Monday, July 20, 2009

God says you are...

(In a recent post, I wrote a little about the Five Love Languages, as written about by Gary Chapman in The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts.  I explained how I found myself wondering if they apply to our relationship with God. This is the third of what turned out to be nine posts as I explored this topic.)

Love Language: Words of Affirmation

Almost everyone enjoys it when others tell us they appreciate us, that they care about us, and what they admire in us. But for those who speak this love language, those words mean more than any other expression of love.

This is me. Many of my most precious memories are those when my husband, parents, and grandparents spoke to me about their feelings for me...and some of my most painful memories are times when a loved one told me I didn't measure up, or failed to give me a few simple words of affirmation that I craved at that moment. Some examples...

I remember the time when, as a teenager, my father told me he knew he could trust me to do the right thing. I knew he was talking about the temptations teenagers face, and I knew at that moment that I would rather die than give him cause to take back those words. They stuck with me, and I don't know if he realized what a powerful force those words were in my life.

I remember my sixteenth birthday, which happened to be an extremely busy day. We never did parties, I knew I wouldn't get much of a gift, and neither of those facts bothered me in the slightest. Yet, by noon, I finally dissolved in tears in a hidden corner because no one had said the words, "Happy Birthday." I could not conceive any reason why someone would fail to say those two words to me, if they loved me! Even now, my husband has realized the only thing he has to do to make my birthday a good one, is to tell me "Happy Birthday" when I wake up.

I remember the day I was feeling wretched about my failure to keep the house clean for my husband and three little kids. This was nothing new...I had been struggling with the feeling of failure in this area for years, and I still struggle with this. But that day I told my husband so. I will never forget the words he said: "But you're a wonderful wife and mother!" I asked how he could say so, with an eloquent gesture to encompass the dirty dishes and dog hair and clutter. He looked at me, perplexed. "How clean you keep the house has nothing to do with how wonderful a wife and mother you are. I could not have asked for a woman who loved me more or was a better wife, and you are the perfect mother to our children." He may have gone on to explain further, but I soaked up those words. In fact, those words marked a turning point in my life, simply because of the power they had for me. The affirmation I received in those two areas of my life gave me power to face my failures and fight them.

Do any of these spark similar memories for you? Do you cherish loving words that are spoken to you and remember them long after others have forgotten? Do you ever feel that you would do almost anything to hear certain words? If so, you just might speak this love language, too!

So...what words of affirmation has God spoken over us? I found quite a few, and many of these are my favorite verses in Scripture:

"I have called you by name, for you are Mine!" (Is. 43:1)

"I know every detail of your days, for I made you, and I am always thinking of you." (Psalm 139:1-18)

"You are precious in My sight. You are honored, and I love you." (Is. 43:4)

"Nothing can ever make Me stop loving you." (Jer. 31:3)

"You are more valuable than the lilies and sparrows, which I provide for and have made beautiful." (Matt. 6:26-30)

"You are more valuable than animals. (Despite what animal-rights activists say.)" (Matt 12:10-12)

"In fact, you are so valuable and I pay so much attention to you that I know how many hairs are on your head. (Matt. 10:29-31)

"I rejoice over you!" (Zeph. 3:17, Is. 62:5, Is. 65:19, Jer. 32:41)

"I delight in you." (Is. 62:4, Ps. 22:8, Ps. 35:27, Ps. 149:4)

"I have forgiven you and will not hold your sin against you." (Jer. 31:34, Jer. 33:8, Is. 43:25, Is. 44:22, Mic. 7:18-19, Heb. 9:11-14)

"You are free!" (Is. 61:1, Rom. 6:7)

"I have good things planned for you!" (Jer. 29:11)

"I will never turn away from you. (Jer. 32:40, Heb. 13:5, Duet. 31:6&8, Josh. 1:5)

"You are My child." (1 John 3:1-2, John 11:52, Rom. 8:16)

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"I have made you My heir." (Acts 20:32, Eph. 1:11,14)

"You shine!" (Matt. 5:14, Is. 60:2-3)

"I am always on your side." (Rom. 8:31)

"You are an overcomer." (1 John 2:14, 1 John 5:4-5)

Tell me...what other verses speak to you, that tell us how God sees us?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Receiving God's word...

(In my last post, I wrote a little about the Five Love Languages, as written about by Gary Chapman in The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts.  I explained how I found myself wondering if they apply to our relationship with God. This is the second of what turned out to be nine posts as I explored this topic.)

