The Enemy in the Mirror

by: Cris Corzine-McCloskey

When it comes to being offended, people generally fall into three categories. The easy-going folks, the prickly “everyone is an idiot or out to get me” crew, and the “I suck and I’m to blame for everything” people. It’s the last group I’m addressing today.

If this is you, you are offended at yourself. This problem often starts in childhood. Maybe an overly critical parent or school-yard bullying. Something caused you to develop a shame-based identity. Symptoms include copious, unnecessary apologizing, an over-use of “should” statements (I should have, I shouldn’t have), guilt, low self-esteem, and an inability to forgive yourself for mistakes.

I see this daily. Beautiful people, genuinely kind and talented individuals I think are great, but they hate themselves. I think, “What’s not to like?,” but when I point out their attributes, I am shot down by their inner-critic. Their strong-hold of self-loathing is impenetrable.

News Flash: If you are a self-loather who can give grace and mercy to others but can’t forgive yourself, you are a perfectionist. It’s turned inward instead of outward, but it’s perfectionism just the same. Perfectionism and self-loathing are peas in a pod. Trust me, if you fix one thing you hate about yourself, you will raise the bar in another area. This needs an intervention!

Since we have identified the problem, we can go to the Bible for the solution. We don’t have to look past the letters in red to discover that Jesus does, indeed, tell us to be perfect. In Matthew 5:48 he tells us to “Be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.” Uh oh! Does that mean your quests for the unattainable and self-loathing are justified?

Let’s look at the scripture in context. Matthew 5:43-48 falls under the heading of “Teaching about love for enemies.” Right before Jesus said to be perfect, He was talking about loving your enemies. “I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven.” Then he says to be perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect. Restated, the way to be considered perfect by God, and to act like God’s child, is to love your enemy.

For you, Self-Loather, your biggest enemy is you! You wouldn’t dream of saying the things you say to yourself to anyone else. You wouldn’t even think it about them. The harsh, abrasive comments and beliefs are reserved for you alone. You are literally your own worst enemy. The devil wound you up years ago, and now you are doing all of his work for him. It’s time to let yourself off the hook and love your enemy.

I can’t emphasize this enough; You Are Not What You Feel!! If you feel like you are Napoleon it doesn’t mean you’re him, it means you have a problem. Just because you feel like you suck, does not make it true. Jesus lives inside you, and He’s incredible. Therefore, you can’t be anything but awesome, because He’s bigger than you. So get in the mirror, look at yourself, and tell you that you forgive you for being human. Learn to love that enemy in the mirror, and you will become perfect in God’s eyes. Go on, it will make your Father proud!

Our Cosmic Stalker

by: Cris Corzine-McCloskey

An analogy by Bill Johnson has stuck in my head. He loves watching his kids play sports. He gets their team jersey, puts their name on the back, and sits in the stands to cheer them on. Whenever they make a play, he stands up, waves his arms above his head, and yells “Who’s kid is that?!” He compared this to the way God watches us. Enraptured by our antics, wildly cheering on our victories. Proudly yelling, “Who’s kid is that?!” when we get it right. Telling us to get up and try again when we fall.

I love that, and I believe it’s true. So did King David. In Psalm 139:3 he claimed God was “intimately acquainted” with all his ways. And in Psalm 139:17-18 he said God’s thoughts of him were immeasurable and compared the frequency of those thoughts to the grains of sand on a seashore. I think we can all agree that’s some intense focus on God’s part.

But in case you are thinking God only thought of David that often, let’s look at what Jesus said. In Luke 12:7 Jesus tells us God has the hairs on our head counted and numbered. I don’t know about you, but I have a lot of hair. And I shed (my husband gripes every time he has to clean it out of the drain). Yet, according to Jesus, God is so intently focused on me He knows each time I lose a strand.

The fifteenth-century theologian, Angelus Silesius, made this profound statement, “If God stopped thinking of me He would cease to exist.” Before you go yelling “Blasphemy,” let me qualify that. Included in the attributes of God are the facts that He is omniscient (a fancy way of saying all-knowing) and omnipresent (everywhere at all times). Guess what? That means God, by His very definition, is thinking of you. All day. Every day.

That used to freak me out. I pictured God as some Bi-Polar Cosmic Stalker. Some days I thought He liked me, but mostly I imagined Him frowning at me and shaking His head. In my mind, He was always itching to smite me. In fact, I thought Jesus was the only thing that stood between me and a good smiting. I kid you not. That’s how little I understood God’s love, Jesus sacrifice, and the gift of grace.

