Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Fire of His Love

I am just so overwhelmed and so thankful for the love of God. That jealous love that He has for each one of us individually and with that, I want to share a quick story...

So, last night I was at theMILL, which is our college & twenty-somethings ministry at New Life Church, we were promoting our internship, Desperation Leadership Academy. I was getting ready to share a quick testimony of all that the Lord has done in my life through the program this last year. The Holy Spirit was just so touching my heart during worship as I was overwhelmed with His love and greatness, when out of nowhere, this girl runs up to me with tears in her eyes. She asked, "Is your name Melissa?"And feeling bad that I had no idea who she was, I answered her that I was, and she began to tell me how I had never met her, but two years ago she was at some party, she wasn't someone who went to those kind of things but somehow just happened to be there, and she was so intrigued by me for some reason. She went on to tell me that she asked someone there who I was and they told her I was Melissa Mikkelsen and that I was a model. So, because of fear and intimidation she didn't come and talk to me, but as she went home, the Lord prompted her to look me up on the computer, and God told her to pray for me. So in that moment, she said she sat there just praying over her computer for me and experiencing God's great love for me, her heart breaking for me as God's heart broke for me. And almost exactly two years later, there I was right in front of her, set free from all the chains of death that had been upon me when she prayed for me and living in the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ! And she said in that moment, she could feel the Lord's great delight over me and how happy He was that I was His, that I was there in my Father's arms. Hallelujah! Both of us just got struck with the love and faithfulness of God in the moment and began weeping. I was radically saved just 2 months after she had prayed for me! Wow, how powerful! But can I tell you something even more amazing? She is the third person who has told me almost that exact same story! That the Lord took multiple people through seasons of praying for me, people who didn't know me, people who hadn't seen me in years, He told them to pray for ME! Why? Because He WANTED ME! Me! Melissa! Individually! He wanted me so much that He led other people to pray for me! He wasn't going to give up until He had me. And this is your story.

Romans 5:10 says, "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were STILL SINNERS, Christ died for us." And this truth is about so much more than grace, His grace that covers all my sin and empowers me to live holy and consecrated, that I am forever grateful for. But this truth, mainly, is about His LOVE. He loves us that much in our brokenness, in our sin, in our disobedience to Him, that He died for us, so that we could be HIS, wrapped in His love and His delight over each one of us. In Song of Solomon 8:6, it says that, "for love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave." God's love is as strong as death. Do you know what that means? Death and the grave is inevitable, we all eventually will die, there is no escaping it, but that is exactly how His love is for you. You can't escape it, no matter what you do, no matter how many times you mess up, no matter where you hide, His love, His love that is so jealous for your individual heart, is stronger than death. So strong that He will move other people on YOUR behalf, because He WANTS you, He looks down at you, and He says that He won't stop until He has you, all of you. 

I so love the reading the Gospels, and learning about Jesus from Jesus, and putting myself right there in the story with Him. And we have so much that we can learn from the disciples. If you look at the lives of Peter and John, the two of them are so different. Peter was a mighty man of God, a great warrior for the faith. We know him as the one that loved Jesus, that would do anything for Jesus. When Jesus asked Him, "Peter do you love me?" over and over again he said, "Lord you KNOW that I love you!" And then we know John, John the Beloved, the one who calls himself, the disciple whom Jesus loved. At times we even can even be like, okay John we get it, we're glad that you know that you're the one Jesus loved! I find it interesting though, that even though Peter was the one who boldly professed and stood on HIS love FOR Jesus, he was the one that betrayed Jesus at the end of His life. John was the ONLY disciple that was there when Jesus was crucified and gave up His life for us. I think that it was in John's knowing God's love for HIM that sustained him, rather than standing confident in his own weak love for God. It is HIS love that holds us, it is knowing HIS love for us that keeps us. 

