May the Lord direct your hearts into [realizing and showing] the love of God… 2 Thessalonians 3:5a (AMP)
One of my first near death experiences was at the age of 16 on my bike home from work. Nearly across the highway, a car abruptly made a right turn and slammed into my front tire as I defensively halted to a stop. The car sped off and in its wake, left the terrifying reality of what might have happened and that awful feeling that I didn’t matter.
Shaking, I scrambled my bike up onto the sidewalk to find a man standing there. He immediately spoke,
“Jesus loves you.”
“I know” I blurted back, and tore off on my bike as I fought the threatening tears.
Brief tangent: I found the man’s presence on that sidewalk right then quite strange. (I still question to this day whether he was an angel or not. See, a pre-collision-moment earlier he’d been no where in sight.) On the other hand, the words he spoke to me were far from it.
I’d been taught and told of God’s love from a very young age and took some comfort at times in sensing it and knowing of its existence. But even though I acknowledged it that day, my heart and head were still short of a quality realization of it.
A much fuller comprehension of His love came three summers later as I began to know Jesus in a way I never would have imagined. As I handed over the keys of my heart to Him, His love became a very personal reality to me. My awareness of it increased exponentially.
Not long after my heart’s transformation, I was a midst some mundane tasks at work when God brought that near death bike experience to mind. My eyes filled with tears as He tenderly showed me just how real and near His love for me had been. It had been His utmost priority to assure me of it and His Presence in that terrifying moment.
Looking back now, I realize what a heyday the enemy could have had with that situation. Satan is very strategic in shooting his arrows of lies. When they hit right after or a midst a fearful/awful situation- it makes for a potent combination. His main war with us every day is over who we are and who God is. The main battlefield is our minds.
What did that scary experience tell me? The driver had barely registered my existence. Nearly killed me. And fled as if none of that mattered. The first part of that experience seemed to support a few of the enemy’s most fiery arrows:
YOU ARE ALONE/NO ONE ACKNOWLEDGES YOUR EXISTENCE. YOUR LIFE IS WORTHLESS. YOU DON’T MATTER.
How often in your life have you heard thoughts like these? Sure we usually dismiss them, but I believe most people still suffer from at least a flicker of doubt about their real worth at times. Especially when the thoughts tag team with bad memories.
Well our God, He was and is always all about snuffing out and crushing those fiery darts. All we have to do is let Him. He said:
I LOVE YOU. YOU ARE NEVER ALONE -I AM ALWAYS WITH YOU. YOUR LIFE IS WORTH MUCH (the blood of My Son) SO YOU MATTER A GREAT DEAL.
Over the last 10 years, God has told me of His love and shown me it in numerous ways. I’m grateful for how I’ve grown in my awareness and understanding of it in both my head and heart. But I must admit that I’m still unsatisfied with my revelation of it. There’s a gap that remains between what my head knows and heart knows-and a much larger one in what neither of them has yet experienced!
And we know (understand, recognize, are conscious of, by observation and by experience) and believe (adhere to and put faith in and rely on) the love God cherishes for us. God is love, and he who dwells and continues in love dwells and continues in God, and God dwells and continues in him. I John 4:16 (AMP)
Is this verse a complete daily reality in my life? I’ll admit no. Sometimes it is. But I’m saddened by how I’ve settled. And wondering if anyone else resonates with this? If God went to such lengths to show His love to us, how can we not spend more of our days in awareness of it??
Somewhere along the line, it’s as if a ceiling (lack of expectation) seemed to subconsciously form that is blinding me (and I’m sure many others) from the expansive skies of His love. Recently, the Lord challenged me to work at shrinking the gap between my head and heart. To ask Him to break open that ceiling. That the eyes of my heart would be open to see…that my heart would expand so I could receive it. As I was pondering over His love, He began His challenge to me by bringing this verse to mind:
Keep and guard your heart with all vigilance and above all that you guard, for out of it flow the springs of life. -Proverbs 4:23 (AMP)
Why this verse? What does that have to do with receptiveness to the reality of God’s love?
More than you might think.
