Welcome to Love Nation (Day 1)
February 1, 2015
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” – Philippians 4:4-9
These words from Paul seem to cut to the core of life and joy and love. They put into perspective what it means to live with and for God. They’re a concentrated blueprint for a life of love. And that’s what I want to talk about. How to live a life of love. Because a life of love seeks to make a difference for better. A life of love feels the hurts of this world and seeks to sooth them. A life of love transcends an everyday life and turns into a life seeking something greater. That greater is God, the Creator of life and love itself. With Him there can be fulfillment, perfection, perfect love. With Him sorrows can be wiped away, joy can be full, and love can be eminent in our lives.
This month I want to do something different. For the past three years I’ve spent the entire month of January trying to speak to the hearts of men. But what about women? What is important to a woman’s heart? What can I do to speak to you as a woman? First, I’m not going to try to give instruction. I’m not going to try to decipher what it means to be a woman. And I’m not going to pretend I know or understand all the things found within the life of a woman. Rather, I want to talk about something that women often find easier to talk about than men. I want to talk about something that I think most women cherish. I want to dedicate February to talking about love.
And with that I can feel the pressure building. I can feel the pressure to speak eloquently with beautiful stories, because love is preeminently beautiful. Will I be able to do it? I don’t know. But here’s what I do know. We need more love in this world. We need love to inspire us everyday. We need love to fill our hearts. Sadly, too many of us live without it. The homeless man begging for money to buy another beer. The woman who just caught her husband… The orphan who’s never met a parent. We all need love. The good news is that we can all have it. God loves us. God loves us. God loves us. God is love and He sent His Son to die for us. Jesus loves, and He came to teach us how to love. So for the next few weeks I want to focus on Jesus and how He loved. He brought us the Gospel and the Gospel more than anything is the good news about the pinnacle of love. Join me in dedicating this month to love. And through it, let’s pray we become people dedicated to love. It will be scary. It will make us vulnerable. It will be hard and it will take perseverance. But… “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” – Hebrews 12:1-2
I Love You,
First Encounters (Day 2)
February 3, 2015
Love always starts with God. 1 John 4:19 says, “We love because He first loved us.” But I can’t help but notice, that God’s love is often first encountered through a woman. Through love God created everything we know. The earth, the heavens, the plants, and the animals. But at first, man had no companion. So God made Adam, that first man, a companion. And this was Adams response.
“This at last is bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called Woman,
because she was taken out of Man.”
– Genesis 2:23b
And the Bible continues… “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” – Genesis 2:24 God is love, but He shares His love for us in many ways. God was sharing His love through all of creation, but a new kind of love showed up with Eve, that first woman. And if we move ahead through history we can once again see a new experience of love for us shared by God manifested through Christ. And again God chooses a woman to be the medium. Why? I’m not sure I have a good answer. I’m not really sure it’s a good question. But what I am sure of is that God has so often chosen women to share His love. He created women out of His love to share love. It’s obvious that men and women both know how to show love, but women are special. Early in our developmental years we start to show our differences. Boys are interested in power and control and getting dirty. While girls are more naturally drawn towards relationships, caring, and nurturing. Of course not every boy and girl is the same. And it’s normal for boys to be nurturing and girls to enjoy getting dirty too. But there’s something different between men and women in the fundamental motivation of life. One of those differences is the way we communicate. Women love to share their emotions. Men dread it. But emotions need to be shared. Especially love. So God made woman. And God chose to give us Jesus through a woman first.
“And Mary said,
My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my sprit rejoices in God my Savior,
for He has looked on the humble estate of His servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for He who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is His name.
And His mercy is for those who fear Him
from generation to generation
He has shown strength with His arm;
He has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
He has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich He has sent away empty.
He has helped His servant Israel,
in remembrance of His mercy,
as He spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”
– Luke 1:46-55 (The Magnificat or Song of Mary)
Christ’s first physical encounter with people was through a woman. And that woman did not keep silent. And while we can’t have a physical encounter with Christ right now, He is still here. He’s still loving us. Let’s not be silent. The Gospel of John says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” and it continues “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” – John 1:1,14 God’s love is manifested through words, it was manifested through the Word. Do we have words for it? Do we have words for Him? Let your love take word and spread. Because our words of love may be someones first encounter with Christ.
