We’ve Got Love Backwards

Jesus called it the greatest commandment. The apostle John dedicated multiple letters to the theme. “Love God. Love others.” Sounds easy, but we muddy the waters adding ourselves into the equation. Raise your hand if you’re excited to love the person who annoys you most! Nobody? Shocker. Truth is we’ve got love backwards.

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love” (1 John 4:7-8 ESV emphasis mine).

Let me translate…

Hey you! You dearly loved kid of God! God loves you. (I know, I don’t know why either. We’ve done nothing to deserve it. Just go with it.) Every ounce of love in you is from GOD. So extend the love you’ve been given to those around you. Keep it going. Because it’s not about you. God is love. And you’ve been tucked into that space of His forgiveness and grace for no other reason except He made you and loves you despite all your junk. If you’ve accepted that crazy love deep into your soul, unleash it on the world around you. Because God. Is. Love.

He made you and loves you despite all your junk.

But why is it so hard to accept God’s love?! Maybe because we aren’t opening ourselves up to it.

I was afraid to read my Bible for years–thought it was all about fire and hell. Then I cracked it open and couldn’t turn a page in the New Testament without reading how much God loves me. I realized Jesus didn’t come from Heaven to earth to tell us we’re awful, He came to tell us we’re loved. He came to be proof of God’s love so that we could then walk in love instead of insecurity.

Jesus didn’t come from Heaven to earth to tell us we’re awful, He came to tell us we’re loved.

” In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” (1 John 4:9-11 ESV)

Loving is hard when you’ve got the wrong source.

So often I make it all about me and try to love others from my own strength. But it leaves me shallow. I care for those who treat me well; I don’t naturally want to love those who hurt me, gossip about me, or abandon me. We weren’t made to be the source. We need divine help to love hard people. Jesus loves them and can show us the right way to love in all situations.

We need divine help to love hard people.

Here’s how I’ve done this in an elementary way. I continue consuming as much Scripture and study materials I can that affirm God’s acceptance of me. And I pray, Jesus help me believe I’m loved by you when I feel unlovable. Show me how to love others the way you love me. Give me opportunities to love well, and the courage to live it out…. 

“No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us” (1John 4:12 ESV).

That makes me smile. No one has ever seen God, but the more we live in His love the more we start to see rays of Him in place of us. We’ve had it backwards. We aren’t the source of love and we can’t do the hard work of loving well without God. Abide in God’s love. It’s not luke warm. It’s bubbling over and stirring inside if we choose to believe in it.

 

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Andrea Chatelain’s mission is to meet women in their struggles and love them forward with God’s truth. She’s a Midwest mom of three, faith and family writer, and college English instructor to immigrants and refugees. She believes Jesus transforms lives when His people boldly seek Him.Her writing reflects her love for Jesus and heart for fellow believers.

Find Andrea also at WhollyLoved Ministries and her devotionals on crosswalk.com

Measuring Your Impact

“What do you do?” I heard that question twenty times at an awards banquet for my journalist husband. They were experts at their craft and I was a full-time mom, beginning blogger, part-time teacher. Nothing felt impressive about my life in this circle. Measuring my impact against theirs made me insecure, but the true measurement of our impact is not found on a plaque.

Read for yourself what Scripture says about  how early followers of Jesus measured their impact…

“Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you, or from you? You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all. And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts” (2 Corinthians 3:1-3, ESV).

When our faith is in Jesus, we don’t need the approval of people. We no longer need likes on Facebook or medals for a job well done. When we start living for Jesus, our impact is written on the hearts of people we love, serve, and do life.

When we start living for Jesus, our impact is written on the hearts of people we love, serve, and do life.  

We don’t love well because we want to gain anything from it. We don’t mother well because we need an awards banquet. Or work with integrity and grit for a plaque. We don’t listen to friends’ problems over coffee or bring people meals for accolades. We love, serve, forgive, encourage, and empower anyone God puts in our path because He gave us both the work to do and the faith in which to complete it.

The people around us are our plaques as they walk around with the love we have stamped on their hearts. They are the real work God cares about.

So I wonder if, like me, sometimes you aren’t sure if your work matters. Maybe you sit in a cubicle, maybe you are a network marketer, a stay-at-home mom, or you wear suits to the office everyday. Wherever you are, your real job is to love and serve the people around you well.

