Archives For love

Jesus Loves You!

Alyson Kieda —  February 12, 2014 — 4 Comments

God’s Amazing Love/flickr/Creative Commons/Paul Dallgas-Frey

Some of the finest and dearest people I know struggle with believing that God loves them. They believe that they are far too sinful, too unlovable, or too unworthy to be loved by God. They have received Jesus as their Savior but still doubt that His love extends to them. They have no trouble believing that He loves everyone else, but they just can’t fathom the idea that God could possibly love someone like them—someone so undeserving.

Once upon a time, I was one of them. I struggled with my sinfulness, with the ugly words I spoke and with the ugliness inside me. How could God love me, I reasoned, when I failed to live up the standards of what a Christian should be?! I was such a lowly worm.

Thankfully, I now have complete assurance that God loves me—even me! Why? Is it because I’m sinning less and growing more like Him? Nope. Is it because I’m serving in my church? No, not even that. Have I done something to deserve His love? No and no again.

Even though I’m a Christian, I continue to sin. I am totally undeserving of God’s love. Yet I know that “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us!” (Romans 5:8). That’s the key. God loves us because He chose to love us—not because of how lovable we are but because He is the God of love. He loved us so much that He sent His Son to die for us, to pay the debt for our sins (past, present, and future) that we could never pay. Because of what He did, I am considered righteous in His eyes.

It’s a simple yet profound truth that so many fail to grasp—or believe. But I know it’s true. The Bible tells me so, and the Spirit inside me confirms that truth: Jesus loves me. And if you have received Him as your Savior, He loves you too!

There are many ways for us to get into the Christmas spirit.

Some of us listen to and sing along with our favorite Christmas tunes. Others of us watch Christmas movies or send out Christmas cards to family and friends.

Many of us bring out the Christmas spirit by decorating. We put up a Christmas tree and hang up all sorts of ornaments on its prickly green branches. Those of us who are not too averse to climbing up ladders string lights on the outside of our homes.

100_5401I have one clever friend who gets into the swing of the season by decking out her car with reindeer horns and a bright red nose.

Speaking of reindeer, I invite you to check out this short clip of a YouTube video that has recently gone viral. Claire Koch, who is just five years old, captured hearts across the world (and the essence of the Christmas spirit) when she used sign language in a school Christmas concert so that her deaf parents could understand the lyrics to the songs.

With her little hands and big heart, this adorable child showed what getting into the spirit of Christmas is truly all about.

Even in the smallest of ways, Christmas is about giving. It’s about celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ—our Creator God’s most extraordinary of gift of love and joy—by shining His self-giving love into the lives of others.

 

 

Practice Kindness

Tim Jackson —  June 18, 2013 — Leave a comment

I’m constantly stunned by how inconsiderate and selfish people are becoming. Rudeness seems to be the new epidemic in human interactions. What’s equally disturbing is that everyone seems to accept it. We’ve come to expect unkindness as the new norm.

People don’t look each other in the eye either. Frankly, it’s much easier to be rude to someone you don’t bother looking at. Why? Well, if you see a person, I mean really see him or her as another person who is a living, breathing reflection of the invisible God, it’s much more difficult to be dismissive. If you keep it impersonal, you can remain aloof and maintain your “whatever,” “it-is-what-it-is” attitude as you walk right by focused on doing your own thing and not caring about anyone else. It’s this intentional refusal to connect that allows you to view others as just another something in your way instead of someone you just walked on to get where you wanted to go.

Recently, I overheard a caller on a local radio station bragging about her vanity license plate that reads ALLABOUTME. She was proud to say that when a questioning driver pulled up next to her at a signal light and inquired through the car window, “Is that really true?” her response was “H*ll yea!” And frankly, she’s not alone.

When it’s all about us, we don’t have time to be kind. Honestly, we don’t even notice opportunities to be kind. It simply does not cross our minds, revealing that for most of us, it really is all about us. Ugh!

And that’s why the call to kindness in the Bible is so counter to the way we think as individuals and how we live together as a society.

