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Archive for the ‘God’s Love’ Category

“Elena wins the prize for quote-of-the-day,” her teacher, Miss Allison, quietly told my husband as he picked up our three-year old granddaughter from preschool.

Miss Allison continued with a twinkle in her eye. “She informed everyone today that she’s Princess of the Preschool.”

 

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(Not Elena, but she would love this princess-style dress!)

 

In reality, Elena knows little about being a princess. She hasn’t seen any of the Disney fairy tale films and she owns no ball gowns. Even so, Elena has somehow decided that princess status is something to be desired.

Chances are, however, Prince Charming will not ride up her street on his white steed and whisk her away to a castle of fabulous riches.

What Elena doesn’t fully realize yet is this: her Heavenly Father does offer her a glorious life of royalty, because He is the King of all the earth (Psalm 47:7) and those of us who receive his Son Jesus into our lives become his children (John 1:12).

 

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As Elena continues to learn about him, she’ll discover marvelous truths about the royal standing God’s children enjoy. See if your heart doesn’t begin to beat a bit faster as you consider the following:

 

  1. We each have great value in the kingdom of God (Luke 15:3-7).

Think about a museum of artifacts that once belonged to a famous person. Ordinary objects like a worn tailcoat, a battered desk, and yellowed correspondence take on great worth because of who owned them.

We belong to the most illustrious Being of the universe. Each of us might be as ordinary and common as a library chair, yet we are extremely valuable because we belong to God.

 

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  1. God provides fitting apparel in keeping with our royal status.

The figurative robes of our spirits (our insufficient efforts at good deeds) are nothing more than filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6), given our foibles and misconduct. But God provides us with the pure white robe of Christ’s righteousness to replace those rags (61:10).

 

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That robe of righteousness includes sleeves of compassion and kindness, a yoke of humility, and long, flowing folds of gentleness and patience (Colossians 3:12). For my own puny stature, that robe is much too big; I can’t live out such goodness on my own. It’s only as I allow Jesus to work in me and through me that I begin to grow into his robe. It’s a process that will take a lifetime and beyond (Philippians 1:6).

Another piece of apparel is a necessity for every royal personage: a crown. And God has not omitted this adornment. Just what might a crown represent? Wise King Solomon made this observation: “Blessings crown the head of the righteous” (Proverbs 10:6).

 

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I can say amen to that. God has frequently adorned my life with gifts far exceeding what I need—not because I’ve earned them but because of his loving nature.

You too?

 

  1. We have access to the throne room of the King.

Any time of day or night, we can enter into God’s presence, knowing we’ll receive his immediate welcome. Because he exists independent of time and space, our Father King can turn his full, individual attention to each of us, even if we all approached him at once.

And we do need his attention. We are not perfectly wise and capable and strong like he is. Instead, we tend to be selfish and proud. We mess up. In addition, life is full of challenges—challenges we don’t know how to handle.

But at God’s throne of grace—where he dispenses his favor on us who do not deserve it–we receive his help in our time of need (Hebrews 4:16).

 

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In fact, there is no one like God the King.

“He rides across the heavens to help you, across the skies in majestic splendor” (Deuteronomy 33:26 NLT).

Isn’t that a glorious image?

And look–he’s even riding a white horse (Revelation 19:11)!

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.pauldingcountyareafoundation.net; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.quotefancy.com; http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.jesuscalls.com; http://www.pinterest.com.)

 

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Many elements of the Christmas season trigger memories of long ago, including:

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  • The carol, “O Holy Night,” takes me back to the pew of my childhood church where I listened to a gifted soloist, my mother, sing that Christmas hymn. I remember anticipating the high notes—so rich, clear, and resonant. The lyrics, including “Let all within us praise his holy Name” came from her heart.

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  • Waking up on a winter morning to the sound of a snow shovel scraping against concrete. Dad would always clear the sidewalks for the suburban commuters who’d walk past our house on their way to the train station—just one example of Dad’s thoughtfulness.*

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  • Red, green, and white tissue paper remind me of the gifts our grandmother would pile under her tree for my brother and me (her only grandchildren). You would think Grandma Clara’s shopping budget was unlimited, to see the number of packages. But what she lacked in funds Grandma made up for by shopping for super-bargains all year long. The tissue was probably an economical way to wrap some of the packages, so her precious dollars could be spent on what was inside.

