This I Know

I'm desperate for truth, apparently. I realized a few days ago that I'd been to church on Sunday, a small girls' group with some friends on Monday night, Bible study at my church on Tuesday morning, my tight-knit accountability group on Tuesday night, church on Wednesday night, and Community Bible Study on Thursday morning. I do not say all of this to toot any horn I might possess, but to show you how in need I am of God's Word.

On Tuesday mornings, the study I chose is basically just sitting and listening. No homework, no meditation, no discussion...just listening to the one and only Beth Moore. If you don't know Beth, she's kind of "it" when it comes to women's Bible study leaders. When I'm listening to her teach, I sometimes think, "Yeah, I could do that." Except I'm missing the fabulous hair, the remarkable fashion sense, the amazing Biblical knowledge, and that personality that takes the audience from laughter to tears faster than you can say "Turn to 1 Corinthians."

I don't get much contact with my friend, Beth, though. We've sort of established a long distance relationship because that's just all we have time for. I've been so involved in the homework-intensive CBS for my entire adult life, that I just can't add Beth's homework on top of it. But Beth and I occasionally reconnect when she can give me a little of her time without requiring me to complete a 174-page workbook.

That's what has happened on Tuesdays as I've been sitting in on her study of Deuteronomy. It's been wonderful, of course, as she brings the truth and the story of Israel and their God from hundreds of years ago straight into our modern day lives. Deuteronomy is the story of God giving his people a new start, after the previous generation had made a mess of things. It was finally time to go and possess the land he'd promised them.

But first they had to take care of some business. God had to remind them of a few very important things, with the help of his old buddy Moses.

This week's lesson struck a chord with me and brought many memories flooding back. We saw in Scripture where the Lord gave his people what would become the cornerstone of their faith and what Jesus would later name as the Greatest Commandment: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might. And then he follows that with some instructions on teaching their children and possessing the land. The point was brought out that the loving precedes the living. In other words, our obedience to God should and must flow out as a result of our love for him.

But then the question was raised: What kind of God can demand such a thing? Who can demand that one must love him with their whole being? Seems a little arrogant, does it not?

And then the answer: The one who can rightfully demand such love is the one of whom it was said, in Deuteronomy 7,

“For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations..." 

It is the one who loves with steadfast, passionate, pursuing love.

All of this took me back to another time I'd spent with Beth. Years ago, when my life was unsettled and the monster of unknown change was looming before me, threatening my security, my happiness, and my faith, I was invited, spur of the moment, to go to a Beth Moore conference. I cannot tell you what was discussed at that conference, other than the fact that it involved "generations," but I can tell you what happened to me.

After a whole life of hearing it, I really, finally believed that God Loves Me.

It seems ridiculous. A believer in Christ, brought up in the church, reading her Bible, teaching her children...and I didn't believe that he loved me.

I would have said I believed that. I was teaching my children that it was true. But I was deeply, paralyzingly distrustful of the Lord. My mind and heart were wrapped in a vice of fear. I feared what he would "do to me" in order to "teach me a lesson" or "make me stronger." I did not desire any strength or faith that would come at the hand of suffering, but I felt that that was surely his goal. Make me miserable to make me strong. Take all that I held dear so that I would love only him.

And that wasn't too far from what often happens to people. The Bible says that maturity comes through trials. Faith is sharpened by suffering. We are to share in the sufferings of Christ for the joy of knowing him. But that didn't seem like a joyful option to me.

Yet I knew God was about to change some things. Chris was being called to something more, and I was going to be dragged down with him. Dog gone marriage vows. I was determined to go kicking and screaming, though. Either that, or I must resign myself to this God of suffering who had marked my card.

I was rebelling, just like the people of Israel had done. Because just like them, I didn't believe in God's love for me. I didn't believe he was taking me to any Promised Land. I thought he was out to crush me. I could understand the Israelites' story:

“Yet you would not go up [to the Promised Land], but rebelled against the command of the Lord your God. And you murmured in your tents and said, ‘Because the Lord hated us he has brought us out of the land of Egypt, to give us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us."

In the depth of my heart, I believed God was bent on my destruction.

But it all changed that night. I was in a room with thousands of people, but in that one moment, as the worship music played, it was just me and Jesus. I don't know why, but that was the moment he chose to show me that it was true.

Jesus Loves Me.

I saw a mental image of him, hanging on the cross. Surely it was an image I had seen recreated or in my own mind hundreds of times, but this time it was for me. He removed the veil and the truth of it finally resonated in my soul. "Jesus died for me because he LOVES me" finally became real, not just in my mind, but in my heart.

Jesus Loves Me.

That changes everything.

You see, when someone loves you with a pure, unselfish love. A love that takes them to their death. A love that separates them from their Source of Life and Joy, their Father. A love that stops at nothing to rescue you. When someone loves you like that, that's someone you can trust.

When someone has proven their love to you, beyond the shadow of a doubt, with the strongest actions that could ever back it up, you know they have your best interest at heart. You know that they did not sacrifice themselves for you in order to put you in harm's way. You know that, wherever they take you, you can follow without fear.

As I sat in that room Tuesday morning, listening once again to the truth that God can demand our total love and devotion because he started this whole idea of love in the first place, I was thankful. I was so thankful that I "got it" all those years ago. I was thankful that my relationship with my Father is no longer one of terror, but of love and trust.

But I was also heartbroken, because I know people who are still camped out in the desert in their tents, refusing to willingly submit to and trust the Lord, because they do not yet believe the Lord loves them. Like I once did, they know the truth in their minds, but it has not yet made it to their hearts. They are living in fear, sin, and rebellion, because they don't understand that the God who demands everything from them has already given everything for them.

I want to share the truth of God's love with those who are struggling, but I know that, more than likely, it will take the same thing for them as it did for me. It will take the Savior gently pulling back the veil and revealing the extent of his love for them. I pray that it will be soon. And I'm thankful that my moment came, and that now when I teach my children of God's love for them, I know it to be true.

In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.  In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us. 1 John 4:9-10, 18-19


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