Extravagant Love

The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: “l have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness”

-Jer 31:3

“We accept the love we think we deserve”
-Stephen Chbosky

I think about this quote a lot. Initially, I thought about it only in terms of romantic love, then I added love among friends as well. Then one day it struck me that, even when it comes to God’s love, we accept the love we think we deserve.

What do I mean? For the longest time, I struggled with the concept of God’s unconditional love. Some days I still struggle with it. I viewed love through the lens of a kind of reward system; “I am loved when I am good”.
So when I’ve been on my best “Christian” behavior I agree that God does love me. I’m deserving of His love. When I slip up though, at the back of my mind I believe I no longer deserve to be loved by Him, so I subconsciously deny it.

As a result of this, I stayed stuck in a place where I kept on trying to be worthy of God’s love for me and let me tell you, it’s an exhausting and draining place to be.

I know I’m not alone in this. A lot of us have been conditioned to view love as a reward for good behavior, so when we’re told that there’s a God who loves us with an everlasting, unconditional love, we don’t really believe and we keep looking for the “catch”.
But do you know what I learned and what I’m still learning? Say it with me: “God’s love for me is not dependent on me”. Pause here. Say it until it sinks in.

This has freed me from the mental prison of trying to earn God’s love. I already have it. There’s literally nothing I can do that will increase the love He has for me. He loves me wholly and perfectly.

I’m learning now to stop relating with Him from a place of fear and apprehension. I’m not in competition with anyone for His love. I’m not trying to bribe Him with my service. The peace this has brought me is overwhelming, and I pray, along with Apostle Paul that,

“…the life of Christ will be released inside you, and the resting place of his love will become the very source and root of your life. Then you will be empowered to discover what every holy one experiences—the great magnitude of the astonishing love of Christ in all its dimensions. How deeply intimate and far-reaching is his love! How enduring and inclusive it is! Endless love beyond measurement that transcends our understanding—this extravagant love pours into you until you are filled to overflowing with the fullness of God!”
Ephesians 3:17-19 TPT

Now, go listen to Cory Asbury’s “Reckless Love”. Read the lyrics. Listen again.

Believe it.

Accept this love 🤗

Burning Bushes

Exodus 3:1-6

Moses was busy attending to the flock of his father in law when he noticed a burning bush. This seemingly simple observation at that point was the key to the liberation of a nation.

Burning bushes in themselves weren’t uncommon in the desert, there was a logical explanation for their occurrence. However, Moses was observant enough to notice that it wasn’t being consumed, and so he went to take a closer look (v3).

Now take a look at v4, “When the Lord saw that He had caught Moses’ attention, God called to him from the middle of the bush, “Moses! Moses!” “Here I am!” Moses replied.” (NLT, emphasis mine)

God then went on to introduce Himself and set into motion plans for the deliverance of His people.

Often times God shows us signs to catch our attention so that His wonders can follow, but we’re too busy to notice.

Now Moses was tending his sheep. He had a valid reason to just turn away and say “I don’t have time for this” but he went to take a closer look.

Sometimes the only thing standing in the way of us getting a solution or an answer or an instruction from God is that we have not yet stopped to take a closer look at the burning bush.

We have to stay alert to seek Gods working. God isn’t “pushy”. Benny Hinn says “the Holy Spirit is a gentleman”.

He’ll give a sign then wait for us to notice and come to Him. He won’t force Himself on us.

If we don’t notice the signs He keeps giving, He eventually goes quiet.

Are you too preoccupied with your own self to take note of the ways God is trying to catch your attention? Take a step back and look around you. Look for the burning bush.

The Guilty Prosecutors

John 8:1-11

“Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?”

We are always eager to remind God about the sins of others,
Remind Him about the “rules” He set.
So anxious to be His policemen;
“Hey God, here’s a bit of sin that you might have missed”
Doesn’t He already see all?

“He who is without sin, cast the first stone…”

Sure we don’t literally stone people anymore, but some us of are still expert marksmen.
We sit perched on our high horses,
Our bags of stones held tightly against us,
hurling them at everyone and anyone who dare sin;
We puncture a hole through the log in our eye
So that we can better spot the spec in our neighbors eyes,
And with all the haughtiness we can muster,
We judge;
Forgetting that, “all have sinned”.

At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left…

See, the Pharisees were smart enough to know that they were not worthy to cast a stone,
but not us.
No, we stand, firmly planted, searching the ground for stones to cast.
Oblivious to the massive targets stuck to our backs,
We perform target practice on our neighbors.
It never occurs to us to walk away, why should it?

