I received an invitation that reminded me of a painful incident from my youth. I prayed:
“Jesus, You were there when it happened. You longed to quiet my pain, but I thought I had to handle it myself. Why couldn’t I receive Your love and comfort? Perhaps back then I knew You only as a far-away God or as a Spirit who didn’t enter the reality of my daily teenage world.
“But now I know You better. You are Almighty God, Maker of heaven and earth. You are also the God who loves each person You created. You see us, not just as a group, but also as individuals. “And You are the God of all comfort, the God who knows when a sparrow falls and who counts the stars and yet also knows the ever-changing number of hairs on my head.” (See 2 Corinthians 1:3, Matthew 10:29-30, Psalm 147:4.)
Dear Lord Jesus, Savior, Friend,
I want to sing Your praise again.
You are my life, my God, my King,
Ruler over everything.
Jesus, You are all I need.
I want to learn Your voice to heed
So I can walk in Your good plan,
Son of God and Son of Man.
Anger tries to push You off Your throne.
Bitterness turns my heart to stone
I reject these things that cling to me
And accept Your offer to set me free.
O Jesus, Lover of my soul,
Cleanse and heal and make me whole,
As I repent and seek Your face
And the kingdom of Your grace. Amen.
(See Ephesians 4:31.)
God’s love doesn’t depend on your behavior.” How many times have I heard this and even said it myself? Yet recently a friend unearthed a stubborn place in my heart that didn’t believe that. This spot of unbelief lets in fiery arrows that cause me to stumble. One day I prayed, Dear Father, I feel so out-classed by some of the Christians I’ve met. They serve you well in career and marriage/family and seem to grow steadily in their relationship with Jesus. I hesitate to share my real thoughts with such people. Although I’m sure they don’t think themselves superior to me, I think myself inferior. Perhaps God answered with this bit of verse:
Don’t believe Satan’s lies, dear child. Just lift up your eyes to Me and look— My heart for you is written in My Book. You are loved. You are prized. Your value cost Me My Son’s life. So doubt no more about your worth, And don’t compare to others on earth. Relax, receive. Choose to believe. My love depends not on you, but Me. And though your trust falters, My love never fails. Go forth in joy And know I am with you whatever assails.
“Search me O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24 NIV). I will turn away from the offensive ways of unbelief which You, God, have exposed, and I will return to trusting You with ALL my heart and not leaning on my own understanding. (Proverbs 3:5)
Regrets came knocking again the other day, and I struggled with guilt and shame. Father, I wonder how You even put up with me, let alone love me! Over and over I’ve listened to doubt instead of to You and missed the blessings Your love offered.
Nevertheless, You once more saw my distress and spoke peace to me. You brought Scriptures to mind along with hymns I learned as a youth. Then you sang this little chorus to my heart with a familiar melody:
Underneath Christ's blood, underneath His blood,
All my sins and failures are underneath His blood.
Come rejoice with me! We can all be free
When we place our sins and failures underneath the blood.
Thank You, God, for being so patient with me! You are so gracious and merciful! I love You, Lord, because of Your amazing love.
The One who put the stars in space
Prepares in heaven for me a place,
And someday I will see His face.
Jesus Christ my Savior.
On the cross unjustly slain, He took away my guilt and shame. For all my sin He took the blame. Such love, my Lord and Savior!
My thanks and praise seem so small Since You, Lord, sacrificed Your all To redeem creation from our fall, Mighty Lord and Savior. (By Tricia 6/5/2019)
“Were the whole realm of nature mine, That were a present far too small; Love so amazing, so divine, Demands my soul, my life, my all.” (Fourth verse of Isaac Watts’ hymn, “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.”)
“Let not your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” (John 14:1-3 NASB)
God gave us good gifts on Good Friday, such as the forgiveness of our sins through the death of Jesus on the cross, direct access to God when the temple curtain in front of the Most Holy Place was torn in two, and most important, the proof of His astounding love for us.
Today I want to remember what it cost the Triune God to give these gifts to us. Jesus laid aside His glory, honor, and equality with God to become a lowly human baby and experience temptation, rejection and other struggles as a man. Finally He suffered the agony of Gethsemane and the humiliation and excruciating pain of betrayal, abandonment, mockery, beating, the torturous death of the cross, and the separation of the “Tri-unity” when our sin was laid on Him. The Almighty Father could have said, “These humans aren’t worth letting my beloved Son go through all this,” and then sent His angels to the rescue. But He didn’t. He watched it all.
