The Cost Of Love

One day in the spring of 2001, Ken Waters awakened in his own bed for the first time in 19 years. Nineteen years ago Ken Waters was sentenced to life in prison after being convicted in a Massachusetts courtroom of first-degree murder. Devastated, his sister, Bette Anne Waters, was convinced of her brother’s innocence and refused to accept the outcome of the trial. A single mother of three, Bette went to law school for the express purpose of overturning her brother’s conviction.

After studying recent convictions overturned by DNA evidence, Bette scoured the courthouse to see if any DNA evidence was available from her brother’s trial. She knew it was a longshot because most DNA evidence is destroyed after 10 years. ?Her heart was pounding as she awaited the response from the courthouse clerk. Within minutes she was informed that the DNA evidence was still intact.

There was only one more question. Would the DNA evidence exonerate her brother? The testing that followed clearly showed this was not Ken Waters’ DNA. Waters was a free man.

It was an emotional scene as Ken’s mother and sister, Bette Anne, wept and embraced him. Though costly, Bette’s devotion help free her brother. It was worth every bit of sacrifice. ? David Slagle, Lawrenceville Georgia; source: “The Today Show” (3/15/01)

What sacrifice! What commitment, what effort to free her brother and bring him home. Law school and the expense of law school, all the classes and years of studying, bar exams. Then scouring the courthouse to see if any DNA evidence was still available. The trial, waiting, the expense. All to bring her brother home.

This is nothing compared to the cost to God and Jesus Christ to bring us home:

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit? 1 Peter 3:18

What a cost God paid to bring us home. He gave up his one and only Son. He watched him live 33 years and be subject to Satan’s fiercest onslaughts of temptation. He watched Roman soldiers scourged Jesus, spit on him and pounded a gruesome crown of twisted thorns onto his head. He watched his Son stumble beneath the weight of the?cross as he dragged it through the streets of Jerusalem. He watched the Roman soldiers stretch out Jesus’ hands and drive spikes through them. He watched his beloved Son hang on the cross for six hours and as he heaped his wrath upon him to pay for our sins. He listened as Jesus cried out in thirst and anguish of soul.

What a cost Jesus paid! Taking on human nature, suffering hunger and thirst, enduring the mocking and hatred of his creatures. Abandoned by his friends and brutalized by Roman soldiers and ?forsaken by his Father.

Ken Waters’ sister did all she did because she was convinced she was innocent. God did all he did for us knowing the depth of our filth and guilt.

Surely Ken Waters would never doubt his sisters love for him. How could he after all she had gone through to free him? ?How can we doubt our Father’s love for us when we consider all he went through to purchase our forgiveness? What he gave up ? the most precious thing in the universe – Jesus. Infinitely more precious than the whole universe, and heaven itself. And how can we doubt when we look at what Jesus did in love for us ? all he gave up, all he endured. ?All because he loved us. ?Let us never doubt God’s love for us. ?He demonstrated that love while we were still sinners. ?Helpless, hopeless sinners, who hated him.

O Lord God, we are eternally grateful for your love that came to seek and save the lost.

Jesus Isn’t Your Boyfriend, But He Loves You All The Same

Valentines Day. That holiday when all you single men and women are reminded that you have no one “special” in their lives. That you’re all alone. That no one really seems to care about you. Everyone else seems to be living a Kay Jewelry commercial, while you’re living in an Ancestry.com commercial (not sure why I picked that company). You can feel miserable, worthless, unloved. Like a loser. If you’re really feeling low, maybe you’ll throw a party for yourself and watch reruns of Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman.

If that’s how you feel today, this post is for you. I want to remind you that your identity is not in your relationship status, your identity is in Christ. You may not have that special someone in your life, but you have Jesus Christ himself dwelling in you! You are united to Christ, joined inseparably to him. You are really, spiritually connected to Jesus, and because of that you can actually have joy on Valentines Day.

Ephesians 1:3-6 says:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.

Today you may not have a “special someone” or feel valuable. ?But the truth is, you are in Christ, and because you are in Christ, you are valuable to God! Our culture says that you’re only valuable if you are in a relationship with him. Not true! God chose you before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him. Because of his unfathomable love, God chose you to be adopted. He has given you every spirtual blessing in Christ. The love of a fellow human, as wonderful as it is, is fickle, finite, and unstable. But God’s love for you is rock steady, unshakable, and rooted in eternity.

