I Love You Lord

This kind of love comes from walking with Him in the dark places, from experiencing His deliverance when we are overwhelmed, from failing and falling and being lifted back up into His embrace.

For the director of music. Of David the servant of the LORD. He sang to the LORD the words of this song when the LORD delivered him from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul. He said: I love you, LORD, my strength. Psalm 18:1 

Here David declares his love for God after the Lord delivered him from his enemy. Did you know that this is the only time in the Old Testament that someone says to God, “I love you”? The Old Testament saints are commanded many times to love the Lord with all their hearts, and they praise and worship and exalt Him a lot, but this is the only time someone is recorded saying “I love you.” I found that sad.  

But the word translated love that David uses here in Psalm 18 is a different word than the commandment (Deut. 6:5). The word in Deuteronomy is ‘ahav from aheb, which means to have affection for, to like, love the beloved or a lover, love a friend. But the word David uses is ‘erachamka from racham, to have compassion on, to love, to have or show mercy on, have pity. The Pulpit Commentary notes that ‘erachamka “expresses the very tenderest affection, and is elsewhere never used to denote the love of man towards God, but only that of God towards man.” 

Did you ever think of having compassion or pity for God? Sometimes I have felt sorry for Him, for all that He has gone through with us. For all the rejection and hatred and rebellion and mangling of souls, brutal oppression of each other and destruction of His perfect world. But I know my compassion does not, cannot, come close to the compassion God has for me. When God has compassion on us it is intense and active love. Chaim Bentorah says this about racham: 

“The problem is that we have no good English word for racham. We use the word love, mercy, compassion but all fall short of the meaning of racham. The correct use of racham is the womb.  When expressing an emotion, it is the love that a mother feels for her baby while in the womb or just emerges from the womb … It is love that is natural, unmolested, unchallenged and almost perfect.  This is racham.  A few years later when that child rebels, causes problems, wounds and breaks the mother’s heart, that love becomes ‘ahav which is an unconditional love, but it is not that perfect love that was unchallenged. As a human creature we cannot achieve such a high standard of love except at the birth of a child and even then you would have to be racham in a simple Qal form.  It still falls short of racham in a Piel intensive [active] form. As much as you love God, with all your heart, soul and might you may reach the level of David to say ‘Erachamka na Adonai. But it still falls short of God’s racham for us.” — Chaim Bentorah1 

Interestingly, there is also only one place in the New Testament where someone says “I love you” to our Lord. In the famous exchange on the beach (John 21:15-17), the risen Christ asks Peter three times “do you love me?” Peter affirms his love for Jesus three times. And in this case, as with David, Peter uses a surprising word. 

Jesus asks Peter three times, “do you love me?” He uses the word agapao the first two times, but phileo the last time. All three times Peter answers, “Yes, Lord, I phileo you.” The difference between the two words is very similar to the difference between ahav and racham. 

“[Phileo is f]rom philos; to be a friend to (fond of (an individual or an object)), i.e. Have affection for (denoting personal attachment, as a matter of sentiment or feeling; while agapao is wider, embracing especially the judgment and the deliberate assent of the will as a matter of principle, duty and propriety: the two thus stand related … the former being chiefly of the heart and the latter of the head.” — Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible 

Kenneth Wuest2 calls agapao “the noblest word in the Greek language.” I always got the impression that Peter was shirking the highest love, that he was admitting to Jesus that he couldn’t achieve the purest and noblest love, that the best he could do was phileo love. And that Jesus finally gave in to Peter’s good-enough phileo-love in a “Ok, we’ll work on it” kind of relenting. But I think what Peter was really saying was this: Yes, I know and will obey the commandment to love You. But my love for you goes deeper, I love You as a dear friend, I delight in You, You are my only joy, I cherish You above all else.”  

