Monday Morning Meditation: God is in the Details

God is in the details.

The Lord directs the steps of the godly.
He delights in every detail of their lives. Psalm 37:23

I slept in a little today (for me, at least), and I didn’t think I had time to get to the gym (given I needed to be at church at 10:30). About a week ago, I took my oldest’s bike out for a spin and noticed it was a good workout (despite only about 6 out of 20 gears working!). An early-ish morning bike ride sounded great!

During my neighborhood travels, I saw a free couch. The owner of the house was outside with her son, said there were no issues with the couch but they couldn’t fit it in the new place where they were moving. I rode home, got my husband Roy, and we went back to check it out. It mostly fit in the van, and someone else at the house had some bungee cords. I mentioned our find to a friend, and she sent her husband over to help us get it in the house.

God is in the details.

We just HAPPENED to discuss yesterday that we would be comfortable taking a free couch if we had a little information about where it was from.

I just HAPPENED to sleep in and decide to take a bike ride.

I just HAPPENED to ride by this couch.

It just HAPPENED to be in good shape and the type we hoped to buy.

It just HAPPENED to fit in the van.

The view from the front seat

There just HAPPENED to be a guy sitting outside the house AND a guy coming out of a neighborhood house that helped us fit it in the van.

We just HAPPENED to hang out with new friends last night, and one came over to help get the couch inside.

God blesses His children.

The most beautiful thing about this story? He blessed us with a perfectly good couch even though we have the money to buy a new couch – we just haven’t had the time to go and look. His love for us decided to bless us today by making our lives easier.

The lions may grow weak and hungry,
    but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.      Psalm 34:10

I am God’s favorite, after all! And so are you. God is in the details.

Freedom Friday: You Are God’s Favorite, Part 3

Hello, beloved 🙂 I hope you’ve been soaking in the reality of God’s fierce tenderness for the last week.

Have you been referring to yourself as the disciple whom Jesus loved? If you try, you’re bound to giggle at yourself. But I seriously recommend it. In fact, why don’t you add the following while you’re at it (expounding on the meaning of the word “beloved”):

I am esteemed by God and very dear to Him.

In fact, I am His favorite!

He has declared me worth knowing, worth loving and worth creating.

Try it. I’m serious. OK, don’t roll your eyes at me. I saw that!

I know a few of you think I’m absolutely crazy. But I dare you to speak these truths to yourself. Just try it.

You may wonder why I’m talking about this. And why on earth am I pressuring you all to speak these strange (but true!) things to yourself?

This is why.

I’m going to share with you an excerpt from when I first gave this talk to the campus ministry I directed back in 2004.

A little background:

First of all, I couldn’t believe God wanted me to talk about this. I had just started to discover these truths myself and had barely seen the tip of the iceberg, but I felt strongly God wanted me to talk about it.

Second, God didn’t want me just to share facts. He wanted me to share my experiences. Intimately, and transparently.

This was my first year as a campus missionary. It was my first year working with Alive in Christ.

I had no idea what I was doing.

I was still struggling deeply with depression, doubt, fear & insecurity.

In my talk, I posed the question: how does this knowledge [of being God’s favorite] change us? And how has it changed me?

This is, content unedited, what I said.

I’ve always struggled with feelings of worthlessness, uselessness and stupidity. It has been worse in the past year. I don’t know if that’s because I’ve begun to do something that doesn’t have a rule book, a step-by-step guide dictating “this is how you do it”. I don’t know if it’s because I’m putting myself out there, making myself more vulnerable. But I do know how it manifests itself – in negative self-talk and paralyzing feelings of inadequacy. I used to walk around thinking “Jesus loves even me.” Now instead, I tell myself “Jesus loves especially me.” The knowledge that I am Beloved changes how I treat myself, and in turn, changes the way I view others.

I believe when Jesus said “Love your neighbor as yourself”, He not only meant “don’t put others below yourself” but He also meant was “we can only love others as much as we love ourselves”.

I don’t have to all figured out. I continually need to allow the knowledge that I am Beloved to be a filter for my thoughts and my actions. Instead of letting my emotions and experiences dictate my worth, I allowed God’s acceptance of me and His love to dictate my worth.

Wow. I’ve come a long way since then.

