EDITOR'S NOTE: The following is an excerpt from Real Encouragement for Real Life by Jeff Schreve (From His Heart Ministries).

DOES GOD LIKE YOU?

I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness. —Jeremiah 31:3

When my wife and I first started dating and getting serious, my future mother-in-law was less than thrilled. She thought I was all wrong for Debbie, and she made no bones about the fact that she did not like me very much. When I asked for Debbie's hand in marriage, all her mother could do was cry. That was not the response for which I had hoped.

It was tough in those early days of our relationship, when we would get together with Debbie's mom (Debbie's dad liked me just fine). I tried to love her mom as she was, but it was uncomfortable being around someone I knew did not like me.  

Do You Like Me?

Have you ever had to be around someone who did not like you? Someone at work or at school or at church or in your own family … and you had to spend time with him or her. It is awkward and uncomfortable, isn't it? It is something that you dread, isn't it? 

Let's face it, we do not like to be around people who are disappointed, disgusted, and displeased with us. We shy away from encounters with those who don't like us very much. 

What about God?

I am convinced that the reason so many people spend so little quality time with God is because, deep down, they do not think God likes them very much. Sure, they know in their head that He loves them, but they are pretty sure He is displeased and disappointed with them most of the time. Listen, it is a chore—not a joy—to spend time with the Lord when you believe He is negative toward you. 

Nothing could be further from the truth. God thinks you are terrific! He thinks you hung the moon (well, actually He did, but you get the point). He has your picture in His wallet and your name on His lips. He thinks about you all the time and loves to spend time with you. He loves you with an everlasting love! He calls you His special treasure (Exodus 19:5).

"But Jeff, you don't understand. I have so much sin in my heart. How could God be anything but displeased with me?" Remember, God is displeased with sinful actions, but He is not displeased with you. There is a big difference between the two. 

My Girls

God has blessed me with three wonderful daughters. I am so proud of them and love to spend time with them. I think about them with joy, not disgust. Do they ever do things that displease me? Have I needed to discipline them for disobedience (although they are a little old for that these days)? Yes … but I am never displeased with them, just displeased with their actions from time to time. I would love them and want to be with them no matter what they did. They are my girls … and because they are my girls, I am well pleased with them. So it is with God and His children.  

Will You Accept It?

It is time for you to believe and receive the truth. Jesus said, "You shall know the truth, and the truth will make you free" (John 8:32). If you've asked Christ to come live in your heart, you are a child of God. And God is inviting you to spend time with Him … to rest in His unconditional love and enjoy it! He wants you to know that He not only loves you, but He likes you and thinks the world of you. He wants to be your best friend. What do you say to that?

THE HARDEST LESSON TO LEARN

For God so loved the world … John 3:16 

When our girls were little, we taught them this familiar little song: "Jesus Loves Me This I Know, for the Bible Tells Me So." What a simple message, easy enough for a child to understand. But the sad reality is this: so many people have trouble believing it is true. 

In my counseling and my personal life, I have found it is very easy to start thinking that God accepts and loves us on the basis of performance. We are quick to adopt the "daisy theology": "He loves me, He loves me not." We tend to think, God loves me if I am obeying Him, but He doesn't love me if I am failing Him. Your feelings may tell you that is a true statement, but I want you to know it is a lie! Regardless of your behavior or performance, God loves you!  

The Father with the Son

The day Jesus began His public ministry, the father's voice thundered from heaven as soon as Jesus was baptized, "This is My beloved Son in whom I am well-pleased. Listen to Him" (Matthew 3:17). How amazing; how significant! Before Jesus had performed one miracle, the Father publicly set His love and approval on Him. Do you see the principle? God does not love you based on your performance. He loves you because He chose to love you, regardless of your performance.   

If you know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, you are a child of God (1 John 3:1). And God loves His children, every one of them. He has no favorites, only intimates. And the intimates are those who have learned to believe and receive His love for them and act accordingly. 

The Secret to Pleasing God

Do you want to know the secret to pleasing God and living a life of obedience to His commandments? It all has to do with believing and receiving His great love for you. When you understand how much He really loves you, you can't help but really love Him back: "We love, because He first loved us" (1 John 4:19). And when you really love Him back, you obey Him: "He who has My commandments and keeps them, He it is who loves Me" (John 14:21). 

The key is love. It is all about love, God's love for you and your response of love for Him. That is why Jude earnestly pleads, "Keep yourselves in the love of God" (Jude 1:21). The love of God is the cornerstone of a victorious and thrilling Christian life.

Why not take some time today and meditate on His love for you? Read Ephesians 3:14-21, and let God root you and ground you in His limitless love. You will be amazed at the peace and joy that will flow into your heart as you believe and receive His love.  

"For this reason, I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name,  that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man; so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.  Now to Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen."  —Ephesians 3:14-21

LOOKING UP TO THE GOD WHO LOVES ME 

When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, 
which You have ordained; what is man that You take thought of him? And 
the son of man, that You care for him? Psalm 8:3-4 

When I was in college at the University of Texas, I used to go to the library at night to study. As I would walk home to my dorm at 11:00 p.m. or so, I would look up into the night sky and think about the greatness of God. I felt so small compared to the vastness of the universe. I would say with David, "Wow, Lord. Who am I that you would care for me or even give me a thought? You are so awesome, and I am so insignificant." 

