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Archive for the ‘God’s Love’ Category

 

Several years ago our daughter dashed off two love notes and hid them in our house just before she and her family returned to their home, more than 2,300 miles away. You can imagine those little notes provided delightful, heartwarming surprise upon discovery. And I’ve kept them, to enjoy again and again.

God also leaves love notes tucked here and there into every day.

Love notes like:

 

 

  • A butterfly casually flitting above the traffic in a busy intersection—a dash of delicate beauty amidst concrete and steel

 

  • The welcome aroma of coffee wafting from the kitchen while golden sunbeams stream in the windows

 

 

 

  • Enthusiastic greetings and hugs whenever we see the granddaughters

 

  • The first fireflies of the season, drifting upward out of the grass and underbrush to float among the trees—soft, flickering lights, waltzing to silent music

 

 

  • A hummingbird lighting upon a flower at one end of the deck planter, even as I’m trimming sprigs at the other. A Close-Encounter-of-the-God-Kind if ever there was one.

 

 

  • Lost keys, found. I had dropped them at the grocery store somehow; ‘didn’t even know they were missing for more than twenty-four hours. But God kept them safe for me, and inspired some kind person to turn them in–an unmistakable love note of his compassionate care.

 

Some of God’s love notes actually include words—but not always from the Word.

 

 

Recently at the hairdresser’s I happened to pick up a secular magazine to pass the time. In her introductory letter, the editor wrote about her grandmothers and their important influence in her life. She reaffirmed that investing in our grandchildren is highly worthwhile, and they do remember love expressed, attention bestowed, and examples set.

Her words suddenly became God’s words, and tears came to my eyes. There is significance in the repetition of Goodnight Moon, “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” and pony rides. There is power in appreciation for primitive artwork, impromptu dances, and weed bouquets. There is influence in affirming strong effort, perseverance, and the courage to try new things.

 

Granddaughter #2,

building a stool for her doll with wood scraps–

with a little help from Dad

 

Also recently, I encountered a restaurant worker cleaning the drink station as I approached to pump my herbal tea. We exchanged the typical “hellos-and-how-are-yous.   Her greeting was especially positive and cheerful.

“Are you really that fine?” I asked, leaning forward in order to make eye contact.

“Yes, ma’am,” she exclaimed with enthusiasm. “God is so good, I can’t complain!”

“I feel the same!” I answered. “God has been incredibly good to us too.”

The woman finished her task and turned to leave, with more praise on her lips. I wish I could remember her exact words. Nonetheless, I do know those several moments with her provided another love note of affirmation from God, stirring up gratitude and joy in my spirit.

 

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

Lord, open my eyes to find all your love notes, prepared for me each precious day of life. Then nudge me to turn every note into praise, and joyfully celebrate you.

 

 (from http://www.quotefancy.com)

 

Oh, yes. Let me one of those who takes off her shoes.

 

What love note have you received from God recently?  Tell us about it in the comment section below!

 

(Photo credits:  Nancy Ruegg; http://www.geograph.ie; http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.wikipedia.org; http://www.pxhere.com; Eric Ruegg; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.quotefacy.com.)

 

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If you have an extra $1,300 you need to spend, you’re in luck! A high-end department store offers an item of clothing you can purchase for just that amount: a belt.

You’d think the buckle would be gold at that price. Nope, it’s brass. And it’s shaped in the logo of the company. So you get to pay them to advertise for their company on your midsection.

Now some might treasure such a purchase, but I’d choose a different belt as my treasure: the belt of truth the Apostle Paul referenced in Ephesians 6:14. No doubt he wanted us to understand:

Just as a belt holds clothing close to the body, a belt of truth holds the confidence of our faith close to our hearts.

And truth is a treasure, in spite of ethical relativists who would throw it away.

Why?

 

(www.quotefancy.com/John Owen)

 

Some will say, “That’s a very arrogant and exclusive thing to say, that we have to accept absolutes revealed by God in the Bible!”

But isn’t it just as arrogant to dismiss him–and his Son Jesus? Can we afford to ignore Jesus’ claim to be the [only] way [to God], and the [real] truth, and the [real] life (John 14:6 AMP)– without thorough investigation? And isn’t it being exclusive to exclude the Son of God from careful consideration?

 

 

Such truth as presented in John 14:6 and Acts 4:12 requires a response. We can’t afford to ignore even the possibility of truth about such a life-and-death matter.

But then there are those who do not find John Owen’s statement (above) offensive, and would agree: We find reliable guidance, strengthening confidence, and expectant hope in the truths of God’s Word.

