"So he got up and went to his father. "But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him."
-Jesus (Luke 15:20)
I am so happy to be able to share my son, Nathan, with you today, since the last story in the last chapter was about him. Nathan has grown so much in his compassion for those who are lost, separated from the love of God, that he wrote a script, produced a movie and now has a message of the love of our heavenly Father that I know will reach many all over the world.
As we come to the end of our study, You Are Loved, I know that each of us has been confronted, once again, with the amazing, powerful, faithful love of God. God’s whole story is a picture of a Father providing, loving, comforting, helping, and redeeming His precious children. And then to think, He is preparing a new heaven and earth that will be even more beautiful and wants us to celebrate our homecoming with a wedding feast as the end of time.If we allow our hearts to be touched by His amazing love, it will leave us changed.
But each of us has a choice to make.
Will we come to Him and allow His love to humble us, stretch us so that we can take His love back into our worlds for others who need to know Him? Or, will we hide in our insecurity, our excuses, the places where we are uncomfortable. The world will give you permission to compromise the love that Jesus teaches. However, if you choose to follow God in seeking to love others actively, even if it is just taking baby steps, His love will grow and swell in your heart and your walk with Him will be more wonderful each season of life.
Nathan's living story modeled so much to me. He did not run away from the people God placed in his life. He chased after God, and then shared His God with those in His life who needed to know Him and had never clearly heard about His love.
As we all well know, any relationship in our lives, over time, will experience stress because it involves 2 sinful, limited people—me, the first sinner and fallible person, and whoever else is my friend, child or spouse--or in relationship with me! Consequently, every relationship will be tested. Am I going to demand that my friend be perfect, even if I cannot be perfect? Or am I going to allow God’s precious love to wash my heart clean and allow me to be a model of Him to everyone I meet.
Love is messy at times, and we cannot always control the behavior of others. But we can choose to love, forgive, pray for those with whom we have experienced. And we can release our mysterious relationships into God’s hands and ask Him to work. He is faithful to work and will bring grace, wisdom, healing and understanding in His time. And no matter what, when we choose love and prayer and forgiveness in our own hearts, we find healing and peace-even if though we cannot control the reactions and choices of others.
As Nathan shared in the video, God has been expanding his own desire to reach out to others by producing a new movie called “Confessions of a Prodigal Son,” which showcases the profound love of God through a very personal story. God is always the shepherd going after the one sheep who is lost while the other 99 are in the fold. He wants to love through us, reach out through us, extend His healing and amazing love through our lives.
All of us fail, but God is merciful and always looking for us to return to Him. He celebrates our return as we are so dear to His heart. As we come to an end of this study, how will you choose to respond to what you have learned? Will you walk in the light of His deep love for you and accept His love for you? Will you grow in the knowledge of His grace and learn to give His love to others?
As I wrote in my last chapter:
“Love is a muscle that grows with use. The more we practice humbling ourselves and giving love out of obedience to God, the more loving we shall be.”
Each of you has been in Angela’s and my prayers throughout this study. We hope each of you will walk in the freshness and generosity of God’s amazing love—knowing that He forgives every part of your past, that He loves you in spite of your flaws, that He is for you every day and ready to bless and that He wants to use you to spread this love to others. May you ever be blessed as you live into these truths.
Sweet Lord, I thank you for each person who has been bathing themselves in the amazing truth of your love through this study. Help each one to know how very special they are to you, as you crafted them from your own hands—they belong to you! Let them know that you see them every day, that you are like the Father in the prodigal son story, always looking for us to return to your open arms. Help us to have wisdom in knowing how to live, through our lifetimes, growing in the knowledge of how to live a life of loving wisely, generously and trusting you through each relationship, each season of life. You are the Lord who redeems and restores. We give ourselves wholeheartedly into your hands and we come to you in the precious name of Jesus.