Check this out, “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, in His grace, freely makes us right in His sight. He did this through Christ Jesus…He makes sinners right in His sight when they believe in Jesus (Romans 3:23-24&26).”

Do you understand what that is saying? God’s a Cosmic Stalker alright, He can’t help Himself, because He is mad about you. Not mad at you. Your faith in Jesus has made you right in His sight. You are never alone, and He is always on your side. And if there are jerseys in heaven, guess who’s name would be on the back of it? Now you’re getting the picture. So next time you forgive someone or pray for your enemy, listen real close, and I bet you hear Him yelling, “Who’s kid is that?!”

No Plan B

by: Cris Corzine-McCloskey

Can you mess up God’s plan for your life? Most believers would probably answer yes to that question. But before you rush to answer, let’s dig a little deeper.

I understand where this idea comes from. When I first became a believer, I would hear others sit and talk about God’s “perfect” will versus His “permissive” will, and if you didn’t follow His “perfect” will He had to re-calculate His plan. I pictured God as some Cosmic GPS, always having to adjust our route. That left me with more questions than answers.

How do you surprise or disappoint an all-knowing God? If He knows you are going to do the same stupid thing 17 times before you never do it again, do you think He’s upset or excited you’re on the way to freedom? And if you aren’t factored into the plan for your life, screw-ups and all, is it a good plan or a lousy plan?

Religion has taught us to be scared of wandering off God’s perfect path, and this fear makes people neurotic. How do I know that? I’m a Christian therapist. I know what fears make people unstable. I know those who teach it aren’t trying to hurt people. But it’s harmful. I have clients who fear they messed up Jeremiah 29:11 (I know the plans I have for you, not to harm you, but to give you a future and a hope). If you believe you have messed up God’s good plan for your life, trust me on this, you are not that powerful!

Don’t believe me? Let’s see if you believe the Bible. King David said, “You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book (Psalm 139:16).” That means God knew about David’s “Bathsheba Incident” beforehand and still had a good plan for David’s life. His son Solomon said, “A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps (Proverbs 16:9).” There is no asterisk directing you to a footnote that says *void where prohibited.

Here is my favorite: Ephesians 3:10-11: “God’s purpose in all this was to use the church to display His wisdom in its rich variety to all the unseen rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. THIS WAS HIS ETERNAL PLAN, which He carried out through Christ Jesus our Lord.”

God knew in advance Adam would mess things up. Adam was never the answer. He knew you would mess things up because you were never the answer. The eternal plan has always been for Jesus to be the answer. It shows off God’s power to the enemy when He takes your screw-ups and uses them to transform you more into the image of His Son (see Romans 8:28-29). Trust me, the Gospel really is good news!

So get up and get over yourself. You have not out-sinned God’s grace and made Him regret ever calling you in the first place. He already knew you would be a mess, and He has plans to give you a divine makeover through it, and that is a really great plan.

Dear Church, Please Quit Stigmatizing Mental Illness!

by: Cris Corzine-McCloskey, LCSW

I am on a mission to talk about things the Church considers taboo. Today’s topic is mental illness. The term conjures up visions of straight jackets and asylums. Many Christians think it is caused by anything from a lack of faith or hidden sin to demonic possession. These beliefs are killing people because where there is a stigma, there is a reluctance to get help.

First, I want to demystify the term “mental illness.” The brain is an organ. Like other organs, it needs optimum conditions to thrive. Just as too much sugar can lead to diabetes, too much stress and other adverse conditions can cause the brain to suffer. While psychotic disorders get the press, they are the rarity. The most frequent forms of mental illness are depression and anxiety.

Let’s take your average believer, Joe Smith, and expose Joe to prolonged, extreme stress. If Joe’s blood pressure went up his church family would insist he see a doctor. If medication were needed, there would be relief that his condition was under control. No one would tell Joe he has a problem with his faith, question hidden sin, or suggest deliverance prayer. If Joe had a stroke, he would have the full support of his church body. His family would have casseroles brought by and prayer support.

Let’s take the same scenario; only instead of it affecting Joe’s blood pressure, it triggered a major depression. Initially, he would get support and scriptures to stand on. “The joy of the Lord is my strength.” However, depression causes problems with concentration and motivation, so his usual faith go to’s don’t work. Joe feels condemned by that and begins to question his faith. As his condition continues, the questions start. “Joe, is there anything you need to confess?” That results in more shame. If Joe goes to the doctor and gets medication for his depression, it is perceived as a crutch.

