Do You Want to Love God More, or Explore the Life-Changing Depth of His Love for You?

MEME - Psalm 31 v 23a

There have been times in my life when I acknowledged God, but didn’t really devote myself to Him or live like I believed what He said in the Bible.

There have also been times when I didn’t think I needed God, when I didn’t care about God, when I withheld from God.

I’ve been angry at, disappointed in, and afraid of God.

I’ve ignored Him and tried running from Him.

I’ve begged God to see me, hear me, help me, forgive me, change me, to prove Himself to me.

Though I believed God existed, He couldn’t possibly love about me, especially after I’d repeatedly blown it, messed up, and hurt myself and others. I doubted God’s love when others hurt me, too.

But even when my faith faltered, God stayed lovingly, constantly present−pursuing and protecting me, preparing my heart to accept all of Him and all He freely offered me.

After I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior, I still struggled with praying and believing God’s promises applied to me.

The Lord surrounded me with people who knew Him, loved Him, and taught me how to nurture my own love-relationship with God through the prayerful study of the Bible.

The more I read, the more questions popped up.

Why I should love God when I had plenty, when I lacked much, when I bubbled with happiness, and when I suffocated with sorrow?

Why should I love God when I could handle life’s trials without anyone’s help, especially when God wasn’t fixing what I told Him needed fixing?

Yes, I went there.

How could God possibly love me, when there were times I didn’t even like myself?

I went there, too.

Why did I keep expecting others to meet my needs, when God provided everything for me?

Oh, yes, I went there too many times.

Now, I can’t stop thanking God and telling others about His unending grace, limitless love, and infallible truth.

As I enter year five of one of the hardest seasons I’ve experienced since accepting Christ as my Savior, I’ve never felt so loved by God and I’ve never loved God more.

Hallelujah!

O Lord, thank You for loving me through the mountaintop moments of abundance, the deep valleys of affliction, and the flatlands of my ordinary, mundane, average-Josefina days.

As I share my next blog series, “Why Should I Love God When . . .,” I look forward to praying with you and being blessed by your input in the comment section. You can find all of the posts in this series under the “Loving Our Loving God” tag.

I hope you’ll join me in celebrating God’s love and exploring the depth and life-changing impact of His relentless, endless, priceless love for us−His beloved children.

Lord, thank You for revealing Yourself through Your Word. May Your name be glorified and our need for You magnified, as we seek You daily, grow in our love for You, and be transformed by Your perfect, unconditional, and eternal love for us. In Jesus’s name, Amen

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Photo taken by and meme created by Xochitl E. Dixon.

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Are You Talking to Me?

MEME - John 4 v 14

(Suggested Reading: John 4:4-26)

A woman rejected, her reputation scorned, changed forever by a scandalous meeting and an unexpected showering of redemptive grace.

Not only does this describe my life before Christ, these are the puzzle pieces that make up one of the most extraordinary God encounters in the New Testament.

On His way back to Galilee, Jesus led the disciples through Samaria.

Samaria, the place condemned by prophets in the book of Hosea (7:1; 8:5-7).

Samaritans, a mixed race seeped in idolatry and despised by orthodox Jews.

So, naturally, Jesus decided to swing through Samaria and chose Jacob’s well as a perfect rest-stop.

Scripture says the disciples went for food.

Were they grumbling about having to associate with the people they grew up learning to hate, as the Lord sat by the well, waiting to rock the politically correct boat?

The Bible says when the Samaritan woman came to draw water from the well, Jesus asked her for a drink (v. 7).

Wait. What?

Though first-century Jewish tradition considered women less-than and Samaritans were quite a few notches below less-than (v. 9), the attitudes of others didn’t affect Jesus.

He chose this particular woman for this particular encounter, knowing she also wore a badge of disdain stitched by a string of bad choices.

Her surprise at Jesus’s request resounded with each syllable.

She raised an eyebrow, adjusted the bucket on her hip, and rolled her neck as she spurted each syllable with a sarcastic tone: “Are you talking to me?” (XST, Xochitl’s Street Translation:)

What she actually said: “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (v. 9)

This woman’s armor held strong, though dented and dinged by past judgements and labels she’d accepted as her personal present-truth.

Did her shield of confidence hide a fear of being condemned again, for the past she couldn’t change?

Was she afraid this stranger would find out what her community wouldn’t let her forget?

I picture a gentle, but sad smile on the Lord’s face as He shakes His head slowly. “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” (v. 10)

Although Scripture doesn’t record her actions, I imagine this sister narrowing her eyes as she focused on what she could see, what made sense, what she could prove.

The man had nothing to draw water from the well.

How could Jesus offer her anything she couldn’t get for herself?

Talk about a great example of the insanity that we call self-help.

How many times have I insisted I could do what only God can do?

How many times have I determined this time would be different, if only I had more faith, if only I tried harder or made better choices, if only I denied my past, fixed myself, or changed my circumstances?

