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Archive for the tag “God’s love”

Good Enough Standard

Sometime in my life, I adopted the “good enough” standard. I am not a perfectionist, although I do have a tendency to lean in that direction. When I get to that point of wanting that thing to be perfect, I have to remind myself it can be just good enough to get it done. I want the job to be done correctly, but all the “i’s” don’t have to be dotted as long as the “t’s” are crossed. There’s a point when the standard has to be “good enough.” That might go against someone else’s OCD, but it might be time to just let it go!

However, the standard of “good enough” doesn’t relate to the Kingdom of God. There isn’t a standard of good enough but of perfection. Scripture tells us no one is good. We could compare ourselves to each other, but we would still fall short of God’s perfection. There’s only one who met His perfect standards – Jesus Christ. He is the standard God set before us.

There are many who believe in the standard of good enough. “I am better than my neighbor or the murderer on death row.” Many believe they can “earn” their way into heaven by doing good works. Many believe this life is it. You only live once, so live it up. Still others say that since they are good, then they will end up in a good place. Many believe the Bible is outdated and not worth the paper it’s written on. Some say that it’s just a crutch for those poor, unstable folks.

Heaven and hell are hard topics to wrap our heads around. I mean, what loving God would throw good people in hell? If there is no hell, then we wouldn’t have to worry about what happens next. We could all live happily ever after. We could have our cake and eat it too! We wouldn’t have to worry about laws. We could kill whoever we wanted to; we could steal anything our heart desires. We could live a life that throws all caution to the wind. It wouldn’t matter. There are no consequences to our actions. But there are rules of the land, and we have to abide by them. God has rules as well whether we believe it or not, and we have to live by them or face His consequences.

Jesus set the standard that we cannot meet, unless we have His salvation that clothes us in His righteousness. I like the illustration that Joyce Meyer uses about our sinful lives. She had an old dirty coat that she wore on stage. The dirty coat represented her sins. There was nothing she could do to make that coat clean. However, her husband came out on stage in a white coat. He played the part of Jesus. Jesus took off His white coat and gave it to Joyce in exchange for her dirty coat. That is the exchange that was made on the cross. Jesus took on our sins and in exchange gave us His righteousness; not because of our goodness but because of His.

I heard that there are no good people in heaven, only forgiven ones. If there was a different way to get to heaven, He died in vain. Jesus even asked if God would take the cross from Him, but in the end said “Your will be done” – and it was. Jesus was nailed to a cross as the Lamb of God, slain for the sins of the world. The sacrifice was made. If there had been another way to heaven, God would have opted His Son to take a different route to get there.

It’s interesting about the symbolism that the Old Testament uses throughout to prophecy the coming of Jesus Christ as a Lamb to be sacrificed. One of the best symbols is Abraham and his son, Isaac. Abraham was told to sacrifice his son just as God would sacrifice His own Son. Isaac carried the wood for the sacrifice like Jesus carried His cross. Isaac was bound to the wood like Jesus was bound to the cross. Isaac was ready to be sacrificed, but God stopped Abraham’s hand and gave him another to sacrifice in Isaac’s place. But God did not stop Jesus from the sacrifice.

There was nothing else God could put in Jesus’ place. Jesus came for that mission. His eyes were set for the cross. If there was another way, it would have been taken. But the good enough standard was not met. It had to be a perfect sacrifice, and Jesus was perfect. The Bible tells us so. Not only that; but the ones who walked with Jesus for three years, told us the story. They witnessed and proclaimed all that happened.

Not only that; but the story has lasted for two thousand years, and it still changes people’s lives. I am one of them. Jesus changed my life. I know myself pretty well, and I can tell you I will never be good enough for heaven. But I am forgiven; I know that because of Jesus and what He did on the cross for my sins, I have been given a place in heaven. He told me so in His Word, and I believe it. I stand on that promise: wherever He is we will be there also (John 14:3).

Where do you stand on the topic of heaven or hell? What’s your measuring stick? Are you good enough? Don’t believe the lie, you will never be good enough, but God said that Jesus is. Trust Him and have faith in His dying on the cross for your sins – He was raised to a new life and you can be too. Believe it and confess it; and I’ll see you in heaven!

