Living in the Father’s Love

Love trumps every human emotion. Anger separates and alienates us from those we care about the most. Jealousy becomes possessive behavior that drives our loved ones away. Pride keeps us from being real, and it sets up a wall that prevents us from developing transparent relationships. But our Heavenly Father’s love sets us free and breaks down all those barriers. God’s love helps us establish lasting relationships that binds our hearts with others.

However, administering this love has a divine order. First, we must be able to receive love before we can adequately give it to others. God wired us to be purveyors of His love, but he knew in and of ourselves that we lack the capacity to give continual love. That’s the reason He sent Jesus to provide the ultimate act of love. Jesus died in our place on the cross in order that we can become a child of God and then be a receiver of the Father’s love.

God not only wants us to be continual recipients of the Father’s love, but He wants us to learn to live and walk in His love. How do we do that? We must be a willing receiver of His divine love. It’s more than accepting Jesus as your Savior. It involves an act of the will. We go the next step in our spiritual growth by abandoning our life to Him we are declaring “I am all in, and committed to serving God all the days of my life.” When you do that, there is an exchange that takes place, you exchange your self-centered, self-directed life for His life. It’s an acknowledgement that you can’t live your life in your own strength. You need Christ’s divine life in you for direction, wisdom and guidance.

When we learn to live “in the Father’s love” several things happen.

1. We give up the idea that our goodness controls the way God treats us. You abandon the idea that if you do your part, then He will do His part. God always does His part because He always has His hand in your life. God promises us that “He will never leave nor forsake us.” (Hebrews 13:5)

2. We would let Him have His way with us so that we can become more like Him. He always knows what is best for us. “ God causes all things to work together…” (Romans 8:28)

3. God will set us free from those things in which we get our security. “Apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5)

4. You will see that suffering is God’s way of setting us free so we can follow Him at a deeper level. ”Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains by itself alone” (John 12:24)

5. You will learn that walking in God’s love is enough. “We are made complete in Him” (Colossians 2:10)

6. God will increase your “love capacity” so you can become a giver of His love to others.

Bottom Line

God loves you more than the world could ever love you. His love is pure, unconditional and abundant. Living and resting in His love is the best place a follower of Jesus can dwell. Abiding in His love is not a formula or a religious ritual. It is not a list of “do’s and don’ts”. But its a gift from God as we yield every aspect of our lives to His control. So give up, surrender and then abide and walk in His sweet love.

Thanksgiving and Attitude

“In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:13)

One of the instinctive elements of a true believer is a thankful heart. We realize that a normal part of our daily life should include a continual attitude of thankfulness. It’s more than just saying “Thank You” to someone who does something nice for us. It’s displaying an attitude to those around us that whatever happens in life, I am going to respond as someone who sees God in every aspect of life.

There is a difference in “being thankful” and “giving thanks”. Being thankful is a result of a giving thanks. Being thankful is an act of the will regardless of how we feel. It is also an act of trust and obedience. Being thankful is a result of, and prerequisite to, having a thankful heart. Being thankful is an overt act of obedience, and the sweet result is having a thankful heart.

Does that mean we are to be thankful when we receive tragic news like, “You have cancer” or “You have lost your job”, or when we lose a friend or loved one through death? Yes, we are to be thankful – but not how you might think. No one in his right mind would say, “Praise the Lord, I have cancer.” Or would they say, “Hallelujah, my close friend has died.” That would be delusional.

But what it does mean is that we are to be so dependent upon a sovereign God for every event and circumstance in our life that we look for God’s hand and blessings in the midst of the trial. What God really desires is for us to be so “other-worldly” that nothing can shake our confidence and trust in Him. He wants us living at the level where we know that God knows best, even though in the midst of our problem we can’t see the blue sky for the fog.

It’s all about attitude

Whether we realize it or not, all our attitudes spring from some sort of belief system. For example, when our attitude takes a nosedive and we become discouraged or angry, it’s a result of a “belief system breakdown”. Our crisis of belief becomes, “do we trust God with this or are we doubting His ability to “work all things for our good?”

They have a saying in the Air Force, “Your attitude will determine your altitude”. So if you want to have an thankful heart that soars, then you must maintain a great attitude. That’s because having a thankful heart is all about “attitude”. It’s an attitude that gets its confidence from God’s love and care.

Bottom Line
You can gauge the depth of a thankful heart by observing attitude. Does your attitude reflect “God’s got this problem” or does it reflect doubt, fear and anger. Remember that our attitude often notifies our face.

