Romans 8:38-39: “And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

There is power in separation. The builders of the atom bomb knew that as a fact when they succeeded in splitting atoms. And yet, there are things that no separating force can divide:

God’s attachment to His creation!

More powerful than the splitting of atoms, more powerful than all negative forces put together, is the power of God’s love.

In Jesus we see God’s love acted out. Jesus shows us in a million ways how God loves us. His follower John once wrote that our world is too small to carry the amount of books that had to be written to describe Jesus’s life on Earth. Yes, our world of misunderstandings, pettiness and warfare is much too small to conceive of a love that generous. The love of God is counter intuitive and counter cultural. It’s all invasive and all inclusive. It’s a love that stops nowhere and goes everywhere – even embraces mortal enemies. Jesus prayed for His torturers before He died and said (Luke 23:34):

“Father forgive them! They don’t know what they are doing.”

I rest my case.

Here is a spoiler alert for you: God’s love will stretch us if we open our hearts. Hearts get bigger and life gets better when we let Him in. Don’t even assume that God could lose interest in His creation! God won’t give up loving us, not in a million years. It’s something to remember in our worst hour. His love puts us back together and heals our brokenness. His love is both soothing and infectious. Inspired by His generous affections, we go out and do the same. We spread His love. And it all starts with receiving His.

“All you need is love,
Love is all you need”               
Paul McCartney, John Lennon

1 John 3:11: [ More on Love and Hatred ] “For this is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another.”

Cain and Abel – the brotherhood that didn’t work out!

Cain was the firstborn of the family, and Eve was fascinated with him. Anyone with a first child can probably relate. She looked at Cain, counted all his fingers and toes, noticed every little finger had a proper fingernail, looked at his face and detected family resemblance. Proudly she turned to Adam and exclaimed (Genesis 4:1):

“With the help of the Lord I have brought forth a man!”

Eve gave birth to more children, but Cain remained the special someone, the first kid she ever had. Firstborn status in the Middle East was bound to give preferential status to the eldest son.

Adam and Eve taught their kids from an early age to express their thankfulness to God by bringing choice gifts. As Cain grew up, he became a farmer. When it was time to offer his gift, he brought a selection of his produce. Meanwhile his brother Abel had learned to take care of his father’s flocks and herds. He brought one of the most promising looking specimens of his flock.

It is unclear how God’s favor materialized, but at the end of the day Abel’s gift stood out, while Cain’s gift was not well received at all – and Cain was not smiling! His frustration was written all over his face, and the relationship to his brother quickly soured. God addressed the issue at hand with Cain (Genesis 4:6-7):

“Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”

Cain obviously had his mind already made up because he refused to listen. Soon after, he killed his brother in cold blood.

This is the incident John was referring to in his letter. He wrote (1 John 3:12):

Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother’s were righteous.

Comparing Cain with Abel is a puzzling affair since none of the brothers neglected to offer gifts to the Almighty. What makes Cain’s gift so undesirable? In order to answer this question we have to dig a little deeper – past appearances!

Reality check is asking ourselves why we do what we do. Doing the right thing has everything to do with right intentions. We all know how wrong motives can be harmful. Certainly no good comes out of hatred. Love on the other hand puts everything into the right perspective. And love must have been the overriding factor that initiated Abel’s gift, while Cain’s gift was probably motivated by something less worthy.

There are all kinds of wrong reasons to give gifts, however, God is only interested in gifts given for the right reasons. So in all we do or don’t do today, let’s remember: love is king!

Proverbs 30:19: “The way of an eagle in the sky, the way of a snake on a rock, the way of a ship on the high seas, and the way of a man with a young woman.”

Love is a beautiful mystery. We cannot predict the way of an eagle in the sky and neither can we predict a love story. Most commonly the love expressed between a man and a woman comes to mind when we hear the word “love story”. However, love has many faces. There’s love between species when we witness the devotion between an animal species and a human being. When a pet dies it feels like a member of the family has passed away. If that ain’t love, then what else is?

The overarching love story, however, is God’s love for His creation. That’s the glue that holds the universe together. God’s love is very unusual, to say the least. When the Son of God entered the scene, people were attracted to Him. From the get-go, Jesus struck them as unusual, and they could not put a finger on it. The apostle John remarked in one of his letters (1 John 1:1):

“We saw him (Jesus) with our own eyes and touched him with our own hands. He is the Word of life.”

People were clearly stunned when they ran into Jesus way back then, and we’re still mystified today. How God loves is a strange concept to the human mind. – Who would have come up with the idea of God born into a human family? Embracing God, we embrace a mystery. The good news is, we don’t need to understand God to love Him. All we need to do is open our hearts, receive His love and enjoy the ride!

Let the love of God sweep you up, embrace you, heal you, carry you, and reform you – one day at a time – and the world around you will get a taste of the same Jesus who walked this earth 2000 years ago, by seeing Him alive and well inside of you!

1 Corinthians 13:6-7: “Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

“Ben, you’re always running here and there
You feel you’re not wanted anywhere
If you ever look behind and don’t like what you find
There’s something you should know, you’ve got a place to go”
 
(Song lyrics by Don Black / Walter Scharf )

A love song about a rodent pretty much says it all. Love sees things differently! If you’re a pet owner you would agree. Pets become way more than four-legged furry balls. Most likely the pet’s lifespan is shorter than ours, and inevitably the day comes when we have to let our pet friend go. I am writing this, and I still have tears in my eyes as I think of our cat that passed away less than a year ago. My mother decided never to have a pet again after she had lost her pet. And some people won’t.

