love

God’s Eyes Speak Acceptance – Cold Wax Painting

God’s Eyes Speak Acceptance – Cold Wax Painting.

God’s eyes speak of his acceptance and love. Meanwhile this is the most natural thing for me, but this was not always the case. What is your inner picture of God?

Gottes Lächeln * God's Smile

Most people project their negative experiences with strict and overly critical parents or teachers on to God. In front of their inner eyes they see somebody who always watches them with a strict frown, or they hear with their inner ears an inner critic, believing that this must be God.

Come, let his love heal you!

Even though I never consciously had a negative image of God, in the sense, for example, that he watches me with a strict frown, just waiting to catch me in the act, it was still a long journey until I realized his love and acceptance more fully. Not just once in a while, but constantly.

One thing that helped me a lot in this was a simple line drawing of God’s benevolant smile. For a long time this drawing hang in my bedroom as a daily reminder of what I knew in theory. Through it, it trickeled slowly into my subconscious that God is indeed on my side and that he loves me just as I am. His love and acceptance was the most important factor for my transformation and inner healing.

This painting is an imperfect attempt, to picture this inviting expression of God’s eyes, that expresses his perfect love and acceptance.

◊◊◊

And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. 2 Cor 3,18

Sit With Me – Cold Wax Painting

Come, sit with me!

The worship time during this service was organized similar to the pilgrimage toward Jerusalem, where pilgrims would start out with lively  praise songs on their way. But when we entered the temple and God’s holy presence, their songs became more quietly and awestruck, until most of us were worshiping face down in front of God’s throne (inwardly, in our mind).

Suddenly somebody taps me on my shoulder. It is God Father himself. The Father says to me, “Come, sit with me. There is still enough place next to me.” I am deeply touched that God sees me. I am not just one out of millions of worshipers, but he sees me personally and loves me as if I was the only person worldwide.

This experience has helped a lot to make God’s love more concrete for me.

Sit with me * Setz dich zu mir
Sit with me * Setz dich zu mir

Only years later I realized more fully that his love for me does not depend on my performance. He does not love me more, when I achieving more. He does not love me less, when I am doing less. His love is always at its maximum.

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!
1 Jn 3:1

Love Me

Often as I move through my day, trying to navigate the whirlpools of this world, the relational, spiritual and social whitewater, I will often turn to Jesus in my heart and ask, “What do I need to do, Lord?” My question is usually fueled by some twist or turn I don’t know how to handle – some test or trial, some oncoming battle. Life as usual. His response is nearly always, “Love me.”

That’s it? Love you?

That’s it. That is what is most needed.

For when I love God, my whole being is re-oriented, re-aligned, healed. When I love God, the internal effects are almost immediate; they are often profound. I can’t hold onto that grudge, not while I am loving God with “all that is within me.” I can’t covet or worry or fear. When I love God, really, it changes everything.

And this is why he said, start here. This is core. Love me.

~John Eldredge

Good or evil?

Good or evil?

The following quotes are part of the conversation in “The Shack“ (pp 134-136) that I intentionally left out in my last post. God explains there to Mac why our parameters for deciding what is good and what is evil are often wrong.

“Evil is the word we use to describe the absence of Good, just as we use the word darkness to describe the absence of Light or death to describe the absence of Life. Both evil and darkness can only be understood in relation to Light and Good; they do not have any actual existence. I am Light and I am Good. I am Love and there is no darkness in me. Light and Good actually exist. So, removing yourself from me will plunge you into darkness. Declaring independence will result in evil because apart from me, you can only draw upon yourself. This is death because you have separated yourself from me: Life.”

I have contemplated this a lot and found it really helpful. As long as we discern good and evil based on our subjective feelings and perception, we will often get it wrong and miss how “bad” things can be “good” for us. And this in turn will undermine our trust in God. Only when we understand that God’s presence makes something good and his absence makes something evil, can we understand that “in one instance, the good may be the presence of cancer or the loss of income – or even a life.”