If V-Day makes you miserable, let me encourage you to find your identity in Christ. That is the only place you can find a truly, steady, unshakeable love. Jesus isn’t your boyfriend, but you are still loved. Deeply, deeply loved.

+photo by rsandberg

Ablaze With Christ’s Love For All

For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:8

What an incredible affection Paul had for the saints.

Paul didn’t simply tolerate them. He yearned for them. Had affection for them. He was ablaze with Christ’s love for ALL? not just for some but for all.

He loved young and old, weak and strong, the faint hearted, the slow to change. ?Those who were hard to love. Those who weren’t like him. Those who struggled with unbelief. Those who needed lots of encouragement. Those who were lazy. Paul yearned for them all. Paul had affection for them all.

Paul’s burning love for the Philippians was not his own. It was “the affection of Christ Jesus.”

It was Christ’s own love for his blood-bought saints that Jesus had poured into the heart of Paul. Paul didn’t say I yearn for you all with affection LIKE Christ Jesus. He wasn’t trying to copy Christ’s affection. It WAS Christ’s affection. It was supernatural. It came from outside Paul. It came from Jesus himself.

This burning love is available to every believer. ?It wasn’t just for Paul. ?This verse is in the Bible to inspire and provoke us to ask Jesus for his own affection for the saints. ?I believe Jesus is waiting to drench us with this love. So let’s ask him, “Jesus, please give me your own affection for the saints. ?Give me your burning love for every one.” ?

Jesus The Loan Shark

No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends…so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. (John 15:15-16)

The tone of my prayers is often a good indicator of what I’m believing about Jesus. Unfortunately, there are times when my prayers to Jesus make it sound like I’m praying to a loan shark.

I come to Jesus as he stands on a dark street corner. The flickering light of a street lamp casts a shadow on his face and an unfiltered cigarette dangles limply from mouth. “Whatcha need?” he says, in a strong Brooklyn accent. He glances at his watch, as if he’s in a hurry.

“Jesus, I’m in serious need of patience. My little girl Ella must have ingested some insanity pills or something, because she’s driving me crazy. Oh, and we’re trying to potty train her too, which ain’t working out so well right now. Can you help me out? Can you give me some patience?”

“Yeah, I got what you’s need, but I ain’t so sure I want to give it to you. What are you’s gonna do for me? Huh? I don’t run a charity here.”

“I don’t know, I’ll pray more, read more, listen to more worship music…something, anything. Just please give me what I need!”

“Yeah, we’ll see. Maybe I’ll help you, maybe I won’t. You know that if I do help you, it’s gonna cost ya. Big time.”

Now of course, my prayers to Jesus don’t really sound like this. But at times I do approach Jesus with the subtle belief that he is reluctant to help me. That I have to strong arm him into giving me what I need. That he stands before me with his arms crossed.

But that’s not what Jesus is like at all. In John 15 Jesus says that he calls us friends. Stop and let that word wash over you. Friends. Not acquaintances, not co-workers, but friends.

My father-in-law Matt is my friend. When I ask Matt for help, he jumps to lend a hand. He is incredibly generous, lending me tools, time, and his expertise as an electrician (me and electricity don’t get along real well). I never have to beg or twist his arm because generosity flows out of him. He is a reflection of Christ.

Jesus calls me his friend, and his generosity is explosive. He invites me to ask anything in his name so that the Father can give it to me. He’s not stingy. He’s not a loan shark. Jesus delights to give and he wants us to ask in faith, believing that he wants to give.

Do you pray to Jesus like a friend or like a loan shark? He has mountains of blessings that he wants to pour out on you, but you need to ask in faith. Jesus calls you friend. Bring your needs and requests to your friend.

The 2 Most Amazing Words In The English Language

(From my prayer journal 12.28.11)

“And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (GA 2.20)

The two most amazing words I know – “for me”
Jesus, you did not simply give yourself,
You gave yourself for me
Came for me
Became human for me
Were tempted for me
And obeyed God for me
You were beaten for me
Scourged for me
Crowned with thorns for me
Nailed to the cross for me
Endured God’s infinite wrath for me
Gave up your life for me
Rose from the dead for me
Ascended to the right hand of God for me
And now you intercede for me
And wait for me
And exercise your rule and power for me.
How can I not love and adore you
And do all I can for you and for your glory?
How can I not overflow with thanks
For all you’ve done
For me?