Do you know Christ?
Child of God (Day 3)
February 4, 2015
Sometimes it’s best to just let God speak.
“And when Jesus was baptized, immediately He went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on Him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, ‘This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.’” – Matthew 3:17-17 “And when He came up out of the water, immediately He saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on Him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.’” – Mark 1:10-11 “And the Holy Spirit descended on Him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.’ Jesus, when He began His ministry, was about thirty years of age, being the son (as was supposed) of Joseph, the son of Heli, the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, the son of Melchi, the son of Jannai, the son of Joseph, the son of Mattathias, the son of Amos, the son of Nahum, the son of Esli, the son of Naggai, the son of Maath, the son of Mattathias, the son of Semein, the son of Josech, the son of Joda, the son of Joanan, the son of Rhesa, the son of Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel, the son of Neri, the son of Melchi, the son of Addi, the son of Cosam, the son of Elmadam, the son of Er, the son of Joshua, the son of Eliezer, the son of Jorim, the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, the son of Simeon, the son of Judah, the son of Joseph, the son of Jonam, the son of Eliakim, the son of Melea, the son of Menna, the son of Mattatha, the son of Nathan, the son of David, the son of Jesse, the son of Obed, the son of Boaz, the son of Sala, the son of Nahshon, the son of Amminadab, the son of Admin, the son of Arni, the son of Hezron, the son of Perez, the son of Judah, the son of Jacob, the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham, the son of Terah, the son of Nahor, the son of Serug, the son of Reu, the son of Peleg, the son of Eber, the son of Shelah, the son of Cainan, the son of Arphaxad, the son of Shem, the son of Noah, the son of Lamech, the son of Methuselah, the son of Enoch, the son of Jared, the son of Mahalaleel, the son of Cainan, the son of Enos, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, THE SON OF GOD.” – Luke 3:22-38 “And John bore witness: ‘I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on Him, I myself did not know Him, but He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.” – John 1:32-34
“But to all who did receive Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” – John 1:12-13
God loves you. You are a child of God.
Called (Day 4)
February 5, 2015
“While walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And He said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.’ Immediately they left their nets and followed Him.” – Matthew 4:18-20
How do we react to Jesus’ calling? Do we leave our “nets” and follow? Do we put down the things of this world to follow Him? Is our job getting in the way? Is our fun distracting us from Him? No, we’re not called like the disciples were called. Jesus chose twelve very deliberately. But He’s still calling. He’s still asking for followers. It’s in love that He desires for us to choose Him. It’s not complicated. There isn’t a lot to go into depth about. He died for you so that you could be saved from this world. He died for me so that I could be saved too. Will we accept His gift of love? There’s life in it. There’s life in Him. He offers a life unlike any other. He promises an everlasting, joyous, and perfected life of love. Say yes!
