Liberating acceptance

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I believe we must know
that we are unconditionally
loved and accepted by God
before we can deal with
the issue of our sins.

–James Bryan Smith

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Advance laughing

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Dare to
advance  
in the love
which has
redeemed [you]…
and to laugh at
the preposterous
idea of
“worthiness.”

–Thomas Merton

The first lesson

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No man loves God
except the man
who has first learned
that God loves him.

–Alexander MacLaren
(1826 – 1910)

Living in God’s love

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Live much in
the smiles of God.
Bask in His beams.
Feel His all-seeng eye
settled on you in love
and repose in His
almighty arms.

–Robert M. M’Cheyne

Soak in God’s love

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The great work of our lives
is to rest in the great work of God.
The great work of our lives is to learn to soak
in the love of God, which was finished for you
on a cross . . . 2,000 years ago and which
pours out with new supply
every morning.

–Justin Buzzard

Learning from the Master

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Somehow Jesus had mastered
the ability of loving people
whose behavior he disapproved.
That’s a lesson the church
has not been so good
at learning.

–Philip Yancey

No strings attached

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The notion of God’s love coming to us free of charge, no strings attached, seems to go against every instinct of humanity. The Buddhist eight-fold path, the Hindu doctrine of karma, the Jewish covenant, and Muslim code of law — each of these offers a way to earn approval. Only Christianity dares to make God’s love unconditional.

–Philip Yancey
What’s so Amazing about Grace?

We need to hear His voice

IMG_2587The farther I run away from the place where God dwells the less I am able to hear the voice that calls me the Beloved, and the less I hear that voice, the more entangled I become in manipulative power games of the world.

–Henri Nouwen
The Return of the Prodigal

Published in: on 05/17/2015 at 9:12  Leave a Comment  
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The prophet and the prostitute

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Gomer was always good company — a little heavy with the lipstick maybe, a little less than choosy about men and booze, a little loud, but great at a party and always good for a laugh. Then the prophet Hosea came along wearing a sandwich board that read “The End Is at Hand” on one side and “Watch Out” on the other.

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The first time he asked her to marry him, she thought he was kidding. The second time she knew he was serious, but thought he was crazy. The third time she said yes. He wasn’t exactly a swinger, but he had a kind face, and he was generous, and he wasn’t all that crazier than everybody else. Besides, any fool could see he loved her. Give or take a little, she even loved him back for a while, and they had three children, whom Hosea named with queer names like Not-pitied-for-God-will-no-longer-pity-Israel-now-that-it’s-gone-to-the-dogs so that every time the roll was called at school, Hosea would be scoring a prophetic bull’s-eye in absentia. But everybody could see the marriage wasn’t going to last, and it didn’t.

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While Hosea was off hitting the sawdust trail, Gomer took to hitting as many night spots as she could squeeze into a night, and any resemblance between her next batch of children and Hosea was purely coincidental. It almost killed him, of course. Every time he raised a hand to her, he burst into tears. Every time she raised one to him, he was the one who ended up apologizing.

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He tried locking her out of the house a few times when she wasn’t in by five in the morning, but he always opened the door when she finally showed up and helped get her to bed if she couldn’t see straight enough to get there herself. Then one day she didn’t show up at all.

Hosea & Gomer 3He swore that this time he was through with her for keeps, but of course he wasn’t. When he finally found her, she was lying passed out in a highly specialized establishment located above an adult bookstore, and he had to pay the management plenty to let her out of her contract. She’d lost her front teeth and picked up some scars you had to see to believe, but Hosea had her back again and that seemed to be all that mattered.

He changed his sandwich board to read “God Is Love” on one side and “There’s No End to It” on the other, and when he stood on the street corner belting out…

How can I give you up, O Ephraim! How can I hand you over, O Israel! For I am God and no mortal, The Holy One in your midst. (Hosea 11:8-9)

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Nobody can say how many converts he made, but one thing that’s for sure is that, including Gomer’s, there was seldom a dry eye in the house. (Hosea 1-3; 11)

–Frederick Buechner

His Eternal Thought

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Our sonship rests on a love that never began as well as a love that will never end. In eternity before the beginning of time and obviously before the beginning of us, God chose to make us His children. The gospel was not God’s afterthought or even His forethought; it was His eternal thought.

–Michael P. V. Barrett
Complete in Him

The laughter of the Trinity

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The story . . . begins not with God alone, the Author at his desk, but God in relationship, intimacy beyond our wildest imagination, heroic intimacy.

The Trinity is at the center of the universe;
perfect relationship is the heart of all reality.

