Friday, May 30, 2008

More stories of God's love

A couple of weeks ago I asked people to share stories of God's love. Here is a submission from Martha in California:

One of my most outstanding stories of knowing God's love happened many years ago. My daughter was only seven months old. She was very ill with a high fever caused by I knew not what.

After taking her to the doctor's office, I was told to immediately get her to the emergency hospital. As I frantically drove I prayed silently that God would be with both of us. With Mary to let her live and with me to make the trip safely.

In the process, she stopped breathing twice, but recovered her breath.

We were met by nurses and a pediatrician at the door to the hospital and she was taken away for treatment. After what seemed an eternity, the doctor came and told me that she should, with God on our side, survive.

God was with us and he did allow her to survive, unscathed, to become a lovely, caring and giving, young lady and a daughter to be proud of.

I have thanked God for his love everyday since then.

God shows love to us in many different ways. How has He shown His love to you lately?

Monday, May 26, 2008

The Sacred Nature of Marriage

To marry the one person that God intends to share your life with is one of the biggest blessings we can receive. That’s because it is a relationship patterned after Jesus’ love for his bride, the church (a match truly made in heaven described in Ephesians chapter 5). When we model our own marriage after this pattern, there is a deep, unbreakable, unconditional love, trust, and respect between a man and woman, the husband and wife.

But what happens when this pattern isn’t followed? What can happen when the legal commitment and covenant isn’t there?

· Fear of abandonment. It’s easier to leave the one you are ‘committed’ to. Divorce is as easy as one partner leaving the other, with no legal ramifications on the one who leaves. Not only can this be devastating to the adults involved, it is equally and often more devastating to children (even to adult children).

· Disunity. In the marriage covenant, a covenant made in the presence, and with the inclusion, of God, “the man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” Outside of the covenant is an attitude of “he has his life, and I have mine.” Too often, spouses become little more than roommates.

· Lack of trust. Jesus is faithful to his church. In the same way God wants spouses to be faithful to each other. If the sacredness of marriage is not taken seriously, a wife may question her husband’s faithfulness and love for her, and vice-versa, straining, if not breaking, the trust that should be inherent in the marriage.

These are only a few things. As anyone knows, no marriage is perfect. Many marriages are not modeled after Jesus’ love for the church. I’d even venture to say that most marriages don’t even include God.

If a couple has been married for many years, does God really allow do-overs to make the relationship better? I believe the answer to this question is “Yes.” Here are some suggestions:

· Pray. Accept Jesus to be the Lord of your life. If your spouse is willing, pray together as a couple. Ask Jesus to be the third partner in your marriage. He has solutions to problems and situations that you and your spouse cannot see on your own. Model your love for each other on the love he has for the church.

· Find at least one couple who has a long-term, successful marriage. Ask them if they will be willing to mentor you. No one ever said that a couple has to figure out this marriage thing all on their own. Learn from someone who has “been there, done that.”

· If you’re not married, enter into the sacred covenant of marriage. If you are married, renew your vows, this time including God in them. You don’t have to go all-out with a huge ceremony, but make it special. God does not want you to start your relationship in debt, unless it is a debt of love for Him and for each other.

Take advantage of the do-over that God so graciously allows. Invest in your marriage to make it long-lasting, so that you can turn around and mentor another couple in the future. If God uses you to be a part of saving one family, it is worth it.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Experiencing God's Love

People today live hurried, stressed-out lives. Between the demands on us from our jobs and families, it's not surprising that the only down-time many of us seem to get is the precious few hours of sleep every night. It seems the only time we stop and smell the roses is when we spray the artificial fragrance from a can of air freshener.

It's time to change that. It's time we slow down, breathe the fragrance of the Holy Spirit, and tell others of the ways that we have experienced and known God's love in our lives.

I'll go first. I'll try to keep it short, so everyone gets a turn to share their story.

The time that comes to mind of knowing God's love happened last summer. At the time I was a section manager in a busy public service office, and had just finished a week full of employee drama and a few missed deadlines. That Saturday I decided to go to a park with my pen, my journal, and my Bible, and spend some time with God. My plan was to re-hash the events. I suppose I wanted to see what I could have done differently and come up with a strategy for the following week.

Shortly after I got settled at the park I saw a gray dove walking on the lawn about ten feet from me. At that moment I sensed Jesus telling me that whatever burdens I was carrying were His now, and that this moment was intended to be spent in the peace of His presence. Immediately the stress of the past week was relieved. When I arrived at the park, I was expecting tears of frustration. Instead I had tears of joy from experiencing God's love for me.

Now it's someone else's turn to share. Who's next?

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

The Affair of the Unfair Fare to the Fair

It’s no big secret that the price of gasoline is higher than we ever imagined we’d be paying. So, to try to save some money, I decided that I’d start to ride the bus more often. Now riding the bus does have its benefits, such as saving money, good for the environment, and getting exercise by walking to and from the bus stop. But there’s one thing that I noticed about the bus that, if you take time to think about it, seems a bit unfair.

