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

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.

 

 

Radical Love or a Dozen Roses

Let’s play a Valentine’s game. Would you rather have pure radical love or a dozen red roses? A few years back a friend couldn’t believe that my husband didn’t send me roses for Valentine’s Day. She made such a big deal about it that I wondered if I should be upset, too. Then truth flooded back as I pondered. We had just built a house together. Would I rather have some roses? Or love that builds things that last?

Sometimes I have the same would you rather game going in my head when it comes to Jesus. Would I rather have a God like a genie who grants all my wishes and wants me to be happy all the time? Or do I want a God who loves me in an indescribable, fully accepting, never ceasing way? I want the house my God offers, not the withering roses of the world.

We can get so caught up wondering what we mean to PEOPLE on Valentine’s Day, let’s stop and see what we mean to our GOD.

“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!…” (1John 3:1 NIV).

Exclamation points. There are not many of those in the Bible, but when speaking about the Father’s radical love for his children, John gets fired up enough that two exclamation points are necessary. Meanwhile, our default can often leave us thinking God’s love for us is worthy of a question mark. I wonder how life would change if we started living in the exclamation mark of God’s love.

Here’s what John says, “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!…” (1John 3:1 NIV).

That’s what we are! God’s kids who He LOVES! Not a bunch of people He has to put up with. Not people He wishes He didn’t create because we are a hot mess. We are His sons and daughters INDEFINITELY. And that is cause for an exclamation mark!

God loves you 100 percent. No matter if we are married, single, or hoping to be engaged, God’s love is the only one complete enough to make us whole.

God’s love is the only one complete enough to make us whole.

John goes on to tell us about that radical love…

“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth” (1John 3:16-18 NIV).

The other day my son looked at my wedding ring and asked how much it cost. I told him the expense and his eyes got big. “Mom! You wasted that money! You could’ve used that to build a house for someone who is homeless!”

Now, I’m not saying that having nice things is a sin. And my ring could not build a house. But in that moment my heart smiled. I thought of the four years I waited for that ring and the years of ups and downs of marriage it represents. Still, it’s just a ring, and like the roses on Valentine’s Day it will one day decay.

But the love the Father has poured on us, his kids, will last forever. And the sacrificing love we extend to others — the houses we build in their hearts — will be our brick in the kingdom of God.

“The sacrificing love we extend to others — the houses we build in their hearts — will be our brick in the kingdom of God” – Andrea Chatelain

Finding lost Thankfulness

When I was growing up, we would travel 3 hours to Norfolk a couple times a year to see my great Aunt Dorothy. Some things she did have stuck with me for a lifetime — she let us have bubble baths every night, try on her fancy earrings, and eat hot dogs for breakfast. Years later, one tiny memory about her helped me find my lost thankfulness. Whenever we ate she would give thanks and pray…

“Come Lord Jesus be our guest and let these gifts to us be blessed…

Now that’s where my sister and I would stop. But Great Aunt Dorothy would continue the prayer with words we didn’t know…

“Oh give thanks unto the Lord for he is GOOD and his mercy endures forever. Amen.”

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My sister and I always thought it was a funny way to end the prayer, and it wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized she was quoting a psalm.

Psalm 100 titled “A psalm. For giving thanks.”says,

“Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth.

Worship the Lord with gladness;

come before him with joyful songs.

Know that the Lord is God.

It is he who made us, and we are his,

we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving

and his courts with praise;

give thanks to him and praise his name.

For the LORD is good and his love endures forever;

his faithfulness continues through all generations.” (Psalm 100 NIV emphasis mine)

The thing is, scripture is not to be read only when times are good. This psalm is not true only when my circumstances are hunky dory. Sometimes the sweetest joy and thankfulness in my life has come during or after deep pain and loss because my joy is not surface level– it is God’s joy digging deep into my broken heart.

Sometimes the sweetest joy and thankfulness in my life has come during or after deep pain and loss because my joy is not surface level– it is God’s joy digging deep into my broken heart. 

Last year at this time I was driving once a week to visit my sweet Grandma Irene Johnson in her hospice room. Her husband, children and grand children had decked her room out with so many photos and plants and Christmas decorations you could almost pretend we were meeting in her living room. Still, I had to pump myself up to get there. To face the reality that she was slipping away and I couldn’t keep her here much longer.

It’s hard to be thankful when that’s your reality during the holidays. Most of us have had pain creep in stealing memories and time from family. But God is so good to step into our pain and comfort our hearts.

On the way from Gretna to Bellevue I listened to my favorite gospel song with my hands in the air, begging God to show up in our few precious moments. And on the way home I would do the same. Hands up praising him, tears down my hot red cheeks, thanking him for blessing our time. 

I thanked Him for the chance He gave my oldest son to read one of His first books to her.

I thanked Him for the silliness and joy my two littles provided to make her smile.

I thanked Him for the chance to ask her questions and and talk about flowers.

And I thanked Him for one more hug. One more afternoon. One more goodbye.

I found that praising God came easy in those moments when I was uncertain and not in control, and I found my thankfulness and comfort and peace and even joy in the wisdom of scripture like Psalm 100.

That season gave me a new appreciation that ‘the Lord is God’ in hard moments and ‘we are His’.

That season gave me a new appreciation that ‘the Lord is God’ in hard moments and ‘we are His’. That not even death can take us from him. That He is always good no matter what and that His love and faithfulness go on past this life and these struggles.  Mostly I was thankful that I got to know Jesus’ love and comfort more and that He was simply with me in my pain.

This Thanksgiving, a year later, is still sprinkled with a mixture of sadness and thankfulness. Life goes on living, but a piece of my heart is in the ground with her. Still, I will put my hands up the rest of my life, praising the Lord who is our God, thankful that He is good, and that His love breaks through to the other side of eternity.