Amazing God

HOW CAN WE KNOW?

A woman recently asked how she should respond to an accusation that we have all heard in various forms:

All religions are the same

There are many ways to God

No one can say they have the truth

How can you speak for God?

Here is a synopsis of my answer to her:

If God exists, then it is completely unreasonable to think that He has not communicated Himself to us. If God is wise and good, then it is beyond doubt that He has communicated in a way that is obvious and clear.

As people, we don’t want to be misunderstood. In fact, we become offended if we hear that someone is misrepresenting our thoughts, feelings, values, and opinions.

If clarity about who we are is important to us, how much more is this true for God. Having people get the truth right about ourselves is usually simply a matter of our pride. But getting the truth right about God is about our eternity!

In the end, it is ridiculous to admit that God exists, but then deny that anyone can know the truth about him. It is equally absurd to question whether there is a clear truth about him.

This leaves us with the question of how can we know the truth about God.

Many people in our world speak as if they can simply derive what God is like and what He will do from within their own mind. The problems with this are many.

How can anyone know what is in the mind of someone they have never met?

How can we determine the values and thinking of a Being who is eternal and transcendent?

What God will or will not do is certainly not bound or compelled by our opinions

The essential question is not, has God spoken?  It is how has God revealed himself?

The truths of God are first revealed in His written Word, the Bible. When it comes to the trustworthiness of the Bible, there is no religious book that can come near to its veracity.

God is revealed secondly, in the incarnation of His Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus’ trustworthiness as God in flesh was verified when He arose from the dead, demonstrating His authority and power.

If there is truth about God that you don’t know – do you want to know it?

Are you willing to ask God to reveal Himself to you?

Are you willing to read the Bible and allow it to speak to you?

Are you willing to call upon Christ to lead your life?

Are you willing to respond to the reality God gives you?

 

AMAZING LOVE, HOW CAN IT BE!

John 15:9 is one of my favorite be-amazed-passages-of-the-Bible

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.”

What a comparison! We are loved exactly as God the Father loves God the Son

How does the Father love the Son?

It is beyond our comprehension, but whatever it entails – only God is capable of it. This means we are loved constantly, inexhaustibly and beyond description.

If we are loved as the Father loves the Son, then it is impossible for us to be loved more

Why don’t we always feel this loved?

1.  We really don’t understand love all that well

We equate love with kindness which means we focus on how God is meeting our immediate comforts. God is concerned with more than just our present comforts; He is committed to working on our character and eternal good. 

If we equate love with kindness, we will doubt God’s love when life is hard. Don’t look for God to imitate our patterns of loving

2.  We tend to judge love by how we feel

We are not told pursue feeling loved.  That leads to craving emotional experiences instead of learning to trust God’s faithfulness.

We are commanded to believe God when He says that He loves us. God’s actions have proven the depth of His love for us

“See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God” I John 3:1

 “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” Romans 5:8 

 “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him” I John 4:9 

3.  We need to separate God’s love for us from our unlovableness

If you think, ‘I can’t see why God would love me’, that’s good. Anyone who can see why God should love them – is deceived. God loves us out of his character, not because of ours

God loved YOU at your worst!

God loves YOU with His best!

Jesus tells us to “abide” in his love

To abide means to remain in a particular condition. Jesus is not saying it’s up to us to keep God’s love for us; he is urging us to keep living according to the reality of God’s love for us

 

PRESSED FROM EITHER SIDE

Have you ever felt pressed in by suffering?

If you are breathing the answer is yes, and most likely you have felt the pressing burden of sufferings that press in at more than one direction at once!

In their book “Suffering and the Sovereignty of God”, John Piper and Justin Taylor walk us through the unbiblical perspectives we often have during times of suffering, and the biblical perspectives that should replace them.

At one point in the book, they present opposite ways in which Satan fools and ensnares people:

“Satan enslaves people in two ways. One way is with the misery and suffering that comes from making us think there is no good God worth trusting. The other way is with pleasure and prosperity, making us think we have all we need so that God is irrelevant.”

As you read this, you may not fully fall into either of these categories. However your thinking may be touched by one or the other in times of difficulty and prosperity. So why not firm up your thinking today.

1.  How has God proven Himself to be trustworthy – no matter what happens?

If you have these reasons clear and in the forefront of your mind, you will be able to more easily brush aside the doubts that Satan will try to slip into your thoughts at some point in the future.

To strengthen myself against having unworthy thoughts about God, I daily preach to myself the greatness, the perfections and the faithfulness of God. Since there is a wealth of items to declare, each day my praise to God is different.

