Let There Be Love!

Growing up, all of our girls participated in the “AWANA” program at our church. If you’re not familiar with AWANA, it could be described as a “Christian” version of the Boy and Girl Scouts. “AWANA” is an acronym that stands for “Approved Workmen Are Not Ashamed,” from 2 Timothy 2:15. The children are encouraged to memorize Scripture in a fun environment.

I can still picture Laurel as an adorable preschooler in her royal blue “Cubbie Bear” vest. We were proud AWANA parents when she memorized John 3:16, her very first Bible verse. That is until she decided her ONE verse was good enough. She was done! No amount of honey could entice this stubborn bear to memorize another verse.

Most of us, Cubbies or not, can recite John 3:16 from memory, right?

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. (NASB)

(I guess if you’re only going to learn one verse, John 3:16 is a pretty good choice!)

Last week, as I prepared to teach my weekly Bible study, I came across a lesser known, but equally memory-worthy verse. I dubbed it “John 3:16 on steroids!” Here it is:

Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ… (Ephesians 1:4a, NLT)

Let that sink in. Yes, as John 3:16 states, God loved the world. But even before He made the world, He loved us! Before time ticked. Before creation commenced.

Before God said, ‘Let there be light!”, He said “Let there be love!”

Scott Olipint puts it like this: “Most Christians recognize that, apart from Christ, there is no salvation. But far fewer recognize that our salvation had its beginning before time began. It was there that the triune God determined to love you for eternity.”

Wow! I knew from Scripture that God saw us before we were born (Psalm 139:15-16) and that He knew us before we were formed! (Jeremiah 1:5) But to love us before the earth existed? That kind of love is earthshattering!

Let’s look at one more AWANA verse worth memorizing:

But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us! (Romans 5:8, HCSB)

Billy Graham paraphrased Romans 5:8 like this: “God proved His love on the Cross. When Christ hung, and bled, and died, it was God saying to the world, ‘I love you.’”

The God who purposed to love you before creation, proved His love for you on the cross!

If you ever question God’s love, you need look no further than that cross, driven into the ground like a blood-stained stake. There, as His Son endured an agonizing death, the Father declared His undying love…for you!

To fully experience this love, you need only…

  • BELIEVE that you are loved!  (John 3:16, Ephesians 1:4, Romans 5:8)
  • RECEIVE His love for you!  (John 1:12)
  • TRUST that He will never stop loving you!  (1 John 4:16, Jeremiah 31:3)

God determined to love us and then He declared His love for us!

Maybe our little Cubbie Bear was right…

What more do we really need to know?

For God so loved…that He gave…


Spend a few minutes meditating on God’s overwhelming, never-ending love!


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What Kind of Love

They deserted Him when He needed them the most.  One betrayed Him…with a kiss.  Another denied three times that he even knew Him. 

(And these were His friends.) 

But He “…loved them to the end.”  (John 13:1b) 

What kind of love is this?

They arrested Him on trumped up charges.  Mocked and mistreated Him.  Sentenced Him to an excruciating death. 

He prayed for them.

(And these were His enemies.) 

“Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34) 

What kind of love is this?

I’m not that different from either one.  I fail Him when I bow my head in slumber instead of prayer.  I deny Him when I let fear of what others might think silence my voice.  I mock Him when I pay mere lip service to His commands.  I crucify Him all over again when I yield to the flesh instead of the Spirit.

(And I claim to be His follower.)

Yet He assures me that  “…where sin increased, grace abounded all the more…” (Romans 5:20)

What kind of love is this?

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this:  While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

Amazing love! 

How can it be…that thou, My God, should die…for me?



(Lyrics are from “And Can It Be” by Charles Wesley.  All Scripture references are from The New American Standard Version.)


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An Issue of Access

Access: Denied.

Those weren’t the actual words on my computer screen, but they might as well have been. For the past week and a half, every time I attempted to go to my blog I got this instead:

“Internet Explorer cannot display the webpage.”

Every other website is functioning just fine. Except mine. Everyone else can access the blog. Except me. (In fact, the only way I was able to post this was by using Chris’ laptop and an alternate wifi connection.)

This sure feels personal.

It’s as if an invisible wall is keeping me out. My blog remains hidden behind some mysterious cyber-curtain. I feel shut out, closed off, excluded.

I wonder if the ancient Israelites ever felt this way about God…

You see, the Jewish temple was constructed with varying degrees of access:

–If you were a Gentile, you could go no further than the Outer Court.

–Jews could proceed into the Inner Court, but if you were a woman, you could not pass into the Men’s Court.

–Only priests could enter the Court of the Priests, and only certain priests had the privilege of serving, maybe once in their lifetime if they were fortunate, in the Holy Place.

–The high priest alone was allowed access behind a thick, double curtain to the Holy of Holies, where God’s presence dwelt. Even his entrance was restricted to once a year, on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.

This diagram illustrates the many “walls within the walls” of the temple:

God must have seemed unapproachable, inaccessible. He had to be worshiped at a safe, assigned distance. One could only get so close. To actually enter His presence was out of the question.

Until Jesus came and changed everything one dark Friday afternoon.

“With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last. The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom” (Mark 15:38-39)

The writer of the book of Hebrews explains the life-altering significance of this event to his Jewish readers:

“Therefore, brothers and sisters…we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body…” (Hebrews 10:19-20)

Like the Iron Curtain, which separated Eastern and Western Europe, the Temple Curtain, which separated God and man, was removed. The Holy of Holies was now open to all who embraced Jesus, the perfect High Priest. Regardless of where we once stood, we have been granted total, unrestricted, glorious access.

