Drop the Golden Rule!

Throw out the Golden Rule!

Yep, I mean it. God doesn’t want you to love your neighbor as yourself.

Now, before you run off and start pulling your sister’s hair, stealing your friend’s clothes or yelling at your parents, consider the fact that Jesus wants you to do so much more.

In Mark 12:29-31, a rich, young man approached Jesus and asked Him what was God’s most important commandment. Jesus answered him straight from the Ten Commandments:

 “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’There is no commandment greater than these.’”

It’s true, God did say that. But the rules changed when Jesus came to earth to pay for our sins by His death and resurrection.

In fact, later in Jesus’ ministry, only days before He went to the cross, He sat in an upstairs room for one last special meal with His disciples. There, He shared His heart. He told them that He had a new commandment for them.

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” 

(John 13:34-35)

Under the old commandment, in order to love your neighbor properly, you had to really love yourself. You’ve probably even heard someone say, “You can’t love others until you love yourself.”

There are many times in our lives when we don’t really love ourselves. We can be upset with ourselves for a little while, or perhaps even struggle with depression. Sometimes, we even hate ourselves. When that happens, how are we supposed to obey God and love others?

This is where it gets really good! In the new commandment Jesus gave us, we are told to love others as God loves us. That sounds even harder! But the truth is, in order to love this way we have to learn, understand and believe how much God loves US!

The next time someone tells you, “You have to love yourself before you can love others,” tell them, “No, in order to love myself or others, I have to know how much God loves me!”

The way Jesus wants us to love forces us to stop looking at ourselves and instead to look at Him. As we receive His love for us, then we are able to be obedient and love others. At the same time, we will find peace and joy in who we are because we know how much God loves us!

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Loved, Wrested, Lost…By the Giver

I’ve watched a lot of heartbreak in the last few weeks. It makes me feel almost guilty to say that, because it hasn’t been my loss. No, I’ve felt pain as a ricochet, a blow bounced back, only slightly less forceful. I have watched loss strike violently at the hearts of my friends and I wonder if my comfort is sufficient or cheap.

Two have lost babies before birth. One knows her husband likely won’t be there to kiss her on January 1, 2015. Another lost her best buddy, a pup she’d loved from before she found her own husband. One buried a treasured aunt.

What do you say to loss when you cannot literally sidle up alongside and bear the brunt of it with the loved one pained?

You pray.

Unfortunately, even in Christian society, maybe especially in Christian society, that assurance has lost its power. It comes across as weak, timid, cursory and half-hearted. It’s the same feeling of resignation that births the statement, “I’ve done all I can. All that’s left is to pray.”

But this post isn’t intended to resurrect your passion for prayer, your conviction that it is the single most important, effective thing you can do for loved ones in pain, in the throes or on the precipice of loss. (Though it is.) If a renewed respect for prayer is a side effect of my words, may God receive glory.

No, this post is my own reflection on loss. It’s what I hope I recall the next time a beloved is wrenched from my hands.

Job 1:21 says, “…“Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither. The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”

I wonder about God taking away. In truth, there’s a vast difference between something being lost or stolen, and something being gently tugged from clutching fingers by a loving Father.

When I was little, I recall my sister getting into the medicine cabinet. After watching Mom dole out vitamin C tablets to her older siblings, she wondered about the orange-colored “candy”. Why couldn’t she have some?

So, this little one climbed up on the counter, popped the child-proof cap and downed the rest of the bottle. When Mom found her, she was mauling the final “candies”. Hastily, Mom snatched the poison from little fingers. My sister cried.

The pain a child feels when a parent takes something away (even a bottle of vitamins–innately good but harmful for a child at that age) is when tiny fists grip it tightly and sting when the object is finally wrested away.

Though my experience of these recent pains is only an echo, I marvel at the strength bearing up my friends. I pause and take notice of their valor and humble submission to the God of “every good and perfect gift”.

It is vastly different to lose something, have it stolen or to understand, even welcome, the loving hands of a Father who takes it away.

Blessed Be the Name of the Lord.

From Riches to Reliance

This is a guest post supplied by my precious sister, Kelsey Gunderson. Any questions will be directed to her and she will reply as quickly as possible.

