Lately, I’ve been finding myself sitting at my computer in front of the window at just the right time of day to enjoy twilight. Glowing patterns are created across the sky, and the sounds of the day lessen until I can hear the water fountain running, from across the street. The muffled sound of a plane flying in the distance reminds me of how big the world is, and at the same time I notice how easily palm branches move in the wind…they don’t fight it. Then, a single bird chirps, as if he is the last of his fleet to find out that the day is coming to a close. Twilight is a gift, when the quieting of the day draws my attention not only to the wonderful things that have been made, but to the One Who so kindly made them.
“You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things,
and by your will they were created and have their being.” (Revelation 4:11, NIV)
What is love? To me, love is Jesus forgiving Peter for denying that he knew Him. Love is Jesus inviting Matthew, an unpopular tax collector, to follow Him, learn from Him, and to be His friend. Love is Jesus washing His friends’ feet. Love is Jesus multiplying loaves of bread for the hungry masses. Love is Jesus asking His Father to forgive His persecutors at the same time that He was suffering. Love is Jesus assuring a humbled, dying thief that he would, that day, be with Him in paradise. Jesus gave us the perfect example of how to love. He forgave. He invited. He washed. He multiplied. He interceded. He accepted. Thank you, Jesus.
“And now these three remain: faith hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13, NIV)
My husband and I flew to Vermont last week to see his mom and stepdad. It made me uneasy, as I am an unenthusiastic flyer. I sometimes wonder if at least part of the reason for this is that my grandfather died in a plane crash, and although it occurred before I was born, I witnessed the hole it left in the hearts of his (my) family. So although flying is statistically a safe form of travel, it can make me fearful. Some may think that a Christian should not be subject to these feelings since they believe that God has their back and in the end, will be with Him anyway, but the feelings are a result of our humanness, and although I believe that God would prefer we trust Him in every situation, I know that He also has compassion on us in our weaknesses. My husband often says that once we move beyond this life and are with God, we won’t have a care in the world, and that it’s toughest for the people here who mourn our passing. I do agree. When we are in God’s presence, we will be completely content. The Bible verse I read on the morning of the flight encourages people to ” . . . store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy . . . ” (Matthew 6:20, NIV). It reminded me that if what we value most is our eternal life with God, then our hearts can rest more easily when we are doing things that make us afraid. Like flying, for instance. I’m glad that God calls us to Himself through Jesus, not only so we have our eternal home with Him, but so we can also experience the comfort of knowing Him as we walk (or fly) to each new destination in this life.
Something I have been thinking about a lot lately is how God in the Old Testament (OT) sometimes seems different from the God Jesus came to make known. I know that He is not different because God does not change . . . “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17, NIV). The Bible also reveals that Jesus is God . . . “The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation” (Colossians 1:15, NIV), and that He is “the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8, NIV). So why does it seem like God was more stern in the OT, whereas Jesus makes familiar a God of love, patience, mercy, and forgiveness? First, I need to say that the OT is not without examples of the love and forgiveness of God . . . I just get more insight into the gentleness of God, in Jesus. So this is a question I will continue to ask God about. But one thing I do know. I know that God is love . . . “God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them” (1 John 4:16b, NIV). And I have experienced His love first hand, when at times I have acted less than loving toward Him and He has made it known to me, whether it was through something I read, something someone said, or just a reassuring thought, that He was still there and was present with me. Through Jesus, God forgives us our shortcomings and not only that, but like the prodigal son, He sees us from a ” . . . long way off . . . “ and is ” . . . filled with compassion . . . “ (Luke 15:20, NIV).