Ultimately, whenever we open our hearts and let somebody in, we run the risk of our hearts being broken. Still, look around. I see risk takers everywhere! We like to say: “better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.”

When God decided to put humans on the map of the history of the universe, I believe He deliberately chose to accept the pain that came with it. If we had an interview with God and asked Him: “Why in the world did you create humans? That really backfired, didn’t it?” – He probably wouldn’t agree that inventing humanity was just one great big mistake of His. If that’s how He felt about us, I don’t think we would still be here. But here we are – still kicking! We’re here because we’re loved. I’m not sure that God would say it this way, but apparently, we’re worth the pain.

Whenever we see love acted out, we know that’s God’s heartbeat, right there. His love never gives up, and neither do we. There are a million reasons to become a cynic and give up on love, yet we soon discover that life without love is no life at all. Despite what you and I have been through, as long as we choose life we choose to love again.

Love perseveres. Love never gives up. That’s the beauty of love!

1 Corinthians 13:1-3: “If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.”

One day Paul mailed an important letter to Corinth. It is one of the letters that are recorded in the New Testament.

As a Roman colony in 44 BC, Corinth flourished and became the administrative capital of the Roman province of Achaea. Still today Corinth is a major road hub and back then I imagine was a cultural melting pot with an influx of visitors from all over the world. Paul’s friends lived in an exciting city and they met a lot of interesting people. Apparently, in their daily interactions they couldn’t help but become impressed with certain people’s resumes. So they started inviting them over and listened to what they had to say. Some of their advice came to Paul’s attention and it did not sit well with him.

So Paul sat down and wrote a letter, basically a 101 on how to check out people. In a laundry list of human accomplishments Paul featured some remarkable stuff, brilliant people who are multi linguist, perform major breakthrough in scientific research, move mountains – only to top it off with sacrificing their lives for a good cause. Wonder Woman or Superman if there ever was one! And yet, Paul didn’t think so. He basically says that great deeds rely on great motivation. As an example, we know that sacrificing one’s own life can be the utmost expression of altruism – or it can be marred by cold fanaticism. Terrorist suicidal missions are a glaring example.

Heart of the issue then is the presence or absence of love in all we do or don’t do.

To live a life of love, we need to be connected to the Originator of the universe. Original love comes from God. Love is real because God is real; love is authentic because God is authentic; and love is the greatest because God is the greatest!

1 Corinthians 13:13: “Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.”

Matthew 5:43-45: “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike.”

“Love your enemies” gives our opponents a human face. The enemy turns from an animal into another human being, someone like me, a person I could relate to.  

Who is your enemy? Have you identified one lately?

In times of war it seems easy to pinpoint the enemy. War crimes are committed. People die. The brutality of killing people during war has coined the term “post-traumatic stress disorder”. It became a buzzword in the 1970s in large part due to the diagnoses of U.S. military veterans of the Vietnam War. Essentially, even in war times when we have the license to kill to defend our country, at the end of the day we’re still killing people. Our human makeup is not as tough as it seems. Killing people catches up with us eventually. It’s deeply disturbing to the human psyche, which explains why people get sick over it.

It’s easy to see that we’re thriving in times of peace. If a profession was assigned to the human race, would it be professional killer? Hopefully not. If anything, we’re professional lovers not killers. After all, God is love, so His children naturally reflect love in their ways of dealing with other people. We’re here to procreate, spread out, discover the universe and build something new. To kill not only brings death to the people we killed, it also kills our spirit, it messes with our psyche and kills us physically further down the line. What goes around comes around.

In the end, it is much more inspiring to be generous. God gives sunlight to both evil and good. Whoever is our enemy, he or she is a person. We don’t know the entire picture of our enemy. Instead of hating this person, we need to give it a rest. It’s detrimental to our own health to even just wish destruction on anybody. Essentially, ill wishes will hunt us down and come true in our own life. We’re made to bless not to curse.

So, instead of making matters worse, let’s focus all our energies to solve problems, building bridges where we find an opportunity, and reconciling whenever we can.

As we embrace today, let us love in all forms, shapes and sizes!

Proverbs 21:21: “Whoever pursues righteousness and unfailing love will find life, righteousness, and honor.”

Love can be thorny. Love can hurt. It is very human to look for love in all the wrong places. It is also very human to look for God in all the wrong places. Just as fake friends are a sore disappointment, so are fake gods. Can we live happily ever after with a fake Diamond? Probably not. If we have been through any amounts of heartbreaking break ups we know how disillusionment feels like. Should we now close down like an oyster and never trust a soul again? Wouldn’t that be like slicing all remaining tires of our car after having a flat tire? (A relative of mine posted this analogy on Social Media. Pretty funny, isn’t it?)

True love originates from the Godhead – Three in One. One could say that the Trinity possesses the patent for love. God has the good stuff. Love tried and true. True love.

Here is an open secret: God loves to be found. He’ll put heaven and hell to work to make that happen. Yes – even hell can be helpful at times. Have you ever noticed that light shines ever more brilliant in the dark? Light is more noticeable in shady places. Finding God during life’s darkest hour is not so unusual, after all. Of course that does not mean that God uses pain to manipulate us. It simply means that pain can sharpen our senses and help us distinguish between counterfeit and original.

We all want to know what’s real. We don’t want to live a lie. In pursuit of the real deal we will stop dead in our tracks when we have that “aha moment”, when we realize there is a God who cares.

We know when we’ve struck gold. We know when we’ve found unfailing love.