A Prayer for the Church

God, be with our church, with those who are called by Your name. Help us to realize that You are the most important thing in our lives, and that You and You alone have the power to change people’s hearts. Help us to realize our calling to love the lost, heal the wounded, both in body and in spirit, feed and clothe the poor, encourage the broken-hearted, and in all we do, to guide those around us to You. Let us see beyond the actions, beyond the anger and the hatred and the skepticism of all who reject You; let us see as much as You allow us to of their hearts, that we may know their pain and have only compassion and love for them, as You had love for us. Give us wisdom in dealing with people and with situations in life; only You know what is to come and what is truly best for us. Let us accept Your judgments and Your answers to our prayers, even when that answer is not what we want to hear.

Help us, Lord, to ignore those things that don’t matter that we might live in peace with each other, not striving to outdo each other in any way, but striving only to serve you with all of our hearts, minds, strength, and souls. Teach us humility and contentedness, teach us patience and mercy, teach us faith and love, but first, Lord, give us the courage to pray for these things in earnestness, for we know that You will always answer prayers for things that are in Your will for us. Help us to understand Your ways, that You often teach us love by giving us difficult people to love, that You show us how to be patient by letting us want things immediately. Help us to grow, Father, that we might be closer to You.

For our church, Father, please strengthen our faith. Show us that Your Word is still alive today, that it is not void or outdated or false. Show us our sins, and then show us our hearts that cause us to commit these sins. Most of all, change our hearts that we may seek You first above all things. Help us to be different from the world, let them see that You do change people, and that what we have is something they need. Give us the strength to weather persecution, to not only endure, but to praise You when it comes that we are counted worthy to suffer for Your glory. For it is always, Lord, about Your glory, for Yours is the kingdom and the power and the honor forever.

Let Your will be done in our lives.

Amen.

How to Forgive the Fiend in the Mirror

For many of us, the deepest grudge we hold is against ourselves. We can ignore it or pass off the blame on others, but we know it’s there, eating away at us with all the things we’ve done and all our missed opportunities. It tears at our self-confidence, telling us that we’re bound to fail again, that we’ve learned nothing from all of our past mistakes and are thus doomed to repeat them.

There are three types of things you hold against yourself: simply being who you are, the mistakes you’ve committed, and missed opportunities.

The first is a difficult one because even though it’s often based in failures or missed opportunities of some sort, it goes beyond that to a general feeling of worthlessness, to a sense that even if you had not committed a certain sin or had jumped on an opportunity, you still wouldn’t be successful. This feeling of unworthiness is actually at the heart of both your sins and your missed opportunities, making you sabotage yourself so you can collect evidence to prove you’re nothing.

It sounds crazy to hear it put like that, but I did it for years. I was terrible around women, but instead of learning from my mistakes, I’d proudly display each successive failure in a mental trophy case. It was a sick cycle, with my belief in certain failure causing more failure, which then strengthened my belief in yet more future failure.

And in much of this, I blamed God. I couldn’t find anything wrong with what I was doing, and so I reasoned it must be a part of who I was. Since He made me, I blamed Him almost as much as I blamed myself. Blaming Him removed some small amount of the hatred from me, but kept me from seeing His wisdom and blinded me to what I was doing, to myself and those around me.

I used to have a false image of God as some cruel tyrant who made me as some sort of sick joke. He is now my loving Father, my King, my Teacher, and much more. And I am not the cruel joke. In fact, there is nothing wrong with the way He made me. I am His beloved son, valuable enough that Jesus would have come to earth and died just for me. I am formed specifically this way for a purpose, one that I am so grateful God has revealed to me. I am His, now and forever, and He is my Father, my everything in this world.

God has a purpose for making you the way He did as well, whether your purpose is in your talents or so He can use you as He did with Moses or Gideon, making His strength perfect in your weakness. God has a use for you if you will let Him work in your life. Realizing this will help you let go of any grudge you have against yourself for being the way He made you. Embracing your future in Christ is the only way to truly let go of the past.

