The Love of Christ

I know people who have said: ‘I would follow Christ, but I do not think I can keep it up. I do not trust myself. I think he’d get tired of my failures.’ Please look at him in the garden. Look what his love for you has already enabled him to endure for you. If he had turned away from suffering and the cross, we would have been lost, but he didn’t do that. Hell came down on him, and he would not let go of us. His love for us has already taken everything that the universe could throw at it and it held fast— and you think that you are somehow going to upset him? Is Jesus going to look at you and say, ‘Well, that does it! Infinite existential torment was one thing, but I can only take so much!’? If this suffering did not make him give up on us, nothing will. So Paul can essentially say, ‘Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ’ (Romans 8: 38– 39). The Lord says, ‘I will never leave you; never will I forsake you’ (Hebrews 13:5).

This is the love you have been looking for all of your life. This is the only love that can’t let you down. This is bombproof love. Not friend-love, not personal acclaim, not married love, and not even romantic love – it is this love that you are after, underneath all your pursuit of those others. And if this love of active obedience is an active reality in your life, you will be a person of integrity; you will be a person of prayer; you will be kind to people who mistreat you. If you have this love you will be a little more like him. Look at him dying in the dark for you. Let it melt you into his likeness.

~ Tim Keller (from The Obedient Master)

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Three Astounding Truths

I wanted to provide three bulk quotes from Brennan Manning’s The Ragamuffin Gospel. These quotes have challenged me and intrigue me in more ways than I can put on paper. My recommendation: read them and then reread them. Apply these to yourself. Challenge yourself to see how this relates to you personally and what we ought to do in response. For many of us, we need to just absorb the amazing truths presented herein.

Page 23 –

The Good News means we can stop lying to ourselves. The sweet sound of amazing grace saves us from the necessity of self-deception. It keeps us from denying that though Christ was victorious, the battle with lust, greed, and pride still rages within us. As a sinner who has been redeemed, I can acknowledge that I am often unloving, irritable, angry, and resentful with those closest to me. When I go to church I can leave my white hat at home and admit I have failed. God not only loves me as I am, but also knows me as I am. Because of this I don’t need to apply spiritual cosmetics to make myself presentable to Him. I can accept ownership of my poverty and powerlessness and neediness.

Page 25 (1) –

When I get honest, I admit I am a bundle of paradoxes. I believe and I doubt, I hope and get discouraged, I love and I hate, I feel bad about feeling good, I feel guilty about not feeling guilty. I am trusting and suspicious. I am honest and I still play games. Aristotle said I am a rational animal; I say I am an angel with an incredible capacity for beer.

Page 25 (2) –

The gospel of grace nullifies our adulation of televangelists, charismatic superstars, and local church heroes. It obliterates the two-class citizenship theory operative in many American churches. For grace proclaims the awesome truth that all is gift. All that is good is ours, not by right, but by the sheer bounty of a gracious God. While there is much we may have earned–our degree, our salary, our home and garden, a Miller Lite, and a good night’s sleep–all this is possible only because we have been given so much: life itself, eyes to see and hands to touch, a mind to shape ideas, and a heart to beat with love. We have been given God in our souls and Christ in our flesh. We have the power to believe where others deny, to hope where others despair, to love where others hurt. This and so much more is sheer gift; it is not reward for our faithfulness, our generous disposition, or our heroic life of prayer. Even our fidelity is a gift. “If we but turn to God,” said St. Augustine, “that itself is a gift of God.” My deepest awareness of myself is that I am deeply loved by Jesus Christ and I have done nothing to earn it or deserve it.

9 Lessons from God Concerning Sickness

Sickness is meant…

1. To make us think—to remind us that we have a soul as well as a body—an immortal soul—a soul that will live forever in happiness or in misery—and that if this soul is not saved we had better never have been born.

2. To teach us that there is a world beyond the grave—and that the world we now live in is only a training-place for another dwelling, where there will be no decay, no sorrow, no tears, no misery, and no sin.

3. To make us look at our past lives honestly, fairly, and conscientiously. Am I ready for my great change if I should not get better? Do I repent truly of my sins? Are my sins forgiven and washed away in Christ’s blood? Am I prepared to meet God?

4. To make us see the emptiness of the world and its utter inability to satisfy the highest and deepest needs of the soul.

5. To send us to our Bibles. That blessed Book, in the days of health, is too often left on the shelf, becomes the safest place in which to put a bank-note, and is never opened from January to December. But sickness often brings it down from the shelf and throws new light on its pages.

