Monday, December 21, 2009

Advent, Week 4: CRAZY LOVE!

But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. (Romans 5:8, NLT)

Here we are celebrating the 4th week of Advent whose theme is traditionally Love. Let me share a little story with you that relates to this theme. A number of years ago, scandal hit our Christian community. A prominent member revealed he was having an affair. Despite having children of various ages and a supportive wife at home, he was deeply in love with this other woman and decided to divorce. To add further disappointment, the woman he was carrying on with was also a member of our faith community who ministered to children, and was a wife and mother herself.

What's your initial response to this story? Is it outrage? Disgust? Pity? What if the unfaithful came to their sense and wanted to return to their spouses? Would you take them back? Forgive them? Love them?

What would you say if I told you that we are those unfaithful spouses? You see our God has held nothing back and poured His life into a committed relationship with us. Yet, we are daily chasing after temptations that seem more attractive. The lures of financial success at all costs, selfish pleasures and disregard for those we feel are beneath us have a way of seeping into our behavior without us recognizing it. We yield to the ease of gossip, lying, holding grudges, losing our temper, and inflicting our opinions on others which all equal a straying from our One True Love. And when we allow ourselves to become consumed with worry, pride or control, we put another before the Person who should come first in our lives.

Now what's so remarkable isn't the fact that we're a bunch of self-centered, scum-puppies. What's truly remarkable is that while we were still "running around on" Him, God humbled Himself to the point of becoming a human being and being birthed in a most undesirable place. He launched a rescue mission, "laid across the train tracks" to get mutilated for our indiscretions. (After all, only a fool would allow there to be no consequences for our unfaithfulness. And God's no fool!) In taking our punishment and rising from the dead, He bought our ticket to an eternal, beautiful honeymoon with Him.

What kind of crazy love is this? It's certainly not anything that we as humans can produce! And when I spend time thinking about it, I'm blown away, left in awe.

You see, I often joke with those closest to me, especially my spouse and kids, that I'm well acquainted with my own flaws. If we're honest with ourselves, even if we would never admit it to another soul, we know that we all miss the mark. But let me encourage you by sharing another thing I confess -- The uglier I'm willing to admit I am, the more beautiful Jesus looks! It's only in my realization that I'm a hopeless, wandering sinner that I can begin to sense the magnitude of what He did for me. When that magnitude begins to awaken my dull mind, things like Christmas, Easter and every little part of the life of Christ on earth become so much more meaningful. He loves me -- He really loves me!

My Christmas wish for you couldn't be worded any better than this: "I pray that Christ will live in your hearts by faith and that your life will be strong in love and be built on love. And I pray that you and all God's holy people will have the power to understand the greatness of Christ's love—how wide and how long and how high and how deep that love is. Christ's love is greater than anyone can ever know, but I pray that you will be able to know that love. Then you can be filled with the fullness of God." (Ephesians 3:17-19, NCV) God bless you this Christmas and always!

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