Thankful Prayer for God’s Love

This is another of my devotionals published in an anthology titled Anytime Prayers for Everyday PeopleIt is included in the section titled Prayers of Praise and Thanksgiving.

When I want to thank God
for His love . . .

God’s love will continue forever.
—Psalm 52:1 NCV

This is what real love is: It is not our love for God;
it is God’s love for us in sending his Son to be
the way to take away our sins.
—1 John 4:10 NCV 

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
his love endures forever.
—Psalm 118:29

[Jesus said] God so loved the world that he gave
his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him
shall not perish but have eternal life.
—John 3:16

We love Him because He first loved us.
—1 John 4:19 NKJV

. . . I will pray.

Loving Father,

I don’t get it, Lord—why You love me, that is. I look myself over, and frankly, I must not be seeing what You see. I can’t understand it. But I’ve decided that I don’t need to understand it. Why, even the nature and logic of love between human beings is seldom knowable. That’s why I’ve determined just to accept it, to let Your love cover me, change me, energize me, make me special.

I’ve read in the Bible that You love me so much that You allowed Your Son, Jesus Christ, to accept the punishment for my sins. I can’t imagine giving up one of my children for anyone—even You. I guess that’s why You’re God and I’m just a mortal human being created in Your image and loved for Your own reasons.

Thank You, Father, for Your great love for me . . . and I want You to know that Your love won’t be scorned. I love You in return. With all of my human strength, I love You. With all of my human determination, I pledge my love to You. I don’t deserve Your love, Father, but You do deserve mine. I give it freely.

Amen.

God does not love us because we are valuable.
We are valuable because God loves us.

—Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen


[From Anytime Prayers for Everyday People. Copyright © 2006 Bordon-Winters LLC]

Enduring Love

Pat and her husband are celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary this month. Here is her sweet story of how they met. Happy 50th anniversary, Pat!

Enduring Love

By Pat Knight

Boarding the Greyhound bus late one evening, she observed it was nearly filled to capacity with cramped travelers. As she stood at the front of the bus scanning the dim interior, her gaze identified only one empty seat remaining. Reeling as the bus pulled out of the station into traffic, she quickly slid into the vacant space. She gave a perfunctory nod to the man sitting in the window seat who was preoccupied reading a book. With the bright overhead reading light shining directly on his head, she dismissed him as bald and assumed he was elderly.

Silence reigned between the two people for much of the journey. Then at one point when she shifted her position, their eyes met. In the astonishing moment that followed, she felt a spark of attraction toward the young stranger with closely cropped blond hair. She mentally reversed her first impression. Names and college information were readily exchanged in the short time remaining. They were both college freshmen in Boston traveling to their separate homes in Maine for their first long holiday weekend. She had just enough time remaining to share her reluctance to investigate the city of Boston alone. Reaching her destination first, she departed at the station as the bus lumbered away. Its thick plume of exhaust dispersed in the night air along with any thoughts of a future encounter materializing from the serendipitous meeting with the handsome stranger.

Incredibly, during the following week a letter arrived in her college mailbox from the man she’d met on the bus, inviting her to tour the city of Boston on foot. From that first pedestrian date, their relationship blossomed into a friendship of sharing and caring. Their college years were a whirlwind of fun and exuberant dates, of enviable cultural and educational experiences. Their friendship gradually transformed into ardent, committed love. The night he proposed marriage and slipped a shimmering diamond ring on her finger, the world was ablaze with irrepressible hope and promise. Their hearts overflowed with exuberant love!

In June they graduated from college and were married. Dreams were fulfilled, prayers answered. Over the ensuing years, people who knew the couple well expressed the unsolicited observation that their marriage was “made in heaven.”

During her first months at college, she had prayed that God would choose her life-long partner. Perhaps her motivation for seeking God’s help was selfish; she likely felt inadequate to make such a monumental life decision herself. It was a tentative act of faith at best, but our Lord honors trust and reliance, accepting miniscule amounts of sincere faith.

