God’s character

A GRANDFATHER’S LOVE

Grandad and Wyatt 2017

I am watching my 2-year-old grandson, Wyatt, as he sleeps. 

My heart is bursting with affection for him. 

My mind is active with thoughts of how I want to spend time with him. 

My hopes are big for how his life will unfold in fruitfulness.

My concerns are deep for how he will navigate this troublesome and broken world. 

My joy is overflowing with the memories of what we have shared together. 

My willingness to sacrifice anything he needs from me, is real. 

You have probably watched your little ones with similar thoughts beaming in your heart.

But have you ever taken time to ponder how God looks at you with similar thoughts – only better!

The love I have for Wyatt, causes me to wonder why we struggle so much to accept how richly God loves us. Our Heavenly Father who is all perfection, loves far better than we who are all limitations.

I love much, but my love also is often interrupted by selfishness. My love at its best is hindered by my ignorance and weakness. As much as I love Wyatt, I cannot always be with him. I will never be able to share all his experiences, and I will not be able to stand with him in every burden.

But my Heavenly Father has none of these limitations in his love. God is always loving me in the ways I love Wyatt, but far greater. His love for me is not only greater in its degree of perfection, he loves me with greater intensity.

I think most Christians fail to appreciate the sheer intensity of God’s affection for us. This causes us to doubt the intensity of his commitment and care for us. We misinterpret the difficulties he allows and we are not convinced that God’s intentions are always wonderful.

As a son and a grandson, I knew that I was loved, but my grasp of that love was incomplete until I became a father and then a grandfather. We will never be able to fully grasp God’s love for us, but we should be able to rest in knowing that his love for us must be far greater than what we have for our loved ones.

It is good to ponder how we love those who are dear to us. And it is even better to ponder how dear we are to God!


 

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

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.

SERMON LEFTOVERS 7.18.16

‘God is with us, are we with Him?’

John 14:15-24

Jesus Farewell Discourse (John 13-16) is preparing his followers for his departure and their continued service

 

God is with us in his Trinitarian nature

Jesus has already given them implications of his being One with the Father

To trust Jesus is to trust the One who is “the Way, the Truth and the Life” (v6)

He is the fullness and the revealing of the Father (v9)

Throughout chapter 14, Jesus has given reasons why God being with them brings hope and confidence: 

In chapters 14-16, Jesus repeatedly adds that the Holy Spirit will also be with them

Jesus will send “another Helper”. The Greek word for ‘helper’ means “to come alongside”

The Holy Spirit comes alongside to fulfill Jesus’ work in us and through us

Throughout this discourse, Jesus keeps coming back to the Holy Spirit as the “Helper”

He wants to magnify this great reality about God with us

By nature, the Holy Spirit is all God is; and by inclination he is all God intends (Romans 8:9-11)

Jesus also frequently mentions the Holy Spirit in his post-resurrection appearances

When Jesus presents our mission, he adds that the Holy Spirit will enable us (Matthew 28:19-20, Luke 24:46-49, John 20:21-22 & Acts 1:8)

Jesus says, the Spirit who is already with you, will be forever “in” you

The permanent indwelling of the Holy Spirit is a significant difference between Old and New Testament believers

Why doesn’t the Holy Spirit simply help us without indwelling us, as he did in the Old Testament,?

The answer is that God’s great purpose in salvation is to bring us into communion with the Triune God (v20)

The Holy Spirit is the “Spirit of Truth”

Jesus combines these titles three times in this Farewell Discourse

The help brought by the Holy Spirit is not just empowering, it is full truth

We need this because Satan who is called the ‘ruler of this world’ in v30, is also called ‘the Father of Lies’ in John 8:44

Living with a Trinitarian perspective is not theological minutia

This is God’s nature; as a Triune being, he is a relational and communicative person

What a wondrous reality! God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are committed to us

 

What does it mean for us to be with God?

We are to be as fully committed to God as he is to us

In the middle of assuring the disciples that he would be with them, Jesus says our love for God is shown by obedience (vs 15, 21, 23 & 24)

Why bring that up here?  It is a reminder that God is with us, so we can be with him

God saves us into a relationship; that relationship requires obedience

Disobedience is sin, and sin ‘separates us’ from God

Obedience doesn’t maintain our salvation; it verifies and honors our salvation

God does not leave us as “orphans” (v18), so we should not abandon him

An orphan is without parental care; God will never leave or neglect his covenant responsibilities to us

Jesus repeats the connection between love and obedience four times – this is serious!