It just so happens that the first love language that Gary Chapman lists is one of mine, so I mistakenly thought that this would be the easiest one to find in the Bible. Boy was I wrong, though!

In fact, the more I looked and the more I dug, the more I realized that 99% of what God says about me in the Bible is completely dependent on several more fundamental beliefs that I hold as a Christian. I also have the feeling that these same beliefs are going to factor just as equally into the other four love languages as well.

I don't want to get into deep theological discussions here--that's not what this blog is for. Yet, I feel that I must at least touch on these fundamental beliefs. I simply cannot assume that every reader of this blog understands things the same way that I do. I can only share what I, personally, have come to believe.

I am listing four of these beliefs, and each one builds upon the one before it. If some of this is new to you, and you're having trouble understanding what I mean, feel free to ask me, as long as you have an honest question and an open heart. The link with my email address is on the left.

I believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God. Every. Single. Word. (Allowing only for differences that may happen during translation.) I believe that humans held the pen, but God, being all-powerful, made sure that the words that got written down and preserved were exactly the words that He meant for mankind to know. Therefore, scriptures that talk about us in a good way are words of affirmation, straight from the mouth of God. And if the Bible says something about us or God, it is God saying something about Himself and His creation. I hope you believe this, too...otherwise these posts aren't going to do much for you.

I believe that God is omniscient. He cannot lie, and He always sees things the way they really are, without the deception and false perceptions that we humans have to work around. Not only that, whatever He says will happen, will happen, because He sees the future even more clearly than I see the past. The old saying "Hindsight is 20/20" isn't true with God. With Him, both hindsight and foresight are 20/20. Therefore we can trust that every word He says as being 100% truth. And that includes prophecy, which will not fail, if it came from Him.

Why is this important? Well, I discovered that there are very few verses in the Bible that say, "You are ______." However, the Bible is filled with verses about what we will become at some point that was still the future when that verse was penned--specifically prophecy for when Jesus was sent. That was future for the human writer, past for a God who has already seen everything that will happen, but present to us right now. Therefore, we can only claim the affirmation in that verse as our own if we believe that the promise in the verse applies to us.

That leads me to the next fundamental, which is the truth that in Christ, I am a new creation. Sometimes I talk about this by mentioning "who I am in Christ." Many verses throughout the Bible talk about this concept of having a "new self." It is difficult to know how to explain this, since I have no idea what religious background, Bible knowledge, life experiences, or personal beliefs those reading this blog have. But I will try.

Almost everyone knows that Christians believe that Jesus died to pay the price for the sins of mankind. Many people think that Christianity consists of merely accepting that gift...saying, "Thank you, Jesus, that You paid that price. I accept the gift."

I, however, believe that Christianity is much more than that. It is also making Him your lord...giving Him your allegiance, in the same way that a knight swore to obey his lord's commands, uphold his laws, etc. Along with that, a knight identified himself with his lord, wearing his colors and his crest. That's what becoming a new creation is...identifying myself with Jesus Christ. It is saying that, because He took my place on the cross, His death was the death of the old-me-without-Jesus, and when He rose, that was the birth of the new-me-with-Jesus. (The fact that I wasn't born yet makes no difference, since God does not operate on our timeline.)

This "new me" is a totally different person than the old me was, because this new me is based upon who Jesus is. A knight who serves the king can receive affirmation about being important because he works for the king, while a knight who serves a poor lord with a tiny decrepit castle isn't going to get any of that. In the same way, the Bible is full of promises and affirmation for those who serve the King of Kings. This is also important because many of the words of affirmation that God speaks over us apply only to the new us. And I suppose it makes sense. If there were many things to praise about the old me, I wouldn't have needed saving! (If you want to dig into this more, read Romans 6:3-11 and follow the cross-references.)

Finally, I believe that those who are in Christ can claim every promise given to Israel, even if they don't have a drop of Jewish blood in their veins. Romans 3:22 says there is no distinction between Jew and Gentile, because all have sinned. In chapter 4, we are told that Abraham is the father of all who believe without being circumcised (the physical sign of being an Israelite). Chapters 9, 10, and 11 go into this in even more depth, if you want to study this topic.

Then, Galatians 3 talks about this more, saying in verses 14, 28, & 29 that, "in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith... [for] there is neither Jew nor Greek... for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's descendants, heirs according to promise."

That means you and I, if we have chosen to identify ourselves with Jesus, can receive all of the best and greatest of God's promises, attention, love, and gifts!

Words of Affirmation coming up next...
Sponsor a Child in Jesus Name with Compassion