Kelsey Gunderson is a wife and mother of two living in the Dallas, Texas area. Hesitant to consider herself a writer, she shares from a vulnerable place of obedience to the God who loves and leads her.

Budgets. Whether spreadsheets, cash envelopes, budget programs, or monthly allowance methods, we all try to obtain (or say we do) some kind of budget—some kind of organization for the few dollars that pass through our hands that supply our families with everything from toilet paper to tools, from groceries to gifts. But what happens when you don’t have enough income to budget, when budgeting no longer makes sense? When you don’t have the extra 5% to put into an emergency fund, or 10% into savings, or when you don’t have enough to purchase the bonus-size box of diapers even though it really is a better deal? Well, that’s is exactly where my husband and I have found ourselves the last 16 months.

The change was abrupt, which by no means was an accident. When God wants your attention you can be sure He knows how to rock your world and bring you to your knees in an instant. My husband had been gainfully employed by the same company for 4 years and had already been able to obtain a promotion that most thought was out of his league. The pay was great, the hours were good, and our little family of 3 ticked right along quite self sufficiently. Which, on a side note, I believe is the where the problem started. God doesn’t intend for us to live out our lives “self sufficient” with little reliance on him. He wants us to not only need Him but to want Him as well. In March of 2013 we had a huge wake-up when my husband, through a sequence of unfortunate events, lost his job. If that wasn’t enough to get our attention God also decided to expand our family. One month to the day of him losing his job, I found out I was pregnant with our second little miracle. By “miracle” I mean just that, I had been told on multiple occasions that a second baby wasn’t in our future, but nothing is impossible with our God. He will go to great measures to bring His children to him.

With my husband looking for a new job that would support our family and allow me to stay home with our not only one child but second that was rapidly headed to her debut, the walls seem to slowly start closing in. Fear and anxiety seem to be the only emotions I knew. I had never had to face financial instability quite like this before and at first it was down right terrifying. The smile covering up the panic wasn’t going to cover for long, but God will never give us more that we can handle and He always provides (1 Corinthians 10:13). It is’t until we reach a complete state of instability and uncertainty that we truly began to see God’s active hand in our lives. Over the course of the next several months, we saw God’s hand in so many undeniable ways, anonymous gifts, HSA contributions that shouldn’t have been, mortgage refunds, guilt free/unprompted family assistance, and tax reimbursements that came just in time.

My husband was able to land a local contracting job several weeks after being let go from his job. The contracting job was an answer to our prayers, but was hardly the end our journey. Contracting jobs by nature are flakey (at best) providing a paycheck but nothing more and very little promise of continued employment. So the search continued, and still continues to this day. We have had our hopes rise with phone calls, interviews and follow-ups only to drop with a rejection, job “fall-throughs”, and no callbacks. We’ve seen financial stability on the horizon only to have a storm blow in.

I’m not going to lie and say that it’s easy to trust God when what you need is something real and tangible and it feels like God is anything but tangible; however, I can tell you that this last year has been a year that I would never change. God has brought me to my knees worldly speaking but at the same time has picked me up and placed me in His lap. I have never felt that peace and confidence in Christ that I have felt this past year. Handing over finances to God is one the hardest, yet most rewarding, things we have ever done.

The past year plus has been hard, financially wearing, mentally exhausting and emotionally taxing. It has stretched our finances, our marriage, and our trust, but I wouldn’t change any of it. The thrill of seeing God at work and knowing it’s for the best out weighs everything. I even said at one point that even though I long so much for financial stability again I have also learned to love the instability because it allows me to see the active hand of God. As I look back on the past 16 months and remember the up and downs, the tight weeks and financial gifts that made things possible I realize that this whole situation never was about money or employment, it was about trusting God to provide. Every tight week feels worse than the last, but ever gift is sweeter. I have learned through these gifts that it’s not a coincidence or an obligation on someone else to help us; it’s the hand of God at work. Working through someone else to make sure he provides for his children. I often thought back to the Israelites and their escape from Egypt and how many times they doubted that God would provide, how each situation felt worse than the last, and how they missed out on beauty of trusting God. I don’t want miss out! Even this very day I look at our bank account and wonder how we will make it to the next paycheck and if I will be able to buy diapers before we run out; the problem may still there, but the fear is slowly diminishing. Fear is being replaced by fascination; the fascination of what God will do next.

