Although Gerri and I have not arrived in this area, the transformation thus far has been incredible!  The learning process continues for both of us.  You see, we have never been here before.  We have never experienced life this way before.  Our love tank has never been so full!  It is like we have been born again, again!

            When we met Jesus our salvation experiences brought a complete life style change.  Life became brand new.  We were sold out to Jesus and nothing else mattered but serving Him.  For the first time, we had purpose and direction and were beside ourselves with excitement.  We plunged head long into our new Christian lives, full of hope and expectation of Heaven on earth!  Our zeal fed our performance orientation and we easily fell into the trap of religion.  Our need to be needed provided the fuel that kept our fire burning to do more and more for the church, for Jesus and for God.  We were completely vulnerable to clichés like ‘burn yourself out for Jesus’, ‘Jesus died for you; the least you can do is die for Him’, ‘give it all to Jesus’, and so on.  We became slaves for God and, eventually, our fire went out (burned out).  In our ignorance we settled for serving God instead of getting to know God.  We settled for performance instead of relationship.  We thought that because the gifts of the Spirit were working through us and God’s anointing was upon us, we had arrived!  This is the Christian!  When God called us to full time ministry, well HONEEEEY, touch me!!  Now we have arrived for sure!  We had no clue how pathetic we were.  We had no clue how far we were from the reality of the life that Father had made available to all of us.  We had no idea how much bigger and better life could be in living loved. 

            You see, we were not living loved.  Our original motivation for serving was our love for Jesus, but as we charged ahead in our new life experience we did not realize that our love hunger was supplying the power for our performance and turning us into slaves for God!  We did not know we were on a dead end road called Burn Out!

            We thought in order to be good Christians we had to be at church every time the doors opened: Sunday morning and Sunday night (we both taught Sunday School on Sunday morning and  training classes on Sunday night),  Wednesday night for prayer meeting, Thursday night for visitation, and choir practice (we both sang in the choir).  We felt obligated to come early and stay late to set up and clean up, and we always volunteered for special events.  After years of this we paused and wondered what happened to the love of Jesus that we had been so excited about.  Why were we so stressed and tired all the time?  By the way, what happened to our relationship with each other, and oh yeah, we had two kids, didn’t we?  We were so busy giving, giving and giving we lost sight of life and our basic responsibilities of family.  All of our serving took us further and further away from experiencing the love of God.  Our intellectual/conceptual knowledge that Father God loved us brought no internal transformation; besides, we knew nothing about intimacy in relationships and we did not know we could have a personal relationship with Father, Himself. 

            To quote Jack Frost, we (the church) have put the Great Commission before the Great Commandment and the results have been devastating to our Christian lives and reputation.  We have pushed new Christians into service for God before their love hunger was satisfied in God.  What happens when love hungry people try to carry a gospel of love to a love hungry world?  Are people getting saved?  Yes.  Then what?  Are some people getting miraculously healed?  Yes.  Then what?  You mean there is more?  Yes.  Much more! 

            You see when we got saved we thought the love we experienced at salvation was all there was.  Wrong!  It was only a taste, a beginning, not the end.  The scripture says we must love God with all of our heart.  We thought we did that.  As we look back we see how much that deception hurt us.  Then the scripture says, “Love your neighbor as you do yourself.”  Surveys have revealed that 80% of us do not like what we see when we look in the mirror.  Would you agree this could be evidence of low self-esteem/self-hatred/lack of love for self?  If we do not love ourselves how can we be obedient to God’s instruction to love our neighbor?  In performance/service it is necessary to wear a mask of deception since we hope to keep others from seeing who and what we feel we really are.  If that works at all, it doesn’t work for long because we leak!  Our mask/our pretense has holes, and the issues we are trying to hide eventually leak out.  That can be very embarrassing.  The façade doesn’t usually work for long.  Do you see and/or have you experienced the reality that it is difficult to love God or anyone else if you don’t love yourself?  Experiencing Father’s love supplies the power to love ourselves and other people without a mask. 

            Living loved requires a combination of receiving healing for our individual woundedness and experiencing a personal, intimate relationship with Father Himself.  The freedom and transformation that come are indescribable.  It must be experienced.  Living as a beloved child of God rather than a slave for God is living far beyond all we could ask or think.  Loving contentment, peace and rest rather than the pressure, striving and anxiety of performance/service should be our goal.  Learning to receive love and then give it away to others is a whole new way of living.  It is receiving life, and then being a life giver, because life is love and love is life.  Father’s love supplies the power to live a Godly life, and love hunger supplies the power to live in bondage to self.  Self-centeredness typically tries to get its needs met at someone else’s expense, whereas love typically tries to meet someone else’s need at its own expense.

             Love hunger manifests itself with constant pressure in the individual’s life.  It continually pounds on the door of your heart demanding satisfaction.  The stress is unrelenting because nothing we try will satisfy the demand except getting to know Father Himself. 

            I hope you see that living loved is a process of experience.  Living loved brings with it new ways of thinking about everything: new ways of seeing life and its priorities and responsibilities, and most of all, a dramatic improvement in the way we feel about ourselves.  In this loving and healing process we will be relieved of the pressures of abandonment, rejection, shame and fear.  We can leave behind the burden of performance and our need to be needed.  We can say good bye to envy, jealousy and covetousness.  We can give up our need to control and dominate others.  We can obliterate pride, haughtiness, arrogance and self-centeredness because the power of Father’s love produces humility; and just in case you didn’t realize it, the power of Father’s love produces faith – the world changing kind of faith!  Also, rather than walking in authority, we began to walk and live in dominion, not because of who we are but because of Who He is in us. 

            So what does it feel like to live without anger or rage, with spiritual rebellion and the lies we have lived by being replaced by truth?  What it is like to face tomorrow free of a victim spirit and walking in the confidence of a true child of God?  What will life be like when perfect love casts out all fear; the fear of failure and the fear of man and what other people think replaced by the confidence that true love produces?  How does it feel to live fully connected to your Heavenly Father, instantly able to sit in His lap and just enjoy Him loving on you?  That is living loved!  Is it possible to live life without self-centeredness, covetousness and lust?  How about envy and jealousy and the discouragement of comparing yourself to others who, in your opinion, seem to be more blessed by God than you are?  Would life be more enjoyable without hopelessness and depression?  Do you think there would be more peace and rest if you were free from performance orientation and perfectionist tendencies?  Is it possible to be free of low self-esteem and self-hatred?  The answer is YES! 

            Folks, we have never been here before.  Nothing we have ever known compares to it.  Living loved is everything we have dreamed of, hoped for and thought we would never experience in the midst of our personal, daily struggles; but it is real and it is a Person.  He is your loving Heavenly Father.  He is your destiny.  He is life itself.  Jesus made it possible for us to know Father.  He pointed the way and gave the instruction.  The rest is up to us.  If you know Jesus, then Father, Son and Holy Spirit are your inheritance.  The Kingdom of God is at hand.  What will you do?