Tag Archives: God’s love

When You’ve Had Enough

I knew our young son was upset. But I was surprised – and broken-hearted – when I walked past his bedroom and saw him packing his little bag. When I asked him what he was doing he replied that he was leaving home. When I asked where he was going he said he was headed to his best friend’s house. Tired of the regulations and rules he wanted out. He wanted freedom. He wanted to live life his way. To make a short story even shorter, we chatted and fortunately he remained home. All ended well.

The whole incident reminded me of another son and his father. We meet them in a story told by Jesus (Luke 15: 11-24) This young son (quite a bit older than mine) rebelled. He was bored with life; he’d had enough of the laws, the chores, the responsibility of doing for others. He was a “man” now, ready to do it his way. So he cashed out his inheritance; that meant he made a complete break from his family and his home; there was no longer any attachment or legal standing to his family; he had legally and literally severed the family tie.

Whether or not you’ve ever felt that way with your earthly father, have you ever felt like that with God? The reality is most of us have run from God – or wanted to. There have been moments when we wanted to throw off our religious upbringing, or rebel and run away from God to build our own lives, to get out from underneath the rules and regulations of what we perceived as a tyrannical, freedom limiting God. We want no strings attached to our lives. We want to do what we want, when we want, where we want, how we want. We don’t want anybody else calling the shots. We desire the power to make all our choices for ourselves.

Not convinced you match up to this young son? Think about it. Our inheritance is all the resources of life – our intellect, emotion, will, and the gifts and resources of the Spirit of God. They are all ours to use as we desire! God only asks that we remember the source. But what have we done with our gifts? Too often we have stuffed our lives full of what we can touch, taste, save, and sell. We, too, have taken the Father’s capital – our energy and ambition, our highly developed reason, our technological skills, our ability to be inspired by great things and ideas, our abundant giftedness from the Spirit – and have gone to the far country, without the Father; we have failed to take Him into account. So let’s admit it – we all have a little far country to which we’ve run. Whether we rejected our faith, broke or abused our relationships, blew our priorities, or messed up our involvements, anytime we placed our desires first we traveled to our far country.

But notice what happened. The family tie pulled at the young son’s heart. It pulled him towards home. He remembered the real source of his life, and who he really was. His life came from his father. He would always belong to his father. To think he could cut himself off from his father is like thinking we can hold our breath and be independent of oxygen. Sooner or later, we return to the source of life. As Augustine said, “Our hearts are restless until they find their rest in God.”

So the son headed for home. Remember that he no longer had any claim to the family – he had completely severed the tie. So he was ready to repent and ask to be the lowest of the slaves. Here’s the rest of the story.

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.                                                              “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’            “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.”

The father, of course, is a picture of our Heavenly Father. Jesus wants us to know that never once are we out of our Father’s mind and heart. Never once do we come home to an empty house or a cold heart. Not only is the welcome mat always out but our heavenly Father throws a party of celebration and reinstates us as His children.

How can we be sure? We see the Father in Jesus. “He who has seen me has seen the Father.” Jesus’ story illuminates the faithfulness of God’s love, a faithfulness and love seen in Jesus dying on a cross.  Because of Jesus we can be certain that we are always welcome at home. God loves us for who we are, not what we do or where we go. And being His children our Father is always ready to run and embrace us, to kiss us, to love us some more. It doesn’t get much better than that!

So the next time you think you’ve had enough, remember: “Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling, calling for you and for me…’ Come home, come home, ye who are weary, come home.”




It Doesn’t Matter

While in elementary school I was awarded a part in our class play. In fact, I got the part of the main character. Are you ready for this? The play was “The Ugly Duckling.” So – you guessed it – the main character, my part, was the ugly duckling!

It’s okay to laugh – it is rather funny! …

But now that the laughter has died down, here’s the kicker. At the point in the play where ugly duckling first appeared as the beautiful swan, someone else took over the part.

Now that’s even funnier! You can laugh again. I wasn’t permanently scarred and there was a good reason for it – everyone had to have a role to play so parts were doubled up. At least that’s what they told me!

I, obviously, still love to tell the story. It’s a good ice breaker and can quickly lighten up a discussion. Yet what I remember equally well about the play, and the most important memory, is the song we sang at the end, which summarized the theme of our little play. I still remember the words and the tune. The words went like this:

“It doesn’t matter if you’re born in a pig pen, born in a pig pen, born in a pig pen.
It doesn’t matter if you’re born in a pig pen, if you’re really a swan.”  

