The Greatest Love

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

John 3:16

There’s a love story that bears repeating because it’s a love story on an epic scale. It spans time from the moment of creation and continues into a future unknown to mankind but known to his Creator. And it’s summarized simply in this one familiar verse.

For God so loved the world…

Life everlasting, and that just because you believe. Set free from slavery to sin and able to not only choose righteousness, but to desire to be righteous. It sounds almost too good to be true. Almost.

But there’s more to the story. There’s belief and there’s belief. I believe in Elvis, but that belief hasn’t changed the way I live my life, the way I think, nor what I do.

However, I believe in breastfeeding, and that made a dramatic impact on every aspect of what I did, how I thought – even on what I wore – for a year after each of my 3 children were born.

I believe in God. I believe He sent His one and only Son, Jesus Christ, Yeshua Messiah, who walked in the dust of this earth as a Man. I believe He lived the sinless life and willingly gave up that life as the exclusively complete atoning sacrifice for the sins of mankind.

I believe He suffered greatly before He died; emotionally, socially, physically, and even spiritually. I believe He rose again and is now seated at the right hand of God where He makes intercession for all who have chosen to die to themselves and live for Him.

Because He suffered the unimaginable anguish of Roman torture, betrayal, and loss, I believe He is the only God who has an experiential knowledge of what it means to be a man.

And that belief has dramatically changed how I walk, talk, think, what I watch, what I buy, how I view others – everything. It’s changed everything.

That belief continues to change everything in me by a process known as sanctification. I believe this will continue until this body of mine exhales its last breath and I go to be with my Lord and King in the place He has prepared for me.

But it’s not just a love story for me. It’s for you, too.

Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

2 Corinthians 5:20-21

You see, I don’t want anyone to die without coming to know and love my God. If you could catch but a glimpse of His splendor, taste but a morsel of His love, feel just the tiniest press of the weight of His glory! I promise you that you will never be the same.

It’s hard, sometimes, in this world of looking out for number one to realize that we don’t need a god who serves us. He’s not a waiter or a butler here to cater to our slightest whim. He’s God – Uncreated, Unchanging, Holy, and Almighty.

But even so, even though the best among us has rebelled against Him, He offers us the Word: His love story to us. In the Bible, He spells out the rebellion of mankind after creation, the continual cycle of repentance and falling away, the unbelief, the disobedience, the pain we as a species have inflicted upon our Father who gave us life.

In that Book, He also begins right after mankind’s Fall to tell a tale of His future plan of redemption and salvation. The whole Book is filled with that tale, ultimately finding fulfillment in Yeshua Messiah – my Lord Jesus Christ.

He is the Word made flesh; the Love Story Incarnate. He is the Love Story of God, and it’s in the written Word that you can discover the character and nature of God the Father and the Word Who was with Him and Who mysteriously also was Him in the beginning.

My Yeshua. My Messiah. My King. The One I love to obey and am sorrowful when I fail to keep His commands.

He lived as an example. He died to redeem. He lives to intercede, and some day He will come back to claim His own.

Friend, I hope you will join the great cloud of witnesses on that great Day and that we can celebrate together in His presence forever.

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

John 3:17-18

An Unconventional Love Story

This piece was originally written for a friend who posted it in installments on her facebook page as a part of a month-long challenge to “Step It Up” in relationships. Today, in part because I am swamped by life after a week-long migraine experience (more on that later) and in part because I just wanted to share, here’s the story of how my husband and I met: 

My husband and I did not fall in love and get married; we married and then began to love.

It’s true.  There’s a long, ugly story about why we met, but suffice to say that when we met, I was nothing more than emotional wreckage floating about in trackless seas of sleep deprivation.  I was also not yet a follower of Jesus Christ and was a young woman with no solid ground beneath her feet, friendless and new to the city I was in.

When did I know that he was the one? On the day the pregnancy test showed unmistakably positive and the consequence of my careless and causal attitude about sex came crashing in on me – that’s when I knew.

Among the scariest moments of my life were the five or so minutes between seeing the positive test result and informing C. that he had fathered a child. Having only known him for four short weeks, I did not know how he would respond and I fully expected the words, “I’m pregnant,” to be among the last I spoke to him.

By the grace of a God I did not yet acknowledge, this man also felt an incredible weight of responsibility to the life we had begun, and so our beginning was not remarkable for romance. Even the reasons behind the act that lead to pregnancy were not romantic but merely thoughtless and rash.  Yet there we were, two people inextricably bound by our duty to a human being we had yet to meet.

Neither of us felt able to walk away and charge the bill of our choices to the account of this tiny, yet-to-be-named person. Although we did not legally marry until our son was a toddler, from that time on, we were married in all other senses. We made a commitment and it was sealed in the flesh of an embryo carrying a portion of each of our DNA in his swiftly growing body.

As for love, at first love was very much an action verb – something we did, not something we felt. I’m not only talking about the physical expression of love (which the fact of pregnancy made obvious), but about our daily behaviors. During this time, love was merely a choice; something we acted on not because of but rather despite our feelings.

Through a process of dying to our dreams and taking up the mantle of responsibility and necessity, God got both of our attention. One by one, we both repented of our sin and trusted in Christ for salvation, and salvation gave meaning and reason to our action-verb love.

Through tiring years of learning to be a family and of three almost back-to-back babies, we learned some important lessons about choosing to love. We learned to love intentionally no matter how we felt and to make time for each other no matter what. We learned to listen when the other talked, to bring our worries or our hurt to the table in a way that was respectful and did not set off an argument. We learned how to speak gently and in a way that was not inflammatory or accusing. We built a life on the practical elements of love.

Over fifteen years have passed since the night I held that pregnancy test and watched as the consequences of my irresponsible lifestyle were summed up in two distinct blue lines. We have three wonderful kids ages 12 to 15. Blessedly, both of our emotions have healed and caught up with our actions and I can say that I am now truly in love with my husband.

Would I trade all the practicality and drudgery of the last 15 years for a wild, romantic adventure? Not a chance.

You see, we are in this thing for the long haul, and those early lessons in actively loving despite a lack of the emotional equivalent laid a foundation for true love that is as beautiful as it is practical.

There is no magic formula for genuine love, just as there is no magic pill for physical fitness. Both love and fitness involve hard work and sacrifice. True and lasting love also requires a healthy portion of putting the other person’s needs above your own, just as Philippians 2:3 commands.

Just like perseverance in working out, perseverance in love can be challenging. You will not always feel like hitting the gym, just as you will not always feel “in love” with your spouse. However, the rewards of sticking it out and seeing it through in both cases are well worth every ounce of hardship and sacrifice.  For my part, by the grace of God, I look forward to growing old with the man who is my husband and my very best friend.

For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you.
(Psalms 86:5)