Jesus explained to His disciples, “‘I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed you can say to this mountain, ‘move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible to you’” (Matthew 17:20). Jesus was not teaching that His disciples could literally displace mountains, but that when large, looming problems are fully relinquished to the Lord, they are either minimized or resolved when faith is bathed in prayer.

Mustard seeds were some of the smallest known to man in Jesus’ day. When planted, the seed grew into a tall shrub in one season, serving as Christ’s metaphor to illustrate the result of implementing a small quantity of faith to gain a large victory. It is God’s desire that our hesitant faith gradually matures into constant dependence upon Him, no matter how difficult, large, or impossible each situation may seem to us. God is “able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us” (Ephesians 3:20, KJV).

 Our Lord is jealous for our exclusive adoration and devotion. With ever increasing submission and obedience the couple extended toward their Lord, the greater the abundance of joy and peace He heaped upon their marriage. God delighted in their companionship, He lavished them with His redeeming love, and He accepted them as His friends. “God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete” (I John 4:16). God’s eternal love reaches its full expression on earth through those who believe and serve Him, for we are designated as His current disciples.

 God has been consistently faithful to the couple whose meeting He orchestrated over fifty years ago when He answered a hesitant prayer. According to His perfect plan, executed in His precise timing, a miraculous introduction of future marriage partners was initiated with coy smiles and whimsical sparks in the improbable environment of a crowded bus cruising the Interstate at 70  m.p.h!  “Nothing, you see, is impossible with God” (Luke 1:37, The Msg.).

Polka Spotted

Polka Spotted

By Pat Knight

Among our three grandsons visiting Christmas day, the 5-year old suffered a fully developed case of chicken pox. The disease had no regard for person, place, or time; no indication it was interrupting our celebration of the birthday of the King. The chicken pox boy endured long enough to unwrap his Christmas gifts before he collapsed on the couch for the remainder of the day. Occasionally a whimper erupted from his direction as he tried to resist the complete lethargy and generalized soreness that accompanied the disease.

Our grandsons coined the phrase ”polka spots” for the skin lesions populating his body, including his lips, throat, inside his nostrils, and on the soles of his feet. The generalized outbreak of chicken pox, if blended together, had the potential to change his skin color. As I performed a close inspection of the polka spots on his back, it occurred to me that God could devise a method of registering our transgressions; a pox assigned for each sin. Over our lifetime, I wonder if we would have enough room on our bodies to register all of the pox? Thankfully, God does not choose any means of broadcasting to the world the mistakes we make. Sin is a private matter between God and the believer. Never does He make our indiscretions known to others. He has promised, “‘For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more’” (Hebrews 8:12).

If we are wronged by another person, we remember the incident to prevent similar hurt again, applying what we’ve learned, but not for the purpose of retaliation. God assures us, “‘I am he who blots out your transgressions, for my sake, and remembers them no more’” (Isaiah 43:25). Our Lord is not interested in flaunting our sins to the world. Once we repent of our sins and he redeems us, he destroys sins’ memory, never to be retrieved. Our God is patient and long-suffering, identified by justice and loving kindness. “‘I have swept away your sins like a cloud. I have scattered your offenses like the morning mist’” (Isaiah 44:22, NLT).

The Son of God’s death on the cross paid all debts in full to redeem our sins. God is not interesting in brow-beating; His forgiveness is merciful and full of grace. Conversations and dealings with us are held in strictest confidence, never to be revealed. Our Lord is kind and compassionate. “O Lord, you are so good, so ready to forgive, so full of unfailing love for all who ask for your help” (Psalm 86:5, NLT).

In some societies slaves wear collars to identify their status and their owners. As Christians, our uniqueness is displayed by our love of God and our fellow traveler. No physical marks are necessary. We exhibit an outward manifestation of inner peace and joy, secured by hope in an unfailing God. Job, who suffered untold physical and mental anguish, said, “‘Though he slay me, yet will I hope in Him’” (Job 13:15).