2.  How has your experience with possessions and success revealed to us that earthly benefits are short lived and contain burdens within them?

We should be convinced by now that we desperately need God every day and in every area of life. It is not simple that we need God to come along and give us a boost every now and then – we have a deep need for God to be at the center of all we are and all we do.

To strengthen myself against sliding into attitudes of self-sufficiency, I preach to myself the realities of God as the source of all that is good, and the sustainer of all that is!

I readily admit my limitations, yet try not to be (overly) discouraged by them; because I am human, but my God is beyond measure.

Child of God, even when you are running late to begin the day – you always have time to declare the praises of God!

The One who has blessed you in Christ, and will remain wondrous in all things today.

CONNECTING GOD’S GRACES

Boy Playing in Rain

 

God gave me an unexpected grace.

While I was praying a few weeks ago, God began to unfold in my mind the best way to approach the sermon text for that Sunday. 

I had been struggling with how to best organize and present the truths contained in the passage. Some weeks this is especially difficult. I may have a few clear thoughts in my mind, but I don’t know how to bring them together in a cohesive message. Ideas bounce around in my brain and seem to willfully resist coming together.

When I realized God was graciously bringing the message together for me, I was obviously thankful to Him. I began to praise God for his goodness of stepping into my struggle and filling me with his thoughts. 

A few minutes later, it suddenly struck me, this thankfulness was not enough. I also had the responsibility of connecting this grace from God, to the other struggles of my life. This particular grace did not arrive in isolation, it was part of a ceaseless flow of mercy and goodness from my Heavenly Father.

The lesson here is not to compartmentalize God’s graces to us. Rather we should use a grace manifested in one area to encourage us where we are not seeing grace in another area.

God does not stop and start with his graces. They do not stall out. The opposite is true, they are part of the “living waters” which Jesus declared flow like a river through our lives!

If we are to honor God as he deserves, then we must accurately see that he is continuously and overwhelming gracious to us. God does not haphazardly drop random graces into our lives. In Christ, all of our moments take place within a flow of grace, which runs from the cross into eternity.

 

Image by © Ed Bock/CORBIS

THE WAVES NEVER STOP

Living near the shore has its advantages.

I don’t get to the beach often, but when I do, I usually think to myself, “Why don’t I do this more often?”

My favorite time to walk along the beach is early evening, when the crowds are gone along with the heat.

Although the people have left, the sand bears many signs that swarms of them were recently present. In addition to the ubiquitous footprints in the sand, are the remnants of collapsed castles and abandoned excavations.

Yet, the next morning, all these evidences will all be washed smooth by the ever-flowing action of the waves.

God’s grace accomplishes a similar work in the believer’s heart.

Throughout each day, sin is disrupting our hearts and minds. As we come to the end of our day, we can see abundant evidence of sin’s disturbance.

However, the Cross never ceases to flow with the cleansing grace of Christ.

No matter how often our soul is disrupted, the merciful actions of our Savior have the final say. This is the proclamation of the Prophet Jeremiah in Lamentations 3:22-24

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
    his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
    “therefore I will hope in him.”

Child of grace, don’t neglect giving praise and thanksgiving to your faithful Savior.

He never tires of pouring grace upon you, so don’t tire in imitating his attentiveness.

As we develop the habit of recognizing the evidences of his grace, our minds will turn more easily to worship rather than worry. And our hearts will increasingly yearn for the good things that honor him.

The result will be a heart that is clean, and at rest.

AN ATTITUDE WE CAN ALWAYS COUNT ON

We may not know how family members will treat us today or what mood our co-workers will be in when we show up this morning.

Actually, until we step out of bed (and get down a dose of coffee) we don’t know what mood we will be in today.

How sweet to know that God never changes.

His heart does not change, so His heart for you doesn’t change. He will be the same today as He has always been.

This should make us eager to spend a little time with Him (a lot is okay too), because we will find our Heavenly Father already waiting for us – with ears, heart and arms open wide.

THERE IS SOMETHING SPECIAL ABOUT HUGS

hug_7

I remember as a child when I felt sick, there was something restorative about my mom’s hugs.

When my children were little, having them run up and throw their arms around me was one of the greatest feelings in the world.

They don’t run up to me anymore, but I still love hugs from my girls; while Jordan and I settle for grunts and a punch in the arm or a pat on the back.

When I travel to Belarus or Guatemala, I joyfully receive bear hugs from my dear friends.