It’s important to separate these things you don’t like about yourself into two categories: things that are actually wrong and things that aren’t. For example, my lack of confidence was horribly wrong. Not only was it ruining my life, but it was a slap in the face to God to say that He had messed up when He created me or that He was cruel in intentionally making me a failure.

For the other category, these are things that make you who you are, such as being a melancholy. There is no right or wrong in being introverted or extroverted, being melancholy rather than phlegmatic, having one love language instead of another, or not liking certain things. You need to embrace who you are. God does.

The second category of grudges against yourself is for sins you have committed. Every last sin is worthy of eternal separation from God. The good news, though, is that Jesus has already taken your punishment for you.

Imagine that you had done something terrible, worthy of being beheaded. There’s no doubt about your guilt, and you’re sentenced to death. Then the judge offers to take your place on the chopping block. This man only asks that the jury give him a year before carrying out the execution, so he can see what kind of person you’ve become with your new life.

Do you really believe your benefactor wants to see you muddle through that next year, continually kicking yourself and not trying to do anything with your life? No, he’d want you to wake up whistling every morning because you’ve been forgiven, because someone else was willing to take your punishment. The law doesn’t affect you anymore because the debt has been paid, so why should you live like you are still in chains? This man would want you to make the very most of the life he has restored to you.

God doesn’t want you to live under the burdens of your past sins. He is willing to forgive you, to erase all of them. He died to set you free, so why would He want you to live in bondage?

No child of the King should ever be beating themselves up over something or calling themselves worthless. To do so is a sin against both God and yourself. Everything has already been forgiven by the One whose opinion matters.

Consider this aspect of the cross for a moment: Jesus was on it only once. One sacrifice for all sins, for your entire life, and for everyone who believes in Him.

Not only does this mean you’re forgiven no matter how many times you’ve messed up, it means that God isn’t looking for evidence against you. If He was, He wouldn’t have to look for very long and just one sin would doom us for eternity. He’s not looking to harm you; He sent His Son to die to save you.

Right now, think of the very worst thing you have ever done in your life. However painful it is to think of, however horrible and despicable it was, concentrate on it for a moment. Now realize that according to God, that never happened, that your sin has been washed away and you are free. When God looks at you, He sees someone as spotless as His Son. Is it more than you deserve? Without question. Is it more than you could ever hope to repay? Absolutely. Is it still yours just for the asking? Yes.

There is conviction when we sin, a feeling of guilt that drives us to repentance. Once you have repented, though, there should be no more shame. To say that shame should remain is to say that Jesus’ blood is strong enough to wash out only part of the sin, that He can wash away the spiritual effects, but not the emotional ones. He died so you could be completely free, not just partially free.

If you’re holding a grudge against yourself, you’re saying that your life has been messed up by your actions or inactions past the point of God’s ability to restore you. Not only is sin an indictment of a lack of faith in God, but so is unforgiveness. It takes realizing that God can fix anything for you to be able to truly forgive yourself.

It’s not easy to forgive yourself of your sins, but what is much harder for most people is realizing Jesus died to free them from their missed opportunities as well.

Most people have that one person in their life that they’ve had a really deep crush on yet never pursued or that one opportunity they knew they should have gone for but didn’t. It’s a horrible feeling looking back on it because you always wonder what could have been had things been just a little different, if you had said or done something a different way or at a better time or if you had been bolder.

For me, the one that got away was the opportunity to go to my first-choice college. I ended up at another school instead, where I was offered a floor leadership position my freshman year if I’d move to a different floor. It was a rare honor, but I declined, not even knowing why I said no.

I became friends with a guy on my floor who eventually got me a job in Virginia, where I was blessed with enough money to pursue writing as a career. Had I moved off, it’s unlikely he and I would ever have become friends, so I wouldn’t have gotten that job and likely wouldn’t have made as much money in any job I did find.

