Monthly Archives: December 2013

Dearly Loved

winteraspensBy Judy Villanueva

Ephesians 5:1-2
Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Whenever my little grand daughter leaves the room for a nap, upon her return she makes a joyful announcement, “Hey guys! I’m here!” And, we all clap and say, “Hooray! Livy’s back!!!” Her smile broadens and her eyes light as we cheer her back into our company. What a picture of living loved! What freedom to the soul to wake up each day and enter life assured and convinced that we are indeed wanted and welcomed! How would this awareness impact our thoughts about ourselves, our reactions to others, and the way we enter rooms?

What would happen to the constraints that keep us from loving freely if we believed and held deeply that we are dearly loved children?

So many things interfere with our freedom to love and be loved.  We are fragile creatures with fractured hearts and tend to interpret life from the wounds within us.  We hold offenses, real and imagined.  We live braced for rejection.  We compare ourselves with others and either come up wanting or puffed up.  Out of our insecurities we become critical or withdrawn, and out of our fears we become judgmental and guarded.  We try not to know the truth about our places of need, but the fact is, we leak!   When we say an unkind word or withdraw because of an offense…when we criticize and judge, or hold ourselves apart from others because we fear rejection, we realize we are not free to love and, sadly, are not living loved! On a good day, we let ourselves know this and are helped to look up and reach out for the One who can free us…the One who faithfully waits for us to wake up to His presence.

Learning to imitate God as dearly loved children is vital if we are ever to follow Christ into a life that becomes a fragrant offering. But, how do we enter more deeply into the love of God? How do we make it ours in such a way that we begin to leak love? God made us for His love and He desires for us to fully know and feel His love as best we can. As we face Him, walk with Him, listen to His voice and learn to trust Him, our hearts begin to heal.

Our capacity to believe that we are loveable and indeed loved by a great King expands and before we know it, we are living a little more loved than yesterday!

His love heals our wounds, secures our hearts and frees us to feel grace for others, patience, greater acceptance, and growing openness to become a fragrant offering to God. Listen for the sound of the Father’s clapping! Let your smile broaden and your eyes light up as He cheers you into His company where you are wanted, welcomed and…dearly loved.

“Father, I want to live in the reality of Your love! I want to be set free to love and become a fragrant offering. Heal the wounds that interfere with a clear flow of love in and through my heart to others. Help me say the best “yes” to all the ways that You invite me to live loved. Amen.”

What about you?

Do you feel dearly loved?

Are you aware of your “leaks”?

Can you look up and reach out for God with your places of need?

Do you feel free to love others? Pray and ask God to help you believe and feel His love. Registered & Protected<br /><br /><br />

Denying Christ

fullmoonBy Judy Villanueva

Simon, Simon behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; But I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; And once you have turn again, strengthen your brothers.”

“Lord, with You I am ready to go both to prison and to death!”

“…the rooster will not crow today until you have denied three times that you know me.”

And a servant-girl, seeing him as he sat in the firelight and looking intently at him, said, “This man was with Him too.” But he denied it, saying, “Woman, I do not know Him.” A little later, another saw him and said, “You are one of them too!” But Peter said, “Man, I am not!” After about an hour had passed, another man began to insist, saying, “Certainly this man also was with Him, for he is a Galilean too.” But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about.” Immediately, while he was still speaking, a rooster crowed. The Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how He had told him, “Before a rooster crows today, you will deny Me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.

Face to face with who we are…and aren’t. Peter had so boldly declared his allegiance to Jesus unto death and within hours he denies knowing Him. I wonder what he was thinking after the first two denials? Was he unaware, shaken and confused? Was he so afraid that he justified the lies? Then, the third denial…and the rooster crows! Jesus turns and looks at Peter. Some pretty gruesome things awaited Jesus and yet, He turns away from his own pain and looks directly at Peter. So zealous for Christ that he had climbed out of the boat! So passionate that he declared his undying loyalty to Jesus! Startled by the rooster’s crow, Peter awakens to the echo of his denials and is horrified to remember Jesus’ earlier warning. What did Peter see as he looked back at Jesus? Eye to eye over the crowd, what did he find in His Savior’s gaze?

I can only imagine that Peter saw the love of his dearest friend! Did he see eyes that conveyed sadness…a heavy heart that suffers when we fall? Did he perceive Christ’s love that would remain true in the face of personal failure? In that moment, did Peter understand a commitment so deep and strong that he was literally upheld by a look? Jesus knew. He knew Peter and He knew Peter would fail, but when the moment came there were no “I told you so’s…” just a movement and a look that both corrected and affirmed Peter. Peter wept bitterly as regret and shame surrounded him, but Jesus had a plan. Beyond our transgressions, God has a plan!

And me? I am Peter. Every time I do not stand with Jesus in my thoughts, words or actions, I deny Him. I say I’ll love him unto death but when life gets hard and fear presses in, I react as though He is not faithful or worse, does not exist. That is the biggest denial…to live as though Jesus is not. Nevertheless, He remains faithful. He remembers I am dust, foresees that I’ll stumble and prays for me. He looks for me…to catch my gaze and His eyes help me remember that He is! He is faithful and, I am, and always will be, His child.

“Lord, may I look at my brothers and sisters the way You look at me. Not with judgment or impatience, but with love. Your love that forgives, understands and gives strength. Thank You for seeing around all the corners of my life and for praying that my faith will stay strong. Thank You for planning beyond my failures and making a way through shame to Your heart of love. Amen.”

