Archive for the ‘God’s Love’ Category

I have a friend who is doing the 40-day love challenge, which is based off of the movie “Fireproof”. Today’s posting was about love being a choice. It says:

“Love is Faithful (Hosea 2:20). Love is a choice, not a feeling. It is an initiated action, not a knee-jerk reaction. Choose today to be committed to love even if your spouse has lost most of their interest in receiving it. Say to them today in words similar to these, ‘I love you. Period. I choose to love you even if you don’t love me in return.’” (The Love Dare by Stephen and Alex Kendrick)

I really like this definition of what love is. It’s a choice. And the great thing about it is, while this is written specifically for married couples, this principle applies in any relationship, whether it’s with a friend, colleague, child, or even an enemy. Love is a choice. It means, even if I don’t particularly like someone, I still treat them well. It means, even when my child says she hates me, I tell her “I love you” in return.

When I look at love as a choice rather than a feeling, it puts a whole new perspective on things. Feelings are not something you can really control. Feelings can change. Feelings lie. But, when I make a choice to show love, I am doing that whether I feel like loving or not. I do it whether I like someone or not. Love is a choice.  1 John 4:7&8 says,

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love” (NASB).

We are commanded to love one another. God’s Word doesn’t say love each other if you feel like loving each other. It doesn’t say love each other if they treat you well. It says love one another. Why? Because God loves us. This verse is specifically talking to Christians loving each other, but what about those who are not considered brothers and sisters in Christ? What about those who are doing things that God’s Word indicates are wrong? What does God say about that? Are we to hate them? Are we to be vindictive?

I think most of us would know that the answer to those questions is “no.” We’re not to hate them. In fact in Matthew 5, Jesus says,

“You have heard that it was said, ‘ You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?” (vss 43-46, NASB)

In a parallel passage in Luke 6, Jesus says,

“But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. Whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other also; and whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from him either. Give to everyone who asks of you, and whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it back. Treat others the same way you want them to treat you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners in order to receive back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” (vss 27-36, NASB)

We are not only commanded to love those who are lovable, but to love those who are easy to hate – those who hurt us and use us. That’s so hard. My first instinct is not to show people like that love. But we are commanded to love. So, love is a choice. I can choose to be kind, or I can choose to be unkind. I can choose to react out of anger, or I can choose to calmly respond with kindness. I can love or I can hate. Today, I choose love.

Your turn! What is your opinion about love? Is it a choice or is it something you have no control over?  How do you show love when others are not?  I would love to hear from you!

~Until Next Time,

Karen Signature

 

Question MarkSo, here I am in Bath, NY, sitting in my hotel room after a morning of worship at my friend’s church. I expected to like it. I mean, what’s not to like about church? Personally, I generally love church. It’s probably the reason I spend so much time at mine. But what I didn’t expect was to hear the Lord speak to me through the words of another woman sharing her story. I expected to hear God’s Word today, and I got that. I expected to get something from the sermon, and I did get a little from that. The real wisdom, however, came from the words of this woman’s story.

I knew walking into the room, that I was going to hear a testimony today. I thought I was prepared to hear it – and to some extent I was. I didn’t expect to be in tears throughout it. I didn’t expect to learn anything profound from it. I didn’t expect to relate. I mean, my life is so totally different from the lives of these women – and yet, it is so surprisingly similar. This woman, this beautiful, kind, friendly woman, shared about the love of our Lord and what He has done in her life. She shared her good, but she shared her sorrow over the death of her beautiful baby boy as well. And she said, “If I were given the choice to have him back, but my husband and I to not be where we are at with God today, I’d say no.” She shared that God had used the sorrow to bring them closer together and make them stronger in the Lord and with each other. And so, as difficult as that was (and I’m sure still is), she calls it all good because of of how God has used it to help her grow.

