Monday, March 13, 2017

The Ultimate Love Story

What do the movies “Message in a Bottle,” “The Notebook,” “The Love Letter,” and “P.S. I Love You” have in common? All are stories about the power of the written word to express or initiate love between people. I believe each reveals one aspect of the ultimate love story. A love story we’re all invited to experience for ourselves.  If we choose to say yes to the proposal.
The Love Letter: Refusing to Settle
Have you ever yearned for more in life than what others desire or expect for you? You don’t want to be alone, but you don’t want to settle for less either.

In this movie a woman in the 19th century corresponds with a man in the 20th century through a hidden compartment in their ‘shared’ desk. Neither wants to marry the one they’re supposed to, but feel doomed to follow through. Then they find each other.

God understands this yearning for more than the status quo. He calls us to a higher, deeper, grander love than anything we can imagine in this life. “I looked for the one my heart loves; I looked for him but did not find him…I will search for the one my heart loves” (Song of Songs 3:1-2). He makes a way for us to find Him—across space and time, even into eternity.

The Notebook: Rekindling Lost Love
Why would an old man visit another resident in his nursing home just to read her the same story day after day? She has Alzheimer’s and seldom remembers much of what he’s read. He does this because she’s his wife, and he is reading their love story. It’s the most thrilling thing in his life, and hers, when she remembers. So he persists, for the occasional moment when she remembers she loves him too.

God also tells us the same story every day—through His words in the Bible, through songs, through people, through the breathtaking beauty of nature. And every day He hopes we will remember the love story that has changed our life, “I remember the devotion of your youth, how as a bride you loved me and followed me through the wilderness” (Jer. 2:2). He hopes we will love Him back with equal abandon.

P.S. I Love You: Moving Forward
Death can be paralyzing—whether it’s the death of a loved one, a dream, a job, or something else we hold dear. When Holly’s husband dies she can’t seem to get past the grief. Knowing how she would struggle, Gerry prepared a series of notes to be delivered to her after his death. At first she’s freaked out, and so are her mom and friends, but Gerry knew his love would give her confidence to let go and live again.

Jesus did this for His followers too. After His resurrection He sent the Holy Spirit, to give them direction and confidence to move forward. “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you… the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:18, 26-27).

This same Spirit is the One who comforts us when we are immobilized by death. The Spirit reminds us of Jesus’ love for us in the past, and the future life in heaven for those who love Him. In the meantime, He gives us energy to live now, to love now—to take the next step, knowing He is with us always.

Message in a Bottle: Falling in Love with the Lover
Do you remember when you were a kid and everyone took an envelope of cards to school for a flurry of exchange on Valentine’s Day? Did you ever get someone else’s Valentine by mistake? At first, there’s this thrilling moment, when you believe the boy/girl you think is cute has noticed you too…then you realize it’s not addressed to you, but someone else.

In this movie, a woman finds a bottle on the beach. Inside is a love letter from a grief-stricken widower to his wife. This is obviously a man who’s able to love deeply, completely, and relentlessly. The woman just has to meet him; see if he is real. When she does she falls in love, and the attraction is mutual. However, he can’t bring himself to release the past to embrace a new love, and the movie ends tragically. 

Thankfully, this is not the way God treats us. He fully intends for us to find His message of love. When we do, it’s not addressed to someone else, but to us—personally. “I have called you by name; you are mine” (Isa. 43:1, Living Bible). He pours out His love—unfailing, unconditional, tender, and compassionate. When we love Him too we find we’re home at last. 

Do you love Him?

#perfectlove #Godslove #valentines #Godinmovies #unconditionallove #justsayyes

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Is Your Foundation Solid? Part 2

Yesterday we heard from an experienced contractor on what is necessary for a solid foundation. Today we’re going to look at what our Master Builder says we need for a solid spiritual foundation: 

What does is Virgin Ground spiritually? 
What wide and deep footings does God have for our soul, and what reinforces them?
What anchors our spiritual foundation to the rest of our “house”?
And what clean ingredients need to go into this foundation?

Virgin Ground—Solid and Immovable
Virgin ground is not brought in from somewhere else; it’s been there from the beginning. That describes God. The first two commandments out of the box are: we are to have no other gods before Him or worship any other (Ex. 20:3-6; Deut. 5:7-10). God knows anyone or anything other than Him will let us down. If we try to build our life on a person, a career, a substance or anything else, our “house” will fall.

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.  But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.  The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash” (Matt. 7:24-27*).

Footings—Wide, Deep, and Reinforced
We need a foundation substantial enough to support the weight of our “house” so we don’t sink under pressure. And it needs to be reinforced with steel to withstand whatever comes. Who can do this better than the One who built the Universe? (Job 38:4-6)

What reinforces our foundation? I believe it’s a word we hesitate to speak these days—obedience. It’s not enough to just say we believe in God and that our lives are built on Him; we have to actually do what He says. That gives strength to our faith and testimony.

“Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? As for everyone who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice, I will show you what they are like. They are like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete” (Luke 6:46-49).

What connects our “house” to the foundation? Jesus Christ. The Son of God is our connection to the Father; His sacrifice opened the way for us to come into His presence without fear.  

"'See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who relies on it will never be stricken with panic’” (Isa. 28:16). “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure” (Heb. 6:19). “He will be the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge” (Isa. 33:6).

Clean Ingredients
Purity—another word we’re scared to use—is important for building the kind of victorious life God has for us. When we let un-repented sin remain in our lives, it weakens our foundation—like air pockets cause concrete to crumble. Quality construction doesn’t come cheap. Saying no to sin our culture approves of is a cost most people don’t want to pay. I guess it depends on whether you want your house to stand or not.

It’s worth the price. Just be sure you’re ready to finish what you start. “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish’” (Luke 14:28-30).

