UNDENIABLE LOVE

Last week I worked full days and had church and family activities that occupied my time. I had a very busy week.  However, through the activities of the week I was awakened to Jesus’ undeniable love.

Maundy Thursday our church family got together to share dinner and communion.  Jesus ate his last supper meal with the disciples, and then he initiated the symbolic practice of communion.  We wanted to share in that remembrance in a meaningful way.  We sat down together and participated in what Jesus did those many years ago.

Good Friday my wife and I went to a local church that provides the Stations of the Cross.  If you’re not familiar with this presentation, it is a walk through the various experiences of Jesus’ day of crucifixion.  At each station, you read the scriptures that pertain, and take time to pray and meditate.  We’ve done this for several years, and each time is different.  The Holy Spirit always leads us into another perspective of what Jesus went through on that day.

The effect of last week’s undertakings left me overwhelmed.  As I walked through the gruesome abuses that Jesus endured, I encountered undeniable love.  What led Jesus to the cross and what kept him there was simply love.  I cannot say anything more definitive. I can only say I have now felt his love more deeply and personally than ever before.  He loved us, and he died for us.

I close with this exclamation: I praise you and thank you Jesus for your love expressed so undeniably!   

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LOVE = RESTRAINT

Last week I wrote about restraint.  Continuing to contemplate this topic I have found an interesting connection.  Restraint is a companion to love.  If I love my neighbor as myself it stands to reason that I will restrain myself and defer to my neighbor’s wants and needs.  If I do not love then why restrain myself.  I will simply pursue whatever I want without regard for others.  Therefore love provides a motivation for restraint.

When love motivates us to restrain ourselves we find those virtues rising up in us like the ones Paul writes about in 1 Corinthians 13: 4-7,

Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love produces restraint.  In love I restrain myself and become a better person, more God like.  I feel better about myself when I am patient and kind.  I feel bad when I trample over others because I’m in a hurry.  The people I push past and disregard don’t feel very well either.  Wouldn’t it be great if I restrained myself because I love others as myself?  Help me Lord!

God loves us.  He restrains himself from judging us because he loves us.  As I pointed out a couple of weeks ago God loves us all (see Another Perspective).  Every human is God’s creation and he desires the best for us.  The all-powerful God of the universe restrains himself because he loves.

Jesus could have called down a legion of angels to protect him from the humiliation, the brutal beating, and the horrible death of the cross?  He restrained himself because he loves us.  He carried through the Father’s plan for our salvation because he loves.

THE RESURRECTION

Romans 6:23  “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. “

Jesus is alive!  He was raised from the dead on the third day.  We celebrate Easter because everything that Jesus came for is completed with his resurrection.   From his birth, to his death on the cross, and then his resurrection, the miraculous plan of God for our redemption was accomplished.  For us we can be confident that life does not end in death because Jesus overcame death.  God raised him from the dead, and he has promised to raise us.  Eternal life is his gift to us.

I like Paul’s analogy in 1 Corinthians chapter 15 where he compares resurrection to the planting of a seed.  You put a seed in the ground and bury it.  If conditions are right, a living plant rises from the ground.  What comes up is totally different in appearance than the seed you planted, but it has new life.  When we die and are buried, our bodies as we know them are finished, but when we are resurrected, we’ll have a new body.  Unlike the old body, our new body has eternal life which is God’s gift to us.

Jesus is alive!  All that we hope for is centered on this truth.  If Jesus is not alive than what do we have?  Yet, he is alive, and our future is secured.  Praises be to God!  We are like little children standing in awe and wonder at what God has done for us.  The greatest gift has been purchased, and it is now freely given to you and me.  Oh what amazing things you have done, our holy and wonderful God, through Christ Jesus our Lord.

THE RESTORATIVE PROPERTIES OF EASTER

I find it always happens when I’m busy.  You know.  I’m busy working to accomplish my goals focused on the cares of this world.  God begins to fade into the background as an abstract concept.  It is very easy to ignore God for a time.  Then Easter comes.  “Oh, Hi God, I’ve been busy.”  “I’m looking forward to eternity with you, but I have these things to take care of now.”  It sometimes takes me the whole of Easter week to refocus to the reality of God’s presence.