“It [agapao] is an unselfish ‘love,’ ready to serve. The use of phileo in Peter’s answers and the Lord’s third question, conveys the thought of cherishing the Object above all else, of manifesting an affection characterized by constancy, from the motive of the highest veneration.” — W.E. Vine 

It seems to me that this kind of love is, in a way, above agapao love as it goes from head knowledge and assent to the heart. We cannot think that phileo love is less than agapao. Paul startles when he writes to the Corinthians, “If anyone does not love (phileo) the Lord, let him be accursed. Maranatha. (1 Corinthians 16:22) 

I think, yes, that our joy and delight and love for Our Lord will always fall short of His for us, as His love is pure and perfectly unselfish. Unlike us, He does not have to wrestle down the soul, the “me”, the ego every day to achieve this kind of love. It is His glory. It is His essence. It is Himself. But Jesus confirmed that it is possible for us, in Him, to phileo-love when He asked Peter the third time (I’m sure smiling with His own phileo-love sparkling in His eyes) if Peter loved Him. 

The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love (phileo) me?” John 21:17  

It seems to me that both of these kinds of love come from the grace of God. But ahav and agapao seems to be connected to faith and decision and obedience to the word and the will of God. Racham and phileo grow out of relationship. They come from walking with Him in the dark places, from experiencing His deliverance when we are overwhelmed, from failing and falling and being lifted back up into His embrace. We can know that though we, like the children who break the mother’s heart, have broken His heart over and over, yet He still racham-loves us, He still phileo-delights and joys in us. And our hearts respond as Peter’s. 

“Yes, Lord, you know that I love (phileo) you.” John 21:16 

… the Father himself loves (phileo) you because you have loved (phileo) me and have believed that I came from God. John 16:27 

1https://www.chaimbentorah.com/2019/09/hebrew-word-study-i-indeed-love-you-lord/ 

2Golden Nuggets from the Greek New Testament by Kenneth Wuest 

Image, detail from Quiet Evening on the Georgian Bay by TranceMist https://flic.kr/p/ajQSCL  

Greatly Huge Love

Your abundant, excellent, multitudinous, greatly huge love …

But I pray to you, LORD,  

in the time of your favor (an acceptable time, your will, good pleasure, delight);  

in your great (abundant, excellent, multitudinous, greatly huge)  

love (goodness, mercy, pity, kindness, lovingkindness, merciful kindness),  

O God, answer me (respond, sing, shout, testify, announce)  

with your sure (firm, faithful, true, assured, right, certain, trustworthy)  

salvation (deliverance, rescue, safety, saving). Psalm 69:13 

****

Lord at the time acceptable to You,  

Your will be done 

your delight, your good pleasure,  

(for you love mercy) 

In your uncontainable love  

your abundant, excellent, multitudinous, greatly huge love 

(language cannot contain it) 

sing, you who are my Song!  

Shout, testify, announce to me 

your salvation that is sure,  

forever unchanging, 

trustworthy,  

certain,  

Faithful and True 

****

This is what the Lord says: 

“In the time of my favor I will answer you, 
    and in the day of salvation I will help you; 
I will keep you and will make you 
    to be a covenant for the people, 
to restore the land 
    and to reassign its desolate inheritances, 
to say to the captives, ‘Come out,’ 
    and to those in darkness, ‘Be free!’ 

“They will feed beside the roads 
    and find pasture on every barren hill. 
They will neither hunger nor thirst, 
    nor will the desert heat or the sun beat down on them. 
He who has compassion on them will guide them 
    and lead them beside springs of water. Isaiah 49:8-10 

Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the LORD GOD is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation. Isaiah 12:2 (ESV)  

I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. Revelation 19:11 

Lord, thank you for your greatly huge love!

Photo copyright by Derek Bair

Jesus’ Spit

For everything they did to him, there was a counterpart of love and mercy.

I was reading the account in Matthew 27 of the soldiers mocking Jesus before they took him to be crucified. When I got to the part about how they spit in his face (oh think of that! The Face of God, the Presence!) I thought about what Jesus had done with his spit. He had used it to heal the blind and the deaf.  

And then I looked at all of the things the soldiers did to Jesus that day and saw that for each one there was a counterpart of love and mercy. Where Jesus was stripped, we have been clothed. Where he was mocked to belittle and shame him, we are encouraged and comforted and named. Below is Matthew 27:27-31 with what Jesus endured from the soldiers interspersed with His compassionate response. See what great love the Father has lavished on us! 

