Pulling Back the Veil on Christian Love

ID-100201732Scroll through social media long enough, and chances are you’ll read a few (or more) negative posts regarding Christians and Christianity. Some say we’re intolerant, others that we’re hateful, close-minded, or out of touch, or whatever. Find a negative adjective, and I’m pretty sure you can find a statement connecting it to Christ-followers.

Granted, there are those among us who do indeed fit those descriptions, but from my experience, when I step back and truly consider, those angry (or perhaps confused) individuals are the minority. The vast number of Christians I know are doing amazing things. They’re feeding the hungry, adopting orphans, walking beside single moms, bringing clean water to the sick and thirsty, medical care to the ill, and more. So much more.

Yesterday I considered all the ways God’s children have shown up in my life lately, of all the sacrificial giving of time and resources I’ve seen displayed, not by one, not by two or three, but by a large number of believers with whom I have contact.

All this points not to the good of the human heart, nor to the quality of my friends (thoughgirl-1186895_1920 I think they’re amazing) but rather to the power of the Holy Spirit, at work in us. And every act of love displayed by one of God’s children points to His ever-reaching, ever-faithful Daddy’s heart.

Let me explain:

God has called our family to something hard, amazing, beautiful, and frightening. He has called us to help initiate life change and healing, to show the truth and depth of His love, even when–especially when!–that love is spurned.

This in and of itself is not unique to Christians. I believe we all as humans long to make an impact, to help others, and to see our world change. But wanting and doing are entirely different things, and on our own, in our own strength, we lack the power to truly live “all in,” sacrificially, for a significant length of time. 

Let me explain–from my experience. Lately, many have showered me with accolades, saying they view me as giving, loving, and … saint-like. But I’m not. So not. On my own, I’m selfish, fearful, distracted, impatient, ever-viewing the world through a me-centered lens.

And that’s where the tug-push-pull comes in–an inner wrestling of God’s Spirit with mine, and an intimate time where He personally meets with me, changing my thinking, softening my heart, and empowering me to follow, wholeheartedly, His leading.

Here’s how it starts. I’ll step out in love and faith, only to have my love spurned. My natural, human reaction? To get frustrated, maybe even angry, discouraged, and to want to pull back. To self-protect and withdraw–to take the easy route.

But then, in the midst of my selfish thinking, God speaks gently to my heart. Sometimes He’ll remind me of His love. Always, He’ll help me see the situation and the other person through His eyes.

Let me pause here. That is the most powerful, most attitude and heart changing aspect of walking in a close relationship with Christ–being granted the ability to see, truly see, other’s through Christ’s eyes–to catch a glimpse past behaviors and words to the hurting, bleeding heart within.

When that happens, everything changes, in an instant. Anger is turned to compassion. Frustration to peace. Discouragement to hope. Selfishness to love. And suddenly, one is filled with a passion so strong, they cannot not act, cannot not love.

Gal 2-20verse jpgThis has been my journey lately, a daily teeter totter, and praise God, He has been winning–love has been winning. Not because there’s anything remotely good within me, but because God has proven strong on my behalf. Again and again and again. And through it all, I’ve grown even closer to Him as He overwhelms me with the revelation of the depth of His love for our hurting world.

When I started this post, I planned to share all the ways God’s children have shown up for our family as we seek to obey Him. But as I wrote, it took a bit of a detour, hopefully one that was God directed.

For now, I leave you with this–if you’ve never experienced the love and life-changing power of God’s Spirit living within, today can be the day–the day you quit trying to live on your own and in your own strength, the day you stop seeking temporary fillers to the emptiness within, the day you know what it’s like to be loved deeply, at your core, and held close by your heavenly Father, from now to eternity. (Find out how HERE.)

For those of you who do have a relationship with Christ, I challenge you (and me) to get and stay connected–to Him. Make your relationship with Christ your top priority and to carve out time when you rest in His presence, allowing Him to change your perspective, soften your heart, and empower you to do that which He has called you to do. Because in Him, you have everything you need to live the life He desires.

I leave you with one of my favorite verses:

“By His divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of 2Peter3-1versejpgthis by coming to know Him, the one who called us to Himself by means of His marvelous glory and excellence” (2 Peter 1:3 NLT).

livingbygracepic-jpLet’s talk about this! What is God calling you to do? In what ways has He empowered and equipped you to do that? In what ways has He revealed His love to you through others? Share your stories with us here in the comments below or on Facebook at Living by Grace, because God is worthy of our praise and the whole world needs to know about all the great things He does and has done!