In what many have come to see as the greatest description of 5026716018_80b8b4af2e_zlove ever written, Paul penned “love is kind” (1 Cor. 13:4). Kindness is the byproduct of love. Listen as he describes the characteristics of a loving heart:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails (1 Cor. 13:4-8).

How much different would our world be right now, today, if we simply practiced kindness? What would happen if we started looking people in the eye and treating them with kindness, like they really mattered? Would the whole world change? Probably not. But I can certainly tell you that at least two lives would be changed: Yours and the recipient of your kindness.

Kindness Street SignaAnd if enough of us practice kindness regularly, who knows what might happen. A new epidemic of kindness? I sure hope so.

So here’s my challenge: Practice kindness.

Be intentional about being kind. And then post your stories of sharing kindness and how it’s changing you. But also share the responses from those on the receiving end of your kindness.

I’m in. Are you?

 

 

Show & Tell

Tim Jackson —  April 3, 2013 — Leave a comment

Having just come through the Easter holiday, I spent some time rereading Matthew’s account of Jesus’ last days on earth (Matt. 26–28). I started in chapter 26 with the religious leadership plotting to kill Him, and then read about His anointing at Bethany; His betrayal by Judas; His last Passover celebration with His disciples; His agony in the Garden of Gethsemane; and His betrayal, trial, death, burial, resurrection, and appearances after His resurrection. I ended with His Great Commission and ascension into heaven.

As I reflected on what I’d read, what was deeply impressed on my heart was how God didn’t just tell us that He loved us, He showed us.

Words can be cheap if they aren’t backed up with actions. “I love yous” carry little weight when there’s no tangible demonstration of loving actions that support the words.

As I read Matthew’s words on Easter Sunday morning, it became even more apparent just how far God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were willing to go to back up their words with the actions that proved it.

The most commonly known Bible verse, John 3:16, tells us that because “God so loved the world, He gave His one and only Son.” Those words would mean nothing without Jesus invading our planet, living among us, and then sacrificing Himself in our place. That’s love in action; and that’s what matters.

How much does God really love us? He went all the way and left no doubt!

The hope of mankind—in a world in desperate need and that can feel hopeless at times—is best contained in this simple but profound reminder from Paul: “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8 NIV).

That’s our only hope this Easter: That God not only cared so deeply that He was willing to tell us how much He loved us, but that He also was willing to show us His lavish love (1 John 3:1) in His Son’s willingness to die and be raised to life so that we could be rescued from sin and death and be given a new life as adopted sons and daughters of the King of kings.

Seeing & Still Loving

Tim Jackson —  November 20, 2012 — 5 Comments

Recently, while revisiting and revising some material on grief and loss that I wrote over 20 years ago, I ran across this amazing quote from C. S. Lewis that deeply encouraged me and thought I’d share it so that maybe it will do the same for you:

“He sees because He loves, and therefore loves although He sees” (A Grief Observed, p.84)

What do those words stir inside of you as you read them?

Fear? Disbelief? Hope? Or maybe some feeling altogether different.

For me, all three emotions were provoked.

Fear. Being “seen” can often be an unnerving experience because it’s so revealing. Think about it: When was the last time you were seen, I mean really seen for being who you really are? For most of us, that exposure comes at the worst possible time–after we’ve messed up and got caught. How did that go? Totally exposed? Feeling naked with no where to hide?

Just ask the woman entrapped in adultery and thrown in front of Jesus to be judged (John 8:3-11). She expected condemnation, knowing that even death was a real possibility at the hands of her accusers. She knew what she’d been doing was wrong. Nevertheless, being seen and exposed to all (in an open public courtyard) had to leave her feeling ashamed, vulnerable and terrified of what was coming next.

Disbelief. Could it be true? Really? Could I be totally exposed, my flaws revealed and still be loved? My friend, Larry Crabb once shared that for the vast majority of us it was a rare thing to experience “being seen at our worst in the presence of love.” But that’s what grace is all about.