That leaves Joe depressed, ashamed, and without understanding support. His view of life has changed, because he has depression goggles on, which causes hopelessness and an inability to see a better future. His family is frustrated with him, and don’t understand why he can’t just ‘snap out of it,’ which furthers his desperation. Under these conditions, suicide starts feeling like an option. There aren’t many casseroles and prayers coming to Depression Joe. Now, make Joe a church leader. That makes the problem exponentially worse because he’s supposed to have the answers. He can’t let people know he’s suffering. He begins to wear a perma-smile, while inside he feels like dying.

Joe begins hiding behind his faux smile, aka “the mask,” and trying to fake it till he makes it. The charade is draining, which increases his stress. More stress fuels the depression. He now has a self-feeding cycle of shame, hopelessness, and stress from hiding his illness.

Well-meaning people try to cheer him up. But you cannot cheer someone out of mental illness. It’s like giving Joe a band-aid when he’s got an internal bleed. Their results fail, and his friends get frustrated. Joe knows people are tired of his condition and want him to “pull himself up by his bootstraps.” That causes him to isolate. Joe is in serious trouble.

This is not hyperbole. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) reports “Approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. experience mental illness in a year. Approximately 1 in 25 experiences a serious mental illness that substantially interferes with or limits one or more major life activities.”.

That means in your average small group of 10 people, 2 of your friends are battling mental illness. In a congregation of 100, 4 of the members have a severe mental illness. They are possibly considering suicide. If only you could see past their mask…”Everybody say Praise the Lord and shake someone’s hand.” Joe, who just shook your hand, is pondering how he would take his life if he had the nerve.

I see this every day. I am blessed and privileged to see Joe without his mask. He comes and tells me about his shame and hopelessness. I listen and pray for him. He knows he’s not judged and leaves feeling a little lighter. As I earn his trust, we begin talking about the hard stuff. Joe may even talk about his faltering faith, hidden sin, and spiritual oppression.

See Church, it’s not that your views are always wrong. They are uneducated and incomplete. The triggers of mental illness can be stress, genetics, trauma, unresolved grief, chronic pain, or hormonal changes, just to name a few. Sometimes it is spiritual; sometimes it’s physical or situational. Medication may be needed to lift the symptoms enough to administer spiritual truth. People who use medication are not weak; they are determined to survive what is trying to kill them.

While the causes may be legion, the commonality is that it is always a soul-sucking, life-robbing illness that can be fatal if left untreated. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S., and people won’t get help if they feel ashamed. There is a mandate laid out in Galatians 6:2, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” What’s the law of Christ? That we love one another. Not judge, not fix, love.

Church, its time to eradicate fear and ignorance and be authentic and relevant. Just like sexual assault survivors found solidarity in the Me Too movement, people need a safe way to come forward. Everyone can stand together and say, “I’m Joe,” and feel amazed at how many are standing with them. If the Church were to make people feel safe, it could probably put me out of business. That’s okay. I’m sure Jesus would find something for me to do.

Okay, Joe, I’ve laid the groundwork by opening the dialogue, the next step is up to you. Drop your mask and be honest about your condition. Call me, call a friend, call someone. If you are feeling suicidal, the people at the Suicide Hotline, 1-800-273-8255, are always there to listen. Pick up the phone Joe. It is time to stop suffering in silence!

The Dark Forest

by: Cris Corzine-McCloskey

A decade ago Chris Iannotti picked up his first Bible in Cook County Jail. He was an addict and would’ve been a shoo-in for the “most likely to do hard time,” award. It didn’t matter that the world saw trash because God saw a treasure. What he read in that Bible started a ripple effect that is causing big waves in our local region.

After his conversion, Iannotti came here for a new life. He wrestled, sometimes unsuccessfully, with his past, but by placing trust in Jesus, he kept gaining ground. Then one day he read the mandate of Jesus to “made disciples.” Iannotti answered the call and founded Darkhorse Ministries. He chose the name because the Darkhorse is the one least likely to win, but when it does, the payoff is enormous. I don’t think he knew prophetic that name was.

The Darkhorse crew is one of the quickest growing “clubs” in the area. They are easy to spot. They are the ones that just rode by on their Harleys, covered in tattoos and wearing leather. But there is no need to run home and lock the doors, they are probably on their way to play bingo with the local VA residents or visit the Mt. Vernon Children’s Home.