Silent Witness

“Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ.” (Philippians 1:27 NLT)

This challenge from the Apostle Paul is a great reminder of our role as followers of Jesus. We are to live our lives as if we are already citizens of heaven. Matter of fact, positionally speaking, in Christ we are already in heaven, “we are now seated in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 1:6)

When I read the Philippians passage I am reminded of my responsibility to conduct myself as a yielded servant of Christ in my outward behavior. That produces what I like to call the silent witness. One of the highest compliments that I was ever given was when someone said, “There is something different about you. There is a presence that draws people to you.” I knew what that presence was, and it wasn’t my personality or a religious spirit, it was the presence of Christ.

This is a potential presence that every true follower of Christ possesses. It’s that presence that draws men and women to Christ. It’s a presence that causes unbelievers to want the peace we possess. We can’t manufacture that presence. There isn’t “5 Spiritual Steps to obtaining God’s Presence”, nor is it something that we earn by good works. Christ’s presence is only manifested as we learn to let go of our life and surrender the control of our life to Him. It happens when we practice trusting and resting in Christ as enough.

I desire to have that glow of God’s presence every moment of every day. But in reality, I know that it diminishes when I worry instead of trusting, or become fearful and stop trusting that God is in control. When I lose my temper and feel the need to set somebody straight, surely the glow fades.

God’s intention for us is to be so dependent upon Him that we willingly lay down our need to control and be in charge. Our life motto becomes, “Apart from Him I can do nothing.”(John 15). Our confidence moves from “I can do it on my own” to “with prayer and the leadership of the Spirit, in Christ I can do anything”.

Bottom Line

The Scripture tells us that “we are made complete in Him” (Colossians 2). That means when we commit to resting and trusting in the living Christ within, then we will manifest His presence and others will notice our Heavenly glow.

“For in Him we live and move and exist… (Acts 17:28)

The Answer Is To Trust

“That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? (Matthew 6:25-27 NLT)

Everyone struggles in one way or the other with life. We may have money worries, concerns about our children, job dissatisfaction, unfulfilled dreams, recurrent physical problems. There may be marriage problems, betrayal by those we love and cherish, and we may even struggle with loneliness. Many have a general sense of discontentment, and that leads to not loving yourself. When you don’t love yourself it becomes difficult to receive love from others and from God.

Your specific struggle may not be in the list above, but if you are warm and breathing, you will eventually experience some type of recurring struggle. That’s just life. So the question is not will we have struggles, but how do we respond in the midst of our struggles?

Jesus knew the impact of the sin nature and how it would produce worry and angst at every level of our life. Each season of our life has a different set of challenges that attack our peace and contentment.

When we became a committed follower of Jesus, we entered into a new realm of thinking, it’s called “kingdom thinking”. It’s based on trusting God for every element of our life. It becomes the basis of how we view life and the world. Kingdom thinking becomes our worldview. We no longer deal with our circumstances as “on our own,” but we see ourselves as a “child of the King dependent on our Heavenly Father”.

The passage above in Matthew 6 is part of the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus is teaching Kingdom principles to those who will become His followers. He is teaching a new way of living, from a ceremonial law-based mentality, to living by faith. It was radical thinking in that day, and unfortunately, most believers look at this as radical Christianity today. Missionary statesman Watchman Nee called it the “Normal Christian Life”.

When we put our trust in Christ as our Lord and Savior he gave us the promise of eternal life, a home in heaven and He promised to be our “need- meeter” in all areas of our life. He wants us to live with the daily assurance that He is in control of all our circumstances. He desires for us to turn over all our worry and discontent to Him, and then “He will do it all for you”.

Bottom Line

Prayerfully read the following passage and meditate on God’s infinite ability to supply, guide and satisfy our every need.

“So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. ” (Matthew 6:31-33 NLT)

Based on the above Scripture, ponder each word in the following statement; I Will Do It All For You.

I – God
Will – You can count on Him to honor His word if we trust Him.
Do – God will move whatever mountain that needs to be moved to accomplish His will for you.
It – God has an answer to every problem. Nothing ever takes Him by surprise.
ALL – God has a way of finishing the job “exceeding, abundantly more than we ever thought.”
For – God gets pleasure in meeting the needs of His children. If we as parents get joy out of providing for our children, how much more joy does it bring our Heavenly Father to meet our needs?
You – God is a personal God who knows and cares for His children personally.

Subtle Dangers

“But Martha was distracted with all her preparations: and she came up to Him and said, “Lord do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone?”…the Lord answered…only a few things are necessary, really only one, for Mary has chosen the good part.” (Luke 10:38-42)

In our walk with God, there are always subtle dangers lurking in the shadows attempting to get us off track. More often than not, it’s the little things, that in itself might be good, but in the end rob us of “the main thing.”