“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with Me.” – Jesus – Revelation 3:20
You are called,
I Will (Day 5)
February 5, 2015
Jesus healed many people throughout His ministry. At the beginning of His ministry the Bible talks about whole crowds being healed. But Jesus didn’t heal everyone. Why? And the Bible doesn’t talk about every instance of healing. Why? But there are events of healing that the Bible does talk about. Why? I don’t know. But what we can know is that Jesus heals. “While He [Jesus] was in one of the cities, there cam a man full of leprosy. And when he saw Jesus, he fell on his face and begged him, ‘Lord, if You will, You can make me clean.’ And Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, saying, ‘I will; be clean.’ And immediately the leprosy left him.” – Luke 5:12-13 What’s different about this event? What set it apart so that it rose to the level of qualifying for Biblical treatment? It tells a story of struggle. But more than that, it tells a truth of God’s, of Christ’s willingness to heal. And His willingness to touch a wound. Jesus’ touch was an illegal one. The whole encounter would have been illegal at the time. A man with leprosy shouldn’t have approached a healthy person. And a healthy person wasn’t allowed to touch a leprous man. But he approached Jesus. And Jesus touched Him. It would be easy to stop at the healing. Jesus healed, we could proclaim. We could be happy with His power and move on. But there’s more to the story. There’s a reason for the story that goes beyond Jesus’ ability to heal a sick person. It’s meant to speak to all of us. Jesus is Jesus, we are the leprous man. We all have wounds and diseases that need healing. The world says stay away. Don’t spread your junk around. And rightfully so. Because the world has little ability to heal. This man with leprosy was not supposed to touch anyone else for a good reason. And no one else was supposed to touch him for a good reason. Because disease spreads. And we have diseases we can spread too. Gossip, slander, anger; they’re diseases we can spread. But Jesus is different. He’s willing and able to touch our disease, to acknowledge it, and then to heal it. Because His love is greater than the disease. Whatever it is we may be going through, let’s learn to take it to Jesus. Let’s learn from this man with leprosy and learn to beg for healing at Jesus’ feet. Jesus’ physical ministry may have ended here on earth, but His ministry continues in our lives through the Holy Spirit. That’s the Gospel. And that’s Good News for you and me. It’s Good News that when asked to heal, Jesus replies, “I will.” The question for us is, are we willing to ask for His healing. Let our answer be, “I will.”
Everything Is Upside Down (Day 6)
February 9, 2015
“And He opened His mouth and taught them, saying:
‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on My account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.’” – Jesus – Matthew 5:2-12
Love doesn’t always manifest itself in ways we want it to. These beatitudes, these blessings from Jesus aren’t good news for everyone. Some of us, at times all of us, can read these and have to try to fit ourselves into one of these blessings. “Am I a peacemaker?” we might ask ourselves. “Is my heart pure?” When things are going well, that’s when the beatitudes begin to lose their value in our hearts. “I haven’t been persecuted.” We may be thinking. But why not? Are we merciful? Are we meek? Too often these conditions don’t apply to us. Too often we forget about them and then wonder if we’re blessed. But life takes its tumbles. People die. Friends and loved ones exit from our lives. Jobs are lost. Work becomes too hard… It’s in the hard times of life that we realize we need Jesus the most. It’s our human nature. We want to be in control and be able to bless ourselves. But we need blessing. We need the blessing of Jesus Himself. Even in the good times. But too often we forget about it in the good times. Sometimes when life is great we are tempted to skip the beatitudes entirely. Why? Is it because we can’t find ourselves in them? Jesus had a way of turning everything upside down. He flips our plans and ideas the same way He flipped the tables on the merchants in the temple. That’s what His love can do. Do you want to be blessed by Jesus? All it takes is committing your life to Him. I guarantee you will fit into Jesus’ list. Stand up for what is right. I guarantee you will be made fun of at some point. Stand up for Jesus. I guarantee you will called stupid and naive at some point. Try to make peace. I guarantee your courage will be doubted at some point. But it’s not about making Jesus’ list, it’s about loving Him. Jesus continues on in this same speech to call us “the salt of the earth” and “the light of the world.” Don’t commit your life to mediocrity. Be special. It’s easy to be mediocre. People will rarely give you a hard time, because they won’t even notice you. Do something to get noticed. Do something for Jesus. Do something for love. Because God is love. It won’t always be easy. But you will be blessed. Because the everything is upside down now.
