Am I Loveable? Part 1


Photo credit: daoro – Jonas Boni

The humility and wonder of being loved by God

Charles Wesley writes masterfully of a moment when the idea of God loving him becomes a reality. I include it here so the question of being loved by God does not remain an exercise of a mind trapped in the illusion of a closed system — either a system in which God has somehow been closed out from us, or one in which we have been closed out from God.

And can it be that I should gain
An interest in the Savior’s blood?
Died He for me who caused His pain!
For me who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be That
Thou, my God, should die for me?

Amazing love! How can it be
That Thou, my God, should die for me!
Amazing love! How can it be
That Thou, my God, should die for me!

He left His Father’s throne above,
So free, so infinite His grace!
Emptied Himself of all but love,
And bled for Adam’s helpless race.
‘Tis mercy all, immense and free,
For O my God, it found out me!

Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray;
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.

No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in Him, is mine;
Alive in Him, my living Head,
And clothed in righteousness divine,
Bold I approach the eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own

Most of our thinking and feeling about experiences since childhood can conspire to challenge our sense of love-ability. It is a fortunate person who experiences a warm, safe, loving family environment in which they are affirmed and built up as a love-able person. Our earliest, significant relationships are tasked with managing the space in which we are loved and can come to understand our love-ability. Our sense of love-ability is not just a feeling, its actually a set of beliefs about ourselves and our position in respect to others and even to God. And that belief — can be shaped by grace and truth. The Gospel creates new ground for understanding our love-ability from the perspective of Jesus’ Cross. When that happens we sing from the depths of our soul, “Amazing love! How can it be?”


An old but relevant celebration of the mind!


Over 1600 years ago St. Augustine wrote on the power of memory and its role in our relationship with God.

Great is the power of memory, a fearful thing, O my God, a deep and boundless manifoldness; and this thing is the mind, and this am I myself. What am I then, O my God? What nature am I? A life various and manifold, and exceeding immense. Behold in the plains, and caves, and caverns of my memory, innumerable and enumerably full of innumerable kinds of things, either through images, as all bodies; or by actual presence, as the arts, or be certain notions or impressions, as the affections of the mind, which, even when the mind doth not feel, the memory retainteth, while yet whatsoever is in the memory is also in the mind–over all these do I run, I fly; I dive on this side and on that, as far as I can, and there is no end.

So great is the force of memory, so great the force of life, even in the mortal life of man. What shall I do then, O Thou my true life, my God? I will pass even beyond this power of mine which is called memory: yea, I will pass beyond it, that I may approach unto Thee, O sweet Light. What sayest Thou to me? See, I am mounting up through my mind towards Thee who abides above me. Yea, I now will pass beyond this power of mine which is called memory, desirous to arrive at Thee, whence Thou mayest be arrived at; and to cleave unto Thee, whence one may cleave unto Thee. For even beasts and birds have memory; else could they not return to their dens and nests, nor many other things they are used unto: nor indeed could they be used to any thing, but by memory.

I will pass then beyond memory also that I may arrive at Him who hath separated me from the four-footed beasts and made me wiser than the fowls of the air, I will pass beyond memory also, and where shall I find Thee, Thou truly good and certain sweetness? And where shall I find Thee? If I find Thee without my memory, then do I not retain Thee in my memory. And how shall I find Thee, if I remember Thee not?

The Confessions of Saint Augustine, The Tenth Book.

Augustine’s celebration of the mind and memory moves me to consider the purpose of the mind in my experience and knowledge of God.

Jesus intends to create pathways of memory to bring us to Him.

“And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, ‘This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.'” Luke 22:19-20

“These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”  John 14:25-26

The Psalmist cries out that his memories are useful for identifying his thirst for a new and current encounter with the Living God.

“I remember the days of old; I meditate on all that you have done I ponder the work of your hands. I stretch out my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like parched land.” Psalm 143:5-6

I’ve been thinking about some friends who are new believers in Jesus Christ. If you are a new believer in Christ Jesus you have a short memory of God’s grace towards you. Grace is God’s activity on your behalf to do for you what you could not do apart from Him (Dallas Willard). You do not yet have a lengthy history with Jesus and His grace. So your mind like all believers must be renewed and the Holy Spirit is working to that end. I want to daily recall the Gospels and see Jesus again. The reading of His Word in the Gospels is not a mere activity to dutifully complete. No, the reading of His Word is the work of my mind under the influence of the Holy Spirit that can usher me again into the very presence of God. So it is with many of our disciplines:

The reading of His Word is an act of remembering drawing us to Jesus.
The listing of His blessings and giving thanks remembers and brings us to Jesus.
The confession of my sins is an act of memory bringing me to Jesus.
The lament for what I grieve is an act of memory bringing me to Jesus.
The giving of the tithe is an act of memory bringing me to Jesus.
The gathering with other believers is an act of memory bringing us to Jesus.
The singing of a song is an act of memory bringing us to Jesus.
The telling of a testimony is an act of remembering bringing us again to Jesus.

All these acts are meant to engage the mind not for the production of sentimentality or condemnation. Instead our growing memory of God’s grace towards us is meant to usher us again into the reality of His Kingdom, the promise of His full redemption, and acknowledgement of His Presence with us as Lord.


