God’s Love


John 16-18 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He is praying for us

I can’t begin to imagine how strange it would feel to find out that the leader of my nation was thinking about me right now, talking with his staff about my life and possibly about the challenges I’m facing.  Of course, the leaders of most countries have a general concern for the welfare of their constituents, the people who vote for them, but I’m talking about my leader zeroing in on little old me with his thoughts and concerns.  For this, I am not holding my breath, but it’s a fascinating notion.  It would be humbling, and actually frightening, to think that anyone with power and prestige would focus on me.  However… 

@ John 17
I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.” (20-21)  Forget presidents and powerful leaders! This is astounding to me! Jesus, the Son of God, present at creation, seated at the right hand of God the Father is thinking about me, and He is praying for me.  He is concerned about my welfare – and He is someone who can actually do something about it.

In His prayer, Jesus first prayed for His disciples who had followed Him while He was on earth, but added, “I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me.”  As His followers and disciples today, we, too, are included in His prayer.  The prayer Jesus offered to God for us in Chapter 17 was not a multipurpose “God bless, so and so,” etc.  No, He had specific requests in mind.

Jesus prayed for our protection.  “I have given them your word. And the world hates them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one. They do not belong to this world any more than I do.” (14-16)  What in this world do we have to fear with Jesus praying for our protection?

Jesus prayed for holiness.  “Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth.  Just as you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world. And I give myself as a holy sacrifice for them so they can be made holy by your truth.” (17-19) Jesus paid a great price for our holiness.  How could we ever trade it or dirty it for the pleasures of this world?  His truth sets us free from all that.

Jesus prayed for our unity. “I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one. I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me.” (22-23)  He has given us the glory of God, the revelation of who God is, by revealing Himself to us.  This is our common bond, our unity.

As the body of Christ, we may differ in style of worship or formality, but we should let nothing we do hinder or damage our message of Christ crucified so that the world will know that God loves them.  How could we do anything to impede God’s perfect plan to save a lost world?

Jesus is praying for us!  “Sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.” (Romans 8:34)   “He lives forever to intercede with God on [our] behalf.” (Hebrews 7:25)  No matter what we’re facing today, perhaps feeling like no one cares enough to even pray for us, we can be assured that Jesus cares.  He is thinking about us, talking to God about us, zeroing in on us and praying for us.  So very humbling. 

Moving Forward:  One of my favorite songs, “He’s ever interceding to the Father for His children…Through Him you can reach the Father so bring Him all your heavy burdens…” (C. Gillman) 

Tomorrow @ Philemon

John 10-12 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He has provided the gateway into His presence

Even though the wonderful relationship between the Shepherd and His sheep expressed in Psalm 23 needs no affirmation, John 10 does just that.  David explained that relationship from the viewpoint of a sheep, and Jesus confirmed it from the viewpoint of the Shepherd.  I can’t help but give pause to John 10.  Here’s an excerpt from Intimate Moments with the Shepherd, Chapter 48, a visual impression from the Lord entitled,“The Gatekeeper.”

Night was advancing across the countryside as the sheep rushed past the Shepherd to the fold, tired and ready for rest.  As the Shepherd approached the fold, He found a bottleneck at the somewhat narrow gate as the sheep pushed and jostled to move through it.  The Shepherd moved to the middle of the gateway and stood, allowing the sheep to pass one by one on either of Him safely into the fold.

Although it would seem that His position at the gate would narrow the passageway even further, it actually brought order and safety to the flock.  As the sheep passed by Him one by one, the Shepherd, knowing each name as He did, was able to see who was there and who was not.

Why not have many gates and avoid all this chaos?  More sheep could enter more quickly and rest would come all the sooner to the weary flock. “‘I assure you, I am the gate for the sheep,’ [Jesus] said.” (John 10:7)  Why is the gate so narrow?  “Enter through the narrow gate.  For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.” (Matthew 7:13)  Why is there only one way into heaven?  Wouldn’t a loving God want everyone there?  “All others who came before me were thieves and robbers.   But the true sheep did not listen to them.  Yes I am the gate.  Those who come through me will be saved.” (John 10:8-9)  “I am the way, the truth and the life.  No one can come to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

None of our questions will change the facts.  The Lord our Shepherd is the only gateway into eternity with God and He was chosen by God to fulfill this role.  God, our creator, overflowing with great love for His lost creation, sent His Son, the only part of Him that our finite minds could ever understand, to be our gateway to Him.  All that is required of us is to accept this Savior and to follow Him to His Father.