 

“He was pierced for our transgressions.
He was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
by his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5).

Believers in Jesus Christ do not require a distinguishing physical mark. Rather than brand us as His followers, God expects us to minister for Him with our speech and actions. “Just as the body is dead, without breath, so also faith is dead without good works” (James 2:26, NLT). Our external actions reflect our heart’s allegiance.

If we yell from the rooftops our love for God, we would be summarily labeled as wacko. But, if in our daily lives we consistently display the love and peace of God, our positive actions and benevolent outreach will impact many lives, including our own.

People also listen to what we do not say. Non-verbal communication sometimes speaks louder than words. If we refuse to be controlled by anger, resentment, or bitterness, others take notice. Are we active listeners, conveying a sense of importance to others? “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires” (James 1:19).

Our goal is to be a conspicuous Christian, to imitate Jesus and His actions. The slogan so popular with Christian teens years ago, “What Would Jesus Do?” (W.W. J. D.), is still an appropriate question for us to consider prior to decision-making. We are commanded, “Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God” (Eph. 5:1-2, NLT).

Let us evaluate whether we exhibit joy and patience amidst the disappointments and losses in life. Are we able to cling to our faith in Jesus when all hope seems lost? Are we patient and long-suffering when awaiting answers from God? Others observe confidence, joy, and gentleness as correct responses to unpleasant situations, those features that cancel negative behavior in every scenario.

Unlike the Nazi practice of tattooing Jewish prisoners in concentration camps or the fanciful idea of a chicken pox for each sin, as followers of Jesus Christ, promises are the only brands we will ever receive from our Lord. His words are believable, His love magnificent, and His gifts generous beyond our imagination. Polka spots represent a hurtful, temporary disease. Give God your sins and He will exchange them for an abundant life on earth and a home in heaven forever and ever!


[Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons]

Our Suffering Savior: A Physician’s Perspective

Today I’m sharing from Answers in Genesis

Our Suffering Savior

A Physician’s Perspective

During the Easter season, we usually hear again the stories of the Passion Week and the Crucifixion—Jesus’s betrayal by Judas, His unfair trial, the road to Calvary, Jesus’s last words. We also sing about the Old Rugged Cross. But few look beyond these stories to consider what our Lord Jesus Christ actually endured during those hours on the cross. Unlike first-century Christians, for whom crucifixion was a familiar reality, most of us have a sanitized view of our Lord’s suffering.

The physical suffering that Jesus willingly endured was beyond horrific. To better understand the extent of His suffering is to get a glimpse of His love for us.

In the Garden

The suffering began soon after the Last Supper when Jesus and His disciples went to the Garden of Gethsemane. Knowing that the time of His death was near, Jesus prayed intently. According to Luke 22:44, “Being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. Then his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.”

Medical literature documents that bloody sweat, known as hematidrosis, does occur. This condition is seen in rare instances of extreme emotional stress. The resulting blood loss is not severe, but it does cause the skin to be exquisitely tender, making what was to come even more painful.

During His Trials

After these hours of emotional distress in the garden, Jesus was betrayed and arrested. His captors mocked and beat Him after He faced the Sanhedrin and the Roman authorities. He was ultimately sentenced to crucifixion on a cross.

Before sentencing Jesus to death, Pilate attempted to appease the Jews by having Him beaten. John 19:1 notes, “So then Pilate took Jesus and scourged Him.” However, this brief description does not communicate the brutal nature of what was to follow.

Scourging was a particularly vicious form of punishment. The victim was stripped of his clothes, and his hands were raised above his head and tied to a post. Then one or two soldiers would repeatedly beat the victim with a whip, usually made of several leather strips with jagged pieces of iron or sheep bone tied onto them.

One blow after another was delivered across the shoulders, back, and buttocks. Initial blows ripped gashes into His already tender skin, and those that followed dug deeper into our Savior’s tissues, tearing muscles and blood vessels. The subsequent blood loss further weakened Him. Torn and exposed nerves on the back caused indescribable pain.