“And he ordered us to preach everywhere and to testify that Jesus is the one appointed by God to be the judge of all—the living and the dead. He is the one all the prophets testified about, saying that everyone who believes in him will have their sins forgiven through his name.” Acts 10:42-43 (NLT)

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Season of Preparation

For the last two years, I have been working with a natural, functional practitioner. She began her practice as a chiropractor, but her practice has evolved over the years. I am just fascinated at all she has learned over the years, and I am so encouraged by the way she helps others to better health. For the last thirteen year, I also have benefited from her practice. She is the one who diagnosed me with an autoimmune disease, and the one who pointed me to a healthier lifestyle that I still practice today. She has been instrumental in my healing journey.

Over the weekend, my sister asked me what I plan to do with the knowledge that I am learning from the doctor. I really don’t know what I am going to do with all that I learn. I just know this is preparation for something to come. It has to be since I want to benefit others by what I know. My doctor gave me a seed of knowledge that has grown into a full passion for the health and well-being of building up the body of Christ. I want the body of Christ to be healthy and whole. I can’t say that we are right now, but I hope that one day we will be a picture of true health. I want to be a part of that journey.

So the eclipse happened on Monday. I saw glimpses of the path of totality but my location only gave 93% totality. I started noticing the change in light about 1:45 pm. I noticed an eerie light and had to see what was going on. My colleague had a pair of glasses so I was able to actually see the moon crossing the sun. However, the 93% still gave enough light to drive out the darkness. Isn’t that amazing?

As the body of Christ, we can bring just a sliver of light to drive out the darkness around us. We’re actually supposed to be more than a sliver, but it really doesn’t take much to make a difference. Monday evening was also the beginning of the Jewish month of Elul. I don’t know much about the festivals of the Jewish calendar, but I have learned a few things over the last few years. The month of Elul is the last month of the Jewish year. This is considered the month of preparation before the Day of Atonement which happens forty days later.

As I listened to different speakers concerning this eclipse, I learned a couple of interesting facts about the time of Jonah. Before Jonah found his way to Nineveh, they had already experienced several signs of destruction. They had already experienced a couple of plagues and a civil disturbance. But most notably, they had experienced their own total eclipse that was just a couple of months before Jonah showed up preaching repentance.

If you remember the story, Jonah began to tell the people “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned.” The Word says that Nineveh believed God (Jonah 3:4-5). Everyone in that city humbled themselves – from the least to the greatest. The king made a decree for all people to fast and pray urgently for God to relent and have compassion on them. And God did. God saw they had repented and turned from their evil ways. God spared that generation from the destruction that would eventually come.

So this month of Elul, the month of preparation before the Day of Atonement (begins at sundown on September 29), the people of God repent of their sins and do what is necessary to become clean so they will be ready for that Day. It’s a season of calling out to God that He would forgive them and cleanse them. Maybe we as the Body of Christ should do this as well. Maybe we should be on our knees before God asking for forgiveness for ourselves and our nation. Maybe God would hear our prayers and would spare this generation from the destruction that will eventually come. Maybe judgment will be delayed if we humble ourselves before Him.

Maybe it starts with me. And you. We need to come into agreement as all of Nineveh did that we need forgiveness and plead with God to send the Holy Spirit flowing boldly through this land. We need Him desperately. He is the only One who can bring a revival to His Body that would change this nation. But it takes us getting on our knees – humbly – before Him. This is the season of preparation. Are you willing to prepare for that Day?

“This is the crisis we’re in: God-light streamed into the world, but men and women everywhere ran for the darkness. They went for the darkness because they were not really interested in pleasing God. Everyone who makes a practice of doing evil, addicted to denial and illusion, hates God-light and won’t come near it, fearing a painful exposure. But anyone working and living in truth and reality welcomes God-light so the work can be seen for the God-work it is.” John 3:19-21 (MSG)

His Love Endures

I woke up this morning with this thought on my mind – His love endures forever. It’s the message from the 136th Psalm, which recounts the Israelite’s journey with the response of God’s love enduring forever as He carried them through as they reached the Promised Land. With that thought on my mind, I recalled the books that I have read over the last three weeks. Three different books with one theme – God carries us through those tough times because of His love for us. Not because of our goodness, but because of His.