The Hebrew word for heart used in this verse is leb, it of course refers to our figurative heart, my bible’s lexical aid describes it as the “center of our inner or immaterial nature”. It’s the seat of our emotions, affections, desires, passions, purposes, will etc. God calls us to guard this above and beyond anything else we that we guard. To protect ourselves and also because He resides there! So how do we go about doing that?
An image came to mind that I believe God gave me to help. Imagine your mind as a yard with a gate, and your heart as a house. So our minds are a sort of gateway to our hearts. Our hearts functions in such a way that the door to them opens when we welcome or let something (some thought) dwell long enough in the yards of our minds. After these thoughts settle in and take root they can affect, transform and steer our entire lives. (This is the reason why Paul calls us in 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 to take our thoughts captive (at the gate) and submit them to Jesus.)
If the thoughts are negative/bad, the results can be quite disastrous. On the other hand, if they are positive/good and in line with God’s truth, it can be quite wonderful…such as dwelling on Philippians 4:8 sort (whatever is lovely, pure etc). This is the normal way of it with the exception of those “tornado” experiences in life that pay no heed to a fence, yard or door. They just devastate.
(***Please don’t get me wrong-with this image I am by no means suggesting that our relationship with God and His love can be reduced to function via a method -but this image just encouraged me to reevaluate how I was approaching and thinking about Him.)
As I was considering this picture and Proverbs 4:23, I felt like He said this to me. “You have unintentionally been “guarding” your heart from My love.”
Sure, I’ve spent time learning about Him and even His love. But how much of my day do I really dwell in it or even on it?
Then I remembered what others had said about if you want to gain a greater awareness of His Presence, practice it. Really imagine Him there with you, as a child would. Could the same be said for helping me become more aware of His love? If I spent a significant portion of my time looking out for (imaging) it, focusing on it, and meditating on the verses in His Word that speak of it-would my senses be more in tune with it? Would I allow myself to dwell in it more?
I dream and pray that our awareness would so increase. That His love would so continually wash through the deepest recesses of our hearts that they would be completely cleared of what was not of Him on this side of eternity. Imagine if our heart-houses had such a firm foundation in His love, and our mind-yards were so filled up with it, that there was no room for the enemies lies to sneak in. Imagine living with a maturity in His love that would cast out all fear (1 John 4:18).
His love should have such an effect in us that it tranforms our every thought, behavior and perspective of our reality.
Divinely loved. That’s you. That’s me. On this side of eternity, we don’t have to settle for mere bits of it here and bunches of it there. He’s continually chasing us with it (Psalm 23:6) and pouring it out on us.
He calls us to more than we often allow ourselves to imagine. He says, “abide (make your home) in My love.” (John 15:9)
I’ll leave you with this wonderful illustration…
“How do we ‘abide’ in the love of God? We dwell no further from His side than the place we are most keenly aware of His great affection. Was it not the disciple [John] who reclined against Christ Jesus who saw himself as the ‘beloved disciple’? Place your ear against the chest of the Savior so that when troubled times come, you may not know what will befall you, but you can hear the steady pulse of the boundless love of Him who holds you.”
-Beth Moore, Praying God’s Word
Some characteristics of God’s (agape) love:
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, 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 Corinthians 13:4-8 (NIV)
Divine, originated (its sole source is) in the heart of God, eternal, everlasting, unfailing, unconditional, of unrelenting pursuit (Ps 23:6), demonstrative (active, volitional, expressive at it’s essence), self-sacrificing, redeeming, always taking action for the best of the beloved, foundational fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23) -the love we’re called to yet we’re incapable of without the Holy Spirit’s infilling in us.
Long before he laid down earth’s foundations, He had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of His love, to be made whole and holy by His love. -Ephesians 1:4 (MSG)
May Christ through your faith [actually] dwell (settle down, abide, make His permanent home) in your hearts! May you be rooted deep in love and founded securely on love, That you may have the power and be strong to apprehend and grasp with all the saints [God’s devoted people, the experience of that love] what is the breadth and length and height and depth [of it]; [That you may really come] to know [practically, through experience for yourselves] the love of Christ, which far surpasses mere knowledge [without experience]; that you may be filled [through all your being] unto all the fullness of God [may have the richest measure of the divine Presence, and become a body wholly filled and flooded with God Himself]! – Ephesians 3:16-19 (AMP)