How Radically Should We Love? – Pt. 1

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I didn’t know when I walked into church yesterday morning after a tough night that I was about to be hit right between the eyes with exactly what God wanted me to hear. Sometimes I take Sunday mornings for granted. Not everyone has the luxury of getting up and going to church, or deciding if they have the energy to attend Sunday school. I, however, do. And yesterday, my gratitude for that skyrocketed in 60, short minutes.

Something I’ve been asking myself lately is this: how radically should we love?

Last week, I was sitting on my porch with one of my girls and I asked her if she thought it was possible for someone to love a person too much. She replied that no, she didn’t think so. In the world of counseling, self-care is important and necessary, because you do get spent and burned out. You don’t realize how much you need a break until someone forces you to take one that’s far overdue. But lately, I’ve been asking myself what Jesus would think of the “care for yourself first, care for others later” mentality.

I think we need to return to two balancing truths:

1. Our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit – His Dwelling Place
2. Through Our bodies, the Kingdom Agenda is Carried OUt Here on Earth.

The pastor hit the nail on the head Sunday morning when he started talking about Jesus’ act of love in the upper room, just before His crucifixion. Everything started to come into focus. In Jesus’ day, there were two kinds of servants: foreign Gentile slaves, and Hebrew slaves. The Hebrew slaves were technically brothers, so they could not be required to do the especially menial tasks such as foot-washing, untying and removing dirty sandals, or carrying their Hebrew master. The task that Jesus knelt to carry out that night made a loud, clear statement to every man in that room. He was coming to them as the lowest of the low, because His love for them surpassed any care He had for Himself. It was more powerful than any political or social barrier. He did not doubt His identity as the Son of God. Rather, He was so secure in it that He was able to stoop to serve as a foreign slave. 

The Bible doesn’t tell us who Jesus started with, but as he circled the table with the basin and towel, stripped down to the garb of a slave, I have to wonder what He felt when He reached Judas.

John 13:1 says, “…Having loved His own, He loved them unto the end.” I think the room was silent in that moment, as Jesus tenderly picked up the first and then the second foot of his betrayer; as He gently washed away the dirt from the feet that would carry a traitor’s mouth to the governing officials. Softly, He spoke words of love, urging everyone in the room to love one another with the same, radical, audacious commitment that He was now demonstrating at the feet of his betrayer. 

Jesus spared no room for personal comfort when He waked this earth. The closest He ventured was time alone with His Father – and that, He did faithfully. Shouldn’t the same be true of us? He came in weakness, as a servant. We also should be here in weakness – His servants. The banner we bear should carry this mark: “Nevertheless, not what I will, but Your will be done.”

By: Hannah Stelzl (To Be Continued)

Photo Credit: Flickr

How Does One Envision God?

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While lying in bed one night, I began thinking of the face of God and quickly realized that all I saw were the pictures that man’s sin had painted of Him in my imagination – not a true image of what He really looks like!

I found myself asking, “How can I know what You look like?” He answered me so sweetly, “My child, look not at the images men have painted before you. For they have painted them in their own image, and forgotten that it was I that made them in my image.” So asked of my Father yet again, “Then what do you look my Father? How can I look into Your face if I don’t know what it is I’m looking for? Are You in the trees, the breeze, the birds, the streams? What are you?” 

He reply again, so gently, “My child, look at the at the arms of a father holding his newborn child – they are My arms! Look at the feet of one running to and fro in My services – they are my feet! Look at the toes of a baby, curled with delight – they are mine! Look at the soft, forgiving eyes of a parent when their child does wrong – those are my eyes! Look at the tears of the one that weeps for another man’s sorrow – they are my tears! Look at the hands of a mother, wiping the fevered brow of her little one – those are my hands! Look at the lips of a mother lovingly kissing her child’s wound – they are my lips! Listen to the joyful, sweet, songs of truth drifting through the breeze – they are mine to you! Smell the sweet smell of a new born baby – I gave it! Read the worn bible, left to collect dust on grandmother’s shelf long after she has passed away – those are My love letters to you! Now, my child do you see me?” 

“Do you hear My soft voice encouraging you? Do feel My hands caring for you? My arms carrying you? My eye forgiving you? My tears weeping with you? My lips comforting you? My feet running to serve you? My smell contenting you? And My letters loving, teaching, carrying, rejoicing, rebuking, weeping and yet loving you all the more? My child do you know me now?”

I replied ,with a heart bursting full with Him, “Oh yes Lord! Now I see, smell, feel, hear and know You so clearly! Oh my Father, thank you, and I love you! 

“Goodnight,” I said. “And goodnight to you too, my child – and I will keep you!” Was His reply.

