This month on the blog, we are joined by Emily Shumaker. Emily was a bonus counselor for the Chippewa Tribe at WinShape Camps for Girls at Mt. Berry!
Keep reading as Emily unpacks what it means to truly love because God first loved us.
I can hardly believe it is already the second month of the new year. Each new year is exciting for the fresh slate that it offers. The past few months, the Lord has provided for me, comforted me, and guided me into a season of rest before He takes me to Europe for the semester. Coming into this new year has been sweet. I have never felt a truer sense of His love than I have in this season of life. It makes me want to talk about His love and faithfulness all day!
At camp, we unpacked what it is like to love God with our ALL. We love because we are first loved by our Lord. God is love: to know love enables us to love.
I don’t know where you’re at in the second month of this grand new year. But here’s something for you to reflect on this February: Do you feel loved by the Lord?
I believe that in order to love God with our all, we must first know the truth about how He feels about us. Truly, “we love because He first loved us.” (1 John 4:19)
You are loved by God. In every season and on every day, you are unwaveringly loved by the God who created you and who saved you from your sin by pushing his son forward to take the full weight of your sins.
You are loved: the quirky parts of your personality, the messy weaknesses and struggles, your indecisiveness or impulsiveness, your imperfect family. And none of our shortcomings have any bearing on God’s love for us. His love and pleasure in us as His children doesn’t waver. The fact that you’re imperfect doesn’t change His view of you. He simply loves you. His love is resolute.
At its core, this truth is life-changing. It is so countercultural that we aren’t quite sure what to make of it, though.
Watchman Nee wrote in his book, The Normal Christian Life: “Lord, I do not know fully what the value of the Blood is, but I know that the Blood has satisfied thee; so the Blood is enough for me…”
We aren’t loved because of who we are or what we do. It is only by the Blood.
He goes one to say: “I see now that whether I have really progressed, whether I have really attained to something or not, is not the point. Whenever I come before thee, it is always on the grounds of the precious Blood.”
When we know we are loved, we can seek to live a life of loving God with our all.
If you’re a camper, you know where “loving God with our all” comes from. But let’s unpack it for a moment.
What does it really look like to love God with our ALL?
It means using your talents for the Lord’s pleasure.
Eric Liddell said “God made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure.”
God gave us talents and you better believe He has a plan for them! He wants you, His child, to use the gifts he gives to you.
Ask yourself: what naturally stirs your affections for the Lord? For me, it is solitude, black coffee in early mornings, and writing. These are God-given interests and they connect me to my Creator. He wants me to pay attention to specific characteristics that He created. These, among other things, stir my affections for God and give me a desire to love Him more.
Loving God with our all means sincerely saying “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. May the name of the Lord be praised.” (Job 1:21)
It means believing in His love and leaning into His grace.
It means singing “I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back.”
It means embracing the counter-cultural mission of the Gospel and telling the Lord “Here I am, send me.”
It is living according to the Holy Spirit within us rather than the spirit of the world or this flesh.
Sometimes loving God looks differently than what we think it will. We think God is most present when we are at church and camp. He certainly is present in those times, but Jesus told us that if we are faithful in the small things, then we will be faithful in the big things.
I recently read this quote from author Jennie Allen: “The mundane parts of life aren’t the enemy of God’s movement; they are the soul for it.”
It is so true. Loving God with our all isn’t always fabulous or exciting. It is truly many, many days and years of being steadfast to Him in every season. It is choosing to love Him first, no matter what.
We talked about this at camp: To whom would the trophy for 1st place in our life go? If we are loving God with our all, our 1st place trophy would go to Him.
I once read a quote from Oswald Chambers: “We all have the trick of saying—If only I were not where I am! If only I had not got the kind of people I have to live with! If our faith or our religion does not help us in the conditions we are in, we have either a further struggle to go through, or we had better abandon that faith and religion.”
I believe there is a connection in the midst of knowing that God loves us, striving to love Him, and how we consequently love our life and the people around us. If our love for God doesn’t have an impact on our lives, how real or rooted is that love?
Loving God with our all should change us. It should affect every aspect of our lives. In the same way that a runner must adjust their schedule and habits in order to run well, we as believers must engage others, live out our lives practically, and do our jobs differently in a way that emanates Christ and His love. If God is first, He will shine through in all that we do.
Loving God with our all is choosing to obey Him and bring others along with us as we grow in Him. It is promising to read His Word and pray each day. It is asking the Spirit for kind words when our siblings are wearing down on our patience.
I believe that the way we love God should be different than the way we love anything else in our life.
I love dark chocolate and I love my family. But neither of those will ever be able to withstand the pressure of holding my life together, granting me salvation, or loving me unconditionally. The things of this world will always fail us. Only our Lord: sweet, pure, and holy as He is, is worthy of our devotion and love.
We love others because He first loved us.
When we love God with our all, how do we love others well?
As a Bonus Counselor with WinShape Camps for Girls at Mount Berry last summer, one thing the Lord taught me was how to serve and love well.
To love others well is to obey one of the greatest commandments: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:31)
1 John 4:12 says “No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.”
It takes the Holy Spirit, an intentional heart, and a whole lot of energy to love well. One must continually ask: How would I want to be treated if I were in their position?
As a counselor, I reminded myself in every encounter with campers: If I were a parent, how would I want my child to be treated?
“To love your neighbor as yourself” is to walk in your neighbor’s shoes and ultimately show them the love that God always shows to you. It is stopping to think: “How would I want to be treated and how would I be responding right now if I were in their position?” It is thinking about everything from their perspective, even to the smallest of the details in their lives.
1 John 4:7 “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.”
God loves us, we seek to love God, and in turn, we love others. This is truly the key.