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Archive for February, 2013

 

“But God showed His great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.”  Romans 5:8

 

There is a popular Christian chorus that flows from this referenced verse, Oh How He loves you and me. He gave His life. What more could He give. Oh, how He loves you and me!”

 

God repeatedly demonstrated His love towards the Israelites throughout the history of time.  God repeatedly demonstrated His love towards King David from the time he was a shepherd boy through all of the turmoil of wars, Saul’s efforts to kill him, to even extending compassion towards David’s children.  Similar examples of God’s demonstrated love are evident on nearly every page of the Bible.  Yet, there is no more compelling fact in history that shouts loudly of God’s love in that Jesus Christ took that journey to the cross so that you and I might know we are forgiven and loved for eternity.  I have heard it said that it wasn’t nails that held Jesus Christ on the cross but love.

 

Author and pastor, Paul Fritz succinctly summed it up when he said, “His love was given to people who were helplessly lost. His love continues to be offered to melt the hearts of the proud, the intellectual or the worst of sinners. Christ did not just give up his time, energy or resources, but He gave His life.”

 

Oh, Lord God today, open my eyes to see those who need to hear of this ultimate demonstration of love then open my mouth to share.  Sometimes I sense that I can tell someone about You but then don’t do so.  So, Father God, today I ask that You help me to know I can, but then give me the confidence, strength and courage to be bold in demonstrating Your love towards others.  Give me an “I Will” spirit to follow through out of my gratitude and love for You.  Amen

 

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The account of Moses reluctance to return to Egypt to rescue the Hebrew children is a clear demonstration of not only God’s patience, but also of the depth of His love for His children. (Exodus 3-4).  First towards the Israelites, over and over again, God pursued them out of His love.  Then, towards Moses individually, God never gave up on him.  First, God protected Moses as a baby—demonstrating early on His protective hand on Moses’ life.  Then God demonstrated His loving patience and purpose toward Moses in sending Moses back to Egypt to rescue His chosen children.

 

Moses came up with a variety of excuses why he was inadequate to lead God’s people out of Egypt…”but God”…statements that perhaps sound vaguely familiar to my own thoughts and attitudes at time.  Moses tried to tell God the people wouldn’t believe him.  (Exodus 4:1).  God’s response was to demonstrate His power through the shepherd’s staff.  Still Moses hesitated so God demonstrated His power with a second miracle.  (Exodus 4: 6-8).  Yet again, Moses objected. Finally, the Lord “became angry” (Exodus 4:14-15), and agreed to send Moses’ brother Aaron with him.  There are two powerful reminders in this story:  1) God is faithful to protect and demonstrate His love even when we who might be His chosen vessel express reluctance, inadequacies or fear–when God has a plan, He will carry it out; 2) God demonstrates His loving faithfulness with the reminder that when He calls us to carry out His plan, He will equip us.  He never quits pursuing His purposes for our lives and those He loves.

 

God knew Moses had within him the abilities to be a great leader.  God didn’t accept Moses excuses or his reluctance.  God met Moses’ needs but challenged Moses to expand his comfort zone.  The excuses Moses gave were unpersuasive because God had a plan to rescue His children.

 

When I start responding with objections and “but God” statements to a directive I recognize aligns with God’s word, I am reminded that God will demonstrate His love towards me as He did Moses and prepare me for each step I am to take.  (Psalm 138).  Just as God sent Moses so He sends us into the neighborhoods, offices, classrooms, and community activities where we offer others the opportunity to gain their freedom from bondage as Moses offered the Israelites.  Today that bondage isn’t the slavery the Israelites were enduring, but bondage takes many forms, including emotional, spiritual bondage to our past unwise choices.

 

Jesus Christ came so that we might make the choice to follow Him, as the Israelites had the opportunity to choose to follow Moses.  When we accept the love God demonstrates toward us through choosing a personal relationship with Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, we can begin the journey to freedom just as the Israelites did when they fled Egypt.  If you don’t know Jesus today, please contact this author with a private comment and discover the love God longs to demonstrate toward you today.  Or, perhaps you are struggling…wondering how God can love you when you have made so many unwise choices.  This author has experienced that struggle and would welcome the opportunity to share with you prayer and more about the love God wants to offer you today, so that you might know His peace and joy.

