Monday, March 23, 2015

Divine Romance

The forest was ghastly silent save for the occasional rustling of a wayward leaf or crackling of a dry twig.  On a rotten log lying next to a primitive path, a young girl sat with mud-stained clothes and wet cheeks.  Her eyes were puffy and her hair was a mangled tassel of dirt and knots.  Just blossoming into the beauty of a young woman, her slight frame seemed tarnished by her surroundings and muddy dress.  A quiet sob shook her frame and suddenly a waterfall of sadness seemed to burst over her as her pitiful cries echoed and then became lost among the heartless trees.  The bare bark and branches seemed only to mock her misery as the chill of Fall settled down into the dark woods.  She was hopelessly lost.  Again.

Suddenly, the pounding of hooves could be heard coming up the path.  Rounding a corner in the trail, there appeared a handsome white stallion galloping stalwartly towards the girl.  His breath was steamy and his sides heaved from exertion.  Upon his back rode a suave young man, dressed in elegant garments and riding with noble bearing.  Small streaks of blood could still be seen around his forehead and on his hands and feet where the briars had cut him during the recent escapade into the forest.  He reined his horse to a stop in front of the young woman, who had now quit crying and was attempting to avoid eye contact with the stately young man in front of her.  He was her Prince, but more than that, he was her betrothed.  As she rose in humble recognition, he swung nimbly off his horse and reached for her hand.

“Young lady, I knew I could find you here.”

He smiled lovingly and a slight twinkle played about the corners of his eyes as he helped her to her feet and dusted off the mess covering her humble clothes.  For the first time in what seemed like forever, she half smiled with relief.  But it only lasted for a moment.

“Supper is ready and my Father, along with the rest of the kingdom, awaits your return.”  The Prince slipped his hands gently around the young woman but she didn’t respond.

“I can’t,” she finally said.  “I can’t go!  I keep leaving you, publicly shaming you, and every time you make me feel beautiful inside, I get so lost and ruined and hopeless that I can’t even love myself.”  She began to weep again.

The Prince quietly pulled her into his arms and brushed back a wet strand of hair.  “That doesn’t matter,” he whispered.  “I love you anyway.”

Did she go with him?  Did she end up being the beautiful princess she was destined to become?  How does the story end?  Only you know, because only you can finish it.  Will you say yes to the Prince’s offer of hope and a future?  The divine romance will long remain a beautiful mystery; how One can love through death, shame, mockery, and ultimate rejection and denial is prodigious.  Often we say no to Christ’s offer of love and acceptance simply because we can’t love ourselves, not because we don’t believe He loves us.  But that’s the beauty of love.  It has nothing to do with us and everything to do with Him.

I believe so many people "fail at love" because they have not allowed themselves to be loved.  It takes humility and courage to realize just how dirty and broken and ruined you are, and yet fully allow someone to come into your life and love you anyway.  One cannot truly love until he understands how much he is loved.

Perhaps your parents could not provide the love you sought.  Perhaps your significant other or your spouse doesn't understand how to love.  None of this matters, because there is Somebody who loves you more than anyone else in the world:

For God so loved you that He gave His only begotten Son that should you believe on Him, you will not perish but have everlasting life.  How can you resist such love?

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The Way You Are

The other day my family sent me a letter with a stamp stuck to the outside.  On this stamp was written a simple phrase by Max Lucado, “God loves you just the way you are.”  Makes sense.  In fact, growing up in a Christian family I’ve always heard about God’s love since before I knew what love really meant.

But then it hit me.  God loves me just the way I am.  The way I am - right now!  Sinful me, the one who makes mistakes and follows my own carnal desires.  Logically I know that God loves me, but sometimes I don’t feel like He does because I can’t see why He would.  I've made too many mistakes.

But even though logic can never convince a heart, love will always change it.  And that’s the beauty of His love.  God loves me even when I don’t love myself!

To love others as Christ loves us (1 John 4:7) is our challenge; our calling!

You can do this because you, my friend, are loved.  Don't ever forget that.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Altar of Dreams

The old man made his way slowly to the door of his tent.  He squinted in the moonlight and gently pulled back the flap covering the entrance to his animal skin dwelling.  Quietly he picked his way to the top of a knoll over looking the campsite.  “Do you see the stars?” God’s voice gently spoke.  “Can you number them?”  The old man slowly gazed towards the heavens, steadying himself with his staff.  “That is how many descendants I will give to you, Abraham.”

Abraham stirred and blinked his eyes open.  Yes, he remembered God’s promise like it was spoken just yesterday.  God had promised him descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky.  Abraham had always dreamed of having a son, an heir who would carry on the family name and be a conduit of God’s blessing to the world.  And yet.  He looked over at his sleeping son next to him.  And yet here they were: father and son, sleeping peacefully beneath the shadow of Mt. Moriah.  The command had been given and Abraham must now sacrifice his dream, his only son, upon the altar.  “But why?”  Abraham asked the question again for what seemed like the thousandth time since he had received the command.  Isaac was the son of promise.  It wasn’t simply an idle dream of his to have a son.  God had specifically promised him to Abraham; it was a God-given dream.  And yet the Lord was asking him to sacrifice his dream on the altar, the dream he had waited for a hundred years to receive.