Its what you do next…

conversation - photo credit - David Marcu

Whether its at work, at home, or in your social circle, when you realize that you are the source of another person’s pain, its what you do next that matters. Truly I hate that moment. Most of us who are conscientious hate it too. These are the moments when our self-defence rituals kick in: blaming, shaming, and fear dancing! We don’t want the conflict. We don’t want a share in the pain. We want it to be the other person’s problem. And so if you are at all familiar with that script it probably means you are going to argue with God when He interrupts your worship.

23“So if you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, 24leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God.  Mathew 5:23-24

When self-justification takes over as our lens for relationships it makes us confident that the real problem is someone else’s problem. “They” have a problem because “they” are wrong, “they” are too sensitive, “they” are too reactive.

But reconciliation is our problem. Jesus wants us to see conflict and pain through the lens of reconciliation not self-justification. When self-justification is our lens for seeing people and conflict then even our worship will be framed by self-justification. We will turn the worship of God into a moment in which we are self-justifying ourselves before Him. We are using God instead of loving God.

That’s why Jesus shows his disciples how God interrupts worship. “So if you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you… leave… Go… and be reconciled…” Why would we suddenly remember? I believe the Spirit of God calls us into the ministry of reconciliation. The Gospel shows us the King’s Mission of reconciliation and brings us into it. A true worshipper saved by Jesus is going to have moments in which worship is interrupted by Jesus for reconciliation within the realm personal relationships.

This passage is one of the reasons why I think our worship gatherings are meant to be way more dynamic and active than they are!

The good news: obedience to Jesus leads us into new options for relationships. You are not in charge of what the other person does next after you approach them. You are only in charge of what you are “doing next” because God approached you in worship and reminded you of the pain another is experiencing in relation to you.

So what are you going to do when you go to them? Try this:
1. I was meeting up with God and He reminded me of you.
2. I think you may be pained by me in some way.
3. Would you like to let me in on what you are feeling and thinking?
Then wait, listen and respond appropriately.

Some of your possible responses: Agreeing with them. Acknowledging their pain. Sharing in their sorrow. Asking forgiveness. Confessing your own. Granting forgiveness. Making amends. Making restitution. Praying together. Creating new boundaries. Waiting. Worshiping God together through Christ.

Reconciliation is a miracle work through the grace of Jesus and it cannot be rushed, but it must be started when the Spirit of God interrupts your worship. When God interrupts your worship, its what you do next that matters.

Together as one body, Christ reconciled both groups to God by means of his death on the cross, and our hostility toward each other was put to death. 17He brought this Good News of peace to you Gentiles who were far away from him, and peace to the Jews who were near. 18Now all of us can come to the Father through the same Holy Spirit because of what Christ has done for us. Ephesians 2:16-18

Photo Credit: David Marcu

Make a difference against hate

Its my birthday today. And I’m astonished to be 48. Thanks already to all who have reached out across our digital world to say hello and give me a happy birthday greeting.

Before you get to far along in your day I’d like to ask you to do something to mark the day with me. Join the coalition over at Preemptive Love and make a donation to assist with the needs of people fleeing Fallujah. Jeremy Courtney and friends are doing a great work, a peace-making work. They are undoing violence through love.

Today they are organizing heart surgeries and making food drops and giving aid and care and comforting words to a people in dire need.

I’m asking you to reach across the digital world and make a difference by giving.

Someone else will be glad too that you were born!


Mourning loss with a crowded heart

evening walk

My heart feels crowded these days. Grief from a distance does that. My heart is occupied with the day to day concerns of the relationships close to me. My local concerns include celebrations, maintenance, and grief. So it  starts to get crowded in here when the headlines cascade with pain.

When that happens I read Lamentations slowly.

14The elders no longer sit in the city gates; the young men no longer dance and sing.

15Joy has left our hearts; our dancing has turned to mourning.

16The garlands have fallen from our heads. Weep for us because we have sinned.

17Our hearts are sick and weary, and our eyes grow dim with tears.

18For Jerusalem is empty and desolate, a place haunted by jackals.

19But LORD, you remain the same forever! Your throne continues from generation to generation.  Lamentations 5:14-19 NLT


I know we all get a turn when loss totally occupies the heart. I have had my own days occupied by grief – when death and grief have swallowed up all the space. I have seen in the lives of those close to me how oppressive grief can be. Joy becomes a faint memory. But now for a moment in these days of my local occupation, I need to practice the discipline of “grieving with those who grieve.”


My distance from the many cities and tragedies filling the headlines of the news does not leave me immune from the rage. Instead my heart gets crowded with undigested griefs and fears. Its not immediately obvious to me that these are “my people” whether its Cairo, Orlando, or Allepo. However, reflection with the Lord Jesus Christ reminds me that we are all His Creation. The King’s mission of which I am a part always seeks to include His Creatives within the future of His redeemed people.


And so I lament.

I lament our distance from the way of holiness.
I lament the violence.
I lament the loss.
I lament the difficulty love requires.
How long O Lord?
I lament the burden of finding answers.
I lament the oppressive fame-seeking germ of Babel making its death march across the planet.
I lament our desperate search for peace.
How long O Lord?
I lament our fear, our shame, our guilt.
I lament the
How long O Lord?

I lament

I lament because I want to pray and to live according to our Father’s heart. People matter to God and His cross interrupts the stupidity of violence. I don’t want a hard, self-righteous, apathetic heart that resists the Spirit of Jesus Christ. I’m convinced that a hard-not-my-people-attitude will take me where I don’t really want us to go.

Restore us, O LORD, and bring us back to you again!

Give us back the joys we once had! Lamentations 5:21