When I wrote the above, that I was learning to allow “God’s acceptance of me and His love to dictate my worth”, I was probably only successful 10% of the time.

Now, I can honestly say that 98% of the time, being God’s favorite truly defines me and dictates how I feel about myself. I say 98% because I still have moments when it feels as if life is ganging up on me and I begin to question my worth. I had a moment yesterday and a few weeks ago, which reminded me that those moments are now few & far between.

This is why it’s important. If you begin to view yourself and others through the lens of being God’s beloved, you will be radically changed.

“The truth,” Henri Nouwen wrote in “The Life of the Beloved”, “even though I cannot feel it right now, is that I am the chosen child of God, precious in God’s eyes, called the Beloved from all eternity and held safe in an everlasting embrace . . . We must dare to opt consciously for our chosenness and not allow our emotions, feelings, or passions to seduce us into self-rejection.

If you truly believed that you are “beloved”, God’s favorite, and you lived out of that tender affection, how would that change you?

It’s time to find out. It’s time to start telling ourselves the truth about who we are in Christ.

How do you do this? Try some of these posts. Speak these truths to yourself. Speak them to others. Commit to telling yourself the truth about who you are and not believing the lies any longer.

Do you truly know the love of Christ? His acceptance? His favor?

Do you want to?

Does it affect every part of the way you live your life?

Rest in Him. Let Him transform you. Surrender to Him, and to His love.

Let this knowledge change you. Let Him change you.

Freedom Friday: You Are God’s Favorite, Part 2

Last Friday, I wrote about you being God’s favorite.

I talked about John, and his description of himself as the disciple whom Jesus loved. I shared that our position is the same as John’s. If we are followers of Jesus, we are the beloved (favorites) of God. And how if we lived out of that truth, that we are truly God’s favorite, our lives would be changed forever.

The question I left you with last week was this: do you treat yourself as if you are a cherished, precious possession of an all-powerful, all-loving God?

Did you think about that?

Next question: what does it mean to be God’s Beloved?

The Greek word, Agapetos, is primarily translated “beloved” in the New Testament. It also means “esteemed, very dear, favorite, worthy of love”.

Worthy of love.

This may seem random, but I encourage you to read my “What’s In a Name” testimony, part 1 & part 2. In it, I talk about the names we have attached to ourselves or allowed others to attach to us throughout our lives, and how God the Father calls us worth knowing, worth loving and worth creating.

He calls you beloved.

Back to the question of the day. What does it mean to be God’s Beloved?

The Greek word Agapetos, the word we translate as “beloved”, was used 60 times in the New Testament. 60 times!

The first instance of use is in Matthew 3:17. “And behold, a voice out of the heavens said, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.'”

Jesus was the original “beloved” child of God.

God said this to Jesus at the very beginning of His public ministry.

Jesus hadn’t done anything.

He hadn’t performed any miracles (this moment is not recorded in John’s gospel, and turning water into wine is considered to be Jesus’s first miracle), preached any sermons (unless you count his discussions in the temple at age 12). It appears He didn’t even have any disciples at this point.

And yet – God was pleased with Jesus. He called Jesus “beloved”.

Through Jesus, if we are followers of Him, we are also God’s beloved children.

51 of the occurrences of “Agapetos” in the New Testament are in the Epistles. It’s always used when addressing the audience of the letter, or the congregations in a particular town.

A few examples:
“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.” Ephesians 5:1-2

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.” 1 John 4:7

“Listen, my beloved brethren : did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?” James 2:5

Different Biblical authors (Paul John, James, Jude, Peter, the author of Hebrews) remind us frequently in their letters of who we are in Christ, that we are God’s beloved. John was no exception. In fact, John liked the word so much that he used in 4 times in his last epistle, a letter that was only 15 verses long.

John and the other authors wanted to make sure we didn’t forget our position as the “beloved children of God”.

Being beloved means that, like John said, we are the one whom Jesus loves. It means God’s very fond of us, that He not only loves us, but He actually really likes us.

Do you ever feel like God is just putting up with you because He has to?

Or do you honestly believe that God likes you, not just loves you because theologically, God has to love you?

God says through Isaiah, “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine! You are precious in My sight…………you are honored and I love you……..For the mountains may be removed and the hills may shake, But My lovingkindness will not be removed from you’ Says the LORD who has compassion on you.”