Love somebody and be blessed,
The Unexpected (Day 7)
February 10, 2015
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.” – Jesus – Matthew 5:43-44 ESV
Notice something; the word “Love” is capitalized in this text, even though it follows a comma. Admittedly, not every translation, or version, of the Bible capitalizes love in this text. But many do. Why? Why is normal grammar broken in this text. I really can’t say. And I haven’t found anyone who can. But there’s a sense that love is supposed to stand out. More so than it usually is. This isn’t any sort of love. This is agape love, 100% love. It stands out and above the love we have for friends and family. I don’t mean that it’s more important to love our enemies, or that we should love our enemies more than our family and friends. Jesus’ point was that we should have agape love for everyone. Including the unexpected. Humanity tells us to love the people close to us. And it seems natural and healthy for us to hate our enemies. But humanity and what seems natural are so often wrong. Have you prayed for a terrorist? Why not? Jesus died for them too. That’s what Jesus is talking about here. He’s talking about a love that supersedes life and speaks to eternity. He’s talking about a love that in the midst of conflict realizes there’s more. He’s talking about a love that is more concerned with salvation than comfort. And that’s Jesus. He didn’t come to die for people He thought were doing really good. He came because He loves us all, no matter how evil we may be. Because He came in the name of Love. He came to destroy evil. And there’s no better weapon agains the evil and ills of this world than love. And so He came with His Love. And He died for Love. And He rose with Love. And Love won. What are we arming ourselves with? I hope it’s the unexpected.
God is Love and you are loved,
Focus On The Right Thing, You’re More Important Than The Pigs (Day 8)
February 11, 2015
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” – John 3:16 It’s maybe the most iconic verse in the Bible. Probably the most widely known. It tells of God’s love for us. It tells of Jesus and what He does for us. But do we follow? We all love the verse. But do we love the reality of Jesus? Do we really appreciate what Jesus’ love does? Because while Jesus’ love saves, it also lays down a gauntlet. Jesus saves, but He also calls. He asks us to re-prioritize our lives. He wants us to view things differently because of Him. The Bible doesn’t start and stop with John 3:16. That verse doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It’s surrounded by thousands of pages of scripture and volumes of teaching. And if we read just a few verses father we come to another reality. “And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.” – John 3:19 Remember the story of Jesus removing demons from a man and then sending them into a herd of pigs? Remember what happened? The herd of pigs ran into the sea and drown right? But another thing happened as well. A man was healed. The Bible says, “When the herdsmen saw what had happened, they fled and told it in the city and in the country. Then people went out to see what had happened, and they came to Jesus and found the man from whom the demons had gone, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid.” – Luke 8:34-35 If the Bible contained emoticons I’m pretty sure a frowny face would show up here. Because this is sad. John 3:16 shows up, the love of God that gives eternal life shows up, and people are afraid. The passage continues to say, “And those who had seen it told them how the demon possessed man had been healed. Then all the people of the surrounding country of the Gerasenes asked Him to depart from them, for they were seized with great fear. So He got into the boat and returned.” -Luke 8:36-37 Frowny face again. The light of the world was right in front of them and they didn’t see it. A tortured man was healed and they didn’t care. They saw the pigs instead. The pigs were more valuable than a mans life. The pigs were more valuable than their own eternal life. What’s more valuable in our lives? Is our job more valuable than life? Is entertainment more valuable than a person? Would we rather keep the status quo than accept Jesus? The questions seem so easy, but too often our answers are far too wrong. The love of Christ will force out the love of this world. We all want salvation. We all love John 3:16. But will we give up the things getting in their way? Will we tear down the wall that separates us from God’s love. Jesus has placed the explosives that can destroy it, all that’s left is for the button to be pushed. But that’s our job. Can we do our job? Can we blow up that wall? Do we want it gone? Focus on the right thing. Focus on Jesus. He’s more important than the pigs. You’re more important than the pigs.
