God’s character

WHAT’S IN and STAYS IN

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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.

 

WHAT RIGHTS DOES GOD HAVE?

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The Bill of Rights which we in the United States cling to tenaciously, contains what are known as “The Five freedoms”: Freedom of religion, Freedom of speech, Freedom of press, Freedom of assembly, Freedom to petition

What rights does God have?

Obviously God has any rights that he wants. To think we have the power to limit the rights of God in any way is an arrogance that surpasses rationale thought.

The more accurate question: What rights do we consider God as having?

In practice, the average person thinks in ways that would deny God many of the rights which they consider basic to their own existence. Here are some examples (if you can think of others, please share them with us under comments).

Does God have the right to an opinion?

What does God think about how we as people approach him and please him? We have strong opinions about how people should treat us and about what we think is acceptable behavior toward us.

But it is considered arrogant of The Church when it declares that God has established a clear path in what it means to have life with him

Does God have the right to free speech?

We have the right to say what we think, but God is not allowed to have a book that shares his definitive thoughts. The world doesn’t mind that there are many different books describing what God is like, but when we say God has one book in which he declares himself – that is ridiculed as arrogant and narrow minded.

Yet how else could God make his thoughts clear to everyone on earth unless he has a clear source for that. If every religion’s sacred books (which contradict each other) have the same validity – then no can ever know what God’s true voice is.

Does God have the right to patent his inventions?

God has the right to define marriage, because God created marriage. It was his idea – his “invention”.

However, human governments now declare that God does not have the right to define marriage, even though it has been clearly understood since the dawn of humanity.

Once gender can no longer be part of the definition of marriage, that same logic will eventually declare that age, numbers of people and even species cannot be used to define marriage and family.

Does God have the right to bring justice?

Theoretically we love to see justice enforced. But when God agrees and then adds that he will exercise perfect justice against all sin (rather than merely arbitrary justice against some sinners and some sins), people become angry. They claim such a God is unloving and hateful.

Does God have the right to determine the nature of his own kingdom?

We get to decide who lives in our home and who can inherit our wealth. But God is despised for daring to declare who can enter his eternal kingdom, be called his child and receive his mercy.

Does God have the right to disagree with us?

We might claim that we don’t limit God in this manner. But when we have a strong opinion regarding what we hold dear – then the claws come out if God says we need to change how we think or live.

We go beyond saying we have a different perspective than God; we are offended that he would dare to intrude upon our way of life

How many of these rights do you agree God has?

If these rights all belong to God, are we living in acknowledgement of them?

A SURE PATH TO REST

Rest

The longer life goes on, the more highly we value it

No so much physical rest (although that is sweet too), far more we want rest for our souls

There are many ways in which the world seeks after rest, but the most enjoyable pursuits in this world eventually reveal their ragged edges

Here are some key thoughts about finding more rest for our souls

Perfect rest is found in perfect holiness

Only God is perfectly holy

More commune (fellowship) with God, will bring an increasing stream of rest to us

Our complete rest will come when we are completed in holiness – our glorification

When we find perfect holiness in heaven, we will also be surrounded by perfectly holy people

Holiness in God, in us, and in everyone around us, is necessary for complete and undisturbed rest

Christian, is it possible for us to think differently than this? Can we really believe any other path will satisfy our souls?

So drink from the stream that is true rest

Exalt the holiness and perfections of God, looking at them from every angle so your soul increases its appreciation for them

Spend time enjoying fellowship with God, with the same heart as that of a thirsty person who comes upon a cool stream

Drink from God’s holy word so your thoughts will be shaped by holiness

Put God’s holy ways into practice with increasing consistency in every area of life, knowing that each application of obedience is an insertion of heavenly goodness into your life

Pursue biblical community with those who also seek the holiness of God. Their holiness will splash on you, as yours will splash on them

Yes, rest – sweet rest, although not yet perfect, can be found and experienced day to day. For God who is holy loves to share himself with those who lovingly yield to him

OUR HOPE CAN HANDLE ANY CHALLENGE

 This is the fourth in a 5 part series on Tuesdays that present the great truth of biblical Hope.

Our Hope Can Handle Any Challenge

In Christ we are never hopeless!

