This devotional today and for the next three days are especially given for us by our dear TSF friend Bill Kesecker.
“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. 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. “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” –Ephesians 3:16-21 (New International Version)
I’m making plans to go to the Grand Canyon in 2019. The Canyon is a chasm 277 miles long and 18 miles wide. Its depth plunges over a mile (6,000 feet), and the Grand Canyon is home to 70 species of mammals, 250 species of birds, 25 types of reptiles (Oh, my!), and 5 species of amphibians (not really planning to meet any of these “friendly” critters!). The stats are impressive, but kind of meaningless! I mean, we’re talking numbers! But, that’s NOT the Grand Canyon.
Just a view of some of the photographs I’ve seen is the breathtaking story (just the way a friend described to me when she and her husband saw the Grand Canyon for the first time on their tenth wedding anniversary!). The vast, stretching, plunging vistas, the gorgeous red-bronze rock faces bathed in the setting sun, the golden river slicing its way through mountains of rock, lighting strikes piercing the atmosphere over and into the Canyon, and millions of sparkling, starry globes piercing the black velvet sky. That’s the Grand Canyon. That’s what I want to see! That’s what moves me to adventure. I can stay home to peruse statistics. However, I must dive in to experience a wonder!
In his letter to the Ephesians the apostle Paul is on his knees, begging God to equip the young Christians at Ephesus to dive in to experience the most miraculous, multi-dimensional wonders the world has ever known! Paul pleads with him that they may know the love of Christ! Not know about it! Not facts, not statistics, not theological statements and definitions, not creeds and catechisms!
Know the love of Christ! Better, know the Christ who loves! Know the man, know what He said, know how he said it, know his rebukes to the proud and religious, know his tender pursuit of the scorned and the unrighteous who knew full well they didn’t belong, had never belonged, and couldn’t even figure out how to belong to anyone like this man.
Mark’s Gospel tells a great story of a conversation Jesus had that, frankly, he didn’t want to have. He was in the area of Tyre, just outside where the Jews lived. Jesus was tired, desperately tired. He didn’t want one more conversation, not one more request, nothing but silence, prayer, sleep. But here she comes! A woman rushes in. Greek-speaking. Born in Syrian Phoenicia. A woman.
She pushes into the room and falls onto her knees before him. She blurts out her plea as only a desperate mother could, begging Jesus to drive the demon out of her daughter. The woman had heard of what Jesus was doing in the region. She had heard countless stories. Her passion grew with each as his fame spread, “Jesus, please, I beg you, help us, Jesus!”
“First let the children eat all they want.” Probably a common saying known to all in the countryside, “for it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” His eyes fixed on her, staring intently. Looking for a twitch, a wince, a flash of anger, some kind of response. How had she taken his words? What opinion of her did he hold? Silent, Jesus watched and waited.
“Lord,” she said in even, measured, determined, sustained tones, “even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” The woman was not prepared to go anywhere until Jesus heard her plea.
The parable showed that Jesus’ mission was first to the covenant people of God, the Jews. The woman had no place in that assembly. She was a Gentile, she didn’t belong, she couldn’t make herself belong. But her daughter needed a miracle, she had to have a word from Jesus. There was no other place to go. None whatsoever. And still on her knees, she wondered, “Was he Lord of the Jews only? Or could the unworthy, unprepared, irreligious partake of the crumbs tumbling from the table of those feasting?”
The silence screamed like a horrifying storm for what seemed forever.
Was that a twitch at the corners of his mouth? Was a knowing smile breaking on his lips? No, not sure? “For such a reply, you may go.”
“No, Lord, please, don’t send me away, please, No. . .,” trembling, she thought.
“The demon has left your daughter.”
She went home and found her child lying on the bed, and the demon had gone (see Mark 7:24-30 NIV).
