Hearts First

The love of God is our security, it is a rock beneath our feet. It is a source of joy.

Advertisements

At the beginning of the year it is tempting to set goals, make plans and dive into the busyness of the new term (not that those are bad things). We tend to hit the ground running after the post-Christmas break as regular meetings start up again and new projects begin. This year as I was praying about our church’s two weeks of prayer which we hold every January I heard God speak two words to me, “Hearts first”.

Before we do anything God wants us to check our hearts. What kind of shape are they in? Are they filled up with the love of God?heartbeat-1892826_640

It is a reminder that first and foremost God, our Father, wants a relationship with us and what we do flows out of that. He created us in the first place for relationship as an expression of the outflow of love between the Trinity . He has always desired to have a people, to adopt us individually as sons and daughters into his family. We are now in Christ and enjoy the same love that the Father has for Jesus because we are “in Him”. It’s amazing! It’s overwhelming! It’s incredible!

In the story of the Prodigal Son the two sons both had a problem with understanding that their father loved them. The younger son felt guilty and unworthy of his father’s love and so he returned home to work as a servant or slave on his father’s estate. blue-1845901_640The older son thought that he earned the father’s love through working hard. Both could not be farther from the truth. The father was looking everyday for the return of the younger son because he loved him even though he had sinned. He was also alongside the older son everyday and all that He had was available to him because he was a dearly loved son.

Even if we’ve worked through these issues before it’s so easy to fall again into guilt and unworthiness, or performance. The new year is a great time for a personal inventory to ask ourselves do we really know that God loves us? or do we still know that God loves us? You see we will never give Him our hearts if we don’t understand this. We love because He first loved us.(1 John 4:19)

The love of God is our security, it is a rock beneath our feet. It is a source of joy in our lives. It motivates us to love and serve others.

Before we launch off into the activity of a new year we need to be saturated with the love of God, to be captivated by him. It’s then that there is an overflow of love to others whether it’s in serving our churches, in evangelism, at work or wherever God has placed us. So before your life gets taken up with “doing” spend some time with your Father, receive His love for you and pour out your love to Him.

He wants our hearts in good condition – filled up with His love.

YOU ARE LOVED!

heart-157895_1280.png

Photo Credits
All images: pixabay

 

 

 

A work in progress

I am not yet what I one day will become

Are you like me? Do you get impatient with yourself? rage-1015611_1920Wishing that you could change aspects of your character, frustrated with recurring failings. I am not someone who is always down on myself but there are things about me which I wish I could change and just don’t seem able to. Even after years of being a Christian I find myself still battling with the some of same stuff that I did when I was first saved.

I was in a meeting this week when someone read aloud the following C. S. Lewis quote. It was one of those moments when a truth hits you between the eyes.

“It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship”*

You see we are not yet what we one day will become.  I think that is worth saying again. We are not yet what we one day will become.

“Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when He appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as He is.” (I John 3:2).

This is what C S Lewis was getting at . One day we will be like Jesus! The theological term for it is glorification. We are being glorified! That sounds strange doesn’t it? Surely it’s God who is glorified.. Well yes but the Bible is very clear that we too will be glorified.

What does that even mean? We were created in the image of God. In fact  we are “partakers (sharers)  in the divine nature” (2 Pet. 1:4). That image of God in us has been spoiled by sin but our glorification means that it  will be fully restored. That is why we will be like Him.

Isn’t this all a bit like pie in the sky stuff? No! This bit of theology gives me hope for today when I feel I am failing. God is at work in me. I won’t always be as I am now. I will change.

star-1553671_1280We all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord,[a] are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.[b] For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. (2 Cor. 3:18)

There’s that word again – transformed, we are being metamorphosed from something  dull and uninteresting (in CS Lewis words) to something Godlike. That is quite something to get my head around! It is a transcendent truth.

