Greatest Love of All!

Admittedly, I have read the Bible frivolously. I have breezed through verses, taken It for granted, and to my great loss, not realized the depth of God’s message. I have skimmed Scripture where he describes the enormity of His love for humanity. I always knew He loved deeply, but I have not let the words come alive, digesting and absorbing them into my soul and really letting myself feel the vastness of His love. With the help of the Holy Spirit and some ladies at a Bible study, I have slowed down my reading to where individual words pop off the page making each one more powerful. Now I can better grasp the depth of His love and never cease being amazed at His care for us!  

A Passage that has hit me most recently is Ephesians 3:18-19 (NLT): And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep His love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Read that again, but slower. Take in every word.  

Absolute love

I know that God loves me, but honestly, sometimes I think or say “yada yada yada” because I have heard those verses over and over, much like John 3:16. But now, I read that His love is so amazingly wide, deep and high that we can never fully grasp its size. However, by trying to realize the magnitude of His love, we are gratified and delighted. I think of a universe-size love — totally immeasurable! Try to imagine it and recognize just how much you are fulfilled. It’s a refreshing, peaceful feeling beyond description!

In Romans 8:38 (ESV), God details more specific, absolute parameters of His love, even death. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. NOTHING ELSE IN ALL CREATION.  Try to grasp that!

Symbol of love

God’s symbol of how much He loves us is in His only Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus was persecuted, severely beaten, hung on the cross, mocked and died as payment for our wrongdoings. He took our punishment so we could be considered holy, clean from sin and worthy of God’s love. That’s how much God and Jesus love us … so much that they made the ultimate sacrifice to give us a way to go to heaven. Romans 5:8 (NLT): But God showed His great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.

Because Jesus arose from the dead after three days, we know that even death cannot get in the way of God’s abilities and love. He has the power to bring us back to life, like He did with Jesus. He gives us life! A life rich in love, understanding and amazement. He tells us in Scripture that He understands our struggle with sin and knows we cannot be perfect. He is merciful! Lamentations 3:22-23 NLT: The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning. Jesus came to show us love. And, John 3:17 NIV: For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

Why does God love us? He is the creator of everything, including love. 1 John 4:19 (NET): We love because he loved us first. Moreover, He IS love. That’s one to think about. 1 John 4:16b (NLT): God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. 

Love like Jesus

Jesus is our role model and we should reciprocate His love for us by loving others. John 13:34 (NLT): So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. And just how much should we love others? Matthew 22:39b (NLT): ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’

By loving others, we put aside our selfishness and make others a priority. In a recent Bible class, my pastor summed up loving others like this: If you don’t tell others about being saved, you must not like them very much because their afterlife may not be desirable, to say the least. That is something I need to work on! 1 Corinthians 10:33b NLT: I don’t just do what is best for me; I do what is best for others so that many may be saved.

Loving others is so freeing, especially when they reciprocate. As Christians, we know that with deep love, comes understanding and forgiveness. So, when I apologize after I say something hurtful to a fellow Christian, he or she knows I am sincerely sorry and they forgive me just as Jesus did. There is peace. Ephesians 4:32 (ESV): Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. 1 Peter 4:8 (NIV): Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.

What does love look like?

Love conquers all! Listen to this next passage where God describes what love looks like. Feel your mind and body relax in its assurance. Corinthians 13:4-7 (ESV): Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

God is with us, always

God’s love goes beyond giving us a way to Him through Jesus Christ. He gives us Himself, the Holy Spirit, who is a gift for all of those who believe that Jesus is God’s Son. Because it’s nearly impossible to memorize the whole Bible, God gifts us the Holy Spirit to guide us. John 14:26 NASB: But the Helper, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and remind you of all that I said to you. Ezekiel 36:26 NLT: And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart.

The Holy Spirit, God Himself, directs us to righteousness. His voice is distinctive. It’s the one that tells you to do the right thing. Romans 8:6 (NLT): So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace. And, luckily, God tells us that He is greater than anything, so with Him, we are fortified, protected, well. 1 John (4:4) NIV: You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.

Beautiful People

It’s that time of year when we start contemplating our lives and how we are going to better ourselves in the coming year.  Many of those resolutions come in the form of getting fit.  I have been a passenger on that train many, many times.  And all of those marketers selling products to make us perfect don’t help! 

We hear: 

• Work out every day.

• Cut out all sugar.

• Get eight hours of sleep.

• Drink eight glasses of water.

• Supplements, supplements, supplements. 

Those are common New Year’s resolutions all to make ourselves better, pursuing body perfection.  Of course, most of us should have a daily dose of exercise, especially if we have a stationary lifestyle.  A healthy diet and working out are amazing for the heart and body, but for the soul, we need to workout a different realm. 

For the last couple years, instead of resolving to better my physical body, I focused on goodness.  Every day, I made it a point to read my Bible and do something nice for someone.  I was on track for a couple weeks and then, those priorities fell to menial tasks that were never meant to invade my resolutions.  

Perfection is out of reach

So my quest to achieve a more loving heart happened, but not every day.  How could I be that disciplined anyway?  No person on earth is perfect, especially me!  God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are the only beings who are absolutely perfect. Psalm 92:15 says: They will declare, “The Lord is just!  He is my rock!  There is no evil in him!”  So, we should take our cues from the one who has no faults!

Since God is perfection and we have His Word as a role model, we should look at the world as He does … with love.  God does not see the wrinkles in your face, the muffin top, the hair that’s out of place;  He sees your soul, whether it’s beautiful, stressed, meek, sad, joyful, etc.  1 Samuel 16:7: The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

A truly better you

So, if you are going to make a resolution, make one that brings joy to both your heart and others’ hearts to where you love everyone … to where you look at someone and don’t judge them or size them up.  Look at them and love them!  Say, “Hi, how are you?” and rely on God to give you some way to strike up a conversation with them.  Romans 12:9-10 (NLT) says:  Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good.  Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.

When we connect with others and see that they are human beings, created by God, just like ourselves, we make the world more connected.  The closer we become, the more love we share and the less we quarrel.  That will make a better world for everyone.  So, use this New Year’s resolution to find the love in your heart and offer it to others.  

Bonus verses

Romans 12:2 (ESV): Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Luke 16:15 (ESV):  And he said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.”

Christmas Joy

Wrapping up my Christmas wrapping duties, I just thought how absolutely wonderful is this season of giving!  People experience so much joy out of finding the best presents that will make those they care about happy.  I saw my husband put something in a stocking with a big smile on his face.  I think I may have a few surprises for him this year.

Then, I think about who started all of this joy and giving.  God did!  “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 3:16 NIV).  What a legacy God left that we can all have such joy in making others happy.  

We can make those in our family, friend and work circles happy.   It feels even better knowing that we can help others outside our domain through giving to missions.  Now just imagine multiplying that times millions and that is how much joy God and His heavenly realm felt by loving all of us through the gift of Jesus Christ, the best and first Christmas gift ever, the source of eternal joy!  Thank you, God!