Called to Be Loved: Confident vs. Fearful

stretching_armsCertainly, all who are guided by God’s Spirit are God’s childrenYou haven’t received the spirit of slaves that leads you into fear again. Instead, you have received the spirit of God’s adopted children by which we call out, “Abba! Father!”” Romans 8:14-15 (GW) 

We know it in our heads, but do we experience it in our hearts?  We say it, but do we mean it?

  • God is love!
  • God loves me unconditionally!
  • God loves me so much that I can confidently bring my needs to God!

But how do we get these phrases — these statements of truth — into our everyday experience?  How can we experience the freedom from fear that allows us to run boldly into his presence with our needs?

Did you see the recent movie Lincoln?  As I watched the movie, I was taken by Lincoln’s legislative struggle to abolish slavery during the turmoil of the American Civil War.  I was inspired by Lincoln’s resolve to push the agenda forward against all odds.  But something else struck me that had no real purpose in the movie other than dramatizing what was true about Lincoln during his time as president of the United States.  Lincoln’s youngest son, Tad, had unlimited, open access to his father.

The same is true for those who are the children of God.  We are sons and daughters!  God is our loving Father!  Instead of being fearful, we have the confidence of children who are loved by their “Daddy” (“Abba”).  And we have unlimited, open access to our heavenly Father who loves and cares for us.  Consequently, we can come into his presence with confidence and ask for him to meet our needs.

You are a son of God…a daughter of God.  You’re loved unconditionally.  You can go to God and say, “Daddy, please, listen to me and my needs.”  And, guess what?  He does, and he responds in a gracious and loving way to meet the deepest needs of our lives.  This is his promise:

“So we can go confidently to the throne of God’s kindness to receive mercy and find kindness, which will help us at the right time”. Hebrews 4:16 (GW) 

So, instead of wondering whether God has time, or thinking that God is busy doing something more important, we can boldly come to God in prayer — any time about any need — and know that God is available, he is listening, and he is ready to care for our needs.

Called to Be Loved: Accepted vs. Ashamed

“Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to imagesGod.” Romans 15:7 (NIV)

We know it in our heads, but do we experience it in our hearts?  We say it, but do we mean it?

  • God is love!
  • God loves me unconditionally!
  • God loves me so much that he has accepts me just like I am!

But how do we get these phrases — these statements of truth — into our everyday experience?  How can we experience the acceptance of God’s love instead of cowering in shame?

Shame — often referred to as “false guilt” — is our emotional response to supposed short-comings and defects.  Embarrassed by what we know and feel about ourselves, we hide our true selves from others to avoid their negative evaluations.  The word “shame” itself is derived from a word that means “to cover” and that’s exactly what we do with our shame.

In our shame, we cover over our perceived “short comings” in an attempt to avoid criticism and try to gain the approval and acceptance of others by putting on a false front.  Thinking that “they” won’t like “me” if they really knew me as I “truly” am, we act, dress, and talk in a way that protects us from being known.

Of course, many of us feel the same way about God and our shame interferes with our relationship with God.  We think “I am so imperfect, how can God accept me?”  We feel judged, condemned, and criticized by God because we don’t measure up to his perfection.

The truth of the matter is this:  God’s is love, and God is so great that he wraps his arms around our imperfections and shortcomings and draws us to himself in love.  God accepts us “just as I am.”

In Christ, we have been accepted by God through faith — “By faith, we have been made acceptable by God.  And now, because of our Lord Jesus Christ, we live in peace with him.”  (Romans 5:1)  Yes, God knows and sees us from the inside out — short-comings, defects, and all — and accepts us completely, totally, and unconditionally.

When we experience the greatness of God’s accepting love, we are freed from shame!  We begin to see ourselves in light of God’s love and realize “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…” Romans 8:1 (NIV)  We are free to be ourselves; we don’t have to hide behind our shame.  We don’t have to seek the approval of others; in fact we are able to be agents of God’s loving acceptance…all because God in Christ has accepted us!

Stop hiding behind your shame!  Turn to God in faith and receive his unconditional and complete acceptance.  Share God’s loving acceptance with others and see what kind of difference it makes in you, your relationship with God, and your relationship with others.



Called to Be Loved: Forgiveness vs. Guilt

images“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)

We know it in our heads, but do we experience it in our hearts?  We say it, but do we mean it?

  • God is love!
  • God loves me unconditionally!
  • God loves me so much that he has forgiven my sin!