 

 

Imagine that belt of truth Paul wrote about, woven with spirit-strengthening statements. What truths would you choose?

Try on this combination for size. Cinch them snug around your heart by speaking each truth out loud:

 

  • God loves you and has your best interest at heart (Jeremiah 31:3; 29:11).

 

 

  • With perfect wisdom and understanding, he has thoughtfully planned out your life (Psalm 139:16). Therefore,

 

“Never be afraid of giving up your best

and God will give you his better.”

–Unknown

 

  • God is all-powerful and in control of all things, including your circumstances (Isaiah 14:24). How empowering to know…

 

…“There is no situation so chaotic that

God cannot from that situation,

create something surpassingly good.

He did it at the creation.

He did it at the cross.

He is doing it today.”

—Bishop Moule

 

  • He faithfully leads you in the way you should go (Psalm 23:3). You can count on him because:

 

 

  • All that God is, is always at work (John 5:17).

 

“If you are praying about it

God is working on it.”

–Unknown

 

  • He is constantly by your side, ready to help in a myriad of ways (Psalm 145:18-19).

 

“God hath in Himself all power to defend you,

all wisdom to direct you, all mercy to pardon you,

all grace to enrich you, all righteousness to clothe you,

all goodness to supply you, and all happiness to crown you.”

–Thomas Brooks

 

  • God’s peace, joy and hope are forever available (Psalm 29:11; John 15:11; Romans 5:5).  And what is hope?

 

 

And his word is absolute truth.

The more I learn about archaeological evidence, ancient manuscript verification, fulfilled prophecy, historical substantiation, and creation science, the more astounded I am by the great volume of proof upholding the authenticity of God’s truth in the Bible.

His truth is the reliable confidence of our faith, a treasure worth cinching close to our hearts.

 

What scriptural truths do you treasure?  Share your choice in the comment section below!

 

(Art & photo credits:  http://www.pexels.com; http://www.canva.com; http://www.quotefancy.com; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.canva.com; http://www.azquotes.com; http://www.canva.com.)

 

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The Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes

James Tissot, Brooklyn Museum

 

It’s a familiar story:

Crowds of people teemed the hillside—thousands of them. They had gathered hours before so Jesus could heal the sick and infirm. But soon the sun would set, and hunger gnawed at everyone’s belly.

One young boy offered his meager lunch, and with its contents Jesus provided an ample supper for the entire throng.

I can only imagine, Jesus breaking the pickled fish and barley rolls into pieces over and over, his hands hiding the actual multiplication. He must have worked fast too.

Let’s see…if 5,000 men were in attendance, and perhaps an additional 5,000 women and children, the total count may have approached 10,000 people.

And if each bread-and-fish meal required one second of Jesus’ time to create, he would have been producing food for two hours and forty-six minutes. (Math whizzes: please check my figuring.) In actuality, the process must have been much more rapid.

But even when everyone had eaten all they wanted, Jesus wasn’t finished yet.

“Gather all the leftovers,” he told his disciples. And they filled twelve baskets with broken pieces (Matthew 14:13-21; Mark 6:32-44; Luke 9:10-17; John 6:1-13).

 

 

Now why would Jesus create an overabundance? Such excessiveness seems without purpose. And why did he instruct the disciples to collect all those leftovers? The birds would have swooped in and quickly devoured the remains.

But Jesus had his reason. Like all the other miracles he performed, his objective was to make plain certain truths about himself and his Father.

Consider:

  • The sheer number of wonders proved he was the Messiah. No one before or since has achieved such a record number of miracles.
  • Jesus’ supernatural deeds for people of all walks of life demonstrated his love and compassion for everyone; a person’s nationality or social status didn’t matter.
  • The breadth of his power became clear as he turned water into wine, healed numerous kinds of diseases and infirmities, quieted the wind, caused nets to fill with fish, walked on water, and even raised the dead.

 

The Raising of Lazarus by Rembrandt

 

The miracle of multiplied bread and fish highlights God’s benevolence. And the leftovers in particular provide a memorable picture of God’s inexhaustible resources and overflowing grace, available to us through Jesus.

I wonder if the disciples were reminded of Psalm 31:19 as their baskets began to fill with roll fragments:

 

 

Such abundance none of them had ever seen before.  The fact that it was an abundance of bread is significant too, because the very next day Jesus called himself the Bread of Life (John 6:35).

 

 

Just as he had supernaturally provided an abundance of bread for a huge crowd, so he would supernaturally provide an abundance of life (John 10:10)a God-enhanced, satisfying, joy-filled life—to those who believe in him (John 11:25-26).

