Love

The Art of Wholehearted

The battle lies in the division of who we are privately and who we are publically. As much as we desire to be wholly undivided, most of humanity will be drawn into division. It's part of our nature. Yet, in Christ - fragmentation, this brokenness can be mended into a beautiful wholeness. It's only possible with Christ in us.

Wholehearted. What does it mean to be wholehearted?

Merriam-Webster would define this term as “completely and sincerely devoted, determined, or enthusiastic…marked by complete and earnest commitment…free from all reserve or hesitation.”

Over the last several years, I have learned and studied wholeheartedness. I have looked at it from the perspective of qualified authors, Spirit-led counseling, and - mostly importantly - from the Word of God and trying to learn the heart of our Father.

I like Merriam-Webster’s definition, but I feel it’s missing the context of Scripture. Scriptures come to mind such as Luke 10:27 - “Love the Lord with all your heart, soul, and strength - love your neighbor as yourself” and 1 These. 5:23 - “Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Scriptures like these give us a glimpse of what biblical wholeheartedness could look like.

Sincere devotion is just simply devotion when not integrated with authenticity. Free from all reserve and hesitation is not possible without inward transformation. Is it? It’s as though, it’s a “this must proceed that”. To live wholeheartedly, we must be wholehearted. Rather to live and be wholehearted, we must welcome and invite the transformation of becoming wholehearted.

I think of people like Paul, Naomi, Ruth, Esther, Mary, Peter, Moses, Abraham, and David. And so, so many more. Men and women who lived their lives fully devoted to Christ, not through perfection, but rather through brokenness and mess. These people were a hot mess. Much like you and me. 

But in all of their hot mess, they devoted everything to Christ and the people around them - in vulnerability and in passion. 

God calls us to community and impact. Yet, we certainly cannot make a fully loving impact when we are withholding and withdrawing from others. Whether it be out of fear or insecurity, whether we are fully convinced we are not good enough - or simply uncertain about our purpose. I truly believe God calls us to live vulnerably and authentically as we passionately live out our purpose for Him and through Him. We do this in community with God and others. 

To be wholehearted, to live wholehearted - we must be made whole. Don’t misunderstand, by no means do I mean we must be perfect. Perfection is not our aim. Scripture states in Matthew 5:48, "be Holy as I am Holy" or "be perfect as I am perfect". Can we really achieve the holiness or perfection of God? No. If we look at the context and meaning of this word “perfect” - the original word is “teleioi” in the Greek which translates as “completeness (fully grown)” in your understanding or in your thinking. Be made whole or undivided.  

God is made up of three parts, Father, Son, Holy Spirit - yet operates as a whole; much the same, according to scripture, we are made up of three parts - body, soul, spirit. 

And, God calls us to wholeness. How can that be expressed, lived out?

For our specific purposes, we are looking at the question of how can I be made whole - how can I live out wholeheartedness? How can I be transformed wholly and completely in Christ?

So often, we allow transformation in the external parts of our lives. We change our habits, we adjust our schedules and diets, we talk better, act better, perform better. Nonetheless, we feel broken - fragmented. Pieces of ourselves remain hidden and unseen both to the community around us, but most sadly to the God who created us. 

We live fragmented lives. We withdraw and protect - and it is not just from community. We do this from God, himself.

It seems silly, I know. How do you hide and withdraw from God who knows and sees all? It’s the beautiful and yet, treacherous act of free will and choice. He will not force himself on us, but He waits patiently for us to open our WHOLE heart to Him - to allow Him to transform us completely and wholly - and to surrender wholeheartedly in our journey with HIm. IF we were to do this, it would change us from the inside out - and as we are changed from the inside out the overflow will be to live fully and authentically with God AND with OTHERS. Living wholeheartedly in community with God and others. 

What would happen in our families, neighborhoods, churches, and workplace if we were to allow wholehearted transformation that flows into wholehearted community?

This is what we hope to look at, focus on, and discover in 2018 with this community of women. Are you in? Are you “wholeheartedly” in? This means we will be committed to sharing our stories. It means we will be vulnerable and honest. And, we will work out our salvation through the gut-wrenching act of God reaching deep inside of us and revealing all of the ways we are broken and fragmented.