I’ve never really looked at how the bad in my life has been used for good. Well, that’s not entirely true. I have, but I’ve never been able to reconcile myself to the fact that I had to go through it to get to where I am at today with God. But, looking back, I have to say, God has used every “bad” event in my life to bring me closer to Him. There are things that I have railed at God for and begged Him to take away. Things I have said, “Why me? Why do I have to go through this?” Or “Why now, God? Why does this have to happen now?” And I don’t think it’s wrong to ask why. But that brings me to the part of her story that made me think. It wasn’t so much that I hadn’t heard it before because I have. It was more that it hit me differently today. She said, “We won’t always know why something happens the way it does or why we have to go through something. But God uses those things”(or something to that effect – since I didn’t write it all down, you’ll have to accept my inadequate paraphrase).

The fact of the matter is, I don’t need to know why God allows things to happen. I just need to know that He can use them for good. And by now, you’d think I’d have learned that because I have had so many opportunities to do so. But sometimes I still feel like maybe this will be the time it doesn’t work out for good.

I’m glad that I went to my friend’s church today. I’m glad I got to hear this woman’s story. It affected me far more than she will probably ever know. I hope that I don’t forget the lessons I learned from her.

What about you? Are there things you’re asking God, “Why me?” or Why now?” What do you do remind yourself that these things can be used to grow you and teach you?

~Until Next Time,

Karen Signature

Photo by Wolfgang Moritzer

Photo by Wolfgang Moritzer

“This is the day which the LORD has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it.” – Psalm 118:24 (NASB)

As I was going for my morning run today, I was praying for God to give me a message – to show me something that I could think on and share. I do this often because I don’t want this to be about me and my accomplishments, so much as I want to point the glory to my Everlasting Father, who is the one who gives me the strength, knowledge and ability to do the things I do. But sometimes, I find myself losing sight of the fact that He is the one in control, and I try to manage everything on my own. When that happens, things tend to fall apart because I am relying on my own strength instead of His. And then, I complain about the things that go wrong or fall outside of my control. So, as I was running this morning, the verse above came to mind. At first, I didn’t quite understand why it was so important, but as I ran and thought on it, it became more clear to me.

See, today was not a pretty day outside. It was gloomy, cloudy and windy – not really a morning one would call beautiful. But, as I meditated on that verse, I realized something. A day is not beautiful just because it’s sunny and warm. It is beautiful because God made it. I noticed what this verse did not say. It did not say, “Rejoice in the sunny days.” Nor did it say, “Rejoice in the day because everything is right.” No, instead it says, “Let’s rejoice and be glad in this day.” Why? Because “the LORD has made it.” That brought a whole new perspective to me.

If you look into the context of this verse, the Psalmist talks about the Lord’s loving-kindness and deliverance from the enemies that surrounded him. The situation that he found himself in was not the best of circumstances, but instead of whining and moaning that things were not going his way, he chose to say, “I will rejoice in this day that the Lord has made.” And that made me think. Every day, I have a choice. I can choose to whine and complain about the events and circumstances I find myself in. Or, I can choose to realize I am in those circumstances, but trust in the Lord’s ability to handle the situations I find myself in – and rejoice in the fact that I know He will deliver me.

Paul told the Philippians to, “Rejoice in the Lord always” (Philippians 4:4a NASB). In fact, he found it so important that he repeated himself, saying, “again, I will say, rejoice!” He doesn’t say rejoice only when things are good. He says rejoice always. And that is hard because my natural tendency is to complain about how things don’t go my way. But, I believe that if I choose to rejoice even when things don’t go my way, I will have a different outlook on things. Life is going to bring trouble, trials and sadness. And it’s OK to grieve and even be down, but in the end, I have to decide, am I going to trust that God is in control and rejoice in the day He has given me, or am I going to dwell on all that has gone wrong, and whine, moan and complain?

I don’t want to be that girl who whines and moans and complains. I want to be the woman who trusts God enough to know that He has my life in His hands, and that no matter what happens, He has the ability to turn it all for good (see Romans 8:28). So, along with the Psalmist, today I say, “This is the day the Lord has made, I WILL rejoice and be glad in it!”

