Love Not Less Than or More Than but Even Then

God's Love Bed

by Heather Bock

When I reach the end of a day, and I mean the flat-out exhausted, can’t think properly anymore, very end of a day (the way most of my days end), I sometimes have to face the reality that I haven’t spent the amount of time in prayer I’d like to and/or I haven’t studied the Bible. On those days, I have usually had this reality in the corner of my eye all day, but at that dead-end of the day, I must face it head-on because I have then lost my last chances. At that point, I am saddened when I know I’ve made bad choices that have led me to run out of time. I’m sad I didn’t give myself the chance to spend time alone with my sweet Lord. Underneath the rightful sadness, something else creeps.

A feeling of being less: less righteous, less valuable, less loved.

On the other hand, when I slide myself between the sheets at night, and I can think back and know that I spent all the quiet time I needed and wanted with Jesus that day, I feel happy. I’m happy for the good reason that time with Jesus is good. He enriches my outlook, encourages my weaknesses, strengthens my faith, and so much more. However, more lurks behind those good feelings, too.

A feeling of being more: more righteous, more valuable, more loved.

This doesn’t just come with whether I spent time with God that day or not. My productivity affects this, too. If I’ve gotten in some good exercise, completed the writing I wanted to do, spent time with Greg, checked off everything on my homeschool list, fulfilled my roles as mother, daughter, ESL teacher, and Facebook group admin, and added in whatever other specific task might be on my list for that day, THEN I feel good about myself. If not, if one or two are lacking, I go to bed with a sense of defeat.

On Memorial Day, I accomplished almost nothing. I sat around playing Brain Dots on my phone, and my skin was crawling with guilt the whole day, for I have expectations even for my rest days, like reading for fun or getting outside. Too much game playing, even one that I reason might be building some brain cells, doesn’t feel right.

Does anybody else feel this way?

I know in my head this isn’t right. What I GET DONE doesn’t change my standing before God, positively or negatively.

It’s not what I do that makes me righteous. Jesus made me righteous when I accepted Him and His sacrifice on the cross: “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (II Cor. 5:21).

It’s not what I do that makes me valuable. God values me as one made in His own image. No matter what I do, He values me as His own child. “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name” (Jn. 1:12).

It’s not what I do that makes me loved by God. The Bible says nothing exists that can take away the love God has for us: “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:38-39). Nothing we do will make Him love us more, either. How can God love more when He IS love Himself? As I John 4:16 beautifully states, “We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.”

That’s what it comes down to. Do I really believe the love God has for me? If I do, I will continue to work for Him and spend time with Him out of love for Him, as I do now, but out of love alone. I pray that this love on both sides will sweep away all traces of the other feelings that still linger. Let “this one thing [remain]: Your love never fails; it never gives up; it never runs out on me” (Bethel Music).

The Wise Took Oil in Jars with Their Lamps

oil-lamp-1346754

by Heather Bock

My mom used to have an oil lamp in our house, one that had a long wick dangling down into its depths. The oil would slowly make its climb up the thin rope ladder, and when my mom struck a match to the top, it would produce its steady glow as it continually fed on the fuel of the oil. I was intrigued by this unique candle, the oil replacing the melted-wax fuel of the modern candle.

Jesus said,

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:14-16).

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Trapped in a Bait and Switch? A Guest Post by Bethany McIlrath

I met Bethany McIlrath at a one day conference put on by Living Proof Ministries and Beth Moore called LIT. It was a conference for women in their 20s and 30s who were passionate about writing, teaching, and/or speaking. The night before the conference, a group of us met together for dinner, and I had the privilege of sitting at a table with Bethany. I was impressed with her gentle spirit, intelligence, heart for Jesus, and sense of humor. Since then, we’ve become good friends through our LIT Facebook group, where she’s an administrator with me.

I wanted all of you to meet her, too, so today, she is guest posting for me. Her topic is sin, comparing it to bait. I thought this topic was fitting, given the recent five part series I gave comparing sin to weeds. I hope this angle on sin hits you right where it needs to.

When you’re done reading, I encourage you to head on over to her blog, First and Second Blog to see more of her work.

Watch for the Bait and Switch 2

Trapped in a Bait and Switch?

by Bethany McIlrath

Pauls’ words in Romans 7:15 about struggling with sin nature echo in our ears: “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.”

What gets us to do what we hate? Why do we sin when we know sin stinks?

