Tag Archives: love

A Father’s Love (Reflection for 9/18)

“For the LORD will not cast off forever,
but, though he cause grief,
he will have compassion
according to the abundance of his steadfast love;
for he does not afflict from his heart
or grieve the children of men”
Lamentations 3:31-33

ROTD:   God’s reactions to our actions are always perfect.

Why?
This is one of the hardest things for anyone to grasp. Why would a God who is so good send trials? Why say no? Why delay the fulfillment of our prayers? Why is there still consequence?

There are many factors into these, but we can look at at least one aspect here in Lamentations. The narrator speaking in chapter 3 is a man who has directly felt the wrath of God, who has seen his punishment firsthand. The best way to explain this, I think, is with an illustration we all can understand.

Parents. (Yes, this is where I am going with it. Hear me out.) As kids, parents have rules for us to follow. They love us and inspire us and better us as people, but there are still rules of the household. What are the worst words you could ever hear when you got caught breaking one of those rules?

“Just wait till your father gets home”.

Terrifying. Because you knew that there was some type of consequence to your action. And dad gets home, and punishment is doled out, and reconciliation occurs as you tearfully swear to neverevereverever do it again. But of course you do. And the cycle continues.

Look at the nation of Israel throughout the whole Old Testament. They are constantly disobeying God, leaving His commandments, following other gods or people, complaining, whining…and then when God acts accordingly, they shape up. And so it continues. To read, it looks like Israel is really, really, stupid. Just follow God and it’s all good!

But don’t we do the same thing?

God is our Father. He is also a perfect Father. So while many of us have had horrible, terrible experiences with parental discretion here on earth, we need to be able to look past those to see what God is doing. Because we constantly are disobeying Him, sinning, blowing off His words, not talking to Him, trying to do life without Him. We disobey our Father all the time.
“He does not afflict from his heart” is such a cool statement, because it shows that God doesn’t bring punishment because He enjoys it. He brings correction to discipline us, to grow us, to help us to better understand Him and draw closer to Him. And, thanks be to God for His Son, we have the ability to turn around, repent, and continue to follow hard after Him.

Being a Christian does not mean that your actions no longer carry weight to them. God is love, yes, but He is also righteous and just, holy, mighty (for more on that, click here). What the speaker realizes is that all of the correction we receive from God comes out of a place of love, not evil sinister joy. Punishment doesn’t last forever. The trial you are going through does have meaning and purpose. All things do. So if God is trying to teach you to let go of some recurring sin, it might hurt a bit when that sin comes to light in the worst possible way. Or if He is trying to grow your patience, life might become quite stressful for a time. Finance and trust issues? Money might be a little tight for a while. We may not always understand the method, or the timing, but we MUST KNOW in our hearts that God knows perfectly how we learn and what we need to push us forward. These things always move us toward a deeper relationship with God, if we let them.

Now, I realize this leads to some bigger questions that have harder answers. Why do people suffer in general? Why is this world full of evil? My sister got raped, is that part of God’s plan? Why do babies die? How much does God send, and how much does He allow to happen to us?

These are questions that I have heard over the years, and some I struggle with to this day. We will dive into some of these later on, and look at the different aspects of God’s relationship to us, and sin’s affect on the world as a whole.

For now, though, rest in this: That just because it seems like God is angry at you, He’s not. He derives no joy from our pain.God loves you more than you can fathom, and with love does come discipline, and correction. Anything that God is using to teach us and correct us-any trial ,situation, person, circumstance-is done in love. We just have to open our minds and hearts to see it as such.

Prayer:

Lord, we do not always understand the means and ways that you work. We struggle to grasp that a loving God can also punish and correct and discipline. God, help us to know that you love us. Help us to recognize Your hand in our lives, in every situation. We pray for forgiveness, for we know we are a sinful, messed up people. Show us where You are at work in us, and correct us in whatever way you see fit. However loud You have to shout to get our attention, do so. However fall You let us fall before we face our eyes to You, let us. However much You have to strip away from us in order to build us up correctly, break us down. Whatever You need to do, do in our hearts today.
In Jesus’ name, amen.

Who Steps In? (Devo, February 14)

 “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”
-John 15:13

     I’d like to apologize for my brief hiatus. This past week I was equal parts busy and distracted-it was a long week. But I back, dear readers, and I shall stay this time.

On this odd day on which we celebrate love, it seems only appropriate to look at a man who showed the ultimate love. Scripture says that there is no greater love than for one to lay down his life for his friends. There are two things on this earth that I can think of that speak to this kind of relationship, and they both point back to Christ: the military, and marriage.

I will start with the latter. We have clearly all heard the oft-quoted line from Ephesians for wives to submit to their husbands, but what about the rest of it? It says

 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish” (Eph. 5:25-27). 

