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Archive for the ‘God’s Love’ Category

 

It’s been said, St. Francis of Assisi contemplated the love of Christ until he caught the glow of His Spirit, which he went about radiating (1).

The operative word for me is contemplated, which means to look at pensively, to ponder or consider thoughtfully, to meditate on.

In St. Francis’ case, he chose to thoughtfully consider a simple subject: the love of Christ.

And the result was quite astounding. Francis glowed with the Spirit—so profoundly that others took note of his radiance.

By contrast, it stands to reason that worry and unrest are the direct result of misdirected or insufficient contemplation. In addition, no one can glow with the Spirit if thoughts of discontentment predominate.

For some, the love of Christ might seem too simple a subject and difficult to contemplate for very long. But if we challenge ourselves to scan the New Testament, we’ll discover many worthy thoughts to ponder about Jesus’ love.  Thoughts such as these:

First, his love for humanity compelled him to leave the perfection of heaven for a life of poverty on earth. Ultimately, he laid down his life so that we might become children of God and heirs of his immeasurable, heavenly riches (2).

 

 

While here on earth, Jesus made it clear he loves everyone, including:

  • Those whom others ignore, like blind beggars and penniless widows (3)
  • Those considered unimportant, like children (4)
  • Those whose sin tends to be concealed beneath the surface, like the rich young ruler (5)
  • Those no one else will go near, like lepers with ulcerated and decaying flesh (6)
  • Those who make mistakes, misunderstand truth, and bicker among themselves—like Jesus’ disciples (7)
  • Those who commit crimes, like the thief crucified with Jesus (8)
  • Even those who would try to kill him (9)

 

 

His love compels him to:

  • Seek after those who stray, never giving up until each one is safely home  (10)
  • Knock gently but persistently at the doors of our hearts, because he dearly wants us to enjoy fellowship with him (11)
  • Offer God-enhanced, blessing-abundant living now, with eternity in heaven to come (12)

 

 

Because he love us, Jesus wants to:

  • Draw us into his protective care, like a hen gathers her chicks (13)
  • Enjoy our company forever (14)
  • Reveal himself to us (15)—not in physical form (just yet!), but in the evidence of his loving kindness, righteousness, power and glory.
  • Protect us from fear by teaching us how to let peace stand guard over our hearts (16)
  • Fill us with all the fullness of God–his perfect attributes, generous blessings, and hope-saturated promises (17)

 

 

Nothing we say, nothing we do, nothing that happens to us can separate us from the love of Christ (18).

And “we are never nearer Christ than when we find ourselves lost in a holy amazement of his unspeakable love” (19).

No wonder St. Francis glowed.

*     *     *    *     *     *     *     *     *   *

We do stand in awe, Lord Jesus, of the sweeping landscape of your love as revealed in scripture. And just as St. Francis of Assisi practiced careful contemplation centuries ago, may we continually ponder the expanse of your love—its breadth, length, height and depth.

 

 

Notes:

  1. Ralph W. Sockman, The Higher Happiness
  2. 2 Corinthians 8:9; John 15:13; 1 John 3:1; Ephesians 2:7
  3. Mark 10:46-52; Matthew 8:16
  4. Mark 10:13-16
  5. Mark 10:21
  6. Matthew 8:3
  7. Acts 1:6; Mark 8:14-21; Luke 9:46
  8. Luke 23:39-43
  9. Luke 23:34
  10. Matthew 18:11-13
  11. Revelation 3:20
  12. John 10:10; 3:16
  13. Matthew 23:37
  14. John 14:3
  15. John 14:21
  16. 1 John 4:18; Philippians 4:6-7
  17. Ephesians 3:19
  18. Romans 8:35-38
  19. John Owen (1616-1683), English theologian

 

(Art & photo credits:  http://www.wikipedia.org; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.pexels.net; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.canva.com (2).

 

What contemplation of Jesus’ love makes your heart glow?  Share your thoughts in the Comment section below!

 

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Our son was telling me about the church he and his wife attended at the time.

