1 John 4:10: “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”

What is love? And the answer is: God is love.

It’s easy to forget who takes center stage, especially when that Someone is invisible to human eyes. We are so concerned with our visible surroundings that we sometimes forget God was here first. He was here when no one else was because God knows no beginning and no end.

So, His love naturally came first, and like a candle lights another candle, He lit up the universe with life and love. Some of the life forms He gave the power to procreate and with that life and love exponentially grew in leaps and bounds.

Then death entered into the equation. Death not only opposed growth of life and love, death’s intention was to swallow up life and love. Something had to be done and an epic battle begun.

Have you ever done a sneak peek when reading through a book? I’m guilty of that. I routinely read the end first and then settle back reading through the chapters of the book in chronological order. I get more out of the reading experience because now I can appreciate the narrative even more without being rushed along, anxious to find out what’s happening in the end. But for those of you who never check out the end of a book and don’t want to know the outcome of a recorded game, well – here’s a spoiler alert for you: we already know who won that epic battle I mentioned earlier. Remember death wants to take over? Well, the opposite ended up happening, and God’s future victory celebration is depicted in the book of Isaiah (Isaiah 25:6-7):

“On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare
    a feast of rich food for all peoples (…),
 On this mountain he will destroy
    the shroud that enfolds all peoples,
the sheet that covers all nations;
    he will swallow up death forever.”

Death didn’t eat life for breakfast; no! death got swallowed up by life and love. Knowing this, we can be at peace as we live through our story. As it is, death is like a mortally wounded warrior still kicking. Yet in spite of the ongoing killings, life and love continues to grow exponentially and will do so eternally. Death on the other hand was already put in its place, and there will be a time when death is no more. That’s wonderful news!

Especially when the tides seem against us and life’s ferocious waves want to drag us down: remember who won.

John 13:34-35: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

If your life story had a title, what would it be? – I’m not quite sure how to title mine yet, but I have an idea for Job’s life story. How about:

“Love under the Microscope”?

Job was put under the Microscope when Satan tested him – with God’s permission that is. God showed Satan and the world that there is such a thing as true love, a love that cannot be bought.  However, Satan didn’t think so. In a meeting with God Satan ridiculed Job and questioned his motives (Job 1:9-11):

“Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied. “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. But now stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.”

Apparently, the tempter does not believe in true love. In his lab work he stares at this phenomenon day in, day out, and he puts his test objects under tremendous stress hoping to see that in the end love fails.

Thankfully, love does not fail. Love always wins.

And on that note: we know how Job’s story ends. He held on to God for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, which is precisely what we say in our marriage vows – and so the story of love continues to this day proving Satan wrong time and again. – BTW Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!!!

We can say that the love between a man and a woman is a beautiful mystery. How about the love that God has for His creation? People were clearly stunned when they met Jesus. The apostle John remarks 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 mystified way back then when they ran into Jesus, and it looks like we’re still mystified today. How God loves is just a strange concept to the human mind – who would have thought of turning God into a human being? That’s where faith steps in. Embracing God, we embrace a mystery we don’t need to understand. We just go for it, 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!

Hosea 6:3: “Let us acknowledge the LORD; let us press on to acknowledge him. As surely as the sun rises, he will appear; he will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth.”

Acknowledging the Lord is seeing the big picture. We become aware of the inherent connection that all creation has with its Creator. Once we’re aware it’s hard not to notice. We’re free to ignore Him of course, however, that’s like pulling the power plug. And we know that without power there’s not much going on in our lives.

A few years back, a micro burst knocked down the power lines in our area, which left us sitting in the dark. In search of light, my husband and I got up and drove around the neighborhood. We finally came across a little restaurant a few blocks away that was lit like a Christmas tree – and there we stayed until the power was back on. In today’s interconnected world a permanent electrical outage would be unimaginable.

We probably appreciate electricity more when we don’t have it. However, besides having access to an electric grid, we also want to be plugged in on a social level – family, colleagues at work and friends matter. Take all of that out of the equation, and we’re subject to isolation. Remember Cast Away? Or maybe you’ve read the classic: Robinson Crusoe?

Embracing the Lord is like reconnecting. Electricity is on. We’re going back to our roots, the bedrock of our existence. We are reconnected to vibrant life, tireless love, the great I Am! This brings life to our bones, joy to our hearts, and hope for the future.

Realizing we are created naturally opens the door to our Creator – and that’s a big deal. It means we belong. It means we know where we are from and where we are headed. It means we matter, and we were created for a reason. It also means we are loved – because our Creator is quite attached to His creation, to say the least. He comes to us like the winter rains; He softens the soil of our hearts and gives us the opportunity to thrive.

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 13:4-5: “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged.”

It’s easy to see through the schemes of pretended love. We know what love is and isn’t. Love isn’t rude and does not demand its own way. If somebody claims to love us but never listens, that’s no love at all.

Love bears fruit. There are fruitless efforts, but there’s no such thing as fruitless love. I think that’s good news. We can rest assured that we’ve never loved in vain. We might not get the response that we had hoped for, but then what do we know? One of the finest things our loving acts produce is peace in our heart. We know we have done the right thing. If our love is ill-received, we can let go and move on. That’s why a loving heart is free and without the baggage of grudge. We don’t keep a to-do-list of revenge. We wish people well, whether they like us or not.

Our loving acts create a ripple effect that continues in perpetuity. We touch more people than we will ever know. Love makes this world a better place. Hold on to this thought when you’ve been wronged, somebody hurt you, or certain people are walking all over you. Love is patient, but love is no doormat. Whatever it is you have to do to move out of a situation of abuse, needs to be done. But then, when everything is said and done, let it go for your sanity’s sake. That will give your broken heart the capacity to heal and you can love again, unfettered and free. Love is patient and love is kind and doesn’t need to keep records of being wronged.

God is famous for His loving kindness. Under His wings we are safe and free – free to be ourselves and certainly free to 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.”

2 Thessalonians 1:3:[Encouragement during Persecution] “Dear brothers and sisters, we can’t help but thank God for you, because your faith is flourishing and your love for one another is growing.”

Whoever lives in the American Southwest knows that with the right amount of rain desert flowers sprout and spread everywhere in springtime. Brittlebush and California Gold Poppies turn the desert into gold. It’s quite the sight for sore eyes! But then Arizona spring turns into summer. The same procedure as every year: When the brutality of the raging desert heat happens, all springtime flowers shrivel up and die. A lot of plants will go dormant while the Gold Poppies leave their seeds behind, ready to sprout in the next season.

Flourishing faith bears some resemblance to resilient Gold Poppies: Dying heroes scatter their seeds of inspiration. How would our world look like today without the likes of Martin Luther King or Mother Teresa (Just to name a couple of modern-day faith heroes)?Although Mother Teresa has passed away, the Society of Missionaries she initiated has spread all over the world, including the former Soviet Union and Eastern European countries.  And although Martin Luther King was shot, his dream didn’t die with him.

Of course we don’t have to become famous to be a hero of faith. Even if you don’t feel like one, you are a hero if you have kept faith. Weathering the storms of life, we unwittingly turn into a sign of hope for someone else having a tough time. Holding on, you scatter seeds of inspiration to a person who is ready to give up. Often without knowing it, you have made a big difference!

God knows we need heroes from every walk of life. They turn things around just like wildflowers turn the desert into gold!