Any other gate would be an insult and a mockery of God’s sacrificial gift to us.  “There is only one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and there is only one God and Father, who is over us all and in us all and living through us all.  However, he has given each one of us a special gift according to the generosity of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:4-7)  Paul, not known to mince words, laid it out plainly in this passage. An individual who believes someone or something created life other than God may take exception to this declaration.  Unfortunately, eternity will clear that up one day should that mindset continue.

Order was not the only benefit given to the flock by the Shepherd positioned as the gate.  Their Shepherd was a very personal shepherd, and He knew each one by name.  Because of this familiarity, the Shepherd would know immediately if one had failed to pass by Him, and He would search for the missing sheep.

Our God knows us by name, as well.  In fact, His knowledge of us is so personal that He actually has numbered the hairs on our head. (Matthew 10:30)  For those who are hair challenged this may not be such a big deal, but for most of us, it screams intimacy—intimacy with our Creator.  Although He will not force our devotion, He will pursue us and abundantly fill us with His love.  Bless the Gatekeeper!

Moving Forward: I’m so thankful for my intimate relationship with the Shepherd today.  I know Him, and He knows me…intimate moments. 

Tomorrow @ 2 Timothy 3-4

Hosea 8-14 (NLT link)

Discover His heart: Because of His love for us, He does not willingly let us go

The value of a soul.  Well, we really can’t place a value on one’s soul – it’s priceless.  So much so that God sent His only Son to die to redeem that soul.  When we’ve been praying for someone for a long time, one who is resistant to the Lord, we’re often tempted to give up on that soul.  Hosea continued to reveal God’s abiding love for His people even though they had rejected Him.

“Oh, how can I give you up, Israel?  How can I let you go?… My heart is torn within me, and my compassion overflows.” (11:8)  In the previous three chapters, Hosea summarized Israel’s rebellion against God, and because of their continued rejection of God, they would harvest what they had planted (8:7)  But God’s heart was torn, “How can I let you go?

Hosea challenged those who had rejected God for so very long, “Bring your confessions, and return to the Lord.  Say to him, ‘Forgive all our sins and graciously receive us, so that we may offer you our praises.’” (14:2)  This, this is what God is longing to hear; and His response to heartfelt repentance is, “I will heal you of your faithlessness; my love will know no bounds, for my anger will be gone forever.”(4)

There are several individuals I have prayed for as long as I can remember, asking God to touch their lives and change their direction.  I must admit that I have gone through periods where I’ve just given up because it all seems so futile.  Then I read something like this, revealing God’s incredible capacity to love and to hope, and my commitment is renewed to keep praying, keep believing.  These dear ones I have been praying for may walk through some seeds they have sown, but if our pure and Holy God loves them so very deeply, who am I to give up on them? 

Moving Forward: My hope is renewed today as I continue praying for those who desperately need fellowship with the One who loves them so deeply. 

Tomorrow @ John 10-12

Hosea 1-7 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He will go to great lengths to prove His love for us

I’ve met some individuals in my life who have a capacity to love difficult people, so much so that it’s not easy for me to comprehend it.  A spouse or a child repeatedly betrays and offends them, yet these loving souls keep hoping and believing for a change.  The book of Hosea is about God’s unfathomable love for His people in the face of their betrayal and offense.

Hosea is a love story between God and His people illustrated through the life of Hosea.  Some think Hosea’s story is symbolic and others believe it to be history, but regardless, the story is compelling.  Imagine being asked by God to marry someone that He promised would be unfaithful to you to the point of having children with other lovers.  It would be difficult, to say the least, but then imagine this request, “Then the Lord said to me, “Go and love your wife again, even though she commits adultery with another lover. This will illustrate that the Lord still loves Israel, even though the people have turned to other gods and love to worship them.” (3:1) Hosea bought back his wife out of slavery to love her again.

