Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Good Words to Remember - Love

Love Came Down at Christmas” is a very popular Christmas hymn. In it, Christ is lifted up as the physical embodiment of love and the hearers are called to remember that and celebrate it especially during the Christmas season. What shapes your understanding of love? If the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Christ isn't the basis of your understanding of love, then you view of love will always be slanted and unstable.

When it comes to the Christmas story, love is all around, even from the very announcement of Jesus’ birth. Gabrielle went to Mary and told her, “Greetings O favored one, the Lord is with you” (Luke 1:28). This can be translated, “Rejoice (be glad), graceful one (charming one, beautiful one, highly favored one), the Lord is with you.” The next verse says that these words troubled Mary. It was not the angel’s presence that troubled Mary, it was the angel’s words that troubled Mary. She did not believe that God would think that highly of her, that lovingly of her.

Do you really believe God loves you? In the last “Good Words to Remember” we saw how we are God’s beloved. Have you been thinking about that since you read it? Many churches have been talking about the Advent themes of hope, peace, joy, and love these past few weeks. Love is the basis of these other virtues. Without a belief that God loves us how can we have any hope for the future, any peace with our past, or any joy in our present circumstances? When you have hit bottom, when you feel like the lowest of the low, do you still believe God loves you? Jeremiah says, in Lamentations 3:

I remember it all—oh, how well I remember—
the feeling of hitting the bottom.
But there’s one other thing I remember,
and remembering, I keep a grip on hope:
GOD’s loyal love couldn’t have run out,
his merciful love couldn’t have dried up.
They’re created new every morning.
How great your faithfulness!
I’m sticking with GOD (I say it over and over).
He’s all I’ve got left.

If you feel like you have lost your grip on hope, like you don’t have peace with your past, or like you don’t have joy in your present circumstances, ask yourself where you are in your belief in God’s love for you. For many, it is fear that is holding them back from believing that God loves them. They fear that they are not good enough for God’s love, like they have not earned God’s love. We never will be good enough for God’s love and we never will earn God’s love but God loves us because he is so good and he gives good gifts to all.

Gabrielle immediately addressed Mary’s fear, called her by name (letting her know he knew exactly who he was talking to), and told her God was with her, even in her low, despised, state. By the end of the conversation, we see Mary at peace with God’s plan for her, hoping in the future birth of Jesus, and running off in joy to tell Elizabeth all about it. She says, “My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my savior for he has regarded my low estate.” True worship only comes when we realize that God regards/loves us, even in our lowest of low.

LOVE – A good word to remember.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Good Words to Remember - Beloved

Beloved

Do you hear this word often? It is not a word that is used very often today, but it should be. In the very short book of Jude it is used four times to speak of those who are called by the Father and kept in Jesus Christ. Dear brother or sister in Christ, do you really believe that you are the beloved of God? Of course you can say that you love him and he is love, but do you really believe he loves you? Does he love you, warts and all, with all of your imperfections on the outside and the inside? Remember, he can see the inmost parts of you, the things you hide from everyone else. He sees past fa├žade you construct to get the approval of others. He sees past it and says, “Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’ and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.’” (Romans 9:25)

A prolific writer on the love of God (Brennan Manning) said, “I could more easily contain Niagara Falls in a tea cup than I can comprehend the wild, uncontainable love of God.” We lose sight of the gospel so often and go back to thinking we can somehow earn his approval by the devotionals we read, the amount of Scripture we read, or the amount of time we pray. The truth is that if you are an adopted child of God, even though you cannot comprehend it, you are called his “people” and his “beloved” not based on anything you do, but based on the accomplished work of Christ on the cross.

Are you having a bad day today? Have you gotten caught in a cycle of shame that you think you will never get out of? Do you think you are no longer his “beloved?” That is a lie of the Enemy, trying to get you to trade in a relationship based on grace for a routine based on works. Remember that you have something that can never be taken away from you, something that is a gift from the creator of life. It is an enormous gift to be called his “beloved.” Ask the Holy Spirit to remind you of that as you go through your day today and him to reveal ways in which you can pass his love to others because you are his beloved.

Beloved – A good word to remember.