And what about those twelve baskets? Where might a band of wandering disciples find a dozen baskets on a Galilean hillside?

Historians can explain. Each man would have been carrying his own kophinos—a knapsack-type basket. It would have held food and necessary items for a journey, and also provided a place for acquired objects or supplies along the way.

The baskets might symbolize our hearts where the Bread of Life dwells. But unlike the disciples’ grapevine backpacks, our hearts are elastic, capable of stretching to hold more and more of the fullness of God.

And there is a wondrous and glorious abundance to be gathered.

 

 

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

I praise you, Father,

“We need not fear that we shall ever come to the end of your goodness or any experience for which you will have no blessing ready” (J. R. Miller).

You are our Almighty God, able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think. With you, amazing things are always ahead.  Hallelujah!  

(Luke 12:29-31; 2 Corinthians 9:8; Ephesians 3:20)

 

Art & photo credits:  http://www.wikimedia.org ( U.S. work public domain in the U.S. for unspecified reason but presumably because it was published in the U.S. before 1924.); http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.wikipedia.org; http://www.canva.com; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.heartlight.org.

 

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Years ago Steve’s Aunt Louise gave us a little ceramic church music box.  With its drab gray walls, greenish-gray roof, and standard steeple, the church did not grab attention. But the arched windows on each side were filled with tiny chips of colored glass, and when lit from within the little church sparkled with glorious light.

Sometime when our three children were young, the church was broken by “Not Me.” Fortunately, the pieces were large and Steve was able to glue them back together.   When the light was turned on, the cracks didn’t even show.

But as the years passed, the glue began to discolor and turn dark. The poor little music box became a sad sight, and I was about to throw it away when our youngest son–probably in high school by this time–said, “Oh, Mom! You can’t get rid of the church! That’s been my favorite Christmas decoration since I was a little kid!”

So Jeremy saved the music box from destruction.

 

 

He finished college, married a sweet girl from our church, and moved twice more while attending seminary. Somewhere along the way the music box disappeared.

Each year as he and his wife Nancy decorated for Christmas, he’d remember fondly that little ceramic church and wonder what happened to it.

Seminary graduation came and went, four years at his first church appointment also passed. While settling into their second parsonage, Jeremy finally unpacked a carton labeled “Memorabilia” that had been sealed up since he left our home.

Buried at the bottom was a sealed shoebox. Jeremy sliced through the tape with his pocketknife, lifted the lid, and brought into the light a lumpy, tissue-wrapped object.

 

 

Within moments Jeremy held in his hands that precious, long-missing ceramic church. And joyful tears stung his eyes.

He quickly found a new bulb and plugged the cord into a nearby socket. The windows instantly filled with glorious rainbow light. Jeremy didn’t even notice the fissures or dark, crusty glue.

Isn’t it amazing to consider that, just as Jeremy loves that damaged music box, God loves us—scarred, and imperfect as we are? We too were just as lost as that little church—sealed up in a box of our own prideful independence.

 

 

But Jesus came looking for us. He brought us into his glorious Light, and filled us with the Light of his inviting, benevolent grace.*

Now, we have the privilege to shine with gleaming Light just like that little church—in spite of our scars.

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

God of all grace, I thank you for rescuing me from mere existence in my self-made box, and bringing me into a rich, full life with you. Even though cracks and blemishes remain in my being, what you see is not what I have been but what I am becoming—holy and blameless and filled with Light—for that day when I see you as you are!

 

(John 10:10; Ephesians 1:4; John 8:12; 1 John 3:2)

 

 

 

*Often defined by using an acronym: God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense

 

Scripture references: Luke 15:8-10; John 8:12; Colossians 1:27; 2 Corinthians 9:8; 2 Corinthians 3:18; Romans 3:24; Matthew 5:14.

 

(Photo credits:  Jeremy Ruegg (2); http://www.flickr.com; http://www.heartlight.org (Ben Steed); http://www.verseaday.com.)

 

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Years ago my mother worked as secretary to a publishing company vice-president.  One spring she was invited to attend a goal-setting retreat with those in leadership. Her job was to take notes.

 

 

During the first session, the facilitator (We’ll call him Jim.) included some clarifying questions about the mission of the company.   Mom didn’t expect to participate, so she was caught off guard when Jim invited her to share. She confessed to feeling out of place and unqualified to contribute. After all, she was only a secretary.

But editor-in-chief, Bernice, exclaimed, “Why, Geri! You shouldn’t feel that way!”

Jim suggested that Bernice tell Mom why her input was important, why she was a valuable part of the team.