The first book was the real life story of enduring brain trauma by Laura Story (When God Doesn’t Fix It). Her husband had a brain tumor that was removed but complications set in. When they got married, they expected a perfect life. But one and a half years in, their lives took an unexpected turn. Their story will never be perfect. Their lives are hard because God didn’t fix the problem or heal Laura’s husband. But God still carries them through. God’s love endures forever.

The next book I read was from Jerry Jenkins (Though None Go with Me) about a modern-day version of the account of Job, if he was a woman set in the early 20th century. The story is about the tragedy of this woman’s life as she endured the hardships of loss, misfortune and loneliness through the ages. She dedicated her life to God at an early age as the “experiment of obedience.” Through all the hard times, she could have cursed God; but she remembered her dedication on that day when she gave it all to Him. The pastor told her on that day that her life would not be easy. And it wasn’t. But through it all, God carried her through. God’s love endures forever.

The last book I finished yesterday was from Francine Rivers called Tamar. It’s a fictional account of the historical story of Judah and Tamar. The story is found in Genesis 38, set in the middle of the account of Joseph’s story. It’s like a little rabbit trail that the writer takes us on as we read through Joseph’s life. I’ll get back to Francine’s story in a minute. This account of Judah’s life is interesting to me.

Early on in my life, I thought Jesus’ line came through Joseph, not Judah. I mean, Joseph got the most write-up, right? So wouldn’t it stand to reason, God had selected him for the role in Jesus’ lineage? Joseph was the righteous one not Judah. Judah did a great injustice to Joseph. However, Judah played a role for God to bring Joseph to the place he needed to be in order to save the Israelites. Judah does step up in the end of the story to help right the wrong, but I don’t know why Judah was God’s man; especially after the story of Tamar. Do you know the story?

Tamar was a Canaanite woman who was given to Er, Judah’s first born son, to be his wife. Er did what was wrong in the sight of God, and God took him out of the picture. Tamar was given to the second son, Onan. Again, he also did what was wrong in the sight of God, and he too was taken out. So Tamar is without a son to carry on Judah’s line, but there was a third son. However, after two sons dying; Judah was not inclined to give this girl another chance. So she was sent back home.

After a time, she realizes Judah is not going to do the honorable thing and takes matters into her own hands. After Judah’s wife dies, Tamar sets up a plan to deceive Judah by playing a temple prostitute. The plan works; she conceives twins. One of those twins, Perez, is the one who is in the line of Jesus. Fascinating, isn’t it?

Francine’s book is about the fictional account from Tamar’s point of view. Although Tamar was a Canaanite, she began to believe in Judah’s God (fictional account). God carried her through the tragedies that she endured through those harsh times. Because Tamar did what she needed to do to carry on Judah’s line, God blessed her and gave her two sons for Judah. Judah did the right thing in the end. And maybe the story of Judah finally taking responsibility for Joseph was because of Tamar. In the end, Judah’s line continues because of God’s love endures forever.

These books made me think of God’s love for us. He really does carry us through; not because of us and our goodness, but because of His goodness and His love for us. His love does endure forever. We are His creation. He called all that He had made very good. We don’t always do what’s right in His sight. But He loves us anyway. His love is shown through His Son. His Son is our example of His love enduring forever. That truly is very good. Thank you, Jesus for Your constant love for us. Believe it and let Him carry you through.

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.
His love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of gods.
His love endures forever.
Give thanks to the Lord of lords:
His love endures forever.
to him who alone does great wonders,
His love endures forever.
Psalm 136:1-4

 

Becoming Successful

I listen to Andy Andrews’ podcast on a weekly basis. On one podcast recently, Andy mentioned this little book that had a major impact on his life. It is called The Greatest Salesman of the World by Og Mandino. I was curious, and I had to check it out. The book is small and has much to say about how to live a life with success. There are ten “scrolls” in this book that give guidance on how to become successful. I don’t see myself as a salesperson, so I didn’t know if it would be relevant to me. However, as I read through it the first time, there are many things that I could incorporate in my life to be a better witness for Jesus.

The book mentions that in order to incorporate these tips in one’s life, the reader needs them to become a habit. A habit is something that is done with regularity. The suggestion is to read one “scroll” a month. Read that one every day; morning, noon, and night; for 30 days. As the reader sits with it daily, it seeps into the subconscious; it starts to shape how we think and also gives us a different perspective about how to live our lives. Andy suggested doing it, so I started the journey to become successful!

