You’re Not As Alone as You Think

This is part 4 of the series “God’s love is the Greatest Love.” For the previous post, click here.

img_2840

“But who knows what she spoke to the darkness, alone, in the bitter watches of the night, when all her life seemed shrinking, and the walls of her bower closing in about her, a hutch to trammel some wild thing in?”

~ J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King

Loneliness has a way of seeping into the soul uninvited, slowly sapping our stores of joy until a gaping emptiness remains. Loneliness assaults us in the dead of night or kicks us in the gut as we jostle our way through the madding crowd. It metastasizes through our hearts and minds, increasing our susceptibility to temptation.

“I just wish someone understood…”

“Not a single person has walked in my shoes.”

“I don’t have anyone to talk to…”

“Even my wife doesn’t get it…”

“Everyone I see on Facebook is out having a good time, but I don’t have any close friends.”

“Since my husband betrayed me, I can’t trust anyone ever again.”

“I don’t think God hears my prayers anymore…”

Do any of these phrases sound familiar? Have you ever felt misunderstood or forsaken? Continue reading

The Greatness of Sacrificial Love.

This is part 3 of the series “God’s love is the Greatest Love.” For the previous post, click here.

 

img_2821

 

We mortals make much ado about our sacrifices in the name of love. I’ve heard countless people say they would take a bullet for Jesus or their family. On the other hand, they don’t want to give up Sunday sports to go to worship or put down  their iPhone to have a meaningful conversation with their kids or spend a little less on themselves to help a brother in need.They say they would give up their life, but they are unwilling to make even small sacrifices for others. They would die for others, but not necessarily live for others. Real love does both.

Continue reading

The Love of our Heavenly Father

This is part 2 of the series “God’s love is the Greatest Love.” For the previous post, click here.

img_2817

One of the greatest tragedies for a young child is to grow up without a good father. For one thing, fathers provide protection, establish balance, and are often essential to a child’s understanding of how men and women should behave toward one another.

Fathers are a vital part of the family unit.

In ages past, fathers often treated their children as though they ought to be seen and not heard, rarely showing affection and often remaining aloof. This explains why many of the old preachers and pastors framed God as wrathful and distant. In our current culture, many hear “God is our Father” and do not believe He actually exists or cares because their own fathers are likewise absent or uncaring.

How we view earthly fathers directly affects how we relate to our Heavenly Father. Continue reading

How do I Achieve Peace AND Be Holy?

img_2644

Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.

Hebrews 12.14, ESV

Peace is an elusive, hard-won, state of affairs.

One party may feel at peace while another is ramping up efforts to overturn it. World leaders made flowery overtures about how they longed for lasting peace after World War I. Unfortunately, their desire to humiliate the Germans via reparations payments simply set the stage for another world war.

These past several years have been anything but peaceful, and the past few weeks have been downright nuts. I don’t care where you stand politically—both sides are behaving like sugar-hyped, bickering siblings. Continue reading

8 Habits of a Forgiving Heart

img_2611

How do we heal from those wounds for which no restitution can be made? How do we extend true forgiveness when we don’t feel like forgiving? How do we ease that burning in our hearts for justice?

Forgiveness is one of the most challenging commands given to the Christian. Sometimes complete forgiveness takes more than a day, a week, a month, or even a decade. What we feel on the inside must not dictate our actions on the outside. We must make a conscious effort to obey God externally while fighting the battle internally.

In the previous post, we discussed Peter’s flawed question of how many times we ought to forgive. Today, I hope to encourage you to develop a mindset of forgiveness, particularly for those hurts which run deep.

Forgiveness is not merely an action, it is an attitude we must develop and nurture until we return to dust. Continue reading

The Flawed Forgiveness Question

rlw-uc03gwc-glenn-carstens-peters

Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?”  

Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.

~ Matthew 18.21-22, NKJV

Can’t you just see the apostles doing the math? (Obviously they didn’t have this conversation, but humor me…)

“Seventy times seven? Um…Sheesh, I always hated numbers.”

“Hey Matthew, you’re good with numbers, what’s 70 x 7?”

“Easy. 490.”

“Are you sure?”

Continue reading

Preparing for the Next Circuit

cmnniqbkwbi-jack-hamilton

I’ve been a bit reflective the past few days. Holidays do that to me.

 

The earth makes one full rotation each day. Rotate implies circular motion.

The earth makes one full rotation around the sun each year. Again, a circular motion.

We are going in circles.

