Saturday, 24 March 2012

Am I loved?

I believe that everyone has one fundamental desire: to be loved and to know that they are loved. Everyone searches for this in different ways, and I see it every day. People searching for approval, searching for something that will fill the ache within them to be desired, loved and accepted.

I've spent so long searching for this, and in a way I still search for it. I have the love of my parents, my beautiful sister and my wonderful friends. Yet, still part of me doubts this. Part of me thinks that at any time this could be taken away, something I do could make it all turn sour. It is an almost overwhelming fear of getting it "wrong". Furthermore, the approval of those closest to me doesn't seem enough. The desire runs deeper than that, something at the centre of who I am as a person and regardless as to how many people I know love me, regardless as to how many friends I have, I will always be asking the same question: Am I loved? Am I worth it?

Until I became a Christian, I felt like I would never be able to answer this question and that I would spend my life searching for acceptance and self worth. Then I heard the gospel. It is something so beautiful and so incredible. I can now say that I know the security of a love so deep and so profound that it scares me slightly. It is intense and personal, passionate and fiery. Jesus wants to know me, he hungers for me, he will pursue me to the ends of the earth. He will fight for me when I don't have the strength and most of all he will love me. Forever. And I, how do I feel about this? As I said, the intensity and depth of this scares me:
"For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, 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."
Romans 8:38-39
God is so much bigger than everything I know, and He will let NOTHING separate me from him, and from his love. This is powerful. This is real too. This is something that, while I love my family, and I love my friends, I know that no one lives forever on earth. Friendships change, and people wither and die. Yes, I will of course do the same, but I know that even after my time on earth, I have a God whose love for me will never die and I know that I will spend eternity with him. With the ultimate father. With the ultimate love. That is something I will come to experience fully in all its magnificence. It fills me with joy. A real, pure joy that I cannot deny.

Am I worth it? Am I loved? The answer: absolutely and completely. I am loved furiously and passionately by a being so powerful he would move mountains for me. And I love Him. I love him with all my heart. And I know I always will. Even when I struggle, even if I turn away, I know that I will never stop loving Jesus, and I will never stop needing him. And to know that he feels the same about me, but knowing that he will never change or turn his back on me, is more incredible than any words can say.

The most awesome thing about this love? Jesus feels this for every single person. We are all treasure in his eyes. So next time you ask yourself, am I loved? Am I worth it? Know that the answer will always be unequivocally, YES. You are loved completely and unconditionally by your true father and creator God. 

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Would you become a goldfish?

Grace. Something that is still an awesome concept, both to try and understand (I am not sure I ever will) and to accept (I'm not always great at that either!). It has come up time and time again throughout my journey with God and I am always hearing different ways of understanding it.

The first analogy I heard, was the idea of God's Riches At Christ's Expense. This was extremely helpful, because it showed me that we get all the benefits of coming into relationship with God, without any personal cost to ourselves. We simply bring our brokenness to God and he will fix us. It is an outrageous concept. Someone paid the price for our mistakes so we didn't have to. We simply get the joy and love that comes from a relationship with God. Therefore, in theory, you could just say "it doesn't matter, I am human, I messed up, but God forgives me so I can keep doing this."

But, alongside this outrageous idea should come the understanding of the COST to God. He gave his ONLY SON because of his love for us. He came to earth and lived as man, feeling all of the temptations, all of the frustrations, and all of the sorrow that we encounter in our lives and then went on to die one of the most horrific and brutal deaths in the history of man kind. Worse than this, he had to experience the weight of sin and shame which separated man from God... this meant that Jesus had to be separated from God; from his own father. He experienced the pain and the brokenness that we battle every day. I find it incredibly easy to forget this because "God" is such an aloof concept: something so mighty, powerful and holy that he can't possibly have known or even cared about the pain of being separated or tempted by worldly possessions and desires. But today, yet again I was reminded. He experienced EVERYTHING about being human. He knows, cares and understands about me. Because his son paid the ultimate price. He lost his relationship with God. It was something so perfect and so beautiful, and so powerful, but he gave that up WILLINGLY. Not only because of his love for our Father, but his love for US too.

It is this revelation of the Cross and the cost of grace which leads to a transformation of the heart. Once I'd understood what Christ suffered so I could get right with God, I was changed irrevocably. I could, if I wanted, carry on deliberately doing wrong, because the concept of grace is that radical...but that would mean I had not understood its cost. It would mean I hadn't understood love either.

This is where the goldfish analogy comes in. I was told about it by a friend today and it really gave me a revelation of cost. Imagine this: You want to tell a Goldfish you love would you do it? The only way to make a goldfish truly understand this would be to BECOME a goldfish. Yes. That's right. You would have to give up all the home comforts, the luxury of memory, the freedom of living in the world and join the fish bowl. You would live as a goldfish, with a 3 second memory, and a glass bowl/ tank without the luxuries we take for granted. Only then would the goldfish truly understand how you feel, and only then would it see that when you say "I love you" you are not saying it from an outside perspective. You would know it through and through and know the world it lives in. And still you would love it.

Okay...It maybe a silly sounding analogy, but it illustrates the scale of what Jesus gave up so he could show his love for us: So that he could show how true God's love for us is.

Would you become a goldfish?

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Follow My Heart Or Follow God?

Life is full of choices. There are many paths to take and so many ways to lose sight of yourself or what you are aiming for. What is right in front of you can be missed because you are looking for something bigger. The beauty of the now can be eclipsed by the worry about tomorrow, or the regret of yesterday.

The choices we make are always going to have consequences; whether they're minor or major. And it is how we cope with the consequences of our decisions that define us as much as the choices we make.

For me the choice was follow my heart or follow Jesus. You may say that if I am a Christian, then are the two not equal? Does my heart not lie with Jesus? I can answer that in two ways. Firstly, I am a Christian and I have given my heart to Jesus. But, I am not perfect and there are still parts of my life, and parts of me that I need to learn to hand over to God. I have been struggling to understand why the heart would want things that I know God is very clearly saying "steer clear" to. It appears to make no sense. Why would we have a desire for something if God is saying "no" to it?

Being human, I gave up trying to understand. Not only that, but I decided that I would try things MY way. Needless to say I ran straight back to God, having completely screwed up and ended up realising that God's way is in fact a lot better for me than my way. Now, what counts, is how I face the consequences of my mistakes, because I cannot go back and change yesterday, but only embrace the present and improve tomorrow.

In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.  
 Proverbs 16:9

This is a verse I discovered today when I needed to escape and spend some time with God. I needed to pray and wait on him and it was probably, if I am honest, the first time where I truly did just that. I think the verse means that we have hopes, and desires and wishes within us, and God knows this, but unless God is at their centre, He cannot fulfil those wishes. I could plan to do something, but without God it is unlikely to come to fruition. This is why God is at the centre of my world. Sometimes this alignment goes askew and I ignore him; just as a child sometimes ignores their parents' advice. Things go wrong, but it is through these mistakes that I have learnt, and will continue to learn my most valuable lessons.