Jesus Loves You,
The Rule (Day 9)
February 12, 2015
Jesus said, “This is the the law and the prophets.” What is it? you ask. “Whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them…” – Matthew 7:12 We often call it the Golden Rule. Because everyone agrees that it sets the bar on how would should treat each other. But we often pervert it and then call our rule the same. I’ve heard it said that almost every religion and culture has the same rule. And it’s true. People have stated a similar rule. But it’s not the same. Here’s the rule that people come up with. “Don’t do to someone else what you wouldn’t want them to do to you.” That’s pretty close isn’t it? But at the same time it’s not close at all. It’s much easier to not do to someone what is wrong than it is to do for them what is right. It’s much easier to avoid doing what’s wrong than it is to do what’s right. Doing what’s right takes an effort. Avoiding wrong takes… nothing at all. And in a way that’s wrong in itself. The Golden Rule speaks to feeding the poor. Giving to those in need. Helping a neighbor. Our rule… It speaks to avoiding people. It’s true, we shouldn’t wrong our neighbors. It’s true, we shouldn’t try to injure another person for no reason. It’s true, we shouldn’t gossip about others. But what should we do? The Golden Rule speaks to action. What should we do? It’s different for all of us. But if we were on the street corner? If we needed our lawn mowed? If we were hungry? Oh that we could keep the Golden Rule… This world could be a different place. If we could follow Jesus fully… This world would be a better place. The Golden Rule is Godly. Capital “G” Godly. Because it comes from God. It’s something to strive for, not settle in. It’s speaks of calling, not just being. It’s active, the opposite of passive. It’s God’s will for us and it asks us, what is our will for others. Will we act out of love, or just “do no harm.”
Let’s Act With Love,
You’re Worth Being Courageous (Day 10)
February 13, 2015
“And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both should and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. So everyone who acknowledges Me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies Me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.” – Jesus – Matthew 10:28-33 Let Jesus speak and let Him love you.
You Are Loved,
Radical Acceptance (Day 11)
February 16, 2015
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.” – Jesus – John 10:10-11
Today I ran across an article from the Huffington Post on Facebook that my cousin reposted. It talked about a concept called “Radical Acceptance.” The Huffington Post cites a therapeutic methodology developed by Dr. Marsha Linehan at the University of Washington called Dialectical Behavior Therapy or DBT to describe this way of thinking. The idea is that we cannot dwell on “what could have been,” rather we must realize what is and simply, radically, accept it. I can’t say it’s a new concept but rather a newly verbalized one.
But here’s my question for us. Have we accepted reality? The good, the ok, and the bad? Or are we living on what might have been? Maybe we’d still be married if only we’d… We’d still have our kids if… If only… From the time we’re kids we want to be able to go back in time and correct our mistakes. And I guess that’s what mistakes are for. For the learning of lessons. Still, it’s hard to endure punishment when you realize it didn’t have to be. Our actions have consequences, and sometimes they’re hard to accept. But to not accept them is to live in a dream world of an alternate reality. To not accept what is, is to decide not to learn. It’s to decide to skip the reality of what could be greater for a dream of what could have been.
And that leads to another question. Have you radically accepted the reality of Christ? He’s the only way we don’t have to look back on our mistakes and wish for what could be. Because He’s the only one that can, that has erased those mistakes. What could have been if humans had never erred? We could be living in a perfect world. Jesus wouldn’t have died. We could meet God face to face. But then… Jesus did die. And that’s a reality. But there’s a new reality. Jesus rose from the dead. There’s a new reality. Your sins are forgiven. There’s a new reality… Your mistakes don’t define your eternal future. Have you accepted that? Have you accepted that Jesus makes everything greater. Have you accepted that the consequences of those mistakes can be erased. Have you accepted that we can meet our Creator face to face. It’s radical and it’s awesome. It’s a radically awesome acceptance and it will change everything about you. Because Jesus loves you. There’s a new reality!