Does that mean we aren’t getting anywhere? Continue reading

The truth in the music.

michelangelo-pieta-detail-2

Over the weekend as I was whirring around like a tornado cleaning the house, the kids asked to listen to Christmas music. I suppose it really is that time of the year…

I didn’t feel like fussing with CDs so I pulled up my Amazon Music app and selected the first Christmas station that looked promising. The crooning of Michael Buble, the tinny Feliz Navidad, the rocking Brian Setzer renditions, and the bouncy Christmas oldies rang through the house one jingle bell after another. I skipped “It’s the Most Wonderful time of the Year” because it’s one of The Most Hated Songs in My Ears (I have no idea why that song irritates me so much). While my arms were covered in soap, the song, “Mary, did you know?” came on, performed by the a cappella group Pentatonix. My little girl wanted to skip it because it sounded too slow and she wanted peppy songs. I asked her to pause and listen to this one, partly because I hadn’t heard this version and was curious.

If you are unfamiliar with this song, please take a moment to read and digest the lyrics:

Mary did you know that your baby boy will one day walk on water?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will save our sons and daughters?
Did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new?
This child that you’ve delivered, will soon deliver you

Mary did you know that your baby boy will give sight to a blind man?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will calm a storm with his hand?
Did you know that your baby boy has walked where angels trod?
And when you kiss your little baby, you kiss the face of God

The blind will see, the deaf will hear and the dead will live again
The lame will leap, the dumb will speak, the praises of the lamb

Mary did you know that your baby boy is Lord of all creation?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will one day rule the nations?
Did you know that your baby boy is heaven’s perfect Lamb?
This sleeping child you’re holding is the great I AM.

(Written by Buddy Greene and Mark Lowry)

Obviously, Mary couldn’t possibly have known all the amazing things Jesus would accomplish in His lifetime. We know that she was told He was the Son of God. Luke 1:35 records the angel’s words to Mary: “therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.” She knew who Jesus was, but could she comprehend the magnitude? I don’t think so. Truth be told, none of us can wrap our heads around all the the Lord has done and continues to do for us.

Mary, we are told, treasured the wondrous acts she observed in her heart (Luke 2:19). There is a lesson in that for us. Do we treasure God’s wondrous deeds within our hearts? Do we marvel over each one as a precious gift or do we treat them as commonplace? Each time God answers our prayers, do we lift our souls in rapturous praise or do we shrug a thanks?

The striking lesson in this simple song is not, “what did Mary know?”. The lesson lies in this: Jesus will never cease to fill us with wonder. The Son of God, through whom the world was created, was willing to live on this earth in poverty, suffer disdain, and bear the torturous death on a cross so that we could be delivered from God’s much-deserved wrath.

These amazing realities in the gospels should stir our hearts with joy and conviction with each and every read.

 

Jesus astounded all who came in contact with Him. It wasn’t his dashing good looks or his phenomenal charisma, for as Isaiah tells us, “he had no form or comeliness that we might desire Him.” It was not pomp and circumstance for He was an impoverished itinerant. What drew people to Jesus was the depth of His compassion, His quiet authority, His defiance of natural laws, and above all, seeing the very nature and essence God dwelling among man. Most men would allow their fame to go to their head, but Jesus made it clear time after time after time that He was no “mere man.”

I wish I could have followed Jesus on those dusty Judean roads—to see the deep love in His eyes, to gaze in wonder at His mercy, to hear His calm voice over the roar of the storm. And yet Jesus says, “blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.” Through Jesus, God has done more than our finite minds can grasp. Through Jesus, we will be granted “scenes of bliss forever new” as the old hymn says. Through Jesus, we will never cease to be filled with wonder at the glorious greatness of the I AM.

Who knows what Mary knew? It doesn’t really matter.

What this song should convey to us is the awe we should feel in the presence of God and bring to our remembrance the hopeful expectation of the joy—forever new and forever wondrous—awaiting us in eternity.

“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
nor the heart of man imagined,
what God has prepared for those who love him…”

~ 1 Corinthians 2:9, ESV

Can you hear me now?

canyouhmn
Image copyright CNN and Verizon Wireless

The gospels are a fascinating study in stubbornness.

Most of the Sanhedrin, the Pharisees, the Scribes, the Chief Priests, and the Elders of the Jewish Nation obstinately refused to listen to Jesus. They were nonplussed by His astounding miracles. So determined were they, to cling to their little sphere of power, that they ignored the voice of the only one who could save them.  Continue reading

The One Thing I Hate to Do

This is part 2 of the series “Do I have to carry THAT cross?” To read the original post, click here.

img_2324

“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.

For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. or what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?

Matthew 16.24-26, ESV

I am a selfish creature.

I do not make the statement with pride, but rather confess it, to my great shame.

Like most humans, I enjoy my own particular flavor of comfort. I love sipping my homemade iced chai, surrounded with whatever music suits my mood. My favorite find is a book to get lost in. I warm with pleasure when I find myself in a protective bubble of like-minded people, close friends, beloved family, and familiar faces.

I’ve been abruptly called away from these creature comforts, oh so many times. Continue reading