Hey there! Come on in, grab a seat and let’s talk about love! Cue the eye roll from some in the circle, but I am going to pretend not to see those and keep talking. It’s February and we have to talk about it, right? Don’t worry and don’t log off, I promise not to get too sappy at least in this post, but this subject is as old as God. That’s right! I said it’s as old as God and before you offer me up as a heretic, let me clarify…God is eternal. He has no beginning and no end and He is the definition of Love. Therefore, we are free to talk about this subject minus all the cheesy marketing campaigns, in the light and scope of God’s own heart.
From my earliest memories, I attended church and the first song I learned to sing was, you guessed it, Jesus Loves Me. Furthermore, I have very vivid memories of hearing and seeing His love in action through the dedication of some amazing people. My parents were consistent representatives of the love of God, and my Grandmothers were faithful examples of women who knew His love and in turn, loved others (including me). However, one set of events in my life have become engraved on my heart and mind as the most profound impact on my understanding of the love of Jesus. During those early elementary years at church, I was blessed to have a Sunday School teacher named Mrs. Sue Neely. Week after week, Mrs. Neely would sit in the small chairs and cut out paper hearts, as well as other figures from the Bible story she had told us that day. As she taught and encouraged us to take a Scripture marker from her well-worn Bible, she constantly told us with such deep affection, “Jesus Loves You!” She knew us by name, she no doubt thought about us in her prayers and the Lord used her to stir within my heart a desire to love Jesus back! But how?
Do you remember a distinct person or event that impacted your spiritual life? I would enjoy hearing about who or what influenced you. Maybe it was a song, an ordinary routine or a conference, but whatever or whomever God used to draw you to Himself was glorious. I encourage you to share that story, that memory with others and even be willing to reach out to anyone who the Lord used and let them know their impact on your life.
That also begs the question…are we being used by God in the life of someone else? Are we taking time to tell others about the love of Jesus? Are we being intentional about sharing His love with others inside and outside our homes? If not, then let’s be willing to start now!
After hearing how much Jesus loved me, I knew that I had to agree with Jesus about my sin, I also needed to accept His forgiveness for my sins and that He had called me to follow Him. I publicly declared my response to His love in August of 1978. I surrendered all I knew about myself at that time and began an epic journey with Jesus that day. I have spent the last 40 years longing to love Him back! I can tell you that at no time did the love of Jesus waiver toward me and I can declare to you that at least a billion moments over this same period of time, I have failed to love Him in return. For years, I thought there was a mysterious list of “good things” to do and if done correctly, then Jesus would love me and know that I loved Him too. And yet, as time went on, and I increasingly messed up or even did the “bad things”, I became doubtful about Jesus’ love and even more skeptical of my love for Him. By God’s grace, I finally realized that His love is as strong and as eternal as He is!
Have you struggled to believe God’s love for you when you were aware of your unlovable behavior or attitude toward Him? Have you wondered how to really love a God that is eternal and unseen? I believe that these are the same questions and struggles that every generation and everyone who has ever encountered the truth of Jesus has had as well.
The Bible emphasizes the reality of God’s continuous and powerful love for us over and over. Out of hundreds of verses here are a few examples of what God says about the way He loves:
“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, His mercies never come to an end.” Lamentations 3:22
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness or danger, or sword?…For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers nor things present nor things to come nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:35-39
“ but God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8
“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13
The Bible even gives us a way that we can love God back. John 14:15 states “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” The way we love Jesus back is to obey His law, but what are these laws? Last week, I pushed the envelope and maybe your comfort level when I spoke of not just being made new but allowing God to make us whole. I did that because the first and greatest command that God ever gave us was to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and strength”. Okay, stop! I want you to read that last sentence again slowly. Did you see it? The command of God on our lives is to love Him with everything we have, wholly! He requires that because that’s the only way He loves us – fully, wholly, completely and perfectly loved are we, His Beloved. The first step to loving Him wholly is understanding how completely He has loved us. The way we begin to understand this love is through the lens of faith and the reading, studying, hearing and meditating upon His Word, the Bible. It’s a love book! The greatest romances of all time are found on the pages of His sacred Word and as we come to face to face with the reality of His love, our response will have to be, none other than, wholehearted love right back. Don’t ever forget that we aren’t loving a religion or a denomination or traditions we’ve grown up with. Oh no, my sister, we are growing in our love for the Person of Jesus Christ. Love is another relational word and it’s the powerful force that flows from God to us and we have the joy of returning it back to Him.
You may not have grown up in church or with a devoted teacher like Mrs. Neely, but I want to sing over you today and remind you that,
Jesus Loves You, this I know.
For the Bible tells me so,
Little ones to Him belong,
They are weak but He is strong.
Yes! Jesus loves you,
Yes! Jesus loves you,
Yes! Jesus loves you,
For the Bible tells me so!
Another profound way that I grew in my understanding of and my response to God’s love for me was journaling. If you have ever studied the Word with me, you are giggling right now, because I am an unashamed advocate of journaling. Please hear me, no two journals are alike. Don’t be scared off because you have this idea that you must write a beautiful, 3 page, hand-lettered, sonnet to the Lord each day. No, let me set you free! Just write a simple prayer that starts out…. “Dear Jesus” and begin pouring out your heart to Him. Then, as you read the Word, hear a song or see a friend who says something that relates to something you were already talking to Jesus about, you will have material to go back and write to Jesus the next time. It’s more about developing an ongoing conversation with Jesus than anything else.
He adores you. Can I say it again? The Lord of lords and the King of kings loves you. Not some cheap box of chocolates or a dozen roses that have a faint smell or not even a sparkling jewelry kind of way! Oh no, He loves so much better than that! The sun in the sky, the stars at night, the birds in the trees, the wind that blows your hair, the buds of spring, the silent winter snow, the belly laugh you utter with a great friend, a good cup of coffee, a verse that speaks to your heart at just the right time, and a million other moment by moment displays are a fraction of the deep and whole and mighty tenacious love of Jesus for you!
I am asking Him to open your heart and your hands to receive this truth……
He Loves you!