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Sunday grace

So much to read and so little time. After all, there are meals to prepare, Maisie to walk, Sweet William to look after, and people to enjoy. And I do love my people.

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But when I can, I like to read a variety of books. With some, I wonder why I bothered when the words become disagreeable and/or plain boring, yet the perfectionist in me commands me to finish. Occasionally, I’ve disregarded that overachiever voice and closed the cover.

My current reading is disturbing. The author writes about surviving church, remaining a believer in spite of those who fill sanctuaries. It’s about Christians who don’t really act like Christians. They are more like legalist; prosecutor, judge and jury; critic; hater of the sin and the sinner too. Sadly, I am convicted by the descriptions. I have been them.

Examining Jesus words and actions, recorded in the Gospels, I see something completely different. He loved the unlovely and touched the untouchable. He did not condemn but called for  disciples. He offered forgiveness to the worst offender. He showed compassion for the masses and the individual. He was merciful and full of grace.

And yet the truth He declared was lightning-bolt startling, like no other. He spoke with the authority of the I Am, asking His followers to take up the cross and walk with Him. He called His friends to an impossibly high standard.

How do I achieve the law of love Jesus commanded? How can I be holy like the Father is holy?

I cannot. Nor can anyone else. And therein lies the lavish gift of grace.

For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as sons [and daughters] through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.
—   Ephesians 1:4-6 NIV

By trusting Christ to be my Savior and Lord, He calls me holy and blameless.

Holy and Blameless! This is outrageous. Scandalous. Shocking. Is he talking about me?

This beauty in which I am clothed is through Jesus Christ. It is God’s pleasure and will. It is to the praise of His glorious grace. It is freely given in the One He loves.

This is the amazing grace of God. Its extravagance invites me into communion with Christ, Him living through me, loving others in a way I could not on my own. His strength empowers me to be the person I was created to be. Through Him, I will not just call myself a Christian, I will live like one.

Sunday grace.

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Sunday grace

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We take our evening stroll, and the temperature is more bearable than it’s been in days. Still Maisie pants and I look toward the shady places where trees offer respite.

I pass by my neighbors and think of Jesus’ command, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Hard stuff sometimes.

It’s easy to love the young couple who has been kind to us, coming to our rescue, inviting us into their lives. They made a place in our hearts soon after their move into the neighborhood. And they loved us freely.

Didn’t Jesus tell me the reward for loving those who love me is small compared to loving those who don’t like me, mistreat me, even despise me? The rubber meets the road right there under the blazing sun.

I’ve prayed to love this week, even this very day. It isn’t always easy because I can’t manufacture the feeling. I know love is supposed to be an action word, but a little emotion to accompany would be nice.

Of course, loving God comes first. How can I love my neighbor if I’m not fully committed to loving God? Because love comes from God and God is love. Without His invasion into my heart, my life, my entire being, I can’t expect to get it right.

I perceive this loving business is primary. Opportunities abound. People are everywhere. Some are lovable. Some are not.

Dear Father,
Infuse me with Your love. Plant me deep in it, like the trees, rooted and established, being able to grasp how wide, how long, how high, and how deep the love of Christ is, the love He freely gives to me. I want to know this love that surpasses knowledge. Fill me to the measure of all the fullness of God. And then teach me to love my neighbor as myself.  (Ephesians 3:16-19 and Mark 12:31)

It’s a tall order, a mountain-size request for me to love like that. But my God specializes in the miraculous.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.    — Ephesians 3:20-21 NIV

Sunday grace.

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All about love

I’m listening to Adele on a DVD from my public library’s collection.  Believe it or not it’s my first time to hear Adele.  I know! Where have I been?

She takes my thoughts to Valentine’s Day with all the songs about love.  Unrequited love.  Disappointed love.  Love gone wrong.  Love that came and then went.  Makes one wonder, is there really a love that lasts?

While there are couples who have stayed together to celebrate 50, 60, even 70 years of marriage, how many have gone by the wayside?  Too many.

In a perfect world, we would all love with a pure love, without expectations, simply loving for the sake of love.  And wouldn’t the world be a better place?

But we don’t live in a perfect world.

When Jesus was asked about the greatest commandment – and there were so many the Jewish people were concerned with following – there were only two He mentioned.

The first and most important one is this,” Jesus replied—‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your mind, and with all your strength’. The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’. No other commandment is greater than these.

Everything else hinges on these two commands.  Love God.  Love others.

What if we asked God for the power, the ability to do that?  What if everything we did was first measured by “what would love do?”  What if this kind of love changed our hearts and made us different in every way?

Jesus beautifully did exactly that.  He loved God perfectly, and He loved others perfectly.  And the world killed Him for it.

But the power of love is greater than death.  He proved it to us.  He lives and loves still.

While I am in my lenten season of being present in the moment, I hope I can focus on loving better.

Loving like Jesus is a high calling, more than celebrating Valentine’s Day or the wedding anniversary each year.  It’s not something I can do naturally because I’m too self centered.  It will require a heart transplant.

His heart in me.  It’s the only way to love.  The only way to really live.

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You are loved

Day 28 of 40 days to Resurrection day

Today’s suggestion:  

Remind yourself that you are greatly loved. Also remind someone else.

love crossThere is this curious Hebrew word in Scripture.  It shows up in the Psalms often.  Selah.  There are different arguments as to it’s meaning.  Some give it the definition of “pause and think about it”.

In our busy lives filled with so much activity, the pauses come infrequently.  We drop into bed at night exhausted wondering if we ever did pause for a few moments.

Scripture instructs us to meditate, to think deeply or focus one’s mind for a period of time on certain things.  One of the important truths worth meditating on is how very much God loves you and me.

How often do you think about it, that  God loves you, I mean really, really loves you?  Sometimes we question it, don’t we, when things get complicated, when we are disappointed by some event, when life takes a dark turn, when grief knocks at our doors?

Often we tend to wonder if we are good enough for God’s love, if we are doing enough for Him, as if our behavior and accomplishments somehow affect the depth of His love.

Let me make this perfectly clear.  What we do does not increase or decrease the love of God.  We can never do enough to make Him love us more, and we can never sin so much that He will love us less.

This is hard for us comprehend because our love is often based on a person’s performance and how someone relates to us.

God’s love is a fact.  Nothing changes it.  His essence is love.  He demonstrates it constantly in the air we breathe, in the beauty of the earth, in the birth of a baby, even in the flawed love of people around us.

He has given us life and everything about it.  Gifts come from His hand every second of every day. Perhaps we just take them for granted because they are so common.  We forget the Lover of our souls.

His greatest gift is His love to a fallen world of humans who are unloving, mean, hateful, self-centered, puffed with pride, rebellious against His laws, and idolaters of any and everything.

Yet, He loved us.  He loves us still.

If you need some assurance, look to God’s love letter to the world and to you personally.

I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore, I have continued to extend faithful love to you.

For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.

But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. 

But God is so rich in mercy; he loved us so much that even though we were spiritually dead and doomed by our sins, he gave us back our lives again.  

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God

For I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from his love. Death can’t, and life can’t. The angels won’t, and all the powers of hell itself cannot keep God’s love away. Our fears for today, our worries about tomorrow, or where we are—high above the sky, or in the deepest ocean—nothing will ever be able to separate us from the love of God demonstrated by our Lord Jesus Christ when he died for us.

Don’t you ever forget it – you are loved!  And nothing, no nothing, will ever change that fact.  He stretched His arms out wide on Calvary just to prove it.  He welcomes you into His heart.

Believe it and meditate on it.  Share it with someone else.  The world needs to know.

How deep the Father's Love for us

Selah