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Patient

As we unpack what Henry Drummond wrote in his essay on Love entitled; The Greatest Thing in the World, we begin with Patience. Other words that describe Patience are: long-suffering, perseverance, tolerance and persistence. It is probably fair to assume that Patience is the least popular of all the virtues Paul lists in 1 Corinthians 13, the treatise on Love.

It is unpopular because it flies into the face of our action-oriented society and lifestyles today. We want to make things happen, take the bull by the horns and see results. And yet Paul places Patience at the forefront of his list of Love’s virtues. Maybe because it is the most disliked and the most difficult and the most powerful when successfully mastered into our lives.

According to Drummond, Patience is Love, passive. No outward actions are required to demonstrate its power. Yet powerful it is. It is not difficult to answer the bell in a crisis, when people are watching. But it takes a special, Love-driven virtue called Patience to hold steady, persevere to the end when the crowds are gone, the results are meager and the cause is just. Love-driven Patience can be a mother’s faithful prayers for a wayward son or daughter or a husband patiently watching over his ailing wife praying faithfully for healing…Love passive.

To begin to successfully inculcate Patience into our characters we must first recognize how patient God is with us. Many of us love to gloss over our own flaws and deny they exist to the extent that they obviously do (ask your spouses). When we are a bit honest with ourselves we recognize how patient God is with us and our character deflects. This appreciation gives a dose of humility that spreads to the benefit of others around us. For as we are aware of our own shortcomings, we then can look at our cantankerous neighbors, belligerent bosses and others who are annoying, arrogant and hard to deal with in a new light.

And, we must acknowledge the sovereignty of our Lord over our lives. His plans are perfect, His timing sure…but it will be His timing. Sometimes our impatience is an outgrowth of our anxiety over current events in our lives. That fretfulness being a direct by-product of a heart that fears that “God won’t get it right.” Patience is a firm, steadfast belief that God will get it right, in His timing and through His patient love for us. Clothe yourself in passive Love this month…Patience.

Prayer

God, Jesus—whoever You are—I am frightened. You see, I have never been loved in my life.

I cannot remember when I truly felt the warm flannel blanket of a mother’s love around my shoulders. God, I have trouble with any father figure in my life because mine hit me for years and
my mother did nothing to stop it.

In my heart, I desperately long to have 
a loving father and mother in my life, but I am also desperately afraid of letting someone into my inner soul. My soul has been pierced and assaulted so many times. I am struggling with my desire and need to be loved and
my fear of being wounded again.

As I read this and offer a prayer, I ask You to assure me 
of the genuineness of Your love. Sow seeds of trust in my soul so that I will trust Your loving-kindness.

May Your love banish my fears and replace them with a relationship that will fill the hole in my heart.  Amen.

love

Does it mean [Christ] no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or are hungry or cold or in danger or threatened with death?… I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from his love. Death can’t, and life can’t. The angels can’t, and the demons can’t. Our fears for today, our worries about tomorrow, and even the powers of hell can’t keep God’s love away… Nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:35-39

We read about God’s love, but sometimes it’s hard to feel it. Bad stuff happens. Families fall apart. We get so overwhelmed by fear and pain, plus the difficulty of our own situation, that we begin to doubt that God’s love exists. We ask: Where is God? Has He abandoned us like so many others have in our lives? Does it mean He no longer loves us when tough things happen?

Remember the night some of you got busted and the madness of county jail? Or the shame we felt after walking up in someone else’s bedroom? Maybe we did drugs to take the pain of shame away. Do these things make it impossible for God to love us? The apostle Paul asked that same question. We should memorize his response because Paul declares that nothing can separate us from God’s love. Nothing. Our sins can’t. Our past can’t. Our being in jail can’t. Our estranged relationships can’t. Nothing can separate us from God’s love.

Think about it. If Jesus didn’t come down off that cross, if He didn’t leave us hanging when He was suffering the most, why would He abandon us now? Jesus’ love is solid. We can count on it.

LoveMany of us believe that because of the sinful we have done, God could never love us. The devil whispers to us, “God could never love YOU. You’ve had an abortion!” Or, he spits, “You’re a drug user, c’mon, get real, dude, you’ve blown it…God has thrown you aside” As usual, the devil’s got it wrong!