Hosea’s story foretold Israel’s bondage to a foreign land because of their continual idolatry and sin, yet because of God’s great love for them, He one day would bring redemption to them.  Hosea and many prophets to come were sent by God to warn of impending doom if Israel did not repent – God calling, reaching, loving.

Many of us have individuals in our lives who are on this same fast track to doom because of their disregard for God.  Hosea’s story offers this important lesson for us – God loves their souls regardless of their indifference, their betrayal and their sin.  He will bring judgment one day if they don’t repent; but in the meantime, He will send any number of prophets or challenges to their lives to get their attention and bring about repentance – God calling, reaching, loving.

God may not ask us to continue fellowship with them, but our role is certainly to love their souls, pray for them and never give up on them as long as they are breathing.  If Hosea could do the hard things that God asked of him, we can do this! 

Moving Forward: Today I will continue to pray for those in my life who seem so very far from God, remembering that He knows exactly where they are and He loves them. 

Tomorrow @ John 7-9

Ezekiel 31-36(NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He is the Shepherd who never fails us, never leaves us

@ Ezekiel 34
Shepherds and sheep – right up my alley!  While writing the devotional book, Intimate Moments with the Shepherd, I had the joy of visiting sheep farms where I met dozens of shepherds and hundreds of sheep.  I’m sure the shepherds enjoyed watching this city girl navigate the pastures and sheepfolds while learning about the nature of sheep.  My advice for anyone pursuing an adventure like this is to wear sturdy boots, enough said.

“What sorrow awaits you shepherds who feed yourselves instead of your flocks. Shouldn’t shepherds feed their sheep?…You have not taken care of the weak. You have not tended the sick or bound up the injured. You have not gone looking for those who have wandered away and are lost. Instead, you have ruled them with harshness and cruelty. So my sheep have been scattered without a shepherd, and they are easy prey for any wild animal.” (1-5)  Ezekiel revealed this prophecy to the kings, prophets and priests of Israel, the shepherds of Israel, who with their selfish, cruel behavior had neglected and abandoned the children of Israel.

We’ve followed the sinful acts of Israel’s leadership over the past several weeks recorded in Ezekiel, Leviticus and 1 and 2 Kings.  The common thread throughout the accounts of each evil leader was disobedience to God while following their own selfish desires to be powerful, prosperous and popular.  Whether in the church world or the secular world today, the pursuit of these same three selfish desires will cause a leader to neglect and abandon those being led.  The sheep become weak, lost and scattered, no longer the strong flock they once were and because of this, sorrow awaited the shepherds.

Thankfully, the shepherds I met on my journeys were not at all like those described in Chapter 34.  Their eyes sparkled as they talked about their pride and joy and as they shared the heritage of each sheep, their parents, siblings and offspring.  The shepherds knew them so well that many of the sheep were named according to their personalities.  They knew what grasses and grains each sheep enjoyed the most and recalled the injuries and diseases certain sheep had experienced.  They would never call their sheep dumb but agreed that they indeed were willful at times…hmmm.

“This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself will search and find my sheep. I will be like a shepherd looking for his scattered flock… I will search for my lost ones who strayed away, and I will bring them safely home again… I will bandage the injured and strengthen the weak… And I will set over them one shepherd, my servant David [Jesus]. He will feed them and be a shepherd to them.” (11-16,23)   And He did just that!  He sent His Son, Jesus, the Shepherd of Psalm 23, the Good Shepherd of John 10, “I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me, just as my Father knows me and I know the Father. So I sacrifice my life for the sheep.” (14-15)  He is the selfless Shepherd who sacrificed His life, the faithful Shepherd who will never leave us or forsake us, and He is the intimate Shepherd who knows us by name. 

Moving Forward: Standing firm today on the care and guidance of the Good Shepherd.  I know Him, and He knows me! 

Tomorrow @ Luke 21-22

Colossians 3-4 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart:  He has chosen us to be His holy people and expects us to act and look the part.

“Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.”  Mark Twain’s words seem to span the generations – now that’s a good writer!  Naked people may make an impression, but it’s not the right one to make.  Clothes make the man, dress for success and similar prevailing thoughts have generated a multi-billion dollar clothing industry.  The movers and shakers of our day proudly wear their labels – Gucci, Versace, Karan, Coach and Jimmy Choo – and they have paid dearly for them.  At one time I was involved in this industry, a real clothes horse as they say, but I changed my focus many years ago to a more eternal line of clothing.  Don’t get me wrong, I still love the feel of great fabric and a well-made garment, but really, one day, moths will eat them all! 

@ Colossians 3
“Since God chose you to be the holy people He loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” (13)  Paul was encouraging those who came to Christ to go ahead and get a new wardrobe, and who doesn’t like that idea.  It’s a matter of trading the old clothes of selfishness, anger, pride and impatience for mercy and kindness and the other fruit of the Spirit (Ephesians 4).

Layer them on and let them be the new you, and forgive everyone in the process.  Talk about the ultimate makeover!  And after we’ve worn our new duds for a while, it doesn’t hurt to go through our clothes occasionally and see what needs to be replaced. Sometimes we slip back into those old clothes of the past, thinking they’re still acceptable, and we discover in the process a little unforgiveness, pride or unkindness.  Allowing the Holy Spirit to examine our hearts will keep us spiritually dressed for success.

Then, just to complete the ensemble, “Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony.” (14)  Protect all that new fine clothing with a big beautiful coat of love, and we will live in harmony with one another and show ourselves to be “the holy people He loves.”  These clothes really do make the man or woman!

I would be remiss if I failed to mention that additional clothing will be needed – an entire suit of armor, but that’s a topic for another day @Ephesians 6. 

Moving Forward: I’m dressing for success today, examining my wardrobe and making sure it will show me to be the holy woman He loves and has chosen me to be. 

Tomorrow @ Leviticus 16-18

Ephesians 1-3 (NLT Link)

Discover His heart: He lavishes His unfathomable love on His creation

The Louvre was closing in 30 minutes, and after a full day of exploring this mammoth museum, I was ready to call it a day when suddenly I realized that I had missed the prize of the Louvre!  In all our exploration of unbelievable paintings and artifacts, including ruins from Babylon, we had missed the masterpiece of the Museum, the pièce de résistance, The Mona Lisa!  However, it’s amazing what can happen when adrenaline kicks in.

Energy renewed, we flew through the vast exhibits and galleries and breathlessly arrived to view The Masterpiece, a rather smallish, glass-enclosed painting.  At first glance, I wondered what in this painting took Da Vinci seven years to paint!  But as I studied it, I, too, saw all the things that made it memorable – the eyes that seemed to follow me as I moved across the room, the mystery of the unmatched background, its subtle coloring and that enigmatic smile. What was she smiling about?!  Although many believe it was painted over a self-portrait, a makeover if you please, the end result is indeed a masterpiece. 

@ Ephesians 2
“God saved you by His grace when you believed.  And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. 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.”(8,10)  God took the old canvas of what I was and created a masterpiece.  Talk about the ultimate makeover!

Just as the one who posed for the Mona Lisa, I can’t take credit for His workmanship because it was His gift to me for simply believing in His grace. Unlike the Mona Lisa, we do not hang on a wall to be admired by all.  No, we are living masterpieces, possessing a greater purpose – to do good works. 

@ Ephesians 3
As His living masterpiece, and yes, we are a work in progress, our Creator paints into our lives from His unlimited palette all that is needed to complete us. “I pray that from His glorious, unlimited resources He will empower you with inner strength through His Spirit.  Then Christ will make His home in your hearts as you trust Him.  Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.  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.” (16,18-19)

How wide, how long, how high and how deep His love is!  His love is wide enough to reach around our entire world. His love is long enough to reach from here to eternity.  His love is high enough to reach every mountaintop experience.  And His love is deep enough to reach into the lowest valley we face. Through our relationship with Christ living in us, we come to understand in part this otherwise unfathomable love.  When others look at us and see the smile His love brings to us, His masterpiece, they may wonder what we are smiling about.  And of course, we will feel obliged to tell them. 

Moving Forward: Sometimes hard to believe yet true, I am His masterpiece, the creation of His workmanship.  When others in the traffic of life see my smile today, may it cause them to ask, “Now, just what is she smiling about?” 

Tomorrow @ Leviticus 1-3 (More than meets the eye!)

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