 

(A-Z Quotes)

 

Perhaps Bernice mentioned a few of the gifts I noticed in Mom: her creative problem-solving ability, astute interpersonal skills, and proficiency at organization.

Whatever Bernice said, the compliments embarrassed Mom but validated her deeply. Bernice had never before shared what she saw in Mom.

Jim explained that citing specific reasons, rather than simply telling someone not to feel a certain way, can more effectively foster a change of mindset.

So in light of that facilitator’s advice, I won’t tell you that God thinks you’re pretty terrific.

Let me show you from his Word what he sees in you.

For example:

God sees you as precious and honored because he loves you.

 

 

That love is not just collective for all humankind, but individual and unique—just for you.

God sees and loves you—the one who handles a myriad of details so someone else can be in the spotlight.

He sees and loves you—the one who swipes up messes hither and yon, parades laundry baskets to and fro, and traipses dishes from washer to shelf, day in and day out.

He sees and loves you—making those calls, writing those notes, pausing to listen to sales clerks and restaurant servers.

But on any given day, you may not feel particularly precious or honored—when frustration boils over into unkind words, impatience leads to anger, or unfair treatment curdles into self-pity. How can God see anything precious and honored in that?  Perhaps it’s because he’s focused on his vision for you, his work in you.

Remember,

God sees you as his child.

 

 

And like any loving parent, he delights in every step of growth, every benchmark of progress. With pleasure and pride he is cheering you on.

Also,

God sees your heart.

 

 

Perhaps that statement evokes guilt, as it did in me for many years. I contemplated the ways I disappointed God, even failed him. But there’s a positive side to that statement. Our Heavenly Father sees our good intentions, our desire to obey him, our attempts to practice his presence with praise and gratitude.

And just as we would never reject a misspelled, wobbly-lettered love note from a child, God never rejects our sincere efforts.

Furthermore,

God sees you as his masterpiece, a stunning, one-of-a-kind design (Ephesians 2:10).

 

 

He chose the colors of your personality, the form of your life-chapters, the line of movement from child to maturity, and the spaces both negative and positive that contribute to soul growth.

God also chose a particular place for you in his world-size gallery where you could best display his artistry. And like all beautiful handiwork, you evoke joy in the heart of your Maker.

 

 

Indeed, it is holy, precious perfection that God sees in you.

 

 

(Photo credits:  http://www.hanscom.af.mil (Todd Maki); http://www.azquotes.com; Nancy Ruegg; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.flickr.com.)

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Jesus made it perfectly clear: “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20b, emphasis added).

 

 

And in our minds we affirm that truth. Yes, he’s invisible, but we know God is involved in our lives. We look back over our personal histories and see evidence of his work, as he engineered circumstances for our good.

But sometimes our emotions long to feel his bodily presence.   Wouldn’t it be wonderful, we daydream, if he literally took us by the hand, put his arm around our shoulders, or pulled us toward him in a close embrace?

Sometimes our ears long to hear his voice, telling us loud and clear exactly what step to take next, encouraging us we’re headed in the right direction, or offering perfect words of comfort that assuage our pain.

And sometimes our spirits long for assurance of his love in spite of our frailty, that progress in maturity is occurring, and the trials we face today will have meaning tomorrow.

There have been close encounters. Every now and then we’ve come within an angel hair of his touch—he felt that close. We’ve received impressions so strong they’ve almost been audible. And we’ve sensed his affirmation in our spirits that immediately settled our uncertainty for the moment.

 

 

But in between those intermittent occasions, our Heavenly Father would have us exercise a bit of faith (1) and take to heart what he’s already told us—truths such as these:

God isn’t even the width of an angel hair away from us. Remember the passage where Jesus declares he is the vine and we are the branches (John 15:5)? Just how far is the branch from the vine?

Exactly.

And because he’s right there, we can face uncertainty. God is no cheerleader, standing on the sidelines and shouting encouragement. He’s promised to be deeply involved, to strengthen, help, and support (Isaiah 41:10).

 

 

God hasn’t lost his voice. He most often chooses to communicate with us through his written Word. But sometimes he speaks to us through other Christians—their writings or spoken words. And he still implants impressions into the quietness of our souls—if we sit still long enough to listen.

Writer and theologian, Mike Yaconelli was probably right:  “The problem isn’t that God has stopped speaking; it’s that our lives have become louder.”

God wastes nothing.  Every event, every relationship, every circumstance has potential for meaning and  benefit somewhere down the road—including mistakes, disappointments, our own poor choices and those of others.

They become transformational moments to develop our maturity and prepare us for opportunities to come.