I began with the second scroll instead of the first. The second is how to become successful by using love as the tool. As I sit with this one “scroll” this month, it is a reminder that this is what I am supposed to be doing as a follower of Jesus. As I stated earlier, I don’t see myself as a salesperson. Although I have written two books, I don’t necessarily want to go out and sell them. I would like for them to sell without my actual effort in doing so. My focus isn’t on writing or selling books but, how to live out this life as a follower of Jesus. The books are what I have experienced in life. What’s that have to do with selling though? We all sell something at some point in our lives. Whether we are “selling” the Gospel message to our friends and family or have an actual product we believe is worth selling.

The love chapter starts with this: “I will greet this day with love in my heart.” The author believes this is the “greatest secret to success.” Nobody will pay attention to our words until they feel the love directed toward them. The world is looking for love – mostly in the wrong places. One sentence stands out to me in this section: “Always will I dig for reasons to applaud; never will I scratch for excuses to gossip.” Digging is always more work than scratching, wouldn’t you agree? We may have to look deeper for the ways to love someone, but there is always something there to love. God said we are all made in His image. If that is the case, then that is the reason to love each and every person on this earth. (And yes, even the political ones!)

The world is in turmoil and no government official is going to turn the tide. It’s going to take a move of love to change people’s perception – not only of us, but of God the Father and Jesus the Son as it’s done through God’s Spirit leading the way. People are looking for something. They just don’t know what they are actually seeking. We are told in Holy Scripture that we will be known for our love. If we love God, then God’s love is in us, and we love through His love. It’s who we are as the Body of Christ. We are to reflect His character. But really, it feels impossible! People are so difficult to love!

Yet, Jesus said this is the second greatest suggestion – I mean, commandment – love others. The greatest commandment of all is to love God with all our being. As I contemplate this little book; and as I see our nation falling apart at the seams, it reminds me that this move to love starts with me. I have to change the way I look at people. Yes, they are difficult, but there is something God put in them to love. We may have to dig it out, but it can change a person when we represent love well. No one can withstand the force of love. It’s up to me to take the first step toward this change. Will you join me in becoming successful?

If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. 1 John 4:15-17

Source: Og Mandino, The Greatest Salesman in the World (originally published by Frederick Fell, January 1968; Bantam edition March 1974; Bantam Trade edition February 1985) pages 58-62

The Anchor

As I was walking up the sidewalk to my church building on Sunday, I noticed two women coming out of the first gathering. They were talking with one another in a different language. Isn’t it amazing that we can all gather together no matter the language barrier and worship the same God? No matter the color of our skin, the language we speak, the culture we grew up in – God is God of all. He knows every one’s name; knows every one’s heart and He loves us anyway! God’s family is so diverse, and we can be a part of it. My local church body represents about eleven different nations under one roof. I find that amazing.

Contrast the unity I experienced on Sunday with the divisive experience we are having in this country at this moment in time. My perspective will be totally different than one whose skin is darker than mine. I cannot walk in their shoes. But that doesn’t mean I can’t have empathy and compassion for their struggles. I wish there wasn’t a struggle. I wish we could live like we’re supposed to live – as one who loves another – not as tolerant people, but ones who truly love one another and even love all our differences. Differences make the world go round. If we were all the same, how boring would that be? Yet, we were all made differently AND all made in the image of God.

It’s interesting that this week of all weeks I was studying “shoes of peace” in the Armor of God study. The week that has been without peace shows our greatest need of peace. But it will not come at the expense of removing guns from the hands of individuals – if one wants to kill, they can find any method available to do the job – sure guns are the most available and impersonal way of killing; but there has to be another way to solve the problem. The very simplistic answer is Jesus. He is the only peace we’ll find in the craziness of this world. And Scripture tells us, it’s going to get worse not better. There doesn’t seem to be much hope in the future, does it?