By passing up one opportunity, God opened another, which led me down the path He wanted me to take to get where I am today. I certainly made some decisions along the way that were outside His will, but He knew the decisions I would make and planned things to bring me where He wanted me anyway. All of the other opportunities I passed up and all the ones I should have passed up but didn’t weren’t enough to take me from His plan for my life. I don’t know how things would have worked out had I gone to the other school or moved off the floor, but I know now God had a plan for me that whole time.

Think about the one that got away from you, be it a person, job, or other opportunity. Now realize that you’re idealizing it in your head. You don’t know what would have happened in 99% of the cases and in the very small chance you do, you don’t know that it would have been better off for you. Most lottery winners are back at their jobs with no money in less than two years. No person you’ve set your eyes on is perfect. And every job comes with its bad days. The certainty is that if it is not in God’s will, it will lead you to a worse place than He would.

Even if that thing you wanted was as good as you’d imagined, your life with it would still be worse for you in the end than if you had followed God’s will for you. Why? Because God’s will has something that nothing else does: more of God.

11 Steps to Christian Self-Confidence, Part 1

Aside from asking God to help change your heart, there are 11 steps to getting true confidence. Here are the first 6, with the other 5 to come tomorrow. Changing how you feel about yourself is not something you’re going to achieve all at once. I say this not as a discouragement, but rather to give you hope. At the beginning, there will be a lot of backsliding into old thought patterns. That doesn’t mean this isn’t working, it doesn’t mean you have failed, and it most certainly doesn’t mean it’s time to give up. If reading the Bible once cannot make someone believe in and love God perfectly, then how can I hope that reading these posts once is enough to magically erase all the beliefs someone has built up about themselves over the years? No, thought patterns are far too ingrained for that.

These steps can take as long or short a time as you want. The important thing is to keep pushing forward with them.

1.Ask yourself how your current way of looking at life is working out. Any change has to be the result of a true, deep desire to change. Satisfaction with the status quo or a belief that change is too difficult will render all of my words ineffectual. A decision to change is a required first step before any change is possible.

Think about where you’re currently getting your sense of self-worth and ask yourself, “How’s this working out for me?” You’ve been spending so much time and energy trying to get acceptance from yourself and others and are apparently aware of the problem if you’re reading this post.

Is this really how you want to live?

If the answer is no, then it’s time to make a big change in how you view the world. Changing how good you are at certain things will never be enough because there will always be that need to perform or to change something else with every failure or rejection. There will never be a point at which you’ll feel you’ve arrived; even if you accomplish all your goals, there will always be the next goal or the fear that what you have can be taken from you.

You have a choice: either keep trying win this game or change your heart in such a way that you are no longer controlled by what others think of you, or even by what you think you should be. This choice must be made before any of the other steps matter.

2.Figure out exactly where your sense of self worth comes from currently. Acknowledge which actions are geared toward gaining the approval of yourself and others. Make a list of things you do and go through it thoroughly and with brutal honesty. There is nothing to be gained by lying and the lesson of a lifetime to be lost.

Go deep here, too. Don’t just say, “Well, I spend extra time at the office so I can get more money,” and stop there. What are you trying to earn or what purchase will these savings buy? If the goal is to buy a house, for example, what is it about owning a nice house that will make you more valuable to others? What is so important about being valuable to them? Where do these beliefs come from? It is imperative to know yourself before change can occur.

3.Find out who the Bible says you are. You are the son or daughter of Christ, an heir to the kingdom of heaven, and someone God has loved enough to die for. God has called you His friend, not His slave. You have been redeemed, made holy as though you’d never sinned. There is no position higher than this.

