Did you believe that I loved you?

I grew up going to church. Please understand me when I tell you that doesn’t mean I grew up a Christian, because that’s not what I mean to say. I grew up going to church on Sunday with my mother and on occasion with my father because that’s what “respectable” people did. I did not have a relationship with Jesus. Church was a place, not a body.

When I was in junior high school, my older sister started dating a guy whose family belonged to a church. My mom (who was now recently divorced from my dad) started taking all of us. I really loved that church. There were many Sundays when the pastor would invite people to come forward and be baptised that I felt compelled to do so. But since I grew up going to church, I was ashamed to admit that I hadn’t already done so. I began to feel more and more like an outsider; a phony Christian. I eventually quit going to church altogether. My teen years and twenties were spent very far away from God.

It was not until after the birth of my first child that I was baptised and began my life as a Christian. Before that, I owned a bible that did little more than gather dust on the bookshelf. The church where I was baptised was my church home until I left to help plant C3. I still love that body of believers. I learned so much about God, Jesus and His Word there. But at some point, I began to wonder if I would ever measure up to what it meant to be a good Christian. Soon after we joined a bible study group, we did a study of James. I was completely baffled by it. To me, so much of it contradicted what I had read in the gospel of John. (Which is what everyone told me to read first.) I just didn’t understand how both could be true. Then I borrowed a book called “The Ragamuffin Gospel” by Brennan Manning from our new worship pastor. I read that book cover to cover in 2 days. Until I read that book, as much as I tried to understand to concept of grace, I just couldn’t understand how God could love someone as broken as me — not someone who was once broken, but someone who was still broken; still woefully inadequate and unworthy. After reading it, I read the bible with a fresh perspective. It was one of those God’s perfect timing moments for me.

I recently found a blog called on coffee by clicking on a link on Koffijah’s blog. It is a delightfully random sort of blog — right up my alley! There are several Youtube videos on this blog, including the one below. Please understand, I am posting this because it really struck a cord with me personally. This is not an attempt to tear down anyone else’s relationship with God. I just wanted to share it with you:

Brennan Manning said:

The Lord Jesus is going to ask each of us one question and only one question: Do you believe that I loved you? That I desired you? That I waited for you day after day? That I longed to hear the sound of your voice?

The real believers there will answer, “Yes, Jesus. I believed in your love and I tried to shape my life as a response to it. But many of us who are so faithful in our ministry, in our practice, in our church going are going to have to reply, “Well frankly, no sir. I mean, I never really believed it. I mean, I heard alot of wonderful sermons and teachings about it. In fact I gave quite a few myself. But I always knew that that was just a way of speaking; a kindly lie, some Christian’s pious pat on the back to cheer me on. And there’s the difference between the real believers and the nominal Christians that are found in our churches across the land. No one can measure like a believer the depth and the intensity of God’s love. But at the same time, no one can measure like a believer the effectiveness of our gloom, pessimism, low self-esteem, self-hatred and despair that block God’s way to us. Do you see why it is so important to lay hold of this basic truth of our faith? Because you’re only going to be as big as your own concept of God.

Do you remember the famous line of the French philosopher, Blaise Pascal? “God made man in his own image, and man returned the compliment”? We often make God in our own image, and He winds up to be as fussy, rude, narrow minded, legalistic, judgemental, unforgiving, unloving as we are.

In the past couple of three years I have preached the gospel to the financial community in Wallstreet, New York City, the airmen and women of the air force academy in Colorado Springs, a thousand positions in Nairobi. I’ve been in churches in Bangor, Maine, Miami, Chicago, St. Louis, Seattle, San Diego. And honest, the god of so many Christians I meet is a god who is too small for me. Because he is not the God of the Word, he is not the God revealed by it in Jesus Christ who this moment comes right to your seat and says, “I have a word for you. I know your whole life story. I know every skeleton in your closet. I know every moment of sin, shame, dishonesty and degraded love that has darkened your past. Right now I know your shallow faith, your feeble prayer life, your inconsistent discipleship. And my word is this: I dare you to trust that I love you just as you are, and not as you should be. Because you’re never going to be as you should be.”

Do you believe that He loves you?

NOTE: You many have noticed that I when I post a song video here, I will also provide the lyrics to the video. The reason I do this is because not everyone who reads my blog is able to view videos on their computers. It’s ususally an easy matter of cutting and pasting the lyrics from another source – no big deal. As far as I could find, there is no transcript of this particular speech by Manning. I typed what he said as I heard it, so if I misheard anything, I apologize. I think I got it right, though, and I’m so glad I typed it out, because sometimes I’m a little thick, and the exercise helped me soak in every single word.

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15 Responses to “Did you believe that I loved you?”

  1. jasonS April 21, 2009 at 1:39 am #

    >You read my post today, I’m right there with you! I am so hungry for something more, something more substantial than we’ve known. Thanks for the great post and video.

  2. JML April 21, 2009 at 1:41 am #

    >Anthropomorphism- applying human qualities to God. I promise I’m not trying to be an annoying smartie, but I just encountered this word for the first time the other day. It’s making God into a wretch like the rest of us (just a stranger on a bus, trying to make His way home- I never understood that song, Oh Joan Osborne, you strange blond lady) Anyways, I think that you’re entirely right, that too many people don’t fully believe that Jesus loves them like He does. I know I’ve had my moments. But the great thing is that God isn’t a grumpy, flaky ho like the rest of us!

  3. Peter P April 21, 2009 at 2:38 am #

    >You’re awesome Katdish!

  4. texasshawn April 21, 2009 at 3:44 am #

    >Don’t ever think He doesn’t use you, dear woman. He did tonight.

  5. BeckeyZ April 21, 2009 at 5:39 am #

    >Wow, thank you…what a wonderful message to hear (and read – good typing there girl) before I hit my pillow.

