Uncategorized

What Does the Bible Say about God’s Love?

Is it possible for us as human beings to comprehend God’s love for us? God’s love is so huge that as the song says “If we with ink the ocean filled or were the skies of parchment made…to write the love of God above would drain the ocean dry…” (“O Love of God” by Frederick M. Lehman). If we caught a good glimpse, we would be absolutely overwhelmed by it.

But everyone longs for that love. I often think about a quote by Joyce Meyer that helps me picture God’s love. “Love is not something God does, it is who He is.” I know God loves me unconditionally, and yes, I realize that God is love according to I John 4:8. But still, I sometimes wonder how God can love me in his pure unconditional manner, and that love seems illusive.

It seems contradictory–God loves us without reservation but He does not love everything we do. He doesn’t. Some of you may remember the movie “Dirty Dancing” in which Frances (Baby) tells her father (and I don’t remember the exact quote) “If you love me, you’ve got to love everything about me.” Sounds good, but as with many things that sound good, Baby was wrong. Yep. You read that right. If a friend says they love everything about me, that is not unconditional love. If that same friend gently helps me see when I have done wrong—for example I might have been dishonest with that friend or they saw me take advantage of someone—that to me, is love. It is not judgment; it is loving me enough to help me correct the wrongs in my life. (Now, there is a big difference between lovingly and prayerfully correcting a person and continually nagging, constantly criticizing, or trying to “fix” someone. But that is a topic in itself.)

God loves us in spite of what we may do, in spite of our anger, disbelief, rebelliousness, bad habits, addictions, and you name it. (Something in your life probably came to mind as you read this.) But does that mean we continue in those behaviors because, after all, God will still love us, right? Yes, God will still love us, BUT because of what our sin (wrong behavior) does to us and to others, He wants us to turn from those sins. Can you see that? God loves us so much, He wants us to turn from behaviors that are not good for us. 

When we turn to him, the things controlling us will start to fade away. It may be very gradual. We might not even notice the changes, but they are occurring. I admit I have heard of people who immediately had victory over smoking or drinking alcohol. One lady’s negative attitude changed to an amazing ability to find joy in life, and her very countenance reflected this. But for most of us, change is a process. 

A Moment to Reflect

Love is who God is.

In His love God sent His son, Jesus, who died to pay the price for your sins and mine.

In repentance, we turn away from the sin and to God. That is the only way to defeat sin. We can’t just “try our best” to behave better. While we still have a decision to make regarding sin, the Holy Spirit will guide us and help us make good decisions.

Don’t beat ourselves up when we have sinned. Turn from that particular sin. Know Jesus’ arms are waiting, and He will forgive. He may not love the behavior, but He loves you.

Don’t equate mistakes with sin.  A sin is not necessarily what angers others or even what makes us feel guilty. Get that straight. If we have a difficult time distinguishing between sin and guilt feelings, we can ask for God’s guidance, and read what God’s word says is sin. God will relieve the guilt and shame as we look to Him. 

Prayer

God, I know You are here with me, and You love me as no other can. Help me be aware of that always, and help me to know that You do forgive. You are so crazy about me that it is hard to imagine the depth of Your love. Help me to turn to You for guidance and to find godly Christians who can help me in my walk with You.  

Scriptures to read:  I John 4:8; John 3:16; Acts 20:21; I Corinthians 10:13; Romans 8:1

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Encouragement, Uncategorized

A New Way

The Lord says—who makes a way in the sea and a path in the mighty waters, Don’t remember the prior things; don’t ponder ancient history. Look! I’m doing a new thing; now it sprouts up; don’t you recognize it? I’m making a way in the desert, paths in the wilderness.

Isaiah 43:16, 18-19 CEB

What goals or dreams do you have for the New Year? We often become discouraged when we don’t reach our goals during the year, or we make resolutions and feel ashamed because we cannot seem to keep them. January finds us in the gym, and by the end of February we’ve tapered off and the desire is no longer new and fresh. Our goal to write a book, to make the football team, to have a venue for our artwork, to see a marriage restored or to see a wayward child return may seem stymied by impossible circumstances.

I believe God wants us to dream and to create goals. But He wants to be included in those. So we need to discuss them with Him. Talk to Him about goals and plans and whatever wild ideas you may have. Present your ideas to Him without fear. Then consider these things as you pray:

  • Is this goal/dream/plan/idea a Biblical one? Is there any part of it that would violate God’s word?
  • Is this in His will for my life?
  • Do I need to seek godly counsel or input from Christian friends? This is almost always an excellent idea. Counsel from others can help us find a fresh perspective or guide us to the next step in reaching that goal.
  • Is the Holy Spirit leading me? Now that I’ve spoken, am I waiting to hear His voice?

