Part I: Receiving God’s Love
The Lord has had me on a different journey over the last year. It started with learning about some spiritual disciplines practiced by Christians in the past as well as the present. One of those was walking a labyrinth. I found a labyrinth about 30 miles from my house so I asked a friend to go with me and see if we could practice this spiritual discipline. It was a good experience, but, I have found that public worship experiences don’t always touch my introvert heart. One day in prayer I felt the Lord impress me to walk the labyrinth with Him. As I was sitting in my chair and it was raining outside and the labyrinth was 30 miles away, I started walking the labyrinth in my mind and this experience has blessed me in so many ways. One of the most important ways is that I have finally begun to learn to receive God’s love. As I was thinking about sharing this experience with you, I have struggled with how to explain how to do this in your own home. What I have learned this past year, what I am about to tell you, all Christians know in their mind, but most have not been able to receive the fullness of it in their hearts. I am still learning how to receive God’s love as I am not a good receiver from anyone. I am a great giver, but I am embarrassed to receive, as I don’t feel worthy of that much attention, and then I am always looking for a way to repay someone for their gift of kindness. Those same things make it difficult for me to receive the love of God. There are so many barriers that God has to break through for me to receive His love from Him but let me encourage you, He is able and I am becoming a better receiver of His love each day.
We all remember the Sunday school verse we learned “God is love.” But I John 4:8 in the Amplified Bible (which I am going to use in all the passages I quote today) says “…for God is love, [He is the originator of love, and it is an enduring attribute of His nature.]” Love is His nature, His character, who He is. We may know a small amount of this as we have been taught to act like Jesus as he always acted in love, but did that do it for you? Were you really able to act like Jesus in all situations? Well, not me, and I don’t expect to do so in this life, but I sure did tire myself out trying and I’ve berated myself for failing, repenting and getting up from prayer to find myself failing again. What was I missing? I think the key is found in Eph. 3:17-19:
“May Christ through your faith [actually] dwell (settle down, abide, make His permanent home) in your hearts! May you be rooted deep in love and founded securely on love,
That you may have the power and be strong to apprehend and grasp with all the saints [God’s devoted people, the experience of that love] what is the breadth and length and height and depth [of it];
[That you may really come] to know [practically, through experience for yourselves] the love of Christ which far surpasses mere knowledge [without experience]; that you may be filled [through all your being] unto all the fullness of God [may have the richest measure of the divine Presence, and become a body wholly filled and flooded with God Himself]!”
I have always loved that passage and have prayed for it to be in me, but I never knew how to get there. The labyrinth has shown me how to receive “the richest measure of the divine Presence, and become a body wholly filled and flooded with God Himself.” (Of course, this is not yet a permanent state in me, but I love the moments when it happens and it can happen for you too as “God is no respecter of persons” when giving to us; it is our ability to receive that needs to be enlarged.)
There are two important beliefs that are required to enlarge your ability to receive God’s love. The first is that He is the originator of love and wants to share that love with you as His child. The second is the belief that He intends good for us as found in Romans 8:28 “…and we know [with great confidence] that God [who is deeply concerned about us] causes all things to work together [as a plan] for good for those who love God, to those who are called according to His plan and purpose.”
That is not so different than it is for us, as good parents and grandparents, and our desires for our children and grandchildren. We love them and want them to know and enjoy our love, to relate to us, to feel safe and protected by us. We want them to know we want only the best for them and that they can be reassured that we have their back. God, who is a better parent than any of us can be, wants those same things for us, and like us wants His children to not just know this in their minds but to experience it in their hearts. He knows that once we truly feel the fullness of His love in our hearts, our minds cannot be tricked into the lies the devil tells us. The devil wants us to be worried and afraid that God will not hear or answer our prayers. Our adversary wants us to be discouraged, disillusioned, and without hope, questioning the work of the Lord in our lives. Once we release these worries and fears to God and allow ourselves to be totally flooded with the love of God we will be less likely to return to the doubts of His love that the devil would like to plant in us all.
At a retreat recently I heard a prophetic woman share the story of her love of God and her love for her family. One day the Lord gave her a word for her granddaughter Sadie. When she was about to give the word to Sadie the Lord turned it into a song that Sadie could later sing. It went something like this: “God says,
I love you
You are my beloved
I am on the throne
And you will be with Me in eternity.”