“He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.” (Ephesians 2:17-18)

“This was in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and confident access through faith in Him.” (Ephesians 3:11-12)

I’ve gotten used to my blog being a mere mouse-click away, and am eager to have my full access restored. But in the meantime, I’m grateful for the reminder that the freedom and confidence I enjoy in approaching a Holy God isn’t something to be taken for granted. Because it wasn’t always this way.

Thank you, Jesus, for making Him accessible to all—Jew, Gentile, man, woman, child. I have a new appreciation for what a breathtaking honor it is to be invited behind the curtain. You so graciously welcome us, treating us like VIPS with full backstage passes. And one day we’ll be ushered into the actual throne room of God in heaven.

It’s unbelievable, really. And yet it’s true.

Access: Granted.

“Therefore, since we have been justifed through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.” (Romans 5:1-2)


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‘R’ Rated Eggs

(Bet THAT title got your attention!) Yesterday I retrieved our “Resurrection Eggs” from their storage bin in the basement.  I wanted to make sure they were ready for our Easter brunch this Sunday.  If you’re not familiar with them, they are a tool designed to teach children about the events leading up to the resurrection of Christ.  They consist of a carton of brightly colored plastic eggs, each egg containing a small object and a corresponding Scripture which explains its significance.  We’ve made this a part of our family’s Easter celebration for years.

But for some reason, this year, as I inspected the contents of each egg, I was struck by how gruesome the story actually is.  It’s just not that family friendly.  It easily contains enough violence to earn an ‘R’ rating.  I can see why many families prefer fluffy chicks and hopping bunnies at Easter.  They’re much more cheery.

The Resurrection Eggs tell a graphic story of…

Betrayal:  A cup, foreshadowing rejection.  A feather, representing disloyalty.  Thirty pieces of silver, purchasing treachery.

Violence:  Leather strips, for a flesh-tearing flogging.  Thorns, for a painful, humiliating crown.  Nails, well, we all know what those were for.  A Roman crucifixion was not a nice way to die.

Death:  A spear, an ancient death certificate.  Strips of linen cloth, wrappings for a burial.  Spices, a mixture to help preserve a corpse.  A stone, sealing a coffin/tomb.

Sad, sadistic, and sobering is this story.  And this is the sanitized version.  (Watch “The Passion” if you want to see one truly worthy of its ‘R’ rating.)  Good Friday is a great time to pause and reflect on the terrible suffering Jesus endured on our behalf.  And the fact that He thought we were worth it.

But that’s not the end of the story.  There’s one more egg in the carton.  It’s the one that none of the kids ever wanted to open.  Because there’s nothing in it.

Hope:  An empty egg, an empty tomb.  A Risen Savior!

Don’t you just love a happy ending?  The story IS violent, heart-wrenching and hard to stomach in parts.  But its timeless message is beautiful and simple enough for General Audiences everywhere:

Jesus saves.  Jesus lives.

“When they had carried out all that was written about him, they took him down from the cross and laid him in a tomb. But God raised him from the dead…” (Acts 13:29-30)

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The Cloud and the Cross

I once had a little black cloud that liked to follow me around. Like Charlie Brown’s friend “Pigpen,” whose own personal cloud of dirt could be cleaned up temporarily, only to quickly materialize again,I couldn’t seem to shake mine for long. I even gave it a name. I called it “The Cloud of Condemnation.”

The dust and debris which composed my cloud consisted mainly of the disapproval and judgment I felt (some real, some imagined) from other people. The enemy would toss in his own dirt clods of accusation from time to time, and would further pollute the cloud with the suffocating smog of condemnation. Feelings of unworthiness, discouragement and defeat bounced around me like Pigpen’s ever present dust storm.

I lived in the shadow of this persistent cloud for several years, before the rays of God’s truth began to peek through. I’d read verses like Romans 8:1, which assured me there was “no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” I reminded myself that Satan was the author of any message with an accusing tone, not God.  (Revelation 12:10)

But the following story, by pastor and author Ken Blue, was the ray of truth that finally penetrated the toxic cloud and caused it to disperse. I pray it speaks to anyone who may feel hemmed in by a similar cloud.

When I was five years old, my grandfather and I stood in the middle of a 120-acre wheat field that was dry and ready for harvest. He said that if ever I happened to be there when the field caught fire (which it did occasionally), I should not run. A wind-swept blaze travels faster than anyone can run. Instead, I should immediately start a fire right where I stood, then stand in the midst of the burned-down stubble so that the larger blaze could not reach me. He said, ‘Fire cannot pass where fire has already passed.’

The fire of God’s judgment, the terrible punishment for sin, has already passed through Christ. Now those who are standing in Christ have no judgment or condemnation to fear:  because fire cannot pass where fire has already passed.”

The scorched place is the safe place. Jesus experienced and endured the searing heat of judgment to shield us from it. When we stand in the shadow of the cross, condemnation can no longer cast its dark shadow over our lives. Nothing can touch the one who is in Christ.

The clouds of condemnation still occasionally threaten to gather. But when they do, I merely point to the blackened ground beneath my feet, and take my place at the foot of the cross. The clouds quickly dissipate in the radiance of the Son.

I am free!

“There IS therefore now NO condemnation for those who are IN Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1)

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