So often we rely on our own striving, our own determination to keep our life in God strong, and I think that there are very necessary ways that we need to live to sustain our life in God. But I have learned that I can't have confidence in my own commitment to God, I can only have confidence in His commitment to ME! It is not our own love that sustains us, it is His passionate, jealous, all-consuming love for US that will sustain us to the end. HE is the One committed to US! And it is only our job to commit to positioning ourselves and our lives in a way to receive that great love that He has for us! Jude 1:1 says, "To those who have been called, who are loved IN God the Father and KEPT for Jesus Christ." God, in His love, KEEPS us, He keeps us in His love, He keeps us in Him, why? For His Son! For Jesus, because the Father promised Jesus a worthy and prepared Bride, and so God is committed to bringing us into fullness because that is what Jesus died on the cross for, for His inheritance, His reward, and you ARE that reward, that YOU would be with Him for eternity. 

So let us be the ones, the ones that stand confident in His great, fiery, jealous love for US, not in our own ability to love Him, but being filled with awe and majesty at the God that loves us that much! And in verse 21 of Jude, it says to, "keep yourselves IN God's love," reminding ourselves that WE are the disciple whom Jesus loves, and we would hold on to that truth, abide in that vine, the vine of His love. And that the great revelation of His immense love for us would overflow back to Him as lovesick worshippers of our Lord & Savior who love Him and live lives given up for Him out of the overflow of that deep, incomprehensible love He has for us. 

Monday, August 6, 2012

Loving God is KNOWING God

When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, 
“Who do people say the Son of Man is?”
They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it."
- Matthew 16:13-18

When I think about my life and my own salvation, I mean, my salvation was RADICAL! In a moment, Jesus set me free from addictions, eating disorders, depression, years of lies, bondage, sin, and wrapped me in true love for the first time in my life. It was a supernatural miracle that could only DEMAND a radical response. I had to give Jesus my LIFE.

I almost immediately jumped into a program of radical believers, like I aspired to be, but I quickly noticed my lack; my lack of knowledge of God and the Bible, my lack of understanding, everything! I didn't grow up in church like most of them did, I didn't know the stories, the theology, the verses, the simple truths. I decided right then and there, I had to know it all! I couldn't be "that girl" that knew nothing. So, I bought the One-Year Bible and began my journey to know everything about this God that had saved me.

And I did it, I read the entire thing in a year! I could finally tell people all about the stories, where to find certain things, and the basic outline of this thing we call the Word of God. But something was still missing; I now knew OF Him, but I found that I didn't actually KNOW Him.

I think we, even as the Body, can know the great stories and acts of God, but do we actually KNOW HIM? Do we understand His love? His compassion? His mercy? Have we actually spent time WITH Him enough to recognize Him? Is God just a set of stories we know about, or does He walk with us and have a personal relationship with us everyday?

When Jesus asks Peter in Matthew 16:15, "But what about you? Who do YOU say I am?" Peter KNOWS who Jesus is (the Messiah, the Son of God), not just what other people say that He is. And that could only have come through spending time with Jesus. And when Jesus tells Him, "and on this rock I will build my church", the ROCK that Jesus is talking about is the knowledge of Him! The rock and foundation that the church must be built on is the true knowledge of Jesus, of KNOWING who He truly is, not just what we hear OF Him!

“And THIS is eternal life, that they KNOW you.”
- John 17:3

We can actually KNOW Him, experience Him, walk day by day with Jesus, because He is a REAL man, right now up in Heaven, flesh and blood! A real man that loves me more than I can ever comprehend. And when I see Him face to face one day, when I get to Heaven, I want there to be FAMILIARITY in that gaze, to be memories of our life together, knowing that He is what I have waited my whole life for. He is the reason I wake up in the morning! And I will stop at nothing until every breath, every thought, every second is for Him and His glory. I am my Beloved’s and He is mine, nothing in this world will separate me from His love. And I challenge you to let this be YOUR story.

So, would we be a people who truly KNOW the man Jesus, not just know ABOUT Him, personally and individually, so that one day when we stand before Him, that we would recognize Him, and He would recognize us. Would we be a people living a LIFE of TOTAL abandonment for the sake of knowing Him, willing removing anything and everything that hinders love for Jesus and our ability to experience Him.