Then the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole company of soldiers around him.  

They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him 

I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness … Isaiah 61:10  

and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. 

Bless the Lord O my soul … who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion … Psalm 103:4 

And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away. 1 Peter 5:4 

They put a staff in his right hand. 

… your rod and your staff, they comfort me. Psalm 23:4 

Then they knelt in front of him and mocked him. “Hail, king of the Jews!” they said.  

To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen. Revelation 1:5-6 

As he says in Hosea: “I will call them ‘my people’ who are not my people; and I will call her ‘my loved one’ who is not my loved one,” and, “In the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ there they will be called ‘children of the living God.’” Romans 9:25-26 

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! 1 John 3:1  

They spit on him 

There some people brought to him a man who was deaf and could hardly talk, and they begged Jesus to place his hand on him. After he took him aside, away from the crowd, Jesus put his fingers into the man’s ears. Then he spit and touched the man’s tongue. Mark 7:32-33  

He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. When he had spit on the man’s eyes and put his hands on him, Jesus asked, “Do you see anything?” Mark 8:23 

After saying this, he [Jesus] spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. John 9:6 

and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again.  

You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Psalm 23:5 

Sovereign LORD, my strong deliverer, you shield my head in the day of battle. Psalm 140:7 

After they had mocked him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him. Matthew 27:27-31 

On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords. Revelation 19:16 (ESV)

Image in the Public Domain

Nothing Is Too Hard

Ah, Sovereign LORD, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you. Jeremiah 32:17 

I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. Ezekiel 11:19i 

I am the LORD, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me? Jeremiah 32:27 

Nothing is too hard for God. Not the hard heart of stone you are praying for. Not the hard, seemingly impossible, situation.  

The Hebrew word translated “too hard” is pala (פָלָא). It means “to be surpassing or extraordinary.” It also means “to accomplish, to arise.” It seems like God is saying, “I am the miraculous God. I created you and this whole universe. Can you say that anything is too surpassing, too extraordinary, too marvelous for me to accomplish?”  

This is what the LORD Almighty says: “It may seem marvelous to the remnant of this people at that time, but will it seem marvelous to me?” declares the LORD Almighty. Zechariah 8:6 

When God says “nothing is too hard for me,” I suddenly don’t hear him saying it defensively, or even trying to argue or persuade. Maybe not even trying to encourage or inspire (though that is what happens). I hear him shouting out in victory that shakes the heavens and makes the earth tremble. I hear him laughing with joy. Joy for us. Joy of marvelous love. 

Is anything too hard for me? 

For nothing will be impossible with God. Luke 1:37 (ESV) 

iSee also Ezekiel 36:26

Image, Heart of Stone by Norman Scharabatka https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Heart_of_stone.jpg  

Sandstorm

This is where I am in the valley. I can’t see, can’t even open my eyes to try.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. Psalm 23:4 (ESV) 

I was meditating on this verse lately and found this revealing commentary: 

“The valley of the shadow of death . . .–This striking expression, to which the genius of Bunyan has given such reality, was probably on Hebrew lips nothing more than a forcible synonym for a dark, gloomy place. Indeed, the probability is that instead of tsal-maveth (shadow of death), should be read, tsalm-th (shadow, darkness), the general signification being all that is required in any one of the fifteen places where it occurs. It is true it is used of the ‘grave’ or ‘underworld’ (Job 10:21-22). But it is also used of the ‘darkness of a dungeon’ (Psalm 107:10), of ‘the pathless desert’ (Jeremiah 2:6); or, possibly, since it is there parallel with drought, of ‘the blinding darkness of a sandstorm,’ and metaphorically of ‘affliction’ (Isaiah 9:2), and of the ‘dull heavy look’ that grief wears (Job 16:16).” — Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers 

“The blinding darkness of a sandstorm.” Wow. While I can relate to all of the above metaphors, this speaks to me right now. This is where I am in the valley. I can’t see, can’t even open my eyes to try. I am being sand blasted and refined in pitch darkness. All I can do is cling to the One who will never leave me, and fear no evil from His unfailing love.  

for you are with me … 

Image in the Public Domain, free download from Picryl 

His Love-Banner

His love-banner over me? 