In Andy Stanley’s message on Sunday – actually it was an interview of sorts – he made the comment about the diversity in the early church. For the first twenty years, the early church dealt with a great deal of racial tension. Between Jews and Gentiles, slaves and freed men, and then throw women in the mix; it was just all kinds of tension going on. Jews did not associate with Gentiles on any level. The women were considered second class citizens. Before the early church even got off to a running start, God had to deal with the racial tensions, or else the movement would have fizzled from the start. Jesus elevated everyone to the same level.

Jesus had already addressed the idea of “clean and unclean” in a message to the Pharisees. The Pharisees were concerned with the disciples’ unsanitary eating habits. Jesus said it wasn’t what was on the outside that made a person unclean but it’s the heart that matters. The Pharisees had a heart problem, and it would keep them out of the Kingdom of God.

The heart is still the problem today. Nothing has changed much in 2000 years – actually since the beginning of time. We still have issues that need to be resolved; not through violence but through love. But nothing will change unless hearts are turned toward Jesus. Jesus told His followers that we will have trials and sorrows; it’s part of life. However, He came to give us a new life and a new hope. He is the only one who can give us peace. We cannot have peace of God if we do not have peace with God.

Apostle Paul likened peace to the shoes of a soldier. A Roman soldier wore sandals with knobs. It helped the soldier stand firm in the face of the enemy. Peace is our anchor; it holds us firmly in place when the craziness of the world around us feels off kilter. Jesus is the answer we seek to overcome the strife we find in this current world. He is our anchor in the storm. Peace is available for every individual who calls upon the name of Jesus. He provides what we need to calm the storms in our lives.

I wish we could all live in harmony now, but I know it is impossible through our own human effort. But what’s impossible for us to do, God makes all things possible. One day it will be different. Martin Luther King, Jr. had a dream. One day it will be realized. One day all things will be made new. That’s the hope of our future.

“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 (NLT)

Father’s Day

Over the weekend, I reflected on our family vacation. A couple of thoughts came to mind that I would like to share. My nephews have turned out to be good Dads. All my nephews have children now and to see them interacting with their kids is very heart-warming. Throughout the week, I observed the interactions with father and son, and fathers and daughters. Right now, we have an abundance of little girls. The girls’ interaction with their Dads is a little different than the father and son relationship. The father interacted more robust with tossing the son about, while the girls were handled with greater care. But in all, love was very obvious toward their little ones.

I saw the Dads taking care of the children’s needs. When cries were prevalent, Dad was there to soothe the hurt. When falls happened, the Dads scooped up their child into a tender embrace. When words were exchanged, Dad came to solve the issue. There was discipline as well. The smack on the rear got the offenders attention. Discipline isn’t showing a lack of love for the child but a matter of training those young children. Regardless of the offense, their Dad still loved them just the same. The Dad would open his arms to his child, and the child would come running. Kisses and hugs were in abundance.

What I saw in those moments of a Dad loving a child reminded me of my relationship with my own Dad. My Dad will turn 89 this month. He isn’t the same as he was twenty years ago. Age has crept in and robbed him of strength and vitality. His interactions with me are different today as well. I still feel his love toward me even though his actions are different. We don’t have meaningful conversations anymore. He isn’t able to play golf with me now. It was one of the ways we spent time together. Now, we spend time sitting in front of a TV; or in the case of the beach house, we sat on the porch and watched the clouds go by. It’s different now. We can’t get the years back. It’s different, but the love isn’t. I love him just as he is today.

As I watched my nephews and been in a father/daughter relationship all my life; I have a good idea who God is as a Father. I know what it’s like to have a loving Dad. But even in my Dad’s love there is imperfection. There isn’t the perfect love that my heavenly Father has for me. I really can’t comprehend the perfect love that my heavenly Father has; I have a good idea because of my earthy Dad. But my heavenly Father loves over and beyond anything that I could imagine.

When the boys took care of their children, I saw how God interacts with us. When we hurt, He comes to comfort us. When we fall, He comes to pick us up. When our feelings get hurt, He speaks tenderly toward us. And when we do wrong, He comes to discipline us to correct us for our overall good. It is all done out of love. And when we please Him, He showers us in blessings too numerable to count.