What a lesson! Birthright doesn’t matter. Opinions of others don’t matter. What people choose to call me doesn’t matter. How I’m labeled doesn’t matter. As long as I know who and whose I am.
Perhaps that’s why I love the apostle Paul’s opening words to the Ephesian church.

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ.4 Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes.5 God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. 6 So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. 7 He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins.8 He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding. (Ephesians 1:3-8 New Living Translation)

Wow! It doesn’t matter if we’re born in a pig pen when we’re really the most beautiful swan of all – a child of God! Can we even grasp it? “He has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms … He has showered his kindness upon us.” It’s all ours! As the apostle John put it, “From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another.” (John 1:16) Jesus brings all of the faithfulness, kindness, and mercy of God into our lives. “From the fullness of His grace…” any and every grace He has is available for us. He will give us all the grace we need. Jesus brings grace upon grace, one blessing after another, repeated and endless favors. It is continuous, with no limit. Where one grace ends, another begins; when one blessing is no longer adequate, another begins. When one favor is no longer needed, another begins. When our needs and situations change so does the mercy of God; His mercies are new every morning. There is a blessing for old age and one for youth; there is favor for those in prosperity and for those in adversity; there is grace for success and grace for failure.

Why is God so good and gracious? Because even before the foundation of the world He took great pleasure in deciding and determining to love us. He even adopted us into His family. We are brothers and sisters of Jesus! No matter what anyone else says or thinks about us, no matter what someone else may do to us, it doesn’t matter. We are beautiful swans – because we come from good stock, the best stock of all.

There’s much more I could say (I can hear the shouts of ‘preach it brother!’). But let’s end it here. Or should I say begin here. This week read Ephesians 1:3-14 three times a day – morning, noon (mid-day) and before you go to bed. Think about it. Meditate on it. Digest it. And, along with that, remember the little chorus:

“It doesn’t matter if you’re born in a pig pen, born in a pig pen, born in a pig pen.
It doesn’t matter if you’re born in a pig pen, if you’re really a swan.”

Just see what a difference it makes.

What Just Happened?

‘America’s Got Talent’ has given birth to not only many careers, but to some catch phrases as well. Perhaps one of the most familiar is exclaimed by Mel B. (1) when she’s overwhelmed by a brilliant, exciting unexpected performance: “What just happened?” I think we can ask the same questions during this week following Christmas. We celebrated a brilliant, exciting, mysterious unexpected event – Almighty God sent His Son to earth to be born in human flesh. But can we fully grasp and understand it? Or do we need to ask, “What just happened?” Why would God ask His Son to give up all the glories and power of Heaven to take on human flesh? “What just happened?”

Perhaps the simplest answer is “God demonstrated His love.” May the following serve to clarify and heighten the impact.

Three days before Christmas a mother was busy getting ready for the big day and she asked her little son to shine her good shoes for her. A little later, with a smile that only a 7-year old could flash, he presented the shoes for inspection. The mother was pleased with the result and rewarded him with a quarter. On Christmas day, as she was putting on her shoes to go to church, she noticed a lump in one shoe. Taking off the shoe, she found the quarter wrapped in paper. Written on the paper in a child’s scrawl were these words: “I done it for love.” When Jesus came to save us He “done it for love!”

Roy Lessin has written poignantly, “God knew we could never buy our way to Him – the cost was too great; we could never earn our way to Him – the task was too great; we could never will our way to Him – the commitment was too great. God knew we could never come to Him…so He came to us!”

Describing it all the Bible simply says, “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son…” (John 3:16) He ‘done it all for love’ – expecting nothing in return.

May you experience His deep, broad and overpowering love – His abundance of grace upon grace – in amazing ways this Christmas and throughout 2019.

(1) https://www.breakingnews.ie/showbiz/mel-b-grateful-for-christmas-after-going-through-hell-and-back-in-dark-year-892513.html

Manger: nativity-walter-chavez-300070-unsplash

Ever Break a Heart?

Did you ever break someones’ heart? I have.

Growing up I was fortunate to experience and know that I was loved. My parents made sure of that. I never felt I needed to earn their love and was never concerned I’d lose their love. The older I grew the more I was aware of this great love. Mom and Dad worked hard to provide a good home. They did whatever they had to do to meet my true needs. They paid attention to me and supported my endeavors. I was valued. They always wanted and strove for what was best for me.