 

Poem secret place

arnsberg-617991-mTake me into the secret place, Father.

A hidden place of muted song and raging melody,

Of solace and passion.

That same place, with You,

I find that pours and presses peace into oft unwilling mind.

But that pulls me to my feet and sweeps me in ecstatic circles.

That place,

Only You know the way.

It’s never the same path twice,

To trace my steps or share a code:

“Two steps, a prayer, a toughened knee, three songs, a verse by heart.”

So I come, as far as I can go, the threshold of Your throne room.

So close.

I can taste Your goodness

Swoon with the sweet fragrance of a thousand prayers,

Peer at Your beautiful strength,

But freeze in awe of contained majesty.

In flesh!

A hand pierced, extended.

Please, please take me to the secret place,

Where no one else can see my tears today.

I need the sound of Your breath,

Even in the absence of Your words.

I need the thunder of Your heart,

Even when You do not lead me forward.

Oh, that secret place.

Where tears, shy of human comment,

Flow freely from waves of pent fears and awe.

7 New Ways to See God, if You Can’t See God as Father

Last week in LASTing Peace we talked about how we see God. So often, in the confidential rooms of counseling and group therapy, I’ve heard people say that they have a hard time seeing God a loving Father because their earthly father was neglectful, abusive, absent, drunk or a myriad of other things.

In the video, I tried to touch those feelings and untie the knots of anxiety that strangle so many people who believe in God and want to know Him but struggle with the truth that He really loves them. There’s only so much you can say in a five minute video, so today I hope to flesh out that concept and offer some more encouragement.

Just the smallest of recaps, and please go listen to this video if you haven’t yet, but I told you there are times in the Bible when God even reveals Himself through mothering characteristics: He is nurturing and protective.

God sometimes uses seemingly contradictory terms to describe Himself in an effort, I believe, to push our minds outside the boundaries of human personality, so that we can imagine a God who contains all qualities. For example, He is both the lion (strong and defensive) and the lamb (gentle and peaceful). He is both the shepherd (guide, protector, nurturer) and the sheep (the sacrifice for our sins). Jesus also calls Himself the Son of man and the Son of God, a door, a vine and the Bread of Life.

Personally, I think God gives us so many angles, analogies and perspectives because He knows that one image will not make sense to all people. He so longs for a relationship with each of us on a personal level that He has opened all His heart, displayed the smallest measure of all the aspects of His majesty so that we can each taste of the His goodness and anticipate the wonder of all He is and does for us: More than we can ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20).

So, if you’ve struggled with the concept of God as your Father. I invite you to let that description go. Here are a few more ways that God refers to Himself throughout His Word. In time, maybe you will be able to see God as the perfect Father you never had, the Father you always longed for. If and until then look to Him as:

Master (Adonai)—This one is actually my favorite and I explain why in the video.

Your Rock (Yahweh Tsuri)—solid, unchanging and reliable

Your Healer (Yahweh Rophe)

The King (Melek)

Your Righteousness (Yahweh Tsidqenu)

Your Husband (Ish)

Your Dwelling Place (Maon)

One week from today, we’ll take a brief look at a very special way that God reveals Himself. Till then, rest in the arms of Yahweh Shalom (He is your peace).

What’s In A Name?

Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that my sisters are popping out babies fast enough to exhaust the alphabet this year. Names and all their meanings have been on my mind, lately.

Names have always been associated with identity. Native Americans are the most obvious example, naming their children after the seasons in which they were born or aspirations for them to grow into great hunters.

It’s seen over and over in the Bible, too. Jacob’s name meant “deceiver”, and he lived up to it. When he was a young man, he collaborated with his mother to deceive his blind father into giving him the greatest portion of the inheritance and the birthright that belonged to his older brother.

Our names define us. They single us out in a crowd, they identify us for all kinds of legal procedures; they designate our legacies long after we’re gone. So it’s not surprising that in the Bible, when God did big things in someone’s He often changed their name. Jacob is a perfect example.

