Changing in Response to God’s Love

lifeContinued from here.

The spring and summer of 2013 was one of the best seasons of my life. After 44 years of feeling parched for the tiniest drops of love from others, I was completely saturated in God’s love for me. So many of the rough edges of my personality became smooth in response to experiencing endless love. I had believed that I was “too needy” because of my childhood trauma. I learned that God’s love was more than enough to meet not only my own needs but also the needs of everyone around me. I changed radically over this season, and numerous people commented on it. As Beth Moore had said at the Sacred Secrets Living Proof Live Event, secrets manifest. As I had changed what I did “in the secret” with God, the fruit of my life also changed.

If I could have stayed in this honeymoon phase for the rest of my life, being a Christian on fire for God would have been super easy. However, God wants us chasing Him not for what He gives us but, instead, for who He is. While I try not to compare my own experiences to those of other people, I would not be surprised to learn that experiencing such as long honeymoon phase is unusual. I was particularly broken, so God might have known I needed a particularly long honeymoon to heal enough to get to work. If your honeymoon phase does not last as long as mine did, don’t feel cheated. That was drinking milk, and God wants us moving on to eating solid food as soon as we are ready.

Once God had healed me enough through His unending love to begin eating sold food, God called me to do something I really did not want to do – first to forgive a friend who broke my heart and then to forgive my child abusers. As motivation, God asked if I loved Him more than I hated them. I had declared numerous times that I would never forgive my child abusers, but I chose to believe and obey God by praying for them day after day, week after week, and month after month for well over a year until I realized I had, in fact, forgiven them. I knew I had forgiven them because the pain was gone.

I learned through that experience that God’s ways are always best. He didn’t tell me to forgive because “it’s the right thing to do” – He had me to do it because forgiveness is the path to LIFE! When I declared that I would never forgive, I was declaring my own death sentence. God’s ways are LIFE, and forgiving is the vehicle God uses for healing our emotional wounds. Once I learned this about God, obeying Him because much easier because I learned firsthand that EVERYTHING God commands is to give me life.

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[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace standing on the beach next to a seagull beside the word, “Life.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

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God is Found when We Seek Him Wholeheartedly

drawing_heartContinued from here.

I don’t remember how much time elapsed between my deciding to seek God with my whole heart and finding Him, but it did not take long. The only tangible marker I have is that by June 2013 (three months later), I realized that God had fully healed the suicidal urges that had plagued me every minute of the day since I was a teenager. That came after I was already giddy with God’s joy and peace for a period of time, so I must not have had to wait very long…perhaps a few days or weeks.

Part of seeking God involved choosing to believe Him over my own experience, and that was challenging for me. I needed something to do during my quiet time hour after giving God my list of things I wanted Him to do for me and completing my Bible study homework. Beth Moore had said that God loves me wholeheartedly while I believed I was fundamentally unlovable, so I figured that would be a good starting point. I looked up scriptures that talked about how much God loves me. I then downloaded several Christian songs that focused on how much God loves me and started singing along to those during my quiet time. I started looking myself in the eye in the mirror and saying, “I love you” or “you are lovable,” even though I did not believe it. God used all of these simple acts of obedience to change my heart – to remove my heart of stone and give me a heart of flesh.

Meditating on God’s truth that He loves me radically changed everything. I experienced joy and peace as never before. The best way to describe it is that I felt like I had gone through life holding out a Dixie cup, asking people to please spare the tiniest drops of love. Even a few drops could help. Because so few drops ever fell in my cup, I spent my life feelings empty and dry. God poured gallons of love into my cup, overflowing the entire room! For the first time in my life, I actually felt loved, and this came not from someone in skin but from an invisible God who I met with morning after morning. I was so saturated with His love that I had plenty to give to anyone I came into contact with. I had no need to hoard it.

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[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace drawing a large heart. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Making the Decision to Enter “into the Secret” with God

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February 2013 was my breaking point. I decided that if years of therapy and a long-term relationship with God wasn’t going to bring me any more relief from emotional pain than it already had, I wanted out. As I drove home alone from a road trip, I resisted the temptation to drive my car into each body of water I drove over while sobbing to God. If the end result of my hard work of therapy was only going to result in a few days of relief between weeks of emotional misery, I wanted out. If I could be assured that suicide would not result in hell, I would have driven my car off a bridge that day.

