Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Gift of Unconditional, Endless Love

I dont know about you, but I am ready to do some frantic unwrapping! I am so ready to have some virtual bows, ribbons and colorful paper flying through the air as we excitedly unpack the gifts that God has under His tree for us. So lets get started!

John 3:16 is the verse that I eluded to yesterday (so a couple of you guessed correctly!) and it says, "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."

There are four gifts packed into this one verse. Four gifts that are the main thread that run through the entire bible, and all the stories that fill the pages of Gods Holy Word are based on these gifts. I believe this one verse makes it obvious that although the Bible can appear to be so big and overwhelming, God really wrote it in such a simple way that even the least of us can understand. After all, four little things should be pretty easy for anyone to remember!

So, John 3:16 is the verse that holds the gifts that we will be unpacking this month. A short, seemingly simple verse to understand, but filled to the brim with an overflowing abundance of precious and priceless treasures.

The first gift that we derive from this verse is that "For God so loved the world". Not just emotional love, but unconditional love. Endless love. You know, it is sometimes hard to even comprehend that type of love, so to help put this in perspective, lets dig into this word "unconditional", which means "without limits, and absolute".

When I think about this type of love, my children come to mind. Regardless of what my children do, mistakes they make, attitudes they may have, or ungratefulness they may show, I love them unconditionally. They could never do anything or say anything that would ever cause my love for them to wane. On the flip side, I know that they love me unconditionally. I am their mommy, and even when I have to punish them, fuss at them, or cannot give them everything they want right when they want it, they still love me. Even when I lose my patience, regret my words or actions, or dont pay attention to them when I am in the middle of doing something, they still love me, and nothing could change that.

That type of love is hard to find. In fact, outside of blood relatives, there are probably few, if any, people in our lives that we can truly say love us unconditionally. Even our friends, co-workers, and acquaintances, of whom we think offer unconditional love, could surprise us. I have had close friendships in the past that fizzled out, or came to an end when a problem arose. In one particular situation in my life, a friendship came to an abrupt halt, and I still have no idea to this day why this person chose to no longer be my friend - and that betrayal and rejection stings deep. When we think someone loves us, and then we realize that love was conditional, it hurts.

So besides our children and close family, is there anyone who can really offer us that unconditional love? And if there is nobody in your life right now that you feel offers you that unconditional love, where can you find that security, and true, endless acceptance?

What does that word "love" really mean anyway? When God said He loves the "world", does that mean just in a general sense? An overarching purpose of caring for what happens to mother earth? Of course not, it means He loves YOU. He loves ME. He knows YOU by name, and He knows ME by name. He knows what YOU are dealing with, He knows what Tracie is dealing with. He wants to help YOU through life, and He wants to help ME through life. It was not a generic, cold, empty offering. It was personal.

I have received gifts from people in the past, that I know took them about two seconds to pick out. For example, secret Santa gifts given at an office party. Unless the person who pulled your name out of the secret Santa hat is a close, personal friend, the gift will probably be void of real meaning to you. It will be something that they grabbed in a store on their way out the door out of obligation. That is not the type of gift that God is offering here by saying "He loved the world". He meant He loved US, in a personal, heart felt way - and He gave a LOT of thought into the gift that He picked out for us.

So many times I think we take for granted the individualized, personalized depth of the love that He offers in this verse. It is easy to forget that during the year, but even during Christmas, I bet that most of us probably focus on one or two things - either the busyness of the season and all the things we have to get done, or we try to focus on Jesus by remembering the manger scene.

But the manger scene is not the meaning of Christmas, it is merely the memorable event that God orchestrated to help us remember His gifts. The meaning of Christmas is not about Mary and Joseph, wise men, sheep or drummer boys. It is about love.

John 1:14 says "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us." That is really the core meaning of Christmas. God sent His son, Jesus, to become flesh, as a helpless and innocent infant, of a virgin, because He loved us.

Christmas is the celebration of this incredible act of love, and this love should be our only driving force for celebrating Christmas. Celebration of not the manger scene, but the love that came out of that scene.

So how does that gift really impact us? How does this gift really help us get through hard times? How can His love really make a difference in our lives? Why should we really get excited about this gift of love?

Hmmm, where do I begin? :) His love is important to us because........

* it is unconditional - He loves us regardless of our sins
* He loves us regardless of the mistakes we have made in our life
* He loves us despite our imperfections, and our constant struggles to follow His lead
* He loves us enough to meet our needs
* He loves us even when we do not love Him
* He loves us and continues to bless us, even when we do not give Him credit or gratitude
* He heals our broken hearts
* He mends our hurts
* He eases our disappointments
* He gives us purpose

He loves us because of His character, not because of our conduct. He loves us because of who He is, not because of who we are or anything we have done. His love is unconditional, and that type of love, is priceless.

I bet you can come up with your own examples of how you have seen God show His love for you. Take some time to think about those things today.

If you have been feeling forgotten by God this year, or wondering if He really does love you as you consider the difficult circumstances He is allowing you to struggle with right now, ask Him to help you feel His love. Ask Him to help you see a glimpse of what good purpose can come out of that situation so that you can see that He is loving you through your circumstances.

Ask Him to show you His presence in your life, and to open your spiritual eyes so that you can see when and how He is pouring His love down upon you.

And be sure to come back for a visit with me on Monday, as we talk about an extra gift that stems out of this unconditional love - a sub-gift you might say. A gift that is so amazing that I dont know how anyone can survive life without it.

What is the extra gift, out of love? The gift of HOPE.

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Lin Wilson said...

Thanks Tracie...this is so what I needed to hear today.

Pam Swope said...

Tracie, sometimes I feel we live parallel lives. I too had a hurtful friendship abruptly end. I actually was the one who ended it. There were conditions from this other person. She took things that I innocently said and took them the wrong way and then harshly rebuked me. It was much easier for me to end a relationship that had "conditions" to other words to watch every word coming out of my mouth than to have to walk on eggs every time I'm around her. I've been learning a lot from the Lord thru this and am so thankful that He puts no conditions on His love fore me! Thanks for reinforcing that b/c sometimes we forget! Blessings
Pam Swope

Angie said...

This is something I really needed to see today!

It is so hard sometimes to see the good in a struggle or to remember that it is only for a time. A time to grow stronger than we were before or even grow closer to Him.

Sometimes the glimpse is all it takes to get backup after being knocked down.

Thank you for this blessing today!