Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Love Story: A love story set in a war

We live in a great love story, set in the midst of a war.
- John Eldridge, Waking the Dead

It was a snow day here.  Schools cancelled.  So Wednesday Bible study didn't meet.  I was disappointed!

But Monday I was working on our story for this week, and I started thinking, hey, we could use a little break.  It would be good to review the stories we've learned so far and soak in the truth that they are telling us.  Apparently God thought so, too, so we got our break this week, courtesy of Snow.

So let's review the Love Story we've been learning, starting with the lens that Paul gives us in his letter to the Ephesians.

Ephesus was the home of the temple of Artemis, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.  Like Nashville is Music City, Ephesus was Artemis City.  Every tradesman in town was making their livelihood by making Artemis trinkets.  Artemis keychains, Artemis t-shirts, little silver Artemis statues.  So when believers in Ephesus gave up the goddess Artemis, they worried who would secure their identity and their destiny?  Paul wrote these words to assure them:

      How blessed is God! And what a blessing he is! He’s the Father of our Master, Jesus Christ, and takes us to the high places of blessing in him. Long before he laid down earth’s foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love. Long, long ago he decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ. (What pleasure he took in planning this!) He wanted us to enter into the celebration of his lavish gift-giving by the hand of his beloved Son.

                    Because of the sacrifice of the Messiah, his blood poured out on the altar of the Cross, we’re a free people—free of penalties and punishments chalked up by all our misdeeds. And not just barely free, either. Abundantly free! He thought of everything, provided for everything we could possibly need,letting us in on the plans he took such delight in making. He set it all out before us in Christ, a long-range plan in which everything would be brought together and summed up in him, everything in deepest heaven, everything on planet earth. 

                      It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone.

               It’s in Christ that you, once you heard the truth and believed it (this Message of your salvation), found yourselves home free—signed, sealed, and delivered by the Holy Spirit. This signet from God is the first installment on what’s coming, a reminder that we’ll get everything God has planned for us, a praising and glorious life.

           That’s why, when I heard of the solid trust you have in the Master Jesus and your outpouring of love to all the followers of Jesus, I couldn’t stop thanking God for you—every time I prayed, I’d think of you and give thanks. But I do more than thank. I ask—ask the God of our Master, Jesus Christ, the God of glory—to make you intelligent and discerning in knowing him personally, your eyes focused and clear, so that you can see exactly what it is he is calling you to do, grasp the immensity of this glorious way of life he has for his followers, oh, the utter extravagance of his work in us who trust him—endless energy, boundless strength!

                All this energy issues from Christ: God raised him from death and set him on a throne in deep heaven, in charge of running the universe, everything from galaxies to governments, no name and no power exempt from his rule. And not just for the time being, but forever. He is in charge of it all, has the final word on everything. At the center of all this, Christ rules the church. The church, you see, is not peripheral to the world; the world is peripheral to the church. The church is Christ’s body, in which he speaks and acts, by which he fills everything with his presence.

- Ephesians 1:33-23, The Message

Here is the truth I hope you soak in this week:

You are deeply, deeply loved.
The hero of the Love Story in the Bible is God.  Like all heroes, he has something he wants, and he is willing to overcome any obstacle to get it.  That something he wants, he loves, he is pursuing: is you.  He had you in mind as he created the world.

God is bringing you a life that is far better than anything you could ever go out and get for yourself.
We Americans, we value achievement, and we like to get attention for our achievements.  And I suspect we are a little bit disappointed with the truth of the Gospel, which is God loves us, not because of anything we've done or not done, but because he chose to.  It's okay with us that he offers this freely to everyone else, but we would like to think that there's a special door we enter through because we did something to earn it.  We are so driven to feel special that even the astounding truth that the Creator of the Universe completely loves us is not special enough.

But here is the truth:  God created everything, including you.  Out of sheer delight and love.  You were made for a relationship with him, and he offers that life of love at the hand of his Son.  Take his offer, and you have a new way of life,  empowered by the Holy Spirit, who enables us to live out our identity and destiny.  That is what God promised you, and every day he is working to make good on that promise.

It doesn't always feel that way.
Every story has a villain.  The villain in the Love Story of the Bible is Satan.  Not you.  That's important to remember:  the war is not God vs. you, it's God's vs. Satan.  Because every villain has something he wants, and he is willing to overcome anything to get it.  Satan wants God's place.  So he will compete for your heart and mind.  The enemy will not see you vanish into God's company without an effort to reclaim you. (C.S. Lewis)

Every story has a third set of characters.  There's the hero, the protagonist.  The villain, the antagonist.  And there are the agonists. That's us. Caught up in the struggle between the hero and the villain.  And doesn't it feel like agony sometimes?

Yeah, don't trust your feelings.  Feelings never tell you the Love Story, the story of God.  They tell you the story of You.

So this is our challenge: to believe the story of God, and to know how to tell it. And to know that we are part of it;  our daily lives are a great love story set in a war.

So far we've learned five parts of the Love Story.  Take this week to go back and listen to each of them again.  Practice telling them.  Tell them to your friends, your spouse, your children and grandchildren.  Watch and pray for the moment when you're having a conversation with somebody, and God says, "Tell them this story."

You can find all five stories on this blog under the posts "Love Story."  At the end of each post, click on the link to listen to the story and download a little study material to help you understand it and tell it well.

Who will you tell a story to this week?

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