Think of your best moments of love or friendship or creative partnership, the best times with family or friends around the dinner table, your richest conversations, the acts of simple kindness that sometimes seem like the only things that make life worth living. Like the shimmer of sunlight on a lake, these are reflections of the love that flows among the Trinity.

We long for intimacy because we are made
in the image of perfect intimacy.

. . . Real love creates a generous openness. Have you ever been so caught up in something that you just had to share it? When you are walking alone in the woods, something takes your breath away—a sunset, a waterfall, the simple song of a bird—and you think, If only my beloved were here. The best things in life were meant to be shared […] Overflowing with the generosity that comes from the abundance of real love, [God] creates us to share in the joy of this heroic intimacy. One early mystic says were were created out of the laughter of the Trinity.

–John Eldredge
The Sacred Romance

Unstoppable love

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Through the cross,
God showed that
even killing God
cannot put God off
from relating to
and loving us.
He rose again to tell us.

–John Goldingay

The keystone of the spirit

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The love of God
is to the human spirit
what the keystone 
is to the arch;
ruin is the consequence
when it falls from
its place.

–Thomas Erskine

Strong Assurance

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The great basis
of Christian assurance
is not how much
our hearts are set on God,
but how unshakably
his heart is set on us.

–Tim Keller

Love empowers change

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Most of us were taught that God would love us if and when we change. In fact, God loves you so that you can change. What empowers change, what makes you desirous of change is the experience of love. It is that inherent experience of love that becomes the engine of change.

―Richard Rohr

Published in: on 01/27/2015 at 13:01  Leave a Comment  
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It doesn’t fluctuate

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The mistake
we so often make
is thinking that
God’s interest
and care for us
waxes and wanes
according to
our spiritual
temperature.

–Eugene Peterson ‏

Love that always was

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“I have loved you with an everlasting love…”
(Jeremiah 31:3)

The best proof
that He will never
cease to love us
lies in that
He never began.

― Geerhardus Vos
(1862–1949)

Image: Scott Masterton

God’s obstinate love

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Love loves unto purity. Love has ever in view the absolute loveliness of that which it beholds . . . it spends itself to make more lovely, that it may love more . . .

Therefore all that is not beautiful in the beloved, all that comes between and is not of love’s kind, must be destroyed.

And our God is a consuming fire.

―George MacDonald
Unspoken Sermons

photo via www.flickr.com

Published in: on 11/16/2014 at 15:08  Leave a Comment  
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Other orientation

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Christianity asserts that God is triune — that is, three persons within one God. From John 17 we learn that from all eternity, each person—Father, Son and Holy Spirit—has glorified, honoured, and loved the other two. So there is an ‘other-orientation’ within the very being of God. When Jesus went to the cross, he was simply acting in character. As C. S. Lewis wrote, when Jesus sacrificed himself for us, he did “in the wild weather of his outlying provinces” that which from all eternity “he had done at home in glory and gladness.”

–Tim Keller

Our true home

cuadros-paisajes“Lord, You have been
our dwelling place
in all generations.”
(Psalm 90:1)

Even the best home is only a pale reflection of the perfect home: the shared life and love of Father, Son, and Spirit. The story of salvation can be understood in this way: God, our true home – the source and goal of all our longings – makes his home among us (John 1:1,14) in order to make his home in us (John 14:23; cf. Eph. 3:17) and to make us a fit dwelling place of God (Eph. 2:22). God wants us to abide in him and welcome his abiding in us. God wants us to share his life and love. In short, God wants us to find our home, not just with him but in him.

–Richard J. Vincent
Home: Life in God

Artwork: Stephen J. Darbishire

Sanctification

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In “Beauty and the Beast,” it is only when the Beast discovers that Beauty really loves him in all his ugliness that he himself becomes beautiful.

In the experience of Saint Paul,
it is only when we discover
that God really loves us
in all our unloveliness
that we ourselves start
to become godlike.

Paul’s word for this gradual transformation of a sow’s ear into a silk purse is sanctification, and he sees it as the second stage in the process of salvation.

Being sanctified is a long and painful stage because with part of themselves sinners prefer their sin, just as with part of himself the Beast prefers his glistening snout and curved tusks. Many drop out with the job hardly more than begun, and among those who stay with it there are few if any who don’t drag their feet most of the way.

But little by little—less by taking pains than by taking it easy— the forgiven person starts to become a forgiving person, the healed person to become a healing person, the loved person to become a loving person. God does most of it. The end of the process, Paul says, is eternal life.