“You should hear this mother and daughter play their violins together.  The girl is only ten or eleven, but she’s good. I think the mom is teaching her.”

Several months later, I happened to be visiting when the mother and daughter were scheduled to play.  My heart was filled with delicious anticipation that Sunday morning as they approached the piano with their violins.

Soon soft, mellow notes of melody and harmony resonated through the broad, high-ceilinged sanctuary.  My son had not been exaggerating. They were both gifted violinists.

 

 

I had to hold back the tears.

Yes, the sweet music touched my spirit. However, my response arose from more than that.

The music was greatly enhanced by the mystical bond between mother and daughter.

One evidence of that bond was the subtle means by which the two remained in sync. The mother would nod her head or sway slightly as she directed the music.

However, the girl didn’t actually watch. Just every now and then she would make eye contact over her violin–and smile at her mother with angelic innocence, tenderness, and purity.

Her eyes seemed to say, “I love doing this with you.”  Mother smiled her love and pleasure in return.

In fact, the very atmosphere seemed to be permeated with love during those moments. But the affection of parent and child was only a part.

The Spirit of God and his love flowed in wondrous waves through the music and that mother and daughter. God’s love—the width, length, height, and depth that Paul spoke of– filled every nook of that sanctuary.

 

 

Surely I was not the only one who felt wrapped in God’s warm embrace during those moments.

And to be loved by God is no small matter.

He is the Master of the universe and the King of glory. Angels sing his praises continually. And yet he delights in us, who reverence him and put our hope in his unfailing love (Psalm 147:11).

 

 

Isn’t that knowledge alone enough to astound the intellect and overwhelm the heart with joy?

The only possible response is worship, from a heart overflowing with gratitude. An overflow that often becomes tears, as praise intertwines with the invisible but palpable touch of God.

And I can almost hear him say, “I love doing this with you.”

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When has the overflow of love for God and gratitude to him brought you to tears?  Please share your story in the Comment section below!

 

(Revised and reblogged from August 11, 2014.  Photo credits:  www.visualphotos.com, http://www.maxpixel.net; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.pixabay.com.)

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(A personal psalm)

 

 

“For the Lord God is a sun and shield;

The Lord gives grace and glory;

He does not withhold the good

From those who live with integrity.

–Psalm 84:11-12 HCSB

 

I praise you, O God, that you are the Sun of my life (Psalm 84:11a), sustaining me in body, mind, and spirit, lighting my way with infallible dependability.

Just as the magnetic force of the sun keeps the planets in orbit around it, you keep me within the orbit of your love and care.

Like the sun you are my ever-present, never-changing source of power, enabling me to grow into your radiant likeness, day by day.

Even when menacing clouds of despair or discouragement roll in, your splendorous Light breaks through with encouragement, hope, and strength.

 

 

I praise you, O Lord, for being a shield around me (v. 11a)—a living shield that is always present, always on guard, and always ready to act.

Through the fiercest storms of life, you are a refuge, a stronghold in times of trouble (Psalm 9:9).

You have protected me from what I thought I wanted, life choices that would have led me down treacherous paths.

And with the truth of your Word, you’ve deflected the poisoned arrows of hurtful thoughts and harmful lies.

 

 

I praise you, O Father, for the favor and honor you bestow upon me (84:11b).

Evidence abounds every day of your loving benevolence, as you not only meet my needs but graciously supply surprise blessings far beyond necessity.

Throughout my life I’ve seen evidence of your gracious provision: financial obligations met when funds ran low, impossibly long to-do lists shortened by cancellations and changes of plans, difficult circumstances resolved.

Even though I may walk through dark valleys of illness, trial, or tragedy, I know you will pour grace into my soul, enabling me to endure.

 

 

I praise you, O God, that you do not withhold even one good thing from those who live with integrity (v. 11c).

It’s so easy to become focused on material things, even though we know that a full closet, a garage of gadgets, and a large bank account offer fleeting satisfaction at best.