Don’t be afraid to dream big dreams, to ask God for the impossible, and trust Him to help you conquer those insurmountable obstacles. God loves to show off by doing what seems impossible and what we could not do without Him.

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Prayer:

Dear Lord,  I want to follow you in all I do and accomplish the dreams you have for me.  Help me listen for Your still, small voice. I trust You to guide me, and I know You can do the impossible.

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Christ's Love

Overwhelmed

Oftentimes when I read the Bible, especially the Gospels, I am overwhelmed by God’s love for us, and by what Jesus did out of love while on this earth.

One example is before He celebrates the Passover with His disciples. In an intimate moment with these men whom He knows so well, Jesus performs the lowly job of washing their feet. The Son of Man bent down to cleanse the dirt (and who knows what else) off the road-weary feet of twelve men.

During the meal Jesus predicts Judas’s betrayal, and almost immediately, Judas leaves for a reason unknown to the others. And what is Jesus’ response after Judas is gone? He tells the others, “The Son of Man is glorified and God is glorified in Him.”  Jesus knows what is coming. He knows Judas has betrayal on his mind.  A betrayal that would lead Jesus to the Cross. A humiliating, torturous way to die. I think not only of the dread Jesus feels, but the heartache of seeing Judas leave His side. For money.

But He longs for God to be glorified through Him so He is willing to face this manner of death. He loves those men and us with such a passion that He is willing to go to a Roman Cross.

Jesus words stayed on my mind today, and I asked myself “How badly do I want God to be glorified?” “How much do I want people to see the love of Christ in me?” I may not be called to give up my physical life, but what about wrong attitudes, anger, resentment or an irritable spirit? Am I willing to give those up? Will I choose to take His commandment seriously and love others just as He loves me? Am I willing to serve in the same humble way Jesus did?

The servant is not greater than his master.

Prayer:

Lord help me develop a heart to serve others and to treat them with the love you have for me.

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Christ's compassion, Christ's Love

Abundant Life

Read John 10:1-14.

Have you ever considered your life to be worthless or that people would just be better off without you? I know, I know this sounds rather melodramatic to some, but in the depths of depression, there are loads of people who feel this way. And telling someone in the throes of this despondency that God loves them may be like singing a song to a deaf ear that cannot comprehend.

Or perhaps we’ve never experienced such sorrow so we just want to tell that individual “cheer up,” “look at the bright side,” or if we’re a little more blunt, “suck it up.” Unfortunately, even with good intentions, this type of advice can cause even greater despair.

Perhaps you are in a low place right now and just want to give up. Can I tell you that your life is worth a great deal to God? Even in the midst of circumstances that seem overwhelming. Even when you have committed some horrible sin, or have been caught up in an addiction, or deserted, or wrongfully accused, your life is meant…well, to live.

Jesus promised us abundant life as we follow Him (John 10:10). An abundant or satisfying life does not mean that everything will go our way. No, we will suffer. He promises us this. But our lives still matter and are worth living, even if the circumstances are horrific.

In John 10:1-14, notice what Jesus says about thieves, and contrast it to what He says about the good shepherd. The thieves (the enemy, Satan and his forces) want to steal and kill and destroy. So, there may be literal attempts on our mortal lives, attempts to steal our joy, or attempts to destroy our very reasons for living. There will be hard times but that does not mean we can’t have an abundant life. Not if you think of abundance as having a rich and wide variety of experiences.

Mankind dreamed of flying for millennia, and there were some rather humorous attempts at flight in our not-so-distant past.* Did you know an airplane (or bird for that matter) essentially “struggles” to get in the air? Lift and thrust must overcome the forces of gravity and drag. But once at cruising altitude we probably feel only the forward momentum, and if we are not afraid to look out the window, we can view mountains, forests, farm land, cities, all from a new and exciting perspective.

Consider that Jesus knows us in our struggles and is with us as we struggle through our daily lives. The thieves may be right outside the gate or climbing the walls, but the Good Shepherd is fighting for us. He has already laid down His life so that we may have a full, abundant, and satisfying life. Yes, we will face obstacles. Yes, we may face real danger. But remember Jesus has overcome the most powerful enemy…that of death.

Even now, He fights for you.

He loves you. Yes, really. Walk with Him. Just walk at His pace, in His path, and let Him guide you to abundant life.

A Moment to Reflect

Do you believe the Good Shepherd fights for you?

Have you ever survived something that was a real danger to your life? Do you feel as if God intervened?

Take a few minutes to laugh:

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Uncategorized

The Savior and His Mother at the Cross

Based on John 19:17-35.