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  • The aroma of pies, cookies, or breads baking in the oven take me back to Grandma Rachel’s kitchen. No one’s piecrust was as flaky, no cookies as perfectly browned on the bottom, no Parker House rolls as tender. And no holiday was complete without these treats.

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  • Red N-O-E-L letters with angel cherubs adorning each one remind me of childhood home #3. My mother would perch them on the sill of the leaded glass window by the stairs. I don’t know what happened to Mom’s set, but Steve’s aunt had the same ceramic letters and we eventually inherited hers. Now I’m the one who lines them up each year.

Not one of these memories is attached to a significant event, yet they are precious treasures of my heart. Now why would that be? Is it just the nostalgic atmosphere of the season that seems to envelope many of us at Christmastime?

Perhaps such memories highlight best what our Heavenly Father provides for us: his peace, love, and security–entities that our souls crave.  A verse from Isaiah gives us a perfect image of his constant loving care—one that Handel used in Messiah, “He Shall Feed His Flock.” (And yes, my mother sang that one, too.)

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“He shall feed his flock like a shepherd:

He shall gather the lambs with his arm,

And carry them in his bosom,

And shall gently lead those that are with young.”

–Isaiah 40:11 KJV

I first experienced the love, peace, and security of God the Great Shepherd within the fold of my loving Christian family—not just during the euphoric season of Christmas but all year long. Memory after treasured memory give proof, and I am so very grateful.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

I thank you, Father, for treasured memories of the heart, and for the love, peace, and security my family provided throughout my growing years. I praise you as the Source of those glorious qualities.  

You first loved us and allowed your only Son to be sacrificed in our place. Such love is beyond human comprehension. You provide peace as we trust in you, just as the angels proclaimed to the shepherds. And our final destiny is secure because “nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

 How can I not be grateful?

(1 John 4:19, 10; Isaiah 26:3; Luke 2:14; Romans 8:31)

What Christmas memory speaks love, peace, and security to you?  Tell us about it in the comment section below!

*After forty years in Florida, my husband and I moved back to the Midwest in 2014 to be near our sons and their families. Imagine my delight to hear that shovel-on-concrete sound again after so many years, and have that ancient memory come bubbling up from the depths.

(Art & photo credits:  www.youtube.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.flickr.com; Nancy Ruegg; http://www.pinterest.com.)

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God of creation, Lord of the seasons,

I praise you and celebrate your wonders:

The silver silence of snow enveloping the landscape,

The regal stillness of trees, outlined in white,

The happy chatter of birds wafting on winter breeze.

Your ethereal peace soaks into my spirit, oh God.

 

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Indoors, golden candle flames flicker,

Star lights on the Christmas tree glimmer,

Memory-infused ornaments nestle among branches,

A patchwork of love-wrapped gifts creates a crazy quilt of color,

And old, much-loved carols knit one generation to another.

Your inexpressible joy fills my heart, oh God.

 

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Emmanuel, you have come!

God with us—always, everywhere,

Because the Incarnation of God submitted to human form,

And became the Guarantee of eternal life at the Resurrection.

Limitations cast off, transcendence accomplished,

Your unfathomable greatness confounds my thoughts.

 

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With the angels I want to sing of your glory—

With the shepherds I want to proclaim your glad tidings–

With Mary I want to ponder all these things in my heart,

To gaze upon your beauty, Lord—

Your faithfulness and grace to those who believe.

Your profound perfections compel me to worship.

 

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Glory to you, Lord Almighty,

God in the highest, who stooped down low

To scoop one lost lamb out of the chasm of sin

And provided for her a full and abundant life

With all the splendor of heaven yet to come.

Your immeasurable love compels me to surrender.

 

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I exalt you, my God and King; 

I will praise your name forever and ever 

For your ethereal peace and inexpressible joy, 

For your unfathomable greatness and profound perfections, 

For your immeasurable love—Gifted to us not just for Christmas 

But for all eternity.

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.publicdomainpictures.net; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.youtube.com; http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.quotesgram.com; http://www.pinterest.com.)

  

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Steve picked up a card from the restaurant table and exclaimed, “Hey, look! TGIF is going to be open on Christmas!”