And God did it all for us when we were still sinners, rebellious and determined to go our own way (Romans 5:8). Incredible love! Yet true. I’m reminded of an old hymn that includes the lines, “Why should my Savior to Calvary go? Why should He love me so?” (“Why Should He Love Me So?”—words and music by Robert Harkness.) I also think of the chorus of another hymn, “Lest I forget Gethsemane, lest I forget Thine agony, lest I forget Thy love for me, lead me to Calvary.” (“Lead Me to Calvary”—words by Jennie E. Hussey.)
Yes, God gave us wonderful things on Good Friday. May I never forget or take for granted the great love He showed at such great cost.
Colossians 3:12-14 “Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. 14 Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony.” [New Living Translation (NLT)]
Because I’m chosen, set apart, and loved by God, I can show mercy to others, act kindly, have a meek attitude, exercise patience, and think, behave, and speak humbly. In fact these attributes reflect Christ’s character, which I’m called to do, and which I want to do. I can and want to “cut some slack” for others and quickly forgive from my heart when others offend me, because I, myself, am forgiven because of Christ.
And most of all, I need to allow God’s unconditional love to flow through me to those with whom I interact.
Romans 13:12-14 also talks about the way I need to live as one of God’s people: “…Remove your dark deeds like dirty clothes, and put on the shining armor of right living. Because we belong to the day, we must live decent lives for all to see. Don’t participate in darkness…. Instead, clothe yourself with the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. And don’t let yourself think about ways to indulge your evil desires.” (NLT)
How do I do this? Maybe I could set the sail of my will to quit responding to situations in my usual way—suspicion, anger, or self-focus. Instead I would decide to respond with trust in God, remembering His goodness, love and care. Maybe it would help to practice His presence all the time by remembering that He is here and then focusing on Him rather than things of earth. [Colossians 3:2 “Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.” (New King James Version)
(Sailboat picture found by “GoodSearch.” Artist Berton Brown.)
Psalms 36:5, 7-8 “Your unfailing love, O Lord, is as vast as the heavens; your faithfulness reaches beyond the clouds…. 7 How precious is your unfailing love, O God! All humanity finds shelter in the shadow of your wings. 8 You feed them from the abundance of your own house, letting them drink from your river of delights” (New Living Translation)
Thank You, Lord, for letting us drink from Your river of delights (or as the New King James puts it, the river of Your pleasures). Thank You for Your written Word, O Lord and for the hymns I grew up with. They seem to me to be gifts of love from Your river of delights. You are so good to us, Lord!
“From our mother’s arms [You have] blessed us on our way with countless gifts of love” (from “Now Thank We All Our God”). Countless gifts of love—like the hymns, the Scriptures, my learning to sing harmony, the help to believe Your love for me as an individual, a song on the radio that calmed one of my fears at just the right time, a letter that calmed me in panic, an ability to read music, the hymn books I have, and on and on. Also Lord, Your nearness, compassion, and tender mercies are gifts of Your love.
Part of the first verse of the hymn “I Am Thine, O Lord,” says, “I have heard Thy voice, and it told Thy love to me.” Yes, every time You speak and help me to hear is a gift that tells Your love to me.
The first 2 verses of “This Is My Father’s World” remind me that You speak to me through nature and that You speak to me everywhere. Thank You!
“Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy [or “faithful love”] endures forever.” (Psalms 136:1 New King James Version)
Every good and perfect (appropriate, timely) gift is from You. As Ps. 36:7 says, “How precious is Your unfailing love (lovingkindness), O God!”
In Ephesians 3:14-21, Paul says that he prays for believers “16 that [God] would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, 17 that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height — 19 to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. 20 Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, 21 to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” (New King James Version)
Verse 20 is often quoted in assurance of God’s ability to answer some request. But I’m thinking it applies more to the context in verses 16-19 than I’ve really considered before. God is able to do exceedingly abundantly above—
Strengthening our inner man through His Spirit
Christ dwelling in our hearts through faith
Rooting and grounding us in love so we can comprehend the extent of Christ’s love
Our knowing from experience His love (which is really beyond understanding)
Our being filled with all the fullness of God
These were the things Paul prayed for the Ephesians, and it’s a wonderful prayer for us followers of Christ to pray for one another. Paul is saying that all glory belongs to God because He can do all this by His power working in the believers, and He can do far more besides. Amen! Hallelujah!