 

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I was a member of 4-H as a young woman.  It was the organization that offered opportunities to develop many of the skills and abilities I still use daily.  One of the activities we could participate in, as an organization, was in the arena of public speaking.  We were taught how to speak using two forms of speaking—Illustrated talks and Demonstrations.  Illustrated talks were presentations of facts we made to an audience, for example explaining the stripes on an American flag was one of the talks given.  A Demonstration, however, was presenting information by taking elements and actively creating something entirely new with those elements, such as taking the ingredients for a cake and combining them to make the final product—a cake.

 

Jesus Christ encourages me daily by not just giving me an “Illustrated talk” about His love, but demonstrating that in my life much as He did for the woman caught in adultery.  (John 8:3-11) When the Pharisees brought the woman to Jesus, He could have complied with their statement that under the law she was to be stoned, but Jesus did not do that.  He did urge her to “go and sin no more” that some might say equally illustrated His love, but Jesus Christ did not stop with just words.  Instead, He demonstrated His love by refusing to take up a stone.

 

There have been occasions in my life when I made unwise choices.  Some of those choices could have resulted in dire consequences, but when I reflect on those occasions, it is evident that Jesus Christ didn’t just tell me He loved me, He demonstrated it with His compassion, with His patience, with His actions over and over until I recognized I was loved.

 

Today, Jesus is looking at your life and mine with the same compassionate demonstration of love He showed to the adulterous woman—He is sparing us from the natural consequences of the unhealthy or unwise choices we may have made or even be contemplating.  Share with Jesus where you need to feel that demonstration of love today and then enthusiastically expect it and you will be overwhelmed as He demonstrates beyond all you can ask or imagine just as He promises. (Eph 3:20).

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During a recent study in Genesis, I was reminded of God’s demonstration of love towards Joseph while he was in prison.  (Genesis 39:21-23).  The background of events that led to Joseph in prison are presented over several chapters in Genesis:  Joseph had been given a dream about his future, but when he revealed that to his brothers, out of jealousy they ultimately sold him into slavery.  (Genesis 37) It is easy to imagine Joseph questioning God and the dream, but then he arrives in Egypt and becomes a member of the household of Potiphar, a man who served on the personal staff of Pharaoh. (Genesis 39: 1)  Events lead to him being unjustly imprisoned and again, it is easy to believe that Joseph must have wondered why this was taking place—what God was up to.  Have you ever felt that way…circumstances seem to just be counter to any good that you believe God intends toward you?  Certainly, there have been such times for all of us.

Yet, God’s word states, “the LORD was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden.” (NIV) What! How can being unjustly imprisoned be considered kindness?  In just a few verses we are told that it was while in prison that Joseph learned to take “care of everything.”  For Joseph, prison was actually God’s internship.  God used prison to prepare Joseph for the responsibilities and duties he would have when Pharaoh appointed him “in charge of the entire land of Egypt.” (Genesis 41:37-44)

It may not be evident today that what you are going through is a demonstration of God’s love.  In fact, perhaps as Joseph may have felt, you wonder how this path could be in His plan.  But, God is faithful and His unfailing love is everlasting (Jeremiah 31:3); He is preparing you for responsibilities ahead.  His love is a trustworthy love even in the present circumstances.

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The New Testament outlines several encounters between God the Son and those who made their home the dusty streets and villages east of the Mediterranean Sea. When we read through these interactions between the Messiah and the various individuals of that day, we can uncover truths and a demonstrative love that guide us to follow the Savior’s example. For, in each story that unfolds in the life of Jesus, we glean wisdom in the everyday relationships we face, as well as a deeper understanding of His infinite, marvelous, and unconditional love.

 

Today’s story takes us to a small village on the outskirts of Samaria called Sychar. Jesus was traveling from Judea to Galilee, but unlike many Jews of the day who preferred to take an alternative route around Samaria, Jesus passes directly through. The rumors swirling around regarding the uncleanness of the Samaritans in no way affects Jesus’ purpose and mission. As He sits and rests near a reputable well, a woman of Samaria arrives at the well to draw water. In the conversation that ensues, Jesus offers her living water, delves into the truth of her life circumstances, a life underscored by her numerous marriages and a prohibited relationship with a man she was not even married to, and reveals His deity. When the conversation ceases, recorded in Chapter 4 of the gospel of John, the woman leaves Jesus and returns to her village to share her life-altering encounter. We read further on that because of her testimony, many Samaritans sought out Jesus. John 4:39 states, “Now many Samaritans from that town believed in Him because of what the woman had said when she testified…”

