4 Ways to Love God with Gusto (Part 1 of 2)

Thanks to author Ashley L. Jones for hosting this week’s post on her blog at BigSisterKnows.com. Check out her site for more godly encouragement.

One of my favorite books is called I Dare You by William Danforth, and in it, he challenges his readers to live what he calls “the four-square life.” Following Jesus’ example in Luke 2:52, he dares us to grow mentally, physically, spiritually, and socially.

And Jesus increased in wisdom (mentally) and stature (physically), and in favor with God (spiritually) and men (socially). (NKJV, parenthesis added)

The other day, I was reading Mark 12:30 and realized that we are not only to grow in those key areas of our lives, but we’re also supposed to love God with four related areas.

“And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart (emotional/volitional), with all your soul (wholehearted), with all your mind (mental), and with all your strength (physical).’ This is the first commandment.” (Mark 12:30 NKJV, parenthesis added)

Coincidence? I don’t think so! God wants us to live for him and love him with all that we are. What does that look like? Let’s dive a little deeper into these four areas and see what Scripture has to say.

Love God Volitionally

When we typically think of our “heart,” we usually think about our emotions. Although our emotions are part of the idea here, “heart” goes far beyond them to include the will.[i]

In other words, love is more than a feeling but a choice, and we must exercise that choice in our relationship with God. He didn’t make us mindless robots, pre-programmed to love him. Instead, he gave us the privilege of deciding to love him and made it possible by loving us first.

In the educational world, we call that “modeling.” It means showing someone how to do something before expecting them to try. God modeled perfect love when he gave his own Son to mend the broken relationship between us and God, caused by man’s first and all consequential disobedience. By doing so, he offers restoration and the ability to love him back, “because he first loved us” (I John 4:19).

Wow! So how do we reciprocate? We can love God volitionally when we:

  • Choose to accept his salvation made possible through Christ’s sacrifice (John 3:16).
  • Choose to praise him when circumstances don’t go our way (I Thessalonians 5:18).
  • Choose holiness over what the world tells us is acceptable (I Thessalonians 4:3-7).
  • Choose an attitude of truth over how we feel at the time (Philippians 4:4-7).

Love God Wholeheartedly

The second way to love God is with our “soul.” Wait, aren’t the heart and soul similar? Isn’t “heart and soul” an expression to mean “all of me”? Or what’s the difference? I’m no Bible scholar, so I did some digging.

When I graduated from high school, my aunt gifted me with a copy of Strong’s exhaustive concordance which has been a priceless reference for me. Strong’s reveals that “soul” comes from the Greek word “psuche,” from which we get our modern word “psyche.” According to dictionary.com, the word’s origin literally means “breath” or “to breathe, blow, hence, live.”

Okay, stay with me. Strong’s further clarifies that the related Hebrew word means “heart (+ily), life, mind, soul …”

I paused on the word heartily, because it instantly reminded me of Colossians 3:23.

“And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men …” (NKJV)

In other words, we’re supposed to love God with everything we’ve got, or, as my friend and author Ashley L. Jones often reminds us, with gusto!

Can you think of some ways we can do that? What might loving God with gusto look like for you on an everyday basis?

~ Kristen

 

[i] Faith Bible Ministries Blog does an excellent job of breaking down the biblical meaning of heart if you’d like more information.

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2 Realities of Reaching Worthy Goals

I’m convinced that anything worthwhile involves sacrifice. To reach a great goal, you have to give up good things.

Take sleep, for example. For the last two Saturdays, when many people enjoyed the chance to catch some extra Zs, I set my alarm early to go for a long run. Granted, I enjoyed the morning with some amazing running partners, but I had to sacrifice sleep, embrace sweat, and push through fatigue (and dewy cobwebs along the trail).

But I’ll never be ready for my half marathon in November if I don’t.

As I type those words, I laugh, because not many years ago, I couldn’t even run a mile. In fact, I received a doctor’s note that exempted me from my college physical education class on account of my back.

Those of you who’ve read The Revisionary may be having an aha moment right now. My heroine Portia suffers from scoliosis and a back injury, a physical obstacle she must overcome in order to reach her own goal. I often give my characters something that lets me relate to them better (or a “piece of myself”).

Little does Portia know when she starts training with Luther that she will need that physical endurance to survive her satellite sentence and the next part of her story (coming spring 2018).

Her regimen requires pain and grit. Giving up would be easy, but she doesn’t. Why? The reason is one she doesn’t fully understand yet.

#1 – Sacrifice now builds endurance for future circumstances.

Truth is, we often don’t know what those situations will be. We can’t know what we’ll face next year, let alone next week.

What we do today affects tomorrow. But how can we prepare for a future we can’t see?

In his awesome little book I Dare You, William Danforth describes how the four sides of life are connected. He challenges readers to exercise all sides of their personalities, following Jesus’ example in Luke 2:52.

And Jesus increased in wisdom (mental) and stature (physical), and in favor with God (spiritual) and men (social). (NKJV, parenthesis added)

Developing our mental, physical, spiritual, and social capacities in our current circumstances equips us to better face tomorrow’s challenges.

Maybe that’s why I like running: I can see all of these elements at work. In order to develop stamina (physical side), I need mental toughness (mental side). Friends (social side) often provide the encouragement and affirmation to stick with the routine. As I run, I enjoy quiet time with God, appreciate the beauty He’s provided in His creation for my enjoyment, and recognize the parallel between running a race and the Christian journey (spiritual side).

Many of my students are competitive athletes (such as in dance, swimming, or other sports) or enjoy pastimes such as acting or art. I’m sure they could share that these rewarding experiences require them to exercise discipline and say “no” to other fun activities their peers invite them to join. However, they’re committed and confident that what they’re practicing today will produce results.

How and when is up to God to decide.

#2 – To reach the prize, show up for practice.

Back in college, I never dreamed of running 13.1 miles, and even now, know that I have many more long, hard training days before I’m ready for the race on November 22.

But I know that to be ready, I have to show up when I’d rather hit snooze.

The same principle applies to all walks of life. In order to invest in a friendship or relationship, you must invest time and emotional energy. In order to write a book, you must resist the urge to flee from your computer when your screen contains nothing but white space. (Yes, as a writer, I feel that way sometimes.)

Do you have a goal you want to reach but feel you can’t? Start showing up for practice. Set the alarm and go running, even if you don’t get far the first dozen times. Sit down at that computer and type even if the words feel locked behind an insurmountable dam. Dedicate intentional time to build into that relationship. Block time out in your calendar for the calling God’s burdened you to do.

The bad news is that you’re going to have to give up other good things in the process. The good news is that those things aren’t the passions God’s laid on your heart right now and therefore not your priorities. There will either be another time for them, or God will provide other resources and people to meet those needs.

Whatever you do and whatever I do, we should do it all for the glory of God (I Corinthians 10:31).

As I get ready to run this race, I hope you’ll follow along with me as I share about it right here.

I’d also love to hear about your goals! Leave a comment so others and I can cheer you on your way and pray for you in the process.

~ Kristen

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