Unfailing Love

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Your love, LORD, reaches to the heavens,
   your faithfulness to the skies.
 Your righteousness is like the highest mountains,
   your justice like the great deep.
Psalm 36:5

 

The unique and beautiful term David used in this Psalm to express God’s love was the Hebrew word  Hesed.  This is a very rich word; rich with depth and meaning and truth. Hesed  is considered one of the most important terms in Old Testament theology and ethics. It has three basic meanings which all interact together: strength, steadfastness, and love.

The word Hesed cannot be fully understood unless all three of the meanings are incorporated. Generally the word “love” carries a bit of light hearted, fluffy affection, but when we put love together with steadfastness and strength we understand the enduring nature of God’s Hesed – type of love, even toward those who seem weak or undeserving.

Hesed implies loyalty, mercy and generosity. It also infers personal involvement and commitment beyond what the law requires. For example, a husband and wife are legally bound to each other, yet their relationship transcends the legal document and represents a bond and commitment to each other. The prophet Hosea spoke of the Hesed between God and His people, “I will betroth you to me forever; I will betroth you in righteousness and justice, in love and compassion. I will betroth you in faithfulness, and you will acknowledge the LORD,” Hosea 2:19-20.

Not only does God demonstrate this enduring love and kindness, He wants us to know and  understand His hesed love for us. Consider the words God spoke through the prophet Jeremiah saying:

This is what the LORD says:

“Let not the wise boast of their wisdom
or the strong boast of their strength
or the rich boast of their riches,
but let the one who boasts boast about this:
that they have the understanding to know me,
that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness (hesed),
justice and righteousness on earth,
for in these I delight,”
declares the LORD.

Jeremiah 9:23,24

This Holiday season, my prayer for you is that you will experience the comfort and joy of His Unfailing Love for you.

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This blog is an excerpt from Unfailing Love. To learn more about this book and the $5 special this month click here.

 

Photo at the beginning of this blog is by Chris Meads on Unsplash

 

Love Came Down at Christmas   

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Untouchable – that’s how we could describe many of the  lives of the  rich, famous and powerful people in our culture today, whether we are talking about notable athletes, popular Hollywood celebrities or important politicians. With prominence comes isolation from the public, and a guarded distance from “normal people” – and understandably so. But that is not how God is toward us. He deliberately allowed Himself to be approachable, knowable and touchable.

Christmas reminds us that God is relatable. He didn’t choose to enter the world with pomp, popularity or great riches. He came as a humble baby, born in a stable and placed in a manger. He who was from the beginning, came to this earth as a touchable human being. The beloved disciple, John, so eloquently described the relatability of Jesus in the opening lines of his first epistle.

 

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us.

 I John 1:1-2

 

Oh the beauty of the Christmas story! Jesus chose to be seen, heard and touched. I love how John described Jesus as the Word of Life. Think about the power of our words. They reveal our thoughts and let people know what is going on inside of our hearts. Our words communicate the very essence of who we are. In a similar way, Jesus revealed who God is. Jesus communicated God to the world. Just as God used words to speak all of creation into existence, Jesus (the Word) brought salvation into existence. Jesus is the Word of Life. He was there at the creation of life and through Him we have eternal life.

This week, I want to encourage you to reflect on I John 1:1-2. Think about the love God communicated to the world through His Son Jesus (the Word of Life). Perhaps you are familiar with the words of the old hymn first published in 1885 (written by Christina G Rossetti.

 

 

Love came down at Christmas,
Love all lovely, Love divine;
Love was born at Christmas,
Star and angels gave the sign.

Worship we the Godhead,
Love incarnate, Love divine;
Worship we our Jesus:
But wherewith for sacred sign?

Love shall be our token,
Love be yours and love be mine,
Love to God and all men,
Love for plea and gift and sign.

 

For the next few weeks, I want to continue to focus on the theme, “Love Came Down at Christmas.” How joyful to fill our hearts and minds with the love of God and to allow His love to flow through us during the Holiday season and throughout the year!

 

A portion of this article is an except from my book, Unfailing Love.