We had just discussed what our family of five would do for dinner that year since Christmas was on a Sunday. The fact that Steve was a pastor complicated matters a bit.

Yes, we could have planned a menu around a Crockpot main dish and a wee hours stint in the kitchen to assemble it. But after two Christmas Eve services the night before, that idea didn’t hold much appeal.

In addition, we knew that Christmas Sunday was already going to be plenty busy. Steve and I, the choir director and his wife, were providing the special music—a gift to the choir who was scheduled to sing the night before. Then, of course, Steve would preach again—twice.

So when he saw that card on the restaurant table, sometime in early December, we rejoiced that at least one holiday dilemma was solved.

But when we arrived at TGIF on Christmas Sunday afternoon, a CLOSED sign hung in the window. Sometime between early December and the 25th they had changed their minds. Now what?

It didn’t take too long for another idea to occur to me. “Let’s go to that delicatessen, TooJays, out at the shopping center. I’ll bet they’re open!”

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Off we drove, another few miles to the west. They were closed too.

Now we were in big trouble. Three hungry kids, ages nine to fourteen, sat in the back seat. And it looked like Christmas dinner would be tomato soup and grilled cheese. But when I mentioned that idea, no one complained. That’s how hungry they were. Plus, who could forget what was waiting under the tree?

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On the way home, while mindlessly watching the buildings go by the passenger window, my eye happened to fall on a brightly lit OPEN sign in the window of a strip-mall restaurant. We’d never noticed the eatery before, in the six months we’d lived in that community.

Steve made a quick decision to check it out, turned at the corner, and backtracked through the parking lot to Sun Hai Valley.

Soft Christmas music greeted us inside the door, as did the tantalizing aromas of fried rice, beef teriyaki and Kung Pao chicken. A hostess escorted us into the dining room where large floral fans adorned the walls, pink cloths decked the tables, and a long buffet stretched along the back. Not only did we dine in lovely surroundings, but we enjoyed a delectable, reasonably priced meal.

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Finally, we headed home to the tree, overflowing with gifts from family and friends. Our three children were such troopers, waiting until mid-afternoon on Christmas to open their gifts. But we held to tradition and opened them one person, one present at a time, and taking turns. That way we could all take part in the joy of each gift.

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About four o’clock, Steve’s parents called from out-of-state, ready to ask about the presents they’d sent.

“Guess what?  We’re not finished opening them yet,” Steve told them. “I’ll call you again when we’re done!”

That Christmas was one of my favorites. God expressed his love and grace to us by supplying that surprise dinner, far above and beyond what we had planned. In reality, soup and sandwiches would have sufficed just fine, but he saw fit to provide much more.

God also granted the children angelic grace to accept circumstances outside our control. No one expressed impatience or frustration that I can recall.

Such precious Christmas memories are in themselves treasured gifts to enjoy our whole lives long—especially those memories that unmistakably highlight God’s grace, loving kindness, and generosity.

(Art & photo credits:  www.savingadvice.com; http://www.toojays.com; Nancy Ruegg; http://www.zomato.com; Nancy Ruegg.)

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Please share one of your favorite, God-enhanced Christmas memories below!

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For a number of months, the pastoral staff of our church has been preaching from the gospel of Mark. Yesterday the text was chapter fifteen, the account of Jesus’ trial and crucifixion.

Pastor C. graphically described the flogging, the nailing of limbs to the cross, and the slow death by asphyxiation so we might better grasp the appalling circumstances of Jesus’ death and appreciate, at least in part, the supreme sacrifice he endured for us. Tears kept burning my eyes as I contemplated Jesus’ physical pain and emotional suffering—for me.

 

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Next Sunday, the sermon text will come from chapter sixteen of the same gospel—the description of astounding events surrounding Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, his escape from a sealed tomb, and his sudden appearance to a group of men in a locked room.  (Further details are described in the other gospels.) The wonder and splendor are in sharp contrast to the preceding horror.

 

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Now according to the traditional church calendar, such sermons in November are terribly out of sync. Usually we save the sobering remembrances of Christ’s crucifixion for Lent. And it’s Easter morning we celebrate “He is risen! He is risen indeed!” with euphoric joy.