By: Brystol Reckner

Photo Credit: Flickr

No One Should Be Meaningless To Us

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We visit my relatives a number of times a year, and generally go with them to the Sunday morning service at their church, out of respect for them. However, let’s just say, their church is very different from what I’m used to. My natural reaction towards this group is cold and disconnected.

What are God’s principles for this matter? We are to love fellow Christians, the unsaved, and our enemies.

“If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?” 1 John 4:20

Most of these people are brothers and sisters in Christ, despite their different beliefs and habits. Good theology is very helpful, but salvation is simply through faith in Jesus to save us from our sin. We are called to love other Christians.

“But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil.” Luke 6:35

Not only are we to love fellow Christians, we are to love everyone else as well(see also Mark 12:31). We are called to treat everyone with love and respect.

So when we are with people that hold different views than us, we are to love them. Being cold and disconnected communicates that they are meaningless to us. Jesus treated us so much differently than that. We should strive to love them as Jesus loved us.

A balancing truth: be careful how ungodly people influence your life. “Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners.” (1 Cor. 15:33) Make sure you are spending time with God and fellow Christians to help you walk the straight and narrow path (see Proverbs 22:24-25).

By: Daniel Hancock

Photo Credit: Flickr

God Loves Mistake-Makers

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In our everyday lives we have decisions to make; BIG ones and small ones, some not so important and some really important, especially if it involves others.

The other night, I was remembering back to an event and wondering if I had made the right decision.  At the time it sounded like it was the right one, but looking back I started to think that maybe it wasn’t. I was really starting to feel guilty and discouraged about making decisions in the future and feeling so afraid of making the wrong one. 

By this time, I did not like the way I was feeling! I felt like giving up, hiding in a box and letting someone else make all my decisions. I knew those were not the right thoughts and feelings, so I prayed and asked God to help me. Then this thought came to me……“With all the wrong decisions I have made in the past, by God’s mercy, grace and love I am still standing, and with so many decisions to make in the future, I know that if I “TRUST in the LORD with ALL MY HEART and LEAN NOT on MY OWN UNDERSTANDING and in all my ways ACKNOWLEDGE HIM, HE SHALL DIRECT MY PATH.” ( Proverbs 3:5-6)

Then Peace started to replace my fears. 

I do not know what decisions I will have to make tomorrow but I do know the ONE who holds my tomorrow, and that If I trust Him, go to Him with my decisions, (by praying and reading His word,) and do my best to make the right ones, He is faithful to be there for me through it all.  

But seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you. Matthew 6:33 

God knows I am capable of making mistakes, and if I keep my heart right with Him, He will be there to help me make the right decisions and heal from the wrong ones. What a Friend I have in Jesus ! So I am not going to worry about past decisions, but I will let them teach me, and hopefully I will learn something from them to help in future decisions.

Redeeming the time , because the days are evil. Ephesians 5:16

By: Emma S.

(Emma is a new contributor on 1 Love for Christ! We’re so glad to have her, and we hope you’ll enjoy what she has to share too!)

Photo Credit: Flickr

I’ll Jump – But Don’t Make Me Let Go

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Flames are leaping into the room through the doorway behind you, there is no where else to go but the open window before you. You lean out and look down to the people on the ground, two stories below. You hear someone yelling “Jump, and I’ll catch you!” You glance behind you to check again if there is any other way, but it’s just a wall of flames. You feel your feet mechanically climbing up to the window sill; you’re ready to take the leap; you feel yourself falling… and then suddenly, you come to a stop. You took the jump but you didn’t let go, your hands are still tightly clenched over the window sill. You can’t let go. Your mind starts to fill with doubts. What if they don’t catch me? What if I die? Would it have been safer to stay in the room and hope for some easier, safer rescue plan?

Isaiah 43:2 ~ “When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.”

This is the story of life.

The world is a burning building, and Jesus is calling for us to jump into the safety of His arms. Telling us to trust Him because He is there to catch us. The problem is, we don’t trust him enough to let go.

When you go to, Jesus you have to let go all the way. You cannot enjoy the safety of perfect fellowship with him if you are still grasping the windowsill.

Full surrender is never easy, it means letting go of everything that makes us feel safe and comfortable in life. All those things we go to for fulfillment must be released in order for us to become truly fulfilled in Christ. Talk about stepping out of your comfort zone! Letting go of everything our flesh is telling us we need to be happy is no easy task – often we hang between the world and Jesus waiting and pondering if there is a way to compromise and still be safe.