As I type the words of the title, my heart wrenches for Mary, the mother of Jesus. I can’t imagine her absolute grief as she watched Him die in such agony. When my son died, he was in a hospital where the doctors and nurses did everything they could for him. They were compassionate and concerned. Even so, my sorrow was great.

Now I try to put myself in Mary’s place. Her situation is just the opposite of mine. The Roman soldiers deliberately torture Jesus as they put Him to death. I won’t get into all He suffers and all the physical details of crucifixion. Suffice to say, it is a slow, painful death.

And Mary is watching.

The soldiers show no concern—they are just following orders. Execute the man who calls Himself the king of the Jews. And do it in a way that is not quick or easy. They even gamble for his clothes while the Son of God hangs near-naked on a cross.

And His mother is there.

Other women are with her, including Mary Magdalene. John his beloved disciple stands with them. We’re not sure how long Mary stays at the cross, but when Jesus sees her and the disciple whom He loves, He declares the tender, practical words, “Dear woman, here is your son.” And to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” I think of the strength it must have taken to say those few words and wonder if he wanted to say anything else. “I love you, Mom,” or “You’ve been a great mother,” or perhaps “Thank you for all you did for me growing up.”  But His strength is gone.

Is this the moment the steel pierces her heart—the sword that Simeon predicted when Jesus first came to the Temple as a baby (Luke 2:34-35)?

While Mary’s eyes are blurred with tears and Roman soldiers taunt and torture our Savior, He takes the time to show a son’s love for His mother. With the rough wood against His beaten back—still fresh with wounds from the lead-tipped whip—He reaches out and cares for His mother.

At this time in history, it is important for a son to make sure His mother is cared for. As I’ve said before, life could be very difficult for women who had no husband, son or other male relative.

I’m not sure why Jesus does not assign the responsibility to one of His brothers. Perhaps it is because the beloved disciple is there at the cross, and He wants to make sure this detail is not left undone. Perhaps his brothers still have hard feelings towards Him, do not understand Jesus’ ministry, and have not spoken to him in years.

I’ve never suffered the physical or emotional pain Jesus did, but, as I consider His sweet words to His mother, I think about the times I have experienced hurt, emotionally or physically. Let me be honest. I seldom think about others when I am in serious pain. Oh no. It is all about me. Now, I don’t think God has a problem with us taking care of ourselves when illness strikes, but the fact remains that Jesus reached out to His mother while in anguish—an anguish I cannot imagine.

Let’s take a look back and consider how Jesus acts towards His mother at another time. In Matthew 12, someone informs Him that His mother and brothers want to see Him. He points to those listening, to those who follow Him, and declares them to be His family. At this point in time, His sole desire is to bring others into the Kingdom so that He could relate to them as brothers and sisters and mothers (Matthew 12:46-50).

But now, the focus seems to change, and He acts as the responsible son. With the love he has shown others, He now demonstrates a love for the mother who bore Him and raised Him.

Jesus, the holy Son of God, became a man so that others can become a part of His family. Yet as human son, He made sure His precious mother would be taken care of at His death.

A Moment to Reflect

As Christ-followers, we love to celebrate the Resurrection, as well we should. But I want you think about the cross for a few minutes, and what Jesus went through. I did not get into the details, but remember that He was tortured to death by people hardened to suffering. Think about the simple statement: “Pilate took Jesus and had him scourged.” The “scourging” alone probably put Him into a state of shock, and He would have been in serious or even critical condition. This is overwhelming to me. Perhaps there is something specific Jesus went through that you think is particularly heinous. Can you take a moment to thank Him for doing this for you?

Also thank Jesus for the way He ministered to His mother. Ask Him to help you see His ministry to you in a practical way. You could even ask Him to show you how precious you are to Him. Thank Him for any answers you receive, and take time to record them. Then take the time to show God’s love to another.

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Christ's Love

Peace to You, My Children

Have you ever wished you could just disappear? Responsibilities weigh you down, and you want to leave them behind. That weight perhaps causes you to forget the good things, the blessings you have.

Maybe you feel this way now or have felt this way in the past. There is no peace in your home, in your job, your community, let alone in your country and in the world. You are tired of the bickering in politics. Yes, I “went there” because I have found that putting my energy into “whose side” I’m on can drain me. My fear of the future may haunt me because of what the politicians are doing or not doing. Or because of war or the threat of war.

The Eleven disciples who remained after Judas died are different from us though, right? They know they have to continue His mission. They’re not worried about the political atmosphere or the Roman’s torture. So, they go out and preach everywhere the Gospel and love of Christ!

Oh, wait. No, they don’t.

