Be Like Holly

Last Sunday, Pastor Dan at Oviedo City Church told us the story of how he came to Christ. The story went like this: Back in high school, he wanted to go to the senior prom. The problem? He wasn’t a senior. In order to go to the prom and the all-night after party, he would have to get asked. So his senior friends helped him find a girl and identified Holly, who was cute, unattached, and most importantly, a senior. Dan proceeded to ask her to dinner and a movie the next weekend. She said, “sure,” and in turn, she asked him to a Bible study that Wednesday.

Accepting her invitation was the beginning of the rest of his new life. Since then, he has been a pastor at several churches and took two of our amazing church’s pastors under his wing. He has written several books and started the OCC Institute, a series of classes to help grow our congregation’s Bible knowledge. This month, the Institute just launched a 10-year endeavor to study the entire Bible, starting with 1 and 2 Peter. 

Just how many people has Dan brought to Christ? And to think about the multiplying effect — every person who Dan brought to Christ has themselves brought many, many more people into the church. All I can think to say is: WAY TO GO HOLLY! All it takes is a simple invite.

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.