Wednesday, September 20, 2017

My New Blogsite

My blogsite is moving due to technical issues, and I'm also giving it a new name! Living Loved will now be known as BeLoved, as this is my constant encouragement to all my readers: Live Loved; Be Loved; Remain in His Love; However you say it, the meaning is the same. You are deeply loved! But it can be easy to forget when trials, discouragement, sin, or the weariness of life get you down.

God lovingly calls us His Beloved Ones, and the affectionate name literally says: BeLoved. His love is not only given and shown to us; it must also be received. God's love for you is meant to be experienced and trusted in every day.

My blog format will remain much the same as I share various Scripture passages, encouragement, stories Jesus told, and the words He spoke. I welcome your comments and invite you to continue to receive my posts by email by subscribing to the new site:


"Let the beloved of the LORD rest secure in Him." (Deut. 33:12)

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

The Beloved Ones

"Let the beloved of the Lord rest secure in Him, for He shields them all day long, and they rest between His shoulders." Deuteronomy 33:12

There is a story that Jesus tells in Luke 15 about a flock of sheep. There are 100 sheep in this flock, and one of them is missing. Jesus asks those who are listening what they would do if this was their flock of sheep. Would they leave the ninety-nine to go look for the lost sheep? He doesn't really give them a chance to respond and goes on to share the best possible scenario: "When he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors and says, 'Rejoice with me! I have found my lost sheep.'"

It's not difficult to identify Jesus as the shepherd. He calls Himself the Good Shepherd in John 10.  "I am the good shepherd. I know my sheep and my sheep know me...I lay down my life for the sheep."The greater mystery in this story lies with this question: Who are the lost sheep? Jesus identifies them as sinners who need to repent. But that can be difficult to define.

Or maybe I should say, that can be difficult to define accurately. I think we're all pretty good at pointing out "sinners who need to repent". The Pharisees and teachers of the Law were good at this too and did it often. In fact, it was their observation that Jesus was welcoming and eating with sinners that prompted Jesus to tell several stories about "lost" things: Sheep, coins, and sons. But what was it about these things that made them lost? 

Simply put, they were not where they were supposed to be. It wasn't so much about behavior as it was about location. The sheep was alone—away from the shepherd. The coin was missing. It wasn't where coins were usually kept. Its value was in jeopardy. 

And the sons? One was away from home, away from his father and his whole family. And the other? He was there in body, but not in spirit. He was living in his father's household, doing what was expected of him, but he wasn't enjoying it.

We generally label those we call "sinners" by their behavior. But I don't see Jesus defining them in that way. It's not about what they are doing or not doing; it's about where they are. Is the sheep close to the shepherd or out of his sight? Is the coin in a treasured place or is it missing? Is the younger son near his father or far away? And is the older son near his father in a physical sense but distant in his heart?

Jesus isn't really teaching about lost sheep or coins or sons. He's using them as illustrations to teach about something greater. And He wasn't teaching the "sinners", He was teaching those who saw themselves as "righteous". If He would have spoken more bluntly, I think He would have said something like, "These people you call sinners are coming to me and listening.  I'm excited about them! I'm welcoming them with open arms because that's why I'm here! They understand what I'm saying about God's mercy and love. But you? Not so much. I want to be excited about you too, but I can't be, not yet. Not until you understand My love. Not until you change your thinking (repent). Not until you get to where you need to be. Not until you let Me rescue you. Not until you enjoy being God's child."

In Deuteronomy 33, God says, "My beloved ones rest secure in Me.  They rest between My shoulders."  They are at rest. They are at peace. They are lost sheep who have been found. They are lost sons who have come home. They are precious to Him, and they know it.  

They are near Him and secure in His love. They have nothing to prove. No where else they would rather be. And no fingers to point, because they have their eyes on their loving, merciful, and faithful God.

They are His, and they are loved, and that's enough.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

A Holy God

"I will reveal to the nations of the world my holiness among my people. They will live safely in Israel and build homes and plant vineyards."  Ezekiel 28:25-26 (NLT)

What do you think about when you hear the word holiness? In Christian culture, holiness is often defined as being perfect, sinless, or set-apart. In the Bible, the words holy, consecrated, sanctified, hallowed, and sacred are used interchangeably. They can be used of God—as the One who is holy; and they can be used of people and things that have been made holy by God: set apart for His service, purpose, or to display His glory.

In the verses above, God is making a statement about Himself regarding His holiness. At this time, His People had been exiled to Babylon because of their rebellion. Israel had become very corrupt and many were worshipping other gods. Because of their unfaithfulness, God allowed enemy nations to come in and take over. God's people were forced to live in submission to foreign powers after God had graciously led them to their own land.

But God promised to be merciful. He told His People (through the prophets Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and others) that He would bring them back to their homeland after a time. In Ezekiel 28, we read these words: "I will reveal to the nations of the world my holiness among my people. They will live safely in Israel and build homes and plant vineyards."

I find this interesting because God is talking about setting Himself apart and revealing His glory to other nations by how He treats His People. He isn't saying, 'I am a great God because I am holy.' He says, 'I am holy because I am a great God. I love My People. I will care for them even though they rebelled against Me. I will keep them safe and provide for their needs.'

God's holiness isn't about keeping our sin at a distance, as if He can't handle being in our presence. In His anger, He sent His People away; but in His love, He restored them. His holiness draws us near. Why? Because we need Him. He only wants us to recognize that. He doesn't want us to try and make it on our own. He knows we can't have true life without Him.

Don't make the mistake of thinking that a holy God expects you to be perfect. "Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect" doesn't mean sinless; It means complete or finished. It's closely related to the word Jesus used on the cross when He said, "It is finished."  He was talking about bringing His purpose to a conclusion—to have done what He came for. He came to bring forgiveness to all, and it was done. Our completeness, our holiness comes from Him. It is not of ourselves. It is a gift.

We have a holy God. He is our righteousness. We bring nothing to the table except our broken, sinful, and needy hearts. But what does He bring? Everything! He brings His love, His mercy, His power. He brings Himself; and that's more than enough to meet our every need.

Trying to save ourselves with our own goodness and effort is not only futile, it's exhausting. Trying to provide for ourselves, protect ourselves, and sustain ourselves is futile too. Living this way isn't truly living. It's dying a slow death. If you want true life, cry out for mercy, forgiveness, and faith that God will meet your every need—spiritually, emotionally, and materially. Just rest in His love, His goodness, and His power. Let Him make you holy and complete, lacking in nothing. That is true worship. That is true submission to a holy God.

For no one is abandoned by the LORD forever. Though he brings grief, he also shows compassion because of the greatness of his unfailing love.

(Lamentations 3:31-32 NLT)

Photos by Roma Flowers, cristiano galbiati, and Adam Jackson.
Scripture taken from Matt. 5:8, John 19:30