What about you? Do you, like me, have a tendency to whine and complain about your circumstances? Or are you the type of person who rejoices in the day that you have been given? What helps you to remember to rejoice when things seem to be going all wrong?

~Until Next Time,

Karen Signature

Have you ever been in a situation where you know you should give something up, but you find so much enjoyment in it, that you hold on for dear life? It’s as if that item or situation or whatever it is just grabs hold and won’t let go, right? As you can probably tell, I’ve been there.

This past Friday a few of my friends and I started the Daniel Plan Bible Study. During our session, we watched a video at the end about the foods that we have in our pantries. The hosts were sharing the items to keep and those to get rid of. At one point, they held up a jar of peanut butter. Now, they didn’t say to get rid of peanut butter altogether, just that certain peanut butters are just not good for you because of all the “extras” that are included – many of which are really just poison. I have to admit, my favorite peanut butter is Peter Pan Natural Roasted Honey Creamy peanut butter. In my opinion, it is THE best peanut butter in the entire world. I’ve tried to find something to replace it, but it holds a place in my heart that no other peanut butter has ever been able to touch. So, the moment I heard the words come out of the host’s mouth, I said, “I am NOT giving up my peanut butter!” Basically, I was saying, I’d rather keep eating that item that has “poisons” because I was not willing to part with something that probably isn’t all that great for me in the first place.

That got me to thinking. How often am I like that with my sin? How many times do I say, “I know I should give this up, but I’m enjoying it so much, I just can’t?” How many times have I continued to live in misery, knowing what I was doing was wrong, but feeling powerless to stop it? How many times have I given up what was best for me, to hold onto that sin? How many times have I said to God, “I’m so sorry, God. Help me to let this go and do better?” How many times have I turned right back to that sin?

Matthew 26:41 says, “Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” (NASB). Granted, I know that this verse is Jesus talking to the His disciples, who had fallen asleep while He had gone to pray in the garden before his crucifixion. But it still applies. How many times has my spirit been willing to let something go, but the weakness of my flesh has taken over? I know I’m not the only one here. Even the Apostle Paul had something to say about that in Romans 7:14-20, when he says, “For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good. So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is in my flash; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me”(NASB). So, I want to do what is right, just like Paul did, but somehow, the sin that still resides in me tries to take over. It’s frustrating and painful to admit that no matter how hard I try, I cannot seem to stop doing the things I know I should not.

The good news is that it’s not my power that has the ability to change things. God’s power has the ability to transform my life. There is nothing I can do past, present or future to change my nature. God already provided for that when He sent His Son. He works all things for good to those who love Him and are called to His purpose (Romans 8:28). Paul goes on to say in Romans 8, that if God is for us, who can be against us (vs. 31). He continues,He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also freely give us all things? Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?” (Romans 8:32-35, NASB). Did you catch that? “He didn’t spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all.” And that same Son that was delivered for us, NOW sits at God’s right hand, interceding for us! How amazing is that? That alone would be enough, but Paul didn’t stop there. He went on to say in verses 37-39,But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (NASB).

In Romans 7, Paul talked about how he did the things he didn’t want to do, and didn’t do the things he did want to do. When he gets to chapter 8, he’s now reminding us, that we are “more than conquerors,” not because of anything that your or I could do, but because God gave His Son to die for our sins. Because of this, I now have Christ’s power in me, which means, I have the power necessary to let go of the sins that I have been holding onto. I don’t have to try to find it within myself. I need to look to my Savior. I need to remember who gave everything for me and is still there just waiting for me to lean on His power.

So, going back to the peanut butter, I realized that holding onto something bad for me when I was trying to do something healthier was probably not the best decision. So, the peanut butter is gonna go. I don’t want to hold onto the things that are bad for me. I need to let them go and move to something healthier.

What about you? What “peanut butter” are you holding onto in your life? Is there something you need to let go of in order to fully appreciate the power of God in your life? Perhaps, it seems like it’s too hard. Remember, you don’t have to do this on your own strength. Because of Jesus, you are already a conqueror.

Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before stumbling. Proverbs 16:18 (NASB)

There are days when I wish I could get a “do-over”.  I’m sure you probably know what I mean – the kind of day when you start out wrong, and it all goes downhill from there.  Often when I have those kinds of days, it often as a result of my feeling of pride – though the results are never something I am proud of.  I get into this mind-set that I have done so well, I can keep doing it on my own power.  The reality is, when I do well, it’s never by my own strength.  I don’t do well because I “resolve” to do well – my resolve always waivers.  I do well when I let God work through me.

This morning was one of those mornings when I wish I could have a do-over.  I don’t know if it was a result of being over-tired, being frustrated, or a combination of both.  Regardless, I handled things badly this morning.  I’d just been telling a couple of people earlier this week how well it had been going with me and my kids – how we hadn’t really had any shouting matches, how we were handling things much better, etc.  Then this morning comes – and I fall apart.  I lost it over nothing really.  I yelled at one daughter for running behind and not being responsible, and basically acted like a spoiled brat who wasn’t getting her way.  I yelled at both of my daughters for yelling at each other.  (I know, great example I am setting, right?)  I yelled at both for being rude and irresponsible.   And I did all this in the course of about 15 minutes.

And afterward, I felt small.  I felt like a failure.  I feel like a failure.  I want so badly to get it right, but I just keep messing it up.  And in the end, what ran through my mind, what whispered in my ear was, “Pride goes before destruction.”  Yep, that’s about right.  My pride definitely brought destruction.  It brought destruction of the peace in our home.  It brought angry words and destroyed my ability to communicate effectively with my kids.  It destroyed my well-being – bringing me to a place of tears, pain and regret.

Proverbs 18:6 & 7 says, “A fool’s lips bring strife, And his mouth calls for blows.  A fool’s mouth is his ruin, And his lips are the snare of his soul.” (NASB)

Those were hard words to read this morning.  I didn’t want to admit that I had been foolish, but I had.  My words were my ruin this morning.  And sometimes I wonder if they will always be my ruin, if I’ll ever learn.  I feel like, I take 3 steps forward to take 2 steps back.  But I read something this morning that gives me hope.  Lisa Terkeurst writes in her book, Unglued, the following:

“Imperfect changes are slow steps of progress wrapped in grace….imperfect progress.”

She goes on to share an entry from her journal that talks about how it’s OK to have setbacks and need do-overs.  What struck me was that she used the exact word I had been wishing for, “do-over.”  It’s like God spoke to me in that moment and said, “Karen, I know that you’re hurting, and your heart is in pain.  I know that you wish you had done differently.  I know that you feel like a failure.  But Karen, it’s OK to make mistakes.  You’re human.  What’s important is that you learn from those mistakes.  Keep moving forward.  Don’t give up.”

And in that moment, I had hope.  I had hope that just because I keep messing up, doesn’t mean I am not making progress.  Just because I’m not getting there in the time frame I wish I could, doesn’t mean I will stay in this same spot.  I need to keep getting back up and keep trying.  It doesn’t make it OK that this scene happened this morning.  I still need to deal with whatever comes from that and make things right with my kids.  But I don’t need to dwell there with that mistake.

Do you have times when you wish you could have a do-over?  Do you sometimes get frustrated and feel like everything is falling apart?  Do you struggle with this too?  I would love to hear what you do in these moments and how you have made progress.  Share in the comments below.

~Until Next Time!

Karen Signature

I had a someone tell me recently that he was looking for a relationship with someone without a complicated past, and that mine was a train-wreck. So basically, even if I were looking for more than friendship, I’d be out of luck right from the outset. As harsh as that sounds, at least it’s honest. I do have a train-wreck of a past. I had a lot of things happen to me, and I did a lot of things that I am not proud of. And I haven’t had a lot of success at relationships.

Now, this person is nothing more than a friend to me, and there was never any expectation or desire for anything more. However, I have to be honest, this hurt. It still hurts even two days later. When I heard those words, my heart broke a little.