Wherever you are, your real job is to love and serve the people around you well.

That job is harder than any other because people are messy. We are imperfect and make a ton of mistakes a day that require patience, peace, gentleness, kindness, and self-control even when undeserved.

But we keep at this important work because God gave us those people at our office, our neighborhood, and in our home.

“Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart” (2 Corinthians 4:1, ESV).

Don’t lose heart. That is God’s desire for us. Keep loving, forgiving, enduring, serving, encouraging, and uplifting. God gave you those people for a reason. Because your love shows them a bit of Jesus in this selfish world. Don’t. Lose. Heart. Your impact matters.

Salvation Removes our Shame

Think of your very worst day. The one you hope no one saw. Or your biggest mistake. The one you still haven’t forgiven yourself for. What if I told you that Jesus was there that day. Would that make you squirm? Would you believe me if I told you that is the best news ever?

“Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” John 4:29 ESV

In John chapter 4, Jesus was sitting by a well one day tired and thirsty. And up walked a woman. She was the kind of woman that others would avoid because she had slept around. Yet Jesus spoke to her and asked her for a drink. Instead of serving Jesus, she wondered why a Jewish man, someone who clearly out ranked a Samaritan woman, would even speak to her. She almost missed Jesus because she was insecure.

She almost missed Jesus because she was insecure.

Sometimes we feel like that, right? We think, why would Jesus love me? Why would He ever hear or answer my prayers? Why would He be on my side if He really knew what I have done and all the ways I’ve messed up.

Truth is He does know. But His response is the opposite of what we deserve.

Jesus knows every time we spoke out of anger, all the failures in motherhood or marriage, and every gossip or lie we ever told. He could say it’s time to reap your consequences! Instead, like He did for the woman at the well, He offers himself instead of condemnation and shame.

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“Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water”” John 4:10.

Because Jesus led a sinless life and died a sinners death on the cross, we get to take our worst moments and trade them for God’s grace and forgiveness. If you’ve trusted your life to Jesus and asked for forgiveness, He’s not thinking about your past anymore and He doesn’t want you to dwell there either.

It’s hard sometimes to let go of the past, but we have to in order to truly accept grace from God. What do you need to let go of today? What mistake do you need to forgive yourself for? Jesus wants your eyes forward looking out for opportunities to grant others the mercy you have received.

I love Jesus but…

I love Jesus, but I cuss a little. I just about died laughing when I read the sign my friend gave me for my writing desk. Then she told me why she bought it for me– because even if we love Jesus we have to remind ourselves daily of some important truths.

Like how Jesus never required perfection.

Most of the people Jesus chose to reveal himself to were very far from perfect

In fact most of the people Jesus chose to reveal himself to were very far from perfect, and less than glamorous. Instead of the righteous Pharisees, His friends started out as social outcasts, murderers, prostitutes, low class fisherman — anyone who wanted more out of life than striving for an invisible goal of perfection.

Because Jesus is our perfection. And we get to breath in a sigh of relief knowing our job is not to prove how good we are, but to live in the grace He won on the cross everyday.

I have been memorizing and resting in Ephesians 2:4-5 lately. Paul writes, “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions — it is by grace you have been saved” (Ephesians 2:4-5).

And He pursued us in our darkest moment, not in our shiniest.

I don’t think we can remind ourselves enough of these truths. God is rich in mercy, not stingy. He has great love for you and me, not just enough to squeak by. And He pursued us in our darkest moment, not in our shiniest.IMG_4918

So we live loved by Jesus and knowing that his grace covers the battles we lost. Claiming that He won’t give up on us, but will keep fighting alongside us until we are filled with his love and mercy. And that is what will make us new and whole.

I don’t know about you, but that is good news for me.

 

 

Detoxing the Soul

In high school I ate chips, candy, and a pop for lunch and didn’t think twice. Now I eat my veggies and drink hot tea like it’s my job. Even though my taste buds have matured and my body has grown strong, I still felt the need to detox. So before my 34th birthday I chugged purple liquid filled with antioxidents in an effort to clear my body of hidden toxins. And I couldn’t help but think, I wish I could drink a magic potion to detox my soul, too.

The toxins

No matter how careful we are, our bodies take in toxins every day from our environment — the air, our food, impure water. Likewise, our souls absorb toxins everyday. Even though we war against them, they attack our soul in the form of bitterness, jealousy, comparison, unforgiveness, greed… sin.