Total exposure usually brings only shame, ridicule, disdain and judgment. But what Jesus offered this vulnerable woman (and us) was radically unexpected: The eyes of truth and a heart of gracious love. He turned the tables on her accusers who weren’t concerned about her at all and then refused to condemn her, even though he clearly saw her sins. Instead, He invited her to leave her sinful lifestyle and step up into a new kind of life that only He could offer.

Hope. Being exposed and not wiped out because of our sin is the scandalous gift of love that God offers to everyone of us without exception, no matter where we’ve been or what we’ve done. That’s what Jesus offered this woman entrapped by accusers and enslaved by her sin. He looked, He saw, and He fully loved her (John 8:11).

And that’s what Jesus offers to each of us–The Hope of being completely seen–warts and all–and  being deeply embraced with the lavish love of God (1 John 3:1). That’s the transformational love of God that is beyond even our wildest dreams.

And the best part about it . . . it’s really true! And it has the power to change us, starting on the inside and working it’s way out.

So, what was it like the last time you were really seen? How did it end? Has there been a time in your life when you’ve tasted the lavishness of God’s loving embrace after you were seen in a not-so-flattering light? Your stories are encouraging to others who fear being seen and loved.

Thanks for sharing.

The Fear of Love

Tim Jackson —  July 23, 2012 — 8 Comments

I recently chatted with a young woman who survived growing up in a dangerous home with an evil father. Oh, he looked normal enough to outsiders—kept a job, paid the bills, went to church, and played the part for the public—but in private, he was a cruel, sadistic beast who preyed upon the insecurities of his wife and children.

How did she survive? She became a runner. She learned how to outdistance the problem, literally and emotionally.

In junior and senior high school, she ran track. She was a fierce competitor. She’d had lots of practice. Putting distance between herself and a threatening adversary became second nature not only on the track, but also off the track in her relationships.

Now that she’s found a good man who—unlike her dad—can be trusted, she’s discovered that she just can’t stop running. She readily admits the undeniable longing for love deeply embedded in her heart. But while that desire entices her, it terrifies her even more!

Why? Because she’s realizing that running has become a way of life.

The truth is, all relationships are risky and have the potential for both pain and pleasure. Running is her way to manage that potential for pain in her relationships. Admittedly, it helped her survive an abusive situation, but now it’s sabotaging her potential for joy in a relationship with a man who truly loves her.

It’s her fear of love that’s paralyzing her from moving forward.

John Eldredge wrote in Wild at Heart, “The only thing more tragic than the tragedy that happens to us is the way we handle it” (p. 106).

Oddly enough, for many it’s the fear of losing love that shuts love down before it even has a chance to take root and grow.

This young woman’s fear of intimacy, of getting close, of finally being loved paralyzes her heart, preventing her from exchanging her running shoes for a pair of dancing shoes.

For many who have suffered the torment of growing up in an abusive home, their capacity to trust others to deeply love and care for them and not leave them is greatly diminished. They find it next to impossible to believe anyone will stay in their lives for an extended time, much less for a lifetime. They are always waiting for the other shoe to drop, dashing their hopes for a meaningful relationship yet again.

The solution for many is, “Just don’t get close to anyone. Outdistance the pain. Never commit. Keep moving, and you’ll never feel the pain of abandonment or abuse again.”

Unfortunately it works for a while . . . with some of the pain. But it’s a thief. It steals. It kills. And it destroys one’s opportunity to playfully splash around in the refreshing waters of committed love.

But there is hope. The antidote to our fear is perfect love. The problem is we are not perfectly loved. Or are we?

John, the apostle of love, said it best: “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear” (1 John 4:18 NIV). It’s God’s perfect love for us that can infuse us with the courage necessary to take the risk of loving others. And that’s the antidote that can transform any of us from “runners” to “lovers.” John’s words are a necessary reminder when we panic and start lacing up our running shoes. “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).

So, what shoes are you wearing these days? Running shoes or dancing shoes? I love to hear your thoughts and stories.

 

 

Love is blind . . .