 

Photo by Roberto Nickson (@g) on Unsplash

A Life Well Lived

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This past Saturday we celebrated my sister’s home-going after her valiant battle with colon cancer. She was a true warrior and a godly woman. One of the many amazing things about Karen is that she never felt sorry for herself or bemoaned the fact that she had cancer. She simply trusted God’s plan and did her best to live each day with joy, thankfulness and adventure. I’d like to pay tribute to her by sharing a few positive principles we can all learn from her life.

  • Glorify God in everything you do.
  • Live each day to the fullest.
  • Stop feeling sorry for yourself.
  • Look for the good in every situation.
  • Focus on faith, not fear.
  • Keep hope alive in your heart.
  • No news before the Good News (Read God’s word before you read anything else each day).
  • Be generous with your time and talents.
  • Never waste time complaining.
  • Trust God’s plan and provision.
  • Savor gourmet popsicles.
  • Be diligent and intentional in Scripture memory.
  • Invest your time in the next generation.
  • Be consistent, dependable and disciplined.
  • Greet everyone joyfully.

Thank you for your love, care and prayers. We have all felt the blessing of your support and encouragement as well as the comfort of God’s love during this time.

For those who weren’t able to make it on Saturday, here’s what was printed in the program for the service.

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Karen Kinder Smith was ushered into the arms of her Savior on the morning of October 25, 2018. While here on earth, she lived every day to the fullest continually bringing joy to others. Born in Bloomington, Illinois on June 20, 1959 to Garry and Barbara Kinder, she and her sister Karol lived their early years in Illinois and Ohio. After moving to Dallas, Karen became involved at First Baptist Church Dallas, where she sang in the chapel choir. She graduated from Richardson High School and went on to Baylor University where she was a member of Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority and achieved a degree in accounting.

Upon graduation from Baylor she worked for Fox Accounting and later for Kinder Brothers International. She married David Smith of Wichita Falls on December 30, 1989, and they have three beautiful daughters, Lauren, Emily and Andrea. The Smiths have lived in Allen, Texas for over 25 years and have been actively involved at First Baptist Allen. Karen joyfully served in her church through MOPS, VBS and Sunday morning Bible studies. She also served on the board of Engage Positive Parenting Initiative.

The hallmark of Karen’s life is faithfulness. She was faithful as a daughter, a sister, a wife and a mother.  She was faithful in her service at church and in her work at Kinder Brothers. Most importantly, she was faithful to the Lord and was a beautiful example of Christ’s love in action.

Karen joins her mother Barbara Kinder in Heaven and is survived by her husband David Smith and three daughters: Lauren Smith, Emily Smith and Andrea Smith Larimore along with Garry and Janet Kinder, Karol and Curt Ladd and many other loving family members.

How to Wait Well

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No one enjoys waiting. Whether its at a doctors office, a check-out line or a drive thru, we typically want to get done and move on to the next item on our agenda. Sometimes in life we have to wait on bigger and more life-changing situations such as a diagnosis or a job interview or even a future spouse.  If you find yourself in the seat of waiting, here are a few thoughts to help you live with patience and victory.

Turn your Focus.  It’s easy to get frustrated and impatient when all you think about is How long is this going to take?!  Yet, if you turn your thoughts in a different direction then time can seem to slip by unnoticed. How do you turn your thoughts in a new direction? Certainly there are short term fixes (checking emails or reading a magazine), but if the wait is lengthy, consider exploring a new passion or interest.  You can research places to volunteer or classes to take to move in a positive direction while waiting.

Be Creative. Waiting doesn’t have to be boring. Replace the dullness of waiting with the joy and fun of fresh ideas. If you are in the line at the drive-thru, sing happy songs with your kids. If you are waiting in the check out line at Walmart, play I Spy. If you are waiting for that perfect job to open up, consider taking on a new hobby or sport that makes you smile. Tap into your creative resources and fill your waiting with laughter, rather than complaining.

Think about Others. No matter what you are waiting for, you are not alone. There are other customers, clients and patients that have similar situations. Why not pray for them? Perhaps you can start a conversation or reach out to help someone in need or kindly let someone go ahead of you. When you get your eyes off your own circumstances, you free yourself to see the needs and hurts around you. Thinking of the needs of others develops an inner peace and joy in your own heart.