Do you know what that means? Christ loved the church unto the point of death-He gave Himself up for the church. Husbands are supposed to have that same mentality-meaning that there isn’t anything (within being a good, Christian man) that a man should not be willing to do for his wife, even to the point of dying for her. In marriage, the sacrifice that a husband makes for his wife-leaving his father and mother to become the head of the household, to provide and to give a good life…that requires much from him. Even more so, Christ gave His all for His bride. He made sure that she would have every opportunity to be presented white and clean, blameless, even if it meant giving up His own life so that she could have hers. We are that bride, and I know that I am personally so thankful to have a groom as faithful as Jesus is. I couldn’t do any of this on my own.

Now to the former. In the military, you are brothers. You are closer than family. The guys in your platoon, in your squad, your group…you all depend on one another for your very survival. And there is nothing you won’t do for them, and they for you. It’s one of the only institutions in the world I can think of where people willingly die for each other, and even for those back home they don’t even know.Your life, while valued, is expendable if it means others will survive. It’s the attitude built up in the military and I see Christ completely in it.Christ is more than just a brother in arms. He is the commander that leads His troops, that would-and did-jump in front of us to take the bullet, the one to jump on the grenade, the one to die so that we don’t have to.  His life, while clearly valuable, means so much more in His death than it ever could have in life. Because of His willingness to die for us, we have the opportunity to continue to live full, abundant lives. Christ is the ultimate soldier.

So i ask you. When things fall down around you, who steps in? Friends? Family? Sure, at times. But when your life feels like it’s crumbling, remember: There is One who is constantly stepping in for you, a man who already has faced death and despair so that in your darkest moments, you don’t have to. He took our punishment-cling hard to His salvation.

http://bible.com/1/jhn.15.13.kjv

My Savior is Bigger Than My Sorrows (Devo, February 3)

“But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy, and spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may exult in you. For you bless the righteous, O Lord ; you cover him with favor as with a shield.”
-Psalm 5:11-12

     Now, how does it feel to know that God’s got your back?
Yea. The God who created everything that ever existed. The God who created the moon and the sun and the infinite expanse we live in, the God who made DNA and calculus and other things way beyond our (at least my) understanding. He is for us. And that sounds fantastic, but when you get down to it its much harder to really believe this.

    As humans, we generally just see the day-to-day. We see what is happening NOW, what’s happening in our immediate future. We see a girl with cancer and can’t possibly imagine that God has plans for her life 15 years from now when the doctors give her 3. We look at our bills  and see the debt and we wonder where the plans to prosper us and not harm us are, to give us hope for a future when our future looks like the streets. We don’t know where God is when he has been abused since he was 5 and has had depression and bipolar disorder for 18 years. Where is this God then? Where is He now?

     I am here to tell you that He is there. It requires something we are not willing to give-faith. And trust. And commitment. And it’s hard. I personally know people who are going through situations in which the “favor of God” upon them seems like an impossibility. But He is there, working. The Israelites didn’t think God was gonna come through for them, too. He was leading them with a pillar of fire, and they approached the Red Sea and realized that the Egyptians were behind them. They accused Moses of bringing them out to die. God, however, had other plans, and the rest is history-Israel was saved.

We see the immediacy of the chariots bearing down on us in life. We feel the stones hitting our sides as the challenges and trials of life drag us down. But we forget that there is a God we serve who is greater than our struggles. As hard as it may seem-when we come into those hard times we need to lean into God more. We need to pursue harder, push further, cry longer, pray more fervently, and trust more securely. I personally have had my life flipped upside down within the past year and a half. I’ve moved three times after never having moved at all, lost all my friends, my mother committed suicide, my father almost died, i changed schools, started college, became depressed and suicidal, and was on the verge of falling apart. Because the world is cruel. It was good, but it is tainted by sin and it is messed up out there. And when everything fell out around me, I was barely hanging on to the feet of Jesus.

But He never left. He never left my side, He never let me down. The prayers weren’t answered right away. But He came through in only the way He knew was best for me. The tears still fell, the hurts still came, the pain is still felt deep. But my Savior is so much bigger than my sorrows. He is good. All the time. And that is a fact I will die for, that my God is good. He is my shield and my strong tower, and He desires to be yours, too.