How often have I depended on my own abilities and strength, only to come up wanting more, wanting something different, or being stuck in the endless cycle of wanting something else as I search for satisfaction?

After Jesus whet the Samaritan woman’s appetite with the promise of eternal life (v. 13), He established His power was like none she’d ever imagined (vv. 15-18).

Still, she slipped back into the comfort of her limited knowledge (v. 19-20).

What happened when Jesus opened the horizon before her and allowed her to taste the sweetness of possibility (vv. 21-24)?

Our Samaritan sister lifted her chin in shaky rebellion. “I know. I know,” she said, desperately clutching to blurred expectations of God. She clung to the familiar suitcases stuffed with her past sins and the opinions of others, the judgements she’d grown accustomed to claiming as her true identity. (XST)

Hope requires risking disappointment, accepting rejection, and often surrendering our will because we dare to trust the goodness and faithfulness of the Giver.

Doubt paves a safe trail, a worn path that circles our fears and insecurities, like scavenging buzzards waiting to devour any thought that dares entertain the possibilities of that something more that would finally be enough.

What the Samaritan woman knew, or thought she knew, would feel safer than being stretched beyond the realm of her understanding.

So her actual talk-to-the-hand response, according to Scripture, was: “I know that Messiah (called Christ) is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” (v. 25)

From other encounters recorded in the Bible, it’s not hard for me to imagine Jesus leaning toward the woman, lowering His voice, and placing His hand over the knuckled grip that secured her empty bucket.

Each syllable flowed from His mouth refreshing her parched heart.

“I who speak to you am he.” (v. 26)

Inhale. Exhale.

Could Jesus be the One she’d been waiting for, the hope, the peace, the way, the truth, and the life she’d been seeking for so long?

Jesus made time for her. He listened to her, cared about her. He extended grace and accepted her, even though He knew everything about her.

Jesus offered to give more than she deserved or even dared to dream of asking for, instead of take-take-taking from her.

The Lord loved her enough to reveal Himself to her, personally, intimately. And then, He used her to reach others, to spread His love and truth, to lead others to Him.

He wants to do the same for us.

No matter what our past holds. No matter what our present situation. Jesus invites us to drink deep of His compassion, His unconditional love, grace, peace, and forgiveness.

Jesus accepts us as we are, but through intimate love-encounters He transforms us into someone new.

When the Lord speaks to us through His Word, He illuminates His truth through His Spirit. He helps us interpret those words in the context in which He presented them, showing us how His truth applies to this life He’s entrusted to us.

As we prayerfully receive the God-breathed words of Scripture, we can believe the Lord is definitely talking to us.

Lord, please help us believe what You say over what we think, or what others think about us. Help us hear You clearly, believe You completely, and heed You courageously all the days of our lives. In Jesus’s name, Amen.

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Photo taken by and meme created by Xochitl E. Dixon. The handsome model is my amazing husband. God has been good to us!

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Seeking Refuge in My Rock

MEME - Psalm 16 v 1

Lord, You are our Rock.

When our steps feel unsure, when our balance is shaky, You are our solid foundation. You hold us securely in the curve of Your strong arm.

You comfort us with Your unchanging Word, assuring us that Your sovereign care and limitless love never fails, never disappoints, and never falls short of Your perfection.

Yes, Lord, You are our stronghold, in times of peace and in times of trouble.

Your past faithfulness reminds us that You can be trusted to be our refuge through the storms. Your constant presence stills the winds of anxiety, no matter what adversity threatens to blow us over.

You can handle whatever obstacles we face. Lord, we don’t need to fear. We don’t need to worry.

We don’t need to lose sleep over what might be or what is happening in or around us.

Help us live in this moment, trusting You to endure, and depending on You to stay true because You are the only Way, the unchanging Truth and the Eternal−our love and our Life.

Hallelujah!

Wonderful Counselor and Good Shepherd, thank You for reminding us we’re safe in the center of Your will.

Oh, mighty and merciful God, please help us long for Your shelter, submitting to Your lovingkindness and worshipping You with one breath of praise at a time.

In Jesus’s name, Amen

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Photo provided by and used with permission by model in photo, Jan Tyson. Photo taken by and used with permission by Ganiece Duhaime.

Meme created by Xochitl E. Dixon.

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Get ‘er Done? Or Get Closer to God?

MEME - John 3 v 21

(Suggested Reading: John 3:1-21)

Last year, I invited women to join me in reading through the Bible in a year, something I’ve enjoyed doing since 2005. But when health complications impacted my energy levels, I had to make some changes.

After much prayer, God showered me with peace. Accepting my slower-than-a-tortoise pace, I started savoring each God-breathed word in Scripture by highlighting key words and phrases.

I focused on words I hadn’t realized I’d skimmed over, due to my familiarity with the text. And when I read one of the verses I’d memorized years ago, the emphasis I discovered as I highlighted the words brought me to tears:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16, NIV, emphasis mine)

How had I gotten to the point where these words landed with a thud in the empty well of my heart?