Not the empty flagpole 

tipping over in the sand 

I cling to, but 

billowing, joyful 

He waves it himself 

wooing, shouting 

laughing, triumphant 

Come! 

Stand with me 

here on this Rock 

Come! 

Let me 

wrap you 

clothe you 

keep you 

lead you on 

“He welcomes me to His banqueting table. His banner over me is love.” Song of Solomon 2:4 (paraphrased)

Image in the Public Domain: Woman standing on a rock near Villa de Leyva, Colombia by Joshua Earle https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Woman_standing_on_a_rock_near_Villa_de_Leyva,_Colombia_(Unsplash).jpg

He Who Overcomes

It seems to me that overcoming must be a daily effort so that we will be ready in the end. 

For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? 1 John 5:4-5 (ESV) 

Last time I started looking at the concept of overcoming or conquering (Greek = nikaó) and what it means. This week I decided to take a look at the verses in the Bible where the word is used. I found there are a lot of them in Revelation, and they are all accompanied there with promises. 

The one who conquers (nikaó) and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron, as when earthen pots are broken in pieces, even as I myself have received authority from my Father. Revelation 2:26-27 (ESV) 

The one who conquers (nikaó) will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels. Revelation 3:5 (ESV) 

The one who conquers (nikaó), I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Revelation 3:12 (ESV) 

The one who conquers (nikaó), I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. Revelation 3:21 (ESV) 

To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers (nikaó) will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. Revelation 21:16-17 (ESV) 

What struck me about these verses in Revelation was the similarity in outcome and promise to the parables that Jesus told in Matthew 25: 

The Parable of the Ten Virgins: But while they were on their way to buy it, the bridegroom arrived. Those who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet, and the door was shut. Later the other virgins arrived and said, ‘Lord, lord, open the door for us!’ But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I do not know you.’ Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour. Matthew 25:10-13 

The Parable of the Talents: His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’ Matthew 25:21 

The Final Judgement: Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink, I was a stranger and you took Me in, I was naked and you clothed Me, I was sick and you looked after Me, I was in prison and you visited Me.’ Matthew 25:34-36 

Two things stand out to me in all this. First, the readiness and the faithfulness and the true serving of Jesus by loving others must be related to this overcoming thing. For they both have the same reward: to be admitted into the Kingdom and to the family, to sit on the throne and have authority. The second thing is that it seems to me that overcoming must be a daily effort so that we will be ready in the end. 

Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. Luke 9:23 

But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. Jude 1:20-21 

And how does that happen? John says it is by faith, by believing. But, how does that work in everyday life? In Proverbs there is a verse about a disciplined servant that helped me to see it. 

By mere words a servant is not disciplined, for though he understands, he will not respond. Proverbs 29:19 

If the Bible is “mere words” to me, by it I cannot/will not be disciplined – chastened, admonished, corrected. It must be more than words, more even than mere understanding of the words. Mere words won’t change the servant. He must be in love with the Master. 

Isn’t that what happened with the virgins who ran out of oil, and the servant who buried his talent, and the “goats” on the Lord’s left hand who did many things, but never out of love, never for the love of the Master. They only heard mere words, they only did just enough to get by, to technically obey. They never let the Master correct their wrong thinking. They never had that close relationship that is requisite, walking along side, carried in the Everlasting Arms. 

For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven … But I tell you: love … Matthew 5:20, 44

Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ Matthew 7:22-23 

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Philippians 2:12-13 (ESV) 

To overcome there must be faith and trust in, and love for, the Author of the word, not just head knowledge. Love of the discipliner, love of the Father. And we can’t love Him unless we know Him. We can’t truly respond except through love. And all of this must be a work of the Spirit of God in us. 

Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world … Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 1 John 4:4, 7 (ESV) 

Next week, the glorious key.