One of the amazing things about God’s love is that He loves us despite who we are, not because of who we are. That is radical grace. We all have spent too many years trying to be someone who was worthy of another’s love. We’ve tried to earn love from our parents, our pimps, the people we were sleeping with, drug dealers, and our bosses. We’ve worked hard to be rich enough, pretty enough, or tough enough to deserve their attention and love.

God’s love works differently. God sent His own Son to die for us while we were still sinners. Even when we were hooking up, using dope, or drinking like fish, God loved us. He doesn’t say to us, “Straighten yourself up and clean yourself off and then I’ll take a look at you.” No. He loves us as we are—period.

Another amazing thing about God’s love is that it’s extravagant, over-the-top. God doesn’t skimp on love. He shows His love by sending His own Son—not some low-level flunky—to die for us. He sent His own Son—His only Son—to die for us. Most of us have never experienced that kind of unconditional love.

That unconditional love is life-changing. It offers forgiveness and gives us value, hope, and peace. When it seems dark in the corners of our minds at 4:00 AM, we can hear His voice calling our name, saying, “I love you just the way you are. Come to Me. Accept My love. My Son has covered your sin.” Who wouldn’t want to say yes to that kind of love?

TrialsMost of us do not look forward to times of pain and sorrow or discomfort. We try to avoid all of these things by living careful lives and praying steadily for God’s blessings on all that we try to do and say. We pray for our businesses and our children. We pray for safety for our grandchildren. We offer “traveling mercies” prayers before we or loved ones get on an airplane. Most of us do not like pain and adversity in our lives.

Yet, if you’re like me, the only time that I ever really learn something or in a mood to be taught anything is when I am suffering. Rarely am I open to fundamental changes in the human heart when everything is coming up roses. It is only through the periods of pain, illness, financial stress, marital difficulties and the like, that I find myself on my knees seeking God’s answers and deliverance.

Yet, if we are candid about those trial times when we feel God’s refining fire, we will admit that it is during those trials that we see Him more clearly. It is in those humiliating circumstances that we come to depend fully on God and His leading for our lives. It is in the furnace of humiliation that the pure gold of humility is forged! It is during the storms of financial stress that we find the reassuring strong shelter of God’s provision. Only while walking around in a fog of uncertainty do we discover the gentle guiding hand of God’s Providence.

None of us will wish for adversity. None of us willingly walk into tough situations where our sons or daughters are using heroin and arrested and in need of Teen Challenge. But when these squalls of life pour down God’s rain, we feel the rain, but can choose to embrace the adversity. We know and can take comfort and confidence in the fact that at the crisis center, God’s loving hand is guiding us, teaching us and bringing us to new mountaintops. Only through adversity can real gold be refined.

TombIn an earlier blog post we wrote about The Power of the Cross. We detailed that God was a Holy God that cannot abide sin in any form. That being the case, we as sinful human beings were in a lot of trouble in the eternal destiny department. We were going to have to pay for our sins somehow if we ever wanted to be with God in heaven someday. But we also noted that God’s love was so great that He realized we are powerless to pay the piper, so to speak, so God sent His son Jesus to die in our place. Our conclusion: We are more sinful and guilty than we ever dared acknowledge, but more loved and accepted than we ever dared hope!

The “take-away” of the Power of the Cross is this incredible fact: All of our sins went to Jesus on the Cross and all of Jesus’ glory, perfection and holiness comes to us, when we believe.

But the Power of the Cross is only half the story. The Power of the Tomb is the second part. If Jesus did not rise from the dead then all His teachings about forgiveness of sins, eternal life and a new heaven and a new earth someday are just some ancient philosophy devoid of any real power to change the fundamental structure of the human heart.

If we cannot believe the eyewitness accounts of the disciples and others like Paul, then our faith in Jesus is a dead end. Jesus would become just another wise prophet, philosophical teacher of love and forgiveness. Gone would be the heart changing power of new life in Christ. But Jesus did rise from the dead.

The difference between Christianity and all other world religions is that it offer a relationship with a living person. Other religions, while offering truths for daily living, simply point the way to God. Jesus claims to be God and offers us salvation through that belief. Through this free gift of The Cross and The Tomb, we are able to:

*accept forgiveness for our past;

**make peace with the present and;

***find hope for the future.

Jesus offers the power to achieve these things by giving us direct access to Him through prayer, devotions and the Holy Spirit.

