Tag  |  gods-love

Unexpected Grace

It was an early Saturday morning in my sophomore year of high school, and I was eager to get to my job at the local bowling lanes. The evening before, I had stayed late to mop the muddy tile floors because the janitor called in sick.  I hadn't bothered to tell the boss about the janitor so I could surprise him.  After all, what could go wrong? I thought.

Plenty, as it turns out. 

Stepping in the door, I saw inches of standing water, with bowling pins, rolls of toilet paper and boxes of paper score-sheets bobbing on top. Then I realized what I had done: While doing the floors, I had left a large faucet running overnight! Incredibly, my boss greeted me with a huge hug and a big smile—“for trying,” he said.

Saul was actively punishing (Acts 8:1) and harassing Christians (Acts 9:1-2) when he came face to face with Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:3-4). Jesus confronted the soon-to-be-renamed apostle Paul with his sinful actions. Blinded by the experience, Saul/Paul would need a Christian—Ananias—to restore his sight to him in an act of courage and grace (Acts 9:17).

Both Saul and I received unexpected grace. 

Most people know they’re messed up. Instead of lectures, they need a hope for redemption. Stern faces or sharp words can block their view of that hope. Like Ananias, or even my boss, followers of Jesus must become the face of grace in these life-changing encounters with others.

Jesus Loves Maysel

When my sister Maysel was little, she would sing a familiar melody in her own way: “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells Maysel.” This irritated me to no end! As one of her older, “wiser” sisters, I knew the words were “me so,” not “Maysel.” Yet she persisted in singing it her way.

Now I think my sister had it right all along. The Bible does indeed tell Maysel, and all of us, that Jesus loves us. Over and over again we read that truth. Take, for example, the writings of the apostle John, “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (John 21:7, 20). He tells us about God’s love in one of the best-known verses of the Bible: John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

John reinforces that message of love in 1 John 4:10: “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” Just as John knew Jesus loved him, we too can have that same assurance: Jesus does love us. The Bible tells us so.

Imperfect, Yet Loved

In Japan, food products are immaculately prepared and packed. Not only must they taste good but they must look good too. Often I wonder if I am purchasing the food or the packaging! Because of the Japanese emphasis on good quality, products with slight defects are often discarded. However, in recent years, wakeari products have gained popularity. Wakeari means “there is a reason” in Japanese. These products are not thrown away but are sold at a cheap price “for a reason”—for example a crack in a rice cracker.

My friend who lives in Japan tells me that wakeari is also a catchphrase for people who are obviously less than perfect.

Jesus loves all people—including the wakeari who society casts aside. When a woman who had lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at a Pharisee’s house, she went there and knelt behind Jesus at His feet, weeping (Luke 7:37-38). The Pharisee labeled her “a sinner” (v. 39); but Jesus accepted her. He spoke gently to her, assuring her that her sins were forgiven (v. 48).

Jesus loves imperfect, wakeari people—which includes you and me. And the greatest demonstration of His love for us is that “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). As recipients of His love, may we be conduits of His love to the flawed people around us so they too may know that they can receive God’s love despite their perfections.

Our Powerful God

One day by the seaside, I delighted in watching some kite surfers as they bounced along the water, moved by the force of the wind. When one came to shore, I asked him if the experience was as difficult as it looked. “No,” he said, “It’s actually easier than regular surfing because you harness the power of the wind.”

Afterward as I walked by the sea, thinking about the wind’s ability not only to propel the surfers but also to whip my hair into my face, I paused to wonder at our God the Creator. As we see in the Old Testament book of Amos, He who “forms the mountains” and “creates the wind” can turn “dawn to darkness” (v. 13).

Through this prophet, the Lord reminded His people of His power as He called them back to Himself. Because they had not obeyed Him, He said He would reveal Himself to them (v. 13). Although we see His judgment here, we know from elsewhere in the Bible of His sacrificial love in sending His Son to save us (see John 3:16).

The power of the wind on this breezy day in the South of England reminded me of the sheer immensity of the Lord. If you feel the wind today, why not stop and ponder our all-powerful God?

Great Love

Recently, we took our twenty-two-month-old granddaughter, Moriah, overnight for the first time without her older brothers. We lavished lots of loving, undivided attention on her, and had fun doing the things she likes to do. The next day after dropping her off, we said our goodbyes and headed out the door. As we did, without a word Moriah grabbed her overnight bag (still sitting by the door) and began following us.