  –Frederick Buechner
Beyond Words

Artwork: Scott Gustafson

Unstinting affection

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We must understand that God does not “love” us without liking us – through gritted teeth – as “Christian” love is sometimes thought to do. Rather, out of the eternal freshness of his perpetually self-renewed being, the heavenly Father cherishes the earth and each human being upon it.

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The fondness, the endearment, the unstintingly affectionate regard of God toward all his creatures is the natural outflow of what he is to the core – which we vainly try to capture with our tired but indispensable old word “love”.

–Dallas Willard
The Divine Conspiracy

Published in: on 10/07/2014 at 5:54  Leave a Comment  
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It is a promise

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The final secret, I think, is this: that the words “You shall love the Lord your God” become in the end less a command than a promise. And the promise is that, yes, on the weary feet of faith and the fragile wings of hope, we will come to love him at last as from the first he has loved us–loved us even in the wilderness, especially in the wilderness, because he has been in the wilderness with us. He has been in the wilderness for us. He has been acquainted with our grief.

–Frederick Buechner
A Room Called Remember

Calling forth joy

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To know that God is your Father and that he loves you, his adopted child, no less than he loves his only begotten Son and to know that enjoyment of God’s love and glory for all eternity are pledged to you brings inward delight that is sometimes over-whelming; and this also is the Spirit’s doing. For the “joy in the Holy Spirit,” in terms of which Paul defines the kingdom of God in Romans 14:17, is the “rejoicing in God” spoken of in Romans 5:2,11, and it is the Spirit’s witness to God’s love for us that calls forth this joy.

-James I. Packer
Keep in Step with the Spirit

Loving enemies

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It took me a long time
to understand that God
is not the enemy
of my enemies.
God is not even
the enemy of
God’s enemies.

-Martin Niemoeller
(1892 – 1984)

Solid assurance

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The great basis
of Christian assurance
is not how much
our hearts are set on God,
but how unshakeably
his heart is set on us.

—Tim Keller

Published in: on 07/10/2014 at 11:32  Leave a Comment  
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Precious and valued

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There is such a love, a love that creates value in what is loved. There is a love that turns rag dolls into priceless treasures. There is a love that fastens itself onto ragged little creatures, for reasons that no one could ever quite figure out, and makes them precious and valued beyond calculation. This is love beyond reason. This is the love of God.

–John Ortberg
Love Beyond Reason

Published in: on 07/03/2014 at 20:19  Leave a Comment  
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Generous omnipotence

rembrandt-the-return-of-the-prodigal-son-the-hermitage-st-petersburg-prodig26-1In the Hermitage Museum in Leningrad is one of the finest collections of art masterpieces in the world. Most impressive of all are the Rembrandts that have been brought together in that one museum. Rembrandt’s last painting, found in his apartment at the time of his death in 1669, is there. Still unfinished, but totally compelling and powerful, this is his interpretation of the Parable of the Prodigal Son, entitled Return of the Prodigal. Rembrandt has shown the father with his hands upon the shoulders of his son who has come home. The face and hands of the father totally command the attention of all who experience this profound theological interpretation of Jesus’ parable. The hands are not the clutching hands of oppression, but the generous hands of salvation and freedom.

hands 2They are able to reach down to this son and to reach out to the severe, elder son as well. They are kingly hands—but rugged, suffering hands, too. This is a painting of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and I thought when I saw it in the vast Leningrad museum that it is a dangerous painting to have in any country because it calls into question all of our values and the oppressive handholds we place upon people around us. The painting tells a dangerous story of the God of omnipotence who is Lord of all and who proves his omnipotence, not by terror but by his love.

–Earl F. Palmer
Laughter in Heaven

Opening our hearts

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Prayer is opening our hearts to the One who is the source of all love. Prayer is like lying in a field of falling snow. Silent. In wonder. Waiting until you hear the One who is closer than your own breathing whisper what your heart has always known to be true: that you are loved.

–Mike Yaconelli

Published in: on 06/29/2014 at 17:17  Leave a Comment  
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The Divine Romance

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“And as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride,
so shall your God rejoice over you.”
(Isaiah 62:5)

Every time God chooses an image for himself, he is saying something about us. Do you know what the bride looks like to the bridegroom as she walks down the aisle? She wears the most beautiful garments and jewels, and when he lays his eyes on her, he is absolutely delighted in her. And he wants to give her the world. How dare Jesus Christ use a metaphor like this, evoking this powerful human experience? Could it be that he loves his own like that? That he delights in you like that? Yes, he does. How different would your life be if you lived in moment-by-moment existential awareness of that?

–Timothy Keller
The Wedding Party

Image: James Nesbit

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