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Overcoming Barriers to Experiencing God’s Love The Great Commandment “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind...Love your neighbor as yourself” --Matthew 22:37-38 God wants lovers! “God wants lovers. Oh, how tepid is the love of so many who call themselves by His name. How tepid is our own - my own - in comparison with the lava fires of his eternal love. I pray that you may be an ardent lover, the kind of lover who sets others on fire.” --Amy Carmichael Tevia: “Do you love me?” Golde: “Do I what?” Tevia: “Do you love me?” Golde: “For twenty-five years I’ve washed your clothes, cooked your meals, cleaned your house, given you children, milked the cow. After twenty-five years why talk about love right now?” Tevia: “But do you love me?” Golde: “For twenty-five years I’ve lived with him, fought with him, starved with him. For twenty-five years my bed is his; if that’s not love what is?” Nothing can replace our Love for Jesus The first thing which makes a true Christian minister or missionary or evangelist or preacher or Sunday School teacher, or leader or Christian worker of any kind, is not learning, not eloquence, not wisdom, not organising ability, not pleasing personality, not even a ‘passion for souls’, but a lovepassion for Jesus Himself. Nothing, nothing, NOTHING, can take the place of that. All else without that is like withered flowers.” —J.Sidlow Baxter “Lovers make better Workers than Workers Do!” Why Lovers Make Better Workers than Workers do No sacrifice is too great for the heart that’s on fire with love Love is its own reward… “True love despises the recognition for sacrifices made for love.” —Mike Bickle Yeshua’s Prayer for His Disciples: “I made your name known to them, and will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”(John 17:26) “For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready …Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb” --Rev. 19:7,9 Our Love for God and Others God’s Love for Us “We love God because God first loved us”-- I John 4:19 The springs of love are in God, not in us. It is absurd to look for the love of God in our hearts naturally. It is only when it has been shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit” --Oswald Chambers The truth is… our love runs out… “When we fail in personal Christian experience it is nearly always because we have never received anything.” --Oswald Chambers “And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power...to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge--that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God” Ephesians 3:17-19 The Love of God Could we with ink the ocean fill And were the skies of parchment made Were every stalk on earth a quill And every man a scribe by trade. To write the love of God above Would drain the ocean dry Nor could the scroll contain the whole Tho’ stretched from sky to sky. “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you. Abide in my love” John 15:9 “Keep yourselves in the love of God” Jude 21 Where He tells me I am Beloved “The indispensable condition for developing and maintaining the awareness of our belovedness is time alone with God. [That is where] we discover that the truth of our belovedness is really true.” --Thomas Merton The Love of God... 1. Love like the Father and Son have for Each Other “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you.”--Jn 15:9 “And have loved them even as you [the Father] have loved me [the Son]”--Jn 17:26 The Great Dance “The Great Dance has been from all eternity and first and foremost in the love that has always been going on between the Father and the Son. To enter into the Dance, then, is to enter into the living dynamic activity of the Love that has always been between the Father and the Son.”—Leanne Payne As the Father has loved me… “The love of the Father to the Son is that divine passion with which He delights in the Son, and speaks, ‘My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.’ The divine love is as a burning fire; in all its intensity and infinity it has but one object and one joy, and that is the only-begotten Son… And yet this love of God to His Son must serve, O my soul, as the class in which you are to learn how Jesus loves you. So I have loved You… As one of His redeemed ones, you are His delight, and all His desire is to you, with the longing of a love which is stronger than death, and which many waters cannot quench. His heart yearns after you, seeking your fellowship and your love…His life is bound up in yours; you are to Him inexpressibly more indispensable and precious than you ever can know.” —Andrew Murray Enfolded in Divine Love “This is the most beautiful moment of any creature’s life: to know that one is loved, personally, by God to feel oneself lifted to the bosom of the Trinity and to find oneself in the flood of love that flows between the Father and the Son, enfolded in their love, sharing their passionate love for the world.” —Raniero Cantalamessa 2. Love that enjoys and delights in you “He delivered me because he delighted in me.”—Psalm 18:19 “He will take great delight over you; he will rejoice over you with singing; he will quiet you with his love.”—Zeph 3:17 “Your name shall be called Hephzibah…for the Lord delights in you…As a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you.”—Isaiah 62:4-5 “You have ravished my heart, my sister, my bride.”