Giving someone a name is a sign of intimacy. Though not a legal procedure, as people become close and develop a unique relationship, it’s not uncommon for them to bestow nicknames on each other. Sometimes, that nickname takes over and forms the identity of one person to another and no one else can use that special title.

Think of a father who named his daughter in the birthing room. But as she aged, they bonded over daddy-daughter dates, popsicles and fishing. Now, he calls her something new, a name with special significance, something no one else understands, something no else can say. When she hears that name, she instantly knows the one who summons her, and she runs into his arms.

Revelation 2:17 says, “To the one who is victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it.”

I think that’s our Heavenly Father’s promise of a greater intimacy with Him than we have ever known. His love for us and knowledge of us far surpasses any human relationship. And one day, He will whisper that precious nickname that He has called you from the very start.

26 Years Later, I Finally Get It

One of the pre-packed phrases, over used by well-meaning Christian counselors and other would-be encouragers is, “You have to see yourself as God sees you. Know who you are in Christ.”

I speak from experience. I can’t count how many times I was told to know who I was in Christ. Then, whoever it was would proceed to give me a print out of self-affirmations:

I am loved
I am beautiful
I am valuable
I am more than a conquerer
I am strong
I am joyful
I am…

“Now, everyday I want you to stand in front of the mirror and say these out loud to yourself until you believe them, until they sink into your habitual thought pattern.”

Not to sound flippant and ungrateful, but that didn’t work for me. I mean, to this day, even as a 26-year follower of Christ, the idea of being “in” Him seems esoteric. What on earth does that mean? Well, today, I think I got it! Take a look at these few verses from John 17. Jesus is praying to the Father for his disciples, for you and for me:

v.2-3 “For you have given him authority over everyone. He gives eternal life to each one you have given him. And this is eternal life that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

v.26 “I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”

This passage gets pretty confusing as Jesus talks repeatedly about us being in Him and Him being in us. So let me try to unpack as it began to make sense to me.

Not too many people know that a few years ago, while working for Barnes and Noble, I occasionally had to dress up as a children’s storybook character – Peter Rabbit for example. Hot and stuffy as it was in there, I can guarantee you, I was as IN Peter Rabbit as anyone will ever be.

From inside the costume, to unsuspecting kiddos, I was Peter Rabbit incarnate. My voice became his voice, all my movements were his movements. Every choice I made to sit or stand or touch one of them, or tell a story about my life, all of it was Peter Rabbit. He could do or say nothing apart from me.

That’s what it’s like with Christ in me. It’s not an on and off thing. He isn’t in me one moment and then a few days later I’m no longer filled with His Spirit. No, as a believer in Christ, every movement I make, every word, every touch, even every story of my life is His. He becomes me to this world.

But also, I am in Christ. What happens when I am inside something else?

From my perspective inside the costume, I am concealed within, protected by Peter Rabbit. No one can touch me, except they go through him. Also, every move of my hand is hindered by the size and shape of Peter Rabbit’s hand.

So also with Christ, as I am in Him no one on earth can touch me, but that my Savior intervenes. And, as I willingly stay safe within Him, He will indeed shape and filter and influence all that I do in the world.

Does any of that make sense?

So, let me take you a tiny bit deeper. If I am IN Christ, then even my Heavenly Father only sees me through the filter of Christ. And I see the Father, through the eyes of His Son, so that now I call Him, Abba Father.

Finally, how does this affect how I see myself? How do I begin to internalize the fact that I am concealed within and containing the Spirit of Christ? The rest of John 17 goes on and on, pressing us to KNOW God. Eternal life is to KNOW God and His Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus came to make God known to us.

Perhaps, the only way to finally see myself correctly is to quit looking at myself and to quit looking at the list of things I should be. I need to start looking solely at Christ. Truthfully, if He is in me and I am in Him, then I cannot see my real self without looking at Jesus.

To know GOD, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, is to understand my own value – how and why and how much I am loved – IN HIM. Does this seem difficult?

STARE AT JESUS, IT’S WHY HE CAME.

No one has ever seen God. But the unique One, who is himself God, is near to the Father’s heart. He has revealed God to us.”John 1:18