Growing up I learned that love had to be earned based on how well I performed. The giving of love was by works and not by grace. This way of receiving love was instilled in my father by his father and he naturally brought it into his parenting relationship with his own kids.
“We love because He first loved us.” (1John 4:19)
Performance based love is rooted in fear and not in the freedom of grace love initiated by God. My earthly father inflicted a ton of rules that I had to adhere to. Eventually I figured out that I would never be able to consistently meet his standards. God accepts us as we are, with all our imperfections and shortcomings. He not only loves us first but wins our heart with His kindness towards us.
“But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of works done by us…but according to His own mercy…” (Titus 3:4,5)
God is love and He delights in pouring out His love on us. So much so that He sent His Son Jesus to remove the barrier of ‘works based love’ which could never satisfy our longing to be loved and accepted.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life…In order that the world might be saved through Him.” (John 3:16, 17)
There is no fear in the perfect love of our Heavenly Father, there is peace of soul knowing that we are loved and accepted just as we are. His love brings freedom to soar into fulfilling our God-given purpose on this earth.
“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear…” (1John 4:18)
Nothing can separate you from the love of God! (Romans 8:38, 39)
“He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love.” (Song of Solomon 2:4)
Image: Nature’s Love, J. Shauk
Have you ever thought about how many times God would have to show up in your life to settle the question of knowing that He is God? Knowing that God is God is a familiar struggle that we can all relate to. And knowing that God gives us His ‘grace space’ to settle our struggle with unbelief once and for all is also comforting, as long as we realize that it is not His will for us to remain in doubt.
The Israelites struggled to believe that God was God in their lives during their 40 year wilderness experience. Even with the parting of the Red Sea, bread from heaven and numerous miraculous deliveries from their enemies many still could not embrace the All-Sufficient One. We see from their example that even God knows when we reach a point that we should know that He is God as when He said to Moses:
“How long will this people despise Me? And how long will they not believe in Me, in spite of all the signs that I have done among them?” (Numbers 14:11)
God was speaking about a people who had experienced His supernatural intervention in their lives for many years and yet still did not believe. God knew that He had provided ample evidence of His presence and they had reached a point of compromising their inheritance in Him. He was ready to strike them with a pestilence and disinherit them from His covenant promises! (Numbers 14:12)
We have another example in the story of the widow and her son of Zarephath in prophet Elijah’s day whom God miraculously kept alive by not allowing her flour and oil to run out, as along as she fed the prophet during a period of severe drought. But it was not until Elijah raised her son from the dead did she believe that the prophet was sent from God.
“And the woman said to Elijah, ‘Now I know that you are a man of God, and that the word of the Lord in your mouth is truth.'” (1 Kings 17:24)
Are you still within God’s ‘grace space’ of wavering in unbelief? If so, it’s not because God has not shown up in your circumstances a time or two, it is because of unbelief. Don’t waiver so long in unbelief that you forfeit your covenant promises from God. Believing God is just a prayer away.
Before Jesus healed the boy with the unclean spirit, his earthly father gives us a glimpse of his struggle with unbelief when he asks Jesus:
“…But if You can do anything, have compassion on us and help us. And Jesus said to him, ‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” (Mark 9:22, 23)
And the father of the child cried out – “I believe; help my unbelief!” And the boy was healed.
“Believe in the Lord your God, and you will be established; believe His prophets, and you will succeed.” 2 Chronicles 20:20)
(Photo by Goodfon-su)
What is the desire of your heart? What do you long for in your life to see God fulfill?
Many of us have deep longings that are pursued according to what we believe is the right approach, however God offers an approach that may not conform to the wisdom of the world but promises to lead us into the fulfillment of our deep desires.
It begins with trust. Not trusting in our own ability and skill but trust in God who establishes us in His will.
“Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.” (Psalm 37:1)
To befriend faithfulness is to cultivate a lifestyle of obedience by honoring God in our daily roles. His Word, the bible leads us into His truth about how to live in a way that pleases Him.
As we learn about God and all His goodness and love toward us we will begin to delight in Him. As I learned to delight in God my deep desires and longing for a blessed life began to center on God’s plan for me. Understanding that all things come from God it made sense to delight in the Giver of all things good.
“Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37:2)
Once we learn to trust in the Lord we are lead to delight in His involvement in our lives then we must commit our way to Him.
“Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him, and He will act.” (Psalm 37:3)
Trust, delight and committing places us in a position for God to act. The same God who did not spare His only Son (Romans 8:32) will also give us the very best for our lives. He promises to give us the desires of our heart once we are in right relationship with Him.
Wait for God’s best, befriend faithfulness!
Most gift-giving comes with strings attached and an expectation of reciprocation on some level. We are afforded many occasions throughout the year to give gifts to others as a gesture of affirmation, validation or reconciliation to possibly strengthen fragile relationships. In each case of gift-giving you have the giver and the receiver and at the core exists the relationship between the two.
God set the bar really high when it comes to the pure essence of gift-giving when He revealed His heart on the matter:
“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” (James 1:17)
In other words, when God gives a gift to us it is pure with no strings attached and perfectly designed to meet our need for all time as a recipient. God’s gift is given voluntarily without any payment or expectation in return. If we accept His gift we accept without any particular effort of having to earn it.
