Love Endures

Love conquers all.

Dear Hate by Maren Morris is a powerful reminder of hate’s grip and love’s conquering power.

The battle between hate and love has existed since Adam and Eve were in the garden. The disgusting work of hate ensnares us, but love has the power to conquer everything. Love conquers the divides between people, love heals the wounds inflicted by hate, and love mends the broken heart. Love has the power to overcome anything hate throws our way.

1 Corinthians 13:6-8 says, “Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”

The Bible gives us a glimpse into the end of the battle between hate and love. Love conquers all. God is love and nothing has the power to stand in his way. His grace and mercy will win.

Meanwhile, as the battle rages, you and I have the challenge to be messengers of love.

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Portrait of Grace

He gave to his enemies.

Saul was after David. He felt threatened by David, but Saul is eventually mortally wounded. David becomes king. He establishes his kingdom, and gives us a striking picture of salvation by grace and true friendship.

Meet Mephibosheth. We do not know much about him. He was the son of Jonathan and grandson of Saul. This would have put him in line for the throne, so when Saul was killed, Mephibosheth’s family feared for his safety.

In those days, one of the first acts of a new king was to eliminate any threat from the previous king’s family, so Saul’s family was obviously in a hurry to hide.

2 Samuel 4:4 records, “Saul’s son Jonathan had a son named Mephibosheth, who was crippled as a child. He was 5-years-old when the report came from Jezrell that Saul and Jonathan had been killed in battle. When the child’s nurse heard the news, she picked him up and fled, but as she hurried away, she dropped him and he became crippled.”

David did not have any plans to follow tradition of killing the previous king’s family; however, Saul’s family had no way of knowing David’s plans. They hurried, dropping the boy and causing permanent damage to his feet.

For nearly two decades, Mephibosheth lived in a distant land. He was afraid of David, and he was unable to help himself. That is, until grace entered the picture.

David remembered his promise to Jonathan, and fulfilled it through Mephibosheth. David invited Mephibosheth to eat at the king’s table; this was a great honor. David gave Mephibosheth servants and land. In short, David took care of Mephibosheth’s needs.

Sound familiar?

Like Mephibosheth

There are some paralleles between Mephibosheth’s story and our story. We too had needs which were unmet, and we were unable to help ourselves. God, in his grace through Christ, invited us to his table. He offered us salvation to meet our needs.

Romans 5:6 says, “When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners.”

Like David

In many ways, we are also like David. During the course of our lives, we will come into contact with people who have needs. The Lord may use us to meet those needs. When we are tasked with meeting those needs, may we respond with the same grace we have been shown.

 

Enabling Grace

David was reminded of God’s grace.

David was in a season of turmoil. His family was a mess; there were many reasons for the messiness, and one of David’s advisors wanted to help him clean it up. He drafted a woman to tell David a parable.

The parable consisted of a widow with two sons. One son murdered the other, and the community shouted for the murderer’s head. If he was convicted, the widow would have no hope of continuing her family line. She pleads for mercy from the king.

David compassionately says she should receive mercy. Then, the woman applies the parable to David’s situation.

She points out David has a banished son needing reconciliation, and reminds David God himself makes plans to enable a banished person to be reconciled to the Lord. 2 Samuel 14:14 says, “All of us must die eventually. Our lives are like water spilled out on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again, but God does not just sweep life away. Instead, he devises ways to bring us back when we have been separated from him.”

Mistakes; they have been made. Regrets exist. The list of things we would not do or redo can be extensive, but God knows how to handle all of it.

God has devised a plan to restore us to the family.

“For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only son, so everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his son into the world, not to judge the world but to save the world through him,” Jesus explains in John 3:16-17.

Jesus also says in John 10:10, “The thief’s purpose is to steal, kill, and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.”

Jesus is the plan which enables man and God to reconcile.

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An Overcoming Character

The twists and turns of life often create barriers and hurtles needing overcome. The path to success is blocked by any number of obstacles forcing you and me to take a different route. The challenges posed by finding an alternate route can overwhelm and discourage us.

Thankfully, we are not alone. Many have overcome obstacles and barriers to find their way to success. Their stories can serve as encouragement to you and me. The Bible gives us examples of people who overcame life’s difficulties to fulfill their purpose.

Ruth went into the unknown.