Instead, they go into hiding. Fearful of the Jews—which meant, by the way, the fear of the Jewish leaders—they disappear from the public eye. Huddling together, they lock the doors. But without a warning, instead of a dreaded pounding on the door, Jesus appears in their midst.

And is He ever upset with them! He reminds them that they’ve denied Him, deserted Him, and even fallen asleep while He asks them to pray (Matthew 26:36-45, 56, 69-75). I can hear Him saying, “Hey guys, you know the plan. Why are you hiding? I faced the same threats you’re afraid to face. Now get out there and do what I told you to do!”

At least that’s what He could have told them. But instead, His first words are “Peace be to you.”

Wow. I get so excited when I think of Jesus uttering those words to them in love. In absolute love.

They are frightened by His appearance, thinking He is a ghost or spirit. At this point Jesus seems disappointed with their doubt yet He tells them to “Handle me and see…” in order to assure them it is Him in the flesh. (Luke 24:36-40).

After this event (we don’t know how much later), Peter announces he is going fishing, and some of his fishing buddies decide to go with him. I’m not sure what motivates Peter, but he heads out to his former occupation. Apparently, Peter does not want the responsibilities of being a fisher of people with the obligation of not only catching them, but teaching and training them as well. No, he seems to be done with that.

So off they go. Back to what they’ve always done. The men fish all night as is the custom, but by morning, they have caught nothing.

Someone on the shore calls out, and the voice carries across the water, “Children, do have any food?”

With a weary sigh, they holler back, “No.”

Who is this guy anyway?

Maybe they should have known when He calls them “children,” but only after He tells them to cast the net on the other side of the boat, and they catch a net full of fish does Peter realize “It’s the Lord!” And Peter, being Peter, jumps in the water and swims towards Jesus.

When they haul the fish to shore, Jesus invites them to breakfast. He asks them to bring Him some of the fish they’ve caught even though he has already started cooking. He tells them to come and eat. He doesn’t fuss at them for fishing. He doesn’t tell them they should be ashamed for trying to net fish when he has told them to fish for people (John 21:3-13).

Do these reactions by our Lord surprise you? Don’t we sometimes see God waiting to fuss at us when we lack faith or when we turn back to our old ways?

But look at what Jesus does. He knows these men are hungry after working a physically exhausting and discouraging job. So, he prepares a meal for them. I also think He longs to sit with these men and enjoy their company before ascending to the Father. Just chill with his homeboys.

That is God. It is a beautiful picture of Him. He understands. He comes to us in our need and even in our doubts. He holds us close, sits with us in fellowship, and invites us to sup with him, to be nourished at his hand.

I know God disciplines us and guides us away from the wrong path, or even away from a good path to the best one, but He knows our needs too. He understands when we falter. He will come to us, remind us He is our peace, and remind us we are His children.

Perhaps He calls to you today. “Children, have you any meat?” If you don’t, He has something that will fill you.

No matter what your need, He longs to satisfy it. Bow to Him, set your longings at His feet, and trust Him to sustain you.

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Christ's Love, Sorrow

Comfort to Pass on

God's comfort

Have you ever experienced God’s comfort in a real and almost tangible way? I hope you have. But in order to experience that comfort we must also experience pain–emotionally or physically. At the same time, pain in this life is unavoidable. Experiencing the comfort only our God can give makes the pain, not only bearable,  but also worthwhile.

Most of us know that sooner or later we experience less than ideal circumstances. Something we didn’t see coming. Something that overwhelms us and brings us to our knees. It may not seem like a tragedy, but we are inconsolable because of a rejection, a broken relationship, a lost job or any number of crises. That broken relationship or rejection could be a spouse leaving or a grown child you haven’t heard from in years. That lost job could be what you thought was a God-given calling. But then the doors slammed shut. And you were left to figure out what to do next, attempting to make sense of this loss, and perhaps determined to never dream big again.

Second Corinthians teaches us that God is a God of comfort “who comforts in all our tribulation.” In all our tribulation. That includes trials, conflicts, rejection, and broken dreams. Isn’t it wonderful that the God of the universe wants to gather you in His arms and comfort you?

But there’s more to this promise. He comforts us “so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” You get that? We are to comfort others with the same comfort God has given us. That may make some of us uncomfortable. We may not like the idea of comforting others. But every gift God gives us–mercy, kindness, love, comfort–is something we can pass on to others.

It may be that our own tears need to clear a bit before we are ready to reach out, but eventually we’ll see someone who needs our compassion because they are going through a similar sorrow. Our hearts will stir, and we will be able to pass that wonderful gift of God’s comfort on to another.

Prayer:

God, please use my hurts so that I may see you as my Comforter, and please use those hurts as a way for me to comfort others who are in need.

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