Those of you who have been reading this blog for a while know God has been teaching me some amazing lessons about His love.  He doesn’t love us because what we do or don’t do but He loves us unconditionally out of His grace.  I have been blown away not because I know God loves me but by actually experiencing that love.  It has been utterly freeing, immensely humbling and incredibly powerful to live being unconditionally loved.., BUT (always with the “buts”) last week when reading my Bible I read Mark 9: 43, “If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off.  It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell..,” Wait a minute. Romans 10:9 says “If you declare with your mouth “Jesus is Lord” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”  I’m confused.  Am I saved by grace and loved unconditionally or am I going to hell with or without my appendages? 
So I began to pray and look in His Word about these apparent contradictions and here is what I have surmised.  First of all, God is a God of order and so first things first – God loves us.  God taught me emphatically this summer that He loves me.  I don’t have to beat myself up every time I yell at my kids or say something stupid.  He allowed me in many ways on several occasions to know clearly that He loves me unconditionally and I truly believe that.  God knew I needed to first know that I know that I know that He loves me.  The second thing I am learning is that Mark 9:43 does not negate or contradict his love.  God’s love is not conditional on what I do or don’t do but His love does demand a response.  I’m confident that if I gave one of my children to suffer and die on a cross for someone and then they just went on about their life as though nothing ever happened – I would highly doubt that they really understood my love and sacrifice for them.  We do not earn God’s love but I am learning I do need to respond to it.  The more I see and feel and know His love for me, the more I want to respond to it in fact. 
“Dear Lord, thank you first of all for loving me and caring enough to show me that love in so many ways.  Thank you for the privilege of responding to your love in my life not because I have to but because your love and sacrifice merit a response from those of us who call ourselves Christ followers.  Give me the strength and desire to live a changed life out of a response to your unconditional love.  Amen.”