Tim Jackson —  February 7, 2012 — 11 Comments

My bride of 35 years recently brought home a sign that she wants to hang in our soon-to-be-remodeled bathroom. [The soon-to-be-remodeled part being . . . as soon as I can get to it. And we all know how that goes. :-)] Here’s the sign:

It makes me laugh. We do a lot of that around our house. But it’s more than funny. What hits me is the proverbial sounding wisdom that it whimsically communicates. If I didn’t know better, I’d swear that Solomon wrote it in the Proverbs. He didn’t. (I looked.) But he could have.

Why do we laugh? Because it’s only those of us who are married who have the insider information about how true those words are.

Think about it, those of you who are married. You know who you are. You laughed the loudest. Come on, be honest. Didn’t you? Why? It’s because when you were in that ooey-gooey, falling-in-love stage, there’s a lot you closed your eyes to with thoughts like: “Oh, we’ll work that out later.” We all did.

However, it’s after the post-honeymoon glow wears off and doing life together sets in that we begin to see each other more clearly—no tux, no wedding dress—just who we are in street clothes. Honestly, it feels vulnerable, over-our-heads naked with nowhere to hide. Excitement and terror all rolled into one.

That’s when, with eyes wide open, we catch our first glimpses of the exquisite design that God had in mind when He made one man for one woman (Gen. 2:18, 21-25). Though we live east of Eden, we are given the daily opportunity to make good on our wedding-day promises to “nourish and cherish” our spouse with all of our hearts until our last dying breath (Eph. 5:25-33).

Now for those of you who are in the falling in love stage of your relationship and you’re thinking, “I don’t get it.” Don’t worry. Give it time. You will.

Ooey-gooey love is great, for starters; but it won’t sustain you for the long haul kind of love that is required to go the distance. It’s the God-help-me-love-you-when-I-don’t-feel-like-it kind of love that is needed.

Love is blind–but, if we’re willing, God can and will use marriage to open our hearts to love our mates more deeply than we ever thought possible. Really. Get the picture?

The Marriage Killer

Jeff Olson —  February 3, 2012 — 6 Comments

Nagging is a marriage killer. So says a study reported in the recent Wall Street Journal article—“Meet the Marriage Killer.”

The article defines the nagging problem as the “interaction in which one person repeatedly makes a request, the other person repeatedly ignores it and both become increasingly annoyed.”

The article goes on to point out that every couple experiences nagging to some degree, but it can grow to “be as potentially dangerous to a marriage as adultery or bad finances.” A couple will start bickering about the nagging and never address what is underneath the nagging. In time, this type of “toxic communication” can “sink the relationship.”

Is nagging ruining your marriage? Admit the conflict! The good news is that couples can grow and learn how to curb the nagging and replace it with mutual love and respect. But they first need to recognize and acknowledge they are stuck in a bad pattern.

Together, and often with the help of a trusted guide, spouses can start to work towards listening and understanding where each other is coming from. They can learn to talk through feelings and needs in ways that can help them consider how to love one another more. Accusations and demands for change can start to be replaced with non-demanding expressions and requests of what each spouse legitimately needs from the other.

Watch a short video below by Dr. Larry Crabb on handling conflict in your marriage.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QHj-BtyAve8]

Good decisions

Allison Stevens —  July 27, 2011 — 6 Comments

Blogging is difficult for me because what I write is only a tiny slice of the truth. It’s not full and complete. I can’t say everything I want to or need to. But here is something that happened to me I wanted to share. I don’t say near enough in this about the power of my relationship with my husband who is my best friend and how he helped me through this difficult moment in my life. Maybe I’ll say something more next week about that.  Thank you for your patience with this process!

On Sunday, I was thinking about decisions I’ve made over the past 10 years. Many of the choices brought me so much happiness. They’ve brought me joy like nothing else.  But as I sat on my couch, an overwhelming feeling of dissatisfaction rose up inside. I questioned a couple of significant decisions I’d made.

I felt sick to my stomach. I thought I had done the right thing at the time. No, I knew I had. So why now the doubt?