 When I’m busy, I’m full of pride and self-concern.  From this position to the humble place of kneeling at the foot of the cross is a long distance.  One of my favorite scripture for the journey is from 2 Corinthians 4:18, “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.  For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”  As I contemplate these words the tasks that so occupy my thoughts begin to fade.  Though I don’t see Jesus physically walking down the street, the reality of the steps he took some two thousand years ago, and there eternal significance, loom before my mental eyes, and I’m transported to his place of sacrificial love.

As the week proceeds and I think about what Jesus did, that which I am busy about dwindles to its temporary, insignificant place in the light of Jesus’ death and resurrection.  I can finally humbly kneel at the foot of his cross, and there I’m refreshed in my relationship with the God of creation.  And oh what peace I find there.  Burdens are lifted, and priorities are clarified. 

I pray that the restorative qualities of this week of Easter celebration may find you and work an eternal transformation in your soul.  Happy Easter!

THE SOURCE OF LOVE

On Sunday we celebrated Valentine’s Day, the holiday of love.  The word love stimulates a flurry of images, but what is love?  When I first encountered love, I was willing to put aside all other things and become single focused.  Love was about receiving.  Now I know that love is giving as well as receiving.  I have learned that love is caring for and giving to someone else.  Love inspired me to step beyond self-concern and focus on the needs of another.  Love is about relationship.  Yet I wonder how love got into my heart.  Where did it come from?

This whole topic has been stirred by reading 1 John chapter 4, and I think it provides answers for the above questions.  The apostle John first tells us that Love comes from God (verse 7).  In verses 8 and 16 he states that God is love.  I conclude that the reason I have love in my heart is that God put it there.  In verse 19 John says, “We love because he first loved us.”  When I love someone, it is because God loves me.  I am, though imperfectly, a reflection of his love.

The Apostle Paul clarifies for us what love is in 1 Corinthians 13: 4-8, “Love is patient, Love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails.”  Since God is love, these verses highlight his character.  God loves us with these attributes.

Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)  God made the eternal declaration of his love for us via the cross.  The Bible tells us of his love, but on the cross he demonstrated his love.  The great source of love has given his love to us in an irrefutable act.  God loved us in this sacrificial way in order to restore our relationship with him.  His command to us, love one another.  May his great act of love grow and flourish in our hearts.

WHAT JESUS DID

A couple of weeks ago my wife was reading to me from Revelations chapter 5. 

It starts:

Then I saw in the right hand of him who sat on the throne a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals.  And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming in a loud voice, “Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?”  But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll or even look inside it.  I wept and wept because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside.  Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep!  See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed.  He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals”

As I listened to these words the significance of what Jesus did on the cross expanded from an occurrence on the earth to a universal, infinite event.  Jesus’ work on the cross is pivotal in God’s plan for his creation, and Jesus alone is worthy to bring about our transition to eternal life.  Jesus’ sacrifice has blossomed in my understanding to something awesome and everlasting.  The cross will forever remain at the center of our existence.

Having this broader understanding has refreshed for me the coming Easter celebration.  Everything for Christians is centered upon Jesus’ death on the cross and his resurrection.  Nothing else can compare with this.  He alone is worthy to bring to us salvation and eternal life.  Everything of eternal significance rests on what Jesus did. 

VALUABLE INSIGHTS

Situations come upon us from time to time in which prior information would be quite valuable.  Say you come upon a situation where two people are engaged in a quarrel.  What should you do?  If you don’t have much income, but you’re living comfortably, should you still give to the poor? Are you a person who has to have something to say about every subject?  A wealthy but stingy man invites you to dinner, should you go?  At work there’s a group of party animals that go out 3 or 4 times a week.  They spend the next day talking about the great time they had. When they invite you to join them, should you go?

These are just a few of the situation addressed in the Book of Proverbs.  Our God has provided us with a rich source of information for our daily lives.  Proverbs is not outdated wisdom, but it is full of wisdom for all times.  Provers contains 31 chapters.  By reading a chapter a day you can read the whole book in most months.  Try filling your day with rich practical information for your daily decisions.

You can find valuable insights into the situations I mentioned above by looking at these verses:

Proverbs:         26:17,  21:13,  21:23,  23:6-8,   23:20-21        {these are listed in order}