How Much Did God Love Jesus?

A few months after having Lana, my husband casually mentioned a quote he had heard while listening to an online sermon. The quote itself was powerful, but the timing of the quote – as a new mom – made it heartbreaking.

“You’ll never understand how much God loves you until you understand how much God loved Jesus.”

You guys, I thought I knew love. I love my parents; I love my brothers; I love my husband. But the way that I love my daughter – the way I feel about that toothless grin and the tiny rolls on her thighs and the way she holds my finger in her wet, chubby fist when she sleeps – is the most overwhelming and terrifying feeling I have ever known. It’s the kind of love that is bone deep. I would do anything and everything in my power to keep her from ever feeling pain or sadness. When she cries, my soul cries. I love her completely and fiercely.

If I’m able to love my daughter that much, even with all of my imperfections, how much did God love Jesus? How much did the perfect Father love the perfect Son?

God was not powerless. He had the power to keep His son from ever feeling pain or sadness. Instead, His soul cried as He saw His son being stripped and beaten. As He saw nails pierce his hands. As He saw them spit in his face. He saw His son hang on a cross. And then, He left him.

On the cross, Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” The penalty for sin is death – both physical and spiritual. Separation of the spirit from the body (physical) and separation of the spirit from God (spiritual). Since Jesus was taking our punishment, He had to actually experience the agony of separation from His Father for the first time. God didn’t just leave him on the cross, he left him on the cross alone – so that we would never have to be alone.

How can we possibly think that God doesn’t love us? Or, even worse, that He doesn’t love us enough? He left His son on the cross so that nothing could separate us from Him.

“And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.”
– Romans 8:38-39

 

 

 

 

Chronic Worry

Advice we receive about worry can be confusing. I think most people, if asked about worry directly, would tell you not to worry too much and to enjoy the moments. But then we constantly see in the news and on social media those stories that want to raise awareness about <something> because <something awful> happened to them. Those stories absolutely break my heart, but they also cause me to fall into worry.

“Ten Signs of Depression You Might Not Recognize Until It’s Too Late”

“Dry Drowning: Know the Signs”

“Mom Warns Other Parents After 18-Day-Old Baby Girl Dies”

When I came home from the hospital with a tiny, defenseless baby in my arms, I was completely overwhelmed trying to remember all of the “need to know” tips, warnings, and advice. I was so worried and everything I was reading on the news was affirming that I should be worried because there were a million tiny things that could go wrong.

That burden was heavy. As someone who has always been a chronic worrier, that burden was crushing. Luckily, as believers, we have someone to transfer that burden to.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

I didn’t sleep for weeks after my daughter was born. Every time my eyes would close, I would wonder if she was still breathing. It wasn’t until much later that I realized I had postpartum anxiety. The only thing that helped me finally start sleeping was to repeat Psalm 4:8 to myself every night, when I began to worry: “In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, LORD, make me dwell in safety.”

For anyone who struggles with constant worrying, I encourage you to write down Bible verses about worry on index cards and repeat them out loud every time you begin to feel that anxiety creep in.

I was recently shown an awesome example of why it helps to speak the verses out loud. Try counting to ten in your head and somewhere in the middle, say your name out loud. When you do, what happens? Your counting stops.

When you speak the Word of God out loud, your thoughts will literally stop in their tracks. Your mind will stop to hear what your soul has to say. To worry is to say that you have more faith in the enemy to harm you than you have faith in the Lord to protect you. If anxiety starts to attack you, speak out about where your faith lies.

Below are a few good verses to start with. Take these verses and make them personal. “Thank you, Lord, that you have given me your peace. I will cast my cares upon you and put my trust in you. I will not be anxious, but will trust that your peace will guard my mind and my heart.”

  • John 14:27 – Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
  • Colossians 3:15 – Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.
  • Psalm 55:22 – Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken.
  • Psalm 56:3 – When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.
  • John 16:33 – I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.
  • Romans 8:38-39 –  For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
  • Philippians 4:6-7 – Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

 

Power of Testimony

We know that testimonies can be powerful. Scripture tells us to declare how much God has done for us. Most of us have been deeply moved by testimonies, but have you ever listened to someone’s testimony and felt critical or jealous?

A critical heart would think, “I could present this in a better way” or “My story is more powerful than this”, while a jealous heart might think, “My testimony isn’t that powerful; I might as well never share it because it won’t measure up.”

Working for a Christian ministry, I have heard my fair share of incredible testimonies: A Gift of Forgiveness in Rwanda, Military Couple Moves Past the Past, The Power of a Transformed Heart. There are so many stories and it’s such a blessing to work in a place where I can see daily how God is moving. But sometimes, it can be hard to view my own testimony as powerful. I have never had to forgive someone for murdering a family member. I have never been hardened by war. I have never been close to death. How can my story have value?