How had I forgotten the sacrificial pain endured by the One who died for me, rose for me, lives for me, as He forever guarantees my eternity in the presence of His loving grace?

When did I start focusing on slurping up the words of Scripture, instead of spending time with the Person who reveals Himself to me and affirms His love for me through each God-breathed syllable?

I’m not the first person in history, and probably won’t be the last, who has confused knowing Bible verses with knowing God intimately and personally receiving Him as ultimate Lord and redeeming Savior.

As a Pharisee, Nicodemus would have prided himself in memorizing the Scriptures. But his late night venture demonstrated a longing for more.

Proudly familiar with the Scriptures, Nicodemus came to Jesus cloaked by darkness and carrying a bag full of assumptions.

“Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.” (John 3:2, emphasis mine)

Minimizing Jesus’s identity blocked Nicodemus from seeing that only God in the flesh could perform those miraculous signs that perked his interest.

The fulfillment of all those Old Testament prophecies pointed straight to Jesus as Messiah.

Still, Nicodemus clung to false-understanding.

It’s easier to believe what we think we know, what feels safer to say out loud, what doesn’t set us up for risking rejection, heartbreak, or the need to admit we need change.

But Jesus led this seeker to the familiar Scriptures that circled right back to the One who stood before Him.

Jesus didn’t stutter when He said, “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up . . .” (v. 14, emphasis mine)

Nicodemus had the story of Moses tucked into his bag of Bible knowledge. He could probably recite the verses backwards, with a smug smirk on his face.

But could it be true “. . . that everyone who believes in [Jesus] may have eternal life” (v. 15)?

Could Jesus referring to what happened with Moses and the Israelites in the desert, mean that He confirmed God’s plan was put in place before the beginning of time?

Could God love the world so much that He acknowledged all people deserved death and earned wrath, but still chose to offer the priceless gift of forgiveness through repentance and freedom through Christ, resulting in eternal life?

Yes. Yes. And, by God’s endless grace, Yes.

“But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.” (v. 21)

God saves us, because there is no way we can save ourselves.

The Father never altered His original plan as He paved the way for the Spirit to connect the dots that led to Jesus as the awaited Messiah and Savior of the world.

Death never stopped being a requirement for life to be received through the Risen King, our living and loving God.

Even today, in a world where evil glorifies people shrouded by sin, death remains a required part of the deal.

Death of self-sufficiency, self-righteousness, self-reliance, and self-centeredness. Death of our sinful nature.

As we foolishly grieve over the death of these things that prevent us from experiencing an abundant life in Christ, God faithfully waits for us to seek Him, to know Him, to love Him.

Like Nicodemus, we can become so familiar with Scripture that we miss getting to know the only One to whom Scripture reveals as the Savior this world desperately needs−Jesus.

Skimming through the Bible or neglecting the daily reading of Scripture, we risk missing out on the big picture God paints through His whole story.

Some important words can fall through the cracks when we dash through assigned readings in a foolish rush to get ‘er done, instead of to get closer to God.

But if we approach Scripture as living and active, asking the Holy Spirit to shed the light of understanding on each and every God-breathed word of truth, our personal love-encounters with Christ will changes us forever.

Lord, thank You for knowing us and inviting us to know You more. Please help us approach prayer and Bible reading as an opportunity to meet You face-to-face and bask in Your constant presence with absolute wonder, grateful praise, and a complete willingness to submit to Your authority in courageous obedience. In Jesus’s name, amen

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How does your approach to Bible reading change when you focus more on getting to know God instead of getting ‘er done?

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Photo taken by and meme created by Xochitl E. Dixon.

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It’s All Yours, Lord!

meme-psalm-24-v-1-2

Mighty and loving Father, You gave us life and everything . . . everything . . . yes, everything we have.

Please increase our gratitude for the things we often take for granted, for the circumstances we’re in, and the even for the experiences that make up our testimony of faith.

This world is Yours, Lord. You created every person with love, with a purpose, and with special role in Your larger than life plan. We all belong to You and are loved by You, whether we submit to You or not.

Please forgive us for our moments of weak, complacent, or even nonexistent faith, almighty God and Creator.

When we doubt Your vast power, please draw our eyes to the heavens and our thoughts to the depth of the sea. Help us recognize the intricate designs of this complex world You created.

When we’re tempted to focus on the bad things that happen in this fallen world, all the hurt and the heartache, the injustice and evil, please help us rest in Your constant presence and acknowledge You own it all, control it all, and can handle it all in love.

Help us think about all You’ve done in the past as we trust Your faithfulness. Help us remember the sweet breath of a baby, Your masterful artwork displayed in nature, and the love only explainable and possible because You first loved us.

We are Yours, Lord. This world and everything in it is Yours, all Yours.

Thanks for loving us so much that You share what You have, providing everything from the air we breathe to the clothes we wear to the relationships we enjoy.

Please help us trust You so much that we can’t help but give to You with grateful and generous hearts.

In Jesus’s name, Amen

 

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