The Hebrew word, Racham, translated “to have compassion” can also be translated “to have tender affection”.

I challenge you to read through the Old Testament and replace the word “compassion” with “tender affections”. Do you believe that God could have tender feelings for you?

Author Richard Foster says this about God: “His heart is the most sensitive and tender of all. No act goes unnoticed, no matter how insignificant or small. A cup of cold water is enough to put tears in the eyes of God. Like a proud mother who is thrilled to receive a bouquet of wilted dandelions from her child, so God celebrates our feeble expressions of gratitude.”

Being “beloved” means we are fully accepted, fully worthy to be loved by God, we are very dear to Him, that we are in fact His “favorite”. That nothing we could do could make God love us any more, and nothing we could do could make God love us any less.

Worth knowing, worth loving, worth creating.

Rest in that.

You Are God’s Favorite, Part 3

Freedom Friday: You Are God’s Favorite, Part 1

I tell my kids all the time that they are my favorite.

One is my favorite Bear, the other is my favorite toddler. One is my favorite 4 year-old, and the other is my favorite fuzzy head.

Or I just say it plain, “You are my favorite!!”

Because they both are.

I love the way they talk, the things the say, even the ways they get sassy with me. I like the sounds they make (for the most part!), the silly games they make up & play, and the way they walk. I love seeing how they play at the park, taking them to the library, watching the toys they gravitate toward, and the shows they like to watch.

I love to tell them: “You are my favorite!”

Later they may ask, “How can we both be your favorite? Doesn’t ‘favorite’ imply that there can only be one?”

What a great question!

A long time ago, I wrote a teaching entitled, “You Are God’s Favorite: Living in the Reality of God’s Fierce Tenderness”. I thought this was a great time, given the recent posts about being God’s child, to pull out that teaching and re-visit it for this blog.

1 John 3:1 says “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!”

John, the writer of the above, was one of the 3 disciples closest to Jesus, one of His intimate friends. As I share in the post, “Is Having One Best Friend Biblical?“, Jesus did not have a single best friend; He had 3 intimate friends. John was one of these 3.

From what we know, John didn’t begin writing about his experiences with Jesus until very late in his life, as historians believe he wrote his gospel and letters over 50 years after Jesus died.

The Gospel of John was written with perspective. He had decades of reflecting on Jesus, His time on earth, and what the Christian walk was about. I believe it was because of this perspective that in his gospel, John referred to himself as “The Disciple whom Jesus Loved”.

“One of his disciples, whom Jesus loved” by Ary Scheffer

Some people feel that this is just a prideful statement for John to make. Really? You are the disciple whom Jesus loved?

I don’t hear it that way at all.

John was intimately familiar with the special place that Jesus had in His heart for all believers. John was the disciple who had literally rested his head against God’s heart at the Last Supper when he leaned on Jesus’s chest. Thus, John did not define himself solely as a disciple, or an apostle, an evangelist, or a writer of truths about Jesus – he didn’t even call Himself by name in the above mentioned passage (a very important thing during that time).

Instead, he based his entire identity on the fact that he was loved by God.

I’m sometimes asked to define myself with labels. I am Brenna, I simply respond.

I used to call myself a lesbian-identified bisexual. It was important to me that people got that label right.

I also called myself anorexic, or that I “have an eating disorder”, though the eating disorder I actually had, ED-NOS, did not exist at the time.

When I was in a relationship with a married woman, it was very important to me (and her) that I be referred to as “her wife”.

Now people want to know: are you gay? Bisexual? Straight? Post-gay? Ex-gay? Do you have an eating disorder? Are you fully recovered or still in recovery?

I’m with Paul when he says, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

All the former labels that were so important to me no longer matter.

I solely define myself as a Child of God.

That’s the core of what I’m saying today – our position is the same as John’s. If we are followers of Jesus, we are the beloved (favorites) of God.

If we lived out of that truth, that we are truly God’s favorite, our lives would be changed forever.

The question I want to leave you with today is this: do you treat yourself as if you are a cherished, precious possession of an all-powerful, all-loving God?

Do you live in and walk out that truth?

Come back next week to hear more 🙂

You Are God’s Favorite, Part 2