But how do we get these phrases — these statements of truth — into our everyday experience?  How can we experience the forgiveness of God’s love instead of carrying around guilt?

Guilt — true guilt — is the result of our sin.  And when we sin, the Holy Spirit starts his work in our lives to convict us of sin.  When the Spirit convicts us, it is God’s loving invitation for us to turn to him in confession and repentance so that we can experience the forgiveness that God offers in love.

Too often, because we don’t understand  the height of God’s love — a love high enough to overlook our sin — we hide from him because of our guilt.  Instead of running to God to receive his forgiveness, we run away from God and drag along our guilt.

In order to experience the height of God’s forgiving love…

1. Realize that God convicts us of sin to draw us toward him in love.

2. Turn from your sin toward God surrendering yourself to him in faith and love.

3. Admit your sin acknowledging it to God recognizing that you have broken the heart of your Loving Father.

4. Receive the forgiveness of God’s love and recognize that he cleanses you of your sin.

4. Yield yourself to the Holy Spirit and depend on God for strength to live in his love.

What is the Spirit convicting you of today?  Ask him…and he will do it!  What guilt are you carrying around, dragging with you through life?

Run to God in faith.  In love, he will forgive you!


Getting Over Shattered Dreams Through God’s Love

shattered_dreamsEveryone of us has experienced a “shattered dream” due to the absence of perfect love. Regardless of the source — an imperfect or broken family, emotional or sexual abuse, abandonment, loveless marriage, divorce, betrayal by a friend, etc. — we’ve all suffered the painful consequences of relationships that don’t measure up to God’s intention and design.

Often, the pain of those inevitable “shattered dreams” become the clouded lenses through which we view ourselves and others leading to deepening pain in an ever descending vortex of disappointment.  What’s more, all attempts at soothing the pain through earthly relationships prove futile and leave us longing ever more desperately for perfect love.

The longing to be loved perfectly is understandable:  it is a function of God’s creation design and intention for our lives.  He created us in love for love.  We were made for relationships of love with God and with one another.  However, the means for experiencing that love has been distorted by our selfishness and sin.  We look for love in earthly relationships outside of the love that is available to us in our spiritual relationship with God and that leads inevitably to shattered dreams.

Here’s the way to get over the pain of shattered dreams due to the absence of perfect love:

God longs to fulfill your dream of being known intimately and loved just as you are.

For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you [a spirit]* of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. Ephesians 1:15-17

*the Spirit [NIV] — Since believers already have the Holy Spirit, my personal conviction is that this is best translated as “a spirit” which highlights the life-transforming power of God within the life of the believer who experiences God’s love.

Paul reminds us in his letter to the Ephesians that we have been blessed with every spiritual blessing (1:3), chosen to be holy and blameless (1:4), adopted as his children (1:5), redeemed, forgiven, and received grace (1:7) — all because of his perfect love!  On the basis of these facts, Paul prays that we would “know him better.”

The word Paul uses here for “know” is a word that emphasizes “knowledge through experience” not simply “knowing a list of facts.”  What Paul is praying, is that you and I might have a personal encounter with God and his perfect love, an experience where God opens our minds and hearts (revelation) to his perfect love in the practical experience of our everyday lives (wisdom).

When that happens, our God-given longing to be known intimately and loved perfectly is filled with God’s love.  The cloud of our painful shattered dreams is blown away and we begin to see ourselves and others more clearly…not through the painful lenses of our shattered dreams but from the perspective of God’s perfect love.  We are changed and transformed by God’s love.  We are gracious, forgiving, and loving with ourselves and others because we’ve experienced God’s grace, forgiveness, and love.

How do we experience this life-changing transformation?  Begin with prayer!  Prayer is the most basic expression of faith.  Turn to God in faith and, like Paul, pray that God will show himself to you…his perfect love…so that you experience him, get acquainted with him, get to know him better.

Watch out!  Sometimes we focus more on our pain and our problems than we do on prayers of faith.  We get stuck sharing our pain and problems with others getting sucked into the pain vortex of focusing ourselves.  Yes, we should share our pain and our problems with a trusted circle of friends, but beware of our natural tendency to be self-focused (e.g. stuck on talking about our pain and problems) and the natural tendency of some friends who listen but don’t point us to God’s solutions.  Yes, we should pray about our pain and problems, but be sure to pray for God’s solution to our pain and not just dwell on the problem.

May you and I experience the intimacy of being known and loved by God!