Ruth is one of those overcomers. Her life seemed to be ordinary. A native of Moab, Ruth fell in love with a young man from Bethlehem. He and his family moved to Moab to escape a famine, and he was smitten by Ruth’s beauty and character. The two were married, but it wasn’t long before life challenged Ruth.

Her husband, brother-in-law, and father-in-law died leaving Ruth and her relatives as widows. Naomi, her mother-in-law, decided to return to Bethlehem, and Ruth had to decide what she was going to do. Ruth had to decide which direction to go; stay in Moab or go with Naomi into the unknown.

Stay or go?

For Ruth, this was a pivotal moment. The choice she made here was going to chart the course of her future. This was a big decision. It could have easily been overwhelming and discouraging. Can you relate?

Life is going well, but suddenly, it changes. You and I are pushed into a moment of change and required to make decisions charting our future. It is an overwhelming feeling and can be discouraging, especially if we thought the path to success was clear. Ruth illustrates the best approach for us.

Ruth allowed character to determine her direction.

To spite being overwhelmed, Ruth allowed her character to determine her direction. She was unselfish and loyal, so she went with Naomi into the unknown. Naomi was at an age where she was going to need help and Ruth believed she could be of assistance, so she went to Bethlehem. Her character propelled her into the unknown.

The unknown soon became familiar.

Bethlehem soon became familiar to Ruth, and she developed a relationship with Boaz. The two were married and had a son. This put Ruth in the lineage of Jesus.

The same will be true for us. If our character pushes us into unknown territory, it will soon become familiar.

Ruth’s secret to success was character.

Ruth was able to overcome barriers in life and find success. Her secret was character. Ruth allowed her unselfishness and loyalty to move her into the unknown.

Acting

Cultivate a character that’s ready to overcome barriers. Allow your character to determine your direction rather than feelings. A properly cultivated character will help us find the path to success.

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3 Ways God Views Us

woman and girl painting

When God looks at us, what does he see?

The picture wasn’t much. It was a hand drawn sketch of what was supposed to be a dog. It had a few oddly placed stickers around the dog, and there was really no theme or artistic thought given to the picture. Most everyone would look at the picture and declare it trash, but in the eye of the recipient, it was a beautiful work of art.

The recipient was a mom and the picture created by her daughter, making it a masterpiece worthy of hanging on the refrigerator. No one else saw the beauty. No one else saw the potential, but the mom did. She did because it was her daughter.

The same can be said about our lives from the Lord’s perspective. No one else may see the beauty. No one else may see the potential, but the Lord does. In his sight, our lives are a masterpiece by his grace.

Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.”

In his grace, the Lord overcomes the messiness of our lives. He looks past all the dirt to see our heart, our potential, and our purpose.

When the Lord looks at us, here is what he sees.

A Masterpiece

He sees the shattered pieces of our lives put back together in his grace. The result is a beautiful mosaic in his sight.

A person with a purpose

You and I are not just aimlessly wondering through life. The Lord has a purpose for the mosaic he has created. The Bible reminds us the Lord has plans for us. Plans to give us hope and a future.

A person who can do some amazing work

The purpose the Lord has for us is awesome and will leave behind a lasting and beautiful legacy.

Acting

Ask the Lord to help you view yourself as he views you.

God uses Messy People to do Amazing Work

No one is perfect. We are messy people, and sometimes our lives can be a little messy. We make mistakes. We have regrets, and we have many struggles. All of this can make life dirty at times, and we may wonder how the Lord can have a purpose for a life as messed up as ours. He does; the Lord uses messy people.

The Bible says liars, cheats, and prostitutes were all used by the Lord. Their lives were anything but clean; they were not perfect. They seemed to be the least likely to be used by God, yet he used them to do some amazing work. They were messy people with messed up lives, but the Lord still had a purpose for them.

As we read the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1, we find a messy cast of characters.

David

David makes the list. David lusted after Bathsheba, had her husband Uriah killed to cover up an affair, and had a family life filled with turbulence. Yet, the Lord used him. Scripture even says David was a man after God’s own heart.

Ruth

Ruth was poor, and it seemed she had few opportunities. She was humble and dedicated to her mother-in-law. Life was hard as Ruth was forced to walk behind the harvesters hoping enough food was left to provide for her and her mother-in-law. Ruth developed a relationship with Boaz, and they had a son. Ruth’ life took her from rags to riches, from impoverished to having plenty, from unknown to finding a place in the Lord’s lineage.