(Ultimately, Jesus’ highest reason for coming for us was his Father’s glory and his own glory, but it’s astounding that we were the objects of his love and sacrifice).

What amazing words would you add?

A Taste Of Heaven Yesterday

A lady in our church sent this email to our pastoral team last night. ?It filled my heart with joy.

?Wanted to just share something that encouraged me today after the service. ?I saw many many small groups of people praying for each other. ?I don’t think I’ve ever seen it as clear as I did today. There were groups all throughout the church building?in the sanctuary, and in the lobby.? Sometimes it was two people praying and in other groups there were more. ?I was filled with joy because I could just see the love of Christ being poured into peoples’ lives. ?It was almost like everywhere I turned I was aware of prayer going on and the Lord being glorified. ?What a testimony of the Lord’s work in our midst.?

All glory to God for his wonderful work in our church. ?All praise to him for this taste of heaven. ?May the love of Christ abound more and more in all our churches!

Jesus Loves Me, This I Know…

My son David and his wife Sarah just had their first child 2 days ago.

All the love of which they are humanly capable is focused on that beautiful little girl. ?They are devoting all their thoughts, affections, strength and energy to caring for her. ?They would do anything for her. ?As she lies cradled in her father?s arms, swaddled in her blanket, wearing her little stocking cap, she?s completely unaware of the intense love he and her mother have for her.

It?s a faint picture of the love of Christ for those he redeemed.

“…And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Ga 2.20).

What a sweet thing to be able to say – ?who loved me and gave himself for me.?

It?s easy for me believe that Jesus loves others. ?But it?s astounding to think he loves me. He doesn?t simply look upon his people as a massive faceless crowd, but he loves each and every one of us for whom he shed his blood. ?He loved and gave himself for ?me.? ?And he continues to love ?me.”

The One who created, named and sustains each individual star in the heavens won?t forget you (Isaiah 40:26-27). ?The One who loved you and gave himself for you personally when you were a rebel, continues to love you personally as one of his children.

Jesus is the great Shepherd who left the 99 to bring home the one lost sheep.
When he walked the earth he cared for individuals – the woman at the well, the paralytic by the pool, Nicodemus, Zacchaeus, Mary Magdalene, the woman caught in adultery. ?He touched and healed individuals. ?He didn?t wave his hand over the crowds and heal en masse, but touched a leper, took a little girl by the hand, took individual children in his arms and blessed them.

Jesus? ears are open to your cry. ?He hears every one of your sighs. ?He loved you and gave himself for you. ?How will he not sustain you and care for you?

Throughout the day today, say, ?Jesus, thank you that you loved me and gave yourself for me. Thank you that your steadfast love for me never ceases.?

photo: my granddaughter’s footprints

And The Bride Wore Cowboy Boots

Saturday I participated in an amazing wedding.

I knew it was going to be different when the bridesmaids and bride came in wearing cowboy boots. ?But I knew the wedding would be wonderful long before Saturday, because the couple is an amazing couple.

I?ve known the groom, Ian Murphy, since he was born. ?Our families lived next door to each other, and as kids, Ian and my son David were best friends (when they didn’t bug the heck out of each other).

In 2006, Ian suffered a serious head injury in a car accident. Doctors said he wouldn?t live, but God said he would, and Ian has persevered through years of treatment and therapy and made slow but steady progress to this day. His best friend, Larissa, also persevered, staying by his side from the day of the accident until now.? (Check out their amazing blog).

They chose August 28 for their wedding because it was Ian?s father Steve?s birthday.? Steve went to be with the Lord last fall after an 8-week battle with cancer.? Steve always supported them, encouraging them toward marriage, exhorting them that whatever decision they made, to make it in faith, trusting God to be faithful.

So on Saturday, Ian rose from his chair, with the help of best man David, and his brother Ben, to gaze upon his bride as her father walked her through the meadow and up the aisle in her cowboy boots to begin their new life together.

Ian and Larissa asked me to include this John Piper quote in my message:

Marriage is not mainly about prospering economically; it is mainly about displaying the covenant-keeping love between Christ and his church. Knowing Christ is more important than making a living. Treasuring Christ is more important than bearing children. Being united to Christ by faith is a greater source of material success than perfect sex and double-income prosperity.