Is this the love that Paul knew and wanted these young Gentile believers to know, too? Is this what he wanted them to grasp, to take hold of, and to cling to for dear life? How wide, and long, and high, and deep is the love of Christ? He wanted them to know it so fervently that he was on his knees begging God to root them in this love as seeds sprouting deep into the soil, not letting go, reaching downward and outward, and possessing and owning the ground that fed them and growing more and more fruitful in that exhaustless love. As a foundation, level, firm, stable, and sturdy that will take the full weight and expanse of a magnificent structure of glorious and enduring purpose that will not ever fail to fulfill its mission. Christians, come on; dive in to experience a wonder!
Merry Christmas, dear ones! We celebrate today the coming of Jesus, the love of God on display! “O, Come, let us adore Him!”
“Dear Father, please answer Paul’s ancient prayer for us today, that we will not only grasp, but be possessed by the love of Christ, which surpasses knowledge, but not grace! Grant that we may know Jesus today and experience his love forevermore and be granted the grace to give His love to others, without distinction in full measure. In the name of your Son Jesus, Amen.”
Touched on something incredibly important here. Think about it for a second. We humans are often side-tracked by the things of this world. Think of the things we tend to boast about. Possessions, wisdom, sports ability but rather God would asks us to boast him for he has been kind to us and he delights in things like kindness, justice and righteousness etc.
This is what the LORD says: “Let not the wise boast of their wisdom or the strong boast of their strength or the rich boast of their riches,
24 but let the one who boasts boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me, that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the LORD.
(Jer. 9:23-24 NIV)
We humans might get excited about impressive sports feats and fast horses or fast cars. And if we are in physically good shape we might get side tracked with ourselves. But this antithetical to what God wants us to focus on.
10 His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse, nor his delight in the legs of the warrior;
11 the LORD delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love. (Ps. 147:10-11 NIV)
Think about who impresses us. At work I might hear talk about how impressive a quarterback is or a particular boxer or fighter … but from God’s perspective those who have a relationship with him are most impressive or are the most useful to him. “The Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love.” And there are more scriptures than I can think of, that also talk about how much God loves those who love Jesus.
(It just occurred to me that I’m not very impressed with God for just loving me. I suppose that I should rather consider that it isn’t just that he loved me … “hey look at the flawed, unkind, selfish person over there … don’t you just love him?” Or is it rather that as I turn to Him (he leads me to Him) and submit to him that he sees something of himself that he can instill in me. He can love me … not to keep me selfish and treacherous, but to make me like him … (and writing this way is terrifying because of the audacity and the miraculous transformation this requires … it boggles the mind … a comprehension of how great he is … and that he might choose to use me for something … for anything — is enough to bring tears to my eyes. And even my words here. Maybe even read by another flawed person doesn’t do justice to the miraculous work that God wants to do in me and in anyone who turns to him.) )
The following scriptures are rather randomly tossed out. I had intended to just look at the scriptures that mention something of the love of God. This is the topic Bill has chosen to focus on for his devotional writing. Yet, if anyone wants to look at the scriptures, perhaps they can be considered somewhat like the END NOTES of a book … good for further reading/research/contemplation.
For this topic clearly warrants additional attention.
13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. (Jn. 15:13 NIV)
And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. (Rom. 5:5 NIV)
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Rom. 5:8 NIV)
35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?
36 As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,
39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom. 8:35-39 NIV) (Consider that his love is so powerful that it appears we can’t even be separated from it by anything.)
(! Corinthians 13 describes love in some detail.)
I urge you, brothers and sisters, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me. (Rom. 15:30 NIV)
For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. (2 Cor. 5:14 NIV)
May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance. (2 Thess. 3:5 NIV)
The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. (1 Tim. 1:14 NIV)
But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared,
5 he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. (Tit. 3:4-5 NIV)
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds,
25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another– and all the more as you see the Day approaching. (Heb. 10:24-25 NIV)
See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! (1 John 3:1 NIV)
8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. [**What a powerful definition … what a powerful thing … that God describes himself in that way. **]
9 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.
10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. [****What a challenge for us. What a calling. Lord help us to do this!.****]
13 This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. (1 John 4:8-13 NIV)
20 But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit,
21 keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. (Jude 1:20-21 NIV)
19 Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. (Rev. 3:19 NIV)