love for God

STOP APOLOGIZING FOR GOD!

by Debbie Huber

Are you apologizing for God?

Do your children see and hear that you love God and there is no higher priority in your life?

I am sure that most of you hope so.  But we may not be aware that we, as parents, can come across as “apologizing for God” to our children.

Our children can perceive that God is a lesser priority in how we communicate his importance for our lives.

Are you afraid that your teenager will be bored in church so you feel guilty for bringing them?

Do you give up on family devotions before school in the mornings because you feel sorry that your children will be too tired getting up early?

Do you allow sports and sporting events, birthday parties, or sleepovers to keep your family from being in church together because you feel bad since “they will be left out”? 

 

Do not apologize for the things of God! 

Rather be excited for every opportunity to be with the family of God, to worship Him, to read His word, and to love Jesus more.

The Christian life is an adventure! 

Following Jesus will not be easy but let your family know that it is worth ALL of our life and our devotion.  We “get to” go to church!  We “get to” read the Bible so know who God is! We “get to” be around fellow believers!

We will not regret the sacrifices we made for God but we will regret the “apologies” we made for Him.

 

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

AN AMAZING TESTIMONY OF FAITHFULNESS

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My book suggestion this month is a change of pace. Usually I am suggesting a title on Christian living; this month’s recommendation is biographical.

Franz Hasel, was a 40-year-old deeply committed Christian. The odd twist was that he was also a German soldier during World War Two.

A Thousand Shall Fall by Susi Hasel Mundy (his daughter) shares his truly amazing story.

There are many stunning points in this fascinating and encouraging true story of standing for Christ when evil surrounds you.

Franz Hasel not only never killed anyone, his side arm was a fake carved out of wood (he was in an engineering company, so he was not involved in shooting at enemy soldiers).

He only missed celebrating one Sabbath Day (he was an Adventist) during the entire war.

Since his company move ahead of the rest to work on bridges, he was able to warn Jews to hide.

Franz was hated, mocked and persecuted by other German soldiers and officers, yet God protected him throughout the war.

Franz served on the Eastern Front is areas like Stalingrad, so he experienced horrifying amounts of bloodshed, brutality and deprivation. However, what stands out most is the warmth of his love for God.

“A Thousand Shall Fall” will appeal to those interested in biographies, history, WWII, Christian living or inspiration!

 

CAN WE HAVE TOO MUCH ZEAL?

“I don’t want to be a fanatic”

This a reason used by believers to excuse why they don’t live for God with greater zeal. Generally a fanatic is someone with an unhealthy and unbalanced perspective driving their zeal.

For example, the members of Westboro Baptist Church (pictured above) travel the country making a scene at military funerals as a way of protesting the moral decline of our nation. These people have zeal, but it is not a biblical zeal. They do little to proclaim the gospel of Christ and they do nothing to show his love for the lost

Biblical zeal, will embrace the “whole counsel of God” and not make a caricature of certain parts. This zeal seeks to exalt God in every way we can. In other words, biblical zeal takes the Bible seriously when it says “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ (Mark 12:30).

That not only sounds zealous, Jesus said it is the most important commandment

Now balance is an essential principle in the application of Christian living. However we need to be very clear about what we are balancing.  Balance under Christ is a good thing; but there is no balance with Christ – He wants it all!

If we are seeking to balance things we want to do with what God’s word requires, than we are in violation of the Great Commandment. God is not interested in being one of many things we balance together

I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. (Revelation 3:15-16)

In contrast, when we seek to bring into balance the different parts of life under Christ, then we are headed in the right direction

Why are we hesitant to be more zealous for God?

It is because we have swallowed the Deceiver’s lies

“Be careful, too much zeal for God will dry up your life”

“If you are overly zealous for God, he will ask too much from you”

“Slow down, people will think you’re a fool if you live for God in every tiny detail”

When we approve of these thoughts Satan sows in our heart, we are thinking less of God than he deserves

Zeal for God does not squeeze the joy out of our life; it puts life into our existence! The more we surrender all we are to God, the more we can grasp the fullness of life He gives

Zeal for God will mean we turn more of who we are and what we have over to God, but He promises to reward us out of the riches of his grace. It should be obvious that what God will gives will be immeasurable greater than what we turn over

As for the opinion of the world, they have always thought anyone sold out to God is a fool. But the Bible tells us those who “believe in him will not be put to shame” (Romans 10:11). On the day every knee bows before our Lord Jesus, we will passionately wish that he always had our zeal.

