Living Loved

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There’s no experience on earth quite as extraordinary as being in love. To love someone and know that you are loved and desired by that someone is an intoxicating high that no substance can come close to reproducing. In love we live differently, we think differently, we talk differently, we act differently…sometimes even forgoing food because we are so filled up on, well… love. Love is, indeed, a “many splendored thing”. But while human love cannot sustain us, God’s love can. Because God is love. And it is His desire that we not only know His love, but according to John 15: 10 that we abide in it, remain in it, or as J. B. Phillips’ paraphrase puts it, “live in My love”. And the way we remain living in love is by pursuing Jesus with the purpose of knowing and loving God more.

So, how’s your love life with Jesus?

For most of us the flame in our heart is probably in need of some fanning. I hope to encourage you in the Lord to fan that flame by setting your mind to intentionally pursue Jesus today and every day. Not in some crazy legalistic way, but in the way of love… in order that you might know Him better and live more fully in His love.  If you set your mind, your heart and your life will follow.

Before you scratch you head bald, let me explain.

It’s one thing to know that God loves you (head knowledge). It’s another thing to believe it (heart knowledge). But it is quite a different thing altogether to live loved- to live with the knowledge, belief, and the continual life experience of God’s love on a daily basis; to live right in the center of His love (Jude 20-21a). At any given moment to be able to stop and hold out the finger of faith to test the winds of the Spirit and confidently say, “Yes… I’m living loved right now because I… _________________________ (you fill in the blank).

I’m not talking about goosebumps-and-hair-raising experiences. I’m talking about living… the kind of daily living in love that turns the ordinary into the extraordinary because we’re engaging with God relationally…in His Word and through the everyday experiences of our life.

For years I lived with certain head knowledge of God’s love for me.  I’ve taught Bible studies for women for over 15 years and have a true hunger and thirst for God and His Word. But for years my life experience of living loved was inconsistent. I saw people who had that…who lived that way, and I knew it was the real deal. I knew there was so much more of God to behold and so much more He desired for me to know of Him, and I desperately wanted it all. Making the choice to seek him and search for him as a vital necessity for life (see Jeremiah 29:13) was the beginning of the never-ending quest of more of God. That quest created a desire in me to live a loved life.

In early 2014 I began an intentional spiritual quest to the place I call “living loved”. It’s a place I’ve not returned from, nor do I intend to. It’s where I choose to live. It’s where God wants you and me to live continually… to abide…to remain. Living loved is the place where we come to know more and more of this awesome God of ours; to know Him as our Abba, our King, our friend; to trust His character; to believe Him; and to fall in love with Him over and over again. Living loved the place where we become our true selves- the real women of God that He has created us to be…women who are fully functioning, thriving, and flourishing in that particular place where we have the most profound purpose, influence and the greatest impact for Christ on this planet.

Living loved does not happen by accident. If you ever dare to go there, it will be because you’ve determined to get there. The journey there for me was profoundly quick, and profoundly life changing; living there remains a daily choice. It began with the conscious decision to intentionally love God through His Word, and out of that love to obey Him… in the big things and the not-so-big things.

Let these sweet words of Jesus settle into your mind and heart: “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.” (John 14:21)

It’s extraordinary to me that our great God and giver of love desires our love, too. God knows those who love Him, and the litmus test is obedience. The more we know of God, the more we will grow to love Him; the more we love Him, the more we will desire to obey Him; the more we obey Him, the more we will know and experience His love for us…and the more Jesus will show Himself to us. The blessing that follows the woman who obeys God is the blessing of continually living loved. That woman sees God everywhere…every day, because God delights to be loved by her, and gladly responds to her love and obedience. Notice the order: it’s love first, then obedience. Obedience springs from the overflow of love.

In the beautiful words of Jeremiah the Lord speaks to us saying, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.  I will be found by you,” declares the Lord…” (Jeremiah 29:11-14a)

We get pretty excited about knowing the prosperous and hope-filled plans He has for our future. But the emphasis here is not on the future plans, but on knowing the One who knows our future. The phrase “when you seek me with all your heart” means to seek, to “search for as a vital necessity for life” (see Jeremiah 29:13, Amplified Bible).

You and I will never come to trust or love whom we do not know. Therefore- make it your prayer to fall in love with Jesus; make it your passionate pursuit to know God; make it the holy ambition of your life to obey Him out of your great love for Him.

Every new day brings a new beginning, with God’s brand new mercies and grace to help us live the life He’s purposed for us. The best life. The loved life. So, begin again today. Make this your prayer and surrender yourself to the Lord with arms outstretched, reaching toward Him and everything He has for you:

Lord, I want to love you more than anything and anyone,
and to desire nothing on this earth as much or more than I desire you.
Give me the Spirit of wisdom and revelation to know you better (Eph. 1:17), be the greatest delight of my heart, and help me to live in your love.
To the praise of Your glory, and in the matchless name of Jesus I pray.

If you pray that prayer daily, you. will. be. changed… for the better, changed for good, and ruined for anything less than more of God.

