John 3:16

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A Love Story Worth Telling

Published October 11, 2013 by joypatton

I recently read a story about gospel artist Bryan Popin and how he and his wife met.

Bryan&SusanPopin-30 CROPPED AND EDITED copyPrior to the release of his latest album “You Can Make It,” gospel artist Bryan Popin experienced many difficult moments through which he learned to persevere.  Perhaps none was more life-changing than when performing at a conference just outside of Fort Wayne, Indiana. After playing his first song, he scanned the audience and his eyes were instantly drawn to a girl named Susan.

“She just glowed,” Popin says. “I was stunned. Watching her worship with her hands lifted to God was about the coolest thing I’d ever seen—at least to a 16-year old boy that was in ministry.”Immediately following service, Popin proclaimed to his mother that this was the girl he was going to marry. 

Two years later, he returned to that church in Indiana, but Susan wasn’t there. Instead, her father informed Popin that she was now living in Los Angeles. Another two years later, Popin visited a different church in the Fort Wayne area and amazingly saw Susan’s parents again. This time, the 20-year old musician took decisive action. He asked the father for her phone number.

 “I called her the very next morning,” Popin says. “In fact for four days, she didn’t even call me back. So then I started sending her flowers every day. By the seventh day, she called me and asked me to please stop sending flowers because she wasn’t in a good place. It wasn’t the reaction I was expecting, but at least I’d gotten Susan to talk to me.”

Popin then poured out his heart. He told her how he had missed his opportunity four years earlier and how desperately he wanted the chance to pursue a relationship with her. But then Susan had something important to say.

 “Eight months earlier, Susan had gotten married and was now pregnant,” Popin explains. “When her husband found out, he closed their joint bank account and left her. She was moving home to Indiana to be back with her family.”

Over the next several months, Popin consistently traveled to Indiana to visit Susan. “When I finally got to hold the newly-born Isabella Grace in my arms and look into her big beautiful brown eyes, I fell deeply in love for a second time,” Popin says.

 About 18 months later, Popin married Susan and they have been together ever since.  Popin and his wife Susan now have four beautiful children.

 “I wasn’t planning on getting married and having an immediate family, but I loved Susan and fell in love with Isabella,” Popin says. “She has totally changed my world. She showed me what true love was. When you’re a dad with a little girl, it’s pure, innocent love. But as much as I love my four children and my wife, even more than that, God loves us. It’s just mind-boggling.”

I loved this story, and thought it was such a beautiful picture of God’s persistent, pursuing love for us.  There’s part of us that says, “I wish someone would love me that way.”  Whether you are a teenager, a single woman or a married woman with an imperfect husband (I think that covers everyone), the heart of a woman wants to be pursued and valued and chosen.  You may look at their story and want what they have, but the good news is that you already have it.

Jesus has chosen you.  He saw you across time and picked you to be his.  He is sending you flowers every day all around you to let you know he wants a relationship with you.  The problem is that many of us feel like Susan probably did when Bryan called her in L.A.  We feel like we have messed things up and that no one could possibly choose to love us again.  We believe we are damaged goods because we are “not in a good place.”

This is me.  I reject the good news of God’s everlasting love because I know that I don’t deserve it.  I reject his love, not because of who he is, but because of who I am.  I put him off and tell myself we will get back together when I’m in a better place.  Do you see how the story would have changed if Susan would have done this?  Do you see all the love she would have missed had she refused to let Bryan in?

Jesus is standing there telling you that he loves you with arms full of flowers even in your “bad place.”  Often we act like the gospel story begins with “Because we were such great sinners and made such a big mess, God sent His Son into the world.”  I hear this version preached from the pulpit very often.  And while it is true, it is not the beginning of the story.  The story really begins with “For God so loved the world that he gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in him will not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)

Don’t leave the love out of the gospel.  Don’t forget that you have already been loved, chosen and pursued by God.  Do not reject his advances toward you and his voice that gently calls you to love him.  Instead return his call and receive his love.  You don’t have to be in a “good place” to be in a relationship with him.  “You did not choose me, but I chose you.” (John 15:16)

Popin’s album “You Can Make It” will be released October 22 through a partnership with eOne Music and will be the first national debut for this piano player who is dedicated to bringing his listeners closer to the heart of God. Check it out here: http://bryanpopin.com/

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Free Advice Friday: What are some good worship songs when you’ve messed up big time?