—Song of Songs 4:9 “I am my beloved’s, and his desire is for me” —Song of Songs 7:10 “We will never have more affection or passion for God than we understand he has for us” --Mike Bickle “The only thing that makes life livable is enjoying the joy that comes from knowing one is enjoyed by God.” --Sam Storms 3. Love that endlessly pursues you. “Surely goodness and mercy [hesed] will follow [radaph pursue] me all the days of my life”--Psalm 23:6 What is it like to be pursued? When have you pursued someone or something with abandonment? Our Love for God and Others God’s Love for Us “We love because He first loved us.” -- I John 4:19 Our Love for God and Others God’s Love for Us “We love because He first loved us.” -- I John 4:19 “God is no respecter of persons, but He is a respecter of conditions. The Drenching Rain of the Father “The love of the Father is like a sudden rain shower that will pour forth when you least expect it…When this happens do not put up an umbrella to protect yourself but rather stand in the drenching rain of the Father.” --Richard Foster But there is a problem…. Our hurts can cause us to avoid love… “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be rung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give it to no one, not even to an animal...” --C.S.Lewis Walls of Protection Admitting they are there You cannot confess to God what you will not first admit to yourself. “There Nails in my soul… were nails in my soul which were causing pain. But I had gotten so used to them, I hardly felt them…They were old and rusty, big and small nails, but like my stubborn father I didn’t want to admit they were there or that it hurt…Before I could forgive those who drove them in, I had to admit they were there.” Living Your Wounds Through… “The great challenge is living your wounds through instead of thinking them through. …In your head you can analyze them, find their causes and consequences, and coin words to speak and write about them. But no final healing is likely to come from that source. You need to let your wounds go down into your heart.” --Henri Nouwen “I Am A Rock” (Paul Simon) A Winter’s Day In a deep and dark December I am alone Gazing from my window To the Streets Below On a freshly fallen silent shroud of snow I am a rock I am an island I build walls. A fortress deep and mighty that none may penetrate. I have no need of friendship, friendship causes pain, It’s laughter and it’s loving I disdain. I am a rock, I am an island… Don’t talk of Love, I’ve heard the word before. There sleeping in my memory. I won’t disturb the slumber of feelings that have died. If I never loved I never would have cried. I am a rock, I am an island. I have my books and my poetry to protect me. I am shielded in my armor. Hiding in my room, safe within my womb. I touch no one and no one touches me. And a rock feels no pain. And an island never cries... My Machine-like Persona: “As an Adult Child Of an Alcoholic…in many ways I grew up like a machine. No matter what happened I could not be hurt; I just kept marching through, streaking through life no matter what the obstacles. I didn’t realize until I was thirty that switching off the pain sensors also meant switching off the core love sensors and the all important intimacy sensors. Because of my machine-like, nothing can hurt me persona (which the world and the church often rewarded), I was completely impotent in truly loving my wife as God had called me to and as she needed me to.” Walls often consist of… Bitterness and Unforgiveness Vows and Judgments A lesson from a pagan! “Everyone says forgiveness is a lovely idea, until they have someone to forgive.” - C.S. Lewis Seven Steps in Forgiving From the Heart Preparing to Forgive - Focuses on the Past Facing the Facts Feeling the Hurt Confronting the Hate The Heart of Forgiveness – The Present Bearing the Pain Releasing the Person Who Hurt Us Starting Over Assuming Responsibility for Ourselves Opens the possibility for Reconciliation What Forgiveness is Not Adapted from R.D. Enright, in N. Denison, To Live and Forget, On Wisconsin (Nov.-Dec. 1992) Forgetting: deep hurts can rarely be wiped out of one’s awareness. Reconciliation: reconciling requires two people; an injured party can forgive without reconciling. Forgiveness is Not, cont. Condoning: forgiveness does not necessarily excuse bad or hurtful behavior. Dismissing: forgiveness involves taking the offense seriously, not passing it off as inconsequential or insignificant. Forgiveness is Not, cont. Reinstatement of Trust: forgiveness never disregards the hurts or the potential for future hurts; it can occur while maintaining appropriate boundaries. II Timothy 4:14,15 “Alexander the coppersmith has done me much harm, but the Lord will judge him for what he has done. Be careful of him . . .” Forgiveness is . . . a commitment to act humbly when I feel justified in my right to exact retribution. a choice to extend mercy out of gratitude for the mercy that has been shown to me. a willingness to love when I feel no love at all and everyone around agrees that I’m entitled to my resentment. Disappointments with God Disappointments with God When something unexpected happens to us When obedience results in trouble. Moses’ Disappointment with God “Moses returned to the Lord and said, ‘O Lord, why have you brought trouble upon this people? Is this why you sent me? Ever since I went to Pharoah to speak in your name, he has brought trouble upon this people, and you have not rescued your people at all.”(Exodus 5:22-23; cf. Numbers 11:10-15) Similar experiences…? “Have we not all had experiences of a like kind? We have felt the unmistakable urge of the Spirit to some new form of service, or to some special line of action, and have obediently pressed forward, confident that the inward urge itself was the guarantee of immediate success. Then instead of success, opposition and disappointment and seeming failure have stunned us into bewildered despair, until we have ever been ready to fling the charge of unfaithfulness in the face of God.” J. Sidlow Baxter Then instead of success, opposition and disappointment and seeming failure have stunned us into bewildered despair, until we have ever been ready to fling the charge of unfaithfulness in the face of God.” —J. Sidlow Baxter Disappointments with God “We are apt to imagine that if Jesus Christ constrains us, and we obey Him, He will lead us to