I was walking a trail at Palisades-Kepler State Park last week when I came across a tree that had I ♥ M.C. painted on it in big white letters. On the other side of the tree was I ♥ H.H. Now, this is obviously vandalism and not okay, and I don’t know who M.C. and H.H. are, but I sure know they are loved by someone. This made me think how interesting it is that people desire to write out their love for others - they want it documented. Even if it is just on a single tree in the middle of a forest of trees. You find love expressed this way in the sand on beaches, carved in railings on bridges and yes, even etched on bathroom stalls. It doesn’t stop there. Love causes people to write poetry, songs and epic novels.
I think our God who created us hardwired us this way. He gave us an innate desire to express love for others and to do so through the communication of the written language. This is exactly what our Loving Father did for us in writing the Bible. We see this easily in the favorite verse of John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” Written out so that you may know his love for you and how it comes about.
For those who believe in Jesus, the Bible is a letter of love - how we need him, how he came to save us, how he cares for us now and how he has prepared a place for us to live with him forever. This is awesome! It amazes me how few people pick up this incredible love letter loaded with truth and wisdom written by the One who loves them most.
Jesus not only had love written on paper (ok, papyrus), he had it written on his body. His sacrificial love for us was etched not upon a tree or in sand, but upon his very body. Upon Jesus’ perfect, resurrected body are the scarred hands and side. Evidence of love forever on display for his children. He even showed these to his disciples when he appeared to them after coming back to life (John 20:20). As Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13.
We women can easily identify with scars on our bodies for the sake of love and life. We don’t always appreciate them (um, stretch marks) but they are a great reminder that true love is sacrificial. We would do the same thing all over again if we had to because we love our children so very much.
God loves his children too. The scars on his son prove it and his written Word proves it. Appreciate the sacrifice and read the best love letter ever written.
Because people are dying. If you have been paying attention to current events, you have heard about the Fuego volcano that has erupted in the Central American country of Guatemala. The body count is well over 70 now with many still missing. People have died from the pyroclastic lava, fires, the falling ash and toxic fumes. People will continue to die in the aftermath with landslides, respiratory infections and the chaos that comes after a catastrophe in a third world country.
But our trip was planned months ago, long before a volcano erupted. Why did we decide to go? Because people are dying. Hebrews 9:27 tells us a plain truth of life, “it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment,” Everyone dies. Then everyone faces judgment. A simple fact of life that many try to ignore. People are dying not just from volcanic eruptions, but from old age, illness and accidents. People die. But it isn’t the death that concerns us but what happens after.
Whether you realize it or not, you have never met a mortal. Humans are made for eternity, there is much more coming after death occurs. It begins with “judgment”. That is when you stand before God and he sends you either to eternal Paradise or eternal torment (no other options, read your Bible). After death there is nothing you can do to persuade God in his judgment. The decision has to be made before you go.
That is why we go - to tell people about their only hope for salvation from damnation - Jesus Christ. Jesus himself said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6. He is the only key to eternal Paradise. “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23. We must tell people who are lost in their sins without Christ that they are headed for judgement, they must decide now. What hateful “Christians” we would be if we did not spread this news.
Do we need to tell people here in Iowa, USA? We certainly do - and I just did. How will you be judged by God? Have you broken God’s law of the Ten Commandments (i.e. lying, stealing, taking God’s name in vain - see Exodus 20)? Yes, you have, you are guilty too. The guilty go away from God, to Hell. Jesus made the only way to be saved by paying the penalty of dying on the cross for those who believe in him. Jesus “was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.” Romans 4:25. Turn from sin, accept and believe what Jesus has done for you and live eternally in Heaven with him. This good news we must tell.
We also go to Guatemala because people are suffering. Our brothers and sisters in the Lord are hurting and struggling. We go to encourage them like Paul did in the book of Acts as he visited the believers in the churches. He encouraged them in their faith and exhorted them to grow in Christ. Imagine this - you are weary and worn, life has been so difficult, your heart aches. Someone comes and sits down beside you and looks you in the face. This is what they say: “God has sent me to you from far away. He wants me to remind you that his Word is true! He is with you in this and he cares for you deeply. Keep believing in him and trust him, he will never leave you.” The impact of believers strengthening one another through presence, scripture and prayer is immense. It is the power of a supernatural family connected by an Omniscient Father God.
In loving the people of Guatemala we are like God who loves people beyond human barriers of borders and nationalities. Just as God opened salvation to the Gentiles (us), so we need to love beyond our “own kind”. God is clear in his instruction of “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations” Matthew 28:19. And his promise is sweet, “behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” v. 20. For those who choose Jesus now, instead of being turned away at judgment, we will see our Father beckoning us to come to him. There will be nothing sweeter in all eternity than that. We must share this, because people are dying.