Tag Archives: Love

Three Keys to Spiritual Maturity

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Thanks a bunch to CBN.com for posting this blog on their amazing site! Be sure to check out their website for resources, information, and lots of good reads.


It’s easy to love the Lord. He comes to us with arms open wide, taking all of our sins and burdens upon Himself. He offers us life in place of death and freedom from our bondage. He has plans to prosper us and give us a future. What’s not to love?

Unfortunately, many Christians believe in God and love Him, but they don’t live for Him.

The Bible says that our relationship with God should mature over time and that we should “grow up in all aspects into Him….” (Ephesians 4:15 NAS).

So, how do we take our relationship with God to the next level? By developing a spirit of surrender, faith, and obedience.

 

Living in Surrender

According to Webster’s Dictionary, to “surrender” means “to yield (something) to the possession or power of another.” In our independent, Western society, this is the very definition of weakness, but in the Kingdom of God, it is the source of our strength.

Think back to when you first believed in Jesus. You acknowledged your sins and exchanged them for God’s righteousness. You surrendered to God, turning in the “old you” for a “new you.”

So was that just your spiritual life that you surrendered? What about your daily life?

The world separates the spiritual from the daily routine. However, when we split our lives in two, we also divide our hearts.

You may be serving God “half-heartedly” if:

  1. You relegate God to Sunday morning and “live life” the rest of the week.
  2. You’re earnestly trying to obey God’s call on your spiritual life while struggling to maintain control over the day-to-day decisions.
  3. You’re willing to live for the Lord…as long as He doesn’t interfere with your plans.

To grow closer to the Lord, we must serve Him whole-heartedly. For that, we need faith.

 

Blind Faith

We rarely know what God is planning, or what the big picture looks like. That’s because we’re called to “walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7 NAS). With each step, we have to trust that God loves us and wants what is best for us.

A great example of this can be found in Proverbs 31:15 NAS: “She rises while it is still night and gives food to her household and portions to her maidens.” What’s so amazing about this verse is the spiritual imagery: she gets up while it’s still dark, when she doesn’t know what God is up to or what the future will hold.

It’s not unusual for Christians to feel “in the dark” as they wait for the Lord. Perhaps you’re waiting now for God to give you guidance or direction, or for Him to open doors to new opportunities. If so, be encouraged! As your faith is strengthened, you will grow closer to the Lord.

 

Obedience in Action

Jesus said it’s not enough for us to call ourselves Christians or to do good deeds in His name. We also have to be obedient to His Word and His direction for our lives. (See Matthew 7:21-27.)

You can show obedience to God even as you wait for His guidance, direction, or a new opportunity.

  1. Use the time to develop patience and perseverance. In fact, this may be the main reason why the Lord is delaying.
  2. Resist the urge to get angry or depressed. The Enemy will take advantage of the situation to cultivate fear, pride, or anxiety. Don’t give him any leverage.
  3. Avoid getting ahead of God. Don’t move forward with any new activities until you have His guidance or blessing.
  4. Don’t neglect your daily activities. Like the woman in Proverbs 31, be sure to care for yourself, your family, and those in need around you.

Once the Lord does give you the answer you’re waiting for or the opportunity you need, then it’s time to take action!

  1. If God gives you an answer to a question, write it down. Sometimes, God gives us the whole picture, and sometimes it’s just a piece of the puzzle. Either way, cherish the fact that God is sharing His heart with you.
  2. If God says “go,” then go where He sends you and do what He asks. Don’t delay or waste the opportunity.
  3. If God’s answer is “no,” then be content. Stay where you are, decline the offer, pray about Plan B, etc. Whatever the situation is, honor God’s decision and trust that He has your best interest at heart.

 

Don’t settle for less than a mature, intimate relationship with the Lord! Begin developing a spirit of surrender, faith, and obedience today.

 


I wrote this blog based on a section of my manuscript for Girls with Gusto. I’ve identified eight major steps in the spiritual journey, and this comes from Step Four, “Developing a Disciple’s Disposition.” Unfortunately, many of us falter here—a mere half-way point—and fail to persevere to the next step.

The good news is that you have a choice! Whatever decisions you’ve made in the past, you can decide today to pursue a meaningful, intimate relationship with God.

“I will give them a heart to know Me, for I am the LORD; and they will be My people, and I will be their God, for they will return to Me with their whole heart” (Jeremiah 24:7 NAS).