There were pros and cons to each side of this one particular decision. Each side had its significant life-changing side-effects. This was not a moral dilemma; it was a choice of preference.  Do I prefer it this way or that way?  I chose this way.  Now I wish I had chosen that way.

Either way required a sacrifice on my part.  And what I’d sacrificed for choosing route “A”, resurrected itself in me and it was as if it was fighting for justice, a fair trial, like it was saying, “Hey!  Look at me! You can’t just toss me aside as if I don’t matter.” And I felt intense pain because of what I gave up. I didn’t see it or feel it then as clearly as I did just a few days ago.

The feelings scared me. Had I sinned? How could I have been so wrong? How can I know anything? What if I will always regret this decision? What if I live for the rest of my life with this sinking feeling of what I’d given up? Oh God, I prayed, I can’t live like this.

Breathe in. Breathe out. Help me, God. Despair swam around me, like a shark about to devour any happiness I had.

Then I felt a bit of a nudge toward something. Grief.  Grieve what you’ve lost, Allison. Feel your pain, express it, and push through it. Don’t run from it, numb it, push it down. Don’t despair.   Because despair is the result of believing that what I lost would have saved me; that it was my source of life.

It’s not. Nothing will save me or give me life, except Jesus.

And, with my husband beside me, with his help, this is what I ended up with:  whispering His name:  Jesus. In that desperate moment, Jesus became my answer. He is all I need. He is more than sufficient.

If my life depends on my ability to make “good”, non-regrettable decisions, I’m doomed. I can’t rely on myself to give me what I need. Only one person can do that. Jesus Christ.

Rarely has there been a clear-cut path to where I should go or what I should do. And the times when I’ve been so sure of myself, I now question some of those decisions. My point isn’t that we can’t ever be sure of ourselves or know what a right path is. It’s that I realize that I’m in the thick woods of life. It’s complicated and difficult at times. Even when it seems easy, it’s not. I step forward, and a limb hits me in the face. The brush is so thick I can’t see two feet in front of me.  And the path is uneven, too. How many times I’ve stepped into a hole and stumbled.

The message of the cross, which is love, is power to us who are being saved (1 Corinthians 1:18.) And God will destroy the wisdom of the wise, the intelligent of the intelligent (v 19.) He will make Himself known through His love, not through the wisdom of man.

Walk by faith, not by sight. Moment by moment, seek love and follow Jesus. I think that that, not making good decisions, is the point of life.

The final movie in the Harry Potter series finally hit the theater this past weekend. I’ll admit, I’m a huge fan.

Although the series is a fantasy, the parallels to real life are stunning, especially the epic battle between good and evil.

Lord Voldemort, the powerful dark lord and Satan figure in the film, is trying to infiltrate and influence young Harry’s heart and mind. After one of Voldemort’s minions kills Harry’s God-father, the dark lord attempts to fill and inflame Harry with thoughts of murder and revenge. It’s part of his devilish plan to tempt Harry to join him in his darkness and ultimately own him.

At one climatic point in the series, near the end of The Order Of The Phoenix , Voldemort nearly has Harry convinced that he is just as dark and evil. He thinks he’s won. He thinks Harry is finished, so he begins to mock him as “weak.” As Harry is struggling, oh so close to giving into the dark lord’s influence, Dumbledore, Harry’s close mentor, says to him,

“Harry, it’s not how you are alike, it’s how you are not!”

Right then, Harry spots his closet friends and recalls the happy times he’s enjoyed with them. Suddenly, the strength to resist returns, and Harry says to Voldemort,

“You’re the weak one. And you’ll never know love, or friendship. And I feel sorry for you.”

It’s one of those fictional moments that illuminates what the battle between good and evil is all about–love and restored friendship with others and God.

At the end of the The Order Of The Phoenix, after Harry has recovered from Voldemort’s vicious attack, Harry says to his friends,

“I’ve been thinking about something Dumbledore said to me. He said, ‘Even though we’ve got a fight ahead of us, we’ve got one thing that Voldemort doesn’t have…something worth fighting for.’”

Jesus declared, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” –John 10:10