It also gives me hope for  tomorrow – one day I will not only be like Him but I will also see Him! I find I can get so caught up in the minutiae of my life that I forget to think about Heaven. I forget that this life is like the blink of an eye, it is transient, but Heaven is eternal.work-in-progress-24027_1280“Be patient with me, God’s not finished with me yet” is such a clichéd expression but maybe we should address it to ourselves. When we want to take back the words we didn’t mean, when we give other drivers “the look”, when we are over-sensitive to what others say or do, when we do that same old thing again. It is not ok to sin but we can cut ourselves some slack knowing that we can’t transform ourselves.It is God who does that and when he does, it is not by tiny unnoticeable increments. No He takes us as we are and is making  us like Him. How amazing is that?

* CS Lewis “The Weight of Glory”

Credits
I am not yet …  created using wordswag
Other photos pixabay

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Undeserved

Jesus has done it all

We often know a lot about God but don’t live in the good of it.  We  know that God is good but can’t trust that He is good to me as an individual; maybe we believe that He is good to others but not to me. Why is that?

Many of us struggle to experience the abundance of God’s blessing because deep down we don’t think we deserve it. We have a sense that we are not good enough. Instead of saying “that’s absolutely right, I’ve done nothing to deserve God’s love.  Jesus has done it all for me when He died on the cross”, we set about making ourselves worthy (as if we could).

We try harder to please God, we get involved in works and performing well in order to earn God’s love. This is a miserable place to be. We know the truth but we don’t experience it for ourselves. File_000 (1)We see others enjoying God, worshipping Him with abandon, experiencing intimacy with Him but we are stuck with our to do lists: I must pray more, I must serve more, I must have a regular  bible study, I must, I ought, I should. That is not the language of freedom, it is not the language of grace. Of course it is good to pray and to study your bible but the motivation is wrong. I do not need to earn anything from God because He has given us everything freely to enjoy.

The enemy sees our weakness and he points out all our failings to us. You didn’t pray this morning, you didn’t volunteer to serve, you’ve blown it and so on. This compounds our feelings of unworthiness and we feel condemned. So often our response to this is not to go to God but to try harder. It’s hopeless. How could I ever know that I have done enough to make myself  worthy? It’s like having a mortgage where I don’t know the sum to be repaid or how long the term is . That means I will ALWAYS be trying to repay a debt.

I have spent too long in my life  trying to do well, being fearful of getting it wrong and of making mistakes. How sad it is that we feel we need to work, work, work. We can become like the older brother in the story of the Prodigal Son, he is so caught up with his work that he can’t rejoice when his brother comes home and is jealous of him because His father lavishes love on him even though he has done nothing to deserve it. That is the whole point! And yet he missed it just like we do. This is the message of grace – we have done nothing to deserve God’s love but He has freely given it to us through what Jesus has done for us.

This parable is a wonderful picture of the love God has for us. Even though his son had turned his back on him, the father looked every day for the return of his son. When the day came that he returned home rather than put his son to work he puts a robe around him and a ring on his finger and calls for a fatted calf to be killed so that they can have a celebration.

This is what our Father God is like with us. He loved us so much that He sent Jesus to die for us. We have probably heard that scripture so many times but do we let that truth sink into our hearts, that the God of Heaven, the God of the Universe, the Father of Creation itself loved me so much that He gave His son for me? That means that I am now FREE! Free from sin, free from guilt, free from shame because Jesus has paid the price for me.

File_000 (2)I can enjoy all the benefits that knowing God brings. I can know that I am loved unconditionally, I can enjoy an intimate relationship with God because He no longer calls me a slave but a friend. (Jn. 15:15)

I think that one of the saddest things about the story of the Prodigal Son is that the older brother lived with the father all the time and could enjoy all that brought to him but he didn’t because he was so caught up in working to get his father’s approval.

We only have one life to live – I don’t want to waste mine working for something that is already mine to enjoy. Jesus came that we might have abundant life. Life full of joy, contentment, at peace with ourselves and with God. Why would I choose to live differently?

