Category Archives: Topical — Love

Out of the Overflow, We are Changed

in the beginning

“Intimacy preceded creation.  Love was burning before the stars were born.  And it was out of the overflow of that love — ‘all things have been created through him and for him’ (Col 1:16) — that the material world sprang into existence.”  (From “Yawning at Tigers” by Nathan Drew Dyke.)

Love is a positive force.  Love started it all.

Love created the beauties of the world.   The flowers, the sky, soaring melodies, graceful dance — these are the reflections of a God who is as splendid and colorful as the world He formed.

The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship.  Ps 19:1

Love started it all with me.  Who am I that God would reach out, draw me to himself, and enter an everlasting covenant of devotion to me?  It boggles the mind, how much I am loved.  I am married, in a sense, to the prince of the universe!  And as such, God will be faithful to me forever, even when I am not faithful. God hates divorce!!

  • For your Maker is your husband– the LORD Almighty is his name. . .  Isa 54:5
  • Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her . . .   to present her to himself as a radiant church . . .  Eph 5:25-26
  • “For I hate divorce,” says the LORD, the God of Israel. . .    Mal 2:16
  • “In that day,” declares the Lord,“you will call me ‘my husband’ . . . I will betroth you to me forever; I will betroth you in righteousness and justice, in love and compassion.I will betroth you in faithfulness. . . Hos 2:16, 19, 20

Love must be a positive force in our lives as well.  It’s not just a feeling, we must exert effort on its behalf.

I just read an article by Emily Esfahani Smith about research done by psychologists John and Julie Gottman on how to have a relationship that works.  They found that the relationships that worked, the “masters,” were the ones who looked for the best in their partner, were thankful, and made the effort to be kind and giving to their partner, even when they didn’t feel like it.  The relationships that didn’t work, the “disasters.” were the ones who were critical and reactive, even combative.

“There’s a habit of mind that the masters have, which is this: they are scanning social environment for things they can appreciate and say thank you for. They are building this culture of respect and appreciation very purposefully. Disasters are scanning the social environment for partners’ mistakes,” said Gottman.

Love takes a relationship and transforms it into an amazing thing —  a melding of two people who strengthen one another, bring out the best in one another and become something better, something strong and good.  This is true in marriage, and in Christian fellowship.

From (Christ) the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.  Eph 4:16

Beauty is a positive force as well.  Whether it is the beauty of nature, or of art, it is transcendent. It has the marvelous ability to change us.  Just seeing it, we feel differently, we are not the same.

Time lapse photo by Justin Ng

Time lapse photo by Justin Ng

My dream, my goal, is to bring people into an encounter with the transcendent beauty of God, His amazing love, and watch the miracle of transformation in their lives.

My hope and prayer is that this love, this animating creative force, will give life to my day and shape me moment by moment.  May I touch the Divine and never be the same.

 

 

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Filed under Abundance/Greatness of God, Love, Topical -- Love

Love and Lordship

“Therefore if you have any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tender mercy and compassion(Phil 2:1)

THIS is the way I should start every day, start every deed by being encouraged that Christ is in me.  I have, as it says in Colossians 1:27, “the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you.”   I have Christ IN me.  I am not alone.  He loves me unconditionally.  He sticks to me like glue.  I can talk to him and he hears and cares. 

I can fellowship with the Spirit.  There is no time when I cannot pray and the Spirit is there with me, giving me wisdom and consolation.  There is no time when my heart cannot soar because the Spirit rejoices in the wonders of God.

I need this kind of encouragement right now.  It was great to come out of winter and watch nature wake up, with everything beginning to grow and bloom, and to feel myself come alive as well as I watched God work.  Now, in the middle of summer, I feel like God’s work is all around me, his garden has grown, but I am such an ineffectual gardener.  I want everything to flourish, but all I can do is go around and dribble a little water here and there.  There’s not enough of me to go around.

Deluge of rain, like God's grace

Deluge of rain, like God’s grace

Luckily, it is God’s garden, not my own.  And I need to trust that just as he has sent deluges of rain to make my yard grow exponentially, he is growing his church as well.  Left to myself, I can view it like the little seeds from Women’s Day I planted.  They came up with thin spindly stalks, and when I tried to transplant them into the ground, they withered up and crumpled.  I have such a great fear that this is going to happen with people I love, unless I do something about it.

I think God’s rain is falling on us, and we don’t even realize it.  Being grateful nourishes us.  It helps us to see and acknowledge all of the wonderful things God is doing in our lives.  When we were praying together yesterday in our leaders’ group, Jake spent some time thanking God for different things that had happened.   It really struck me that this is how Jake prays — he sees so many things that are going right, so many ways God is working, and he is so encouraged by all of that.  I want to become like this.