Ask for God’s help. One of the fruits of God’s Spirit is patience. The Bible reminds us that, “The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.” Look to Him, and ask for His help when it comes to waiting. He can give you strength to endure as well as creative ideas on what to do while you wait. Draw close to Him during your time of waiting and you will discover enduring hope in the process.

These are simply a few principles to help us wait well. May we continually apply these thoughts to both short term delays as well as long term anticipation. Let’s also consider how we can respond well to the impatient people around us. Remember the words of the apostle Paul,  “Love is patient, love is kind.”

When You Feel Alone

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In our world of constant connection to all things electronic, it may seem peculiar that many people feel isolated and alone. A recent study by health insurer Cigna revealed that nearly half of all Americans feel lonely, and 54% responded that they feel like no one actually knows them well.

Loneliness is different than being alone, as we all need some healthy “alone time” now and then. A sense of loneliness is more of a deep aching that people experience when they feel disconnected, disengaged or detached from others.

Most people experience loneliness at times, but few talk about it or address how to push through it. Let’s consider a few principles that can help us move from a mood of isolation to a place of connection once again.

Mind Games. When a person feels alone, there are often thoughts that tend to be replayed in their mind. Thoughts like:

  • No one understands me.
  • No one cares about me
  • No one sees life the same way I do.

While each of us are unique individuals and have  different life experiences, there is actually nothing new under the sun. Don’t buy into the lie that no one understands or cares or that no one has ever experienced similar circumstances. It is time to weed out the old messages you are telling yourself and start planting new ones like:

  • There are other people who understand.
  • There are people in my community who care.
  • There are people who have gone through similar situations.

Change your thought patterns and slowly bring hope into the structure of your daily thinking.

Simple Action Points. When we feel lonely, it is easy to accept the invitation to our own pity-party, but that’s one party invitation we need to decline. We must choose to slowly and surely step forward and get out of our funk. Here are some practical ways to do just that:

  • Volunteer at a place you feel passionate about
  • Join an organization, club or support group
  • Go to church and join a small group or Bible study
  • Reach out to people you know who need encouragement or help from you
  • Pay attention to lonely people at work or in your community – be their friend

Take an honest look at yourself. There is always room for self-improvement, and we can make positive changes in our lives. Here are some questions you may want to ask yourself.

  • Am I always negative?
  • Do I complain too much?
  • Am I bitter?
  • Do I discourage others rather than lift them up?
  • Do I need to forgive someone and open back up the door of friendship?
  • Am I typically thinking or talking about myself?
  • Do I sincerely care and love others or am I just concerned about what people think about me?

As you answer these questions honestly about yourself, you may realize you need a turning point to go in a new direction. Start by being grateful (counting your blessings every day) and focusing on the needs of others. Guard against complaining and grumbling, and speak only kind words about others.

Less Online, More Real Time. Online connections can’t take the place of real human connection. We need eye contact and touch. We need to hear the intonation and sound of people’s voices to understand and feel understood. Online connections loose many of the non-verbal cues essential to relationships. Sometimes in our own families, surrounded by people, we can feel lonely because we are engrossed in our electronic devices. Be deliberate about putting down the electronics, so that you can truly communicate with the people around you. Meal times especially should be “No Phone Zones.”

Proactively Deepen Connections. There are simple actions we can take to strengthen and deepen our relationships. Never underestimate the power of eye contact. Pay attention to the people you are talking to and actively listen by asking questions to learn more about their thoughts and feelings, hopes and dreams. Stop looking away from each other and start looking toward each other.

Remember you are not alone. Possibly one of the most comforting statements ever uttered is “God is with you.” He is a constant source of comfort and strength to our tired and weary souls. He loves you and will never leave you. He created us for connection. We can ask Him to guide us and show us how to be a good friend to others. He can open our eyes to the people we should reach out to and give us the grace and love to connect in a deeper way.

 

Photo by Rod Long on Unsplash