I felt this love so deeply that it influenced my behavior and choices. Certainly there were times I behaved poorly and made poor choices. Most often I felt badly after doing so. I began to recognize that this was not so much because of any punishment or chastisement Mom and Dad delivered – in fact sometimes they did not know of the poor behavior and poor choices and I still felt badly. So why did I feel so badly? I eventually came to understand it was because I had an inner sense that I had broken their hearts. Whenever I did or chose something that was not the best for me it was a rejection of their love. And rejected love hurts. And knowing how much Mom and Dad loved me I didn’t like hurting them. It was this understanding that began to influence my behavior and choices. I was not concerned with what they might do to me but what I might do to them.

At some point along my life’s journey an even deeper reality struck me – every time I sin and make poor choices I break the heart of

God. After all, He loves me so much that He sent His one and only Son to die in my place that I could have eternal life. (John 3:16) Out of love He sent Jesus so I could live forever and always in an intimate relationship with him. He does whatever He has to do to meet my true needs. He pays attention to me and supports my endeavors. I am valued. He always wants what’s best for me. I can only imagine the pain my sin and poor choices bring to His heart – how deeply He grieves when I reject His love. I still sin and still make some bad choices – but it’s usually when I fail to stop and remind my self of His great love for me. For with that reminder comes a deep desire to avoid breaking His heart.

Yes, I know that nothing – no thing – can ever separate me from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus my Lord. (Romans 8:31-19) I’m not worried about Him rejecting me. I am concerned about me rejecting Him and breaking His heart.

I just wonder how different life would be, how different society would be if we fully recognized the depth of God’s great love for us and behaved and made our choices in light of it. What difference would it make for you?

The Apostle Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians is my prayer for all who read these words: ”I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:16-19)



Reflections From A Catcher

Growing up I was the youngest boy in the neighborhood. As such I was ripe to be picked on. What remains deposited deep in my memory bank are the times we boys played baseball. I loved those pickup games – in spite of the fact they were often a hurtful experience. Being the youngest, and therefore the least talented, I was most often the last person chosen when the teams were selected. On the crueler days I wasn’t officially selected at all because, if I had been, the teams wouldn’t have been ‘even.’ But I was still allowed to play – all-time catcher! Have you ever played all-time catcher in a pickup game? Then you know the feeling – what it’s like to be put where the action is least and therefore can do the least damage! How I longed to be accepted, included, given a chance. Rejection hurts!

Perhaps those repeated rejections eventually paid off; the grace of Christ found a hungering, longing heart. I came to learn that God chose me because He wanted to choose me; He chose me because He loved me. My age didn’t matter, nor my size, nor my ability, nor my goodness. As the apostle Paul wrote, “It is by grace you have been saved through faith.” This has always been the heritage of the people of God. In Deuteronomy God reminded the Israelites they were who they were, and were where they were, because of Him: “The Lord did not set his affection on you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the Lord loved you…” (7:7-8) No problem for me – I knew that if I was chosen it had to be a gift!

Paul expands this great truth (Ephesians 1:4): “For He chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.” Imagine that! Me – holy and blameless in his sight! Who’d have thought it? And it’s been in the mind of Christ since before the creation of the world! I’m not an accident, not an afterthought, not a problem to be put up with or deal with, not someone for whom an inconspicuous harmless position needs to be found. Rather, God had me in mind before I, or even the world, was created! And what He had in mind was someone who will be holy and blameless before Him!

It really doesn’t matter what others think; It’s really not important whether or not peers or superiors choose me. God has already chosen me!

And when life’s all said and done I’ll be blameless before Him! Most assuredly, I‘m not there yet, but through the Holy Spirit of Christ I’m on my way! Sure, I’ve been rejected many times since those boyhood days – and I will face rejection again. It’s part of the fabric of human life. And at times it will still hurt. But, praise God, the One who created me and who was Himself rejected by humankind, has promised He will not reject me! His grace is permanent; His promise is secure. Even if I’m never more than the all time catcher in this life, I’m on God’s team and I will, when it counts, stand blamelessly before Him.

So when you’re not invited to the party, do not get the part, or make the team – when you don’t get the promotion or are turned down for the job – when you don’t get the boy or girl or the award goes to someone else; in the midst of your rejections, when you’re reeling from the turndowns of life – pause and give thanks to God. Thank Him for His selection of you, His plan for you, His continuing care for you. He loves you, now and always. Your position is secure in Him.

PRAYER: Lord – Thank you for your grace through which you chose me to be blameless before You. Forgive the hard feelings I have towards those who have rejected me; ease the pain of human turndowns in my life, and through Your Spirit refresh and renew me with your grace. May I find my satisfaction and security in you alone. In Jesus’ name, Amen.