Jake talked yesterday about what helps people mature.  First he said that the interaction of people using their talents and strengths helps people mature.  Then he said we need to speak the truth in love.  I remember John Louie giving a talk to the leaders at the SEC about the same thing. He said that the health of a church is based on how well it resolves conflict and people are able to speak directly to one another.

So what can I do?  I can start speaking the truth in love more.  It is not doing anyone any favors if I am too circumspect, and it isn’t helping God either.  I need to remember that I am doing others a disfavor if I don’t tell them what will help them.

And as I was praying this morning, I realized that what God needs as my part in the equation is for me to communicate two things:  love and Lordship.   This needs to be communicated to Christians and non-Christians.  There are many misunderstandings about God and Christianity.  If I can make these things clear to others, God’s work can be done much more effectively.

Lordship means that people really live out the greatest commandment: loving  God with their heart, soul, strength and mind. Jesus came to usher in a kingdom.  He is the king, and we need to treat him as such.

Lordship also means getting serious about sin.  We are to, “put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”  (Eph 4:22-24)

This morning I was praying for my enemies, the terrorists who want to kill others.  Many of them are Muslims.  In a way, they understand Lordship.  They make everything about serving God.  But they need to understand the love that is defined by grace.  This is a completely foreign concept to them, but if they understood it, the whole world would change for the better.

Here in the US, everyone thinks they know about God’s love.  We’re all familiar with John 3:16.  But people will never really understand love if they don’t understand that the Bible says they are a sinner, and as such, an object of God’s wrath.   That they are saved, that Jesus gave every drop of blood for them at the point when they were most despicable, THAT is the most amazing love.  It isn’t just having a nice fuzzy feeling for people.  It is a divine thing of giving to those who seem unlovable.

How can I start my day without love?  Without it, as it says in I Cor 13, I am only a clanging cymbal.  Without it, anything I do will be useless, good for nothing.  It must be behind everything I do, and woven into every action.  And I can’t just manufacture it, it has to come from my constant realization of how much I am loved, and that I have love deep in my soul — Christ and the Spirit dwelling in me.

How can I live my day without Lordship?  His will is good, pleasing and perfect.  My will is like the scribblings of a child.

Father, may I please be able to communicate these things to others.

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Falling in Love with Jesus

Wedding

Sometimes, I need to get back to the basics.  I listened yesterday to a message by Francis Chan about the importance of loving Jesus.  He read from Philippians, “ I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.”  This message was convicting to me because I feel that I can get caught up in all kinds of wonderful religious ideas, but what is the focus of this?  It can be me, and all of my “wonderful” ideas.  I want so much just to be in love with Jesus, for him to fill my heart —  that life would be about nothing more than him.

I have been working my way back through Luke from time to time.  Here are some of the passages that struck me from Luke 9.

“When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases,  and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.”  Luke 9:2-3

To fall in love with Jesus is to fall in love with his message: the kingdom of God.  Jesus’ passion, his reason for being, was establishing the kingdom of God, a new order in which God would reign supreme.  Jesus loved doing God’s will. “My food is to the will of him who sent me…”  (John 4:34)  For him, there was never a question of doing anything else.  He loved allowing God to be the absolute monarch of the universe, and live every aspect his life in reverent submission.  And with every fiber of his being, Jesus wanted others to come to honor God in the same way.

To fall in love with Jesus is to gain his heart of compassion.  Not only did Jesus send out the disciples to preach, but he sent them out to heal.  Yes, his message was that we must all put God first in our hearts and obey him.  But It was never just about obedience.  Obedience and compassion always went hand in hand.  What a God, who is not only to be held as high and holy, but would have our hearts be moved about the plight of each individual!

“Late in the afternoon the Twelve came to him and said, “Send the crowd away so they can go to the surrounding villages and countryside and find food and lodging, because we are in a remote place here. He replied, “You give them something to eat.”  (Luke 9:12-13)

To fall in love with Jesus is to let his hope fill our hearts.  Jesus wasn’t intimidated by difficult situations.  He faced them with the calm assurance that there was a solution.  The storms didn’t bother him.  The raging crowds didn’t phase him, nor did people who tried to seize him before his time.  He didn’t feel depleted, and unwilling to deal with the needs of others.  He opened his heart and wanted to meet their needs.  He believed there was a way.

“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”  Peter answered, “God’s Messiah.” Jesus strictly warned them not to tell this to anyone.  (Luke 9:20-21)

To fall in love with Jesus is to be so moved and attracted to this man who did not want glory for himself.  I struggle with wanting praise for myself.  For Jesus, it was never about him and the attention he could get from who he was or what he could do.  It wasn’t about being impressive because of accomplishments, or intellect.  “Then he said to them, “Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; . . . For it is the one who is least among you all who is the greatest.”  I love that Jesus could cut through all of the pride and artifice of people, all of the things that we aspire to, all of the things we admire in others, and see the greatness in a child, in the simple beautiful core of what each human is.