The Truth of the Matter

God is so much greater than our minds could ever comprehend. He created all that we see, all that the highest-powered telescopes can reveal, just by the power of His Word. He simply spoke it all into existence. Universes drip off His fingertips. 

The Bible says that God is so "off the charts" glorious and majestic that He even has to humble Himself to behold the things in heaven (Psalm 113:6). Did you catch that? Every time God looks around heaven, it is a humbling experience for Him. Now, that is glory to the nth degree! 

And here is the even more amazing part: this same, infinite God is crazy in love with you and me. We matter to Him. He thinks about us all the time. His thoughts toward you and me outnumber the sand on the seashore (Psalm 139:18). How cool is that? 

Why Does God Love Us?

Why does God love you and me so much? Why did He send His Son to die such a horrible death for us on the cross? It is not because you and I are so wonderful; it is because God is so wonderful (Deuteronomy 7:6-9). The Scripture clearly tells us, "God is love" (1 John 4:8). Love is a big part of His nature.   

God chose to love us regardless of who we are or what we do. Because it was God's choice, it is not dependent on you and me. Talk about getting off the performance-based acceptance train! Here is truth to put in your heart: There is nothing you can do to get God to love you any more than He already does, and there is nothing you can do to get God to love you any less than He already does. He just loves you!  

Our job is to receive His love and rejoice in His love. Obedience to His commands comes when you realize that everything God tells us to do or not to do is for our greatest good. The God who loves me tells me yes to some things and no to other things. His commandments are not given to deprive me; they are given to bless me, because every one of them is given in love.   

Homework

Tonight, go outside and look up into the starry sky. Consider His heavens. Consider how great He is. Then, remember that the awesome God who made all that you see knows your name. He knows your circumstances. He knows your victories and your struggles. He knows everything there is to know about you, and He loves you still. 

Share your hopes, dreams, worries, and fears with Him. Tell Him that you love Him. Cast all your cares upon Him, because He really does care for you (1 Peter 5:7)! Remember this great word from Isaiah the Prophet, "For since the world began, no ear has heard, and no eye has seen a God like You, who works for those who wait for Him" (Isaiah 64:4 NLT)!  He truly will work in the hearts of those who will look to Him and wait for Him.  Will you do it? 

BELIEVE IT OR NOT … YOU ARE LOVED 

Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in my love. —John 15:9 

Quite often, I talk to people who have a hard time really believing that God truly loves them. They believe that God loves people, but they are not so sure He loves them. They do not see themselves as deserving or worthy of His love, so they surmise that He does not/could not love them. Does that describe you? 

In John 15, Jesus says to abide in His love, to stay connected and remain in His love. He says His love for you and me is as great as the Father's love for Him. Wow! Can you get your mind around that? 

BELIEVE IT! 

Without question, the most important thing in your life and mine is to believe this truth: God really does love us with an everlasting love. The greatest commandment is to love God with all we have within us (Matthew 22:37). We cannot begin to do this until we understand and receive His great love for us: "We love, because He first loved us" (1 John 4:19). 

One of my favorite verses in the Bible is found in 2 Chronicles 7:3, "And all the sons of Israel, seeing the fire come down and the glory of the Lord upon the house, bowed down on the pavement with their faces to the ground, and they worshiped and gave praise to the Lord, saying, ‘Truly He is good, truly His lovingkindness is everlasting.'" Did you catch that? It says, "truly!" Truly, He is good, and truly, He loves me! 

When I blow it and the devil moves in on me to tell me God does not love me anymore because of a sin I committed, I remind myself of "truly." When life is falling apart and I feel forsaken of God, I remind myself of "truly." The fact of "truly" trumps all my negative feelings and all the devil's lies. 

It is a rock-solid truth that God is good and that He loves you and He loves me. Over and over and over again, the Lord speaks of His lovingkindness (His loyal, faithful, and unfathomable love) toward us. If there is anything we should know from reading the Bible, it is this main truth. The bloody cross of Jesus Christ screams out these life-changing words, "I love you!" Even though you and I are sinners and have done terrible, horrible things, God still loves us and wants to work mightily in our lives. 

The Sooner, The Better

The sooner you believe and receive God's great love for you, the better you will be. What happens to a person who truly believes and receives God's great love? 

That person feels a tremendous sense of acceptance and peace. 

That person will be free to love the Lord back. 

That person will be free to love other people (see Romans 5:5).  

That person will be able to face life with joy and a song in his or her heart. 

That person will see difficult circumstances as an opportunity for Jesus to shine.  

My Confession

For me, I have to continually remind myself of the truth of God's love, because I can easily see all my shortcomings and conclude that there is no way He could love me. I can easily start focusing on all the negative circumstances in my life and conclude that all these difficulties are arising because He does not love me. Those are lies from hell! 

As I write this, I am making a fresh declaration this day. I invite you to join me in it: 

I am tremendously blessed and favored because the One who matters the most, God, thinks the world of me. He truly loves me … and nothing can ever change that (see Romans 8:38-39). He has purchased me with His own blood, and He has a special and wonderful plan for me. I choose to believe and receive His love and reject the devil's lies. I will rejoice and be glad this day because He loves me, He is good, and He never fails to work all things together for good in my life. 

Remember, my friend, your number-one job as His child is to keep yourself in His love … and love Him back with all that you are. If you do this each day, you will be led by His Spirit, and your life will be a great success in His eyes.