Hebrews 10:23 ~ “Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;)”

Hebrews 11:1 ~ “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

Salvation is not based on works; it’s all about faith. But how much is our faith worth if we are always sitting around thinking up a plan B before we try plan A (because God might not come through for us this time). Faith is the evidence of things not seen. It’s hard because our flesh wants to see the outcome before we jump into something. But faith is taking the leap without knowing the outcome and trusting that Jesus will do exactly what he said he would do. God, in his love and mercy has given us a guide book full of examples of all the times he came through for his children. Again and again throughout scripture we see God making promises, and no matter what he always keeps those promises.

Psalm 118:8~ “It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man.”

Are you still clinging to the windowsill?

Are you deciding whether you need a plan B? Just let go. Allow yourself to fall into the arms of Jesus. When you find yourself facing a situation you don’t think you can handle alone, you’re right! You can’t handle it alone, so don’t climb back up to that windowsill! Turn to Jesus, trust him, and know that he will work every situation out for the good of those that love him. When we can’t see the outcome, he can. Keep running the race with patience and in the end you will see the beautiful masterpiece that God intended for your life to be. Let Jesus show you who he is and what he can do in and through you.

Proverbs 3:5­6 ~ “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.”

By: Bethany Stelzl

Photo Credit: Flickr

Opening Your Eyes to Pain – Part 2

This morning as I write, I am looking out over a sea of grey, fluffy clouds framed by the brilliant orange of a new sunrise. 10,000 feet below me, everything is still dark and silent. But up here, morning glory guilds the skies.

Hurting people, wounded people, people who have experienced trauma and loss and suffering – they are so much like the world below the clouds this morning.

They can’t see the light of day, and they are missing the radiance of a sunrise that spans an uninterrupted sky, full of endless space. As the body of Christ, we are called to be a ray of hope. We still see the clouds, but we also see the sun that is warming and dissipating it’s gloomy cover. Both of us know the clouds are there – thick and seemingly impenetrable (after all, I cannot see the ground right now – I simply trust that it is there), but only one of us sees the sun.

We are called to hope on the behalf of those who have no hope. To comfort with the same comfort we have received.

Like I wrote last week, we are often negligent of this calling, and hesitant to participate. Hoping on the behalf of the hopeless is expensive in every way. It takes a toll on your body, mind and spirit, because you have to be the strong one, the believing one, the faith-filled one – living truth 100% of the time.Impossible? Definitely! But really, it’s the calling of letting Christ – who is all of those things – come through us in that way. Because trauma-scarred people don’t see Him the way the rest of us do. Their experiences deny His reality, even though they are some of the strongest, intellectual believers in existence. They cling to a truth that has appeared to not serve them well. They are courageous beyond imagination. There is no way to undo what they have walked through. And so we are called to live the truth in order to give them new experiences that are consistent with who God says He is, and who His Word tells people they ought to be.

It’s exhausting, to be honest. Even strong, “unscathed” believers are mortal; tempted; fight failure daily. I certainly do!!! But you and I are here, brushing shoulders with strangers and church goers and co-workers for a reason.

Christ has changed everything about us, and He has miraculously decided to use us in His transformational work in others.

Are you answering the call to love, listen and hope on behalf of the abandoned, the forgotten, the forsaken, the betrayed, the wounded? It’s hard. It takes more than any of us can muster up. Sometimes we will crumple to the floor in tears under the weight of someone else’s suffering. But then again…we are called to weep with those who weep, are we not? It’s something most of us could stand a little more practice in.

Will You Be My Friend?

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Friendship is a beautiful gift from the Lord. What would life be like without your BFF? A true friend is hard to find. They stand by your side when things are rough, they listen when you need them to, they are always ready to give you a shoulder to cry on and tell you it will be okay. But is it possible for a good friend to be get in the way of what God is teaching us?

“Trust ye not in a friend, put ye not confidence in a guide… Therefore I will look unto the LORD; I will wait for the God of my salvation: my God will hear me.” Micah 7:5a, 7

Put yourself in the position of a good friend. You reach out to those in need, and you stand by them when no one else will. But what if your willingness to stand by them is blocking their view of what God has for them. What if they feel so safe with you that they bring all of their problems to you – problems too big for you to fix – instead of bringing them to the feet of Jesus?! It’s good to listen and to be there for someone no matter what they may be going through, but the one thing many young people miss today is the importance of being willing to give a loving and gentle rebuke when it’s necessary. It’s easier to give our friend a pat on the back and tell them everything will be okay, so that’s what we tend to do. We rarely stop to consider that maybe we are reassuring them that they are doing the right thing, when the Holy Spirit is trying to tell them otherwise.

Sometimes we tend to be a little slow to understand, and it is all too easy to slip into the position of the one doing “good” works in God’s name because we assume that it is His will – without ever stopping to consult him about it.