6. To make us pray. Too many, I fear, never pray at all, or they only rattle over a few hurried words morning and evening without thinking what they do. But prayer often becomes a reality when the valley of the shadow of death is in sight.

7. To make us repent and break off our sins. If we will not hear the voice of mercies, God sometimes makes us “hear the rod.”

8. To draw us to Christ. Naturally we do not see the full value of that blessed Savior. We secretly imagine that our prayers, good deeds, and sacrament-receiving will save our souls. But when flesh begins to fail, the absolute necessity of a Redeemer, a Mediator, and an Advocate with the Father, stands out before men’s eyes like fire, and makes them understand those words, “Simply to Your cross I cling,” as they never did before. Sickness has done this for many—they have found Christ in the sick room.

9. To make us feeling and sympathizing towards others. By nature we are all far below our blessed Master’s example, who had not only a hand to help all, but a heart to feel for all. None, I suspect, are so unable to sympathize as those who have never had trouble themselves—and none are so able to feel as those who have drunk most deeply the cup of pain and sorrow.

Summary: Beware of fretting, murmuring, complaining, and giving way to an impatient spirit. Regard your sickness as a blessing in disguise – a good and not an evil – a friend and not an enemy. No doubt we should all prefer to learn spiritual lessons in the school of ease and not under the rod. But rest assured that God knows better than we do how to teach us. The light of the last day will show you that there was a meaning and a “need be” in all your bodily ailments. The lessons that we learn on a sick-bed, when we are shut out from the world, are often lessons which we should never learn elsewhere.

~ J.C. Ryle (Tract: Christ in the Sick Room)

Dream Big, Pray Hard, and Think Long

I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. (1 Corinthians 3:6)

Toward the end of his life, Honi the Circle Maker was walking down a dirt road when he sawa man planting a carob tree.  Always the inquisitive sage, Honi questioned him, “How long will it take this tree to bear fruit?”  The man replied, “Seventy years.”  Honi said, “Are you quite sure you will live another seventy years to eat its fruit?”  The man replied, “Perhaps not.  However, when I was born into this world, I found many carob trees planted by my father and grandfather. Just as they planted trees for me, I am planting trees for my children and grandchildren so they will be able to eat the fruit of these trees.”

This incident led to an insight that changed the way Honi prayed.  In a moment of revelation, the Circle Maker realized that praying is planting.  Each prayer is like a seed that goes in the ground.  It disappears for a season, but it eventually bears fruit that blesses future generations.  In fact, our prayers bear fruit forever. No expiration date!  Even when we die, our prayers don’t.  Each prayer takes on a life, an eternal life, of its own.  I know this because of the moments in my life when the Holy Spirit has reminded me: the prayers of your grandfather are being answered in your life right now.  My grandfather died when I was six!  His prayers did not!  Like a carob tree planted in the ground, our prayer seeds will bear fruit long after we are long gone!

The Circle Maker revolves around 3 mantras: Dream Big, Pray Hard and Think Long.  It’s the last one that is so tough in our quick-fix culture. Almost every prayer we pray has anASAP attached to it.  Let me introduce a new acronym: ALAT.  Quit praying as soon as possible prayers and start praying as long as it takes prayers! We tend to overestimate what we can accomplish in two years, but we underestimate what we can accomplish in ten years!  If you dream big without thinking long you’re headed for a head-on collision with disappointment.  For the record, it is prayer that helps us both dream big and think long!
Drawing prayer circles often feels like a long and boring process. It’s frustrating when you feel like you’ve been circling forever.  You start to wonder if God really hears, if God really cares.  Sometimes His silence is deafening.  We circle the cancer. We circle our children.  We circle the dream.  We circle the sin.  But it doesn’t seem to be making a difference.  What do you do?  My advice: think long.

Circle for seventy years if you have to!  What else are you going to do? Where else are you going to turn?  What other options do you have?  Pray through.

We live in a culture that overvalues fifteen minutes of fame and undervalues lifelong faithfulness.  Maybe we have it backwards?  Just as our greatest successes often come on the heels of our greatest failures, our greatest answers to prayer often come on the heels of our longest prayers.  But if you pray those long and boring prayers, your life will be anything but boring.  The seeds will bear fruit.  God will give the increase.

Post originally written by Mark Batterson on his blog here: http://ow.ly/agnVr