Our hope will be challenged in a variety of ways – but our hope can handle every challenge

The hope we have is that salvation’s entire promise will be fulfilled        

God has promised that his sovereignty and goodness will fulfill that hope

We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, 30and those whom he justified he also glorified (Romans 8:28-30)

Our enemy cannot alter this hope, so he tries to distort our perspective about hope

What are some of the major challenges to our hope, and why can our hope can handle them?

The Challenge of Sin  

Satan lures us into sin and then uses it to condemn us.

He floods our thoughts with a barrage of accusations declaring God’s anger and rejection.

He wants us to give up our zeal by telling us that we will never be godly.

Hope meets the challenge

v30 tells us those who have been “justified” (saved) will eventually be “glorified” (perfected). 

Our salvation is guaranteed by Christ’s work, not by our maintenance of salvation

v29 reminds us that our salvation began by God coming to us – He is totally committed to the preservation of our relationship with Him

The Challenge of Success and Prosperity

It seems that nothing leads us to take our minds off God faster than success.

At first we thank God, but over time we become lax and fall into thinking we are self-sufficient.

We become forgetful and lesser hopes take over our attention. We spend less time with God and think about his graces less often

Our focus increasingly is on what we are accomplishing, what we think we need to do, and our ever lengthening list of wants

Hope meets the challenge

Simply look up and there Christ is – he has never left us or stopped his labors on our behalf

v28 reminds us that “we know” wonderful truths about God

We are surrounded with memorable works of God and the wonderful promises of God

Our hope is so extraordinary, just to look at one facet, is enough to outshine the empty hopes of our own success

The Challenge of Disappointment and loss

The reality of living in a world groaning under bondage (vs 20-22) is that pain and disappointment are never far

We are regularly assaulted by thoughts that “God may be real, but He is not near”

We take our failures and multiple burdens to be evidences that God has stepped back

Hope meets the challenge    

Our hope is nothing less than the person of God himself and His inability to be unfaithful

vs 28-30 repeatedly remind us that we are on an eternal trajectory. In fact life can only make sense when we look at it with an eternal perspective

God is taking our life somewhere and the final destination is not here

The Challenge of Shallow Hopes

The world is incessantly offering us their false hopes

When the world around us is only talking about these empty hopes, we can get lost in the clutter of it all. The sheer volume of hearing about them creates an obscuring fog of shallow hope.

When we see people enjoying some of these hopes, we start to think they are worth pursuing.

The world’s hopes are not a mirage, but they are a veneer – they are shallow and will wear away

Hope meets the challenge

Our hope is not simply something held out to us to grab, we are a new creation

v28 tells us our hope is in God’s work

All the efforts of this world combined cannot match the grandeur of what God is accomplishing in us and for us

The Puritan preacher, Richard Sibbes wrote:

“As an adult is no longer satisfied with children’s games; so we are no longer satisfied with what the world offers”

We have been made for greater hopes than the world could ever provide – and we have tasted that they are wondrously good

Spit out the false hopes people are trying to feed you and nourish your soul on the person of Christ who is the Bread of Life. Refresh your soul with the person of the Holy Spirit who is the Fountain of Living Waters

GIVING GOD A SHOVE

Did you know that sin shoves God aside?

Most people look at sin as breaking moral rules

There is some degree of truth in that thought, but it is a wholly insufficient way of looking at sin.

As we can see in our own lifetime, people easily change their perspective of what is moral and immoral.

There are churches and even so-called Christian denominations that have changed what rules they consider being moral or immoral. As a result, they have changed their categories of sin.

God was given no say in the matter, because they view sin from a man-centered perspective

When we look at sin as merely rule breaking, it’s easier to minimize the seriousness of a particular sin, even if we agree that it is still in the sin category.

When we look at sin as breaking rules we automatically create a rating system in our minds concerning what we consider to be the serious grade of sins as compared with the more modest grades of sin.

Once we have this view of sin, it becomes easy for us to be nonchalant about breaking “minor rules”; after all people break and bend minor rules every day without any serious consequence.

However, sin is not simply the breaking of a rule

Its significance runs much deeper.

Sin is to choose what we want rather than what God wants. What makes this such a significant matter is that we belong to God – in fact everything belongs to God. We have no rights over anything apart from the gracious privileges God gives to us in His world.

God is not merely Creator / Owner of all that exists; He is Perfect Wisdom in all that He does. God never operates outside of what is perfectly good, His “rules” and expectations are the manifestation of the only things God could require.