“we assume that it is His will – without ever stopping to consult him about it.”

So take a moment to think about this. Do you tell your friends it’s okay when you know it’s not? Do you avoid telling them the truth because it may upset them? Or maybe you are the friend who is afraid to share your heart with Jesus so you take it to anyone who will listen instead. I have been in all of these places, and sometimes I find myself going back again, but it is all rooted in fear: fear that Jesus won’t hear us, or fear that we will lose a friendship because we said the wrong thing. That kind of fear is the enemy at work. We must watch out because he will disguise his work in the “good” things around us. He will do anything to get us away from the path that God is leading us on. This generation needs to take a step of faith: we need to be willing to stand up for the truth, and to surrender our fear to the Lord. We need to give our friendships to God and trust Him to do what is best.

A true friend tells the truth, but an unfaithful friend ignores the truth and pretends everything is just fine.

“Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.” Proverbs 27:6

By: Bethany Stelzl

Photo Credit: Flickr

Doubting A Silent God

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Have you ever made a decision feeling 100% sure it’s the right decision… then once you’re in, something happens that makes you stop and wonder if that was the right decision… then, “what on earth???”…

Recently I made a decision believing I was following the Lord’s leading and direction, and then halfway down the road in that decision, I felt like He’d deserted me…. Grew silent and abandoned me.

There was conflict and confusion surrounding several of those involved, and I couldn’t understand why, if I had done “all the right things”, prayed about it and waited on His leading, had felt total peace about the decision I had made… If I made the right decision, why was this happening?

Feeling hurt and betrayed by God, my heart began to fill with doubt.

Doubt about whether or not I was in Gods will after all…
Doubt about my ability to discern Gods will….
Doubt about His willingness to see me through a situation….
Doubt about His even caring about what I was going through.
After all…. If I was right, and He had led me in this decision, then He’d of known all this was coming… Why hadn’t He prepared me for what was coming so I wouldn’t have been hit so hard by it or, better yet, worked it out so it was all smooth sailing…. Forseen this rough patch and taken care of it before I got there.

In retrospect, I was being very selfish and was totally absorbed with myself. In the moment, it was disguised as, “you feel like giving up, and it’s not your fault.”

Can I take a moment here to point out how lethal it can be to allow how you’re feeling to determine what you believe? What you believe about God….. What you believe about others…. What you believe about yourself.

Feeling numb, and like I couldn’t care less about anything that was occurring anymore, I crawled into bed hoping to make it all go away. At least for a couple hours.

A couple of minutes later a dear friend text me Deuteronomy 31:6. Starting to read it, my wounded, bitter heart immediately sprung up in self defense.

“Be strong, and of good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them:”
…well. I’m not afraid, so that’s not my problem… I just don’t care…. that’s my problem…” 
“for the Lord thy God, He it is that doeth go with thee;”
“Yeah well, that’s all well and good when He actually does go with you, but I don’t feel like He’s been with me at all….”
The last part of the verse pierced my doubting heart to the quick.
“He will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.”
“He WILL NOT fail me, or FORSAKE me.”
I broke down and sobbed.

Once I quit clinging to the fact that I had FELT abandoned, I could see all the ways God had been working on my situation. Not in the areas or ways I thought He should’ve been, but He’d been working in His way, which is always best.

I realized I’d been so focused on feeling abandoned, that even though the situation had been resolved hours before I’d gone to bed, I was still stuck in depression and wallowing in the doubt I’d allowed my feelings to create in my heart.

Crying out to God, I asked Him to forgive me for my doubt, for being so focused on how I felt that I hadn’t allowed His word to speak truth of who He is to my heart, and for being so blinded by my doubt that I hadn’t seen His hand moving.

As I finished praying, a peace and healing flowed over me, and these lyrics started running through my head: “Great is thy faithfulness, O God my father. There is no shadow of turning with thee; thou changest not, thy compassion’s they fail not. As thou hast been thou forever wilt be.”

This is my message to you: that no matter how alone you may FEEL, if you’re a child of God’s,
He is with you,
He is watching out for you,
He is for you.
He loves you.
And GREAT is His faithfulness.

By: Christina Crain

Photo Credit: Flickr

 

Opening Your Eyes To Pain (Pt. 1)

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We are far too comfortable; far too pleased to sit quietly in church on Sunday; to smile and shake hands; to say “How are you?” and reply with with a cliche’ “I’m good.” The person whose hand we grasp during meet n’ greet might be coming out of an unspeakably horrific week, and getting ready to plunge headlong into another one, but we would never know. We linger long enough to do what we’re supposed to do, and hurry on before anyone can ask questions, or offer up information that might make us uncomfortable. Listening is not something we’re good at. Hurting with people is not typically a strength. Their pain might stain our life, and put a dent in our plans, and we’re too selfish to be even remotely accommodating.