Consider:

  • Moses, once prince of Egypt, reduced to tending sheep for forty years. Yet God chose him to lead his people out of slavery.
  • Young Daniel, taken captive to live faraway in a strange culture. Yet God’s plan included his rise to provincial ruler in that land.
  • The man born blind, in order to one day display the work of God in his life (John 9, especially v. 3).

 

 

God doesn’t require hoop-jumping. We don’t have to conjure up articulate prayers to access his presence or follow a prescribed set of steps to avail ourselves of his guidance, comfort, and power.

Even the simple act of speaking Jesus’ name invokes all that he is and all that he can do (John 16:24). How reassuring to know: “When there are no words, when there is no strength, there is always his Name” (1). God intends for us to use it.

Finally, and most encouraging:

God is on our side.  We.  Cannot.  Lose (Romans 8:31-37).

 

 

Now the question becomes: Will we move forward on what we know, or stagnate because we cannot see, hear or touch?

 

Notes:

(1) Faith is a quality God greatly values. “Without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6). But all it takes is the equivalent of a mustard seed (Matthew 17:20), and our God can move mountains of insurmountable difficulty!

(2) Marilyn Meberg, Boundless Love

 

Art & photo credits:  http://www.flickr.com (Salvatore Gerace Tuscan); http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.photolib.noaa.gov; http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.canva.com.

 

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Micki and I first met at church, and within moments it became clear: this woman would make a great friend. Not only did she exude warmth and smile easily, she asked questions.   Good questions.  And then she listened intently to my answers.

Fast forward a few years from that initial encounter. God did bring Micki and me together, and we’ve been friends ever since—over ten years now.

To know Micki is to experience loving acceptance from her heart, hear godly wisdom from her spirit, and receive splashes of joy from her effervescent personality.

You would not know that this well-balanced and vibrant person has suffered much pain and loss.

With Micki’s permission I am sharing with you her story:

At one time or another during her youth, Micki lived in the same house with an alcoholic, a drug abuser, and a person suffering from mental illness.

In addition, she is an incest survivor and rape survivor.

“When you are abused by a person who should represent safety and security, and no one comes to rescue you, your entire world shifts,” Micki explains. “All the foundational undergirding and security a healthy child experiences is taken away. The world becomes terribly unsafe, with no one to trust or run to. And even though it is the abuser who is wrong, it is the child who feels dirty and bad.”

Those dreadful circumstances, however, were not the only tragedies to enter Micki’s life. She endured the trauma of teenage pregnancy and a doomed marriage as well.

“My first husband was a good and honorable man, but he was so wounded by his own childhood, he could not express love. For five years I was married to a man to whom I would say, ‘I love you’, and from whom would come silence. A man I hugged who couldn’t hug back. A man who regularly moved away from my touch.

“He never abused me, never fought with me, always provided for me, but his rejection was like a cancer, slowly eating away at my self-esteem. At that time I didn’t know he’d been wounded. I only knew he couldn’t stand to touch me, and the conclusion I drew was he must have discovered the truth—that I was dirty, unlovable and ugly.”

Micki recognized the damage in her life from living with an alcoholic, so she began attending Al-Anon, the sister organization of Alcoholics Anonymous.

Through that program, Micki was drawn to people with this light inside them—people who seemed happy despite their desperate circumstances—people who appeared to have a handle on that “Higher Power” the Al-Anon leaders taught about.

Of course, those people who radiated that Light were Christians, and in due time one of them led her to Jesus. She didn’t know it, but that was Micki’s first step toward wholeness.

Not long after she became a Christian, someone asked her, “Do you know how special you are to God?” She remembers sobbing because, how could ANYONE, much less GOD, think she was special?

Micki was so blinded by her past she could not fully grasp God’s personal love. But gently and tenderly over a number of years, he led her toward emotional and spiritual healing, that moment in time when she could finally accept God’s warm and gracious love.

Micki participated in her healing through enthusiastic Bible study. Where once she found scripture rather meaningless, the new Micki reveled in the instruction, inspiration, and encouragement she found within its pages.

Prayer became a lifeline as she navigated the rough waters of challenging family relationships and a stressful job.

Later, ministries at church became a source of great fulfillment. God has put her on a healing team and the planning team for women’s retreats, given her Bible study groups to lead and young women to mentor, as well as put her at the podium occasionally to speak. She has impacted hundreds of lives throughout the three decades since she said “yes” to Jesus.

As he so often does, God took the great brokenness of Micki’s life and created beautiful wholeness.

Then God took her wholeness, broke it open and poured it out, to multiply the beauty in others.

It’s what our God loves to do.

 

Micki and me, April 2018

 

 

 

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