But before you go–an invitation to my Omaha Metro friends. Join me and my sister in Christ, singer Shelly Conn, at Chocolaterie Stam for a fun afternoon of live music, books, readings, and chocolate!

Chocolaterie Signing-page-001

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What We Leave Behind by Jodie Bailey

I found today’s devotion quite fitting after yesterday, and it comes from one of my favorite bloggers, Jodie Bailey. I visit her site weekly. Her “Word Wednesday” has become one of the highlights of my week, and to be honest, many of her posts could have made it to my top 20 of 2010! Ah, so many great bloggers, so little time!

As a mom, today’s devotion touches me deeply. My greatest desire, my deepest longing for our daughter, is that she walks hand-in-hand with her Savior. To be honest, nothing else matters because if her heart is connected to God, everything else will fall into place. At thirteen, I still tuck her in each night. I crawl into bed with her, she curls up next to me, resting her head on my shoulder, as I read the Bible. Last night, after our reading, she talked about a period of time when she experienced bad dreams and shared how sleeping with the Bible made her feel safe. (Some kids have teddy bears. She’d curl up with God’s Word. Seriously. Which probably explains the creased pages and torn cover.)

Bible reading has become our nightly routine. A very special routine, one that we both make time for, even now that she’s entered her teen years. And all those years of snuggling together with God’s Word has impacted us both. It’s knit our hearts together with a Divine thread that, I believe, will continue to hold throughout her adult years. Hopefully, trickling into the hearts of her future children as well.

Every once in awhile as I rest my chin upon her head, the Bible spread between us, I allow myself to dream of the day when she holds her children in her arms, God’s Holy Word spread between them.

Today’s devotion was first posted on Jodie Bailey’s personal website on October 20, 2010 and it comes from her Word Wednesday, taken from II Kings 13:21.

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II Kings 13:21 (NIV)–Once while some Israelites were burying a man, suddenly they saw a band of raiders; so they threw the man’s body into Elisha’s tomb. When the body touched Elisha’s bones, the man came to life and stood up on his feet.

No one would argue that Elisha was an amazing prophet, a mighty man of God.  The Spirit of God rested on him so mightily that even after his death, God still worked through him.  See, there was nothing particularly special about Elisha’s bones.  He was just a man.  The power came from God and God alone. Do you know what I think God is saying here?  Even death can’t stop the work God does, and death doesn’t necessarily mean the end of God’s work through us.

My Aunt Shirley was in her mid-forties when she died of cancer.  I spent years angry with God because He chose not to save her.  To this day, I struggle with it, but that’s another story for another day.  See, God showed me something.  My aunt died with amazing grace (which was–no pun intended–her favorite song).  She hated to leave her husband and her son, but she knew exactly where she was going and who she was going to see when she got there.  She honestly looked forward to seeing Jesus.

Her death was not an end.  It’s been nearly fifteen years, and I still hear people speak of her relationship with Jesus, of the joy and strength and peace she carried until her final breath.  I hear people talk about how she inspired them to draw closer to him.  I know of at least one person who gave their life to Christ because of her example.  God used her in life, and He uses her still in death.  Her death was not an end of her life, but the beginning of a  legacy.  Folks, God doesn’t waste anything.  Think about it.

Care to share your favorite verse from II Kings?  Would love to hear from you in the comments below or in a link to your blog.  Looking forward to hearing from you!

-JB

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And here’s another post Jodie wrote that nearly made it. Shhh…listen closely. God’s talking to you.

A bit about Jodie:

The Boring (her words, not mine!):  Jodie Bailey was Playwright of the Year in Methodist University’s annual Hail! Dionysus competition and has written plays performed by the Monarch Playmakers. She has been published in Teen magazine and collaborated on PWOC International’s latest Bible study. She has a B.A. double major in English literature and writing, and an M.Ed. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, the Christian Writers Guild, and Middle Tennessee Christian Writers. She lives in Tennessee with her husband and daughter.

Or the fun:  Jodie Bailey is an avid reader, a life-long writer, and an aspiring beach bum.  She is a stubborn child who resisted God’s calling for two decades until He hit her over the head with a Beth Moore Bible Study book, and she finally figured out He wanted her to be a writer.  When not tapping away at the keyboard, she watches NCIS reruns, eats too many chocolate chip cookies, wishes she were at the beach, roughhouses with her daughter, and follows her Army husband around the country.

Remember to keep your eye out for your fav devo! At the end of the month, I’ll tally up each “like”, comment, fb share, and tweet, and will announce the top 3 of 2010! (I should mention, my comments and comments made by the authors of the posts will not be included in the final tally.)

And now it’s your turn to share. What’s a faith tradition you hope your children will pass down to their children?