Saturday, February 16, 2013

A nod to the month: Knowing Love

For Americans, February is the month of love.  However, in a culture where love seems so quickly labeled and disposed of, I want to dig through the pile of candied hearts and remember what God intended love to be.

1 John 3:16a(NIV) states, "This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.”

If we want to find out what real love is, we need to look at who Christ is and how He loved.  We need to not only look at His death, which is overwhelming for anyone to think about, but before that, before even His birth as a man.  To begin to understand His love, we need to understand our beginnings, when with mere words, God brought life rushing forth from nothingness.  In this time of humanity’s dawn, it was through Jesus that all things were made (John 1:3).  Imagine that power, that authority, to send whole galaxies spiraling out of the darkness, to light the cradles of stars in the expanse, to send the waters of the earth rushing forth in their millions of gallons, to rear mountains up from the plains with a crack and roar… to weave together the form of man from particles of dust, and with a breath give life through his nostrils. 

Now imagine what it was for him to become a human being.  Imagine lying aside the power to shape the universe and then coming screaming into the world in the cold of the night, into the care of two flawed human beings who did not even have the authority to protect their children from the sword of their government.  Imagine going from the object of worship, to the object of scorn: the questionably conceived child of a teenager from a region of the world that caused others to wonder, “Can anything good come from there?”(John 1:46a)  He would later be called a lunatic, a blasphemer, and even Satan, himself.  Eventually, the very people to whom He had been for centuries promised… would turn Him over to the government they hated to be brutally beaten and hung on a tree to die… a significant act, as in Jewish society a man killed this way was “cursed by God” (Deuteronomy 21:23).

And yet, as Jesus hung dying on the cross, carrying the sins of all mankind personally, alienated from God and tortured physically, Luke records Jesus saying in chapter 23, verse 34, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

Love, then… is more than a feeling of passion.  It is treating others better than they deserve.  It is acting lovingly, even when it is not felt.

Friday, February 8, 2013

The worst could be worse...

" And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. " - Romans 8:28(NIV)

Reading this passage, we know that as Christians... we have a pretty sweet gig.  No matter how bad things get, no matter how impossible our lives may seem or how horrible everything around us may appear... the miraculous is moving beneath the surface of things.  God is not stagnant or off somewhere beyond our comprehension, but He is present right in those situations, twisting the work of the devil into an image of beauty, taking evil and forcing it to serve the good of God's people.  It's actually really humbling to thing about, isn't it?  The God of the UNIVERSE, the maker of EVERYTHING, the knower of ALL THINGS... is personally invested in your individual life.  He's looking at that horrible thing coming down the road and making it into something that will make you into someone that blesses everyone around them.

Now... imagine if that wasn't the case.  Stop and think about those horrible situations, the ones you're afraid to face, the ones you can't imagine having to go through again.  Imagine the divorce...the car accident...the broken heart...the shattered dream...the stolen innocence... without God.  Imagine those situations left as they are, untouched by an all-good, all-poweful God whose whole existence is bent on protecting and loving you.  When I look at my own history under those terms, I can't even imagine what I would be like, now.  The change would be so drastic that it's impossible for me to comprehend.  I can tell you right now I wouldn't be married, or have finished college, or have married parents, or be in church work, or...or...

That is what Hell is like.

"They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might"
-1 Thessalonians 1:9(NIV)

Scary thought, huh?  A lot more scary than the "eternal fire" and the little red dude with a pitchfork and mustache.  I don't know about you, but physical agony is a lot less scary than having to go through all the psychological and emotional suffering the world puts us through without God as a filter.

That is not the future you face with Jesus.

Matthew 5:8(NIV) reads:

"Blessed are the pure in heart,
    for they will see God."

When Christ reigns in your life, you are "the pure in heart."  When you are given faith in Christ, all the things that corrupt your heart are GONE.  In a moment, in a flash, they are no more.  All that's left is the pure, unbroken heart that Christ gives you, no matter the mistakes you may regret.

And that means... you will never stand outside the presence of God.  You will never face a time where God is not constantly involved in all that happens to you, changing things to serve your good and the good of al Christians.

You will never be unnoticed.

You will never be unvalued.

You will NEVER be not good enough.