Monday, June 20, 2016

Love Part 4--The Unending Cycle of Love

One of the most interesting passages I've found on love is Ephesians 3:16-19, "That according to the riches of His glory He may grant you to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith-that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God." 

When I think of someone praying for strength, I tend to think of it as strength she needs to accomplish a difficult task, strength to withstand trials running runs long and hard, or strength to withstand temptation in which the flesh craves something that never satisfies. It is good to pray for strength in those times, but this passage indicates that Paul prayed for people to have the strength--strength to comprehend the love of God! While we comprehend and know God's love to a point, if we are honest we admit there is a part of us that knows to the core that a love like His love is incomprehensible!

When I realized I struggled with a stronghold of not believing I was loved, I spent some time exploring God's encounters with people--people just like you and me--who had infirmities, who were held captive by sin, who were struggling with unbelief, who were plagued by demons, who were lonely and looking to fill that loneliness in wrong places, who were longing to find significance through positions and power, many of who were mistreating others in the process that is until they encountered Jesus.

Those encounters were like no other encounters because the love encountered was pure, unselfish, unadulterated, and life-changing. His love touched lepers, restoring life to dying limbs. His love touched a woman caught in adultery, granting her life instead of stoning and silencing self-appointed judges. His love healed a bleeding woman who reached for the hem of His garment, restoring strength and giving physical, spiritual, and social life. His love granted sight to the blind, giving them the ability to see both the physical and the spiritual. His love granted acceptance to the woman encountered at the well who was rejected by five husbands as well as her community. His love touched the deaf and gave the mute a voice.

The depth, the breadth, and the height of His love becomes more vivid as we examine His prayer time in the Garden. As He entered it He felt sorrow so deep He was close to death. He wrestled long and hard with His Father's will, so full of angst His blood-tinged sweat dripped. As He prayed, His spirit was strengthened and love motivated Him to obey, to choose the cross, to bear our sin in His body, to experience God's wrath so we would not.

We are called to love as God loves, but it is impossible to do without experiencing it. We may have experienced at salvation, but we need experience daily . We do this by choosing every day to trust His love by taking God at His Word. We even do this when the circumstances we face are hard, when relationships are breaking down, and when the enemy is telling us we are unloved, unseen, and forgotten. By faith we believe and we His love to be as real and tangible for us today as it was when He walked the earth and He demonstrated it on the cross. We can find love in the difficult, broken, confusing, and loneliest places because His love never fails. When we memorize and mediate on verses that speak of God's love, His love will permeate our souls, becoming a strong, core belief that enables us to cling to Him no matter how hard life gets.

We can also read and reread about God's encounters with people. God revealed specific things about Himself when He related to the people in the Bible. When He encountered a barren couple surrounded by a culture that worshiped fertility Gods, Love called them out and provided them a man child in their old age, proving He was the Creator--the giver of life, the giver of joy, and the author of godly sex.

When He encountered young Joseph, He gave him dreams that stirred conflict between him and his brothers. They rejected him and betrayed him and sold him into slavery. But the boy clung to God who gave hope when he landed in a pagan nation. Then God provided food for him and his family in a famine by empowering the boy to love and forgive, and in doing so He preserved the Messiah's bloodline.

When He encountered the lady at the well, He ministered to her shattered heart, revealing to her and to us that He accepts, loves, and heals hearts that were used, abused, rejected, and treated like yesterday's garbage.

When He met the adulterous woman brought to Him in the temple, He exposed us to His grace, revealing that His acceptance sees past our sin to what we can become in Him.

When He reached out and touched the dying, rotting flesh of lepers, He showed He not only gives life to decaying flesh, but that His healing touch cleanses even when we feel the most untouchable.

As we examine God's encounters with people and look at those touched by His miracles, teachings, and prayers, we can't come away unchanged. Not only do each of the stories show restoration of human hearts, they show the restoration of relationships to a Holy God.

The more we meditate, the more we uncover of His grace. Through meditation we realize the first thing the Leper felt was the touch of God, the first thing the blind saw was His face, the first experience of unconditional acceptance at the well was being seen and heard by God Himself, the first exposure to grace the adulteress had was seen in the eyes of the only One who had a right to condemn.

Not only is God's love being showered on us, it is His desire to love others through us. He doesn't want us to continue to love in the mediocre selfish ways we are so prone to. He wants us to love sacrificially and unconditionally as He does. To do so we must choose to trust His love in the hard and choose to bask in it in the good. Because Christ loved even in exhaustion, grief, denial, desertion, and rejection, we can, too, with His help. His love strengthens us when we choose to love in the hard. We experience it as we love in the hurt. We experience it when we love the hard to love. We experience it as we love in rejection.

We will be more motivated to love when we remember His greatest act of love was expressed through the pain of the cross. As we we are rooted and grounded in His love, we are strengthened to begin to comprehend it, which strengthens us to love as He loves which strengthens us to comprehend it which strengthens us to love. No, I didn't accidentally repeat myself. For as long as we are fully present and plugged into our relationship with God we are in an unending cycle of comprehending His love and loving as He loves. I pray that God will strengthen you to comprehend the heights, the depths, and the breadth of His love.     

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Several years ago I realized that I often sped through my Scripture reading and gave it little thought. Yet, when I had meaningful conversations with friends or family members I replayed them over and over in my head. One day it occurred to me, that if I thought more about what God says in his word that I would not only know more about Him, but I would come to know Him in a personal way. I would know more about His thoughts, His character, His intentions, His passions, and His actions. So, I began to take one verse at a time and think on it and then journal about it. At the time I was served as a volunteer in youth ministry and shared my “Thoughts on God” with those girls. For a while I have been rewriting and posting them on this blog. I have realized when I am in the Word or move through my day focusing on God's presence that I have wonderful opportunities to Meet God in the Everyday. The Everyday can include storms, blessings, hard things, scary things, exciting things...just any where, anyplace, any time. I hope that you will be able to engage with what I write with both your head and your heart. I also hope you will be challenged to love, trust, and know the God of the Scriptures. It is my prayer that as you read you will experience Him at a deeper level and share pieces of your journey in the comments. It is my desire that we form a safe community of believers who pursue the God who loves us radically, eternally, and without reserve. As a precious pastor once told me, "Don't forget, Wendy, God is Good!" I find myself compelled by His Goodness and His Love to share so others can know Him through all the ups and downs of life. Please feel free to dialogue back and to share how each passage impacts you. If if there is a passage you would like me to write on or if you would like to be a guest blogger, please let me know. I am just learning to navigate this blog and appreciate the kind comments you have made in the past...I promise I will even try to respond if you leave a note. If you are blessed please share the blog with friends!