So it is with marriage. It is a momentary gift. It may last a lifetime, or it may be snatched away on the honeymoon. Either way, it is short. It may have many bright days, or it may be covered with clouds. If we make secondary things primary, we will be embittered at the sorrows we must face. But if we set our face to make of marriage mainly what God designed it to be, no sorrows and no calamities can stand in our way. Every one of them will be, not an obstacle to success, but a way to succeed. The beauty of the covenant-keeping love between Christ and his church shines brightest when nothing but Christ can sustain it.

Ian and Larissa have displayed Christ’s unconditional, covenant-keeping love to a watching world for the last 4 years, remaining devoted to one another through suffering that I can?t relate to.

What a joy it was for me to lead the couple in the vows they wrote. ?There weren?t many dry eyes in the house – I mean field – as they pledged love and faithfulness to each other.

And what a celebration took place afterward. ?From the father-daughter swing dance to the glowing hot air balloons that soared into the purple night sky, to Ian and Larissa surrounded on the dance floor with friends singing along with ?Play that Funky Music White Boy? it was a night I?ll never forget.

photo by Lydia Jane Photography

Affection For God’s Motley Crew

fish

When I was in college, I looked down on pretty much everyone who wasn’t like me.

As an art major, I disdained business majors, because they were so uncreative all they could do was crunch numbers (I sure love them now though, especially when it comes to me getting a paycheck).? I looked askance at all other majors actually.? I even looked down on other art majors.? I was a painting major, so I sneered at pottery majors, who weren’t creative enough to paint, so they made pots out of mud in the basement of the art building.? Sculpture majors were a rung up the ladder, like a caterpillar might be above a garden slug.? Yep, I was disgustingly arrogant.

Then Jesus rescued me.

Jesus puts unlikely characters together.? He joins us to people we’d never choose for friends.? I’m sure lots of those in our church wouldn’t have chosen to live their life with the likes of me, as likable as I fancy myself to be.? But Jesus gives believers his own affection for each other.

For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus (PHP 1.8).

In the church artists love businessmen.? Athletes love computer geeks.? Geeks love hunters.? Hunters love musicians.

This kind of tender care for others is supernatural.? It’s not the natural affection of friends or lovers but the very affection of Jesus Christ for his blood-bought people.

Let’s pray for this kind of love for our brothers and sisters.? Before you go to the Sunday meeting or care group, ask Jesus to give you his own affection for the saints.? Before you meet with that brother who offended you, ask Jesus to fill your heart with tender concern for him.? Before you get together with that sister who can’t seem to overcome her sin remember you’re about to meet with someone Jesus yearns for.

Ask Jesus to give you his own deep affection for that motley crew known as your church.

photo by tgrt

The Soft Spot In Jesus’ Heart

father-daughter

I used to think that God mostly tolerated me.

He saved me, and therefore had obligated himself to love me, but man, was I hard to love.? I was sure that much of the time Jesus had to be mildly irritated or disappointed with me.? Like I was the only kid remaining when the team captains were picking players and he’d gotten stuck with me.? “Ok, Altrogge, I guess you’re on my team.”

Do you think the Lord views you this way?? If you’re a believer, then nothing could be further from the truth.

For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus (PHP 1.8).

Did you catch the last 5 words of that verse – “the affection of Christ Jesus”?? The Creator and Lord of the Universe, our Savior, feels a deep and tender affection for those he ransomed.

He doesn’t merely tolerate you; he yearns for you – with intense care and concern.? He feels the warm devotion a parent feels for a child.? He doesn’t love you because has to, but enjoys you and delights in you because he sees his own image in you.? He loves you because he chose to, not because of anything lovable in you.

But not only does Jesus love you, he likes you.? He’s got a soft spot in his heart for you.? Like the soft spot I have for my granddaughter.? Our church is full of cute little toddlers, but when my eyes alight on Charis, I can’t help but swell with a special affection I feel for her alone.

If you’ve trusted in Jesus, you’re one of his sheep that he called by name.? He’s engraved you on his heart.? He’s called you his friend.? And he’s longing for the day he’ll show you his glory in heaven.

Photo by disneymike