God’s reflection is evident in my nephews’ actions toward their children. It makes me awestruck at God’s love for humanity. We wonder at times where God is when tragedy strikes. But God is still on His throne, still loving us, and still waiting on us to respond to Him. Tragedy happens because we live in a sinful world. It doesn’t mean that God has turned His back on us. He still loves us as a Father loves a child. Our defiant behavior will not be ignored for long before our loving Father will get our attention. Sometimes it takes a smack on the rear; sometimes it’s just a rebuke with words. But it never is done out of a lack of love.

I love the picture Luke painted of a prodigal son returning to his Father’s house (found in Luke 15). There wasn’t a day that the Father was not looking for the son to return. The moment the son was in view, the Father waited no longer; he ran toward his son. The Father wrapped him in the finest robe and put a ring on his finger. The son was restored to the family. God is the Father waiting for our hearts to turn toward Him. He is waiting to lavish us in His love. On this Father’s Day, remember God’s love for you. If you are a prodigal, it’s never too late to return to your Father’s house. He is waiting to wrap His arms around you and love you like you have never experienced before!

This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. 1 John 4:10-12

The Collision

Seven hundred years before the birth of Jesus, the prophet Isaiah saw the throne room of God and cried out “woe to me!” He heard the angels calling out “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” Isaiah got a message from God concerning the future. The message began with the birth announcement of a baby born from a virgin who would bring great light into the darkness. He will be called “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Four hundred years of silence was broken with a baby’s cry. Heaven came down to earth and changed our world.

Heaven collided with earth with the birth of Jesus. A star rose and lit the path to the heavenly king lying in a manager. The shepherds saw the glory of the Lord surrounding the angel of the Lord, and they were afraid. The angel announced with great joy of a new day dawning. They rushed to “see this thing that had happened.” And it was just as the angel had said. All were amazed at what the shepherds told them about this child.

Simeon had been waiting for the Lord’s Messiah – the consolation of Israel. He saw the child, and praised God saying “For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom and the grace of God was upon him.

At the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, the Holy Spirit descended like a dove and rested on Jesus. God declared from the heavens: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” Jesus went to the temple as was His practice and stood up to read from the book of the prophet Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

And the miracles began to open the eyes of the spiritually blind. Jesus taught the multitudes and called the ones who would become His disciples. At the Sea of Galilee, Jesus got into the boat of Simon Peter. He instructed Peter to go fishing. It was the wrong time and place for fishing, but Peter did it anyway. When Peter saw the large catch, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man.” Jesus called Peter to be His disciple anyway. Towards the end of Jesus’ ministry, Jesus asked “Who do you say I am?” Peter replied, “You are the Christ.” Life is transformed by revelation.

Peter, James and John were taken up a high mountain with Jesus. Jesus was transfigured before them. A voice came from the heavens stating “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to Him!” When the disciples heard the voice, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified. The ears that hear are obedient to the call of God.

The disciple John wrote down some of the amazing things he witnessed. John began his testimony with his version of the birth: “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” And he summed up his testimony with this theme: God is Love. Love came down so that we could have a full relationship with God through His Son Jesus. And when Jesus’ time on earth was done, He proclaimed: “It is finished.” Nothing else needs to be done, but believe. John wrote these things down so that we may believe Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing we may have life in His name.

It’s no ordinary birth we celebrate at this time of year. The light came into the darkness. A new day dawned. A life of peace and joy was born so that we could be reborn into it. Jesus is the way to the Father. Through His resurrection, we are given life. As a vine gives life to a branch, Jesus gives life to those who believe in Him. He is our good Shepherd, and the gate to eternal life. He will lead us through heaven’s gate. And He nourishes our soul with the eternal bread from heaven.

When we see God’s glory for ourselves, like Isaiah and Peter, we will recognize our woeful condition. But God reaches down to us, takes us by the hand and leads us to the foot of the cross. Pick it up and let Jesus transform you to become the one you are meant to be in Him; obedient to the call; amazed by His love; and in awe of His glory. Praise God from whom all blessings flow! Amen!

No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven – the Son of Man. Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. John 3: 13-15

*Footnote: Scripture is not noted in the above text but inspired by the Books of Matthew, John and Isaiah 6-9.