We don’t have the freedom to define how we love Jesus. Some Christians minimize biblical teaching by saying “I just love Jesus”

But love is more than feelings; the Bible defines love by its actions

Action Jesus gives is to obey God’s word; these are the only actions we have to give God

Jesus calls us to be obedient as he was 

1.  Compartmentalized obedience is disobedience 

2.  Half-hearted obedience is disobedience

3.  Common disobedience, doesn’t provide any cover

4.  So called “justified” disobedience (when we think we have been mistreated or we deserve a break) is just plain ole disobedience

5.  Oblivious disobedience is still disobedience

God gave us his word and he speaks through it, so we are responsible to know what’s in it

We are also responsible to examine our hearts, because not all sin is easy for us to see   

Jesus moves in only one direction – which is to serve the Father’s eternal purpose

If we live ignoring or disobeying where Jesus is going, we are not with him

But if follow this path, even in weakness the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are with us

TRUE BEAUTY WOMEN’S CONFERENCE

true-beauty-header (1)

by Debbie Huber

 

“Let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.”  I Peter 3:4

It is reported that Jennifer Aniston spends $140,000 a year (or $8000 a month) on her beauty regimen. She is a very beautiful woman and obviously works hard at presenting herself as beautifully as she can, trying to “hold back the hands of time”. 

While very few people will spend nearly that much on our beauty regimen we still are very concerned about how our outward looks appear to the world. But as we all know outward beauty does not last forever. 

We live in a world where a woman’s identity is often defined by how she looks, what she wears, or how she feels about herself.  The Bible speaks to us about an imperishable beauty that should shape our identity: true beauty beholds and reflects the Glory of God.  We reflect His glory as we gaze on it and become completely satisfied in Christ and His beauty. 

Greentree Church is presenting a Women’s Conference entitled “True Beauty”.  The conference is scheduled from 6:30pm to 9:30pm on Friday, April 29 and from 8:00am to 12:00 pm on Saturday, April 30.  

This free two day conference will focus on who we are in Christ and challenge us to reflect His beauty to a world that seeks beauty that is unsatisfying and fading. Whatever your season in life, beholding the beauty of our Savior deepens our love and satisfaction in Him alone.

All women are invited to attend this conference. There will be Biblical teaching, worship, and small group interactions. A special continental breakfast will be served on Saturday morning.

Invite someone to come along with you!  This is a great opportunity for you to invite an unsaved friend or someone in our church who needs to be connected. A personal invitation can make all the difference. 

You must register online and can do so here

Registration deadline is Monday, April 25. 

JUST AS HE SAID

The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified.  He is not here, for he has risen, as he said  Matthew 28:5-6

I think each of us needs this same reminder to take to heart what Jesus has “said”

Every word our Lord has spoke is precious and true. Yet how many words from his mouth have you forgotten?  What has Jesus already said, that would would minister to your heart today, but it has fallen from your attention?  And what has your Savior done that proves to you his goodness and faithful remembrance of you?

Give timto remember that Jesus always remembers you.

Reflect upon how he always fulfills what he has said. 

Thank him for the amazing display of what he has already manifested to you out of his love and mercy. 

Do you embrace the title of “believer”? Then live in expectation that Christ has spoken wonderful truths about his purposes for you today, and that he always does what he says!


WHAT’S IN and STAYS IN

jesusisthesame

 

by Debbie Huber

Every year the Washington Post publishes a What’s In/Out list for the coming year.

It is a prediction of what the author of the article thinks will be “going out” and trends that will be “coming in”.

Most of this year’s list meant little to me in the in or out category which probably means that my interests were on the out list years ago!

Our culture places great value on the latest trends, fashions, beauty secrets, music style, political point of view, “keeping up with the Kardashians”, etc. New ideas and methods are presented for a “happier you” or “a more fulfilling relationship”.

But as the Washington Post list demonstrates, these things go out of style very quickly. Keeping up becomes like chasing after the wind and is an empty pursuit.

But God’s wisdom never changes. His word is the foundation for our lives that will never erode.

The Bible tells us that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. – Hebrews 13:8.

He is the same Yesterday:

He loved us even before we were born, dying in our place for our sins. We know He demonstrated that He has power over sin and death. What we read about Jesus in the Bible is still true today.

He is the same Today:

Because He is the same Jesus today, we can live in confidence that He made us His own, that the sins we commit today have been paid for by Him, that His power is at work in our lives and we can cling to Him at every moment. As much as He loved us when He died for us He still loves us today.

He is the same Forever:

The love that He had for us before we were even born, that sustains us now, and He has for us forever. The God that would not let you go yesterday and today will hold you and keep you in Him through eternity and we will be with Him worshiping Him for who He has always been.