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If You Like the Picture, You'll Love the Real Thing!

Read John 3:16-17; 2 Corinthians 9:15

I know the calendar tells us that we are merely in the first half of August, but fall is quickly approaching. Many schools have already begun the new term; so, can football be far off? However, before we turn the page on the season, I'd like to share a summer fun activity that goes back to my childhood. Maybe others enjoyed it too?

I was raised in the Midwest, where the sky was, in spite of my bad eyes, a lovely vibrant blue. We often looked up and enjoyed looking at the white puffy clouds that seemed to amble aimlessly across the sky. The vista would change as one fluffy image replaced another. Whether alone or with friends, it was fun to imagine that bunnies, dogs or big puffy pillows of marshmallow were floating by, and that somehow if I could reach high enough, I might be able to touch them. Yet, as fun as looking for objects and animals in the clouds was, it was not nearly as pleasurable as enjoying the real tangible things.

I remember holding a bunny while sitting in a friend's rocking chair. How soft his fur was and how quietly he purred when I gently stroked his back. Then there was my friend who claimed that her dog smiled the minute he saw that they were going to the Lake. A subject for laughter between us. And, what about adding extra marshmallows to a cup of steaming cocoa on a cold dreary day, covering the cup with sweet fluffiness? Cloud pictures are nice, but they are mere images of something so much better, the real thing. I was reminded of this fact this week when I heard a story on the news. May I explain?

If you are like me, you latch on to an encouraging story like a dog who is loving his bone. Perhaps it is because there are so many truly sad occurrences that we hear about every day? Maybe that is why I had to learn more details concerning a boy whose story I heard, only from the middle. I needed details. His name turned out to be Jaequan Faulkner. He lives on the North side of Minneapolis. With the help of his uncle, this young entrepreneur operates a hot dog stand on his front porch. This continues to be true, in spite of a neighbor who reported him for selling without a license. Now for the good part. The Minnesota Health Department stepped in, gave Jaequan some help with laws concerning food safety, and then paid the $87 for him to be licensed. However, as the commercials say, there's even more. This young man plans to give a portion of the funds he raises to help those who struggle with depression and thoughts of suicide, issues which have been a part of his own life. This up-lifting story has resonated with many people, and I understand why. There is someone who is trying to accomplish a good goal, someone trying to block that goal and those who step forward, in order to help. Could there be a sweeter story? With all respect to Jaequan, I say yes. We like Jaequan's story, but it is a mere shadow like a picture in the clouds, compared to what Jesus has done to show God's love for us, John 3:16-17.

1. God's offer of salvation is universal, 1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9. As truly nice as it is that Jaequan was helped by people who weren't even related to him, only he was benefited by their aid. How much more wondrous is it that the Living God reaches out to offer salvation to anyone who will come to Him. There is no people group beyond the reach of His love, Acts 10:34-35. God's gift isn't withheld to the poor or the well-to-do. Jesus does not exclude either the physically and emotionally challenged or the powerful. His gift is truly indescribable, 2 Corinthians 9:15.

Joni Tada often relates stories of the life changing results their ministry has seen when a mom realizes that her Paralyzed child is loved by God. Oh, the joy when the father of a severely disabled little one comes to know that rather than a curse from God, that precious one is known by name by the Creator/Redeemer.

2. God's offer of reconciliation is extended to those who don't deserve it, which includes each of us. We like how the Minnesota Health Department saw good qualities in Jaequan and wanted to help him in his endeavor. Yet, how much more wondrous it is that God saw a world of people who weren't able to reach out to Him and chose to make His love known to us, Ephesians 2:1-9; Romans 3:9-22; Romans 5:6-11.

Beginning in Eden, where Adam and Eve in their guilt hid from God, Genesis 3:8-10, until this day, no one has been able to reach out to God, Romans 3:10-12. We know about His love because He showed His love to us first, 1 John 4:19. What a priceless love God has for us. He looks not for those who are worthy of His love, but those who have come to understand that we are not, Psalm 51:17. Imagine that. Instead of God lavishing His love on us because we are shining examples, He delights in shining His light into darkened hearts, 2 Corinthians 4:6.

3. God's love for us is so matchless that He gave the highest price possible, His own blood, 1 Peter 1:18-19. It is a blessing that Jaequan's license fee was paid, and as far as I know, he won't be asked to pay the Minnesota Health Department back. Yet, how much more amazing Jesus' love is. He gave His life for us, holding out His love even toward those who have already spurned His love and those who will never receive Him. Can you imagine the human response if such lavish love was offered, only to be rejected? Yet, look at Jesus' reaction to those who spurned His love. He wept, Matthew 19:41-44.

Lord, when we see sweet human love demonstrated here on earth, help us to be thankful for it, remembering that it is a mere picture of Your precious love for us.

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