great success. We must never put our dreams of success as God’s purpose for us; His purpose may be exactly the opposite.” —Oswald Chambers Disappointments with God When something unexpected happens to us When obedience results in tribulation When something unfortunate happens to someone we love Understanding The Process: Spiritual Responses Anger at God Blaming God Loss of spiritual appetites A loss of the sense of the nearness of God Repressed Feelings of Disappointment “Multitudes of Christians struggle with repressed feelings of disappointment. God allowed things to happen in their lives which deep down they believe He ought to have protected them from. These repressed feelings then prevent them from entering into a passionate relationship with their Lord. Repressed Feelings of Disappointment Worshipping with one hand open and one hand clenched into a fist… Repressed Feelings of Disappointment It is difficult to be romantically involved with someone whom you do not believe has your best interests at heart.” --Selwyn Hughes “Love often succumbs to a cold death on the sharp rocks of disappointment” --Dan Allender Disappointments with God… Damage our “love receptors” Create anger towards God Expose our idols Psalm 37:4 “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Bring Your Disappointments with God to the Yeshua! “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me!” Bring your hurt, your anger, your idols to the foot of the cross. Ask Jesus to touch you with his nail-scarred hands! “By his wounds we are healed” Lies that We’re Not Lovable What Voice Are You Listening To? Shame Pride Intimacy “The greatest trap in our life is not success, popularity or power, but self-rejection...Selfrejection is the greatest enemy of the spiritual life because it contradicts the sacred voice that calls us the ‘Beloved.’” --Henri Nouwen One Of Our Greatest Needs To be fully known… and loved unconditionally anyway. “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) Our Own Failures and Sins Not Like Real Children “Some of us keep living like maids and butlers instead of like real children. Working frantically to earn the right to stay, we never really settle in, kick back and enjoy our Father’s company. In effect, we live in the crummy, cramped quarters over the garage rather than in the magnificent main house” —Sandra Wilson There’s a world of difference in knowing we’re the forgiven and knowing we’re the beloved. --Sandra Wilson Our Own List of “Unforgivable Sins” I’m too bad because… Yeshua bent down and wrote on the ground with his finger. John 8:6 Forgive Yourself You can no longer evaluate yourself based on your life before life with Yeshua. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, the old has gone, the new has come” - 2 Corinthians 5:17. Messages We’ve Received from Others Something that my parents taught me, but I have found to be untrue. “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” (Prov 11:9 NIV) "With his mouth the godless destroys his neighbor, but through knowledge the righteous escape." (Prov 12:18 NIV) "Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing." (Prov 15:4 NIV) "The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life, but a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit." (Prov 18:21 NIV) "The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit." A Complete Waste of Life “I grew up in a very broken and destructive home…Emotional and physical abuse were both very real and present… My mother used to call me all sorts of names. I recall one of her favorites being ‘(Censored!)’; and when she wasn’t calling me that she was telling me to go to hell. I never understood what I had done to make my mother hate me so much. I certainly couldn’t be lovable. She wouldn’t have done all those things if I were capable of being loved. I saw myself as a complete waste of life” The Architecture of Despair “There was nothing my father could not teach me about the architecture of despair. I knew all its shapes and its blueprints, the shadows of all its columns and archways. My father could send me reeling down its hallways and screaming into its batspliced attics with a curl of his thin-lipped mouth. He brought madness home every time he entered the many houses of my overlong childhood. His cruelty baffled me, shamed me, and I promised myself I would never be anything like him.” —Pat Conroy A Genius for Scab-flicking “My father possessed a genius for scab-flicking, for zeroing in on that tenderest spot of the psyche where healing was most difficult, exposing the rawness of the wound again and again.” —Pat Conroy When the “You ares” become the “I ams” Our Fear of Letting God Love Us What We Fear Most What we humans fear more than anything else is not the evil all around us, nor even the evil inside us. What we fear most is the good in ourselves. It is so demanding we repress it. William Sloane Coffin Taking the Risk of Letting God Love You “Odd as it may seem and counter to ordinary human expectations, the Christian life consists in taking the risk of allowing ourselves to be endowed with gifts from God.”--Thomas Oden What need is being met in You by your refusal to let God love you? “These walls are funny. First you hate them. Then you get used to them. Then you grow to depend on them.”--“Red” in The Shawshank Redemption The God Who Sings Over You “The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.” --Zephaniah 3:17 There is nothing you can do to lose God’s love – stop fearing. There is nothing you can do to earn more of God’s love – stop striving. “The only thing that makes life livable is enjoying the joy that comes from knowing one is enjoyed by God.” --Sam Storms Here I Am Lord! I the Lord of snow and rain I have borne my people’s pain I have wept for love of them They turn away. I will break their hearts of stone Give them hearts for love alone. I will speak my word to them. Whom shall I send?