That Glorious Generosity

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“Praise be to God for giving us through Christ every possible spiritual benefit as citizens of Heaven! For consider what he has done—before the foundation of the world he chose us to become, in Christ, his holy and blameless children living within his constant care. He planned, in his purpose of love, that we should be adopted as his own children through Jesus Christ—that we might learn to praise that glorious generosity of his which has made us welcome in the everlasting love he bears towards the Son.”

 – Ephesians 1:5, PHILLIPS paraphrase –

Pneumonia has a way of simplifying life.

At least, that’s what it just did for me.

Like any illness, it got in the way. I couldn’t keep my appointments and I wasn’t a very productive citizen the past 2 weeks.

But when I thought about God during my illness, something unexpected happened.

Since I didn’t feel like doing much, I decided against long devotional times or heavy theological ponderings.

So I just thought about Jesus.

These weren’t long thoughts, or especially original.

But when I didn’t feel like doing anything, it was comforting to remember Who loves me.

Thinking about the love, grace, and kindness of my Savior brought worship into my heart, even though I didn’t feel especially devout while lying on a recliner with a fever and cough.

A friend on Instagram recently took a photo of her morning’s reading in Ephesians, so I opened up to Ephesians 1 a few nights ago. The powerful, affectionate language instantly lifted up my soul in amazement.

I was reading verse 5 in my thick NASB Bible:

“He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will…”

The kind intention of His will.

Wow!

Do you ever forget that God is kind?

I do. In my determination to remember His holiness and His justice, His perfect mix of anger and love, I forget HE IS KIND.

And He has been gracious enough to direct this kind intention toward you and toward me.

Another version of Ephesians 1:5 (The Living Bible) says it this way:

“His unchanging plan has always been to adopt us into his own family by sending Jesus Christ to die for us. And he did this because he wanted to!”

This one makes me smile.

He saved us because He wanted to. He wanted us, just because.

Just because it would show off His amazing love.

The New Living Translation (verses 4-6) says:

“Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son.”

This is what He wanted to do, and it gave Him great pleasure.

Does that excite you? I am amazed that He could find pleasure in me. I know that, on my own, I am nothing. But just think! Being Jesus’ purchased possession makes me pleasure to the Lord!

Next time you are down–whether you are feeling discouraged or whether pneumonia has you bedridden–remember Jesus.

Remember that He is a God of many beautiful, thunderous, earth-quaking qualities–and He is also full of kindness.

He chose us. He decided, long ago, that we would be the ones He loves for all time. What love is this? What glorious generosity!

“That is what He wanted to do, and it gave Him great pleasure.”

And it brings Him pleasure still.

“God doesn’t owe us anything–yet in His grace, He still gives us good things.”

 – Billy Graham –

More Wonderful

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Have you ever seen something so wonderful that you wonder how anything else could be better?


I think most people watched the bride when she glided down the aisle.

I couldn’t tell, because I was waiting for the groom’s reaction.

When the doors opened, he just looked.

Then, very slowly, reverently, his face melted into pure, overwhelmed wonder. All he could do was shake his head in awe.

I burst into tears, right then and there.

There were plenty of lovely things about that wedding, but the way the groom shook his head–the pride and joy he had in his bride–stand out to me as the highlight of the wedding.

When I think of him, I think of Jesus.

I think about how He calls the church His Bride. There is no shadow of unworthiness on the Church for which Christ died. When He welcomes us into the wedding feast, He will not be looking down his nose at “that second-rate bride.” No! He gave Himself to purify us. He bled to clothe us in that brilliant white. So He most certainly will not count us less worthy for having to do all the work Himself. That is the very basis of our worthiness. 

If this young earthly groom was so overjoyed at his wedding, how much greater joy and love our Groom will express to us! If a young man’s wonder-filled face brought me to immediate tears, what will the triumphant, loving face of Jesus do to me?

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.”

– Ephesians 5:25-27, NKJV –

A glorious Church!

We don’t understand this love. How can we? We don’t expect any self-respecting groom to go pull his bride out of a gutter, wash her off, and bring her to the altar already loving her. But what has Jesus done? Loved us when we despised Him, pursued us when we ran, sanctified and cleansed us with His words when all the words we’d been saying to our own selves had not done a thing. And He was happy to do it. He doesn’t regret it. He doesn’t look back and wish He’d have found a better Bride. We are the Bride that was gloriously chosen. He is glad.

I believe that one day I’ll see a look on Jesus’ face that will far outdo that earthly groom’s expression.

But until then, I don’t think my imagination can improve on that wedding day moment.


 

“Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.” And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.

Then he said to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!’” And he said to me, “These are the true sayings of God.”

Revelation 19:7-9, NKJV

November Fog

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Yesterday morning, I sat in church and looked out into the fog surrounding the little white clapboard building. The mist was grey-white and dense as wool. I thought of what I’ve been learning about reaching out to people in need, and I realized that often we let a fog settle over our vision. We don’t want to see the need. It’s too much. It’s overwhelming. So we hide it in mist and, as long as we don’t know, maybe we won’t have to think about it.

But when God works in our hearts–watch out. If you reach out just once, if you feel the joy of touching a life that God puts in your path, beware! It is addicting, revealing, humbling, and awe-inspiring. It is heart-breaking and incredible. 

I am convinced that our Father made us to touch one another and be His tools in patching up broken souls. Yesterday, the November fog reminded me of that, birthing this poem.


November fog,

Like the fog I allow to fall in my eyes, shades the colors of the world,

Hides the Browned and Bitter fallen, shrouds the bare branches cold-robbed of clothes.

I cannot see.

November fog,

The mist of suspended belief, hiding in earth-clouds the season’s Truth.

And I plunge into it unseeing, happily ignorant of a world groaning, growing old.

I will not see.

But did you ever see

A November fog melt in autumnal glare?

Yellow-gold spear tear the curtain from

Sky to soil, and Glory lay the earth bare?

Did you ever, finally, see?

Watch leaves blaze with joy, tremble hope, blush agony, drop grief?

And were you ever brought to knees

By beauty and pain untouched, unloved?

A Painter sparkled the blushing, beaming trees,

And spangled hearts with life.

And every fall He sings the woods to sleep,

Tucking them tight into mossy nests and snow-satin sheets.

And He took on a heart to feel Himself the pain of hearts,

Found, bought, loved this very heart of mine,

But still I lose my way in November fog,

Forgetting to see the hearts, the trees.

November fog clears–my sight with it–

And how can I regret the revealing Light?

The blaze lights the way, reveals deep places I never imagined,

Intensities of colors, colors of shade, shades of hearts.

Autumn sun and I both finally wake to the stark-laid need of the vivid world,

The way the summer is curling up into rest,

The way hearts are curling up into self,

Waiting for the fog to part and some warm light to finally see them and love them.

Yes.

Now, I think I see the colors of the leaves.


“We know and, to some extent realise, the love of God for us because Christ expressed it in laying down his life for us. We must in turn express our love by laying down our lives for those who are our brothers. But as for the well-to-do man who sees his brothers in want but shuts his eyes—and his heart—how could anyone believe that the love of God lives in him? My children, let us not love merely in theory or in words—let us love in sincerity and in practice!”

 – 1 John 3:16-18, Phillips paraphrase –