We will watch in awe as Christ works transformation in the deepest recesses of our soul and spirit, and reveals a beautiful outward life of wholehearted surrender and devotion. We will rejoice and celebrate as we journey towards the beautiful reward of a wholehearted life. We invite you to join us!

jeremy-bishop-226846.jpg

...written by Christan Causey

The Pain of Unforgiveness

Forgiveness is an amazing gift that we have because of the death of Jesus Christ, and we are commanded to forgive others just as He has forgiven us. Usually, that is an easy thing to do. Most of the infractions that we deal with are not life altering. But what happens when we have that life-altering moment, and we are unwilling to let go? Have you ever thought about what happens when we are not willing to forgive?

At the age of eight, I was a victim of molestation; I held tightly to the pain, hurt and shame of this incident until the day came at thirty-six years old when I told Jesus, “I just can’t live this way any longer. What do I do?”

The anger and bitterness I felt affected every aspect of my life; what I thought of myself, what I believed others thought of me, my early years of marriage and my role as a mom. Little did I know that my unwillingness to forgive and let go was the cause of my continued years of torment. Although I had committed my life to Christ at twenty, I had never truly accepted His offer of forgiveness.

God does not insist that we forgive for the sake of the perpetrator, but for the sake of peace in our own lives. Once we make that choice, He gives us supernatural ability to forgive. There cannot be true forgiveness without first receiving grace. We cannot give forgiveness until we have been forgiven. But once we have made the conscious choice to forgive, we are free of the hold that unforgiveness has on us.

Unforgiveness will keep us in a stagnant place; we will not grow in our faith. Where unforgiveness exists there is no room for the Holy Spirit to dwell. But, when the Holy Spirit has been given room to move, amazing things can happen. If we allow Him to, He will make us whole. He will heal the wounds. He will take away the pain caused by another and over time – if you allow Him to – He will fill your heart with love for the person that wronged you! You may never forget, but over time there will be less pain. One day there will only be a scar where once there was an open wound. Forgiveness allows us to let go.

Why do some “get it” and some don’t? I believe we need to embrace “surrender” and choose to believe and trust. Not until we are willing to consciously do these things in spite of how we feel, will we get it and find peace.

This is what the LORD says – your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel; “I am the LORD your God, who teaches you what is good for you and leads you along the paths you should follow. Oh, that you had listened to my commands! Then you would have had peace flowing like a gentle river and righteousness rolling over you like waves in the sea.” Isaiah 48:17-18

I love these words from Beth Moore:

“I believe Christ still grieves when He sees hearts in unnecessary turmoil. You can have the peace of Christ, believer, no matter what your circumstances; but you must believe, bend the knee, and learn how to receive. … bending the knee is ultimately a matter of pure obedience. You may never feel like giving your circumstance, hurt or loss to Him; but you can choose to submit to His authority out of belief and obedience rather than emotion. Obedience is the mark of authentic surrender to God’s authority in any matter.” Breaking Free, Beth Moore

It’s a choice, based on truth – not emotion.

‘You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and will bring you back from captivity.” Jeremiah 29:13-14

Written by: Paulette Toews

Written by: Paulette Toews

Grin and Bear it Kind of Love

A "grinning and bearing it kind of love". You know what I mean, right? The kind where you with fists clenched and gritted teeth, recite over and over - "I think I can, I think I can" as you will yourself to love those that have offended you. Ever ask yourself, "how do I find love for this person"? Have you ever known a person that was a thorn in the flesh, grated on your nerves, or someone who hurt you deeply?

When I was regularly seeing my counselor, I had some specific occasions where I had experienced what I felt was a major offense by someone in my life. I would be all worked up, but excited about my counseling appointment. She was the one person that I could "righteously" vent to about any one person in my world. The first few times it occurred, I was just sure she was going to help me feel better. I could vent, and she could be shocked with all that they had done. I knew she would be the one to assuage my feelings of hurt and offense, because she would tell me how right I was to feel the way I did and how best to confront them. Well, those first few times were met with a slap in the face. She did nothing that I expected. She put it back on me. Every. Single. Time.

I learned about expectations, needs, and longings and asked who is filling them. She asked hard questions, she pointed me to His Word. Slowly but surely after many, many times of complaining about offense from others, I began to see things differently.

