So, another Valentines Day come and gone. Funnily enough, this has me reflecting about love. Not because I’m “in love” with anyone in particular. But because every day I am increasingly aware of another sort of Love.
The Love of God. Extravagant, unearned, undeserved, lavish, breathtaking, costly.
He winds up suffering the worst fate imaginable – he loses all dignity, covered with shame, humiliation, bruises, rejection, loneliness, nailed to a cross. An innocent man suffering the agonising death of murderers and traitors.
Why? The Bible is very clear about this. Jesus was very clear about this. A chasm exists between holy God and fallen man. A chasm that for so long could only be bridged by animal sacrifices. A chasm that so many people try (and fail) to bridge by themselves. A price had to be paid for every sin. So God decides to come down to earth and pays the price for us. Once for all time. Willingly. Voluntarily.
I love that the name Jesus means God With Us. That’s exactly what He was. No longer could we shake our fists at the “angry Deity in the sky” as so many do these days. No longer could we claim that God did not understand what we went through. Jesus went through everything we go through, and lived a sinless life. He is our supreme example. The spotless sacrifice to enable us to come directly to God and spend eternity with Him.
Armed with the knowledge of this incredible unearned, undeserved Love, what does a person do? How do we respond to this?
The simple answer is to become a support player in God’s magnificent eternal epic by living a life of following and obeying Jesus.
Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death-even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:5-11)
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees people in need but does not help them, how can the love of God be in them? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. (1 John 3:16-20)
God has blessed me with the gift of music, and I am profoundly influenced by song lyrics. Listen to these words from the song "Alive" by Natalie Grant:
Who but You, could breathe and leave a trail of galaxies and dream of me?
What kind of Love is writing my story till the end with Mercy's pen?
What kind of king would choose to wear a crown that bleeds and scars to win my heart?
What kind of Love tells me I'm the reason He can't stay inside the grave?
You. Is it You? Standing here before my eyes, every part of my heart cries
Alive! Alive! Look what Mercy's overcome; Death has lost and Love has won
Alive! Alive! Hallelujah, Risen Lord, the only One I fall before
I am His because He is alive.
Who could speak, and send the demons back from where they came with just one Name?
What other heart would let itself be broken every time till He healed mine?
You. Only You could turn my darkness into dawn; running right into Your arms
Emmanuel, the promised King the baby who made angels sing
Son of Man who walked with us, healing, breathing in our dust
The author of all history, the answer to all mysteries
The Lamb of God who rolled away, the stone in front of every grave
I heard a great quote from Brother Andrew, who is is a Christian missionary famous for his exploits smuggling Bibles to communist countries in the height of the Cold War, which earned him the nickname "God's smuggler" “If Jesus Christ be God, and died for me, no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for Him.”
Wow! Talk about getting hit right between the eyes. It was with this mindset that I took my recent trip to seven countries in Central America, to visit some of my Compassion-sponsored children and their families.
I spent over half my savings (I was between jobs and wasn't getting paid during this time).
I used time I could have and should have been preparing for my new teaching job.
Security and safety were out the window (particularly on the roads).
I was way out of my comfort zone by visiting different cultures where I didn’t fully understand the customs or speak the language.
I saw things and heard stories which absolutely wrecked my heart.
In all honesty the enemy was in my ear the whole trip (Waste of time. Waste of money. Where is God? What difference are you really making? There’s no hope for these people. They don’t really appreciate what you do). I battled attitudes and unmet expectations.
In the end I don’t regret any of it. Every dollar spent. Every hour spent on a plane or waiting in airports. I was following God’s example as best I could, making sacrifices to BE WITH people I loved. So often it was all I had to offer them. To be with them.
It was profound to be able to give so many “first” (and probably only) experiences of visits to restaurants, zoos and fun parks. To let kids have the joy of being kids that we just take for granted. In the Compassion Projects I experienced love, fun, joy, laughter, innocence, peace and Hope. Releasing children from poverty in Jesus name.
For all my education, money, skills and blessings, time after time I felt so useless, helpless and inadequate in the face of such great needs. The stark reality of their lives honestly smashed me up, in my heart and my head. I could only hold them and lift them up to God. He is their Hope.
Growing up in Australia, I have been blessed with anything and everything I could ever want or need, and I am thankful for that. Meeting these children and families, for the first time in my life, everything else was stripped away, torn down, pulled apart. The only thing left was GOD. I am thankful for the experience, because I saw what true Faith looks like. I met true Christians, and was inspired. I am now faced with the challenge of how I can live a life of utter dependence and reliance on God, in a society such as ours. So self-reliant, self-confident, self-righteous, arrogant, prideful, greedy. And yet so blessed and prosperous.
I get an increasing feeling in my heart that my long-term future may not be spent in this blessed and prosperous culture. For six years, God has been working on my heart and character through sponsorship with Compassion. I have given of my money, time and emotions investing in children and families. My next step may be to give myself. To BE WITH them. Somewhere. I look forward to seeing what God has planned.