I don’t know if you have ever felt the same way. I don’t know if you have ever held your tongue or stayed quiet because you didn’t know if your story was good enough. But if you have, then know that the idea that your testimony isn’t powerful enough is a lie from the enemy. The most powerful part of any Christian testimony is the part we all share. We were dead and raised to life again through the blood of Jesus Christ. 1 John 5:11 says, “And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.”

We were all dead in our sin until God stepped in. Just as Jesus rose from the dead, through the glory of the Father, we also received new life in Christ when we accepted Him as our savior. The entire meaning of a testimony is to give glory to the things God has done. In our flesh, we tend to think that the most powerful part of the testimony is when God healed us, or spoke to us, or protected us – and those are important mile markers in growing our faith – but the part that gives the most glory to God is the part where He sent his one and only Son to die for us.

Your salvation cost God everything. To deny the power of your testimony is to deny the power of His sacrifice, so never let the enemy convince you that your story isn’t worth telling.

His Victory

I was watching old home videos recently and came across one of my younger brother taking his first steps. In the video, I was about four years old. As soon as he took that first step, I yelled to my parents, “He’s doing it!” Then, as my parents began to praise him, I suddenly realized I was no longer the center of attention and proceeded to push my wobbling brother to the side so I could run across the room and do a cartwheel.

Watching that video is slightly mortifying, but I remember that feeling so well. I went from “Yay, my brother is walking!” to “Wait a minute… It’s not that big of a deal. I can do that, too, but nobody is praising me. In fact, I can do it even better. Where is my applause?”

We had a similar situation when my nephew was learning to ride his bike a few weeks ago. He tried several times, coming away with a few successes and a few scrapes. My niece wanted to try afterwards, and he handed over the bike with a few words of encouragement. Immediately, she took off, riding the bike perfectly. As their parents cheered, he went and sat on the ground with his head in his hands. “She did it! Wait… It’s not that big of a deal. I was on the bike first, but nobody is praising me. I was the first one to get on it. Where is my applause?”

How often do we do this as Christians? We are so excited when people first come to Christ. “My brother is home!” But what about when we become glory hogs? Have you ever listened to someone share their testimony and felt jealous or critical? “Wait… It’s not that big of a deal. I’ve been through a lot, too, but nobody is praising me. In fact, my testimony is even more powerful. I’ve been a Christian longer. Where is my applause?” I think the enemy loves to convince us that we are competing with each other. The truth is that we are getting credit for Christ’s glory. Jesus gave us His victory.

It reminds me of the older brother in the Parable of the Prodigal Son. In scripture, the younger brother takes his inheritance and leaves home only to squander everything and face famine. He returns home, with the intention to become a servant in his father’s home, but his father greets him with open arms and throws a celebration in his honor. His brother is angry when he comes home and refuses to participate. I can almost imagine the thoughts running through his head. “My brother is home! But wait…It’s not that big of a deal. I’ve been here all along, but nobody is praising me. In fact, I’ve been even better! I have faithfully served and obeyed my father. Where is my applause?”

In the Parable of the Prodigal Son, the father reminds the older son that they should celebrate the return of the younger son because he was lost and is now found. It was a victory for all of them. In the same way, my brother-in-law reminded my nephew that he gave his sister the courage to get on the bike. Her victory was his, too. I think that, especially as Christians, it’s important to remind ourselves of that. My brother’s victory is mine, too, because it brings glory to God.

The picture below was one I snapped of my nephew after he talked to his dad – cheering his sister on as she rode for her finish line.

FullSizeRender

Living a Healthy Life

I think sometimes we approach working out the same way we approach grace and Christianity. Too often, the main reason we reach out to God is because we think we messed up somehow. “Oh, I sinned again. I need to pray.”

It’s similar with working out – we do it because we want to fix something. “Oh, I messed up my diet again. I need to work out.”

Both of those things stem from guilt. But when you start seeking out God because you love Him and truly grasp how much He loves you, it removes that layer of guilt staining the relationship and you are able to just enjoy His presence. He loves us regardless of what we do right or wrong.

Your workouts change, too, when you don’t do them to punish yourself because you think you need to lose weight or because you ate something that wasn’t on your diet, but because you love your body and you want to take care of it. There is a big difference between working out because you hate your body and working out because you love your body, and see it as a gift.

Scripture tells us that our bodies are temples (1 Corinthians 3:16). So instead of focusing on what we want to fix or change about our bodies, let’s focus on what they actually are – God’s dwelling place!

Living a healthy life is a spiritual pursuit.

Cruise Control

This post was written by one of the amazing ladies in my life, Tiffany.

We’ve all had those days (or weeks) where it seems like everything that can go wrong, does.

The past couple of months have been a whirlwind, but this week was a breaking week.
My family recently received some sad, confusing news. My blood work didn’t come back as I had hoped and the new medicine I’ll be on is much stronger which results in me feeling even worse. 