Iannotti’s vision of ministry was to use Darkhorse as a “ministry brokerage” that would love the people who are falling through the cracks, and find creative ways to meet their needs. Their group has done hurricane relief, jail ministry, veterans support, children’s home visits, and most of all, addiction recovery. This is the group that will love your wayward child and bankrupt themselves to get them into rehab.

On a typical Friday night, you can find Iannotti’s second in command, Stephanie “Boog” Brugger down at Gateway handing out Bibles and sharing the love of Jesus. Standing proudly at just over 4’9, Stephanie is my Tiny Giant, because of her enormous heart.

Born with spina bifida, Stephanie was a Darkhorse from the start. Her parents were told to she would die without surgery and suggested they put her up for adoption. She beat the odds and has turned every disadvantage life dished out into a platform for love. This tiny dynamo creates opportunities to serve others. Quite often accompanied by Darkhorse member, Andrew Woolzy.

Andrew came from a background of faith but nearly lost his life to addiction. Eventually, his addiction cost him his license, job, home, and marriage, but he came back swinging for the fences. Radically saved, sober, and full of love for others, Andrew is now on the front-lines fighting for the Kingdom. You can find him leading Bible studies for Darkhorse, visiting Gateway, or when stuck at home, using social media to encourage others.

Last week I said our role as believers is to be Oaks of Righteousness, aka Tree #4, and let Jesus have the starring role. Darkhorse Ministries is my Dark Forest of Tree #4’s. In case you want to visit them, they just opened a new “Stable” at 210 East Union in Marion. Drop by a Bible study at 7 pm Monday thru Wednesday , or you can hit an AA meeting on Tuesday morning at 10:30 or an NA meeting at 10:30 on Thursday mornings. Worship Saturdays nights are starting soon and will be at 5 pm. Trust me, you will be made to feel at home. Everyone is welcomed and accepted. If you have a need, or just want to call for prayer, give them a call at 618-969-7275.

Life as Tree #4

by: Cris Corzine-McCloskey

Recently I read Love Always by Bob Goff. In it, Bob claims Jesus wants us to love everyone, always, and the book is full of his stories of how that looks. The publication has had a profound impact on me. But one of his stories made such an impression I had to share it.

Bob tells of a childhood experience where he tried out for a role in Peter Pan, “I tried out for the role of Peter, but I couldn’t sing or dance or fly, so I didn’t get it. I did get a part, though. My official title was Tree #4. I had no lines. I didn’t even get a name, like maple or oak. My role was to just stand there, hold my arms above my shoulders, wiggle my fingers and look like a tree. There was no mention of my name in the program, I didn’t get a backstage room with a star on it, or cast party celebrating my performance. You know what? I loved it! Here’s why; my role was clear, and it wasn’t too complicated. In short, I knew what I was there to do. Many of us don’t.”

“Something changes for us after elementary school. We try to make ourselves the hero or the victim of every story. Something goes wrong, and we want to be the victim; something goes right, and we want to make ourselves the hero. It doesn’t seem to matter which it is as long as we make it all about us. But if we make everything about us, it’ll never be about Jesus. What I’m coming to realize is we’re not the heroes, and we’re not the victims of all the stories happening around us. We’re just Tree #4.”

“We don’t need to be the hero in everyone’s story. Jesus already landed that part. Jesus doesn’t need our help with the hungry or thirsty or sick or strange or naked people in jails. He wants our hearts. He lets us participate if we’re willing, so we’ll learn more about how He feels about us and how He feels about the people we may have been avoiding.”
“So go ahead and risk loving others. You’re just Tree #4. You don’t need a bunch of lines; Jesus is in the lead role, and He’s got it handled. All you need are a couple of arms to hold up in the air like branches and a few fingers to wiggle.”

I love this story for so many reasons. It shouts truth in a way we can understand, it’s full of whimsy, and most of all, it is scripturally correct. I don’t know if Bob knew it or not, but his little story reflects what God says about us in Isaiah 61:3, “They will be called oaks of righteousness, The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.”

It turns out that being Tree #4 is far easier than you might expect. In fact, I know a bunch of trees who happen to believe when Jesus said to love your neighbor, He meant just that. Next week I am going to introduce you to some of my friend in the area. Unexpected people who have perfected the art of raising their arms above their shoulders, wiggling their fingers, and letting it all be about Jesus. They are some of my local heroes, and I hope the way they love will inspire you to get outside your comfort zone and love your neighbor Jesus style.