One reason:

Sin stinks pretty at first. It looks shiny. And it has to. There’s a reason the serpent in the Garden of Eden tempted the first couple with an appealing apple instead of rotted Brussel sprouts.

Half of sin’s work is getting us hooked.

Half of sins work is getting us hooked.

Much like a modern day bait and switch scheme, the Enemy’s tactic has always been to tempt us into trial by producing attractive counterfeits. The gloss of an apple appealed to the lust of the eyes, the first taste to the lust of flesh. Sin was dangled as bait on a hook made of pride, offering the allure of being like God.

Sin’s marketing plan still makes for picture perfect advertising in the Enemy’s hands today. The resulting stomach ache and insatiable addiction that come from biting into sin’s bait still catches us by surprise, too.

You know the story.

First, something looks really appealing. Then, as we seize it, we find ourselves hooked, entangled, and eventually frustrated because what we thought we were getting isn’t at all what we’ve received. The costs are always rising. Demands are ever growing. Even if we reap rewards for our sin, we collect them in wreckage.

Thank the Lord- He has given us insight so we can resist, flee from, and refuse to take the bait before the switch leaves us in a tailspin!

Watch for These Signs You’re About to Take Sin’s Bait:

1. You Can’t See Past the Shine

As the saying goes, if it looks too good to be true, it is. Whereas God said, “You may…except for…” in the garden, the Serpent said, “You may…you can…you will!” While God convicts of sin but offers grace, the Enemy proclaims, “peace, peace, where there is no peace” (Jer. 6:14).

God leads us to serve Him as freedmen; Satan pretends to serve us until we’re slaves. There’s this concept of uncanny valley- the idea that when we replicate reality digitally, we can tell it’s a counterfeit because there’s an element of “random imperfection” that we cannot create. Sin can make up shiny replicas, but what sin presents all glossy and nice will be missing the element of raw reality.

If you can’t see real flaws, real risks, real truth in it, call it bait and don’t bite.

2. Promised Results Can’t be Given By Anyone But God

Do you know the promises of God? Know them, cherish them, and if anything suggests you can have them apart from Him, walk away.

Sin’s bait often offers what only God can: peace. Security. Self-worth. A way out of trouble. A better life. But sin can’t deliver anything God has promised us. Only counterfeits. Compare the “results” promised by any temptation to the real peace, truth, hope, etc., in God’s Word. You’ll be able to see a difference.

3. There’s a Payment Plan

Sin often seems reasonable up front but leads to a hefty payment plan to maintain. Look for enticements like “just this once,” “it’s a small thing,” “no one will know,” or “it’s no big deal.” Minimizing sin is a tactic used to hook us so that we’ll be blinded to the risks and costs we’ll struggle to get out from under later.

4. What You Get Is Always Up for Grabs

As a child, I remember catching a fish with multiple little holes in its mouth. My grandfather told me that one had been caught a few times before. As silly as it seems, we fall for the same bait over and over again, too. If what you’re tempted over is always just barely eluding you, assess if it’s just a lure leading you. Psalm 55:21 describes an enemy whose “talk is smooth as butter, yet war is in his heart.” Butter is smooth, but it’s also slippery. Watch for things you can’t grasp, even if you think you have before or always think you’re almost there.

Don’t Take the Bait

I recently learned that the Secret Service was formed to address counterfeiting (ironically, the new branch was approved by Abraham Lincoln the day he was killed.) Along with this lesson, I was surprised to learn that agents don’t study counterfeits to learn how to spot them- they study the real thing.

Scripture teaches us to do the same. Before “resist the devil and he will flee from you,” we’re told to submit to God (Jas. 4:7). Verse after verse directs us to call on the Lord, seek the Lord, set our eyes on Him, fix our feet on the path He illuminates.

Sin’s bait always begins by catching our attention and grasping our intrigue. But to do it, it has to get our eyes off the real deal: the Lord. Our response when we recognize bait for what it is is simple: turn to God. Stick with what’s real. He’ll give us what we need, and we won’t be hooked or tricked in the process!

Bethany McIlrath

Bethany McIlrath

A learner at heart, Bethany McIlrath believes that listening to the Lord’s Word and being attentive to all He teaches her through daily life is a priceless blessing. Eager to share about her Savior, you can find Bethany’s writing on her blog: Firstandsecondblog.com. She would love to connect with you on Twitter or Facebook as well.