Think of the Greeks and their mythology. Who was deemed higher: a king of men or a son of the gods? Who had more power? Who is more often the focus of legend? If a son of the gods had more power, why hold to the idea that kings on earth have more power than you do as a literal son or daughter of God? Not to say you can order them around, for God has given those in power on earth their power to rule, but we hold to the idea that rich, powerful, or good-looking people are better and they’re not. All of that means nothing compared to the value we have by the Creator of the Universe creating us, choosing to love us, and valuing us above His own Son’s life.

4.Believe it. This sounds closely related to #3, but they are, in fact, worlds apart. I knew most of what the Bible said about me for years. It didn’t help. In fact, knowing without believing actually hurt because it made me think God didn’t want me to have anything else and so He made me lovable by just Him, and then only if I pleased Him enough. I felt like God loved everyone else and that somehow, based on something I had done, it didn’t apply to me at all. I was going to heaven, but couldn’t expect anything else from God. Feeling He didn’t love me personally, I sought love elsewhere. It was only when I started believing what He thought about me (Psalm 56:8 changed my perspective quite a bit) that I was able to finally believe I had value outside of what I could do or who I was with.

This belief is not going to come instantly. It’s been a few years since I first realized this and I still sometimes consider myself intelligent more readily than I consider myself a child of God. This new identity is really what I’m trying to help you grow with these steps. The purpose of this step is not to merely believe it and change your life forever from that moment. Rather, it’s choosing to believe it even when it sounds ridiculous. Whenever frustrations and self-deprecation start rearing their ugly heads, you’ll start to think, “This doesn’t matter because this doesn’t determine my value. My value is already set in stone and written in blood.” And then stop thinking about it. It will probably be hard at first, to either stop long enough to have this thought or to stop thinking about it afterward, but as you make the conscious decision to believe it, the actual belief comes much more easily.

5.Stop criticizing yourself. For years, I told myself I was a failure, that I would always be alone and never amount to much because I was worthless.

It was never true.

I’ve never felt better after criticizing myself. I’ve also never felt as motivated by being mad at myself as I have by being excited and happy about something. I have done a bunch of things out of anger at myself, but most of the projects I’ve started in such a state have not been finished. I stop them as soon as I’ve calmed down and never get back to them. Criticizing yourself is not worth the misery it causes. It never has been and never will be.

Also, don’t take it to heart when others criticize you. If what they say has merit, you can choose to change if it is a problem, but here’s the truth: nobody ever has been or ever will be able to make you think you’re worse than you already fear you are. Any time anyone has insulted you and caused your self-hatred to well up, they haven’t really done anything but feed your fears. Even if they pointed out something you weren’t aware of – such as a mistake on a project or some physical flaw – if the comment stung, then you already feared being a failure or being unattractive. Without a fear of rejection, that rejection would not hurt.

Now reread that paragraph, several times if need be. The problem with your self-confidence is not and never has been other people. It is self-confidence. It is your problem and yours alone. It doesn’t matter what others say, it doesn’t matter whether it’s true or not, and it doesn’t matter what their motives were. Self-confidence is only affected by what a person believes about himself, which is precisely why it is so important to stop cutting yourself down.

6.Forgive yourself and others. One of the hardest parts of getting confidence was realizing I had to forgive myself. For everything. For being 30 and single, for not having figured this out back when I was 18 or 19, for all the time I’ve wasted playing games or burying myself in work and avoiding my problems. For all the opportunities I passed up because I was too afraid to reach out and grab them. For all the people I’ve hurt along the way. For rejecting God so many times. I have to start completely afresh with myself, just as God starts each day with me (Lamentations 3:22-23). I can and should endeavor to learn from my mistakes, but I cannot keep bringing them up every time I make another one, neither can I fear the consequences of my mistakes to the point where I blow them out of proportion.

You also have to forgive others and let go of any grudge you have against God. Others must be forgiven because God commands you to forgive in light of all that He’s forgiven in you and because it’s a sign that their wrongs don’t diminish your value. You can’t forgive God because He’s never sinned against you, but you must let go of your grudge against Him (and do this before you forgive yourself or others) because it’s impossible to want to grow closer to someone when you’re angry with them. That grudge will put a barrier in the relationship that will only let you get so close, yet you need to be very close if you’re to have the confidence He wants for you.

