Summary: This is a Chrysalis Clergy Talk. The Scripture references are varied throughout the talk.

In Max Lucado’s book No Wonder They Call Him Savior, he tells this story.

Longing to leave her poor Brazilian neighborhood, Christina wanted to see the world. Discontent at home only on a pallet on the floor, a washbasin, and a wood burning stove, she dreamed of a better life in the city.

One morning she ran away, breaking her mother’s heart. Her mother knew what life would be like for her young, attractive daughter, so Maria quickly packed to go find her daughter.

On her way to the bus stop, she went to a drugstore to get one last thing. Pictures. She sat in the photograph booth, closed the curtain, and spent all the money she had on pictures of herself

With her purse full of small black and white photos, she got on the next bus to Rio de Janeiro.

Maria knew Christina had no way of earning any money. She also knew that her daughter was too stubborn to give up. Maria began her search. Bars, hotels, nightclubs, any place with the reputation for street walkers or prostitutes.

She went to all of them. And at each one she left her picture—taped to a bathroom mirror, tacked to a hotel bulletin board, or fastened to a corner phone booth. And on the back of each photo she wrote a note.

It wasn’t long before Maria’s money and pictures ran out, and Maria had to go home. The tired mother cried as the bus began its long journey back to her small village.

A few weeks later, Christina was coming down the stairs in a seedy hotel. Her young face was tired. Her brown eyes no longer danced with youth but spoke of pain and fear. Her laugher was broken. Her dream had become a nightmare.

A thousand times she had longed to trade all those countless beds for her secure pallet. And yet the little village seemed so far away.

As she reached the bottom of the stairs, her eyes noticed a familiar face. She looked again, and there on the lobby mirror was a small picture of her mother. Christina’s eyes burned and her throat tightened as she walked across the room and removed the small photo.

Written on the back was this message: “Whatever you have done, whatever you have become, and it doesn’t matter. Please come home.”

And Christina went home.

Jesus Christ is the same way…He wants us to come home…It doesn’t matter what we’ve become…We can always go home to Him.

Good evening, my name is Rev. Benny Anthony, and the title of this talk is “God Loves You.”

There are many signs of God’s love all around us if we just take the time to look for them.

First, there’s God’s creation. This is an overflowing of God’s love. The Creator is present to us in the wonder and beauty of His creation. We are made as free beings to share God’s glory and purpose according to Psalm 8. Yet almost from the beginning people used free will to ignore God rather than to have a relationship with Him. Take the account of the Adam and Eve in Genesis 3—4. They used their free will to disobey God and literally ate themselves out of house and home.

The Bible is a great love story—the story of God’s love for humanity despite our sin. Throughout the Old Testament we hear God repeatedly inviting us to a covenant relationship with Him—a mutual relationship of love.

Through Jesus Christ, God offers us this transforming relationship. Romans 12:1-2 tells us to offer ourselves as a living sacrifice to God, dedicated to His service and pleasing to Him. God also tells us in these verses not to be conformed to the standards of the world. In other words, “Don’t follow the crowd.” We are to let God completely change us inwardly and then we’ll know what God’s will for us will be.

God offers us a relationship through grace. God doesn’t offer us things, but He offers us a relationship of genuine self-giving. We call this offer of friendship grace (something freely given but not deserved or worked for). God pursues us throughout our lives (sort of like Christina’s mother pursued her). If we want to get theological…we call this Prevenient grace…grace that comes before.

God’s grace comes from His unconditional love. That is what we call justifying grace. We can’t make ourselves right with God on our own, only by God’s grace through faith—faith in God’s unqualified love toward us through Jesus Christ.

This means that God loves us just like we are, not for how good or holy we can be. Even when we feel unacceptable, God accepts us. Even when we fail God, He forgives us and is ready to give us another chance. Even when we see no future for ourselves, God prepares a way, opening the future in ways that we can’t imagine.

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