“Neither do I condemn you…”

We are indignant!
“What do you mean you don’t condemn them Father?”
“Let me tell you what they did!”
We proceed to list out their offenses.
We are lawyer, judge and jury.
We fight God for not understanding.
“Father, they are the worst sinners!! You can’t forgive them, you can’t!”

“Go now and leave your life of sin…”

And she walked away, whole.
She walked away, cleansed and forgiven.
We walk away, dragging our bags of stone behind us.
We walk away, the logs in our eyes bigger, the hate in our hearts burning hotter;
Looking for the next victim to execute.
We have so conveniently forgotten all our trespasses;
We never ever stop to think,
If Jesus decided to hurl even one stone at me, where would I be?

It’s not a new thing to see people judging others for things they themselves are guilty of. It’s been around for thousands of years and it’s not going anywhere soon.

My challenge to you this week is, before you point accusing fingers and judge someone, look into your life and check to see if you’re not guilty of a similar (or even worse) offense.
If you say you’re not, look into your life and check to see if you’re not guilty of ANY offense.
Be gracious, as you have received grace.

Mirror, Mirror

But be doers of the Word [obey the message], and not merely listeners to it, betraying yourselves. For if anyone listens to the Word without obeying it and being a doer of it, He is like a man who looks carefully at his [own] natural face in a mirror. For he thoughtfully observes himself, and then goes off and promptly forgets what he was like.

James 1:22-24 AMPC

Imagine you’re in the office, and then someone walks in with a very big, very conspicuous hole in the front of their shirt. You look at the person and ask, “Is this how you left your house?” If the person says yes, the next question you’ll probably ask is, “don’t you have a mirror?”

It is expected that everyone looks into a mirror while dressing up, and if there’s a problem with their outfit, they fix it before leaving the house. Wouldn’t it be silly to look into the mirror, see that your shirt has a hole and then walk away and forget about the hole without doing anything?

Mirrors are very important, but the thing is, a mirror can only help us if we act on what we see. For example, if you see that your hair is out of place, you comb it. If you just walk away without fixing the problem, the purpose of the mirror is defeated.

In our verse of focus today, the writer compares those who listen to the Word without obeying what it says to a person who looks at a mirror but then walks away without making any change.

As we read and hear the Word of God, we are to be transformed by it; we don’t just read it for fun or to pass time, we read it to be built up into the people He has called us to be. (See 2 Cor 3:18).

Hearing the Word of God without allowing it to transform you is a form of self-deception.

“Every part of scripture is God-breathed and useful one way or another- showing us the truth, exposing our rebellion, correcting our mistakes, training us to live God’s way. Through the Word, we are put together and shaped up for the tasks God has for us.” (2 Tim 3:16-17 MSG).

As we read the Word, with the help of the Holy Spirit we look into our lives and identify the things that do not line up, and then we adjust accordingly.

What is the end result of this?

“But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does” (Jam 1:25 NKJV).

Don’t Dish Out What You Can’t Take

1 Corinthians 13:5

I think at various points in time, we have all had people be rude to us, and nobody ever really comes away from such encounters feeling good. If we’re being honest however, we will see that we also may have been rude to people sometimes. Think back to the times you said/did something rude; what was going on with you? Were you going through something? Where you frustrated? Often times, there is a link between our emotional state and our behavior. Happy people tend to be nicer, angry people tend to be more irritable.

Paul Cohelho said, “how people treat others is a direct reflection of how they feel about themselves”. I believe that people who are mean and unkind are often that way because somewhere inside they are hurting. They are usually so frustrated with their lives and circumstances that they take out their irritability on the people around them. They’re hurting, so on some unconscious level they transfer this hurt to other people to try and feel good about themselves.

Different Bible versions have different interpretations of this verse. The KJV says, “love doth not behave itself unseemingly”; the HSCB says, “love…does not act improperly”; AMPC says, “love…is not rude (unmannerly)a and does not act unbecomingly; NIV says, “love…does not dishonor others”.

From the various interpretations, we can see that rudeness has to do with our actions and conduct towards others. “Love is not rude” means that we seek to honor people around us with our attitude, that we do not behave in an unbecoming, dishonorable, and crude manner.

We all feel hurt when people dishonor us with their words and say cruel things to us. Loving others the way we love ourselves means realizing that other people also feel this way, and making a conscious effort to address and act towards people the way we want to be addressed, no matter what we may be going through. It means that, even in the midst of our problems, we give the people around us the same respect and courtesy we demand for ourselves.

As children of God, in all we do and say, we should edify others. Ephesians 4:29 says, “Let no foul or polluting language, nor evil word nor unwholesome or worthless talk [ever] come out of your mouth, but only such [speech] as is good and beneficial to the spiritual progress of others, as is fitting to the need and the occasion, that it may be a blessing and give grace (God’s favor) to those who hear it.”