Image of oil lamp by Bee Collins https://flic.kr/p/bSdftM 

Praise, Shine, Flash Forth

Praise [shine, flash forth, celebrate, be clamorously foolish, glory in]  

the LORD [the one bringing into being, life-giver, giver of existence, creator, he who brings to pass, performer of his promises, he who causes to fall the rain and the lightning, destroyer of foes, the absolute and unchangeable one] 

all [altogether, the whole, any, howsoever, whatsoever, whosoever, every one of the] nations [peoples, Gentiles]!  

Extol [commend, glory in, praise, be still and free from care in, triumph in]  

Him [the calmer of the storm, the one who stills the waves, who carries our cares],  

all [altogether, the whole, any, howsoever, whatsoever, whosoever, every one of the] peoples [tribes, communities]! 

For great [strong, stronger, mighty, prevailing] is his steadfast love [favor, loving-kindness, good and kind deedliness,i merciful kindness, mercy, pity, abundant, plenteous, of great extent – preserver of life from death, quickener of spirit/heart life, redeemer from sin, keeper of covenant]   

toward [upon, above, over] us,  

and the faithfulness [firmness, truth, trustworthiness, reliability, sureness, stability, the truly, the verity, the Amen!] of the LORD  

endures forever [from everlasting antiquity to everlasting futurity, always, perpetual, permanent, of continuous existence, now and throughout eternity].  

Praise [shine, flash forth, celebrate, be clamorously foolish, glory in]  

the LORD [the one bringing into being, life-giver, giver of existence, creator, he who brings to pass, performer of his promises, he who causes to fall the rain and the lightning, destroyer of foes, the absolute and unchangeable one]!  Psalm 117:1-2 ii   

iLanguage falls apart, the keyboard disintegrates when trying to describe the chesed love of God! 

iiAll amplification from Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon, and NAS Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible with Hebrew-Aramaic and Greek Dictionaries 

 Photo by Reilly Images, LLC

Compassionate and Gracious

Like a lover, totally focused on the beloved, leaning forward wanting to hear every word, every sigh.

He made known his ways to Moses, his acts to the people of Israel. The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. Psalm 103:7-8 (ESV) 

And He passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness … “ Exodus 34:6 

The psalmist says that God made his ways and acts known to Moses. God always wants to be known. I am thinking that I should pay attention when God defines himself. God describes himself this way: compassionate and gracious (or merciful), slow to anger and abounding in love. I looked at the first two attributes and was overwhelmed. I would like to save the second two for a future blog. 

The first two words are the Hebrew rachum and channun. These two words are each used thirteen times in the Old Testament. Linked together, to describe God, they are used twelve times. Alone or together, they are always only used as attributes of God. Rachum means full of compassion, merciful; channun means gracious, “as hearing the cry of the vexed debtor.”i 

John J. Parsons has this to say about these concepts: 

“Notice first that the LORD calls himself rachum v’chanun, often translated ‘merciful and gracious.’ The noun rechem means ‘womb’ in Hebrew, indicating that God’s compassion is like a mother’s deep love for her child. The word chanun (from chen, grace or favor) indicates that God is a graceful giver who is favorably disposed to help those in need. God is compassionate and favorable to those who call upon Him.” — John J. Parsons, Hebrew for Christiansii  

The adjective rachum comes from the verb racham, to love, to have compassion, or to compassionate. A.W. Tozer explains it this way: 

“According to the Old Testament, mercy has certain meanings: to stoop in kindness to an inferior, to have pity upon and to be actively compassionate. It used to be a verb form of the word compassion, but we don’t use it anymore — maybe it’s because we don’t have the concept anymore. God actively ‘compassionates’ suffering men — I like that wonderfully well. For God to feel compassion at a distance is one thing, but for God actively to compassionate with people is something else.”– A.W. Tozer, The Attributes of God  

The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made. Psalm 145:8-9 

The second word, channun or gracious – hearing the cry of the debtor and being favorably disposed to help – reminds me of the parable Jesus told in Matthew 18 of the man who came before the master with overwhelming, impossible debt. But when he cried out for mercy “the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt.” 