But my husband, Steve, noted after church, “It might seem strange to some people that we’d focus on Jesus’ death and resurrection at this time of year, but actually, I see it as the perfect time. Next week is Thanksgiving Sunday.   And of all the things we have to be thankful for, nothing is more precious than Christ’s sacrifice in our place and his gift of eternal life.”

 

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So true, I thought and nodded in agreement. How dreadful my life would be if Jesus had not taken my sin upon himself and provided the God-enhanced life I’ve enjoyed all these years.

 

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“I also find it fascinating,” Steve continued, “that Mark fifteen would just happen to be the text for today. Pastor C. couldn’t have known months ago when he planned this series that a lot of people would be distraught and even angry about the presidential election. Other issues have folks divided too—from racial tension on the national level to family concerns on the personal level.

“But there is one central fact that should overshadow everything else and help us keep a proper perspective: Jesus’ death and resurrection and all the incredible implications.”

 

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Smart man, that Steve.

The crux* of our lives is the cross, because it put on display the wondrous love of our God and Savior (John 3:16) and his omnipotent power over sin and death (1 Corinthians 1:18).  All matters of our day-to-day lives are secondary — including disappointments, irritations, and frustrations.

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

Oh, Jesus, keep me mindful it was my sin you took upon yourself that dark Friday. Every selfish deed, every outburst of anger or hurtfulness, every unkind, impure, or prideful thought—you paid the price.

That price included torn flesh, spilled blood, and excruciating pain beyond my ability to imagine. Yet such unthinkable suffering resulted in hope and healing for me.

Remind me to let go of  petty irritations, and prideful self-centeredness, to live instead in continual gratitude, awe, and celebration of you, precious Savior!

 

 *In Latin, crux means cross.

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.christiannews.com; http://www.desktopnexus.com; http://www.pinterest (2); http://www.azquotes.com.)

 

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Three-year old Elena (our granddaughter) had much to report about preschool last Thursday:

“Firemen came and they brought their fire truck! We got to hold the hose!”

Later Elena recited what to do if a fire occurred: 1) Don’t open a hot door, 2) To get out, crawl along the floor under the smoke, 3) Stop, drop, and roll if clothes catch fire, and 4)…

 

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“…CALL 9-1-1!” she announced loudly and firmly.

Isn’t it a comfort to know that with three quick taps on our phones we have access to emergency help almost anywhere at any time?   The process to develop such a system, however, was not quick. It took forty-some years to fully install the Emergency Call Answering System, from its inception in the 1950s to almost complete coverage of 911 service across all America by the 1990s.

On the other hand, Pastor Arnold Prater pointed out years ago in one of his sermons that King David of Bible times called 9-1-1.

Did you know that?  I didn’t.

David recorded his call in Psalm 91, verse one – 911:

 

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(“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High

will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.”)

 

Notice his call was not characterized by panicked fear. Instead his attitude is one of calm faith.  David affirmed several important truths about Who he was calling and what the Almighty had to offer to those who dwell in His shelter.

Wait a minute. DWELL? How do we dwell in the presence of an unseen God?

By bringing our thoughts back to him throughout the day with praise, worship, and gratitude. We can:

 

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  • Say his name to center our attention. He has dozens but to get us started, he is God Almighty, Maker of all things, The Lord Who Provides, and our Helper. Let who he is impact how we function.
  • Breathe out the stressful, worrisome thoughts; breathe in the Spirit, the breath of the Almighty (Job 33:4). Listen for his voice.
  • Pray, recite scripture, sing, even shout (Psalm 47:1-2)!

 

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David says we dwell in the SHELTER of God. Bible writers used the word, shelter, or synonyms like refuge and sanctuary, more than 40 times. In Psalm 91, David alludes to several details of God’s sheltering protection. He is trustworthy (v. 2), faithful (v. 4), watchful (v. 11), attentive (v. 15), thoughtful and compassionate (vs. 15-16).

These traits are just a few examples of our Heavenly Father’s character—which he brings to bear in our lives. He never responds out of character; he is always motivated by love and goodness. Take shelter in such glorious thoughts!

In addition to those mentioned above, the MOST HIGH is another meaningful name of God. One of the ancient creeds described him as “a Spirit infinite, eternal and unchangeable in His being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth.” No one can claim to be of higher capacity or higher worth.