I challenged God when I got home – “If You really are bigger than my emotional pain, prove it!” I would do my part by only listening to Christian music and holding every thought captive to Christ for one day. If God didn’t come through, I was ready to end my life. To my complete shock, I experienced joy and peace in such an overwhelming measure that I wondered if my sanity had snapped, and I didn’t even care if it had! I had never experienced a day of such complete joy and peace, and it made me determined to find the secret to having regular access to it.

A few weeks later, in March 2013, I attended Beth Moore’s Living Proof Live event, which has been released as her Sacred Secrets study. The theme of this study is that “secrets manifest.” Whatever is going on “in the secret” of my heart bears fruit in my day-to-day life. Because myself and my pain were the primary focus of my heart, my life was bearing the fruit of bitterness and pain.

Moore shared another way to live. She pointed out that God created me “in the secret” and that before my mother knew she was pregnant with me, it was only God and me “in the secret” of her womb. She talked about how God wants a close, personal, intimate love relationship with me, but I would have to do my part to enter into His presence “in the secret.” I did not fully understand what I needed to do, but I left that event having made the life decision that I would begin the first hour of my day as a tithe of my time to God, no matter what – even if I am sick, or traveling, or have to get up early, or have insomnia. I would seek God first in my day and see what happens.

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[Graphic: Cover of Beth Moore’s Sacred Secrets – Small Group Kit: A Living Proof Live Experience. Courtesy Amazon.]

 

Armor of God: Shield of Faith

sword_and_shieldContinued from here.

The fourth piece of armor is the shield of faith:

In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.” ~ Eph. 6:16

Faith is a critical part of the Christian walk, and you are helpless when under spiritual attack if you don’t pick up your shield of faith. Using your shield of faith also pleases God:

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. ~ Heb. 11:6

It’s easy to have faith when things are going well. It’s a whole different ballgame when everything in your life is blowing up around you. It’s in those moments – when you are tempted to doubt God’s faithfulness and goodness – that what you actually believe surfaces. If you really believe that God exists and that He will reward you, regardless, of what you are seeing in your life, then you are taking up your shield of faith. You will act based upon what you believe, not upon what you know theoretically when things are going well.

I saw Beth Moore in Greenville, SC a few years ago at a Living Proof Live event. I felt convicted when she said that dreading the future is liking being a walking billboard of God’s unfaithfulness. I knew God is faithful but did not actually believe it, resulting in me advertising God’s unfaithfulness to world. I knew that I had stop but didn’t know how, so I looked for a Bible verse to tie together God’s faithfulness being a shield. I found it in Psalm 91:

He will cover you with his feathers,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. ~ Ps. 91:4

Whenever I am tempted to dread anything, I recite this passage of scripture and remind myself (my soul) that God was faithful before and will be faithful again. This specific strategy is how I take up my shield of faith, enabling me to continue trusting God as my circumstances try to lure me into doubting Him.

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[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace dressed as a warrior, holding a sword and shield between the words, “Brace yourself.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

No Longer a Victim

heartsContinued from here.

I cannot remember who said this (probably Joyce Meyer or Beth Moore): we live what we believe, not what we know. I knew that I had on the Armor of God, but I believed I was a victim. Thus, I behaved as a victim rather than a warrior, metaphorically cowering in my church’s parking lot like a wounded child rather than standing up and fighting, using the Armor of God.

My problem was believing that God is distant, with the Holy Spirit being my “walkie talkie” lifeline to Him. I saw the world as an unsafe place, with God always with me in more of a long distance way … like a Skype relationship rather than a face-to-face one. Through His book The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life In God, Williard has blown this lie to smithereens!

Willard points out that God is located everywhere, viewing the most beautiful places and hearing the most beautiful sounds of the world while also surrounding me. Because of this reality, I have complete access to unbounding love, joy, and peace at all times. This is the truth that Jesus knew, enabling Him to be joyful despite also being a man of suffering and pain.

To help me process this reality, I have been seeking to view the world through spiritual eyes, recognizing that no matter where my eyes look, the God who created the universe is there. Whether I look up to the cloud or stars, down into a valley, or as far as I can see over the ocean, He is there. This means there’s nowhere I can go without being surrounded by boundless love, joy, and peace. This makes this world a safe place, regardless of what my past experience has been.