We will all have bad days. However, even on our worst days, we must remember and obey the words of Jesus, “And as you would like and desire that men would do to you, do exactly so to them.” Luke 6:31 AMPC

This week,

Are you often rude to people? Why?

Chaing Fairytales

[Love] bears up under anything and everything that comes, it is ever ready to believe the best of you, its hopes are fadeless under all circumstances, and it endures everything [without weakening] (1 Cor 13:7, AMPC)

A perfect or fairytale kind of love is one that most of us long and hope for. People spend their lives chasing after the idea of a “happily ever after”, but unfortunately some people do not find it because they keep searching for it in the wrong places. They don’t realize that it isn’t something we search for, it is something we already have, something we’ve always had, something we just need to become conscious of. A popular hymn sung at weddings begins with the line, “O perfect love, all human thoughts transcending…” and of a truth, the concept of a perfect, unconditional love is one that the human mind can never actually fully comprehend (Eph 3:19).

Perfect love is one that looks at you with all your flaws, faults, shortcomings, all the mistakes you made in the past, the ones you’re making now, the ones you’ll make in the future, and says to you, “No matter what, to me you are worth it. I love you, and I will always love you”. .

We have a deep, God-created need for this kind of love and intimacy, but too often we look to people and things that were not designed to meet these needs and elevate them above everything else, making them idols, and the result of this is always heartbreak, bondage, and destruction.

God IS love. He is the embodiment of this “perfect love”. His love for us is so great the even while we hated Him, He was willing to give up everything, empty Himself of divinity, become a man, suffer at our own hands and die a shameful death, all so that we would not have to go through the same, (Rom 5:7-8). He loves us so much that he is constantly looking to draw us closer and closer to Him. It is only in Him that this deep-seated need for love and intimacy can fully be satisfied.

“…Perfect love drives out fear…” (1 John 4:18). There is a sense of freedom we get when we truly realize and understand that we are loved unconditionally. We no longer fear judgement, because at that point we realize that the love isn’t even about what we are doing. It is not dependent on us! It is not something we “earn” or are worthy of, and It is not something we chase. There is nothing we did to get to be loved so deeply, there is nothing we can do that will make us more loved, and nothing can separate us from that love.

With all of this in mind, all that He asks of us is that we love Him in return. Isn’t it really painful when we deeply love someone who doesn’t or can’t love us back? Just as unrequited love breaks our hearts, when we turn away from Him His heart is broken. He is calling us into a deep, amazing, breath taking, real life fairytale love, and all we have to do is say “YES!”

The Sky is Falling!!

God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear,
Even though the earth be removed
And though the mountains be carried
Into the midst of the sea
Psalm 46:1-2

I think we’ve all had ”Chicken Little” moments when it seemed like the sky was falling down around us but every other person was walking around, unperturbed.
I’ve had days when I felt shaken down to my core by situations that were beyond my control and all I wanted to do was curl up in a ball and cry but the world kept rushing around me, oblivious to the fact that the sky had, indeed, fallen.

In times like this, it’s so easy to want to withdraw from everyone and everything in a bid for self-preservation. A lot of the time, we even attempt to withdraw from God because somewhere at the back of our minds we’re thinking, “you abandoned me and let this happen”.

For King and Country’s “Steady” is my go-to song whenever I feel overwhelmed,
You keep me steady when the sky is falling
And I’ll keep steady after You
I’ll carry on when my strength is failing
Take heart ’cause you’re with me
So let the stars drop
Whatever comes, I’ll be ready

I love Psalm 75:3 which says, “When the earth and all it’s people quake, it is I who holds its pillars firm”. Whenever I’m about to start panicking and thinking that God has abandoned me and allowed my world to quake, He reminds me of all the wonderful things He’s said in His word,

“Trust Me with all your heart, don’t try to figure everything out on your own ” Prov 3:5 MSG (paraphrased)

“I know the plans I have for you and they are for good, not for disaster” Jer 29:11 NLT

“Be convinced that every detail of your life is continually woven together to fit into My perfect plan of bringing good into your life, for you who loves Me” Rom 8:28 TPT (paraphrased)

“Don’t panic, I’m with you. There’s no need to fear for I’m your God. I’ll give you strength. I’ll help you. I’ll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you” Isa 41:10 MSG

So, Child of God, next time your world feels like it’s being shaken down to its roots, hold on to God and remind yourself that He holds its pillars firm and He is a very present help in times of trouble.

This week,
Have you ever had a “Chicken Little” moment? How did you get over it?