Then there are the wondrous hugs from my wife that make it seem as though all is right with the world. Sometimes when I am feeling worn around the edges, I ache for a hug from Debbie

There truly is something special about hugs

This is because God made us to love them. Love, security, peacefulness, reassurance, affection, friendship, contentment – and any other good association we have with hugs are all qualities that come from the heart and character of God.

These feelings exist because God has expressed them to us.

God is the one who invites us to call Him “Abba Father” which is an intimate expression of saying Dad. He is the most wondrous of Fathers and He loves to hold us. Psalm 139 describes how in remote places, even there “your right hand shall hold me”.

Maybe you feel it is too presumptuous to think of God holding you in a strong and safe hug – but is not God an even more loving parent than ourselves?

If we love to give hugs, this is because God loves to hold those He loves. 

Do you need a good hug, don’t be hesitant to receive the embrace of your heavenly Father who loves you more than tongues can tell or thoughts imagine.

Learn to rest in the strong and secure arms that do not let us go.

WHAT HAPPENS TO OLD SINS?

What do we do with old sins?

Learn from them?

Try to minimize them?

Beat ourselves with them?

Worry over them?

Ignore them?

Live in regret from them?

The Bible tells us our response to sin, which is to repent and then move forward from them, leaving our sins behind.

But there is an even bigger question.

What does God do with our old sins?!

Tim Challies gives us this wonderfully biblical and encouraging view of what God does with the sins of his people!

What we will not find on this list is that God,

Reminds us of them

Holds them over our head

Pulls away from us because of them

 We should have God’s view of sin, when it appears in our life.

And, we should have God’s view of sin, when it has been washed away!

WHY DO WE WHINE SO MUCH?

We complain easily and we complain a lot.

As Christians we complain despite the reality that our life has the proverbial “embarrassment of riches”. The fullest description of our wealth of blessings may be what we find in Ephesians 1:3-14:

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.

In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. 

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory.

In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.”

A believer who habitually complains – is somewhat like Bill Gates moaning about his finances, or Michael Phelps whining that he doesn’t have enough Olympic medals.

In addition to what Ephesians describes,

We have God’s unfailing Word that we can read and follow in all situations

We have the Holy Spirit – all that God is – living in us

We have Christ who is King of Kings and Lord of Lords interceding on our behalf

We have the open invitation to cast every burden upon our Lord Jesus

We have the Church which God raised up to bless and support us

We have the wondrous promise that every situation will work together for our eternal good

So how are we using this treasury of ‘riches’ from God?

Yes, our mouths should be open and we should have a lot to say. But let it be praise rather than complaint, thanksgiving rather than grumbling. These are the appropriate responses for all who are in Christ! As the Psalmist declares,

“Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised”

 

THEY ARE JUST THE TIP OF THE ICEBERG

Sunday morning as I was walking through our church, I noticed three people praying together

Then several steps further I overheard a young woman discussing how she was encouraging a friend to become more rooted in her own church

Then a reality suddenly struck me

I was surrounded by graces of God

Not just the amazing graces of God toward me, but also the countless evidences of God’s active grace and works in the lives of his people!

My heart easily becomes mired in the discouragements of this world

A world that has turned itself upside down

The messy half-heartedness of many who claim to love Christ

Believers who are under immense burden

My own weaknesses which are ever on display

These realities seem to slap me in the face each day

Yet, these are not the greatest realities in this world or in my life!

God is ever sovereign over all things

Christ has already conquered sin, death and Satan

The Holy Spirit is actively preparing each believer to be glorious images of Jesus

Sometimes these realities are submerged under the flow of events and my own activities. So I must seek them out. Every believer is called to glorify God, which means we are responsible to look for and hold up the evidences of God’s glorious grace at work

The Holy Spirit not only freshly reminded me that he is abundantly at work; he also freshly convicted me that I need to live with greater awareness of his graces around me

God deserves that I do this

My soul needs me to do this

Gospel mission impels me to do this

As God’s people, may we look for and celebrate the graces of God in us and in each other. Although they may seem small and at times mundane – they are actually marvelous evidences of our God wonderfully at work

When we see an evidence of grace – exalt it in your heart and praise it with your lips

But don’t stop there; let’s get in the habit of identifying those evidences of grace to one another as a way of fulfilling 1 Thessalonians 5:11 which instructs us to “encourage one another and build one another up”

Let us exercise faith as we celebrate these evidences of God’s grace, for they are just the proverbial tip of the iceberg. For God is working at a level that will eternally display his transcendent standard of glory!