And then this morning, I got pulled over for speeding. Not going to lie, I cannot stop laughing about it now. When the trooper pulled me over, of course he explained why and then asked for my license. After taking a few moments to look through my bottomless pit of a bag, guess what? No license. Obviously I’m stressed so he tells me not to worry about it and instead takes my name and date of birth- also asking why I was speeding.

My answer: “I’m not making excuses but it’s just been a rough week. Then one of my favorite songs came on and it said “when I walk through deep waters, I know You will be with me” and I just got carried away in the moment.”

Expecting him to look at me like I’m crazy he just said: “Yeah, God will do that to you.”
He walked back to his car and when he came back he said, “I’m letting you off with a warning- also I’m pretty sure I went to high school with your dad.” As he was walking away he turned around and said, “Next time you’re talking to God, use cruise control”.

Today I am thankful for Gods sense of humor.

Great Faith

A few months ago, God started speaking to me about great faith and where it comes from. The message I want to share focuses on three men in scripture: Abraham, Elijah and Thomas. My mother-in-law laughed at me when I said that I wanted to talk about Thomas as a man of great faith, but he’s in the lineup all the same.

First let’s look at Abraham, or Abram at the time. In Genesis 15:7, God essentially promises Abram land and Abram responds by asking, “But how will I know for sure?” We know that Abram was a man of faith. In the very verse before this one, God told Abram that he would have a son and Abram believed the Lord because of his great faith, and it was counted as righteousness.

Similarly, when we look at 1 Kings 19, we see Elijah running in fear and hiding in the wilderness. He left his servant behind and crawled into the desert, wanting to die. In verse 4, he calls out and says, “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.” He is consumed by fear, but we know that Elijah, too, was a man of faith because in the chapter before this He called down the fire of the Lord because of his great faith and defeated the Prophets of Baal.

And then there’s Thomas. I have a co-worker who recently said, “I’m pretty sure Thomas has the worst PR rep in all of the New Testament.” Thomas is remembered for John 20:25, where he speaks to the disciples when they tell him that Jesus had risen. He told them, “Unless I see the nail marks in His hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.” I’ll admit that it probably wasn’t the best response he could have given, but what makes it so much different from the disbelief of Abram or the fear of Elijah? In fact, if you look back at John 11 when Jesus is going to see Lazarus in Judea, where the Jews were waiting to stone Him, Thomas says, “Let us also go, that we may die with Him.” He was willing to die with Jesus because of his great faith. And even though we remember Thomas as “Doubting Thomas”, it’s important to realize that that’s not how God looks at him.

God is so faithful that He never lets our doubts in moments of fear define who we are to Him. I want to go back through these stories and really focus on how God responds to each of these men in their moments of doubt.

Let’s start in Genesis. God has just told Abram that he will possess the land and Abram asks Him, “But how can I be sure?” God responds by making a covenant with Abram – an unbreakable promise that requires nothing from Abram. Verse 18 says, “On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, ‘To your offspring I give this land’.” And what happens after that? Abraham becomes the father of all nations. Scripture says because of Abraham’s faith, God counted him as righteous.

With Elijah, the Lord was patient with him in the desert, letting him rest and regain his strength. He had angels bring him food and then led him to Mount Horeb, where God appeared to Him and told him to anoint his successor. Again, what happened after that? Elijah went on to prophesy and grow his faith and he never had to face death. God sent chariots and horses of fire and took Elijah up to Heaven in a whirlwind.

And how did God respond to Thomas? Jesus came to him and said, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” He met him at his faith level and Thomas immediately confessed his faith, saying, “My Lord and my God”. He went on to travel and preach the Gospel, baptizing and bringing many to faith.

Be encouraged, seeing that not only does God meet you at your faith level – he also doesn’t leave you there.

So many times, when I’ve had a moment of doubt, my first instinct is to try to hide it from God or pretend it’s not there. But I truly believe we serve a God who loves to use those moments of doubt to grow our faith. He will always meet us exactly where we are, whether we are standing outside looking at the stars, hiding out in the wilderness, standing among friends, or sitting in a quiet room praying for a sign. All we have to do is call out to Him and He will meet us and bring us closer to Him.

There are two verses I want to leave you with. The first is for when you ask yourself, ‘What exactly is faith?’ Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” And the second is for when you ask yourself, ‘What can faith do?’ Matthew 17:20 says, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

The video below is one of the most powerful videos I’ve seen on doubt and the role it plays in the Christian walk.

“My child, when it seems like you have all the right questions, but never enough answers, and your faith is small enough to fit in the cracks of your palms, I told you: Faith the size of mustard seeds can rearrange whole landscapes. Before you doubt me, doubt your doubts. Doubt your doubts and you will see they are just as empty as the tomb that I walked from.”