It is often the hard things that drive us into God’s presence, mold our character and transform us into his image. Unfortunately, difficult times seem to be the only way we learn and experience transformation.

This also sheds a different light on our pursuit of independence. Being independent from God removes us from the Vine. We are called to remain in Him, abide in Him, because apart from Him we can do nothing. (John 15:5) A well known passage, but how often do we manage to put it into practice? 🙂

What does it mean to practice it? Here is what Mac heard God say to him about this:

“You must give up your right to decide what is good and evil in your own terms. This is a hard pill to swallow; choosing to only live in me. To do that you know me enough to trust me and learn to rest in my inherent goodness.”

So this brings us back to the issue of trust. If we decide on our own what is good and bad, we easily come to the conclusion God is not trustworthy. Or as Wayne Jacobsen puts it – we practice a “Daisy Pedal Christianity” (He loves me!) going back and forth between “God loves me” and “God loves me not” depending on whether things happening in our life are “good” or “bad” according to our subjective perception. Whenever we don’t like what is happening to us, we conclude that God does not love us, instead of looking for the good God intended with it.

I know, it is not easy to apply this in some extreme situations, but why not start with every day situations and try to see them through God’s eyes? I have been mulling over this topic for some time. It was a pleasant surprise recently, when I experienced a very disappointing situation and in the middle of it was able to hold back on my subjective judgment, but trust that God has good plans for his children. (More about it in a future post)

The Incredible Father

The Incredible Father

The Parable of the Incredible Father (Luke 15)

The father was not manipulating the son by anything he did. He was only loving the son at the deepest possible level. That love explains why he let him go in the first place and why he rushed so hard to embrace him. He knew his son’s sin had been punishment enough. He ran because he did not want his son to hurt one second longer than was absolutely necessary. His pain had brought him home. Nothing else mattered.

God feels the same way about you. He is not interested in your service or sacrifice. He only wants you to know how much you are loved, hoping that you will choose to love him in return.

from “He loves me!” by Wayne Jacobsen, p 28-29.

Of course! What else?

Last week I got another interesting insight while reading “He loves me!” by Wayne Jacobsen.

The story where Jesus talked to the “businessman” (Lk 18:18ff) – who had asked him what he must do to inherit eternal life, and who then turned away sadly – don’t we usual think it’s all about dedication and that he did not want to let go of his fortune? And in sermons, is it not the most common application of this story, to ask what are our “idols” that we don’t want to let go of, and that keep us from following Jesus wholeheartedly?

When I read how Wayne Jacobsen interprets the story, I felt like banging my forehead and saying: “Of course! Why did I not think of it myself?” This makes much more sense than many other attempts of explanation.

Jesus was not interested in the businessman giving away all his property in order to prove his dedication, but Jesus rather wanted to give him an impossible condition. In the hope that he will finally realize that he can’t receive eternal life through “DOING.” – His questions was: “What must I DO?” When Jesus pointed to the law – “I have DONE all that.” Really? Is this possible? Nobody can fulfill the whole law and it’s purpose was exactly that – showing people that it can’t be done. Unfortunately, the businessman (and so many of us) are so busy with DOING the right thing, that we don’t notice, that Jesus was about something else. He wanted to shake him up and lead him to the realization that the eternal life can’t be bought (neither with money nor with DOING). Jesus wanted to free him from the bondage of performance. He just wanted his (and our) admission that we can’t make it. Regrettably, the businessman did not catch on to it and turned away saddened.

Shortly after that I heard a sermon about the Beatitudes (Mt 5). In this context the remark was made that “Jesus radicalized the law.” Again I had the same reaction <bang my forehead> “Of course! What else?” When Jesus said things like, for example, that we are subject to judgment even if we just get angry at a brother, we easily read these statements as requirements for salvation, we feel guilty and try to reinterpret or rationalize these sayings, because “really, nobody can measure up to this standard.” Right! We can’t. This was exactly the point Jesus tried to make. This is why he had to come to fulfill the law for us. What we are missing is often the honest admission: I can’t do it!