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Loving the Unlovable

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The following blog was posted on Lift Up Your Day and is included in its entirety below. For more encouragement, check out the other posts on LUYD.


What did you do this past Valentine’s Day? Did it involve standing in line to buy fuzzy teddy bears, overpriced chocolates in heart-shaped boxes, mushy greeting cards, or Star Wars candy for your kids? Perhaps you had a nice dinner out or watched a Rom-Com at home.

However you celebrated Valentine’s Day, I bet it involved those you love. You certainly weren’t spending time and energy on those you don’t love.

 

The Unlovable

You know who they are. The woman who said hateful things about you behind your back. The guy who deceived you and broke your heart. We all know people like this. The ones who make life harder. The ones who hurt others to get ahead. The ones we can’t stand to be around. The ones we cannot, under any situation, love.

And yet that’s what God has called us to do: to love the unlovable.

 

An Impossible Command

Jesus said we should love our enemies and pray for those persecute us. (See Matthew 5:43-47.) I thought about this for years, wondering how I could possibly live this out in my own life. How can we muster the courage, strength, or whatever goodness is needed to love those who hate us?

I finally have the answer: We don’t. We can’t. We simply don’t have what it takes.

But God does.

 

A Godly Love

Before we knew God, we had to manage on our own. Our emotions—from love to hate—were based on passion, desire, and fear.

Then, we accepted Jesus as our Savior, and the Holy Spirit took up residence in our hearts. The Bible says that God is Love. This doesn’t just mean that He Loves us, but that His Love abides within us. (See 1 John 4:8 and 15.) If we will tap into the Holy Spirit in us, we can dispense God’s Love (with a capital L).

Remember, Jesus sacrificed Himself so all who believe in Him will have everlasting life (John 3:16). He saved each of us while we were still sinners. God’s Love is bigger than any sin we can commit, and there is no one God doesn’t want to save.

 

Exercises

There will always be people who wound us, aggravate us, or simply annoy us. But we aren’t limited to our own anemic emotions any more. Now, we can draw from God’s perfect Love that dwells within us.

The next time you happen upon your enemies, try these godly tactics:

  • Fake it ‘til you make it. Act like you sincerely care for their wellbeing. This isn’t about lying but about positioning yourself to draw from God’s wellspring of Love.
  • Don’t be ugly. Even when they’re not in the room, don’t say anything hateful about them. That would only negate the good work you’re trying to accomplish and open the door to hypocrisy.
  • Pray for them. You can’t hate someone you’re praying for, so pray and pray some more.

Whatever you do, ask for God’s guidance and wisdom. Treat each interaction with your enemies as opportunities to be His hands and feet in the world. By this, God’s love will be perfected in you. (See 1 John 4:12.)

If you practice this enough, you will eventually prove something quite profound: thanks to God’s grace, no one is unlovable.

We love, because He first loved us.  If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.  And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also. (1 John 4:19-21 NAS)

Because of Who God Is

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A quiet beach around sunset near St. George Island, Florida. (Photo by Ashley Jones)

A quiet beach around sunset near St. George Island, Florida. (Photo by Ashley Jones)

 

Seven weeks and one day – that’s how long I had been sick. I caught a bug in August, which then weakened my immune system, causing me to pick up every virus in a 100-mile radius. Or at least that’s how it felt.

Questions Answered

Either way, I was having a particular bad night, with my nose running all day. I had fought the good fight for seven weeks, and that night I gave up and receded to the guest room. I propped up against pillows, smeared Vick’s on my nose, hooked my right arm around my trash can spittoon, and clutched a box of tissues in my left hand. Whatever poise and grace I had kept over the course of my illness left me that night. I felt miserable, puny, and lost. So, with a pathetic empathy for poor old Job, I prayed yet again for understanding and healing. This time, I asked God about every type of scenario I could think of…and He answered me:

Q: Is this punishment for something I’ve done wrong? Do I need to ask for forgiveness?

A: No.

Q: Do I need to extend forgiveness to someone else?

A: No.

Q: Have I fallen outside of your grace because I moved too fast on something and failed to seek your will?

A: No.

Q: Is this a spiritual attack from the enemy?

A: No.

Q: OK, then what is it? Please, just tell me so I can fix it, because I don’t think I can take much more of this.