OK, dear one, you can begin again… right now, and fan the flame of love in your heart for the One who loves you. There’s no better place to live, than loved.

You are greatly and dearly loved by The King!

Surviving Five

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SURVIVING FIVE

November 6, 2014

Five. For cancer survivors that number is like the Mt. Everest of milestones. Statistics prove that reaching that mark without a recurrance represents so much more in terms continuing to survive and thrive after cancer. So, I’ve reached five…and that’s a good thing. Five is the number of grace; mentioned over 300 times in Scripture it symbolizes God’s grace, goodness and favor toward humans. Not many people would associate cancer with the “grace. goodness, and favor of God”…but I do. I’m grateful, indeed, and not just to have survived five years, but to have been graced. For these past five years have been nothing short of grace-filled: experiencing God’s grace, His goodness, and favor by teaching me things about Himself that no one else could have taught me. Showing me things about Himself…and about myself, that I would never have had eyes to see had cancer not removed the scales to reveal the extraordinary in the ordinary.

Grace has shown me that…
1. God does indeed give you more than you can handle: Because if you could handle everything He gave you, then you wouldn’t need Him (think about it.) Whoever said that “God won’t give you more than you can handle” is an idiot, or has never had to trust in, rely on, depend on, and cling to God. Grace…God’s grace, makes you stronger than you think you are. You really can do all things through Christ who gives you strength (Philippians 4:13). If He calls you to it, HE will get you through it.

2. Being on the receiving end of kindness let’s you see God in the flesh: It’s not easy for a doer to be receiver, but it’s critical that we learn to become a gracious one and allow Jesus to love on us through the people who serve us and show us compassion. I’ve seen Jesus daily, in the faces of my friends, neighbors, family, and church family members; in the guys and gals who bag my groceries at Whole Foods or brew my coffee at Drip; in my step-kids and grandgirls. And I’ve seen Jesus day after day in my amazing husband, John (I heart him), who loves and serves me as Jesus does. I never thought to ask God for a husband who would love me even if I got breast cancer. But He knew exactly the man I needed… the man who would make me feel like I am more beautiful and desirable now than the day he married me. That’s grace.

3. Some of God’s greatest gifts come wrapped in some pretty ugly (and scary) paper: If you’re really tracking with God, at some point you’ll actually thank Him for that gift… and the many ways it keeps on giving. I was blessed with so much more than I ever imagined. I have met the most wonderful women along the way; some of the dearest friends I have today, all members of the same PINK club. I call them my “Bosom Buddies” and I love them dearly…too many to name, but they know who they are, and each one is “more than a conqueror” (Romans 8:37).

4. Doctors are people too, with lives, and families, and hearts and feelings: I’ve been blessed with absolutely fabulous doctors… an amazing team of physicians and their incredible, caring staff: My breast surgeon, Dr. Michael Grant (his wife, Judy); my plastic surgeon, Dr. William Carpenter (his wife, Sheri); and my oncologist, Dr. John Pippen. I will be eternally grateful for their brilliant minds and gifts, their medical knowledge and practices to help heal and reconstruct, and for their compassionate care. I’m nuts about them all. I pray for them and thank God for them all.

5. You’ll never know that Jesus is the One and Only, until He’s your only one. He knows that life is hard and that walking around on this planet can be terrifying. When it come right down to it, He’s the only one who can do anything about everything that concerns you and me. Doctors can treat you, but only Jesus can heal you…where you need healing the most. Only Jesus can carry you through it all.

When cancer comes a knockin’ you don’t have a choice. You can’t just not answer the door, hoping it will go away and move on to the next house. It doesn’t and it won’t. And now, five years later, I’m glad it didn’t. It wasn’t quite a walk in the park and it’s absolutely fine with me if this was just a once-in-a-lifetime kind of thing. But I would have missed so much if cancer had not come my way. I would have missed the grace, the goodness, and the favor of God…in the most extraordinarily ordinary ways.

What happens to you ultimately happens for you…for good. And that’s grace.

CONSIDER THIS:
Review the Grace Points I made above and think them through as they apply to your own life:
• Have you had an experience where you felt overwhelmed, that was too much to handle? How did God’s grace get you through?

• Are you a gracious receiver? Is it hard for you to be on the receiving end of kindness? Is it hard for you to be kind to yourself? Take a “grace check” periodically throughout your day. Ask God to show you where you need to be gracious to yourself.

• What ugly “gift” have you been graced with? Can you count the blessings from it and thank God for them?

• How has God graciously provided care for you through others? Have you thanked Him? Have you thanked them?

• Have you had a situation in your life that has caused you to realize that Jesus is all you need and that Jesus is really all you’ve got? Take some time and write about that, thanking God for His faithfulness to never leave or forsake you.

Grace has brought me safe thus far, and grace… will keep leading me, and you, until we make it safely home. Until then, there is much to do… much to make of this time, this now.

I’ll meet you back here next week with a new Making the Most of Now message. Until then…

You are greatly and dearly loved by The King!