While on road trips between LA and Denver, I like to stop my truck in out of the way places and take a look around for evidence of life as it happens in the real world. On my last road trip, I pulled of I-70 at the Rulison (no services) exit to do just that. Why I pulled off there is anyone’s guess, but I did. While walking around, looking at the Rockies, I glanced down at something that caught my eye. There lying at the side of the exit on ramp were these women’s panties, (See pictures below) with the big word LOVE stamped on the back.

At first I just ignored them, but I could not let it go, for I wondered about what had happened on this lonely 300 yards of on-ramp, off I-70. Mickey Gilley’s, famous line from his hit song, Lookin’ For Love, came flooding into my brain…”I was lookin’ for love in all the wrong places…”

LoveObviously, I knew what action had most likely transpired, but it was the implied desperation of someone who wanted LOVE so deeply that they bought underwear proclaiming it! The irony of the word LOVE on the undergarment and the futility and hopelessness of attempting to find real LOVE in a pickup truck on an on-ramp off a deserted interstate that made me think. All of us search for love all our lives. Some of us look to work to satisfy the craving. Others to their children or families. But, the only source of real LOVE comes from something that doesn’t disappoint, change or manipulate us with words and promises that will never be kept. Only Jesus offers us the LOVE that never fails.

On this road, late one night, did a girl, young women or middle-aged lady give in to the world’s definition of what LOVE is as she searched so desperately for it, in vain, on a lonely strip of concrete in Rulison, CO?

“Help us Lord to look for and find LOVE in the only place it exists.” Amen

Last posting we talked about the most encouraging thing anyone could hear is God saying to us “I love you.” To be loved by the Creator of the Universe is better than having the direct dial phone to the greatest lawyer, movie star or politician. To be loved by God is to affirm our worth. We are worthy of God’s love for the simple reason stated in the first book of the Bible. In Genesis, chapter 1: 26-27, it says this, “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness…So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.'”

The exact reason God loves us all so much is that we are modeled after Him. We are eternal spirits; everlasting souls. We are worthy of love because we have been molded, formed, breathed into and nurtured by the Creator of the Universe. And, as an old con once said to me, “God loves me, ‘cause God don’t make no junk.”

This love should not be taken for granted or treated as a McDonald’s Happy Meal toy. To fully understand the cost of God’s love for us is to grasp the power and good news behind it. We must comprehend the enormity of gift of God’s love. If someone paid a bill for you while your were away or in prison, you really cannot measure the depth of your gratitude until you know what the dollar amount of the debt that was paid on your behalf. If your friend paid the light bill or the cable charges, you might offer a sincere thank you, but that’s about it. If, however, your friend paid off a 7 year IRS bill that would have landed you in jail, evicted you from your residence and put your wife and family in a shelter, then the gratitude you feel would be immense.

This is what Jesus did for us. The price of His love for us what His death and agony of the cross. He took on our debt (sin) and paid off all the outstanding balances for each of us. When we “get this” we should not treat it as a trinket but rather we should embrace His love and ask how we can be of service to His sheep that are hurting, hungry and helpless.

The most encouraging news that anyone could ever hear is the message that “God loves you.” Just exactly why that is so heartening lies in the Bible verse, Romans 5:8, But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Note that this verse doesn’t say Christ died for us AFTER we stopped gambling, whoring, swearing, looking at pornography, yelling at our wives, cheating on our taxes and/or our husbands. No! It says, “While we were still sinners…”

Jesus meets us where we are. Whether that is in the human septic tank of lust, greed or murder. He has very low standards for acceptance and we should all be glad that He does. So often we are feeling guilty about our lives and the obvious sins that we commit. The devil uses those feelings of guilt to make us feel unworthy of God. The devil whispers to us, “God could never love a sinner like you.” Or, “Do you know what you’ve done…don’t even think that God would forgive you.” But, this verse proves to us that the devil, as usual, is lying to us.

Jesus came to heal the sick. He came to bring good news to the prisoners and the poor. He ate with tax collectors, prostitutes and riff-raff. And, He came to pay the price for my sin and yours.

Now, when we fully understand the sacrifice and love of Jesus, do not be coy or glib about what that means. It does NOT give us a license to keep on sinning and living a life contrary to God’s commands…feeling that Jesus will simply forgive us. Once we believe that Jesus is who He aid He is, we must change our course…REPENT…and begin to live a life in honor of His sacrifice and love.


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Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.
    Hebrews 13:3

Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.
     1 John 3:18

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