A perfect God is incapable of calling us to live by any standard that is not for our best.

There is one more factor to add to God’s Ownership and His Perfection:

God is personally involved in this world and most of all, in our lives.

We were created in “His image” and we were made to live in intimate communion with a gracious God who dearly loves us.

All of these realities about God should cause us to look differently at sin.

Sin really is pushing God aside.

We should not image this pushing and shoving as anything like the impersonal jostling that takes place when we are in a crowded place. We may apologize when we bump into someone, but we certainly don’t grieve that offense.

When we sin, we are shoving God aside in a personal and abusive manner.

A picture that more closely (but still insufficiently) illustrates our sin is to imagine a young person who rejects their parents’ wishes. They are so intent on following their own way they take both hands and push their parent in the face so they can get by them.

Yes, your sins are that raw . . that abusive . . that personal . . and that evil.

If you are “in Christ” then your Heavenly Father is not only walking with you, He is in conversation with you.

There is no inoffensive way to describe what it looks like to reject His ways for our own.

As we face the barrage of temptations to go our own way, may we do all we can to make sin ugly and grievous to us.

Picture God’s desire to draw you nearer in His embrace; then see sin as a choice between reaching out to God and shoving our way against Him

IT’S HELPING ME TO UNDERSTAND

My wife, Debbie, has taught three-year-old Sunday school for over twenty years.

It is not uncommon for children to cry when their parents leave the room. In their minds, their parents are simply disappearing.

These little ones don’t grasp that their mom and dad remain close by and attentive. They certainly don’t think through the reasons why their parents are out of sight. None of the children appreciate the prayerful purpose their parents have for putting them in Debbie’s classroom.

In a similar way, we may think God is far and we have been forgotten. We don’t understand the purposes God has when we don’t feel His presence or see His hand working. And we are far from appreciating the depth of God’s love and the careful way He is unceasingly preparing us for our eternity with Him!

Another parent / child scenario I want to mention is when our children are gathered together in our house.

We have reached that stage in life when our children are grown and scattered. Our married daughter lives nearby – for now, while our other two children live a few states away.

Anytime we see or talk with one of our children, our hearts take a leap. And on those rare occasions when they are all with us together – it is sheer delight!

Our children like these occasions too, but they do not grasp how deeply it touches their parents. They will have to grow into that experience themselves.

Here is what amazes me – as a parent, the love and joy that I have for my children, cannot come close to matching the love and joy my Heavenly Father has for me.

He is a much better parent, with a much purer love and a boundless supply of it. God’s heart soars for me, more than my heart soars for my children. I can never out parent God, or out love and cherish him.

Our experience as parents is meant to be an eye-opener for us.

It helps us to increasingly understand our Heavenly Father’s heart for us.

Spend some time thinking through the many ways that your being a parent has taught you about Love – Care – Discipline – Heartache – Correction – and Communication. Then apply how what we have learned can give us insight into the heart of our Father in Heaven who is a perfect parent

WHY DO WE REMAIN IN DISCOURAGEMENT?

There are understandable reasons for why we become discouraged. We live in a broken world and our lives share in that brokenness. And some of us have a temperament that more easily allows discouragement to take root in our heart.

However, from a biblical perspective, believers should not remain in discouragement.

This begins a four part series on Tuesdays that will examine reasons why we remain in discouragement. Today we look at the first reason

# 1. We remain in discouragement when we minimize God’s mercies

God’s mercies are greater than our discouragements

If you are not convinced, read Ephesians chapter 1 and make a list of the mercies we have in Christ. Go ahead; I can wait until you are done.

Each mercy in this list outweighs all discouragements combined. If Ephesians 1 doesn’t provide the full encouragement you need, read Romans 8 as well.

If both chapters fail to move you, your discouragement problem is really an unbelief problem. If our heart is not beating, we’re dead. This is as true of our spiritual heart as it is with our physical heart

For those who often find themselves in seasons of discouragement, regularly read these two chapters as well as the Psalms. When you find a Psalm that speaks to your heart – add it to your favorites list

God’s mercies are more persistent than our discouragements

Lamentations 3:23 reminds us His mercies are “new every morning”.  God’s mercies are never outworked by what discourages us.

Discouragement does not have a greater commitment or work ethic than God who gave His Son for us!