It was all a blur.  The climb, the question, the preparation, the knife.  Abraham’s mind was in turmoil and his emotions were seething.  Yet he trusted God.  He trusted God that no matter what the outcome, whether he lost his dream or whether God preserved his son somehow, there was a reason and purpose for the sacrifice.  Slowly he raised his arm and the knife flashed menacingly in the sun.  And then came the voice, clear and commanding above the raging tumult in Abraham’s head.  “Abraham, Abraham!  Do not lay your hand on the lad or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.”  Trembling, Abraham let the knife slip to the ground.  He looked up and saw a ram caught in a nearby thicket and quickly offered it up in the stead of his son.  Abraham’s tears mixed with those of his son as they embraced and wept together on top of the mountain.  God had not only created and promised the dream to Abraham, but He had now saved it as well.  Abraham still had a son and the promise of a nation was now closer to being fulfilled.

We all have dreams.  We all have hopes for the future; an idea of how our lives will play out.  Sometimes God has promised those dreams to us, other times they are simply our selfish wants.  Whether God-given or man-made, every single one must be laid on the altar of sacrifice.  Why?  Unless your dreams are given fully to God, you will inhibit His blessing you.  You grasp the dream too tightly, it becomes your idol, and in the end, it separates you from the God who blessed you with it.

Is God calling you to sacrifice a dream on the altar?  Yes, you may have to give it up.  Yes, you may lose it.  But God has something far better in mind for your life.  Or, if you know God has given you the dream, you have the promise found in Psalm 84:11 that He will withhold no good thing from you.  Thankfully, Abraham and Isaac’s story does not end there.  God went on to promise again that He would multiply Abraham’s decedents to be as numerous as the stars of the sky and as the sands on the seashore.  “In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice,” God told him.  God took the promise He had given Abraham and through his willingness to lay it on the altar of dreams, God was able to use it as a conduit for blessing the entire world.  Several generations later, Jesus, the desire of ages and the ultimate dream of hope, was sacrificed to save the world.  Yet through that sacrifice, we all can clutch the dream of a future where there will be no more pain, no more sadness, no more separation or dying.

Is there a dream that is coming between you and God?  Perhaps it’s a relationship you cling too tightly to.  Perhaps it’s a job, a college degree, a persona you don’t want to lose.  Whatever it is, God is calling you to sacrifice it on the altar of dreams so that He can make you a conduit of blessing to those around you in ways that you may never fully comprehend.

This article was written for a magazine called iConnect.  It is a publication which is focused on connecting young people with each other and most importantly, with God.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Fighting For Love

We’re currently studying obstetrics in my nursing courses here at Southern Adventist University.  It’s been quite an experience overall, but I love most of it.  There’s something about the magic of childbirth that holds me spellbound.  Every time I see a new life enter the world as a tiny, fragile human being, I realize the enormous miracle that just took place before my eyes.  From a scientific perspective, there’s a lot that happens from the point of conception until the infant takes its first breath, and for some time after that even.  All the little toes, the miniature fingers, the internal organs that have to quickly adapt from being reliant on mom to working independently, everything works together in a subtle harmony that we don’t even fully understand.  But from an emotional point of view, the miracle is almost greater.  Here is a human being that a mere 10 months prior was nothing but the parents’ dream.  As the baby began to form and grow in the uterus, the first sound it ever heard was its mother’s heartbeat.  Its environment was safe and warm and it was loved.  But did it understand any of this?  No.  As soon as it is born, the mother cries and the father wipes tears from his own eyes.  Their love for the newborn is limitless, and yet the baby has done nothing to deserve this love.  However, this love gives it a reason to fight for life.  I’ve been in the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) and watched as a struggling infant wrapped its tiny little fingers around a parent’s pinkie.  Suddenly the heart rate increased and warmth began to spread across the little body.  The baby had no clue what life holds.  The future is dark and uncertain.  There are going to be days when it feels like giving up and when, like Job, it will curse the day it was born.  And yet it still fights for life.  Neither does it realize that there will be sunny days.  There will be days when it seems the world is a beautiful and perfect place amidst all its imperfections.  No, this is not why a newborn fights.  It fights because it’s loved.  It doesn’t understand anything about life; the joys, the tears, the fun, the sorrow; but it does understand love.

Our Father loves us infinitely more than any human parent can love their child.  We’ve done nothing and can do nothing to deserve His love.  Give $3 million to an orphanage in India?  God owns the cattle on a thousand hills.  Perform a lifesaving brain surgery?  God is the One who created the brain to begin with.  Bring thousands of people to the foot of the cross?  Anything we can do would be meaningless without Christ’s sacrifice.  Often we subconsciously try to please God by doing more good things.  It’s like a newborn trying to earn its Father’s love by giving away the clothes just given to it, or performing a cool slight-of-hand magic trick, or telling everyone in the hospital how great its parents are.  Seems rather stupid and needless since the father loves his newborn child without the infant doing a thing.  Yet that’s how God loves us.  Once you grasp that realization, the implications are immeasurable.  It doesn’t matter who you are, or what you’ve done, or where you’ve been, your Father loves you more than you can ever begin to imagine.

"I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness." Jeremiah 31:3
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