If he, as my friend, wouldn’t ever want more with someone with my past, how would anyone else ever want to be with me? It would be easier to be rejected for my looks or my size or my personality – because those are all things I can change. I can’t change my past. My past will always be my past.

In all honesty, I’m not looking for someone, but someday maybe I’ll want to. Maybe there will be that desire to have a romantic relationship with someone someday. Will that person also reject me as unworthy of more because I have a train-wreck of a past?

Before I go further, please understand, my friend didn’t reject me as a person and has never treated me with anything other than kindness and respect. In addition, this statement is not in context, so please don’t think I’m trying to vilify him in any way. In context or not…desire for more or not, the fact that I would automatically be out of the running because of my past still hurts.

See, here’s the thing – I am not my past. My past is a part of my life that God has used to shape me. But it is not who I am.

I prefer to think of myself as God’s “victory in progress”. Here is who I am: a child of God. Every day I learn more truths about myself and how God feels about me. And guess what! I’m pretty special to God.

God wanted me so badly (even while I was sinning – see Romans 5:8) that He adopted me when I confessed that He was (and is) Lord of my life. Romans 8:14-17 says,

“For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God.  For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba!  Father!”  The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.” (NASB)

I get to call God “Daddy” and I am one of His heirs. How awesome is that? He chose me, past and all!

Not only did He adopt me, but He forgave me for all my past indiscretions when I confessed them to Him. 1 John 1:9 says,

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (NASB)

On top of forgiving me, He wiped my whole entire slate clean – it’s as if none of my sins from the past ever happened in His eyes. Psalm 103:12 says,

“As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us.” (NASB)

I don’t have to live in shame because of my past. God removed that shame from me when I confessed my sins to Him.

God didn’t stop there, though. He is still changing, renewing my mind, and shaping me. Philippians 1:6 says,

“For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Jesus Christ.” (NASB)

He’s not going to stop working on me until I am made perfect in Him (so basically as long as I live)!

So, while I may never be accepted as worthy of more than friendship here on earth, in God’s eyes, I am worthy of way more. He wrote my name and deeds in His book long before I was even born (see Psalm 139:16). He knows who I am. I don’t have to be brokenhearted. I just need to turn to the Heart Healer, and He will hold me tight in His loving arms and remind me that because of His love, I am not my past.

Have you ever felt like you were owned by your past? Is your past still haunting you? What do you do when you feel like your past is your identity? What I said above about myself is true of you, too. God wants you and He will take you into His arms too.

~Until Next Time!

Karen Signature

UL CoverI found the book Unexpected Love: God‘s Heart Revealed in Jesus’ Conversations with Women by Julie Zine Coleman to be a fabulous read. I found that it really challenged me to look deeper into biblical accounts of the conversations that Jesus had with women.

Each chapter starts out with the biblical version of each conversation that Julie Coleman addressed in this book, such as Jesus’ mother Mary at the wedding in Cana and the Woman at the Well. She not only listed the reference for each passage, but also provided the parallel passage(s) from the other Gospel accounts. This helps the reader to get a well-round viewpoint of each conversation, which I found to be very helpful. Next, Julie would provide a more dramatic version of each story, adding more insight – such as possible thoughts that went through each woman’s head, as well as detail about how the scene may looked. Then she went on to provide historical detail about the culture and viewpoints regarding women during that time period. I found this helpful in understanding how the reason people during that time period would find it strange and foreign for Him to have such conversations with women. Finally, she provided more practical information about how women could apply the lessons learned from these conversations in today’s society. Each chapter ends with questions that help the reader to apply the lessons personally and with a journaling prompt about the particular topic of that chapter.

I highly recommend this book to other women. I used it as an addition to my daily quiet time with God and found that I was able to apply the lessons from this book to my life and it helped to deepen my relationship with God. I believe other women would find this book helpful in their lives as well. Julie Coleman’s writing style is easy to read and she provides her detail in such a way that any woman could read understand and apply the lessons to her own life.

Until Next Time,

Karen Signature