Published September 21, 2012 by joypatton

It’s the first ever Free Advice Friday on my blog!  Every Friday I’m turning this blog into an advice column.  Ask me anything from dating (didn’t date much, but have lots of interesting opinions), marriage (been married 15 years), parenting (have 4 kids), friendships (have had some good and some bad) or spiritual life (I have one).  I’m not sure that I will have great answers, but I know Someone who does.  My hope is that together we can carry our burdens into His presence and lay them at his feet.

Last week a friend texted me this question and I thought it was a good start for Free Advice Friday: What are some good worship songs when you’ve messed up big time?

My favorite worship album right now is Jason Gray’s “A Way to See in the Dark.”  I bought it because I heard the first song “Remind Me Who I Am” on KLove Radio in Nashville.  “In the lonely places when I can’t remember what grace is, remind me who I am to you.”  This is my new theme song.  When I get stuck in my Ice Queen and Orphan thinking, I need him to remind me that I am His Princess, his beloved.  “I’m the one You love.”

Another one of my favorites is “I Will Find a Way.”  In the beginning it talks about a woman is who so broken and afraid that she has shut the door of her heart.  “How should I come to the one that I love?  I will find a way.”  He loved her so much that he found a way to reach her and come into her heart.  I’m reminded how much the Father has loved us to send His only Son.  My other favorites on the album are “No Thief Like Fear,” “Nothing is Wasted,” and “Fear is Easy, Love is Hard.”  You can see why this is a great album for all my Orphan girls out there.

Another song that must be on this list is “One Thing” by Kristian Stanfill. “Your Love never fails, it never gives up, it never runs out on me.”  When we sing it in church, it sounds almost like a chant.  When I’ve messed up, I need to believe that his love is there, no matter what.

The problem is that when I mess up, it’s really hard to believe that God still loves me.  This exposes the lie that I believe that God loves me because of what I do.  Because I obey him or because I serve him or because I read my Bible and go to church.  None of those are the reasons that he loves me.  He loved me before I knew how to do any of those things.  He loved me while I was still a sinner (Romans 5:8).  So now that I’m “righteous,” has his love grown or changed?  By no means!  God’s love has no levels, no more and no less.  It has always been and will always be 100% plus infinity.

If Satan can get me to believe that God doesn’t love me, he can keep me from the cross, the ultimate sign of love.  When I doubt God’s unconditional love for me, then I am slow to repent because I don’t believe he even wants me back.  Eventually I stop repenting all together.  I stop going back to ask forgiveness again.  I stop bringing the things I did in the dark into the light.  And then I’m right where the enemy wants me, isolated, alone, in despair because I have no remedy for my sin.  This is the place where he is able to steal, kill and destroy this little lamb of God (John 10:10).

But when I am reminded of his great love, that his love for me remains, then I am free to run back to the cross and repent.  When I confess and agree with God that I messed it up again, he is faithful to forgive (I John 1:9).  I can agree with Satan that I am all those horrible things he has called me, “weak, pathetic, unworthy of love and disgusting.”  BUT GOD loves me!  I don’t know why, and I know I don’t deserve it.  This is the great mystery. But I do know that he loves me.  Because I know his love, I can trust that my sin is forgiven.

When I mess up and repent, I invite God in to be the solution.  I can ask him to show me the patterns that keep putting me in tempting situations.  I can ask him to show me the root beliefs that drive my sinful behaviors.  I can invite him in and ask him to heal those wounded places that I keep trying to heal myself.  I can live in the light and be in relationship with others because I know that I am deeply loved.  There is power in repentance because I admit that I am powerless over my own sin, that I cannot save myself, that I need Someone bigger than myself outside of myself to rescue me.

So my beloved, dear Princess, beautiful child of God…know that you are deeply loved today.  “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son.” (John 3:16)

What songs have helped you when you have messed up?

If you have a question for Free Advice Friday, email me at joy@joypatton.com.  If I answer your question in my blog next week, I will send you a copy of my book The Myth of Enuff.

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