Will you rest in the presence of the Lord today? Will you allow Him to be your shield?

http://bible.com/59/psa.5.11-12.esv

Stop Playing Games (Devo, February 2)

“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world.”
-1 John 2:15-16

It is appropriate that as we approach Valentine’s Day, this first verse for February has to do with love. As humans we are wired to love. It’s a part of our nature. But the things we focus our devotion and time and affection on can determine our eternity. As Christians, we are called to be separate-to be set apart. We are called to be perfect and holy and to be in this world but not of this world. But that is a hard thing to do in today’s society. There is stimulation for our sinful nature everywhere-television to the internet to the billboards you see walking down the street. Things that gratify US, and that do so RIGHT NOW! It’s instant, but the feeling is fleeting. So we search for more. And more. And more. And our sinful nature loves the chase; it loves the constant acquisition of things that make us feel so good. But spiritually? It’s like…if you were to go play Frogger in the street. The rush of not getting hit would be a lot of fun, but sooner or later you’re going to get hit and probably die. And yet we continue to try and play! Even worse, on Sundays and Wednesday nights a lot of us go back to church and say we’re okay! That God is all we need, and we worship and pray and then during the week? It’s back to Frogger. Looking for the next instant rush and then moving on.

We need to stop playing games with God. We search for temporary alleviation for the pain and unfulfillment we have inside that can only be filled by the love and righteousness of Christ living in us. We were not designed to die. Physically, or spiritually. Humanity was designed to be in a relationship with the Lord, because He is the giver and sustainer of life. And yet we look to all these other sources and ignore the only One that can fill us, until crap hits the fan and then we realize those other things just don’t quite cut it. We drink from leaking buckets to quench our thirst when the ever-flowing fountain of life is standing right before us with open arms. When we recognize the source of our needs, and abide in Him instead of the world, life will begin to look quite different.

Is it hard to be a Christian? Yea. Is it a process? Yes it is. I still struggle daily. But at the end of the day-and at the end of the ages-it is so worth it to follow Christ and to have God’s love flowing through me. If you are searching for true fulfillment-that angst deep in your soul that something is not quite right-have a talk with God. Pick up a Bible. And experience the healing that comes from the deep wells of His mercy and grace.

http://bible.com/59/1jn.2.15-16.esv

I Gotta Be Nice to WHO? (Devo, January 20)

 “But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.”
-Luke 6:35-36

  Oh no……It’s the in laws.
Specifically, MOTHER.
And you have tried. You have tried and tried and tried but it seems like no matter what, there is always something wrong. ALWAYS. And you know what Jesus says about loving your enemies, but it just seems impossible with this woman! Isn’t there another way to do things? Shes’ just..so easy to not like. It’s easier that way. I still can be civil to her. But LOVE her?

Love your enemies.  It is one of those things you can say, and it sounds good. In reality, however, it is one of the hardest to put into practice. Mercy. We are called to love our enemies, to give even when those receiving don’t appreciate, to forgive and show grace. And it’s hard! Because some people are messed up. Lots of us are. But how do you tell yourself to love your parents who never showed any kindness or care towards you? How do you tell a girl to love her rapist? How do you tell a kid to give something to the bully that took everything from him anyways? In real life, loving our enemies is much harder than it seems.

     But let’s put it in perspective.

     There came a man who preached peace, and repentance, and a new way of living that was so different from everything else that everyone else was trying. He talked about reconciliation, and redemption, a man trying to reunite His family back together.  He presented a new kind of relationship, that didn’t require our work but merely answering His call. And what happened?
His children didn’t hear Him, or want to hear Him. They shouted Him down, they tried to kill Him multiple times, drove Him out of towns and villages. His own people in the town He grew up rejected Him. Those closest to Him fled from Him. He was tried in court and, when they couldn’t really find anything wrong, sentenced Him to death. He was beaten beyond recognition, torn up and bloodied, and nailed alive to a cross to bleed and die. He was abandoned by His own Father, and for moments this man was completely alone in the world.

That man was Jesus. He took on the sins of the entire world so that we might be able to be with Him someday-because He loves us that much. And when we do become followers of Christ, we need to extend that same mercy and love towards all that we meet. Now, I’m not saying that sometimes you can’t stand up for yourself. Even Jesus threw people out of the temple when they were doing wrong. But we all are sinners. We all fall short of God’s glory. He died for us all. And to extend the grace that He extends to you, to another person…that kind of love has a powerful, life changing effect. People don’t understand just how somebody can be so gracious and merciful in a situation that clearly would be reasonable to be upset and bitter and unforgiving in. And that is where the Gospel is presented. Because just like that person may seem undeserving of forgiveness…so are we. But God did it anyway.

So yea. Put up with that annoying coworker. Be loving to that person nobody seems to care about. Try to extend yourself to that stuck-up “popular” kid. Try to forgive the driver who killed your child, try to forgive that family member, that mother, that father, that neighbor, that spouse. It’s not an easy task, and it takes time and prayer and discipline. But the effort is so worth it. Because if the love that Christ loves us with is allowed to go forth, this world will be a much, much better place.