  6. Billy Coffey April 21, 2009 at 8:11 am #

    >What Peter said.

    And I went to church for about twenty years before I was baptized. You’d be both amazed and saddened at the number of people who sit in the pew or the chair right in front of you who don’t believe that Jesus loves them. We’re charged with spreading the Gospel. Sometimes that means spreading it in your place of worship, too.

  7. Helen April 21, 2009 at 9:11 am #

    >God is truly amazing in that He does the impossible…He loves us even when we know we are undeserving of love from the inside out. He knows us better than anyone else could ever, and still He loves us so much. Now that is power!

  8. sherri April 21, 2009 at 9:57 am #

    >This man’s words are compelling- lots to chew on here.

  9. Steph @Red Clay Diaries April 21, 2009 at 11:10 am #

    >You also type the words for those of us who get way more from reading than from listening. (Auditory ADD?)

    That was definitely great. I’d say I didn’t really start believing in God’s love until my late 30s.

    Here’s how it worked for me:
    1. Believed I had to be perfect to be loved.
    2. Created system wherein I could pretend to be perfect to myself and others.
    3. Expended all my energy for 35+ years keeping up the illusion.
    4. Also harbored a lack of forgiveness for others who weren’t perfect.
    5. Experienced clear and obvious failure and finally acknowledged that I was unworthy.
    6. Saw no difference between self and others and finally forgave.
    7. Despaired at my inability to be ‘good enough.’
    8. God was still there. He never left. And now he gathered me up.

    The Manning message is a great reminder of what God has done for me. Thanks!

  10. Marni April 21, 2009 at 11:34 am #

    >”No one can measure like a believer the depth and the intensity of God’s love.” I think that is so dead on. I remember being on the other side of that and thinking God could never love me like people tell me He does. I asked God to show me that and little by little He would reveal things to me that I could absorb and understand. But I was still feeble in my thoughts.

    Then…for reasons I totally understand and totally don’t understand…all at the same time…God allowed my three year old to develop stage III cancer of the kidney and lymph nodes. I would have bet every dollar I’ve ever made that I would have turned my back on God for letting that happen. Instead, I ran to Him. Or ran AT Him might be more accurate because I had never been more terrified and desperate in my entire life. And He was there. He was there in a way that I will never be able to describe in this life. I had never been so loved, so comforted, so tightly held as in those days. And I get it. I get now how God loves me in a crazy and powerful way that defies logic, words, rationale, understanding and any other word you can insert there. It’s amazing. And the best part? I KNOW that isn’t even as much as He really loves me. I know I couldn’t take it all or I’d be struck dead by it if He directed His full love at me.

    Days when the kids are cranky, the checkbook is dismal, my husband isn’t the most romantic man on the planet or even the days when a I hold the hand of my best friend as she went to live in glory or I hug a sobbing teenager who just found out she’s preganant…I remember how much I’m (we) pursued, desired, loved, wanted and used…and in comparison, “whom shall then I fear?”

    Kat, this was amazing. Thank you so much for sharing.

  11. { jamie } April 21, 2009 at 1:18 pm #

    >Loved this.
    (BTW, I actually posted on my long-neglected Rambling Rose blog today!)

  12. Robin @ Heart of Wisdom April 21, 2009 at 2:57 pm #

    >I read I read “The Ragamuffin Gospel” a few months ago. God’s doing a great thing in a lot of people’s lives– PTL!

    I have a similar post about my being in church and not experiencing His love. http://heartofwisdom.com/blog/about/

    When I discovered He eally loves me a HUGE weight was lifted and I could really experience joy.

    Thanks for video!

  13. katdish April 21, 2009 at 7:07 pm #

    >I’ve been away from my computer most of the day, but I’ve been able to read your comments via blackberry.

    Thank you so much for what you’ve contributed here. I appreciate ya’ll sharing so honestly. Different perspectives, but one Truth. I still struggle with that question. I don’t want to, I know Jesus loves me. I think that’s why it’s so important to love others, especially those who seem unlovable, because it gives me a tiny glimpse into how His love overcomes all the bad stuff — in me and in everyone else.

    Thanks again.

  14. Koffijah April 21, 2009 at 11:46 pm #

    >Hi Katdish,

    First of all, thank you for typing it out. I am in a place where snail mail is faster than this dial-up. I can never watch any videos online. Had you not typed it out, I wouldn’t have been blessed by this like I was.

    Second–thank you. Thank your for sharing this message.

    If you ask me “Does God love you, Koffijah.” I would always answer “Yes” because I know that that is the right answer. But really, that is a “in theory” answer. Or, “according to proper theology” answer.

    But in my heart, do I really feel that God loves me?

    I would have to answer, “No, I don’t.”

    Then just for a moment… after reading your post… I considered, “What would it be like if I felt that God really did love me?” That was a pretty awesome picture. I instantly became happier. The problems that are dragging me down on a daily basis here seemed not to be a big deal. My appreciation of my wife and my son soared. It even seemed sunnier outside. I’m not kidding.

    I never thought I had to be perfect for God to love me. I wasn’t caught up with that. I just often don’t feel like God loves me, even though I know, in theory, that he does.

    So, thank you.

  15. katdish April 22, 2009 at 1:29 pm #

    >Koffijah,

    You know, I had you specifically in mind when I typed that out. Funny thing is, it’s not something that I thought you particularly needed to hear. Based on your your writing and how you have chosen to live your life in response to God’s love for you, I assumed that you understood this principle. But you’re right. It’s one thing to understand it in your mind. Quite another to understand it with your heart. It brings joy to my heart to know that something you read here made the sun shine a little brighter in your corner of the world. I am glad to have been able to return to favor.

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