The man understood the lesson, but missed the point. Jesus wasn’t trying to be mean to him. He raised the bar beyond the man’s ability to get over it precisely because Jesus wanted him to stop trying. The gift he offered the man was to be free of the incredible burden of having to earn God’s love by his own efforts. He was caught in his own doing and Jesus was trying to free him.

He was hoping the young man would look him in the eye and say, ‘I can’t do that!’ To which Jesus might have answered ‘Good, then stop doing all the other silly things you’re trying to do to earn God’s favor. Stop striving, stop pretending, stop trying to earn that which you can never earn!’

We cannot earn God’s love and acceptance. He gives them to us in Jesus as a gift. One-hundred-ten-percent, as my grandfather would say. We only make our lives more difficult when we continue in this performance orientation. Even if it is “just” the thinking, that we have been saved by grace but now we need to prove that we were worth it.

How to love imperfect people

Yesterday I found a very interesting reflection on unconditional love.
Here is an excerpt:

” ….
When we love someone without condemnation, by seeing their heart in spite of their behavior, it teaches them that they are valuable and loveable. It marks them as worthy and precious. That window of personhood clearly reveals their heart, who they are, and what they are really about, not only to us who may be looking through the window, but to themselves as well. Nothing touches a person more deeply than not being rejected because of behavior. It brings hope and freedom and a sense of belonging. It brings safety and a place to learn from mistakes instead of dishonesty, hiding and pretending. Honesty and openness are vital criteria for joyful, loving relationships. Separating behavior and personhood make this easier because we do not have to fear rejection when being open, if we know we will be loved unconditionally. We can more easily confess our sins one to another and get healing.

…”

Fear or love

I just started reading “He loves me!” by Wayne Jacobsen. In the third chapter he brings up the question of what motivates us to follow Jesus – fear of hell or love for God. Unfortunately, it is true that there are many people who believe that a clearer vision of hell would motivate us to be more mission-minded. In the past this approach to evangelism has probably worked fine. But it is a pertinent question what kind of Christian this approach will produce when their conversion happens out of fear of hell.

When I thought back of my own conversion experience, I realized that fear of hell was not a major factor, but fear to miss out on something important all the more. This was partly rooted in the drawing that the evangelist showed me (which I found very helpful and have often used myself) – the broad road leading away from God, no matter whether it is paved with small or big sins, on the other side the narrow road that leads to God, and the door that connects the two roads – Jesus, the door to eternal life. At that time it really seemed to me as if this doorframe was throwing its shadow on my path, inviting me to change my direction of life. A unique chance? Maybe. Nobody can know when there will be another situation where God speaks into our lives and touches our hearts.

Unfortunately, I also realized that, there is a pattern in my life. I had to admit that there are things in my life that are often motivated by fear to miss out on something. Who knows when I will get this opportunity again? In this way, I often cram things into my life, that are not beneficial and are causing needless stress. But one does not want to miss out on things, right?

Along a similar line was the fear to miss God’s will for my life – if I don’t listen well enough, I might miss it and then take the wrong path. Then I might have to travel on the wrong track for the rest of my life and would miss God’s blessings and the fullness of life. <ironic>

When I think about it, I realize that these patterns of thought are – or better – were in my life. I notice that they don’t quite fit with how I experienced God during the last few years. Of course, there are situations were we might miss something important because we can’t make up our minds or we procrastinate a decision. But God does not motivate us through fear. Through the Life Model I became more aware over the last two years about the difference between love-based and fear-based relationships. As a result this kind of situation happens less and I am thankful for it.

What can I learn from this? Wherever my motivation is rooted in fear, most likely it does not come from my heavenly Daddy. I want to learn to be even more sensitive to this and realize earlier when I am driven by fear instead of motivated by love (which reminds me of the book “Getrieben oder Berufen” meaning “Driven or Called” which is the German title for “Ordering Your Private World” by Gordon MacDonald).

God is not interested in our sacrifices but in our obedience, one out of love, for who he is, out of joy over our relationship with him, and because this relationship is precious to us.