As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning. (Luke 9:29)

A man in the crowd called out, “Teacher, I beg you to look at my son, for he is my only child….I begged your disciples to drive it out, but they could not.”   “You unbelieving and perverse generation,” Jesus replied. . . But Jesus rebuked the impure spirit, healed the boy and gave him back to his father.  (Luke 9:38-42)

To fall in love with Jesus is to be awed by his divinity and power.  Evil is not stronger than he is, and he is ready to vanquish it in our lives!

As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.  (Luke 9:51)

To fall in love with Jesus is to be thankful that he was so determined to complete the work that would bring me close to him.  Nothing would deter him.  He did not procrastinate, or compromise what he needed to do.  He knew what was truly important, and that is what dictated his course of action.

I watched a couple of episodes of “My Fair Wedding” yesterday.  A wedding can generate an enormous amount of hoopla.  And it makes sense to people to spend thousands upon thousands of dollars to create this elaborate, beautiful celebration, because it is an expression of something so immeasurably wonderful — love.

And if we can have weddings as a time to commemorate love; weddings filled with flowers and beautiful decorations and feasting and dancing; then we can have heart bursting devotional times with the God who is love, and Christ, the bridegroom who came to earth to seek his bride.  May I remember to keep it simple and just love Jesus.

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Filed under Love, Luke, Topical -- Love

The Most Romantic Rescue!

Knight rescuing princess from dragon

We can get ourselves in some royal messes!

Therefore I delivered her into the hands of her lovers, the Assyrians, for whom she lusted…..She saw men portrayed on a wall, figures of Chaldeans portrayed in red ….. As soon as she saw them, she lusted after them and sent messengers to them in Chaldea. … Your lewdness and promiscuity have brought this on you, because you lusted after the nations and defiled yourself with their idols.  (From Ezekiel 22)

It is good to remember that the situation we are in is often a result of our own choices.  We have debt because we desired material things.  We aren’t where we want to be because we loved comfort and ease instead of hard work.  Our marriages are impaired because we gave into the temptation to flirt or look at pornography. We don’t have the relationship with God we want, or the spiritual strength, because we have filled our hearts with things other than God, enjoying the world, seeking success, and so on.

And then we begin to cry out to God because we are miserable in the place we’ve gotten ourselves.  We are lonely, empty, impotent, trapped, frustrated.

What is amazing, is that even though we deserve to be in the situation we’re in, God has mercy.  Later in the book of Ezekiel, God declares his intention to rescue the people who are so dear to him.

“For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness.”  Ez 34

Jesus was God’s vehicle of rescue, God’s “arm” of salvation.

“For our offenses are many in your sight, and our sins testify against us. The Lord looked and was displeased that there was no justice. He saw that there was no one, he was appalled that there was no one to intervene; so his own arm achieved salvation for him, and his own righteousness sustained him.  (Isa 59:15-16)

Jesus is our knight in shining armor!

“Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.” I Thes 1:10

“For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves.”  Col 1:13

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy,…”  (Eph 5:24-25)

It is the best picture of romantic love that ever was, that Jesus swooped in, just at the right time, and pulled us out of the muck we had gotten ourselves into.  He did it because his heart was moved by our cries of anguish.  He did it because he longed more than anything to be united with us.

I wrote a song about this.  Here is the first verse and the chorus:

Jesus poured out in emptiness

And went through metamorphosis.

Only a servant he became

In lowly human form was framed

Humble he took the lowest place

Obeyed the Lord in every case.

Even to die, to die for me

To be with me eternally.

Oh, Lamb of God, my knight you are

You gave all you had to rescue me.

You set out to gain the jewel of your heart

And now we are one eternally.

I am so thankful today that I am loved and adored, treasured and cared for.  I am thankful that I was rescued, and that I continue to be rescued.

“What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?  Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!”  Romans 7:24-25

“The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom.”  II Tim 4:18

“the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials”  II Peter 2:9

“Christ Jesus who died–more than that, who was raised to life–is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.”  Romans 8:34

And what should I do because I have been rescued? I should be like the women who followed Jesus.  I love thinking about these women!  They are listed right after the Twelve as an integral part of Jesus’s followers.  Because he saved them from their wretched condition of sickness and possession they gave up their own lives and spent their life with him, they gave up their money to support him.

“The Twelve were with him, and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; Joanna the wife of Chuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means.”  Luke 8:1-3

 

 

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Filed under Ezekiel, Poetry, Topical -- Love