This brutal scourging was only the beginning of Jesus’s suffering. After being untied from the blood-stained scourging post, the soldiers placed a scarlet robe on Him. Each breath, each movement of His body, caused the robe to rub against His torn flesh. Then a crown of thorns was placed on His head. As the trained Roman soldiers beat Him, these thorns drove deeper into His head, causing profuse bleeding and intense pain. Later, the scarlet robe was torn from His back, reopening the deep wounds.

How horrible was Jesus’s suffering at this point? Isaiah 52:14 says, “Just as many were astonished at you, so His visage was marred more than any man, and His form more than the sons of men.” Jesus had been so severely beaten, He no longer looked like a human being.

Read the rest here.

What Christianity Offers that World Religions Don’t

Sharing from the Radical.net blog.

religions2-amp

What Christianity Offers

that World Religions Don’t

By Patrick T. Dolan

Standing behind a row of worshipers in Kolkata, I saw the blackened figure of Kali. Around the idol’s neck lay a garland of skulls. Hanging from her earlobes were earrings draped with dead infants. Her dead eyes stared transfixed and her lolling red tongue revealed her vicious appetite for destruction and blood. At her feet, a man laid the severed head of a goat which was decapitated for ritual sacrifice. As people squeezed into the narrow passageway in front of the idol, their moans and prayers created a cacophony of desperation, but Kali was unable to answer.

Reaching Up in Vain

Almost every major world religion shares a similar story. The details are different, but each tells a tale of human beings attempting to reach up to the divine for purpose, blessing, and hope. Hindus yearn for the gods and goddesses’ blessing, so they offer daily sacrifice at their preferred shrine. Jains aim at perfection through non-violence, but no matter how diligent, negative karma floods their lives like water rushing in a boat with a cracked hull. Sikhs worship the one divine light, but their acceptance is based upon their dedication to a specific code of conduct and diet; however, moral effort cannot heal the corruption of a soul. Islam teaches that people must submit to Allah and perform five religious acts in order to please him, but even then, there is no guarantee of salvation. Buddhists renounce desire thinking they will eliminate personal suffering. They live within rigid guidelines hoping to achieve divinity or nirvana. Orthodox Jews wait for messiah and perform, as much as possible, the religious requirements of the law in hopes of gaining God’s favor.

Read the rest here.

A Cracked Pot

A Cracked Pot

By Pat Knight

In God’s Word, our lives are compared to clay pots, both of them fragile. Physically and emotionally we are weak vessels, easily injured. “Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use?” (Romans 9:21).

The woman was incarcerated in a federal penitentiary where she learned to love her Lord. Though she must serve her sentence for repeated crimes, she clung to God’s promises. She knew she was God’s creation, but she felt like a cracked vessel, flawed and sinful. Eventually she learned that there was a remedy available for the many fissures in her life. She presumed that if she were really made of clay, her cracked and crazed veneer could be repaired with glue, restoring her vessel for use. She believed God would function as her glue, forgive her sins, and repair her broken heart.

Rejoicing in her new-found freedom of healing and forgiveness, she sang praises to her Savior. Imagine being sentenced to a correctional facility and rejoicing for the positive developments in one’s life! She was joyful because her daily life depended on God’s promises. She accepted His unconditional love in exchange for her fragile, crumbling, vessel of clay.

In Macedonia, the apostle Paul intervened to heal a demon-possessed slave girl. No one thanked him for performing the miraculous healing; in doing so he eliminated the ability of the slave owner to profit from fortune-telling. There was such uproar among the town’s people due to this encounter that Paul and Silas were ordered to be beaten. After they were severely flogged, they were thrown into prison. About midnight, exhausted, bleeding, and suffering intense pain, Paul and Silas began praying and singing hymns to God. Nothing could quiet their joyful spirit. Suddenly a violent earthquake shook the very foundations of the prison, opening the doors of the cells and loosening the prisoners’ chains.

God was at work even in the dark, dank dungeon.
As a result of the apostles’ testimony to God’s goodness,
the jailor and his family came to believe in God.
Paul and Silas were released the next morning by government officials.