We see an example of this in the story of Jesus’ visit to Bethany to have a meal with his friends Mary, Martha and Lazarus. Martha was busily serving the meal while Mary was sitting at Jesus’ feet anointing his feet with expensive perfume. Martha approached Jesus and and said, “Master, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me?”

Luke’s account of this event says that “Martha was distracted with all her preparations” (Luke 10). It wasn’t that Martha was doing something wrong, she was performing her job as host by serving the meal to her honored guest. But in doing something good she missed a divine moment. She could have been sitting at Jesus feet with her sister. This opportunity never passed her way again, for in a few days Jesus would suffer the cross.

Jesus told Martha, “only a few things are necessary, really only one, for Mary has chosen the good part.” Jesus was not scolding her for doing her job as hostess, but He was reminding her that doing things for God is not what’s most important. In her busyness to do something good, she missed a historic and divine moment of sitting at Jesus feet and learning of Him.

In this story we learn of a subtle danger facing most of us in our endeavor to walk with God. We let “doing things for God” replace our devotion to Him. God wants our total devotion, surrender and abandonment. He wants us to “risk it all” for Him. He doesn’t want us to hold back anything for ourselves. He wants our time, talents, attention and our resources. All those things were given to us by God in the first place. But He wants us to give it all back to him in surrender. It’s not that God needs anything, it’s us that needs to learn the value of not placing anything or anyone ahead of Christ in our devotion.

Bottom Line

Therefore, the normal Christian life is to be a radical life, one that includes absolute surrender and abandonment. Anything less and we are guilty of drawing on Him to simply satisfy ourselves.

When we gave our hearts to the Lord Jesus, we became a soldier of the cross. Soldiers are enlisted to do battle with the enemy, and our life is no longer our own. We are to be a living sacrifice, willing to pour out ourselves for the sake of the gospel.

So next time that you are compelled to “do something for God”, remember that He desires our devotion more than He wants our service. Thats because true service to God flows out of a life that is fully devoted and surrendered to intimacy with Christ.

Oswald Chambers says it best in his book My Utmost of His Highest,;

“ The greatest competitor of true devotion to Jesus is the service we do for Him. It is easier to serve than to pour out our lives completely for Him. The goal of the call of God is His satisfaction, not simply that we should do something for Him. We are not sent to do battle for God, but to be used by God in His battles. Are we more devoted to service than we are to Jesus Christ Himself?”

What’s In Your Hand?

“She broke open the jar and poured the perfume over his head. Some of those at the table were indignant. “Why waste such expensive perfume?” … (Jesus said) “Leave her alone. Why criticize her for doing such a good thing to me? You will always have the poor among you, and you can help them whenever you want to… She has done what she could and has anointed my body for burial ahead of time.” (Mark 14)

What a great life lesson for the disciples as they were about to be cast out into the world without Jesus’ physically being with them. It is apparent from the life the Apostles led after the resurrection that they took this life lesson to heart.

This lesson is for us also. Our attitude is to be “doing what we can,” but it may not be as you think. This lesson is not about “doing something for God,” but it is about being faithful to trust God for every moment of your life.

We are to take whatever the Lord has placed in our hands and use it for His glory. Ecclesiastes 9:10 reminds us, “Whatever you do, do well. For when you go to the grave, there will be no work or planning or knowledge or wisdom.”

In other words, the Lord never intended for us to look for things to do for Him, but just be faithful in those things that He places in our hands and brings across our path.

Instead of saying, “Lord I think I want to do this for you”, it should be “Lord, what would you have me to do?” If we will learn to live every day in obedience to Him, and let go of our life in full surrender, He will bring thoughts, circumstances and people across our path that will lead to spiritual fulfillment and abundant fruit.

That’s a difficult lesson for me to learn. I am a doer/performer by nature. My life motto is “You are holding up production, get out of the way and let me do it.” Waiting on God is not one of my virtues. So brokenness for me has been to learn to back off, wait till God speaks and then join Him in what He would have me do. I am sorry to say there have been too many instances when I took things in my own hands and have gotten ahead of God.

While we are waiting on God to lead us we can be like the servant woman in Mark 14, “we can do what we can.” We can love those who are hard to love. We can practice giving away our life to others. We can provide Bibles for those who have never seen or read a Bible. We can bake cookies for our neighbors. We can help someone who is struggling. We can identify a single mom and give them a helping hand. You get the idea, we can give what we already have in our hand and God will open more doors for us than we can ever imagine possible.