When I came to Christ at 16, I had already seen the darkness of the human heart in myself – what people are actually capable of inside the castle of their motives and emotions. But when the personal devastation started to morph into a testimony instead of a current reality, I remember being afraid to look at, in other people’s lives, what I had finally been able to somewhat leave behind. I pled with God to let me do something fun and generic with my life; to release me from the calling I was afraid He’d give me – the calling of sitting with, walking with, standing with the wounded. All of us, in fact, are called to do this if we’re part of the body of Christ, but I wanted to avoid it. 

Late one night, I found myself sitting on a couch sharing the Gospel with a sick, little girl who had prostituted herself to almost 100 men. She wasn’t even 18. She had no loving family. Her father was a rich drunk who had neglected her for years in every way except for monetarily. Her mother was a promiscuous drug addict. She roamed the streets at night and endured endless abuse at school. Suddenly, the gravity of it all hit me and I wept. Holding her hand, I felt her pain washing over me, all around me, changing the colors of my world. She was just a child. And she had somehow survived the unthinkable. She accepted Jesus that night as her Savior. But for her, the road to recovery would be years of heartache, doubt, discouragement and pain. It would be horrendous nights of tormenting dreams, flashbacks and loneliness. It would involve being misunderstood and forsaken and left, because it was taking her too long to get her act together.

The saddest part about that night for me, looking back now, is that I didn’t want to be there. I didn’t want to sit on that couch and talk to her. I didn’t want to hear her story, or tell her mine. She was a stranger I’d never met before. I was exhausted and sick…I was selfish. I’m glad now that I did. I’m glad that somehow, God used my resistant heart to communicate His boundless love. But what if I hadn’t?

What if…

(To be continued)

Photo Credit: Flickr

 

Wouldn’t It Be Nice If…

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Problems: they tend to come along at the worst time. They always seem to hide everything good around us until all we can see are the current circumstances we are facing. Right now, I’m pretty sick. I have been for months. The doctor told me I’m not handling my stress right – in fact instead of letting my stress out, I tend to hide it all inside until my body just can’t take it any more. I have had times when I wished all of my problems would just go away. Why can’t God just make me better, and make life easy for me? But that’s not quite how God works.

A world without problems is a world that doesn’t Have a need for God.

“Lest when thou hast eaten and art full, and hast built goodly houses, and dwelt therein; And when thy herds and thy flocks multiply, and thy silver and thy gold is multiplied, and all that thou hast is multiplied; Then thine heart be lifted up, and thou forget the LORD thy God, which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage”

Years ago I remember hearing about a letter that was sent to the Christian church in America from the Christian church in North Korea. I was pretty shocked to hear that the church included a little note in their letter about how they were praying for the American church to be persecuted. My initial reaction was, “That’s a terrible thing to pray for!” But is it? Stop and look around! Our churches and our Christians are a mess – we have grown far too accustomed to religious freedom in our country. It’s “easy” to be a Christian here, so we take it for granted. Yes, sometimes it’s rough. You may get laughed at or picked on for your strange standards, or maybe even get physically beat up – and yes some Christians end up getting killed for their faith in this country – but it’s nothing compared to what Christians face in many other countries on a daily basis

We have become soft. Instead of being grateful for the freedom the Lord has given, we have allowed the enemy to creep into the very foundation of the Christian church in America. Our young people are disgusted with God, and our pastors are throwing away God’s principles because it doesn’t fit in with the culture anymore and what is wrong is being called right.

2 Timothy 3:2­7 is beginning to sound very familiar in our culture:

“For men will be lovers of themselves, covetous , boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; 5 Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts, Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

Christians often think, “Wouldn’t it be nice for all the problems to go away so that it can just be me and the Lord having some wonderful fellowship?” But God, in His love, has not taken our problems from us, because even though we don’t like to admit it, without problems we are satisfied to make life work on our own. God has to bring us to the point where there is no where else to turn but him.

Each and every trial holds a lesson.

For me, I feel like God is teaching me to let him have my stress. Instead of holding it inside, I need to give it over to his care. He can carry what we cannot, and he is standing beside us waiting for us to ask! He wants to help us; to show us how powerful he is and how much he loves us. But we must let go, and let him take control.

Do you have a trial that you are facing right now? Look for the lesson in that trial and let God use it to make you a little more like him every day.

By: Bethany Stelzl

Photo Credit: Flickr