Jacob

Jacob is used by the Lord to spite being a liar and cheater. Jacob wanted his father’s blessing, but since he was younger than his brother, he had to lie and cheat to get it. One day while his brother was hunting, Jacob pretended to be Esau so Isaac would bless him. Jacob was dishonest. He lied to his father and cheated his brother, yet Jacob had a grand purpose for his life.

Judah

Judah is listed in the family lineage though he hated Joseph. Judah and his brothers sold Joseph as a slave hoping to never see him again, yet God used them in his plan.

Tamar

Tamar is listed. Tamar’s life was filled with heartbreak. She was widowed twice and promised a third husband, but the man and Tamar were never married. Trying to fix things herself, Tamar disguises herself as a prostitute and tricks Judah. Judah has intercourse with Tamar, and she gives birth to a son placing her in this genealogy. Tamar’s life was messy, but she is in the genealogy of the messiah.

These are dirty stories of messy lives, and it might even be shocking to think the Lord used such messy people, but he does. The Lord did not sanction the messiness, but he overcame it to do some amazing work.

The Lord can use us in the same way. Our lives may be smeared with many mistakes, regrets, and struggles, but the Lord can overcome all of them. To spite being messy, you and I have a purpose to fulfill. The Lord will help us even though we are not perfect.

“For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord,” in Jeremiah 29:11. “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future.”

Life may get a little dirty at times, but the Lord will help us overcome it. He will help you and me complete our calling and fulfill our purpose. The Lord uses messy people to do some amazing work.

Acting

Remind yourself the Lord uses people who are not perfect, and he will help you realize and fulfill your calling.

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Offering Grace

a stack of folded newspapers

She’s on a journey to forgive her rapist.

She forgave the teenagers who mutilated her face.

They forgave the man who slaughtered their children.

These are certainly attention-grabbing headlines, and they start telling the stories of horrific pain and tremendous loss, but they do more. We are not only captivated by the heart wrenching tragedy but the victim’s response.

Each of these stories is an incredible illustration of grace. Each victim offers forgiveness to an individual who did the unthinkable. In turn, serving as an illustration to us.

As Christians, we are encouraged to offer forgiveness, and C. S. Lewis says, “Everyone believes forgiveness is a grand idea until he has something to forgive.” Forgiving can be one of the hardest things you and I are asked to do, but it can also be one of the most liberating.

I’m far from perfect, and I do not have this part of the Christian journey completely figured out. I was encouraged to explore it some more by these stories, and I hope you are as well.

She’s on a journey of forgiveness after rape.

Beverly had a supposed friend who worked for the state. He requested some of her time, and they scheduled an appointment. Entering Beverly’s home under the façade of needing her time, the man took much more than her time; he raped her.

He successfully denied and covered up the act, and he continued to move up the political ladder. Beverly would see him on the news, encounter him at parties, and would be upset.

Two years after the rape, Beverly met a friend who told her of Christ’s forgiveness and protection. Beverly decided to accept Christ’s invitation of grace and begin the journey of maximizing Christ in her life and healing from the hurt caused by the rapist. The Journey may not be completed, but it is started. Beverly’s story is told in Facing Your Giants.

She forgave the teenagers who mutilated her face.

Victoria Ruvolo was on her way home in November 2004. She was returning home after attending a family member’s recital, and it was late, and driving was a little difficult because of the freezing rain. The car she was about to pass may have caught her attention, but she doesn’t remember. The teenage boy hanging out the window may have caught her attention, but again, she does not remember. Nor does she remember seeing the 20-pound frozen turkey the boy was holding in his hand.

The boy launched the turkey at Victoria’s car, smashing her windshield, bending the steering wheel inward, and breaking every bone in her face. Victoria’s face suffered extensive damage and had to be completely restructured.

It took an 8-hour surgery and 3-week hospital stay to even begin the road to recovery. While Victoria was recovering, the wheels of justice were spinning, and the public was voicing outrage at the crime.

Fast forward to August 2005 and enter the court room. The young man who launched the turkey pleaded guilty to a lesser charge and received a sentence of 6 months behind bars, 5 years’ probation, community service, and counseling. The lenient sentence is given at the request of Victoria.