What is one thing that is at the root of many conflicts? If we were to dig deep, which is always necessary when feeling offense or facing conflict, we would find that one consistent issue is that the person on the other end of the offense failed to meet our expectations. We often have unrealistic, unspoken, and unfair expectations for those around us. And, many times, we can have appropriate expectations of a person and they still fail them simply because...they are human. Either way failed expectations hurt. Always.

If we are following Christ, most of us long to know Christ more. We desire to walk with Him. We long to live in the Spirit, to set our minds on the Spirit. (Read Galatians 5)

Here is what I have learned. When I take my mind off my Savior, I begin to gratify the desires of the flesh. My own needs and longings separate from the Father seek to be met and filled. If I don't look to my Father to meet those longings, I will look to the flesh-to those around me-to the things of this world. And when I find that they cannot meet them, I will become disheartened, angry, frustrated, offended, and more. The object or person that failed to meet what I desired or needed becomes the target for my offense.

This can be a spouse, children, friends, family, co-workers, those whom we serve in ministry or rather than people, it can be money, organizations, etc. This happens when we walk according to the flesh rather than the Spirit. When we set our minds on what we think we need or want versus what God says is all we need, we become distracted and discontent.

We look for people or objects to fulfill desires only our Heavenly Father can fill. Unfortunately, because Our Father was meant to meet our deepest longings, people and objects will fail miserably. We are regularly implored by His Word to set our mind and heart on things above, to set our mind on the Spirit, to walk in the Spirit, and to live in the Spirit. We are exhorted to not think how to gratify the desires of the flesh. When our minds become set on the flesh the result is death rather than the life and peace that is offered through a mind and heart set on the Spirit. (Read Romans 8)

No wonder we are angry people. It's no wonder that our relationships are broken and frayed. We have desires to please our Father, yet we yell, demand, and resent. We claim justified offense, and we speak ill words of our families and neighbors.

God forgive us because we have so much desired that they please us and fulfill us in a such a way, that when they don't meet those expectations, it causes deep offense. It becomes such an offense that we struggle to love and show mercy and forgiveness.

Yet, loving kindness and compassion and mercy comes more effortlessly when we put people and objects in their rightful place which is under submission to the Father.

When we surrender these desires and longings to the Father, and we look to Him to meet those-we stop placing unrealistic and unfair expectations on those around us. We realize that they can never meet what we are truly desiring or truly needing. Forgiveness and mercy comes when we realize that their place in our life is under the authority of the Father. God is greater or more able to satisfy us than any living thing or material possession. When He fills every part of our desires and longings, people no longer are objects of need-they are precious gifts from our Father to love as He loves us.

We can say, "Yes, you failed my expectations but because I know you could never meet my deepest needs - I am not looking to you to fulfill those. My Father meets those, and it leaves me satisfied to where I can show mercy and love. You see, you and I are no different. Imperfect and broken, but made whole by a Savior who loves us. If not for the grace of God, I would or have done the same things you have done to hurt me".

This is Christ in us. It's not just a "choosing to think positive thoughts" about someone. We are talking about a deep genuine Christ-like love for each person. When we find contentment in Christ and we regularly invite Him to fill every part of us - we decrease and He increases. It changes the way we see people. God created each of us beautifully and wonderfully and His image - therefore I can love the person God has created even when it hurts. This comes when we move in the Spirit, and are being guided by the Spirit rather than our flesh.

For me, it's a daily and sometimes moment by moment surrender. Father, help me walk in your Spirit - in life and peace. Help me look to you to fulfill those desires and longings that no one else can. When others fail me in their imperfect nature, help me in my own imperfect nature to show love and kindness. Help me to "By the Spirit who dwells within me, guard the good deposit entrusted to me". (2 Tim 1:14). Help me to flee my "less than desires" and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace. (2 Tim 2:18)

We need to stop the "grinning and bearing" kind of love where we show others love and compassion through forced and obligated wills. Our love can come from a genuine heart of compassion and sacrificial grace because it comes from Christ within. With the help of Christ, let us then truly love one another.

Written by: Christan Causey

Written by: Christan Causey