A: Do you notice how focused you are on what you “do” – if you’re doing enough of something or doing it the right way? Don’t you realize that I would love you if you never wrote another word or did anything else in My Name? In fact, if you never get out of that bed, I would still love you the same as I do now.

It was like a rush of wind as God’s thoughts spoke clearly to my spirit. I knew in my head that God had loved me when I was dead in sin. I knew that I was saved because of Jesus’ sacrifice, not because of anything I had ever done. But somehow I think I had begun to do things in God’s name that I subconsciously believed would make Him love me more.

God continued to minister to me with wave upon wave of love and understanding. I even thought about all the disabled people who can’t walk or speak – “vegetables” as they are often called. I felt God’s love for them. It was a beautiful illustration that the love God has for us is based on Him, not on what we can do for Him. We will never know what sweet communion these souls have with God.

In the middle of these thoughts, I was startled as my cat Sue jumped on the bed. But when I opened my eyes, she wasn’t there. I felt peace and calm, and I knew that my guardian angel had settled down next to me. “I am here with you. I am always here, and I always love you.” My frustration (ok, my little breakdown) had ended, and I quickly fell asleep under the watchful eyes of my angel.

Because of Who God Is

The next day, I picked up the book, “Epic Battles of the Last Days” by Rick Joyner. In it, Joyner states the following:

“The religious spirit seeks to have us serve the Lord in order to gain His approval, rather than from a position of having received our approval through the cross of Jesus. Therefore, the religious spirit bases relationship to God on personal discipline rather than the propitiatory sacrifice of Christ. The motivation for doing this can be either fear or pride, or a combination of both.”

Later, Joyner adds the following:

“There are multitudes of men and women whose zeal for the Lord is likewise based on an attempt to atone for sin failure, or irresponsibility in other areas of their lives. But all the sacrifices in the world will not atone for even our smallest failure. To even make such an attempt is an insult to the cross of Jesus, which is the only acceptable sacrifice to the Father for sin.

 Attempting to gain God’s approval by our own sacrifice…is not based on the blood of Jesus, but on an attempt to make our own atonement for sin. This doesn’t mean we should not do things to please the Lord, but we must keep as our motive to be pleasing to the Lord for His joy, not for our acceptance. One is God-centered; the other is self-centered….an attempt to circumvent the cross.”

When I read this, I realized that God was giving me a deeper understanding of what He had shown me the night before. I felt convicted that I had been subconsciously trying to earn God’s love. But God reminded me that He loves me because of who He is, not because of what I do. I knew this in my head, but it’s finally starting to sink into my heart.

Human Love

I also realized that, at times, I had even tried to earn the love of my family and friends.

As a self-proclaimed Type-A personality, I tend to rate myself on what I’m doing. I feel like a better wife if I’ve made great meals and cleaned the house. I feel like a better employee if I’ve solved some problem or worked 110%. I feel like a better daughter, sister, and friend if I’ve gone above and beyond in some way or another.

But over the past few weeks, I hadn’t been able to really cook or clean, much less go grocery shopping. Robby had stepped up to these tasks without hesitation, and he never complained or showed frustration. In fact, for the longest time, I was the frustrated one because I felt bad that he was having to shoulder so much for so long. Now, I realize God was showing me that Robby loves me no matter what, thick or thin, whether I’m a domestic diva or domestic drop-out.

And the same goes for my close family and friends. Even though many couldn’t “do” for me, they checked in on me and prayed for me. It’s a reminder that people love each other for who we are, not for what we can do for one another. (And if there’s someone in your life who requires you to do things in order for them to love you, I have a message for you: that’s not real love.)

Healing

Over the past few weeks, my illness has separated me from work, friends, family, and even my writing ministry. I now believe God allowed this time so I would STOP DOING and just BE STILL and KNOW – beyond a shadow of a doubt, and without any effort on my part – that God loves me and is with me.

Psalm 46:10, NKJ  Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!

Physically, I’m feeling much better now. But each time I start to say, “I need to do this or that,” I make myself stop long enough to examine my motives. Am I trying to please God for His sake, or am I trying to earn His love? Am I trying to serve my family so I can be pleasing and helpful to them, or am I trying to earn their love? It’s a small difference, but what a different outlook!

Final Word

John 3:16, NAS   “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. 

Romans 5:3-8, NAS   And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

God loved us so much that He sent His Son to die for us – a perfect sacrifice as the perfect gift. How could we ever think that God could love us more than this?