But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness. Psalm 86:15 

The compassion and grace of God are tightly woven together. God’s rachum, the deep love of a parent for a child, moves him to be gracious. Tozer notes in his book, The Attributes of God, that grace and mercy are not things that God does, but who God is. God is forever the compassionate Father favorably disposed toward those who cry out to him, always welcoming home the prodigal. 

And Jesus was saying to us, ‘You went away in Adam, but you’re coming back in Christ. And when you come back, you’ll find the Father hasn’t changed. He’s the same Father that He was when you all went out, every man to his own way. But when you come back in Jesus Christ you’ll find Him exactly the same as you left Him–unchanged. And the Father ran and threw his arms around him and welcomed him and put a robe and a ring on him and said, ‘This my son was dead, and he’s alive again’ ([Luke] 15:24). This is the grace of God.” — A.W. Tozer, The Attributes of God (emphasis mine) 

The Lord is full of compassion and mercy. James 5:11 

The writer of Hebrews encourages us to confidently draw near to God because of these two attributes. 

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy (pity, compassion) and find grace (kindness, “the Lord’s favor – freely extended to give Himself away to people because He is ‘always leaning toward them’”)iii to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:16 

Isn’t that amazing and wonderful? The word for “grace” in the Greek includes the picture of God “freely giving himself away to people” and “always leaning toward them.” Like a lover, totally focused on the beloved, leaning forward wanting to hear every word, every sigh. Like a parent leaning forward to catch the newly walking toddler. Like the father leaning forward, straining to see the very first glimpse of his returning child. 

For the LORD your God is gracious and merciful and will not turn away his face from you, if you return to him. 2 Chronicles 30:9 (ESV) 

… as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust. Psalm 103:12-14 

Come back. If you have wandered far away, come back. If you are near, but have hardened your heart, come back. Come. Jesus has freely given himself for you on the cross. He is leaning toward you. He is the same unchanging God that introduced himself to Moses, “merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.” 

Salvation

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Layers of Love

I am reblogging a wonderful article by Matt LeRoy this morning. I was especially struck by this observation: “[I]n our way of keeping score, sin covers a multitude of love. But not so with Jesus.”

1 Peter 4:8–11 (NIV)

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.

Reflect

Ask the average person, loosely familiar with the story and Jesus’ life, and he or she will likely remember Peter most for one thing above all else. He denied Jesus. Yes, he was among the inner circle of disciples. He was the disciple who first articulated that foundational confession that Jesus is more than a prophet or teacher, but he is, in fact, the Christ, the very Son of the living God. Peter was the one who stepped out of the boat and onto the waves, who preached the inaugural sermon of the church at its birth, and who became a pioneer in the rising kingdom tide.

And yet we remember his denial above the rest. Why? Because in our way of keeping score, sin covers a multitude of love. But not so with Jesus.

After his resurrection, Jesus directly confronted this defining sin of Peter’s life. With what? With love. “Peter, do you love me?” he asked. Not once, but three times. Jesus covered the one moment Peter would have died to have back with the moment he would never forget. “I love you,” Peter affirmed, once for every time he had denied. And then, in the strength of this love and the power of the Holy Spirit, three thousand people joined the movement of Jesus as Peter preached at Pentecost. Three thousand. One thousand transformed lives for each of his denials.

“Love covers a multitude of sins,” Peter wrote. This isn’t poetry. It’s experience. And once you’ve experienced it, you can’t go on seeing others according to their defining sin. You will see them covered in thick layers of holy love, as Jesus beacons you to join him in piling it on.

Pray

Jesus, thank you for your love. It has not only covered our sins but transformed our hearts. Please keep moving us into deeper awakening until we are defined by our devoted love for God and others.

Conference

Why do we remember Peter most for his defining failure? Name one defining trait for which you want to be remembered. Who do you see according to their defining sin? Name a different defining trait by which you can identify them instead.

For the Awakening,
Matt LeRoy

Reblogged with permission from Seedbed https://www.seedbed.com/layers-of-love-devoted-part-4/

Photo by Jack Bair

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