This also means that the vast majority of this world is filled with God. There are only pockets of places that aren’t, which are inhabited by people who choose to reject God. They are the masters of their own space, and when they congregate, they create a bigger bubble of rebellion against God. However, compared to the enormity of the earth – the mountains, oceans, and everything in between, they are a small percentage of this world. Even when I am in their presence, the God who created the heavens and earth is both around me and in me, so I am never in an “unsafe” place. Where there is God, there is limitless love, joy, and peace for the asking.

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[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace surrounded by hearts. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

How Do You Know that God Will Show Up?

im_waitingContinued from here.

One of the more challenging aspects of God’s character for me is His tendency to show up at what I perceive as the 11th hour. My preference is for Him to show up early so I can rest assured that He is going to take care of my problem. However, God wants me to grow my faith, trusting that He is going to show up despite seeing no evidence of Him doing so beyond His promise to work all things for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. I know that I love Him, and I actively seek to fulfill His purpose by doing His will, so I know that He will work even this (whatever “this” is) for good.

Oftentimes, I find myself in a position of submitting to God’s authority but still having to wait … and wait … and wait for Him to show up. This passage from the Psalms is the one I lean on when I am in a holding pattern and waiting on God:

He will cover you with his feathers,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. ~ Ps. 91:4

Because God has been faithful before, I find it easier to believe that He will be faithful again. Whenever I am tempted to doubt that God will show up, I remind myself that the story is not over yet. If we ended the story on Friday, Jesus would still be in the tomb. We had to get to Sunday before God showed up. We are often tempted to give up on God on Friday or Saturday, ending the story in defeat. We must hold on to the hope the God WILL show up and not give up until He does.

The bottom line is that you either trust God or you don’t. You either believe that He loves you and will take care of you, or you don’t. Beth Moore hit me right between the eyes at one of her Living Proof Live events when she said that dread is advertising God’s unfaithfulness. In other words, when I tell people that I fear God won’t show up, my life becomes a billboard advertising God’s unfaithfulness. However, when I trust and truly BELIEVE that God will show up and work EVEN THIS for good, I advertise the faithfulness of God.

Of course, we have to do our part as well. There’s no promise for God to work all situations for good for those who do not love Him or those who are willfully disobedient to Him. As long as you love God and are intentionally trying to live out His will, He will show up. If He hasn’t, that means your story isn’t over yet.

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[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace with her hand on her hip, standing next to an hourglass and saying, “I’m waiting.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

Do You Have Good Reason to be Angry?

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Priscilla Shirer’s Jonah: Navigating a Life Interrupted Bible Study talks about making sure you have good reason to be angry. For those of you who don’t know Jonah’s story beyond him spending three nights in the belly of a large fish, Jonah was a prophet who ran in the opposite direction when God told him to go to Ninevah. Ninevah was the capitol of Assyria, which was Israel’s enemy, and Jonah did not want God to show those people mercy. After the fish incident, Jonah did what God told him to do, resulting in the entire city repenting, which angered Jonah.

God’s response to Jonah was to ask whether he had good reason to be angry. Shirer put much emphasis on this question and said she now asks herself this question whenever she feels angry. Before allowing herself to indulge in her anger, she stops and thinks about whether she has good reason to be angry.

What might be a good reason to be angry? The Bible records Jesus driving out people involved in buying and selling in the temple and overturning their tables. While the word “angry” does not appear in the passage, one could surmise that he was angry as he did this. Assuming that is the case, he had “good reason:”

And as he taught them, he said, “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’” ~ Mark 11:17

So, a good reason to be angry might be when God is being dishonored. Jesus’ focus was clearly on God, not on himself, and I think that might be the key to whether we have “good reason” to be angry.

In her Bible study, To Live Is Christ: The Life and Ministry of Paul, Beth Moore contrasts Paul with Jonah and points out that even though Jonah accomplished God’s will, he did so with the complete absence of joy. Perhaps one reason we should ensure we have “good reason” to be angry is that we pay a heavy price when we choose anger – the absence of joy.

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[Graphic: Cover of Jonah: Navigating a Life Interrupted (Bible Study Book). Courtesy Amazon.com.]