Of course, it didn’t. I couldn’t make me into who I thought God wanted me to be. Shame and self-hatred controlled me.

A focus on grace frees me from the compulsion to make myself acceptable. I already am! The truth set me free! Free to pursue the relationship with God that my heart longs for. In that relationship, God changes me.

Can I forget and start working on myself again? Sure! I can forget who I am and feel pressure to change. But when I remember grace, I celebrate all that God has done. He changes me as I trust in Him.

What are other reasons to focus on grace everyday?

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Healing Journey: Surprised by Grace

Surprised by Grace

Surprised by Grace!

What Delights Your Heart?

For a seven-year old boy a pile of freshly-raked leaves will cause squeals of joy. Seeing your child playing and laughing with no worries or fears just might bring joy to your heart (aside from the messed up pile of leaves you just raked!). What else brings great joy to your heart?

What Delights God’s Heart?

YOU delight God’s heart.

For the Lord your God is living among you.

He is a mighty savior.

He will delight in you with gladness.

With his love, he will calm all your fears.

He will rejoice over you with joyful songs” (Zephaniah 3:17, NLT).

The surprise is that He takes great delight in you as you are now. He’s your Father and He loves you as you are. As you are right now! You don’t have to get everything right or fix yourself. He delights in YOU!

Delightful Surprises on Your Healing Journey

Your Abba Father delights in YOU. He will surprise you with joy on the Healing Journey. 

The journey can be very intense at times as you go through the pain and grieve your losses. 

Your Abba will allow circumstances that bring you face-to-face with what needs healing and grace. Oh, is that ever painful at times!

Along the journey to the Father’s heart of love, He will delight your heart with grace.

Let me illustrate by telling you my own experience.

Shame Drove Me to My Healing Journey

To be honest, the pain of shame and guilt drove me toward the Healing Journey. I felt heart-crushing shame, “Something is wrong with me that must be fixed.” (You can read more of my story in my free ebook and on my “About” page). Guilt over not meeting the “Christian standards” crippled me. My focus was on my shame and my sin.

At the beginning I had no idea that I was even on a healing journey to the Father’s heart. I just wanted relief from pain. I was committed to following God no matter what. I didn’t know that He was far more devoted to me.

My journey led to Japan. My Abba Father called me to serve the Japanese as a missionary. God was ministering through me to the Japanese on one level. I was learning and teaching grace. (Read my previous blog posts about God’s amazing work in the lives of two sisters).

On the other level I was on the Healing Journey. I was about to come face-to-face with the excruciating pain of shame.

Shame needs to be covered. My missionary identity made a comfortable covering. Or did it?

My Covering for Shame Was Not Enough

How could I live up to my perception of the perfect missionary? I viewed J. Hudson Taylor, the founder of my mission organization, as my hero and example of faith. I still struggled with trusting God.

And then I didn’t fit the missionary mold. I loved teaching God’s Word, but I was not an aggressive evangelist. As a single missionary, I had lots of time to spend hanging out with the Japanese. My great joy was spending time in God’s presence and then sharing Him with the Japanese in non-intrusive ways. Building caring relationships was my primary concern. I wanted to truly love my friends whether they decided to follow Christ or not.

I prayed. I shared the gospel. Then I stepped back to let God work in their hearts. You can imagine that this process was not a quick one. God worked in His time and with a few, not large numbers.

The pastor and elder board of the church where I worked criticized me. I was not like the previous missionaries who brought in many new people to the church. To the Japanese church leaders, I was not acting like a real missionary. I did not meet the standard.

Their words cut to the core of my very fragile self. I did not have the confidence to stand up to their criticism. My missionary identity was ripped off. I was devastated.

You can guess who was standing with me through all the pain and humiliation.

Surprised by My New Covering

God my Father and the Lord Jesus with the power of the Holy Spirit met me in that very painful time. Colossians 3:12a spoke to my heart in a very healing and powerful way: “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved…” I saw the truth and believed it. The Father chose me. I am holy and dearly loved. I am His beloved!

The Lord totally overwhelmed with the sense of His presence and love. For about a month I felt like I was walking in heaven.

Abba Father delighted me with the fullness of His love.

The word “fullness” describes the grace He gave me. I was filled with His love and joy. Praise and thanksgiving filled me instead of depression, discouragement, criticism and complaining. I certainly had complained about my circumstances and the Japanese who criticized me. Now I was overflowing with love for everyone. Amazing miracle!

The Lord’s love and grace became the covering for my shame. The power of this love was transforming. The Japanese people saw the difference in me.

My relationship with a young girl and her mother in the church was healed as a result of this surprising grace. They had been angry with me for not meeting their expectations. Then they saw me experience God’s love. His love touched their hearts, and we became very close. We marveled at the work that God did in all of our hearts.

Abba Will Delight You with His Love

God our Father will delight your heart with His love. He reveals His love to you in specific ways that you understand. Your heart will dance with joy because you will know it’s your Abba showing His love. You might sense His presence and love through reading the Word, in a prayer time, in a difficult trial, in a sunrise, in the words of a friend or in a church worship service. He just might supply a tangible need or a desire—finances, a car, clothing, a husband or a wife. Or He might allow some pain to drive you closer to Himself. In the midst of that pain, open your heart to Him. He will show up and reveal His love.

Abba Father, fill the heart of your beloved who is reading this with your love, joy and peace. Reveal Your heart of love. Glorify Your name. All glory to You! In Jesus’ name, Amen!

You may contact me at christine@gracebreakthroughs.com to share your story or ask questions.

Grace to you!