The fare.

Let’s suppose that the carnival is in town on a Friday, and three friends take the bus to get there (just one bus, no transfers involved). The first friend gets on the bus 7 miles from the fairgrounds, and pays the $1.25 bus fare. The second person boards 4 miles from the fair, and pays the same $1.25. The third person gets on only one mile before their stop, and, yep, a buck and a quarter for him too.

Even though a buck and a quarter isn’t much, if I were the third rider in this story I’d feel like I might have reason to complain. After all, I had to pay as much as rider #1, yet he got seven times the benefit??? Wassupwiddat?? I’m so miffed about this injustice that I decide to write to the bus company and tell them what I felt about the unfairness of the fare to the fair. Here’s the response I’d likely get:

“Fair rider,

A friendly thank you to you and your friends for riding Fast-Trak Bus.

We are sorry that you frettingly found fault with us and felt that the fare for you and your friends was unfair. The policy of Fast-Trak Bus Company is the fare for the bus is determined by the rider setting foot on the bus. The payment is per ride. As owner of the Fast-Trak Bus Company, I make the rules as I see fit. Furthermore, the fare for the Fast-Trak Bus to last Friday’s fair was in fact fair for you and your friends.

If you find our findings faulty, you may in the future find that the ferry may be feasible.

P.S. Fried fair food is fabulous, unless you’re finicky.”

(OK, maybe not in those exact words….. but you get the idea.)

So the unfair fare is fair once you understand the rules – Pay $1.25 to get to your destination, no matter where you start from.

The Kingdom of Heaven has a similar unfair fairness about it. Particularly when it comes to “bad” people accepting Jesus at the end of their lives. Who can stomach the thought of a serial killer being allowed into heaven? How can God allow someone who committed that kind of atrocity into His presence? And for eternity, no less?

It’s God’s Kingdom. He makes the rules. And the rule is that God does not want anyone to perish but everyone to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). With that in mind, God so loved the world that he gave His one and only son that whosoever believes in him will not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16).

Looking at my own life, I have done things and treated others in a way that should keep me banned from heaven. But by faith in Jesus Christ and receiving his forgiveness for all that I’ve done, I can look forward to entering the Kingdom of Heaven someday.

In all fairness, I hope the same for you.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Unanswered Prayer

Have you ever pondered why people have periods of time when they don't pray? For myself, the times when I don't pray much are times that I feel things are going well in my life. And the times that I pray the hardest are when I was most desperate. Times when I knew I couldn't see a way through on my own and needed God to intervene where I was otherwise powerless. When I surrender to God in my helplessness is when I often have seen the power of the Holy Spirit intervene in my life to move me forward.

But what happens when we don’t perceive God’s answers to our prayers?

As I write this, I can’t help but think of a couple who are "just meant for each other" after their first date. They hit it off, have a great time, and at the end of the evening he promises to call her.

A day or so later, he does call, believing that she is "the one", and hoping that the relationship will progress. But for whatever reason she doesn’t get the call – not home at the time, doesn’t get the message, she didn’t pay the phone bill, whatever the case may be. The woman becomes disappointed. Maybe he’s been busy. She’ll wait a little longer.

He tries sending a note. The envelope is non-descript, and she mistakes it for junk mail.

He tries to call again. Visits her home. Looks for her in places she frequents, hoping to connect with her. But they just don’t connect.

She believes that this guy wasn’t so great after all. Maybe even starts to believe that he is a jerk, like so many before him.

What she doesn’t understand is that her date did keep his promise. She just didn’t see the evidence of it.

Aren’t we like that when we don’t see God’s answers to our prayers? We miss the evidence that He gives us. We pray for healthy living, all the while reaching for another piece of chocolate cake instead of the fruit salad. We pray for our finances to be better, hoping that we’ll have a windfall of cash, yet delete the email with tips on budgeting what we have. We ask for resolution in a relationship, hoping our mate will change, and write off the radio talk show host that gave spot-on advice to the caller who seemed to know our story all too well.

God answers our prayers, even when it’s not what we expect. His will is to connect with us, to move our relationship with Him forward. It’s no big mystery … He DOES pursue us relentlessly. We just seem to get in the way. We don’t always see the ways He answers our prayers, our longings, our cries of desperation. And in some cases, we may even believe that He doesn’t even care about us.

But He does.

Listen! The Lord’s arm is not too weak to save you,
nor is his ear too deaf to hear you call.
It’s your sins that have cut you off from God.- Isaiah 59:1-2

Our sin caused a huge gap between us and God, and it's a gap that we cannot bridge on our own. But God loves us too much to be separated from us. So He gave us Jesus, who by his death paid the price for our sins, to fill in that gap between us and God, a gap that only he could fill. The break is repaired so that we can embrace the One who lovingly pursued us all along.