I don’t know about you, but I have had 33 imperfect years to build up gunk. I’ve tried to clear it all out by myself, but that doesn’t work because sin can get deep in our hearts. We need something stronger than our striving to penetrate to the core.

The Antioxident

In order to detox the body, you have to stop eating harmful foods. During that time of rest, you fill your body with things like blueberries, rasperries, and purple carrot that have antioxidents. These powerhouse foods find hidden impurities and cleanse you from the inside out.

He helps us identify and deal with our life toxins not to look better on the outside, but so we truly are healed on the inside.

Our soul antioxident is the Holy Spirit. He helps us identify and deal with our life toxins not to look better on the outside, but so we truly are healed on the inside. But first we have to stop eating the junk. We turn away from our broken ways and rest in the grace of God. We invite his Spirit to search our hearts and minds for impurities and change us from the inside out. This takes some guts. It takes desire for something bigger than ourselves. But it’s worth it.

New Cravings

When you clear out toxins, you start to crave different things. As crazy as it sounds, instead of sugar you want an apple, instead of chips you want real potatos. You crave what you were made to crave — life giving food.

Same is true for our souls. When the Holy Spirit helps us clear out the soul toxins we start to crave more of His goodness. We want to see mercy and love instead of our agenda. We have tasted freedom and love and desire more of it.

When the Holy Spirit helps us clear out the soul toxins we start to crave more of His goodness.

1 Peter 2:1-3 NIV puts it this way, “Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.”

Let the Holy Spirit it to do his work so our life taste buds change. It will require endurance and obedience, but the journey of detoxing the soul will change your life from the inside out.

 

Journal reflection…book-bindings-3176776_1920

What is God telling you to give up? What life junk needs to go to make room for God’s work in your life?

Spend time in prayer asking God to reveal and flush out the impurities in your heart and replace them with His goodness.

The Best place to hide your Resolution

Usually about halfway through January 1st I think long and hard about breaking my resolution. I’m still working on the whole perseverance thing. I tend to be more of a wherever the wind takes me kind of girl. Thank goodness our God is not.

It may be a new year for us, but every year is the same for the Triune God. He doesn’t have a list of things He needs to work on. Our God is already completely victorious over every evil and completely holy and good. There’s not a thing He needs to tweak or improve. He is everlastingly and unchangingly perfect.

There’s not a thing He needs to tweak or improve. He is everlastingly and unchangingly perfect.

This verse hit me when I was thinking about what we need to know to be successful in the New Year…

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of first fruits of all he created” (James 1:17-18 NIV)

Catch that? EVERY good and perfect gift is from our Heavenly Father. His goodness is unchanging through the years and millennia. Every good that will happen to you this year is a gift from the one who has planned that good for you from the beginning. And the greatest gift He has given us is a truly new start through Jesus Christ — His ultimate word of truth. 

He may not help our waist line, but accepting Christ and living through His Holy Spirit is the best plan for success we could ever dream of in 2018.

I have found that when we lay down our control and put all our faith in the faithful one big things can change.

I have found that when we lay down our control and put all our faith in the faithful one big things can change.  All His power, goodness, love and strength can be lived out through our words and actions as we yield to His instruction through scripture and prayer. He will never lead us into darkness. He will never choose wrong. He will guard our path and keep us safe. He will not disappoint or break a resolution.

So as you plan and strategize how to strive harder in 2018, I pray that your heart like mine is moved by the Father of Heavenly Lights to tuck your resolutions into the cloak of Jesus. To take a deep breath. Let down your goal of perfection. And be led into goodness by the only one who can lead a straight path.

Blessings and Peace to all my readers in 2018! I am so honored to be in faith with you.

Love,

Andrea Chatelain

Treasuring up Christmas

I love Christmastime so much I don’t want to let it go. So many things about this season make life a little sweeter and love a little louder. I want to take it with me into the snows of January and the rains of April and the sunburns of July. Mary did too.

In Luke chapter two Mary has completed the journey to Bethlehem riding nine months pregnant on a donkey. I could just stop there. Sh has given birth in a barn, wrapped her homeless baby and son of God in cloths, and laid him in a food trough for the animals.

And yet….

