No wonder God loves you

May 1, 2012

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person — though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die — but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. …For while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son.

Romans 5:6-10

I love (really, love) used book stores, and it turns out that Lincoln City is a used book store mecca. Small stores where books share shelves with antiques; big, rambling stores with shelves from floor to ceiling and books piled knee-high down every isle; curated, manicured stores where the owner seems to know and love every book in the place.

We worked our way from south to north, and our first stop had a cart out front with $1 sale books. Most of them were written by or about politicians, or were about spirituality. I picked up a small devotional for women and read the back cover.

It started well, affirming that God created us as individuals with unique — and lovely — characteristics that are to each her own. But I stopped short at the end of the paragraph, which concluded, “No wonder God loves you!”

Wait… Really?

Don’t misunderstand me — I absolutely believe that God is in the business of creating extraordinary people. People with amazing gifts and talents, people who are dynamic and magnetic, people who are wholly, gloriously different from one another. In David’s words, we are fearfully and wonderfully made. As this beautiful song says, I believe that you marvel over me / Maker of the galaxy, marveling over me.

But this isn’t why God loves us.

God loves us because of his character — not ours. He is love, in his very being. At best, we try to be loving and gracious and tenderhearted and compassionate and selfless — and at worst, we’re a mess — but either way, we are still imperfect, and since God is perfectly just, he could never love us based on our performance. It only works if he loves us because of who he is.

One of my biggest traps is trying to earn God’s love. Intellectually, I know it’s impossible, but my actions tell a different story. When things are going well, this leads to pride — Look at how great I am! No wonder God loves me! When things are going badly, this leads to lies (and, really, another kind of pride) — Look at what a failure I am. There’s no way God could love me. I humanize God. I start to think that — like people — his love grows and wanes in proportion to my good behavior. But his love isn’t fickle and transient like human love.

His is the love that covers, love that endures, love that sacrifices — not just for good people, but for trainwrecked people too.

It really is no wonder that God loves us — because that’s truly how great and awesome and perfect he is.

Prodigal God

January 31, 2012

Forgiveness is free and unconditional to the perpetrator, but it is costly to you.

Prodigal God, page 83

This quick 130-page read is a beautiful exploration of the parable of the prodigal son. We spend most of our time learning from the example of the younger brother, and of course there is a rich and beautiful story there, acceptance that is incomprehensible to us in our humanity alone. But Timothy Keller spends time with the older brother, exploring his lostness — the insidious lostness that’s grounded in pride and control. I love that Keller reveals the story of two brothers, not just one — and in this story, we don’t have one person who is good and another who is bad, but rather two people who are both lost, both in need of restoration.

Strength of my heart

January 25, 2012

Nevertheless, I am continually with you;
you hold my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will receive me to glory.
Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

Psalm 73:23-26

One of my Haiti teammates is leaving in less than two weeks to go back to Haiti for a long-term mission. Her faithful response to God’s call to go is such a testament to the way she walks with Jesus.

I won’t be in town when she leaves so I won’t be able to see her off, but I’ve been praying for a scripture to share with her before she leaves. I read this Psalm first thing this morning, still half-asleep, and I immediately thought it was for her. When you’re living in a developing country, you need to know that God is continually with you, holding your hand.

But now it’s mid-afternoon on one of those frantic, chaotic, busy days, and now I can clearly see that this verse is for me, too. My flesh and my heart may fail — my life is so blessed, but oh, do I know what it’s like to be confronted with failure. But He is the strength of my heart. As Asaph, the psalmist, writes a few verses later, I have made the Lord God my refuge. He holds my hand.