Deep and Wide

When I was a kid, we used to sing a song called “Deep and Wide.” Deep and wide, deep and wide, there’s a fountain flowing, deep and wide. We used our hands to illustrate the deep and wide part as children love to do. But as a child, even though I believed that Jesus loved me, I had no comprehension of how deep and vast that love is.

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Ephesians 3:17-19 (NIV)

Before his life-changing conversion, Saul fought the spread of the gospel. He threatened to arrest and take the Lord’s disciples as prisoners. But on the road to Damascus, the Lord confronted him asking: “Saul, why do you persecute me?” After his encounter with Jesus, Saul became Paul, one of the greatest proponents of the gospel. It was his mission to preach the gospel to the Gentiles – to the very people he had once condemned.

The apostle Paul understood the “boundless riches of Christ.” With great enthusiasm, he wrote to the Ephesian believers about the great mystery that had been revealed to him (Ephesians 3:6): that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus. Because of Jesus, those who were once shut out of God’s promises were able to approach God with freedom and confidence.

As a child, I would not have understood the mystery that Paul was so excited to reveal. The word “gentile” was not in my vocabulary. There was no need for it; everyone in my small hometown was gentile. I was never excluded from the promises of God because of my heritage.

As a child, my knowledge of the love of Jesus was quite simple. He loved me because he loved all the children of the world. He loved me because he is good. He loved me because he is merciful. I was shy and self-conscious and felt like I didn’t fit in but God loved me just as I am. Even as a child, I knew that I could approach God with confidence because he knew me.

As an adult, I have seen the ugly side of humanity – the ways we fight with and hurt each other and treat others as less than ourselves. I see how we delight in building walls instead of bridges. I see how superficial we are in the ways we judge one another – on the basis of skin color or beauty or social status.

Now I see how radical the love of Jesus truly is. I see it in the way he told us to love our enemies and to bless those who curse us. I see it in the way he chose the despised Samaritan as the exemplar good neighbor – not the priest or the holy Levite. I see it in the way he responded to the teachers of the law and the Pharisees when they brought the adulterous woman before him hoping to trick him:

Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?

Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.

The love of Jesus is a love that is so wide and long and high and deep that it extends to everyone. There is nothing about us that he does not already know. He sees right through to the mess inside of us and loves us anyway.

As an adult, I am rooted and established in the love of Jesus and yet I don’t fully grasp how wide and long and high and deep the love of Christ is. It’s hard to find the words to describe the love of Jesus. Amazing. Unchanging. Unfailing. Ridiculous. Scandalous. Just call it what it is. Call it Grace (Unspoken).

It’s the light that pierces through you
To the darkest hidden place
It knows your deepest secrets
But it never looks away
It’s the gentle hand that pulls you
From the judgment of the crowd
When you stand before them guilty
And you’ve got no way out

Some may call it foolish and impossible
But for every heart it rescues it’s a miracle
It’s nothing less than scandalous
This love that took our place
Just call it what it is
Call it grace

Look Beyond What You Can See

My church recently studied the First Epistle of John in a sermon series on “Living Deep.” At the end of the series, my pastor handed out a list of fourteen steps to help us go deeper in our faith. Step four on his list is “Pray and look beyond what you can see to the deeper realities of God’s work.”

Look beyond what you can see

I have presbyopia. My old eyes need help seeing things that are far away. It is much easier for me to focus on close objects. My mind’s eye also has trouble imagining the future. When my mind is not occupied with work or ordinary daily activities, I tend to worry about the crisis or scandal of the moment. I get discouraged because it feels like evil is winning.

I am limited by what my eyes can see and by what my mind can conceive. How can I look beyond the chaos I see to the deeper reality of God’s work? My pastor said, pray and look beyond. Pray for insight. Pray for wisdom. Pray for understanding. Pray for hope.

According to 1 Corinthians 2, God’s wisdom is revealed by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit reveals deeper spiritual realities to those who love him. The Spirit explains spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words. Not everyone can accept these words. Not everyone can understand these words. But the person who has the Spirit understands spiritual truths because he has been shown the mind of Christ.

However, as it is written:

“What no eye has seen,
    what no ear has heard,
and what no human mind has conceived”—
    the things God has prepared for those who love him—

these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit.

1 Corinthians 2:9-10

The deeper reality of God’s work

The prophet Jeremiah wrote that the Lord has plans for us – plans to prosper us and not to harm us, plans to give us a hope and a future. But even though God promises to make all things work out for the good of those who love him, he doesn’t promise that there will be no trials and tribulations along the way. Suffering produces perseverance, perseverance builds character, and character produces hope.