Instead, your priority, Father, is providing the good things of eternal value.  You never withhold your quieting peace or soul-drenching joy, the delight of your calming presence, your perpetual strength to persevere, or the exhilarating hope of eternal life.

These good things and more are always available to those who trust in you.

 

 

Heavenly Father, when trouble invades my life remind me that:

  • My vision of what’s good is severely limited (Romans 11:33-36).
  • Your ways are higher than mine (Isaiah 55:8-9).
  • You accomplish monumental purpose through the meanest of circumstance (Romans 8:28).
  • The perseverance to navigate a hard road will one day be lavishly rewarded (James 1:12).

 

 

I praise you, Almighty God, for each good thing you bring my way, each blessing mentioned here and countless more unmentioned.

Now may complete trust and enthusiastic obedience be my gifts to you.

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.youtube.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.youtube.com; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.pinterest.co.uk; http://www.pinterest.com.)

 

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It was a grand summer evening to be at the park. Not too hot, not too crowded. Mom, Dad, my grandparents, baby brother and I were just finishing a picnic supper. Through the trees a nearby vacant swing beckoned.

Come ride with me! We’ll fly up to the sky!

I had just learned how to pump and was anxious to try my new powers on the ten-story park swings. (OK, they weren’t that tall. But compared to most playground swings, these were colossal.)

No sooner were the last bites of hot dog and potato salad consumed, than Mom and Dad said it was time to pack up; we needed to leave.

“But I want to go on the swings,” I protested.

“We’ve got something better planned,” Mom replied.

What could be better than flying up to the sky?

Reluctantly I climbed into the back seat of the car. Dad stowed the picnic paraphernalia in the trunk, and drove us through city streets to the countryside where fields of corn stretched to the horizon.

 

 

And then, miracle of miracles, Dad turned into the parking lot of…

…Kiddie Land!

Some clever farmer had carved out a corner of his field and installed a number of carnival rides: a merry-go-round, Ferris wheel, kid-sized motorized tractors, small boats that rotated in a large tub, and more.

 

(Another visit the following year,

when my brother, John, was old enough to join in the fun.)

 

We had passed this Kiddie Land at least several times on our way to visit my great-aunt and her large family. And though I would beg to stop, we never had time.

“Not today, Honey,” they’d say. “We have to get to Aunt Hester’s.

That summer evening, however, turned out to be the occasion of my first visit, and in a cloud of euphoria I flew up to the sky on the Ferris wheel instead of an old playground swing.

 

 

My plans for the evening didn’t begin to compare to what Mom, Dad, and my grandparents had in store for me.

Someone else also designs delightful plans that far exceed my child-sized ideas. My Heavenly Father.

One experience on top of another begins to construct a good foundation of things already seen, so I can trust him for what is not seen. (A number of previous posts have highlighted some foundational experiences. See: “After the Fact,” “Progress,” and “The Greater Plan.”)

The psalmist, Asaph, knew about this foundation for faith and built one of his own. “I will meditate on all your works,” he declared, “and consider all your mighty deeds” (Psalm 77:12). He affirmed there is no god as great, who performs miracles and displays his power among us all (vs. 13-14).

 

 

Ah, but what about the potential for trouble or pain in the not seen of the future? Even then, God will produce good effect (Romans 8:28). And a bedrock foundation of trust will provide the necessary fortitude to endure, even thrive.

With Job we’ll be able to say, “Those who suffer he delivers in their suffering; he speaks to them in their affliction” (36:15).

I have no idea what God is planning for tomorrow, next week, or next year. But just as my parents set a reliable example of parental care and blessing, so has my Heavenly Father–only infinitely more so. Every good gift comes from him (James 1:17), and they are plentiful.

I have seen enough evidence to know I can trust his all-knowing, all-wise, all-sufficient ways. Especially because all he does is motivated by perfect love.

 

 

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *   *

 

Thank you, Lord of Joy, for every good and perfect gift you bestow, many of which exceed our expectations. We delight to see your creativity and marvel at your generosity. Day after day you pour forth your blessings, building a strong foundation of experiential evidence. And each blessing demonstrates your compassion, grace, patience and love.