When we receive His perfect gift we find all the affirmation, acceptance and validation that we sought in other gifts that can never meet this need. Most of all we find our relationship restored to the God who created us to be in relationship with Him.
The perfect gift is Jesus Christ our Savior, the Gift of a lifetime. What He offers can never be paid for by any effort on our part. He was sent by God to save mankind.
“…I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10)
Have you received the Gift of a lifetime?
One of the ways we can know when God is moving us from one season to another toward fulfilling our purpose is when we find ourselves facing a test. Not just any test, but ‘the’ test that if we successfully pass will usher us into the fulfillment of God’s promises.
Abraham was tested many times before arriving at the ultimate test of obeying God. First he had to pass the test of faith by believing all that God initially spoke to him of leaving his family and all that he had ever known to go “to the land that I (God) will show you.” (Genesis 12:1) God promised to make of him a great nation, to make his name great and to bless him. God even promised to bless his offspring by giving the promised land to them.
Ultimately God promised Abraham a son: “…your very own son shall be your heir.” (Genesis 15:4)
“And he believed the Lord, and He counted it to him as righteousness.” (Genesis 15:6)
Abraham was 75 years old (Genesis 12:4) when God first called him to leave his family and travel to a land that he did not know with Sarah, his wife who was barren. And yet because he believed the Lord he was made righteous in God’s sight.
Finally, at the age of 100, some 25 years after God initially called Abraham to follow Him and after many exploits of faith that tested his obedience, Sarah conceived and bore Isaac. (Genesis 21) Then ‘the’ tests of all tests was brought before Abraham-the sacrifice of his son:
“After these things God tested Abraham…He said, ‘Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” (Genesis 22:1,2)
Abraham had learned that he could trust in God’s provision in every circumstance even to the point of answering his son’s question of “where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” Abraham said, “God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” (Genesis 22:6)
Abraham passed the ‘test of all tests’ by being willing to offer up his own son in absolute obedience to God who was entrusting the birth of a nation into his hands. And God lets us know in our hearts and in our lives when we pass just as He announced to Abraham when he passed:
“…now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” (Genesis 22:12)
Abraham could now be trusted as God’s instrument of providing salvation to the nations through His only Son, Jesus Christ one day.
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
Are you facing a test in your faith walk? Ask God to show you His provision in order to pass the test and enter into the fulfillment of all His promises!
Children all over the world grow up with the need to be loved and accepted. Parents want the same for their children and yet they would have to admit that this love need is impossible to meet. Hearts are shaped daily in the moments of living life where the need for love can become complicated and difficult to meet. What parents are capable of doing however is loving their children in a way that leads them to the perfect love that can only come from God.
“For God so loved the world…”
This God Love completes us like no other type of love that we seek. Every need that we will ever have over our lifetime points us toward this God Love which has come to meet our needs. Nothing can take its place, any other type of love simply points us in its direction.
“…that He gave His only Son…”
God Love is the perfect solution to wholeness and acceptance that we seek from others and other things. We must believe in the possibility that someone would desire to love us to this unconditional degree that God Love offers.
“…that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
Experiencing God Love brings clarity in a confusing world and sincere purpose of direction toward fulfilling our personal destiny. God Love is non-condemning, it is based on full acceptance without having to get ‘cleaned-up’ first. It brings amazing freedom to become who you were meant to be.
“…God sent His only Son into the world, so that we might live through Him.” (1John 4:9)
Love God, love Jesus, love others. Live!
Keeping a steady walk in life requires placing our trust in someone greater and more powerful, one who has gone before us and knows the beginning and end. That someone is God.
On the day when God delivered David from the hand of all his enemies, even from the hand of King Saul he testified to the One who had seen him through every trial, death threat, isolation from his family, being treated as an outcast which meant that he could not enter the place of worship.
“The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge, my Savior, You save me from violence.” (2 Samuel 22:2-4)
David believed that God was with him even in his years of fleeing the death threats of King Saul. He also knew that God had anointed him king and trusted in God to establish his kingdom in time.
David was faithful to serve God during those years of waiting and chose to humble himself and learn the skills that he would need to be a great king. He learned how to follow God:
“For You are my lamp, O Lord, and my God lightens my darkness.” (2 Samuel 22:29)
He learned humility:
“You save a humble people, but Your eyes are on the haughty to bring them down.” (2 Samuel 22:28)
He learned where his true strength came from:
“For You equipped me with strength for the battle, You made those who rise against me sink under me.” (2 Samuel 22:40)
He learned the wisdom and blessing of obedient living:
“The Lord dealt with me according to my righteousness, according to the cleanness of my hands He rewarded me. For I have kept the ways of the Lord and have not wickedly departed from my God.” (2 Samuel 22:21,22)
And once God had established David as king, he could look back and see that God had fulfilled every promise spoken over his life and he offered this praise to God:
“This God–His way is perfect; the word of the Lord proves true; He is a shield for all those who take refuge in Him.” (2 Samuel 22:31)
Keep steady in the Lord, His way is perfect and He promises to save a humble people.