For some reason, I was aware of the love and reality of God, early on…
“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39, ESV)
“‘Am I a God who is only close at hand?’ says the Lord. ‘No, I am far away at the same time. Can anyone hide from me in a secret place? Am I not everywhere in all the heavens and earth?’ says the Lord.” (Jeremiah 23:23-24, NLT)
“The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go, both now and forever.” (Psalm 121:8, NLT)
Have you ever woken up feeling anxious about the state of the world? If so, Psalm 46 is a good one to read. It reaffirms God’s sovereignty and His continual presence. It also includes a truth that is helpful in countering every worry…
“Be still, and know that I am God! I will be honored by every nation. I will be honored throughout the world.” (Psalm 46:10, NLT)
“It was not only the people of His day, but it is so common for people of all times to just keep commandments and church laws and observe the externals of religion. In living this way, we miss the point of what worship of God really is, falling each day more deeply in love with God, expressing that love by our sensitivity to the pain and hurt around us, and reaching out to help others, even strangers. To a person who has found God, no person, ever again, is a stranger. In that is the perfection of love, the kind of love that God is, a love that knows no strangers.” – Joseph F. Girzone, “A Portrait of Jesus”
” . . . I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger,
and you welcomed me . . . ” (Matthew 25:35a, ESV)
I met Sarah in a retail store. She helped me shop for a ring. She informed me that people are calling costume jewelry by another name now, “progressive jewelry.” We both laughed a little. Sarah was in her 60’s and had retired several years earlier so that she could travel. She was back at work, but in a job that she liked, and she spoke of no regrets having used some of her savings to explore the world. Sarah told me that her family was made up of diverse backgrounds. She and her siblings were raised Muslim (although she did not identify herself as Muslim any longer), and she had relatives by marriage who were Jewish, as well as Catholic. She said that family ties meant a lot to her. She said that she celebrates Christmas. Sarah’s life and family background were atypical, and she seemed to appreciate that. I liked thinking of her family sitting together at holiday gatherings, differing beliefs and all. I do believe that there is one true way for people to find close relationship and eternal life with God, through Jesus’ sacrifice, but it’s because of this that I can appreciate when people show love toward one another even and especially when their views differ. It’s one way of truly loving our neighbors, which Jesus equated with loving God with our whole heart. Before leaving, Sarah and I shared a hug. I said goodbye and she responded by saying that she wasn’t going to say goodbye…that she had a feeling we would see each other again. Not hearing goodbye from my new friend touched my heart
” ‘Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?’ Jesus replied, ” ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ ” (Matthew 22:36-39, NLT)
(Some names have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals.)
Sometimes my view of this world is a little bleak. I look at what is happening around me and it can be difficult to make sense of it all. And I don’t like seeing God’s creation suffer. So my thoughts turn to what heaven will be like, and it chokes me up a bit. Because I know that not only will it mean time in God’s presence, but “there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain” (Revelation 21:4). There are many near-death accounts where people speak of having visited heaven. I don’t know that I have experienced exactly that, but many years ago something happened to me that made me wonder if I had been given a glimpse of heaven. I fainted in a college class. When I woke up, my professor told me that I had hit my head and that my heart had stopped beating. While unconscious I remember opening my eyes and seeing a man in a sash reaching his hand down toward me. I grabbed it and we began to walk up a winding path. I do not remember any words being spoken, but I do remember a feeling of being “filled up.” I felt joyful and complete, as if I was lacking nothing. I also remember thinking about the people I knew who were back here, and although I loved them, I knew things would be ok. I did not feel a longing to go back. The next thing I remember is opening my eyes and seeing the worried look on my professor’s face. At the time, I was disappointed that I was back. I cannot say for sure what I experienced that day, but I wonder sometimes if I was given a preview into what heaven might be like. I am so grateful for the life that I have and that God has given me the opportunity to learn more about Him as time has passed. At the time of the incident, I believed that God existed, but I didn’t give much more thought to it than that. Whether or not that experience was a peek into what heaven is like, there is something in my heart now that can’t help but think that the “filled up” feeling I felt during those moments was an indication of what it will be like to be in God’s presence; there will be a sense of lacking nothing.
“The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need.” (Psalm 23:1, NLT)