What about you?

Do you ever falter in your faith?

Can you see Jesus turn and look at you? Can you receive the love in His eyes?

What does this passage stir in you? What do you need from Jesus?

God has planned magnificently beyond any transgression. He loves you and wants you to see His eyes of love. Registered & Protected<br /><br /><br />

He Calls Me Friend

DSC_1114By Judy Villanueva

John 15:15
I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.

“The whole of mankind might be changed if we could all believe that we dwell under a friendly sky and that the God of heaven, though exalted in power and majesty, is eager to be friends with us.” (AW Tozer, Knowledge of the Holy, p.129)

The God of heaven is eager to be friends with me? I was reading along, soaking up Tozer’s words inviting me to understand the goodness of God, and all of a sudden I happened upon this sentence. I paused…and read it over and over. “The God of heaven is eager to be friends with me.” Yet, again my image of God is confronted! I realized, as I sat there and let this thought sit next to me, that I don’t think of God in this way…as eager to be my friend. It sounds so…so…friendly! The idea that we dwell under a friendly sky is as happy as it is consoling at this time in my life when I am far away from my closest friends. Days can feel lonely and making new friends takes time…a little more than I expected. What comfort Jesus’ invitation to friendship gives to all of us who need a friend! I am accustomed to relating to God as Father, Jesus as Son and Savior, the Spirit as Counselor and companion but, what does a friendship with God look like?

As I sit by the fire working to wrap my mind around the notion of a friendship with God Almighty (!), the phone rings. “Hi, sweetie!” It’s one of my favorite voices… and it belongs to my mom! I love the sound of her “hello,” the warmth I feel in her voice and the picture of her that comes to my mind as I listen to her telling me about her and dad’s latest excursion to the Italian Club. I find myself smiling and become aware of the love between us, and the little bits of life being shared across the miles. It occurs to me that God just might be helping me understand His eager heart to be my friend as I enjoy my mother’s company on the phone. It’s not strenuous or complicated…just a gift, a moment, a relationship I need only welcome and receive. I’m starting to get the picture! In a very real way, God is always calling. He offers His love and friendship all hours of the day and through the night. He loves His children profoundly and eagerly waits for opportunities to share bits of life with us! We need only to allow for the moments…to welcome and receive His friendship. I want to be God’s friend and I want to experience His eagerness to be mine! Don’t you?

“Help me, dear and eager Friend, to discover your goodness around me and to know you not only as Father, God, and Savior, but also, as my dearest Friend. Help me to welcome and receive Your friendship and love. Amen.”

How about you?

Do you need a good friend?

Have you ever thought about God as eager to be your friend?

How might you welcome and receive His friendship today?

If friendship with God seems hard to imagine, pray and ask God to help you discover His love and become His friend. Registered & Protected<br />


IMG_1340By Judy Villanueva

My God, My God, why have You forsaken me? (Matthew 27:46)

An incredible question considering it came from the mouth of our Savior. Jesus felt forsaken! Imagine this moment…Jesus had always enjoyed God’s presence throughout His life and ministry. In fact, He had for all of eternity. But, at this moment, hanging on the cross in pain…torn from His Father, bearing the weight of sin on His back, and facing the darkest night imaginable, His soul bellows for God with a “What’s going on?” “Where are You?” cry! Left. Alone. Abandoned. Jesus actually asks “Why?” He knows why, right? But, in the hour of truly being forsaken, His heart is pierced with a devastating sorrow and He cries out for comfort…for His Father! To be sure, the pain of the cross was physical torture…but, I wonder if the worst of our Savior’s nightmare was when His Father turned His face away!

Jesus identifies with those times when life gets so painful that we cannot see or feel God near. He understands.  And, when we cannot see through our suffering and circumstances to God, Jesus keeps seeing for us! He knows how it feels to be so engulfed in suffering and sorrow that nothing much makes sense. He knows how it is to feel forsaken. For Jesus, however, it was a devastation like we’ll never have to know because in that moment when all sin was laid on Him, Justice demanded that God turn away and separate from His beloved Son…the Son with whom He’d shared intimate and joyous communion since before the beginning of time! For our sake! The Father and the Son endured the ripping apart of their union so that we would never have to be…forsaken!

The beauty of Love’s sacrifice for my sake brings me to tears…to my knees in gratitude and wonder. And yet, there are days when I take for granted this gift of Love. Days that are tiresome or painful or sad or just plain busy when I forget that God so loved me that He gave His only Son. I don’t want to forget…not for one moment! I am grateful to Jesus for enduring the cross and staying until His work was finished…I am grateful to the Father for allowing His heart to be broken for me…and, I am grateful to tears that no matter what I’m going through or what I have done, God will never turn His face away from me. He will never abandon me…He made sure He’d never have to!

“Words cannot say thank you sufficiently! Your Love poured out on the cross baffles me to the core…so great and powerful a Love! Thank you for being forsaken for my sake…for loving me unto death. Help me to honor you with my life and never take for granted the gift You’ve given me. Amen.”

What about you?

Do you ever feel forsaken?

When you feel lost, do you forget that God is always near?

Can you receive the good news that God will never leave nor forsake you?

Jesus gave His life for you. He loves you. He always has a plan. Spend time remembering His love today. Registered & Protected<br /><br /><br /><br />