“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” – Jesus – John 10:27-30
May your life be radical,
Empathic God (Day 12)
17 February, 2015
“Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw Him, she fell at His feet, saying to Him, ‘Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.’ When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in His spirit and greatly troubled. And He said, ‘Where have you laid him?’ They said to Him, ‘Lord, come and see.’ Jesus wept.” – John 11:32-35
Why did Jesus weep at the tomb of Lazarus? Many have speculated. In fact speculation began that very moment. The Bible says, “Jesus wept. So the Jews said, ‘See how He loved him! But some of them said, ‘Could not He who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?’” – John 11:35-37 But what good is the speculation? Would it help to know that Jesus wept because of our doubts. Would it be beneficial to know that Jesus wept because He loves us? Could we gain from the idea that Jesus wept because He wants us to see our future in Him? Yes! All of those things tell us something of Jesus. The Bible doesn’t say why exactly Jesus wept, except to say that He was moved. And He still is moved. It was a sad moment that accompanied that party at Lazarus’ tomb. And there are sad moments somewhere everyday. And Jesus wept. He wept because of the sadness. He’s an empathetic God. He’s a caring God. He empathizes with you. He cares about you. Remember the two sparrows? They are worth very little to us. But the Bible says not one sparrow will fall without Him seeing. And so how much more will He see you? He’s counted every hair on your head, the Bible says. He’s a caring God. He sees you and feels your pain. And so, “Jesus wept.” – John 11:35
Today… Know that He cares,
A Chase You Down Type Of Love (Day 13)
February 18, 2015
Who knows what it’s like to be lost? Some of us maybe don’t know, but I think most of us do. Whether it was just yesterday or that time in the grocery store twenty some years ago when you realized you didn’t know where mom was. That feeling of helplessness. That feeling like perhaps no one cares. It’s an uneasy feeling being lost. And I’m not just talking about being disoriented while driving. I’m talking about being truly lost and wondering if we’re ever going to be found; if we’re going to make it out alive. That kind of lost we always remember. As we grow up we learn how to avoid being lost. We learn that just because we can’t see our mom, she’s just around the corner, she’s not gone forever. We learn as we grow older to get used to the feeling of not knowing where we are. And we take for granted that idea that we’ll always be able to make it home. But some of us are lost and don’t even realize it. Some of us are on a track leading away from home and couldn’t care less. Some of us don’t even realize there’s a path. At times, whether we want to admit it or not, that’s been all of us. Of course I’m not just talking about being physically lost. I’m talking spiritually too. But here’s the good news. Jesus will chase you down. And He’ll find you. He won’t let you go without giving you a chance. No matter how lost we may be. He can always find us. Jesus told this parable. “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” – Luke 15:4-7 Jesus will find you. He’s the “Good Shepherd.” The question is, will you let Him rescue you? Will you let heaven rejoice because of your repentance? Will we allow ourselves to be found? Will we let Him carry us? Don’t hide today. Let Jesus carry you today.
Jesus Loves You,
Passing The Torch (Day 14)
February 19, 2015
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” – Jesus – John13:34-35
Jesus just passed the torch, are we willing to accept it? No, He didn’t finish His race with this act, but with it ours just started. Are we willing to run it? What sets apart Christ’s disciples? It’s our love. Could anyone, from observing us, tell that we follow Jesus? Would others say of us, “They love?” Could that be said of us? Jesus loved with His whole life. Now He wants us to do the same. What will that look like? For you I don’t know. It will look a little different for everyone. But, it will mean our actions, and everything we do, will be because of love. We won’t succeed at it. But we need to try. We won’t be perfect. But don’t let that stop us from starting. We will mess up. But that’s why Jesus died for us. Because He loves us, we love too. The torch has been passed. Let’s carry the flame of love high.
An “Even” Love (Day 15)
February 20, 2015
“He [Jesus] entered Jericho and was passing through. And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see Him, for He was about to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.’ So he hurried and came down and received Him joyfully. And when they saw it, they all grumbled, ‘He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.’” – Luke 19:1-7
Jesus is able! It doesn’t matter what we’re capable of when Jesus is capable of anything. So often we put the ownership of salvation on people. We look to the outside and see a history of violence, of cheating, of theft. And we assume automatically that the history overrides the future. That the future is determined by the past. That possibilities are limited by our abilities. But it’s not true. Jesus said it Himself, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” – Luke 19:10 He said that in response to the people who didn’t like that He would pay more attention to Zacchaeus a “sinner.” But we’re all Zacchaeus’, we all need to be sought after and saved. And that’s what Jesus came to do. So if today you feel like you don’t need saving, like you’ve got this. He came to save “even” you. And today if you don’t know how you could ever learn to trust this Christ everyone keeps talking about. He died to save “even” you. Today, if you want Him in your life but it seems like you can’t keep from messing everything up, He came, “even” for you. It’s no longer about us; our past, our abilities, our desires. It’s about Jesus. Because He loves “even” you more than you will ever know. You’re worth everything to Him.