During the late 80’s I left the full-time pastorate, received some additional training and opened a pastoral counseling ministry. I was immediately covered up with counseling clients. As a matter of fact, there were times when it would take several weeks to get an appointment with my office. I was perfectly content with spending the rest of my life in this ministry.

I wasn’t impacting a whole community nor ministering to the masses in a pastoral role, but I was reaching a few, one counselee at a time. I was doing what I could and being faithful to what God had placed in my hands.

One day I was approached by a mission leader and asked if I would allow him to translate my conference material into Russian and then go Moscow to teach several hundred pastors. This was just after the curtain had fallen in the communist Eastern Bloc countries. I must admit, I was a tad uneasy about this new opportunity. First, it was Russia. They had been our enemy for most of my life. Secondly, other than a Caribbean cruise, I had never been out of the country. Besides, what could I possibly teach pastors who had been persecuted and thrown in jail for their faith?

But God had once again placed something in my hand and I must use what He had placed in my hand and trust him for the results. On that trip, God took what was in my hand and used it for His glory, far exceeding my expectations.

God used this event to open up a whole new world to me, literally. During the next couple of decades I had the privilege to train thousands of pastors and church planters on five continents, all because I used what was in my hand and trusted God for the rest.

Bottom Line

The Christian life is about surrender. It’s about surrendering all that we are, and all that we hope to be. The Lord wants us to be faithful using what He has already placed in our hand. He wants us be like the woman who washed Jesus’ feet, so it can be said about us “we have done all we could.”

The Subtlety of a Hardened Heart

“They were all terrified when they saw him. But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage! I am here!” Then he climbed into the boat and the wind stopped. They were totally amazed; for they still didn’t understand the significance of the miracle of the loaves. Their hearts were too hard to take it in.
”(Mark 6:50-52)

Can you imagine walking with and living with Jesus 24/7 and not fully grasping who He was? After hearing Him teach the masses, seeing thousands converted, and watching many healed from crippling diseases, their maturity level was at best basic. The Scripture says, referring to all the miracles they saw Jesus do, “Their hearts were too hard to take it in.”

From our modern day Christian perspective, it would be easy to criticize the disciples. But a careful observation will reveal that we suffer from a similar hardness of heart.

The hardness of heart that the Scripture is referring to is not a deliberate, stubborn unbelief, like the Pharisees and Sadducees possessed. But it’s a hardness of heart that is a result of spiritual immaturity. It’s an immaturity caused from a self-centered, unbroken life.

Were the disciples zealous? Yes, they were even willing to die with Him? Were they serious and committed? Yes, they left their business and family to follow Jesus. The disciples were all those things and more, but they lacked one key ingredient, a brokenness that is a result of surrender and abandonment of the self-life. They were committed followers but their scattering at the arrest of Jesus was an indication of their lack of abandonment.

In a similar way, we are no different than the disciples. Many of us are committed followers of Jesus. In many ways, we are an example to our community and neighbors, and that’s a good thing. But there is more. The Lord wants to move us to another spiritual plain. This comes to us when we are willing to abandon ourselves to the Holy Spirit’s examination and let Him reveal our self-centeredness. We must give Him permission to reveal our lack of surrender, our selfishness, and our dependence on our own strength.

That’s what suffering, disappointments, and set-backs are about. The Lord uses those things to strip us of operating out of our own strength. He is bringing us to the Cross. The Cross is the death process that must be constantly at work in each of us. (2 Cor. 2:9)

Roy Hession, a gifted writer of the past, says it best regarding our personal death process.
“Every person who crosses us, every person who discourages us is God’s way of breaking us. It creates a deeper channel in us for the life of Christ. The only life that pleases God is His life, never our life. Our self-centered life is the exact opposite of His. We can never be filled with His life unless we are prepared for God to bring our life constantly to death.”(Calvary’s Road)

Bottom Line

The goal of the committed follower of Christ is to desire a “deeper channel in us for the life of Christ”. The more we are willing for our flesh and self-life to be revealed and put to death, the more we will experience the fullness of the life of Christ. What is the end result? The life of Christ will be manifested through our life to others – which is God’s intention. Others will be affected by the quality of your life. You will be free to be the person God created you to be and you will be a sweet aroma to all those around you.

“Now He uses us to spread the knowledge of Christ everywhere, like a sweet perfume. Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God. But this fragrance is perceived differently by those who are being saved and by those who are perishing. To those who are perishing, we are a dreadful smell of death and doom. But to those who are being saved, we are a life-giving perfume.” (2 Cor. 2:14-16 NLT)