“Your righteousness reaches up to the skies, you who have done great things. Who, O God, is like you?”

 (Psalm 103:2-5, 8; 71:19)

 

 

What great things has God performed in your life that have built your foundation of faith?  Please share an experience or two in the comment section below!

 

(Photo credits:  www.nps.gov; http://www.publicdomainpictures.net; Nancy Ruegg; http://www.pinterest.com (3).

 

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My first teaching job was in a small community southwest of Lexington, Kentucky. Although the school included first through sixth grades, there were only five teachers. Second grade was divided, some students included in first, the rest with third. I was assigned the first/second split.

The first morning of school went by quickly as we read stories, played a few learning games, and completed a class chart of favorite summer activities. Soon it was time to march to the cafeteria for lunch.

The children lined up to receive their plates of food, and then were instructed to pick up napkins, utensils, cartons of milk, and straws – all without benefit of trays. Little hands struggled to hold so many items–much less carry them all without accident.

 

lunch

 

So began my habit of standing at the end of the counter, wrapping utensils and a straw in a napkin, then perching a milk carton on an empty corner of the plate as the students passed by.

One second grader, Ricky, was much too manly to use a straw. Each day he would proclaim, “I don’t need no straw.”

Each day I would patiently correct him: “I don’t need a straw.” Ricky would repeat it again after me.  It almost became a joke between us, as the exchange occurred day after day, month after month.

One noontime in March, while focused on wrapping the next set of flatware, I heard Ricky’s voice proudly proclaim, “I DON’T NEED A STRAW!”

My eyes popped, Ricky’s twinkled, and his broad smile indicated his pleasure in remembering–all by himself–how to correctly form his request.

A quick hug, a few pats on the back, and an “I-am-so-PROUD-of-you!” let him know how I felt.

It never occurred to me to say, “Well, it’s about time, Bud! You DO realize we’ve repeated this little ceremony over one hundred times, don’t you?”

No. This was a moment to celebrate! Our perseverance had paid off. And perhaps this one little grammatical victory would prompt Ricky to conquer the next. I was thrilled.

Do you suppose that’s how God feels when our “practice makes perfect?”

When:

 

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  • Our quiet time with him finally becomes a near-daily habit?
  • We remember to express gratitude and praise to him throughout the day?
  • We’re able to think before we speak more consistently?
  • We forgo some purchase for pleasure in order to supply someone else with necessities?
  • We put aside our agenda to do a favor for someone else?

Yes, I believe God is thrilled with our steps of progress, just as I was with Ricky’s effort. If God withheld his pleasure until we reached perfection, we’d never experience even one good thing (Psalm 84:11). He’d always be in discipline-mode.

But Isaiah tells us: “The Lord longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion” (30:18).

David reminds us that out of his grace and compassion he guides our steps and takes delight when we follow his way (Psalm 37:23).

Another psalmist proclaimed that the Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love (147:11).   No mention of delight reserved only for those who are perfect.

Ah, but what about Jesus’ statement in Matthew 5:48:   “Be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect?”

Yes, that is the standard, but God does not disapprove of us because we haven’t achieved that goal.   He knows perfection this side of heaven is impossible. What he does approve of is effort—to press on like Paul to “receive the heavenly prize for which God through Christ Jesus, is calling us” (Philippians 3:12-14).

When we stumble, we keep going. When we fall, we get up and try again.

But listen closely.  You’ll hear God celebrating our progress (Zephaniah 3:17).

 

Zephaniah-317-

 

*    *     *     *     *   *     *     *     *     *

 

We praise you, Heavenly Father, for being a gracious, compassionate God,

who is slow to become angry and always abounding in loving-kindness.

Even as we strive to be more like you,

we can rest in the knowledge that you will not condemn us

when we stumble and fall.

Thank you for your readiness to forgive and your everlasting love.  

Thank you for continually drawing us closer to you and your perfection. 