Now I see things imperfectly. Someday I will see everything with perfect clarity.

When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.

Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.

1 Corinthians 13:11-13

Mahatma Ghandi had the right perspective: “When I despair, I remember that all through history, the way of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants, and murderers and for a time they can seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall. Think of it – always.”

Ghandi looked beyond what he could see to the invincibility of truth and love. This is the deeper reality of God’s work. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

When I despair, Lord help me to remember that love never fails. Love always prevails.  Always.

Reading List:
Jeremiah 29:11
John 8:32; 10:10
Romans 5:1-21; 9:16
1 Corinthians 3:19
2 Corinthians 5:15
Ephesians 2:8-10; 4:24
Philippians 4:13
1 John 3:19-24

Because I am a child of God

First John 3:1 says, “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!”

Because I am a child of God…

I am a child of the promise.

I am beloved.

I am forgiven.

I am no longer a slave to sin.

I am no longer alone.

I am joyful.

I am led by his Spirit.

I love as I have been loved.

 

 

Living Deep

My church just started a new sermon series called Living Deep, which will be based on First John, a letter written by the apostle John. My pastor said this book is challenging to preach about because there are no stories and no characters. It is deep. It is luminescent.

To live a deep and meaningful life, you have to dive deep. In the first sermon, Pastor Brad told us about his scuba diving trip in Maui. He described an experience that was beautiful and unforgettable. I have never been scuba diving so I can only imagine how beautiful and awe-inspiring it is. I do know the joy that comes from experiencing the beauty of nature. I do know the joy that comes from knowing the deep, deep love of Jesus.

God is light. In him, there is no darkness at all.

How great is the love that the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called the children of God. And that is what we are!

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God.

This is how God showed his love among us: he sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.

He who has the Son has life.

Here’s to diving deep and experiencing the deep, deep, luminescent love of Jesus!

via Daily Prompt: Luminescent

The Light of the World

Many names and phrases have been used to describe Jesus – the Messiah, Savior, Lord, Master, Teacher, Emmanuel (God with Us), the Lamb of God, the Prince of Peace, the Son of God, and the Son of Man. Jesus said, ‘I am the light of the world.’  I love thinking of Jesus as light because his ways are such a dramatic contrast to the darkness of the world. The world seems darker to me now than it ever has; the contrast between Jesus and those who claim to follow him has never seemed starker.

In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. – John 1:4-5

Jesus warned about how bad things would be. He warned of false prophets. He warned of wolves in sheep’s clothing. He said that family members would turn against each other. He warned us to be on guard against deceivers.

I’ve grown accustomed to seeing a lack of reverence for God and Jesus from atheists. God isn’t real to them and the version of Christianity that most of them see isn’t real either. Too many people who claim to follow Jesus are just actors, hypocrites.

Jesus saved his harshest criticism for people who pretended to be righteous. Today, modern-day hypocrites are not just pretending to follow Christ, they are committing blasphemy, insulting or showing a lack of reverence for Jesus Christ, the Word who was with God from the beginning.

Below are some of the most offensive, outrageous words I’ve seen lately on social media. The author suggests that the president is a light, a savior against darkness. The author suggests that because the current Cabinet holds Bible studies, it does not have “complete disdain for everything right, everything good, for anything of God.” But the unrepentant president’s most ardent supporters display disdain for God as they lavish praise on a man who is the antithesis to the one true Light of the World, Jesus Christ.

Already a light has appeared. Just when it seemed the darkest, when evil and corruption were taking over our world and the weak and poor were being trampled on… the most unexpected thing happened. God entered into our world in the most unexpected way.

And even the most casual observer can tell which administration holds weekly Bible studies and which administration had complete disdain for everything right, everything good, for anything of God.

Author – unknown blasphemer

The one true light of the world entered the world in an unexpected way, as a humble, servant leader. The devil offered to give him all the kingdoms of the world and Jesus said no. Instead, he endured ridicule, beatings and death on a cross to demonstrate his love for the world.

The light of the world said that the greatest commandment of all is to ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The light of the world said to do to others as you would have them do to you. He said to love your enemies and bless those who curse you.

The light of the world did not seek revenge against his enemies. He did not make fun of the disabled. He did not try to enrich himself on the backs of his creditors. He did not abuse and demean women. He did not lie.

I write all of this because Jesus is the light of the world. The message of Jesus is love. If what you’re hearing from anyone who claims to be righteous does not reflect light, it is not of God.

God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. ( 1 John 1:5-6)

The man who says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did. (1 John 2:4-6)

Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness. (1 John 2:9)

Glory to the light of the world.