Foundational Truths

My Sundays are usually pretty quiet ones. I have my quiet time in the morning, followed by one of the gatherings of my local body of believers (called “church” round these parts), and then I will listen to North Point Online (Andy Stanley’s teachings or one of the other pastors). Then hopefully I will listen to God as I reflect on what I have heard. Sometimes I don’t listen very well. Or I don’t take the opportunity to reflect; I get busy doing other things. Then the word (as the Word says) is snatched away. I don’t remember what was taught; I forget the message by the time I hit the front doors or turn off the TV. I don’t reflect on the message and how it should affect my life. The word evaporates like water on a hot day.

This past Sunday, I did a better job at listening – maybe it was because I was ready for a fresh word – a fresh perspective. You see, I need a miracle. I need God to show up big. I am praying for a fresh revelation of Him. I have determined that I can ask my heavenly Father for anything. My pastor reminded me through his message about this one truth: God loves me (and you). It’s unconditional. I read on Saturday morning during my quiet time, that I am chosen by God before the foundation of the world. I was chosen to be His daughter (this was not revelation to me – but sometimes I need to be reminded). We all are chosen as His children. Some of us have responded to the invitation from Jesus to join the family of God by receiving the gift of salvation. But not only receiving the gift, but acknowledging Jesus’ work and our shortcomings (sins) and seeking the forgiveness from the Father through Jesus, who is our bridge between God and us.

I have a child’s perspective of the parent/child love relationship. I don’t have the bond of a mother/child love since I do not have children. The child side is different from the mother side (or father side). The parent always has a greater love for the child than the child has for the parent. Sometimes, I don’t think I truly understand the depths of God’s love since I haven’t experienced the deeper love of parenthood. I know in theory, but struggle with the concept in reality. To get past this problem, I have to believe based on the truth of God’s word. There is a depth of love that is wider, deeper and greater than any chasm that can be crossed by human efforts. There is a depth of love that was crossed over by divine nature through Jesus. He became the bridge over the chasm. God sent Him for us. Jesus chose to come for us.

I can imagine the conversation in Heaven before the first spoken word to form the heavens and the earth. They must have decided that it was still worth setting the world on its foundation. God knew the ways of man before man took the first breath. Right then – He chose each and every one of us to be here at this time and place. Nothing is by accident. My breath is taken away each and every time I contemplate the vastness of what was done even when God knew it all from the beginning. He still chose to do the things He did in the beginning. And then, God said it all was very good. Why would He do such a thing when He knew it all from the beginning? Because of Love.

The second truth spoken on Sunday was: God is in control. Nothing is a surprise to God. There is nothing that comes to us – blessings or trials – that first doesn’t come through Him. Dr. Charles Stanley wrote in his devotional this morning that “as believers, we’re assured that no adversity comes our way unless He can use it for our benefit and His good purpose.” The one thing we faced in our lives that was impossible was becoming His child. Sin broke the relationship with God when man (and woman) first sinned. But this wasn’t impossible either, for God made a way where there was no way. Because of that truth, everything we face is possible with God. The miracle has already happened. I am here – you are here, because of Jesus. The relationship with God has been restored when we become His. Because of Jesus, we can ask our Heavenly Father for what we need. He knows the best for you and me. We must trust Him to answer as He sees fit. And know that when we receive the answer, it is for our good regardless of what the answer may be. His love wins every time.

And this is God’s plan: Both Gentiles and Jews who believe the Good News share equally in the riches inherited by God’s children. Both are part of the same body, and both enjoy the promise of blessings because they belong to Christ Jesus. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Ephesians 3:6, 18-19 (NLT)

Getting It

Over the last couple of days, I have been contemplating the cross. It’s Easter time after all. It should be relatively easy to consider these things since devotional material inspires contemplation. I really don’t like to think about it though. It is a cruel way to die. And flogging? A whip with metal or glass shards given to someone for thirty-nine lashes because forty would kill someone? It makes me wonder what mind created such torture devices. How can we be that cruel? Yet, we are all capable of cruelty. Maybe not in that severity, but cruelty can be given in many ways. If I had been in the crowd watching Jesus, what would have been my reaction? Would I have been a follower of Jesus? Would I have been like the women looking on in great sorrow? These are the things I am considering.