NOTE: Because forgiveness is such a complex topic and is one of the biggest barriers to getting true confidence, I am devoting all of next week to talking about it.

Why True Confidence Can’t Be Earned

Each of the last two days, I’ve mentioned that your identity in Christ is a gift and that you can’t earn it. It’s all well and good to say that, but it’s time to examine that idea in detail.

Let’s start with this: you’re nothing. I’m nothing. We’re all a whole bunch of dirt that He breathed life into and then decided for some reason to love.

Not only are you insignificant in value compared to the Creator of the entire (and unfathomably large) Universe, but you have sinned against Him as well.

Imagine a cockroach giving you attitude. Just by virtue of being a cockroach, he’s lucky if you let him live; when he starts yelling at you, it’s laughably pathetic. If it actually tried to do something you didn’t like, you might well smash him. And not many people would say you’re wrong. He was a roach, you’re a human; the difference in value is massive.

And the difference between you and God is infinitely greater.

We often forget that. We forget how easily we’re getting off because we forget how powerful and holy He is. We forget our place and, in doing so, fail to glorify Him properly in His. Even if He were spiteful or arbitrary or just distant, He would be worthy of praise because He is God. How much more so because He loves us enough to die for us?

Something else happens when we forget our proper place: we try to earn it. We try to be good enough, usually for other people or our own standards, sometimes to live up to His, but always trying to earn our place. Always trying and failing to be worthy, getting frustrated that we somehow fell short again or that our mild success didn’t last and wasn’t enough.

And it’s always one step forward, two steps back, isn’t it? Why? Because you’re not enough. You were never meant to be enough. Because He is more than enough.

It is His grace that allows you to be saved, His love that keeps you, His sacrifice that paid for your sins, and His covenant that gave you a new identity. You did nothing! You couldn’t do anything because He did it all.

I don’t mean this to tear you down and leave you a self-deprecating, sobbing mass. I mean this to be the second-best news you can ever hear: your inability to earn it means that you can stop trying. It’s a gift, willingly offered by Someone who loves you more than your spouse, children, family, or friends ever could.

If you found the perfect Christmas present for someone and were excited for the next three months (or three hours, for those last-minute shoppers; you know who you are! 🙂 ), just waiting eagerly for Christmas so you could see the look on their face, would you want them to react with surprise and joy and enjoy the present immediately or would you want them to whip out a wallet and try to pay you for the present? That latter one’s a slap in the face, isn’t it? Yet it’s exactly what we try to do when we attempt to earn our salvation, our identity, or anything else from God. We can’t. It’s all a bunch of gifts, given to us by a doting Father. All He wants is for us to love and obey Him, love others, and enjoy what He’s given us.

One of my readers left feedback last week attesting to this very problem. She said she was trying to be good enough and kept feeling she was failing, saying, “I never seem to arrive at my original destination.” I know the feeling. Life is full of twists and turns, but every one of them has been known by God since before time began. If you keep trying and failing, I see three possibilities:

1. You’re doing something God doesn’t want you to do. He may be calling you into something else or wanting you to just stop and seek Him. He may want you to do this, but not quite yet. He may even be calling you to use a different approach to doing it. This is a wonderful time to pray and wait on God to teach you what He wants you to do.

2. You’re doing something for yourself instead of for Him. The heart is crafty. It will tell you you’re serving God and in the same breath tell you that you deserve something for your service. God will never bless your efforts to glorify yourself. You may succeed and be glorified, but it won’t be because He blessed you. And if it’s not His blessing, it’s not what’s best for you, no matter how good it seems.