 

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And in him we can REST. How? I like Spurgeon’s advice: “Use the Lord’s words as your pillows. Lie down and [rest] in Him.” We can collect pillow after pillow as we prayerfully read our Bibles, asking God to speak comfort and strength into our weary souls.

And in the SHADOW OF THE ALMIGHTY we find:

  • Security (Psalm 17:8),
  • Love and Kindness (Psalm 36:7),
  • Refuge (Psalm 57:1),
  • Satisfaction and Joy (Psalm 63:7).

 

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Now some readers of Psalm 9-1-1 might assume David was promising a delightful, problem-free life of ease. But his own life proved otherwise as he ran from murderous King Saul, lived as a fugitive in enemy territory, fought numerous battles, dealt with problem sons, and more.

No, David would be among the first to tell us that God doesn’t rescue us from all difficulty; he uses difficulties to nudge us closer to him.

In the shelter of the Most High.

In the shadow of the Almighty.

 

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What better place to be?

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.youtube.com; http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.thefellowshipsite.org; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.quotes.gram.com; http://www.pinterest (4).

 

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How would you fill in the following blank?

 

It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by _______________.

 

Pop psychologists might tell us that inner strength comes from:

  • Positive thinking,
  • Surrounding ourselves with uplifting, encouraging people, and
  • Appreciating our individual personality traits and abilities.

Their ideas aren’t wrong (The Bible even supports these steps in Philippians 4:8, 1 Thessalonians 5:11, and Psalm 139:14); it’s just they’re leaving out the most important steps.

Turn to Nehemiah 8:10 and we learn:

 

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Our hearts are strengthened by JOY.

 

 I like the phrasing of GOD’S WORD Translation:  “The joy you have in the LORD is your strength.”  (Emphasis added.)

We have access to God’s effervescent joy because Jesus offers it (John 15:11). The question is, do we avail ourselves? Will we allow our thoughts to spiral around our problems, or will we train our thoughts to focus on God—his glorious attributes and wonderful deeds? It’s the latter, of course, that produces joy.

 

Our hearts are strengthened by HOPE (Isaiah 40:31).

 

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“Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.”

Hope becomes confidence, confidence becomes strength. Part of the process is to affirm God’s many promises—promises for:

  • His unstoppable love (Romans 8:38-39),
  • A prosperous* future (Jeremiah 29:11),
  • Reliable guidance (Psalm 32:8),
  • Help—sometimes out of trouble, sometimes in the distress (Psalm 34:19), and
  • Victory over death (1 Corinthians 15:54).

 

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Think of it: Our hope is in a God of overwhelming love who has planned the future down to the minutest detail. He is our all-wise God, ready to guide us into that future, and he is all-powerful, fully capable of providing the help we need. In the end, our final destiny is secure; the victory over death has already been won.

Do you feel your hope strengthened? That’s just a smidgen of what he’s guaranteed!

To embrace the promises in faith is not to ignore reality and live in a shell of denial. It means to view reality through a faith-lens, faith in the all-inclusive capability of our God.

 

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(“The permanence of God’s character

guarantees the fulfillment of his promise.”

–A. W. Pink (1886-1952, British Bible teacher)

 

But we still have not filled in the blank from the beginning of this post:

 

“It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by…

 

 GRACE.” (Hebrews 13:9).

 

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Why? Because God’s grace encompasses the full spectrum of his qualities, including joy and hope– each one contributing to our strength of spirit.

Just as brilliant white is the presence of all colors, God’s grace is the brilliant totality of all he is and does.

 

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To grow strong of heart, we need to:

  • Revel in the abundant life he provides.
  • Breathe deep the promises of God.
  • Immerse ourselves in his encouraging Word.
  • Bask in the many facets of his grace.

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I praise you, Father, for your never-failing, all-pervasive grace that strengthens my heart as I turn my attention to you. How thrilling to realize your grace will only grow more delightful as the years pass, renewing me day by day, until I dwell in your house forever!

 

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(Psalm 73:26; Jeremiah 17:7-8; 2 Corinthians 4:16; Psalm 23:6)

 

* A prosperous future with God has nothing to do with monetary blessing and everything to do with a contentedness of heart, soundness of spirit, and perfect peace.

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.pinterest (3); http://www.twitter.com; http://www.pinterest.com (2); http://www.wikipedia.org; http://www.pinterest.)

 

 

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