But there is one other thing I am considering as well. Love. It is the basis of everything concerning God and Jesus’ actions throughout His ministry. Jesus said “if you have seen me, you have seen my Father” (John 14:9, my paraphrase). Jesus lived out the love that God has for each of us. John 3:16 says that God so loved the world that He gave us His Son. Do I really get it? Do you? Paul said in Ephesians 3 “to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge.” It’s more than head knowledge. It’s heart knowledge. It was his prayer that we would understand this love. I want to. I desire it with all my heart. I want my eyes to be open to it.

Jesus had a moment in the garden when He knelt down to His Father and cried out to take the cup of wrath from Him – but only if it was God’s will. God’s will was for blood to be shed so that we could have a new life. Jesus said that: Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends (John 15:13). Greater love. In His last talk with the disciples, He emphasizes love. His command: love each other. It’s hard to love others. I have someone in my life that is hard to love. Yet, I am commanded by my Lord to love. The only way I can accomplish this Jesus says is to abide in Him. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). He knew we couldn’t do it by ourselves. He is the only one who can do it. We are to stay connected to Him like a branch is connected to a vine. When His love is in us, we are enabled to share it with others.

When I consider the cross, I don’t consider the horror of it. I consider the love of it – what Jesus did for me. For you. At any moment, He could have opted out and called legions of angels to His rescue. He could have called fire down to consume those who were doing these cruel acts. He could have stayed the hand of those whipping Him. He could have taken the priests out with a single word. He could have done so many things to stop this, but He said nothing. He did nothing. He stayed connected to the cross for me. For you. So that we could love one another as He first loved us. That’s the power of the cross. That’s the power of the love that He showed us even when we were still sinners. Even for those who whipped Him; nailed Him on the cross – He asked His Father to not hold it against them, because of their ignorance of what they were doing. They just didn’t get it.

When we finally get it, it will change everything! Love. There’s power in it. When we grasp, how wide and long and high and deep is that love, it will change everything. Do you get it? I am finally starting to.

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. 1 John 3:16-18

The Waterfall

I love to travel. I love going to different places that have natural beauty. I just am so much more aware of God’s presence in those places. Over the years, I have found a real love of waterfalls. I love to hear the water falling onto the rocks below. In the majesty of thunder and the roar of the water, the power that is exhibited in the rushing waters leaves me in awe. I lived in the mountains when I was younger, and I got to see a few waterfalls while traveling around in those hills and valleys. Maybe that’s where I got the fascination of waterfalls. Such beauty is those places and gives me such a sense of peace.

Recently, I heard a statement that I haven’t been able to get out of my mind. It was an imagery that resonates so acutely with the power of waterfalls. I don’t remember who made the initial statement, but it was in the context of God’s love for us. The speaker said that God’s love was like a waterfall. If we would get beneath that waterfall, we would experience such a profound change in our hearts that we could not be silent about it. Think about it. If God’s love was poured out on us like a waterfall, we would be forever changed! If we truly believed in God’s great love for us, we couldn’t be silent any longer.

Water changes the landscape. Whether it’s falling off a cliff or cutting a path through the valley, it’s changing the landscape of where it flows. All we have to do is look at the Colorado River carving the deep path of the Grand Canyon. Or look at the rocks below the waterfall to see the smooth stones in its path. The water takes off the sharp edges and smooths the rough places. If I consider things in a spiritual way, God’s living water does the same thing for us. The living water changes our landscape in our hearts. We are forever changed by the path it takes.

In John 4, we are told that Jesus gives us the Living Water. If we ask Him for this living water, we will never thirst again. “But whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14). This picture of water welling up in us gives me the idea that it has to overflow somewhere. It doesn’t just well up and evaporate or get stagnant. But it is living; it is flowing; it does not stay put. It carves a new path. It washes over to form a new life. The love of Jesus causes us to change. I think though we don’t actually understand this love. I know I have struggled to understand it myself. But I have to believe this truth. God said it, therefore I believe it. Because His words never lie. His love is powerful. His love is thundering down on us. His love roars in the deepest part of us, but we fail to listen; we fail to understand. We get sidetracked by our own interpretations instead of understanding the truth found in God’s word.

God’s love changes everything. His love sent Jesus to show us His reflection. His gaze is always on us; not of condemnation, but of love. His love is flowing like the waterfall. Stand up under it and let it transform you. There’s always room for one more under the falls. Soak it in and be refreshed by the Living Water.

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:16-19

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