 

When we read through John 4, the compassion Jesus extends to the Samaritan woman is compelling, and even more enlightening, is how Jesus chose this lonely, sin-wracked woman to share His message of salvation. In the words that pour from John’s pen, two very powerful truths emerge. First, Jesus did not turn his head to the hurting, the sinner, the ones empty of hope. Instead, He looked them straight in the eye, confronted their pain, and offered them His love and His grace. Isn’t this what He asks us to do? He asks us to acknowledge the despaired sinner, despite the world’s view of him or her, and show them the love of Jesus. No matter their social status, their ethnicity, their mental limitations, or their adulterous relations . . . no matter who we encounter, we are called to love. Jesus did not walk away from the well that day in Sychar, why are we walking away from a chance to show someone the very real and amazing love of Christ?

 

 

When the curtain closes on our story in Sychar, we see also how the Savior of the world used a woman who was deep in sin to accomplish His purpose in reaching more lost souls to Him. This reminds us of the beauty of His love, and we uncover another vivid reality: He meets us where we are. We come to Him with blackened hearts and He washes us in His blood, clothing us in His purity. He meets us where we are and uses us in all our human frailty and limitations to fulfill His purpose and to bring glory to God our Father. Where are you? Have you come to the well empty? Do you feel you aren’t worthy? The Savior is ready to meet you and He has a sovereign purpose for your life. “When the Messiah came, He proclaimed the good news of peace to those who were far away and peace to those who were near,” records the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 2:17. Wherever you are, He is ready and willing to fill you up with living water, a water that brings true and lasting peace. And, when He fills you up, there will be so much blessing overflowing that you, like the Samaritan woman, will want to share with others your life-changing encounter with the One who loves your soul.

 

 

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Psalm 36:5,7
   5- Your steadfast love, O LORD, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the
        clouds.
   7-  How precious is your steadfast love, O God!  The children of mankind take refuge
        In the shadow of your wings.
The steadfast love of God; the faithfulness of God to us….
The Webster Dictionary defines steadfast as immovable or firmly fixed and loyal.  Faithful is as steadfast, or firm adherence to promises.
Wow! How deep is the meaning of God’s love and his faithfulness to me, to us?  I am humbled when I stop to think about what this means!
We so many times take advantage of this wonderful and precious love. A love that is so safe, so protecting; it is our refuge both in times of trouble or deepest anguish. It is a love that can even protect us from our unseen self; and bring us from the deepest of sin to the light of His hope.
All because he loves with a steadfast love – faithful to look beyond ugliness and selfishness, to allow us to take refuge in the shadow of his wings, his love, and allow us to grow into what he wants us to be… Where we can look like him, Where we can be like him, through Jesus Christ his Son.
Another thought…I can only imagine what things would be like if we all understood this love and faithfulness so freely given through his mercy and his grace!  And then, if we believed it…Just imagine what he could do through that!  Wow!
 

 

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Musical Chairs…..

Remember this?  Your heart pounds wildly as the game of musical chairs narrows to one chair and two players.  Who will win the seat, the throne of the game?  The music starts and around and around you go.  The music stops.  What’s your strategy?  You make your move.  Do you fight for the chair, booting your opponent off, concede willingly when you see you’re too far away to sit, or do you outright pull the chair to you so you can “win?”

As I was pondering my day one morning, longing that I have the courage and the strength to give Jesus the chair, or the throne, in my heart, I was gently reminded of the game of musical chairs.  Only thing is, this is no game to take lightly.  Jesus longs to sit on the throne of my heart and yours.  Sometimes, my sweet friends, I submit, but more often I find myself fighting for the chair, and even pulling right away from Him.  But then, there it is:  the sweet music of grace, grace to give Jesus Christ the Throne of Lordship in my heart, in my life.  I mess up daily, “big” and “small,” but the music of grace never fades or stops.  It keeps going and going.

Do you hear it?  It’s still there even if it seems faint to me and to you.  It will get louder in your heart as He draws you nearer and as you desire for Him to take His place in your day.  The love song plays steadfastly, even on the days I choose to sit in the chair and not listen.

By day the Lord commands his steadfast love, and at night his song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life.”  Psalm 42:8

May we let Jesus win at the musical chairs that ensues in our hearts each day.  Will you listen for His steadfast love song with me today?

 

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