 

photo credits:
hands: Unsplash
Other photos belong to me and  cannot be used without permission. Thank you!

 

What I would say to myself at 17

You are good enough

At the age of 11 (pictured above) I won a scholarship to an Independent School and was soon immersed into school life. Many of the girls that I now mixed with were from very affluent families who were able to go on foreign holidays (unlike my family), lived in substantial properties and some had tennis courts in the garden. I think that my feeling of not being enough began at that time. I was reasonably happy but I think I absorbed an unspoken message that I did not fit because my family were not affluent enough. Friend’s birthday parties were a source of anxiety because I could not buy expensive gifts.

There were embarrassing moments such as when my mum had bought a second-hand summer uniform dress which was far too big for me but I had to wear nonetheless because it was cheaper than buying a new one from the posh outfitters.

I had come to this school from a state school where I had been taught as part of a class of 45 but had thrived and was at or around the top of the class. I didn’t realise that this had become part of my identity – that I was clever. When I then went to the other school I was a little fish in  a large pond where it seemed that everyone was more clever than me, played musical instruments to a high level and had already learned French at their Junior School. Now I didn’t feel clever enough.

photo-1444730558009-b7f0368e1264I muddled on through school, did well at my  O Levels and embarked on my A Level courses. I can’t even remember now how it started but I began to fear that I would not get good enough grades to get into Cambridge University which is where the School were encouraging me to apply. By the end of the Lower VIth (Year 11) I decided that I did not want to carry on with my education and I left school without taking A Levels.

That decision was made solely because I was afraid of failure although at the time I told everyone that I just did not want to carry on at school. That decision was so costly; it affected  my life over many years. I stayed behind when my friends went away to Uni. Even years later I still felt the regret that I had not gone to University and it was mixed up with feelings of incredulity about making that decision. How could I have been so stupid?

If I could, I would tell that 17-year-old that her social status meant nothing to God. I would tell her that she was good enough whether she passed her exams, got lower grades than she needed or whether indeed she did get the grades. I would tell her that God loved her just as she was, that He would be with her every step of the way whether she “failed” or “succeeded”. I would tell her that God wanted her to fulfill her potential whether that was at University or not, that He had plans for her life which would give her a future and a hope. I would tell her that she had been uniquely created by a loving Father to be the unique person that she was. I would tell her that she was a daughter of the King, that she could lift her head high.

How sad that our fears and poor self-image keep us in a prison (often of our own making) because  we have made decisions from a place of fear rather than faith. I had cut off all possibility of a University education which was the very thing I really wanted because of my fear of failure (which was completely unfounded).

This story does have a happy ending because I did go to Cambridge University as a mature student many years later. It was the most challenging experience of my life but I did it and I loved it. (That’s another story).  It was as though that foolish decision all those years ago had been redeemed.

File_000 (15)

I am conscious that as I write this in the UK there is  a debate going on about the pressure on our young children to perform well at their SATs. As parents we need to keep communicating both our and God’s unconditional love to our children. They are precious. They are vulnerable to all kinds of wrong thinking about themselves if they only see themselves in terms of academic performance whether it is good or not so good. We need to be the ones who paint a picture of adventure over their lives.

nomadThis adventure is a journey with God; we don’t know where it will take us but we know He will be with us. We may fail but we can pick ourselves up and carry on because our failures don’t define us, they give us opportunities to try again and are steps along our journey.

Not going to University is my story  – your story will be different but  I know that many of us are plagued with fear, self-doubt and feelings of not being good enough. We are believing lies about ourselves. Jesus came to set us free – He died for us not because we were good enough, clever enough, good-looking enough or anything else but because He loved us. I am rejecting the lies about myself and choosing to see myself as God sees me.

but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom.5:8)

What would you say to  17-year-old you?

 

 

Photo Credits:
She believed she could so she did and School photo – these photographs belong to me and cannot be used without permission. Thank you!
others: Unsplash