It’s Not Good For Man to be Alone

by: Cris Corzine-McCloskey

The above title is something God said in Genesis 2:18. It is also the most frequently cited verse used in my office by lonely clients. Single people and those cut off from friends and family like to use this verse. Each time they do there is an underlying complaint leveled at God. They are saying, “God, if you said it’s not good for me to be alone, why aren’t you providing me with companionship?”

Hey, I get it. Loneliness is one of the most significant problems people face. Is God insensitive to this? I don’t think so. I believe there was a lot more going on in Genesis 2:18 than meets the eye.

For starters, let’s look at the scripture in its entirety. God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him.” Then God made Adam a human companion, Eve. It didn’t take long before the two of them made a mess of things.

After that, the Bible is filled with stories of broken human relationships. The first thing Adam did when confronted with his sin was to throw Eve under the bus. The first sibling relationship ended in murder. Things got so bad God had to wipe out nearly everyone and start over with Noah. People didn’t go much better after that.

Abraham lied about his wife, Sarah, to save his own skin. Twice. Isaac, the child of promise, lied about his wife for the same reason. Their boy, Jacob, stole his brother’s inheritance. His sons threw their brother, Joseph, down a well and sold him into slavery. And that’s just the first book of the Bible. Even Jesus’ own family didn’t believe in Him until after the resurrection. No one has been immune to poor relationships and toxic human drama. No one.

Do you think it’s possible that God, foreseeing all of this, wasn’t talking about Eve when He said He was going to give us a helper?

At the Last Supper Jesus said, “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever.” Who was that Helper? It certainly was not a human; it was the Holy Spirit. You see, God was right, it’s not good for man to be alone. We need serious help. But another human was never the answer. God has never been one to give us a problem that He wasn’t the solution for. Jesus did not go through the trouble of living in the flesh, dying for us, then stuffing Himself inside of us, to leave us so needy that we can’t make it without a human. It’s nice when we have it (most of the time), but it should not make us or break us.

I’m a fan of human relationships. So much so I have them. Friendships, marriage, family. It’s all good, but it’s not my all in all. And it’s not always been that way. When I was doing time for my drug arrest, I had never been so lonely. You know what I found out? You will never know God is all you need until God is all you’ve got. Let Him be your all in all. Trust Him to be the answer to every problem, including loneliness. He is the one who promises never to leave you or forsake you. That’s a better deal than you will ever find with somebody with skin on!

God’s Style of Therapy

by: Cris Corzine-McCloskey

Carl Jung wrote, “The foundation of mental illness is an unwillingness to experience suffering.” When it comes to anxiety and fear, I agree. Last week I shared my fear of change. Am I afraid of change, or the discomfort surrounding it? Likewise, I see my struggle with people-pleasing as fear of the pain I will experience when others aren’t happy. So pain avoidance, not altruism, drove many of my “charitable” acts. A loving God has used my fear to reveal to me my selfishness.

Jesus told us if we really want to live, we need to die to ourselves. But most of us are lousy at dying to ourselves. Luckily, teaching us how to die is not our job, it’s God’s. He has a way of getting us past yucky self-stuff. It’s God’s style of therapy.

My battle with anxiety started a few years back. When it began, I developed two coping devices, one healthy and the other not. My healthy approach was to begin studying scriptures on fear. The unhealthy approach was to try avoidance.

But avoidance didn’t work because situations kept happening I couldn’t avoid. My people-pleasing was stymied by relationships that demanded confrontation if they were to survive. And as far as my avoidance of change, well, let’s just say I became surrounded by it. My avoidance techniques were crashing and burning.

Then I came across a scripture when studying Isaiah 41:10 in the AMPC. It reads, “Fear not for I am with you; don’t look around in terror and be dismayed for I am your God. I will strengthen you and harden you to difficulties.” At first, I received the word with joy, thinking “Yes, God, harden me to difficulties!” Then I stopped and said, “Wait a minute, how are You going to do that?!” I got nervous because I already knew the answer.

As a therapist, I know the method used to eradicate fear is to expose someone to what they are afraid of. We call this method Exposure Response Prevention. If you are phobic of snakes, I will start by showing you pictures of a snake, then bring one in the room, and eventually, you work up to holding it. In other words, I would crash through your avoidance techniques and force you to confront your fears. That is what I think God is saying when He offers to harden us to difficulties.

It’s not that He wants us to suffer; He wants us fearless and dead to our yucky self-stuff. When I say yes to His plan, even when it involves confronting fear and embracing personal discomfort, I become content and stable. Like Jesus was. I now understand this scripture in James, “when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy…for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.” Perfect, complete and not needy sounds way better than wimpy and fearful. So next time trouble exposes you to the things you are afraid of, say yes to God and no to avoidance. He loves you so much He may just have you in therapy.