 

(Psalm 103:1-2, Romans 8:1; 1 John 1:9; Jeremiah 31:3).

 

Photo credits:  www.pinterest.com; http://www.grist.org; http://www.neabscobaptist.org; http://www.untilsheflies.com.)

Reblogged from June 15, 2015.

 

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Years ago I created a memory booklet to celebrate my dad on his birthday. Good thing I did. Over the intervening decades, some of those recollections would surely have been forgotten. And now the memories are more precious than ever.

 

(Dad and me 1964)

 

Their meaning, however, goes deeper than mere sentiment. Throughout my life, Dad has modeled the loving ways of my Heavenly Father.

For example:

Dad often took my brother and me to the community pool or on bike rides through the back streets near our home.  We also accompanied Dad to the hardware store, the lumberyard—even the dump! When he asked us to tag along, we always said yes. It meant quality time with our hero.

How incredible to realize God Almighty desires our intimate company, too (2 Corinthians 6:16).

 

 

    *     *     *

 

John and I had our own personal shoe fitter—Dad. He’d gently press on toes, instep, and heel, to ensure proper fit. Such attention to detail was his modus operandi. As a result, we could trust him. He always had our best interests at heart.

God also carefully attends to the details of our lives (Isaiah 40:11).   For a number of months in 2013 we searched realty websites for a new house. Two weeks before the actual walk-throughs, a perfect brick ranch just happened to become available. Though we looked at other homes, this became his obvious choice for us—a true gift.

 

 

 *     *     *

 

Dad started taking me to the library as a toddler. It was on his lap and my mother’s I learned to appreciate books.

My Heavenly Father guided me to appreciate his Book.  Nowhere else have I found such wisdom, consolation, inspiration, and direction. David was right: The scriptures are more valuable than gold (Psalm 19:10).

 

 *     *     *

 

One time I ran out of reading material while sick with a virus. Dad went to the library to remedy the situation. Because he knew me well, Dad could choose books he was reasonably confident I’d like. And sure enough, I read all four.

 

 

My Heavenly Father knows me more intimately yet and cares about my interests (Psalm 139:1-3). After I had taken up writing again, a woman at church just happened to invite me to her writers’ group. Not only did the members offer encouragement and challenge, they became delightful friends as well.

 

  *     *     *

 

Dad and I were on an errand at Sears when we passed the bicycle display. Suddenly he asked, “If you’re willing to pay half out of your savings, what do you say we get you a new bike today?”   My heart pounded so loudly at such a glorious surprise, I found it difficult to focus on the decision of red or blue. (Blue won.)

God in heaven blesses us in delightful, surprising ways as well (Matthew 7:7-11). One afternoon a member of our church (where my husband, Steve, was pastor) called to seek a recommendation on a car. Why me? he wondered.  Steve thought perhaps she planned to purchase one for her grandson’s graduation. But no, it was for us.

 

 

    *     *     *

 

When I was seven or eight, Dad taught me the card game, “21,” so I could practice addition and subtraction. (Math never was my friend.) Not only did he sacrifice his time to help me, he aimed to make the exercise pleasurable too.

My Heavenly Father has gently taught me life skills too (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Recently I came across Ephesians 5:4 about what should be coming out of my mouth instead of foolish talk. Paul encourages thanksgiving, because it is life changing.   Positive thoughts become positive words that foster positive action. In addition, God knows a grateful heart is a joy-filled heart (Psalm 92:1-2, 4).

 

 

  *     *     *

 

My father is ninety-three, and still a remarkable man of strength, wisdom, and faith. His godly influence greatly helped shape my life.

I wonder how different the world would be if all fathers followed the model of our Heavenly Father (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)?  He lavishes such attentive, everlasting love on his children.  My heart fills with awe and adoration at the wonder that I am his and he is mine.

 

(Art & photo credits:  Nancy Ruegg (2), http://www.pinterest.com; Nancy Ruegg; http://www.slideshare.net; http://www.pinterest (2).