Isn’t that so beautiful? Isn’t that what we all want to hear God say to us: That He loves us, that He calls us His beloved, that He is on the throne ruling and reigning and sees all that is happening and that He has our back, and that when this life is over we will be with Him in eternity.
Those words have rung in my ears over and over again as the assurance of God for all of us. It is the message He wrote throughout His whole love letter to us and especially when He sent His Son to rescue us. God’s love is available to us everyday if we will allow ourselves to sit and receive it. The Lord in His word promised us that nothing could separate us from the love of God, “nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the [unlimited] love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom. 8:39) Think of that, the unlimited love of God for us.
If this journey into receiving God’s love sounds good to you here’s how you start. Find a comfortable chair where you won’t easily be distracted. I like to sit in a chair with my back to a window so I can feel the light of the sun, but you find a place that works for you, a place where prayer comes easily to you. Sit and imagine the labyrinth or path you are to walk with the circle where God is ready to meet with you is in the center. (I have a picture of one on the last page of this newsletter.) Begin by praying about all those worries and life situations you would normally pray about, thank Him for all the places He is already working and blessing you, confess those things that you have failed at, and truly repent of those things. After you have wandered around the walkway and you have come to the end of all you need to say, head toward the center and sit with God. This is where you stay quiet (“Be still and know that I am God.”) This is a time to just let the Lord your God pour His love over you. Let go, receive all that the Lord wants to give you today. Let His peace surround you and enjoy His presence. The more you submit to this, lean into this, remind yourself of His love and how He intends good to you, the more He will come to you, slowly at first, but if you stay He will begin to pour more into you. As one monk said, that is “practicing the presence” of God. The more you are available, the more you will receive. Let it all go and just love this God who loves you, knowing you better than anyone, and wants to be with you anyway. Amazing love! I find that all my troubles begin to disappear as I feel His presence come, and peace and well being comes with Him. Zephaniah 3:17 says, “The LORD your God is in your midst, A Warrior who saves. He will rejoice over you with joy; He will be quiet in His love [making no mention of your past sins], He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy.”
Listen to Him singing your song: “I love you (insert your name), You are my beloved, Remember that I am on the throne and I intend good for you, and when it is all over you will come and live with me for eternity.”
After a time with the Lord you will feel that it is time to leave, but don’t allow yourself to leave too soon. Sometimes when I come to sit with Him He doesn’t come right away. If that happens to you don’t get discouraged, just give Him the time and respect He deserves. I think that in this hurried world we want instant gratification. Linger a while. Think on God’s love and how He has blessed you in the past. Begin to thank Him and let Him know how much you want to be filled with His love. Although some of us are more feeling in our nature than others of us, choose to believe you will be able to feel His presence. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t “feel” as others “feel” His presence. Remember He made you and He knows what speaks to you in the language of your relationship. Trust that He can speak to you in a way you can hear or feel Him. Just let go of your preconceived ideas and let God be God to you. Remember that you were created by Him to be His child, His beloved, and that your purpose was to love Him and be loved by Him, to be in relationship. Ask Him to show you how your relationship with Him should look. Don’t worry about doing anything. This is a receiving time. You can’t do anything for God until you have received His love and His power to do it. Yes, you have the Holy Spirit within you, but you are a leaky vessel and as time goes on there is more of you in your vessel than there is of God. Allow this time with the Lord as a time to fill you up with His love. His power comes out of His love. So receive His love, His assurance that you are His, and then all that He is will be complete in you again. You will then be fully “filled and flooded with God Himself!”
The third part of the labyrinth walk is leaving the center and walking back out into the world, carrying the light and love of God that you just received. You cannot go out into the world without love and true love is only found in God. I Cor. 13:1 speaks to that. “If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love [for others growing out of God’s love for me], then I have become only a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal [just an annoying distraction].” Notice that love for others grows out of God’s love for us. We cannot truly love unless we have received love and God’s pure love is the only love that can cleanse our hearts to love as God loves. God’s love removes our desire to sin and puts in us a desire to bless. God told the Israelites that He would help them love Him and love others and receive His blessing. Deuteronomy 30:6 says, “And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the hearts of your descendants [that is, He will remove the desire to sin from your heart], so that you will love the LORD your God with all your heart and all your soul, so that you may live [as a recipient of His blessing].” Walk with Him a while on this imaginary labyrinth journey and let Him do this for you. Happy walking!