Real Stability

By: Cris Corzine-McCloskey

I felt like a superhero yesterday. No bullets bounced off my bracelets, but I fearlessly embraced a significant, undesired change. I squared my chin and told my Father in Heaven, “bring the change.” He did. Much to my surprise, I did not spontaneously combust.

I have always craved stability. Dad was an alcoholic, so peace in my home was as infrequent and short-lived as his bouts with sobriety. I remember those moments of stability being tenuous, as we waited for the other shoe to fall. The other shoe always fell. Then I became the unstable addict. I lived in self-created chaos. It was awful.

When Jesus found me, He rescued me from myself. He settled my life down, and I became stable. Evidently, I liked it enough to become a control freak. I quake at anything that threatens unwanted change. Stability has become my idol.

An idol is anything we put above God. I have craved stability more than the will of God. And when I did try to say yes to God’s leading, if it involved change, I felt He was handing me a blindfold and a cigarette. That is not trusting in a loving Father. That is fear wrapped in obedience. It’s an improvement, but still not what He is looking for.

When I embraced change instead of fear, I had a fleeting moment of clarity. Jesus said, “My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives.” He gave us a different kind of peace than what we are used to. We equate money in the bank and status quo as peace. That is not peace. But that is what I have craved. A nice retirement fund, no surprises in anyone’s health or employment. Only good news allowed in my zone or my house-of-cards would come crashing down.

Jesus’ never once attempted to create a safe, peaceful environment for Himself or His followers. He carried a Kingdom of peace internally, so He didn’t need it externally. He was utterly fearless and unflappable. He slept through storms. I feel that should be in all caps; HE SLEPT THROUGH STORMS. The “storm speaker” was also the storm sleeper. That is stability!

Yesterday I tasted that kind of stability. I’m a little shakier today, but there is no going backward. I have now felt real peace. The kind Jesus gave me. It was a moment of trusting God’s will, His love for me, and knowing He had my back. I have seen the light, and it revealed how puny the false god of environmentally created stability really is. If you are still holding on to your house-of-cards, don’t feel bad. This has been a long journey for me, and next week I’m going to show you God’s roadmap for that journey.

Fruitful Abiding

by: Cris Corzine-McCloskey

Over the past couple of weeks, I laid a foundation showing that abiding in the love of Jesus gives us stability and peace. It also makes us much more pleasant to be around. Now I want to show you the practice of abiding. My favorite example is found in the life of David.

There are notations above many of the Psalms telling what inspired each song. Psalm 59 has one that reads, “A Psalm of David, regarding the time Saul sent soldiers to watch David’s house to kill him.” My response would have been a high-speed come-apart! David wrote a song of praise.

He starts out acknowledging the problem, “Rescue me from my enemies, O God. Protect me from those who have come to destroy me” (v. 1). And he spends a few verses discussing the threat. But by verse 8, David switches gears. “But Lord, you laugh at them. You scoff…You are my strength, I wait for you to rescue me, for you, O God, you are my fortress. In His unfailing love, my God will stand with me…I will sing about your power. Each morning I will sing with joy about your unfailing love. For you have been my refuge, a place of safety when I am in distress. O my Strength, to you I sing praises, for you, O God, are my refuge, the God who shows me unfailing love.”

Oh, the beauty of a human heart abiding in the love of God. David acknowledged his problem, but his heart was so set on the “unfailing love” of God as his safety that the love became a superior reality. Our normal default is to look at a situation and think “how can God love me and let this happen?” By abiding in God’s love David was able to look at his problem and think because God loves me, I will come through. That’s the difference between abiding in self and abiding in His love.

In the Book of John, John called himself “the disciple whom Jesus loved.”. That was John’s way of abiding in the love of God in Christ Jesus. In Galatians Paul does something similar when he called Jesus, “the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me.” Paul, more than anyone, knew that Christ died for all. But Paul was determined, like John, to take that love personally. That was also David’s secret, he took God’s love personally.

The best way to abide in His love is to take it personally and make that revelation the cornerstone of your life. That’s what caused John to give himself the nickname “the Disciple Whom Jesus Loved.” I think that’s awesome, and I don’t think John would be the least bit offended if you borrowed his nickname. Go ahead, try it. Start saying to yourself, “I am the believer that Jesus loves and died for.” Now look at that, your roots are growing! Fruit is on its way.