You may take three steps forward and two steps back, but never take your eyes off of His gaze. Get back up and run to Him, confident of His love and enjoyment over you even in your struggles, even in your weakness. He is with you every step of this PROCESS, it is a journey, and He does not love you ONLY once you reach spiritual perfection, but EVERY small step ravishes His heart, and that truth is what will allow you to get back up again. He DELIGHTS IN YOU! Not because of what you do, but because of who you are to Him, you are HIS, and He is never disappointed in your messy, not perfect pursuit of Him. You never need to apologize for being radical either, you never need to apologize for being over the top, but allow yourself to be an extravagant lover of the one who IS love, the One who gave His life up because He wanted YOU to be with Him where He is forever. So let us, His Bride, be built on the rock of truth, on the true knowledge of this man.

P.S. Here is a great sermon by the incredible Dana Candler that may help if you want to dive even deeper into this topic :)

Renewing our Pursuit in the Knowledge of God- Dana Candler

Thursday, August 2, 2012

The day I met my Hosea...

Growing up I didn’t know Jesus. I didn’t have hope for eternal life, I only had hope for THIS life, and so my goal was to make the most of my short time here. I was a girl, a girl that in the eyes of the world, had it all. I was a professional model, on magazine covers, calendars, posters, hosting TV shows, on a reality show, dating a teen heart throb, making appearances at huge Hollywood events, thousands of girls looking up to me, people wanting my picture and autograph everywhere I went, I was every girl's dream. I was what everyone would look at and called "successful". It was everything I had ever hoped of being; I was successful, known, and therefore, I was important, worthy, valuable. I had it all, or so it seemed...

On the inside I was dying and broken. I weighed 95 pounds and was physically dying of an eating disorder that took over every moment of my life. I no longer had my own identity, but I had to conform to what the world wanted me to be and look like. I had no real friends, just people who wanted to use me to get ahead in their own life. I myself only wanted to use people for my own success, trying to date as many famous men as I could to get higher in my own social status and reputation. I used people and they used me. I was abused for years, raped, wounded, but it didn’t matter. My heart was broken many times, and so I broke hearts to get over the pain. I was in thousands of dollars of debt in order to uphold this “image” that no one can ever really attain to. So I stole, lied, gave my body for modeling opportunities, compromised my own morals, and cheated people in order to continue to survive. I had abandoned my family because they saw the destruction this life was causing me and I wasn’t going to listen to them. I was a secret alcoholic drinking and crying myself to sleep every night because of the hurt and pain deep within my heart that I could never express. I had thousands of “fans”, guys that thought I was the hottest thing on the earth and girls that looked up to me and I was their “idol”. That’s what I had wanted my whole life, to be known, famous, successful, having people look up to me, though I knew deep in my heart that this was never the life I would wish on anyone else. But to me, it was all I had, it was what I thought made me worthy, valuable.

At my rock bottom point, when I had given up all hope of attaining this worldly “perfection” and literally on the brink of death, I met Jesus. By the grace of God I ended up on the retreat, opened up a Bible to this random story called Hosea about a man that God told to marry a prostitute named Gomer. She kept committing adultery and doing horrible things, but yet he still loved her! And I wondered to myself, “God, could you still love me? After all the awful, terrible things I’ve done, you would still want me?” And the answer was yes. That night people prayed for me and I got healed of my eating disorder, of alcoholism, of depression, of the lies people had spoken over me, and the pain I had experienced my whole life. For the first time in my life, I felt love, and for the first time in years, I felt joy. My life was changed in an instant, and it was right there that Jesus became my everything.

i met my Hosea. The One who loves me and died for me even in my sin. The One that chose me and said "I want HER. She's the one I want to be with me for eternity." The One who fought the realm of darkness and the grips of death over my life, and saved me from my pit of hell. The One that regardless of all my shortcomings, FIGHTS for my heart. The One who is jealous for all of my heart, who wants ALL of me. The One that holds out His hand and helps me back up when I fall. The One that will never leave me, never forsake me, and never love me any less than He did even when I was living in my life of sin. Who is this God? Who is this man, Jesus, that would love me despite all this? He is my Beloved, the One my heart loves and I will stop at nothing to love Him with all that He is worthy of. And He is yours, because YOU are HIS.

"I will make you my wife forever
[betroth you to me],
    showing you righteousness and justice,
    unfailing love and compassion.
I will be faithful to you and make you mine,
    and you will finally know me as the Lord."
- Hosea 2:19-20