 

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“If God is for us,

who can be against us?”

–Romans 8:31 NIV

 

As I write…

…two friends are fighting cancer, one of them for the second time.

…Another deals with debilitating illness every day while a fourth deteriorates as the result of Alzheimer’s. 

…A married couple among our acquaintances is separated. He is filing for a divorce that she doesn’t want or deserve.

…Families and friends of those who died in the recent terrorist attacks suffer through the aftermath, as well as those injured, their families and friends. My heart aches for the first responders as well.

 

 

Though I wish it weren’t so, even devout believers in Jesus endure physical pain, emotional hurt, and horrific circumstances. How can God be for us when so many endure anguish?

Here’s what I’ve come to understand:

#1. My interpretation of a particular verse must be measured against the whole of scripture and the experience of countless saints through the ages.

Evidence from the Bible and church history would indicate that “God for us” does not mean he will engineer a problem-free life—even for one of his beloved. Perfection is reserved for heaven.

What God has promised here and now is to:

  • be with us,
  • provide strength,
  • help us through the situation, and
  • uphold us with encouragement and comfort (Isaiah 41:10).

 

 

But when shocking news sends me spinning toward fear, when trouble threatens to destroy my peace and joy, when pain exhausts my strength, those familiar promises seem—dare I say it?—inadequate.

God may have promised:

  • His presence with me, but I want him to show me the way out.
  • His strength, but I don’t feel it Instead, I feel terribly weak.
  • His help through the situation, but I want his help around it.
  • His encouragement and comfort, but I am discouraged and uncomfortable.

Such statements bring immediate clarity to the inadequacy. Look how I am the focus of those statements, how I assert my desires for relief and ease.

The problem is me.

 

 

#2. God’s desire for me during my time on earth is not endless comfort and pleasure.

His goals include:

  • maturity (James 1:4)—fully developed character of faith, discipline, and integrity.
  • Heightened awareness of him so that “in the darkness of adversity, [I am] able to see more clearly the radiance of his face”* (2 Corinthians 4:6).
  • Lessened awareness of the inconsequential things on earth (Colossians 2:1-2).

 

 

And why are these goals important to him? Because the result is an indescribably glorious prize:

 

“Our momentary light affliction is producing for us

an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory.”

–2 Corinthians 4:17 HCSB

 

Paul wrote that—a man who suffered much. He was beaten, imprisoned, and even stoned because of his faith in Jesus (2 Corinthians 6:4-5).  

Yet he was able to assert that anything he had suffered was nothing compared to the glorious joys of heaven awaiting him. That’s a critical truth to remember.

 

 

Also helpful to keep in mind:

#3. Evidence abounds that God is for us no matter the circumstances.

Just for fun, I counted up God’s attributes in the index of one of my resources—attributes such as God’s Attentiveness, God’s Blessings, and God’s Care. The list includes twenty-eight different categories.  No doubt there are even more.

How can I doubt the motives of such a loving, generous God?

My own experience provides bountiful evidence.

As some of you will remember, I’ve kept a journal since 1983 of God’s faithfulness to our family. Each year I total up the blessings, and praise God for his help, kindness, and miracles during the previous twelve months. To date there are more than 1,200 entries in all.

 

(Can you see how yellowed and tattered the edges of this first page are?!)

 

At the end of one particularly difficult year my jaw dropped to discover more entries than any year previously. God had indeed been for me—through it all.

The great missionary to China, Hudson Taylor (1832-91905), was right:

 

 

(“All our difficulties are only platforms for the manifestations of his grace, power, and love.”)

 

Every day, every moment, the Almighty God of grace, power, and love is at work for our benefit.

Who could possibly win against such supremacy?

 

* Sarah Young, Jesus Calling, Thomas Nelson, p. 361.

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

How have you experienced God’s grace, power, and love during a time of difficulty?  Please share in the comment section below!

 

 

(Art & photo credits: http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.picturequotes.com; http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.biblesociety.ca; Nancy Ruegg; http://www.quotefancy.com.)

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