God’s mercies are complete

There is no half-heartedness in them. Simply review the birth, life, ministry, death, and promised return of Jesus to abundantly prove this point

God’s mercies will outlast our discouragements

The only eternal discouragement is hell, and by God’s mercy those who are in Christ are lifted out of that discouragement.  God’s mercies contain eternal blessings that will only increase when we are glorified in heaven.

As my father has often said about true Christians, “the best is always yet to come”. No matter how bad things seem or are – the best is coming closer every moment.

Put your hope in God’s mercies, they can carry the weight

Since God’s mercies are greater than our discouragements, remaining in discouragements is a sign that we’re not giving God’s mercies our full attention

The hopes we have in Christ can stand up to any scrutiny we want to give them

“Hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Romans 5:5)

God’s mercy has reversed the very nature of our joys and sorrows

Before Christ:  we had limited joys that were temporary and unimaginable sorrows that were eternal

In Christ:  we have limited sorrows that are temporary and unimaginable joys that are eternal

DELIGHT

It is delightful when we

Taste a rich dessert

Hear our favorite song

Hold a newborn child

Relax on a quiet beach or mountain cabin

Watch an exotic animal

Catch up with a dear friend

God gave us the capacity for delight – because He takes delight in our joy.

God made the world a fascinating place and God implanted in us the desire to be amazed

Why would we keep our time and distance from such a marvelous God?

Why would we not recognize that His Kingdom is a far more wondrous place than ours?

Why would we fight His will, or wander from His path which is glorious?

By all means, seek wonder in this world that God created to amaze us. But even more diligently, seek to know the God behind it all!

Look into the gospel of Jesus Christ and find the greatest heights of amazement

Grow in communion with the Triune God: Father, Son and Spirit. There you will experience delights which cannot be equaled and will never diminish in their splendor

A Christian should be a delighted person, because we are now restored to the founder of all that is delightful

Love for God will fill our soul with delight, because God is the most fascinating person

True holiness will make life more delightful, because it fills our life with God-likeness

The habits of prayer / worship and Bible reading become streams of delight, when they are times of active engagement with God

When God is our delight, our delight is full

BEAUTY

It is said that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”.

What we should remember is that beauty flows from the heart of God.

God invented color, shape and texture.

He filled creation with vibrant pictures of beauty, and then He gave us the ability to enjoy it

Creation displays beautiful sights that deeply move us, but nothing can compare to the beauty of God Himself

We can see beauty around us, because the God we cannot see is beautiful. This is not a statement of His visual attributes, for God is an unseen spirit being

The beauty of God is every aspect of His character. He is all praiseworthy and awe inspiring.

When we behold the beauty that we can see, it should draw us closer to the beauty that encompasses who God is and what He does.

Learn to appreciate the beauty of God, not only for its inherent value, but because Christ has brought us into communion with the beauty of God              

The beauty of His character 

The beauty of His plan

The beauty of His works

One day we will be all beautiful, because we will be like Him. So let us grow in that beauty today

One day we will dwell in only beauty, because all will obey Him. So let us increase the beauty of our life

Every day God is all that beauty can be. So let us daily draw near to have our hearts soar for the beauty that is our God

REJECTION REALLY HURTS

I can vividly remember the time in my life when people rejected me.

It hurts that much!

Rejection often starts early as children find obscure and silly reasons to label someone as an outcast

The pain of rejection is repeated throughout our lives: 

When our parents are too busy, or a parent leaves our life

When a teacher or coach dismisses our honest efforts

When we are always last to be picked for a team

When a friend chooses to join a “cooler” crowd

When a love interest cuts us off

When family members lash out with cutting words

When people at work fail to include us in their conversations, or their lunch excursions

When our failures causes people to scatter from us

When our convictions anger people, or bring out words of disdain

When no one ever hits our like button on Facebook

When in our own church, no one comes up to say hello

Now for the WONDERFUL news!

Christ will never reject those who honestly call on Him to be saved

“Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” Romans 10:13

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” Romans 8:1

“I will never leave you nor forsake you” Hebrews 13:5

Once we have been received by Christ, all heaven accepts us with open arms – always and forever

Romans 8:15  tells us God “adopts” those Jesus saves.

God will never turn away from His children

God will never ignore, dismiss or misuse His children

God will never, never, ever reject us.

Not for anything!

Come to that relationship

Rest in that relationship

Rejoice in that relationship

And may we reveal the heart of God for others who bear the pain of rejection