Not As We Were

I have a quirky little habit of picking up trash when I walk. Along my usual route, I'll inevitably find beer cans, solo cups, cardboard boxes and the occasional tree limb or two. It feels good to scoop them up and clear the sidewalks of our town. Sometimes, I hum a few bars of Montgomery Gentry's "My Town" and think, yea, this is my town and I want to keep it nice.

As I walk and pray, I often thank the LORD for "cleaning me up." I'm constantly in awe at how He transforms our lives. How good He is that He doesn't want to leave us the way He found us. As one whose life has been radically changed by His love, I am forever grateful that He is a God who gets into our business!

In June, our church family gathered for a time 24-7 prayer to seek favor, provision and clarity from the LORD. A sacred prayer space was set up in our church office. I was drawn to a little book that I found there, called The Furious Longing of God. I truly know God loves us, but I never thought of His love in quite that way. Brennan Manning, the author, shares, "When one of England's finest writers, G. K. Chesterton, spoke of "the furious love of God," he was referencing the enormous vitality and strength of the God of Jesus seeking union with us."

When I hear the word union, I think of a couple being married and joining their lives together. In all of the Gospels, Jesus speaks of himself as the bridegroom, showing us that He wants more than just an intimate relationship with His people. He wants to become one with us. Paul writes in Galatians 2:20a NIV, "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The union we share with Jesus is the deepest, most life giving relationship we'll ever have. This great love is manifested in Paul, when we see him singing hymns after he’s just been beaten and thrown into jail.

I was in Central Florida last week to spend a little time with my family. Worship on Sunday was in a mobile home park clubhouse where my mom goes to "church." The pastor opened the service by giving thanks to God for how He transforms lives. This eighty-three year old Jesus follower shared how the LORD rescued him from a life of sin over forty years ago. He said he'd been a "tough guy" that people were afraid of and he’d been proud of that. When the LORD stepped in and started having His way with him, Bob was changed forever. The extravagant love of God got a hold of this man and He's now proclaiming it to his little flock of believers. You could hear the gratitude in his voice as he spoke of the LORD’s goodness to him.

Knowing that I am cherished and valued by God, changes the way I love others. It frees me to stop thinking so much about myself and letting my insecurities hold me back from doing Kingdom work. During our Deeper Journey message series last year, Josh shared an important truth from The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness. In this little book, Tim Keller writes that we shouldn't think less of ourselves, but think of ourselves less. Because we are deeply loved and sought out, we are free to go love others in this way. There's a whole world out there that needs our Jesus! When we truly grasp the truth of His furious love for us, it compels us to want to share Him with others. He needs and trusts us to be His hands and feet. And, with Him living in us, we can do just that!