Will you begin to try to really show God’s mercy today?

http://bible.com/59/luk.6.35-36.esv

An Impossible Love for An Impossible Law (Devo, January 12)

“Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.”
-Rom. 13:10

     First, I would like to apologize for being gone the past few days. I had a very busy weekend.
That being said, I am glad to be back writing for you all! And what a verse we have to come back to.

Who remembers the Fairly Oddparents?
The fairies all had to follow the guidlines and rules that were found in one book, “Da Rules”. And it was thick. Impossibly thick. To the point where there were rules that were discovered a lot that  nobody had any idea about. It got Timmy and Cosmo and Wanda in trouble a few times, because there were some rules they simply didn’t know existed. It was a set of rules that seemed pretty impossible to keep.

How does this apply to the law of God? Ultimately, what the  Bible shows us is that the law was given to us in order to show us our own sinfulness. It can’t save us if we keep it, because nobody can follow the entirety of the law. It’s the real life version of “Da Rules”. It’s humanly impossible! There are so many aspects to the Law of God that if we could keep them all, then none of the messed up stuff that goes on in our world would go on. Alas, we are human. We are sinful. And therefore we could never keep the entirety of the law.

Why, then, is love the fulfillment of this impossible law?

If you think about it-everything that we do affects our relationships with others, in some form or another. We either are affecting other people, or affecting our relationship with God. The law is in place to show us where we fall short in our relationships and gives us ways to live that help us to be better to ourselves and those around us. But nobody is perfect.
What love does, though-perfect, Godly love-is it is at peace with everyone. It can perfectly fulfill the law because love doesn’t do wrong to people. What makes it even better is that love is not just some airy emotion. It is NOT our worldly notion of love. It’s a person.  The Bible tells us that God Himself is love. If you read through the New Testament, Jesus never did anything to wrong His fellow man. People were offended, sure. But He never hurt anyone, never was arrogant or proud, never belittled people or put them down out of spite. He was the perfect example of how to live “if at all possible, at peace with all men” (verse here). Because love, in the person of Jesus, never did any wrong towards his neighbors, He was the perfect and only thing that could fulfill the law. And He did, when He died on the cross for the sins of the world. He fulfilled all of the law, and ushered in a New Covenant.
“It is finished”, He said.
Does the law still exist?  To be sure. And it is still useful and good to follow and to live by. But we don’t have to bear the strain of keeping it all, 100%. We can’t do that.

There is One who already did.

http://bible.com/59/rom.13.10.esv

All You Need Is Love, Right? (Devo, January 4)

” And he said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.’ ”
-Matt. 22:37-38

Love. Its the center of so many songs. We have a holiday for it. We sing about it in church, in bars, on street corners, on stages. We express it in so many ways, and we write books about it, and we debate it, if it’s just science or something more…We are fascinated with love.

1 John 4:8 tells us though that whoever does not love doesn’t know God, cause God Himself  is love.
I wonder, if we took a closer look, if we really are ready to love as the God who IS love tells us to love-and WHO we should love first.

All Your Heart: God tells us to love Him with all our heart. Every emotion we have, every ounce of passion and desire we have to give, should be His. There are a lot of people with hearts divided in this world. Between money, success, fame, spouses, people, ways of life..there are so many things that can jostle for our affections. But our heart finds peace and rest when we give our love, our passion, and our emotion over to the only One who can satisfy them fully-the God who IS love. Who better to love than a God who really is the essence of it?
So instead of chasing after those things your heart desires, or riding that emotional roller coaster all the time, first center it on God, and on loving Him first. Everything else will fall into place.

All Your Soul: In my theology class at Concordia, we had an interesting talk where we ended up loosely defining the “soul” as everything that makes you, you. Personality. Likes, dislikes, quirks..the things that make Michael, Michael, and not anyone else. When we love God with all of our soul, we are entrusting to Him all that makes us unique. Why is this important? Because He is the only real source of validation for who we are. Jeremiah tells us that He knew us before He even created us. God gave us everything that makes us special. When we give it back to Him, we are saying “I trust and believe that what You made is good. You made me just as you wanted me to be.”

All Your Mind: There is definitely an intellectual component to love! Here’s an example. There’s a girl that I very much like. If we end up together, I will make it my job to learn all that I can about her-her likes, dislikes, what makes her tick, why she is so weird, what makes her happy…because then I can better love her, and have a better relationship with her. In the same way, loving God with our mind means that we are always seeking Him out. We want to know more about Him so that we can love Him more, so that we can learn even more, and the cycle continues.

When we learn to love God as He would desire-totally, completely, with full abandon to Him-we begin to find a deeper balance in ourselves, and we find it easier to love in the world around us. But it starts with the source. Where is your love directed today? Is it stretched thin, pulled tight over so many people and things? Or is it full and rich and overflowing from the love of God inside of you?

http://bible.com/59/mat.22.37-38.esv