Greatest Love (Day 16)
February 23, 2015
“This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” – Jesus – John 15:12-13
What can a person say about this? Is there something we can add to Christ’s words to somehow make them more affective? No. Of course not. So I won’t try. Instead, I want to implore us to search out the words of Christ. To listen to Him. To hear what He has to say; what He has said to us.
Do we appreciate Him? Do we see His love for us? Do we love Him? His love is greater. His love is for us. Do you know what He said after this? He said, “You are my friends if you do what I command you.” – John 15:14 Is that an ultimatum? Absolutely. But what did He command? That we love each other. His ultimatum is one of love. Can we follow it? Can we be inspired by it? The questions remain I know. Why? Why should we love one another? What’s in it for us… Heaven? But then aren’t we working our way towards the reward? But then aren’t we just doing it for us? And is it really love when it’s just for us? Here’s what Jesus said…
“If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” – John 15:10-11
Want full joy? Love.
Jesus Loves You,
A Beaten World (Day 17)
February 24, 2015
“But take heart; I have overcome the world.” – Jesus – John 16:33b
Sometimes Jesus’ love comes to us through simple encouragement. We know why He came. We know He came to love us through the sacrifice of His own life. But sometimes, even while we know we’ve been saved, we still need Him. A word of encouragement. A word of care. His words of love. We live in a world of sin. A world where satan would love for you to die pointlessly. That’s the hard but honest truth. Sometimes we feel that truth more than others. And I don’t know what to say about it exactly. Maybe there’s nothing to say. Except that Jesus has overcome the world. It doesn’t always feel that way. But then in those times, where are we looking? Are we looking towards Jesus? Are we realizing His love? Today I encourage you to read John 17. The entire chapter. It’s often referred to as “The High Priestly Prayer.” It’s a prayer for us, to God, from Christ Himself. We know Christ died for us, but sometimes it’s good to know that He prayed for us too. And that’s an act of love too. To pray for one another. I’ve said this many many times, but no matter what’s going on, no matter what you’re going through, in those roughest times when the world looks bleak, Jesus said this, “Take heart; I have overcome the world.”
You are loved,
A Dying Love (Day 18)
February 25, 2015
Here we are. We’ve gone through all four Gospels this month, looking for the ways Jesus loves us. And we’re coming to the end. We’re coming to His ultimate example of love. Remember what Jesus said. “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” – John 15:13 That wasn’t an empty statement for Jesus. It wasn’t just an example of what others should do. It was a statement of His love for us. Because He came to lay down His life for His friends. He came to give His life for us. He came to show us the greatest love. In order that we could be saved from ourselves. In order that we could feel true forgiveness from the One who is able to truly forgive.
Here is what the Bible says.
“Then the soldiers of the governor too Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole battalion before Him. And they stripped Him and put a scarlet robe on Him, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on His head and put a reed in His right hand. And kneeling before Him, they mocked Him, saying, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ And they spit on Him and took the reed and stuck Him on the head. And when they had mocked Him, they stripped Him of the robe and put His own clothes on Him and led Him away to crucify Him.
As they went out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name. They compelled this man to carry His cross. And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull), they offered Him wine to drink, mixed with gall, but when He tasted it, He would not drink it. And when they had crucified Him, they divided His garments among them by casting lots. Then they sat down and kept watch over Him there. And over His head they put the charge against Him, which read, ‘This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.’ Then two robbers were crucified with Him, one on the right and one on the left. And those who passed by derided Him, wagging their heads and saying, ‘You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from he cross.’ So also the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked Him, saying, ‘He saved others; He cannot save Himself. He is the King of Israel; let Him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in Him. He trusts in God; let God deliver Him now, if He desires Him. For He said, ‘I am the Son of God.’’ And the robbers who were crucified with him also reviled Him in the same way.
Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken Me?’ And some of the bystanders, hearing it, said, ‘This man is calling Elijah.’ And one of them at once ran and took a sponge, filled it with sour wine, and put it on a reed and gave it to Him to drink. But the others said, ‘Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save Him.’ And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up His spirit.
And Behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. And the tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming g out of the tombs after His resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many. When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, ‘Truly this was the Son of God!’
There were also many women there, looking on from a distance, who had followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to Him, among whom were Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Joseph and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.” – Matthew 27:27-56
Jesus Died For You,
New Life (Day 19)
February 26, 2015
Imagine the worst day of your life. Murder permeates your psyche and the images of a crucifixion just won’t leave your mind. Someone you love isn’t with you anymore. And all your hopes and dreams died with him. You get up early Sunday morning. You feel numb walking the streets. You get to the burial place. Death stares you in the face. But there’s something different this morning. Something less sinister. You can’t place it. It’s a feeling you’ll never forget. What is it? Life! Suddenly the birds appear with their songs. The air is crisp with a morning mist. The sun is shining and the flowers are beautiful. Because hope has returned. Love has won. The greatest act of love that once lead simply to the death of your Savior has now blossomed into new life with a resurrection unlike any other. Death, although real, no longer grips with everlasting determinant power. Good has triumphed Jesus has won the war. And there’s Jesus’ face shining into your soul. A smile unlike any other. It’s like the joy of a perfect day has entered your heart. It’s love unlike any ever experienced before. Tears flow with the joy of new life.
I’d like to imagine that’s what Sunday morning was like for Mary so many thousands of years ago. That she experienced something indescribable in it’s joy and magnitude. But I’d like to imagine something different to. I’d like to imagine something like that happening in all of our hearts. No we can’t go back and see Jesus that day, face to face. But we can experience His love and His joy in our hearts. When we accept His love as our Lord and Savior, when we realize that it’s not about what we do, but about what He did over that fateful weekend, something happens in our hearts. New life enters. Love wins. Good triumphs over evil. And Jesus smiles. What did He say about it? “I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” – Luke 15:10 And what does that repentance look like? It looks like letting Jesus affect your life. It’s not about you, it’s about Him. It’s not about what you’ve done. It’s about what He did. It’s not about the day, it’s about what He does in it. Can you hear the birds chirping? Can you smell the roses? Can you see the sun shining on this new day? Can you feel His smile, His love. It’s a new life!
Jesus Lives for you,
Follow Him (Day 20)
February 27, 2015
Over that past month we’ve been looking at all the ways Jesus loves us. The truth is, His life was lived for love. Everything He did was in the name of love. Healing the Talitha cumi (little girl) was an act of love. Calling Zacchaeus out of the sycamore tree was an act of love. And chasing the merchants from the temple was an act of love too. But His love was not meant to stop with Him. His love is meant to continue with and in us. He’s given us talents, are we going to use them for Him? Are we going to multiply them? He didn’t just leave this world with a mission accomplished banner. No, He left this world giving a commission. In it He told His disciples to, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.” – Mark 16:15-18 What are we doing in His name? What are we doing in the name of love? Before He left, Jesus had some questions for Peter; the conversation went, “‘Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?’ He said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.’ He said to him, ‘Feed My lambs.’ He said to him a second time, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love Me?’ He said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.’ He said to him, ‘Tend My sheep.’ He said to him the third time, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love Me?’ Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, ‘Do you love Me?’ and he said to Him, ‘Lord, You know everything, You know that I love You.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed My sheep. Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.’ (This He said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this He said to him, ‘Follow Me.’” – John 21:15b-19 This is obviously a conversation between Christ and Peter, and none of us are Peter. But we can still learn from this conversation. It’s in the Bible for a reason. We can ask ourselves, “Do we love Jesus?” And if so, are we feeding His sheep? Are we living to benefit others? That’s what the love of Jesus does to us. More than anything it changes our motivation of life. It changes our focus from ourselves to others. Are we living like Christ’s love has changed us in any way? I pray Jesus changes all of us. This year let’s follow Him.
Until next year, may you know the love of Jesus,