She too was in the court room, and after the hearing, Victoria and the young man came face to face. Both sobbing, Victoria said, I forgive you. I want your life to be all it can be.” The pain and agony caused to Victoria was met with grace and mercy. Victoria’s story is told in Captured by Grace.

They forgave the man who slaughtered their children.

In October 2006, a gunman entered a one-room Amish schoolhouse and ordered the teacher, teacher’s assistant, and boys to leave. The 10 girls in the class were left alone with the gunman. He covered the windows and was planning for a long siege, but as state police officers surrounded the schoolhouse, he shot the girls and killed himself. 5 girls died, and the other 5 were severely wounded. This was not the only part of the story which made headlines though.

The Amish community publicly forgave the gunman. They befriended the gunman’s wife and children. Marie Monville, the gunman’s wife, recalls to CNN the community showered her family with gifts. They waived at her on the way to the bus stop, and they even attended her husband’s funeral. The families, who were victims of a heinous and unthinkable act, offered grace. Monville tells her story in One Light Still Shines.

Acting

As I mentioned, I do not have forgiveness completely figured out. The individuals in these stories are true illustrations of offering grace to one another, and they encourage me to explore offering forgiveness. I hope they do you as well.

Join me in learning the act of forgiveness and experiencing the liberation it brings.

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Just ComeHome

crowd of people enjoying a concert

It was time. It was time for Daniel to make a dreaded phone call, and the only place to get privacy in a frat house is the bathroom. Humiliated and sitting on the lid of the toilet, a stack of porn magazines in the corner, Daniel starts to dial the number, but he stops.

“I can’t do this,” he tells himself. “There’s no way they will understand. I’ve really messed up this time.”

Daniel was a college freshman and thought classes would be easy. Ignoring the advice of his parents, Daniel joined a fraternity a couple weeks after arriving on campus. Life was fun until he failed all his classes and lost his scholarship. He had gone as far as he could go, and now it was time to make the dreaded phone call.

“But there is no way they are going to understand,” he kept telling himself. “I’ve messed everything up. I didn’t listen to their advice, and I’ve just messed everything up. What am I going to do?”

After about 30 minutes, Daniel decided he had to call. So, he picked up his phone, dialed the number, and his parents answered.

He told them what happened, and they immediately responded. “Just come home,” they encouraged. “Just come home, and we’ll figure everything out once you get here.”

Daniel’s parents show us a picture of grace. They are an illustration of God’s grace. “Just come home,” they say. It doesn’t matter how badly Daniel has messed up. Daniel, their son, is hurting, so they just want him home. Everything else can be pieced together after he gets home.

You might be Daniel. You might be the one needing to make the dreaded phone call. If so, the Lord will respond in the same way Daniel’s parents responded. “Just come home,” he says. “We’ll figure out the rest after you get here.” God’s grace is unconditional love, which invites us to come home.

 

My thought for Daniel’s story originated with The Easter Experience.

What is grace?

What is grace? Ask 20 people this question, and you will receive multiple answers.

Completely understanding God’s grace is difficult for us, so you and I may have doubts concerning the reality of God’s forgiveness. Here are 6 workable definitions of God’s grace, a picture of his grace, and how grace plays into our lives.

Here are 6 practical definitions of God’s grace.

1. God’s unmerited favor.

We do nothing to earn grace. God gives it to those who ask.

2. Unconditional Forgiveness.

In this way, grace is inclusive. God invites us to come as we are; grace meets us at our place and helps us get to a better place.

3. God’s one-way love to us.

A person may not love the Lord right now, but the Lord loves him or her. It is out of his love the invitation to grace is extended.

4. Grace is unconditional acceptance given to an undeserving person.

You and I are invited to come as we are. Our lives do not have to be perfect before grace comes into play. The Lord meets us where we are and takes us to a better place. Whether we do or do not deserve grace is not a question the Lord asks. He invites us all.

5. Grace sets us free.

Galatians 5:1 says, “It is for freedom Christ has set us free.”

Grace can help us live a more fulfilling life.

6. Grace is the gift of God.

Ephesians 2:8 says, “God saved you by his grace when you believed, and you can not take credit for this. It is a gift from God.”

Here is a picture of grace.

In Luke 15, Jesus tells the story of a son wanting his father’s money. The son goes to his father and asks for his share of the inheritance. In the context of Jesus’ story, inheritance was usually given upon a parent’s death. So, the son is basically saying, “Dad, I wish you were dead. Give me your money.”