A star shone bright in the sky. Shepherds came running to see the new king, validating all that she had been through. Saying yes, an angel told us, “…Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has ben born to you; he is Christ the Lord…” (Luke 2:10-11 NIV).

What do we do with that great news? We have two options. We can stand amazed and a little bewildered at such a truth for our lives, or we can ponder our God and the goodness he’s given us all the days of our life.

“and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2:18-19 NIV).

“But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2:18-19 NIV).

I mean after all the sweet girl had been through, Mary sat there and reflected not wanting to miss a moment– taking a mental snapshot of the ridiculous grace of God that she got to be part of the story.

Now it’s our turn.

The angels said that night was for all people. It was for you and me as much as it was for Mary. It’s our turn to sit silent with the Lord Jesus who has come into our lives. It is our time to turn all our sorrows and struggles into divine goodness with Jesus.

We get to treasure Jesus up and ponder all His goodness all year round. Praise the Lord!

It’s our moment to chose to live in thankfulness for our undeserved redemption and love from God. We get to live praising him for coming to bring us back to life and for the people he has given us to be a light of love til we can see him face to face.

I pray that every day of the year is like Christmas in our hearts. I hope we treasure up the sweet faces sitting at our tables today. Storing up all the joy of these special Christmas moments and thanking God for his amazing mercy and friendship. Joy to the world!

Merry Christmas sweet friends!

God wants You. Period. End of story.

I doubt God’s goodness and faithfulness like it’s my job. Like a dog who sees a squirrel, I keep forgetting the salvation that He has called me to through Christ. I keep forgetting His power He has shown in my life and turn to my own power and control. I forget that God doesn’t want my efforts, but that He wants me. He wants you.

We are not alone in the struggle of amnesia. Micah shook the Isrealites trying to get them to stop running after their own tails too.

He told them, “My people, remember…Remember your journey… that you may know the righteous acts of the LORD,” (Micah 6:5 NIV).

Friend. Remember. When you are scared, or lonely, or anxious, or depressed, or grieving, or heartbroken, or just plain broken… REMEMBER. Remember your journey with God.

Remember your journey with God. 

Remember the times He was the only one listening at midnight when you needed peace.

Remember when He pulled you out before and gave you new life and new perspective through His Spirit.

Remember you are already made right and already completely cherished and loved without an ounce of payback required.

Remember that He wants you for YOU not for what you can do — because really, what could we do greater than the cross?

Micah continues to press their hearts asking, “With what shall I come before the LORD and bow down before the exalted God? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I offer my first born for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” (Micah 6:6-7NIV)

Our earthly striving selves need to be set free from this desire to pay back God everyday. He doesn’t want our fearful, guilt-ridden ‘have to’, He wants our thankful, heart-pounding, awe-struck ‘want to’.

He doesn’t want our fearful, guilt-ridden ‘have to’, He wants our thankful, heart-pounding, awe-struck ‘want to’.

This struggle is not a new one in the kingdom of God. Thousands of years ago His people were trying to please the Lord with spilling out whatever they had physically, when all God really wanted was their hearts. In their time it was giving of offerings to make things right. In our time it looks a little different.

We do what a ‘good Christian’ should do. We go to church to say we went. We don’t do this or that because we shouldn’t. And we do, do, do because we should. We tally up our good and try to hide our bad. We try to lay all our “shoulds” at His feet when He never asked us to strive. He doesn’t want our “shoulds’ He wants our hearts. So why do we withhold our hearts from Him?

Micah 6:8 “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

He has shown us what is good through Christ on earth. In Colossians 1:15 it says that Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He showed us how to live as sons and daughters of the King because He was one!

The way to walk humbly with our God is found in following Christ.

The way to walk humbly with our God is found in following Christ. Loving like He loved with the strength of the Holy Spirit within us. Forgiving crazy abundantly like He continues to forgive us. Reaching across ethnic, cultural, racial borders like He shattered the border between Jews and Gentiles, seeing the poor and oppressed and weary as equal and worthy and priceless like He saw women, children, and beggars.

Knowing Christ is knowing what God wants of you. He wants you and He wants your heart and He wants your life plan and your control and your time and your everything. Not because you have to, but because you love Him back and you want to do life with Him because life without Him is no life at all.

Sister, I pray that we walk humbly with our God today. That walk will not disappoint.