3. God is working, either in you or in others, in ways you don’t see. When I started promoting my book on confidence, sales were dismal. I was a bit down about it (showing that I hadn’t yet mastered confidence myself), but my wife reminded me that God could have had me write it to reach just one person. And if that’s the only person who reads and is touched by the book, then it is worth it. We cannot measure success in God’s work by human standards. You can only measure by your obedience to, faith in, and love for Him. Serve Him with your whole heart and let Him take care of the results.

In the end, we can’t do anything for God. Our righteous works are as filthy rags. And He doesn’t want us to try to earn them. He wants our obedience and love, but He gives us these presents just because He loves us. No earning necessary. No earning possible.

Why Knowing the Father Is Essential to Being His Child

There are three fundamentals to having Christian confidence. Without any of them, you don’t have it, merely a shell or a caricature of it.

1. You, of yourself, have no real value. You are dirt that God breathed into and decided to love. Your accomplishments, good deeds, sacrifices, possessions, abilities, and even works for God don’t make you any more valuable to Him. Likewise, your failures, sins, fears, and struggles don’t make you less valuable. He doesn’t look at whether you’re attractive or ugly, rich or poor, important in the world’s eyes or not. He sees your heart and, if you’re a Christian, He sees His incredibly beloved son or daughter, made righteous through Jesus’ sacrifice.

You cannot, in any way, earn even a shred of value from Him, neither can you lose any. You are worth His Son’s death to Him, simply because He loves you. The cross is a big enough place for all of us to come and kneel, but there is no room for pride or ego there.

2. There is no position higher than what He is offering you for free. Anything you gain on earth is like Bill Gates finding a dirty penny on the street: so completely not worth his time or effort because of how little it increases his wealth. Likewise, because it is free and  not dependent on anything you do, you can’t sink so low that He won’t offer you this new identity or that you can lose it. It’s yours for the taking and there is nothing better on this earth.

3. To fully grasp it, you must know the Father. This is the crux of this post. Imagine for a moment that a stranger tells you you’re special. You may say thank you, but it’s kind of a weird compliment because he doesn’t know you. If he were to insult you instead, you might be offended, but you’d probably brush it off because he’s just a stranger. For his opinion to matter, he’d have to know you and you’d have to know him.

Many Christians don’t really know God on a deep, personal level. They have misconceptions about His character, His heart, and His love for them. A lot of us forget how powerful He is and so we don’t have a healthy fear of Him. We don’t read Psalm 56:8, which tells us that He doesn’t just love humanity in general, but each of us individually more passionately than the most ardent spouse ever could. We see Him as a willing Executioner, Peace-loving Hippie, Cosmic Vending Machine, Spare Tire, or something else. Even when we see part of Him correctly, such as Judge, High Priest, or King, we caricaturize Him as that rather than seeing the complete picture: that He’s these three things and so much more because He is our Father.

I don’t know the relationship you had with your father. It might be really close. Maybe it’s distant or rocky. Maybe you never even met him. What I do know is that nobody wants to be closer to you than God. Nobody loves you more or thinks better things about you. Nobody wants your best more than He does or is willing to sacrifice more for you.

And nobody else’s opinion of you is nearly as permanent and unwavering as His is.

Getting your identity from who you are to God requires that you know God, as He truly is, on a deep, personal level. Once you do, though, you’ll be able to accept that you are His son or daughter, simply because He loves you, and you’ll rush into His arms like a five-year old child when their daddy comes home.

When God Loves Us Enough to Hide From Us

hide-and-seek12Sometimes, it feels like we’ve been waiting on God for years. Even though we’ve been here just over three months, looking for a job has taken its toll on us. Our financial reserves are running out and our faith feels battered and worn down.

It feels like God has hidden Himself from us because, though we’re doing what we believe is His will, we aren’t getting clear direction. The only direction we’ve seem to have gotten is, “Not this job,” which tries our faith still further. We don’t know exactly where we’re supposed to be focusing our efforts, when or from where the money will come, or why God had us move here in the first place.