The father agrees and gives the young man his portion of the estate. The young man leaves home, plays hard in life for a time, and looses all his money. Fast forward a little, and we find the young man caring for pigs with nothing to eat.

Hungry and watching the pigs eat, the young man decides to try going home. He feels his father will at least let him be a servant. He does not believe being a son again is an option after the way he has acted. He heads for home, and the father’s response is a true picture of grace.

The father sees his son coming down the road, so he runs to meet and embrace him. Picture the scene Jesus paints. The smelly, dirty son who had been tending to the hogs being embraced by his father, who a short time earlier received a death wish. Not only did the father embrace the young man, he throws a celebration because his son is home.

This is grace. Unmerited, undeserving, unconditional forgiveness and love.

Here is how grace plays into our lives.

The same way the father ran to meet the son, The Lord runs to meet us. It doesn’t matter where we’ve been, we can always go back home.

Acting

What has grace done for you? Take a moment to thank the Lord.

What can grace do for you? Go back home.

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Recalculating

aerial photo of world map

Recalculating is a word many of us hear as we use Google Maps, Apple Maps, or any of the GPS guidance products. We miss a turn so the app must find a new way to our destination. Missing a turn doesn’t result in being lost forever; it just means it may take a little longer to get there and it may be a little harder route.

Grace can work the same way. It can recalculate the direction our life is going. If you do not like the direction your life is going, the Lord’s grace can recalculate you to a path of hope and peace. Many people have allowed grace to change the direction they were headed.

Grace has recalculated many lives.

Here are some examples of recalculated lives.

Peter

We don’t have to look far past Jesus to see one such story. Peter was called to be one of Jesus’ disciples. He has a reputation for being spontaneous and sticking his foot in his mouth. He denied knowing Jesus three times on the night Jesus was betrayed. John tells us Jesus visited one-on-one with Peter after his resurrection, and Peter was forgiven of his mistake.

Peter was going in the right direction until he made a wrong turn, but he was not lost forever. The Lord’s grace allowed Peter to recalculate his direction, and he became instrumental in spreading the Good News.

Paul

Paul is an example of grace changing a person’s life. He spent time persecuting, even killing, Christians. In his resume of sins, Paul calls himself the chief sinner. However, in Acts 9, the Lord uses grace to recalculate Paul’s life. Paul was appointed as an Apostle and became influential in the growth of the church. It has been said Paul had to be blinded in order to see the light.

Two Anonymous Ladies

A couple of unnamed women serve as examples of life-changing grace. First, Luke 7 records Jesus having dinner at a Pharisee’s house when a woman from that town began anointing Jesus. She was so grateful for his grace she could not contain her emotions. She wept on his feet, then dried them with her hair. All we know is that she lived a sinful life. To what extent of sinfulness, we are not told. She may have made a few mistakes, or she may have been a seasoned prostitute. Either way, she was forgiven, and her life was changed.

Second, John 8 tells of a woman supposedly caught in adultery. Adultery was punishable by stoning; however, Jesus gives a classic answer, “The one without sin can throw the first stone.” The crowd slowly leaves until only the woman and Jesus are remaining. Jesus grants her grace and sends her on her way to live a new life. Scripture speaks of many lives being changed because of grace, and we find the same to be true in more recent history.

John Newton

Perhaps one of the most famous illustrations of a life being recalculated by grace is that of John Newton. Newton is the writer of Amazing Grace.

After becoming established as a seaman, Newton entered the slave trade. He made many voyages with people as his cargo. Somewhere along the way, he heard of Christ and His offer of forgiveness. He became a Christian, but it took ten years for him to completely realize the horridness of human trafficking. We like to think his transformation happened overnight, but it took a few years for the Lord to form Newton’s heart. Keep in mind Christians in Newton’s day did not believe there was anything wrong with slavery. The Lord changed John Newton’s heart, his life, and used him to pin a familiar hymn.

Recalculating can take time.

Like Newton, it may take you and me a little time to get back on track. We start going in the right direction only to make another wrong turn. It happens, so don’t give up. Grace will recalculate your life once more.

It doesn’t matter how many wrong turns we’ve taken. What matters is going in the right direction now. The wrong turns are in the past, and we must leave them there. Our attention needs to be given to following the right directions when we are on the right path.

Acting

Remember to allow grace to change your direction the next time you make a wrong turn.