The picture is etched in my memory: Moriah in her diaper and mismatched sandals ready to depart with Grandma and Grandpa again. Every time I think of it, I smile. She was eager to go with us, ready for more individualized time.

Although she is as yet unable to vocalize it, our granddaughter feels loved and valued. In a small way, our love for Moriah is a picture of the love God has for us, His children. “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1).

When we believe in Jesus as our Savior, we become His children and begin to understand the lavish love He bestowed on us by dying for us (v. 16). Our desire becomes to please Him in what we say and do (v. 6)—and to love Him, eager to spend time with Him.

Joy and Justice

At a conference in Asia, I had two eye-opening conversations in the span of a few hours. First, a pastor told of spending 11 years in prison for a wrongful murder conviction before he was cleared. Then, a group of families shared how they had spent a fortune to escape religious persecution in their homeland, only to be betrayed by the very people they had paid to bring about their rescue. Now, after years in a refugee camp, they wonder if they will ever find a home.

In both cases, victimization was compounded by an absence of justice—just one evidence of our world’s brokenness. But this vacuum of justice is not a permanent condition.

Psalm 67 calls on God’s people to make Him known to our hurting world. The result will be joy, not as a response to God’s love but because of His justice. “May the nations be glad and sing for joy,” says the psalmist, “for you rule the peoples with equity and guide the nations of the earth” (v. 4).

Although the Bible writers understood that “equity” (fairness and justice) is a key component of God’s love, they also knew that it will only be fully realized in the future. Until then, in our world of injustice, we can serve to point others to our God’s divine justice. His coming will see “justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!” (Amos 5:24). 

Living Anonymously

My well-worn and often-read copy of Jane Yolen’s essay “Working Up to Anon” (Anonymous) was clipped from The Writer magazine many years ago. “The best writers,” she says, “are the ones who really, in their heart of hearts, aspire to the byline Anon. The story told is important, not the storyteller.”

The story we tell is about Jesus, the Savior, who gave…

Exceedingly Better

My birthday is the day after my mother’s. As an adolescent, I would scramble to think of a gift that delighted my mom yet fit in my budget. She always received my purchases with appreciation, and on the following day, my birthday, she would present her gift to me. Without fail, her gift vastly outshone mine. Her intention wasn’t to diminish what I’d given her; she simply gave generously from her resources, which far exceeded my own.

My desire to give to my mother reminds me of David’s wish to build a home for God. Struck by the contrast between his palace and the tent where God revealed Himself, David longed to build God a temple. Instead of granting David’s wish to give, God responded by giving David an exceedingly better gift. God promised that not only would one of David’s children (Solomon) build the temple (1 Chron. 17:11), but that He would build David a house, a dynasty. That promise began with Solomon but found its ultimate fulfillment in Jesus, whose throne was indeed “established forever” (v. 12). David wanted to give from his finite resources, but God promised something infinite.

Like David, may we always be moved to give to God out of gratitude and love. And may we always see how much more abundantly He has given to us in Jesus.

Brother to Brother

My brother and I, less than a year apart in age, were quite “competitive” growing up (translation: we fought!). Dad understood. He had brothers. Mom? Not so much. 

We could have fit in the book of Genesis, which might well be subtitled A Brief History of Sibling Rivalry. Cain and Abel (Gen. 4); Isaac and Ishmael (21:8–10); Joseph and everyone not named Benjamin (ch. 37). But for brother-to-brother animosity, it’s hard to beat Jacob and Esau.

Esau’s twin brother had cheated him twice, so he wanted to kill Jacob (27:41). Decades later Jacob and Esau would reconcile (ch. 33). But the rivalry continued on in their descendants, who became the nations of Edom and Israel. When the people of Israel prepared to enter the Promised Land, Edom met them with threats and an army (Num. 20:14–21). Much later, as Jerusalem’s citizens fled invading forces, Edom slaughtered the refugees (Obad. 1:10–14).

Happily for us, the Bible contains not just the sad account of our brokenness but the story of God’s redemption as well. Jesus changed everything, telling His disciples, “A new command I give you: Love one another” (John 13:35). Then He showed us what that means by dying for us.

As my brother and I got older, we became close. That’s the thing with God. When we respond to the forgiveness He offers, His grace can transform our sibling rivalries into brotherly love.