God delights in mending the little and big breaks in our lives. In the process, He strengthens us beyond what we can imagine. We observe the newness he has created from our previously broken-down lives. Though Paul and Silas were bruised and bleeding, God’s powerful love transformed their attitudes and healed their lacerated skin and bruised muscles resulting from the beatings.

Job sat among the ashes of the local dump heap, scraping his head-to-toe boils with a broken piece of discarded pottery. Before Jesus claimed our damaged lives we were all destined for the trash pile. We had no usefulness or merit. Breaking any of God’s commandments served to further crack our life’s fragile vessel, rendering us ineffective in carrying God’s love and light to others.

When our lives fall apart from multiple sins that weaken the outer veneer and threaten to eviscerate, Jesus is still at work in our hearts. Our ordinary, fragile, clay vessel is elevated in stature by the immeasurable value bestowed by our Savior.

The secular standard for measuring life’s worth is normally judged by the self-defeating attitude of the amount an individual contributes to society. We cannot earn God’s love. It is unchangeable and unconditional. He reaches out to us when we have no more to give; when we are spent and exhausted from our attempts at self-righteous living. God merely calms our efforts, instructing us to trust and depend upon Him as He repairs our broken spirit, damaged hearts, and physical ineptness. “We are God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus to do good works” (Ephesians 2:10). Only with the healing and peace of God can we reach our full potential in this world.

Jesus, our Savior, peers directly into our hearts and ascertains our motives. The woman serving her time in prison is aware of a great truth:

God is able to supply all of her needs,
including rehabilitating her life and repairing her fragile vessel.
Would it be so improbable for those of us who are unencumbered
by the stringent demands of prison life,
to share the same hope?

Let us sing and rejoice like Paul and Silas, the courageous and obedient prisoners of centuries ago. Grasp the truth that joy is not dependent upon our circumstances. Joy is an attitude that spontaneously erupts when Jesus resides in our hearts!

Happy Valentine’s Day 2018

Welcome to my annual Valentine’s Day post that I believe is so appropriate
for a day that’s all about love. 

The other day I got to thinking about Valentine’s Day and how it’s supposed to be all about love. 1 John 4:19 immediately came to mind, and I knew this was to be my message about  love … God’s immense love … for us.

1John4-19-CrossEqualsLove--AMP

The Dimensions of God’s Love

We love because he first loved us. —1 John 4:19

We have all been told how much God loves us. That fact is unquestionable, especially as we look around and see the evidence of His love in all of His creation. God’s love for us can be described as multi-dimensional, so let’s look at the different ways God loves us—the Breadth, Depth, Height and Length of His love—by examining the universe He created.

Breadth

When a man and a woman get married, they usually exchange wedding bands. If you look closely at a wedding band, you cannot see where it begins or where it ends. This circle of metal is therefore used as a symbol of unending love between husband and wife. In the same way, a circle represents eternity.

That is how I think of God’s all-encompassing love for us. I visualize the circle that His arms form to surround the earth. This thought both amazes and comforts me. I am amazed because it shows how big God is. I can’t imagine any human who can hug the whole world. I am also comforted because I enjoy being hugged. But the true illustration of the breadth of God’s love is found in Scripture: But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), —Ephesians 2:4-5

God loved us “even when we were dead in trespasses.” What a truly astonishing thing!

Eternity is a difficult concept for us to understand, but God has it all under control. He loves us so much that He can’t stand the thought of being apart from us, so He has provided us with a way to spend eternity with Him:

John3-16-Calvary--AMP

For God so loved the world
that he gave his one and only Son,
that whoever believes in him
shall not perish but have eternal life.
—John 3:16

The breadth of God’s love for us is that huge. He made sure that we have a way to be with Him forever—in other words, for eternity. Trying to figure out what eternity could be like is the same as trying to count all the stars in the sky. It is impossible!