And yet there’s a small part of me that says that we’re here to learn to trust in Him. We’re here to learn to love Him more than the things of this world. He’s hidden Himself that we may seek Him.

After Elijah called fire from Heaven to burn his sacrifice, thus defeating the 400 prophets of Baal, Jezebel threatened him and he ran for his life. God sustained him, then he went to a cave in Horeb. There, God told him to stand on a mountain. When he did, a mighty wind broke rocks, but God was not in the wind. An earthquake came, and then a fire, but God was in neither of those either. Finally, there was a still small voice.

It was that voice that was God and Elijah had to be quiet to hear Him.

Too often, we seek God’s thunderous voice and the earthquake to shake up our world or, worse, try to create our own earthquake. Sometimes, when it feels we’ve been waiting on God, it’s because He’s waiting for us to seek Him.

Why Loving The Creator And Not The Creation Is Not Just Wrong, But Impossible

I’ve heard Christians say before that they don’t love other people. I’ve been one of them. As an introvert, I don’t get excited about parties and meeting new people like extroverts do. As someone who has struggled with judgmental tendencies, I’ve found myself frustrated with humanity when people knowingly do things detrimental to themselves with no apparent benefit. (Case in point: Joseph Randle, a Dallas Cowboys player recently arrested for shoplifting $123.50 of merchandise. Randle makes $495,000 a year.)

Yet how am I supposed to react when I hear things like this? When I hear of people complaining of how unfair it is that they slept around, but got pregnant or caught an STD? When I hear about people bashing “the system” or “the man” when they work only hard enough to not get fired?

With love.

Always with love. 

And the reason is simple: God loves us, even when we’re that foolish. You can pridefully say you’re not, that you haven’t stolen anything, that you’ve taken few risks and accepted responsibility for the ones you’ve taken, and that you work hard every day. All of that may be true, but none of that matters. Every time any of us chooses ourselves over God in any way, we’re at least as foolish as anyone we tend to point our fingers at. How else could we choose to harbor a grudge even when our mountain of sins has been forgiven? How else can we explain getting angry with God over His refusal to give us what we want?

It’s impossible to be angry with someone to whom you don’t feel superior in some way. A little humility, however, in realizing that we’re all fallen, lost, and, yes, foolish, will take out all that sense of pride, which is probably the most foolish thing we can have.

I’m no better than anyone. Were God to look at me and Hitler side by side, without taking into account Jesus’ sacrifice, we’d be equally worthy of Hell, just as Moses, Peter, and Daniel would be.

If you want to love others, first realize that you’re no better than they are. 

Second, remember what God has saved you from. Imagine for a moment your greatest fear, and then your second greatest fear being added to it, and your third. For me, this would be something like being on a tightrope stretched across the Grand Canyon, with scorpions all over me while being lit on fire. Then multiply the pain and agony and fear as far as you can in your mind and imagine that this is no mere nightmare, but an eternal torture that will never improve, never slacken, and that you’ll never get used to. You still won’t be close to what Hell is like because we can fathom neither true hopelessness nor eternity. We can’t fathom knowing beyond the shadow of a doubt that there is a God more glorious than we can imagine, but Who is not coming to our rescue because we’ve rejected Him.

And yet, while we are still on this earth, we have the ability to choose Him and not just be spared this torture we earned countless times over, but be allowed to spend eternity in God’s presence, glorying in Him. Streets of gold, never dying, no night, no sickness or ailments – absolute perfection in all things forever. All as a gift for us, all of us who believe in Him, regardless of our pasts.

Third, know Him. Even though we’re created in God’s image, you can’t learn that much about God from spending time with people instead of Him. But by knowing Him, you’ll learn His heart for other people because you’ll learn His love for you.

You cannot have His love in you without it flowing out of you toward others. Just like a pitcher must be filled with clean water before it can pour out clean water into glasses, you must be filled with God’s love for you before you can love others His way. It is impossible to be full of this clean water and pour out dirty water or nothing at all.