Love Them Anyway

love

We are called to love others as God loves them…and that means to love them anyway. Because we are not perfect and will fail each other, we will need to choose to love anyway and in spite of. We are studying the various fruits of the spirit in our women’s Bible study and the lesson on love hit me hard. Not because I have a hard time loving necessarily, but because of how Beth Moore explains why we tend to withhold love or are afraid to in the first place. The reason is rejection and fear of further rejection.

When we offer love and it is not returned, it can be the most painful experience known to man. Jesus felt the pain of rejection personally. When we experience that pain, we subconsciously protect ourselves from ever feeling it again….because it hurts. This is why we withhold or withdraw love. What we fail to realize, is that God sees our attempts. He catches and rewards our attempts to love even when they are rejected, ignored, or go completely unnoticed by man. This frees us up to go ahead and love anyway…because He sees.

For singles, this doesn’t mean to fall in love with anyone and everyone. Guard your heart. Be prayerful about who you fall for and commit to. But, we can still show brotherly and sisterly love to all in the process. Show love to potential mates by respecting them enough to be honest, polite, and direct. Every ex doesn’t need to turn into an enemy, wish them well and keep moving. One of my best friends reminded me that the one God has for you won’t leave. I believe this to be true! If they leave, let them go gracefully and be thankful that you are one step closer to the one that won’t.

We are called to love our enemies. This feels completely unnatural, but it is for our own good. Loving our enemies removes the enemy title. It doesn’t mean we hang out with them on a regular basis, call them when we have a problem, or have play dates (unless we feel led to). It also doesn’t mean we continue to put ourselves in hostile or harmful situations. There are some people in our lives that we will need to ask for God’s guidance on how to love and do it from a distance. To love our enemies is to recognize that they are fellow humans that Jesus also died for.

Forgiveness will lead to another blessed fruit…..peace. Peace that passes all understanding is a fruit that we don’t want to miss out on! This allows us to move forward in our lives without the weight of pent up bitterness, anger, and resentment. Remember, if God sees our attempts to love, He also sees those who reject it. God is merciful and just and it is His job to judge. It is our job to love.

By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another – John 13:35

Some of us have an easy time saying “I love you”. Others, really struggle with saying it all. What it means, is I love you…anyway. I love you after all we’ve been through, what we will go through, regardless of what you do or don’t believe, in the midst of our failures and distances. It means as a brother or sister in Christ, I love you.

Forgiveness is the final act of love. Jesus forgave us all as He hung on the cross. He loved each one of us enough to die for us…..anyway and in spite of.

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Get Real!

get real

I’m inspired by a recent conversation with a friend about how we so desperately want to just get real. We crave getting real with each other and with God. There is such a stigma about admitting what we struggle with….

I was raised in the Seventh-day Adventist church. This was a blessing. But, I was missing a major ingredient to the Christian journey until my early 30s. I went through the motions and was taught to obey a certain set of rules that my brain was told to understand, but my heart was clueless as to why??

I’m thankful for the foundation that was set for me as a child and I don’t blame anyone for my misunderstanding. But, I am eternally grateful that God answered my cries for more as an adult. I had religion and wasn’t overly sold. Something was missing and my heart was aching for more. Turns out, I was missing the relationship part. Relationship is where it gets personal and real. Relationship changes everything.

I visited other churches in hopes that I could find what I was missing. I was willing to change churches just to find it. Thankfully, through a Twelve Steps for Spiritual Healing class offered at our church, I found exactly what I was looking for. Women who struggled like me. A small group of women willing to get real about their issues. We had issues with the church, issues at home, issues at work, issues with ourselves, issues with God. Issues that needed somewhere to go. It was through this group of women, that God started His healing and I opened up to a whole new experience with Him. I believe He led me to this group. I also believe this is why I have a strong passion for women’s ministry now.

As an adult with daughters of my own to raise, I still don’t understand some of the rules we were raised with. There are some I don’t follow anymore. I understand the importance of obedience. I understand the value in seeking the truth. I understand the gift of the Sabbath. But, I had never fully grasped the grace and unfailing love that Jesus has for me. It’s still hard to comprehend. I can only attempt to dish it out as quickly as He pours it in. There is POWER in the Holy Spirit. There is WISDOM in His word. And, there is unfailing LOVE in His sacrifice.

Going to church strictly out of routine can turn into as much of a crutch as not going at all. I didn’t go for years. It felt like more rules to me….I was missing the love factor. The acceptance factor. The grace factor. The “why” factor. Feeling God’s presence in my life and getting to know Him personally has changed everything. Now, I crave going to church because I get to surround myself with people who struggle (like me) and are seeking (like me) and long to worship (like me). That is such a blessing!

Last week I was sitting in my youngest daughter’s Sabbath School class and they were reciting their weekly memory verse. It was John 14:15 “If you love me, keep my commandments”. In high school, my head would have translated that verse as “oh no, another verse about following more rules that I don’t understand in order to be loved”. Now, I see how His commands are there BECAUSE He loves me and wants what’s best for me. I want my daughter to desire to obey Him because she is certain of His love for her, not because it’s the only way He will love her. Huge difference!

Thank you, Jesus, for wanting us to get real with You! What a relief and joy it is….

To Seek His Face?

hideandseek

What does it mean to “Seek His face”? I woke up this morning with the strong inclination to do just that. “Seek Me. Seek My face.”

I play hide and seek with my girls and they squeal with excitement as they search and find me. It’s fun! The looks on their faces are priceless. Their eyes are wide as saucers when they find me and their laughs are contagious. I think a game of hide and seek is in our very near future. I feel the same way when I hear from God and even more when He blesses me with the courage and strength to obey. It’s in these moments that I imagine He may squeal with delight too. They tend to feel so few and far between…..

Look to The Lord and His strength; seek His face always. Psalms 105:5

Remember the cultural phenomenon “what would Jesus do”? This saying was about seeking Him. Seek His will. Seek His words. Seek His wisdom. Seek His character in any given situation. To seek means to search for, to discover, to look for, to ask for…To seek can be grueling. To seek can be hard work. We may not necessarily like what we find because it’s not the “easy” thing to do. We may be so scared of what could be found, that we stop seeking altogether. But, to seek His face is the prize. His face is the pot at the end of our rainbow and well worth searching for. Matter of fact, His face IS the rainbow after the storm.

Ask and it will be given you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. Matthew 7:7

I don’t think this verse means we will always get exactly what we ask for. I believe it means that if we are seeking Him, we will find Him. Being the perfect parent He is, He won’t give us everything we ask for. In His ultimate mercy and wisdom, He gives us what’s best for us. No matter the circumstance, He is always best for us. He is the prize. Ask, seek, search, grow….

One of God’s favorite “hiding places” (if you’re seeking Him) is in the Bible. It’s His love letter to us. It’s His instruction booklet and owner’s manual. His word is there for our own good, not to punish us. His word is there because He loves us, not to condemn us. His word is there to instruct and direct us, not to force us. It’s there to convict us, not to shame us. Seek and you shall find.