I like to imagine what it will be like to spend the rest of eternity with God, but I’m sure my limited picture of heaven falls far short of the truth. All I know for sure is that: But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. —John 1:12-13

Depth

The Grand Canyon ranges in height from 9,000 feet at the North Rim all the way down to 2,400 feet at the Colorado River. Those of us here in the Southwest know that there are no easy ways to get to the bottom of the Grand Canyon. In fact, portions of the Colorado River are barely visible from above because of the depth of the canyon. Now that’s what I call deep, but it is still measurable.

We read in Romans 5:8 that …God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

The love God has for us is so deep that it is immeasurable. It is impossible for me to imagine something that cannot be measured. Everything that surrounds us can somehow be measured, whether by weight or volume. But not God’s love. It is bottomless and keeps going on and on to infinity. Even though we don’t deserve any of it, He loves us that much anyway.

We hear a lot these days about “unconditional love.” The truth is that the only true, unconditional love we will ever receive is from God, Who loves us with a pure love found nowhere else. How better to explain God’s love for us in spite of all our sins and shortcomings? The fact that God loves me in spite of myself is the ultimate proof of the depth of His love.

Height

Have you read about those who have succeeded in climbing Mount Everest? This 29,035-foot mountain range is the highest in the world and the most difficult to climb. There are many people who attempt this climb more than once in the hopes of finally being able to complete the challenge of making it to the summit.

I cannot imagine being at a point 29,035 feet above sea level. That is so high that one’s breathing becomes quite labored and therefore requires extra oxygen. But that is still not as high as the heavens. In Ephesians, Paul gives us a taste of what it will be like when we’re in heaven: and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,. —Ephesians 2:6

There is no way we cn ever understand the height of such “heavenly realms.”

I love knowing that those of us who have accepted Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord will be up in heaven with God forever, seated with Him and serving Him in all His honor and glory. Even though we’ll be higher than we’ve ever been, we will not suffer the usual effects of high altitude such as headaches, nosebleeds or labored breathing. God has made sure of that. I believe that heaven will be the most comfortable place ever!

If then you were raised with Christ,
seek those things which are above,
where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.
Set your minds on things above,
not on things on the earth.
For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
—Colossians 3:1-3

Length

It is estimated that right now the universe is at least 46 billion light years in radius. My puny human mind cannot comprehend such a measurement. Look up at the billions of stars in the night sky and then try to understand the lengths to which God will go for us. He could have designed just an adequate place for us to live, but did He? No. He chose to give us a wonderful universe filled with beautiful planets and stars. It stretches on and on, just like His immense love for us.

The daytime sky and the night sky are the same, yet very different. During the day we cannot see the stars because of the light of the sun. At night, the stars and moon illuminate the dark sky. When we are in heaven, things will be greatly changed.

Rev22-5-SunshineAboveTheClouds--AMP

There shall be no night there:
They need no lamp nor light of the sun
for the Lord God gives them light.
And they shall reign forever and ever.
—Revelation 22:5

No more night? Really? What will that be like? And imagine not needing a lamp to read a book.

Being part of such an exciting eternity with God requires only this:

  • recognize that we are sinners and be truly sorry for our sins
  • believe in Jesus Christ as God’s Son and our Savior
  • acknowledge that He died on the cross at Calvary and that His death paid the penalty for our sins
  • and trust that He rose from the dead on our behalf so that we might live forever with Him—and all because of the length of God’s love for us.

Paul related this aspect to Timothy:

However, for this reason I obtained mercy,
that in me first Jesus Christ might show
all longsuffering, as a pattern to those
who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life.
—1 Timothy 1:16

The definition of longsuffering is: suffering for a long time without complaining ; very patient during difficult times. I need this reminder because even though I so often lose patience with the things and people in my life—and with myself—God never loses patience with me. His longsuffering patience is eternal!

Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible,
the only God,
be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.
—1 Timothy 1:17

Beloved, on yet another Valentine’s Day I am so glad we have a God Who shows His awesome and immense love for us in so many ways, in spite of our sinful selves!