The wise pastor told his new worship director, “There’s one style of music I hope you never play in our church.” She grabbed a pen and asked, “What is it?” He replied, “I’ll never tell you. If we all insist on getting our own way, we’ll never sing anything.”
God loves us. Most of us know this. But how many of us feel it? Paul knew that understanding God’s love was a difficult proposition. He believed supernatural revelation was required even to get started (Ephesians 3:16,18). God’s love is so large and our comprehension so small. How can we ever truly understand His love for us?
In 2014, some players from a high school football team were involved in various forms of poor behavior: skipping classes, getting failing grades, and even cyber-bullying. The head coach came up with a radical disciplinary measure: He disbanded the entire team. Players and their families reacted to the news with contrite acceptance, for they knew how much the coach cared for his players.
Zechariah lived out a twofold identity as both priest and prophet. The grandson of the priest Iddo and the head priest of his family (Zechariah 1:1; Nehemiah 12:1,16), he was prophetically called to encourage the people of Judah with God’s words (Zechariah 1:13-17). In addition, he told them to repent (Zechariah 1:3-4), renew their efforts for God (Zechariah 8:12-13), and follow His ways (Zechariah 7:8-10).
Do you love God? Just think about it. How can a lowly person draw near, much less talk about being in a love relationship with such a high and exalted Being? It blows my mind. A classic hymn describes God as “immortal, invisible, God only wise, in light inaccessible hid from our eyes.” Perhaps God’s “otherness” explains why we often feel so inadequate in claiming that we love Him.
The memory is vivid. My wife Merryn and I sat in emotional pain, talking. “If this really is our last chance to have a baby and it doesn’t happen,” Merryn said, “I need something else.” We’d spent the past decade trying everything to start a family—IVF treatment, healing prayer, adoption—all without success. We now awaited the result of one final IVF round. “If it doesn’t happen,” she said, her face downcast, “I have to have something else to look forward to.”
A few years ago, my husband and a friend of his attempted the Three Peaks Challenge—climbing the highest mountains of Scotland, England, and Wales within 24 hours. This included scaling Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the British Isles at 1,344 meters. It was sunny at the foot of Ben Nevis as the men, dressed in just T-shirts and shorts, started their ascent. As they approached the summit, however, the weather changed; they hit ice and thick fog and their skimpy clothing simply wasn’t enough. They made it down the mountain, but the challenge was off.
A member of my small congregation is now in his 9th decade. His zeal for God and for serving His purposes hasn’t diminished for more than 60 years. His body, however, is finally starting to slow down. This frustrates him, for he wants to be speaking to anyone and everyone about the love of Jesus. He wants to take part in evangelistic efforts, but he can rarely leave his house these days.
Ihave a friend who has wounds so deep that she resists the compassionate love of others. Caring people have reached out to my friend. They would give their lives for her (in fact, in many ways they’ve done precisely that). Yet she runs from their love. She fears being loved. The love offered to her is so strong, and her heart so weak, that it terrifies her. It seems safer just to stay in her cocoon.
As we pause and reflect on another 12 months gone by, we’re often quick to aim for greater balance in all areas during the new year. Author and pastor Andy Stanley suggests that we aim to find a rhythm in the changing seasons of life. Instead of trying to carve out equal amounts of time for each activity in order to attain and maintain a balanced lifestyle, there are seasons which require us to work longer or shorter hours, spend less or exercise more, cut out or add certain foods to our diet, and so on.
When I see the moon at its thinnest stage, I sometimes think of a passage I read in Flannery O’Connor’s A Prayer Journal. The writer composed these poetic words for God: “You are the slim crescent of a moon . . . and my self is the earth’s shadow that keeps me from seeing all the moon . . . I do not know you God, because I am in the way. Please help me to push myself aside.”