Many have built flashy spiritual mansions that crumbled and fell for lack of a proper foundation. I don’t want to make that mistake and I hope you don’t either. Ask the Lord if yours is built according to spec. He’ll tell you what to do to get started, or repair what you’ve already begun.

“Each one should build with care. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 3:11).

*bold wording on scriptures is added by author for emphasis

Monday, January 23, 2017

Is Your Foundation Solid? Part 1

A client once hired Kelly to fix up his shed. The foundation for the structure was a toilet placed under each of the four corners. The client didn’t want Kelly to build a new foundation, just to fix the building on top. Since it was just a garden shed, Kelly did the work as asked. But I can’t help but think that’s the way we approach God sometimes. 

We want Him to fix what’s troubling us, what others see, but we don’t want Him to mess with our foundation. That would take too much time and cost too much, and we’re not willing to go to the effort.

Since he’s been a contractor for 35 years, Kelly knows the importance of a solid foundation. He’s careful to build each one square and level, and use the right materials so they will hold through all kinds of weather—which is especially important here on the west coast. 

I asked Kelly what makes for a strong foundation and I learned a lot! 

“The most important thing,” he said, “is to build on virgin ground. If you don’t, none of your building efforts after that will matter, because it won’t last.” Virgin ground is dirt that hasn’t been moved in from somewhere else. “Dirt expands 25% when it’s dug and oxygen mixes with it. There’s no way to compact what you bring in enough so it won’t settle later and cause problems.”

“Secondly, you need to have wide and deep footings. These act like snowshoes to support the weight of the house without allowing it to sink into the earth. And it needs to be reinforced with rebar for strength.”

“Next, you need anchors to hold the house to the foundation. It’s not enough to just sit a house down on top without firmly connecting them together.”

And finally, you have to have the right mix of ingredients for the foundation. “Everything that goes into it has to be clean. The rocks can’t be mixed with dirt or they won’t bond to the concrete mix. And the ‘slump’ of the mixture has to be wet enough to pour without being watery, but not too dry which would leave air pockets in your foundation.”  

It’s one thing to build a garden shed on top of four toilets. It’s quite another to build your home on a cheap or faulty foundation. It’s foolish and wasteful, and can cost your life if you’re not careful. And it’s easy to do the same thing with our spiritual life. It doesn’t matter how much time and effort we put into work, physical fitness, relationships, or education if our foundation is in the toilet. Our life here on earth and our eternal destiny depends on what we base our lives on.

What does it mean spiritually to build on Virgin Ground? What are the wide and deep footings for our soul, and what reinforces them? What anchors our spiritual foundation to the rest of our life? And what clean ingredients need to go into this foundation?

Check in at Epiphany tomorrow for part two and find out what God, the Master Builder, says about building a solid foundation.

#solidfoundation #builtontherock #buildforeternity #surefoundation #onlyfoundationJesusChrist

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Live Like You’re Loved

Sometimes I’m not sure what God is saying to me, but there are other times when His message is unmistakably clear. Obvious, even. This is one of those times. And since I know I can’t be the only one who needs to hear this message, I want to share it with you.

First it came on a card they passed out at church entitled My Confession. We read it aloud together for weeks and I continue to read it almost every morning. The words, “I am the beloved of God” have started burning their way into my heart.

Next it came in Pastor Jeff’s sermon from Psalm 46:10, “Be still and know that I am God.” He spent a whole sermon on the word “BE” and one of his points was—BE Loved. This BE is not something I must do, but something already true to recognize and accept. I admit I have believed otherwise because of things said and done by others that made it seem untrue.

Then I started reading a book I got for Christmas and found His message there. “Live from the abundant place that you are loved, and you won’t find yourself begging others for scraps of love.” The author continued. “Living loved is sourced in your quiet daily surrender to the One who made you.” (Uninvited by Lysa Terkeurst)

If that was not enough, because God knows sometimes I’m a little dense, He told me again. This time in a song. Driving to the gym feeling frumpy in my too tight workout clothes, berating myself for things I didn’t say, and regretting things I did say. I was in the middle of beating myself up for my many failures when I heard “Live Like You’re Loved” by Hawk Nelson.

Okay, God, I get the feeling you’re trying to tell me something? Clearly, I need to not only hear I am loved and believe I am loved, but let it permeate my whole being and live like I’m loved. 

But how? When past experiences have shattered my trust. When my mind rebels at the thought that anyone, even God, could really love me. Especially God, who knows every detail about me.

I thought about my mom, dad, and sisters. They love me. They know me—silly, serious, and creatively warped; they have seen me at my best, and my worst. They know all my embarrassing stories. Yet I know without a doubt they love me and are committed to me. No matter what. 

How do I behave when I’m with them? I’m relaxed, happy, content, sincere—eager to be in their presence.

And I think about my dear Kelly. He knows me better than anyone besides Jesus, and has the power to wound me like no other. But he doesn’t. I’m confident in his love, because he shows me every day he’s committed to us. It doesn’t matter if I have bad breath or hairy legs, whether I make his favorite dinner, or if I embarrass us both blurting out something stupid. 

And how do I behave with Kelly? I look forward to being with him, cherish and protect our time together, and try to think of ways to bless his days the way he blesses mine. I can be honest with him and look forward to a life of love, laughter, and adventure.

I don’t have it all figured out yet, but I’m trying to let this trickle into my spirit and into my relationship with Jesus. To walk confidently in His love for me. To use my energy to welcome others into that love, instead of focusing on my latest mess up, since He has made it so very clear I am loved, accepted, invited—unconditionally. 

He may have to say it a few more times in a few more ways before I really get it, but I do believe I’m beginning to get the message.

#youareloved #livelikeyou’reloved #doesGodreallyloveme #whowouldloveme #beloved