Some thoughts on zeal for God

The point of our final ‘glorification’ is that God will finally have our whole heart, our total zeal

What level of zeal do you think surrounds the Throne of God right now? There is no restraint of zeal for those closest to God’s glory

When God has our whole heart, our life is raised to the highest possible level

Each step of zeal for God is a step of wisdom, for nothing will bear sweeter fruit

How do we grow in zeal for God?

Love Him most of all

Obey Him in the little things.

Talk with Him every day

Be a worshipper

There is no better way to live, than to be zealous for God, it is not even close!

 

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WHERE WILL THEY RUN AFTER THEY GRADUATE?

By Debbie Huber

Can we help our children run to God and not away from Him after they graduate?

This is an exciting time for many families who have children graduating from high school. 

Whether they are going off to college or to work, the life changes will be significant.  All of a sudden, their level of independence and responsibility increases.  

But for many families, graduation can seem like an open door for young adults to “run away” from God and from all that we as parents have taught them.  As parents we often feel inadequate, that there is more we could be doing or could have done.

Can we keep them from “running away” from God?  No, not in our strength. But as inadequate as we often feel, God does use our authority in our children’s lives to lay a foundation for our children to know and love our Heavenly Father.

In an article from Erik Raymond, in the Ordinary Pastor blog, he gives some thoughts on parenting your children to run to God and not away from Him.

1. Regularly expose them to the Bible, the Sunday church service, fellowship in the church, family Bible reading, and discussions of spiritual things.

2. Be who you want them to be. Model the faithfulness that the Bible calls you to.

3. Elevate the Bible in the home. Do your children see that you cherish God’s word?  That is a powerful example.

4. Be consistent in discipline.   Don’t base it on your feelings because they change.

5. Confess your sins. Our children need to see that we are sinners in need of grace and forgiveness too!

6. Let them grow up. It is finding the balance between keeping them in a bubble and letting them do whatever they want. It is lovingly, prayerfully, and thoughtfully shepherding them through their growing up years.

7. Have real conversations and answer the hard questions.  They will hear the hard questions and they will form an opinion. Help them to see life through the lens of God’s word. Conversation is hard but it goes far in developing your relationship with your children.

8. Keep your promises.  This breeds trust.

9. Show affection. Your children should always know that they are loved and secure in your home.

10. Pray a lot!  Parenting is hard!  Even if we do all of the above, without God’s intervention our children may just be well-adjusted members of society but who are without hope for eternity.  Parenting is gospel work, a work of dependence on our Savior, knowing that He is the only hope for the children that God has entrusted to us.

Erik Raymond says that gospel parenting is not like a recipe for making a cake, that if you follow everything just right your children will be saved.  We must rely on the grace of God that He is at work in all of our lives.

And when the day comes and our children enter the new world after high school, we can let them go with confidence that they have been “loved and trained by us and God”.  And we can pray that God will give us wisdom as parents for this new phase in our children’s lives.

KNOW WHAT IS AT STAKE

 

Compromise is about our heart for God

In Christ we have become citizens of Christ’s kingdom. All of our life is now meant to participate in serving that kingdom. When we go our own way, we are guilty of serving the kingdom of this world, and that kingdom follows after the “ruler of this world” who is Satan.

Compromise begins with “small” omissions

The most important commandment is to love God with all we are. If we analyze our life, it does not take long to realize that we frequently fail to talk with God . . listen to him . . think about him . . represent him . . give to him . . serve him . . or love him.

These are simple omissions. They seem harmless. And many people will gladly tell us not to worry about it –after all God knows we are not perfect

These omissions lead to greater compromise

The patterns of failing to give God our attention will always eventually lead to more aggressive forms of compromise. We should keep in mind that every compromise with God points us in the direction of rejecting him. By grace we may not go far down that path, but compromise does point away from God, goodness and wisdom.

On the other hand, pursuing God keeps our heart from drifting. It anchors us in a relationship that so fills our heart, we no longer want to compromise

God takes compromise personally

You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? (James 4:4-5)

God’s love has been lavished upon us at great sacrifice; no one has been more faithful to us. James 4:4 lets us know that in God’s eyes compromise is a matter of our spending time in the arms of another

Compromise is a form of telling God, “You are not enough”

“Lord, I would give you my all, but I get so much more out of living for myself”

“Lord, I would live for you with all my heart, but what have I gotten so far?”

Our half-heartedness with God is so significant because he is so sufficient. We can spin living only partially for God all we want, but it still declares “He is not enough”

Compromise is out of touch with reality

How can compromise with Christ be rooted in reality?  He is our Creator, Sustainer, Savior, and Judge. All wisdom, power and authority come from him. There is no future in compromise. There will no true success by it, and we will find no hope with it.

The only sure thing in compromise, will be our regrets

SERMON LEFTOVERS 10.14.13

“Becoming a Disciple”               

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength”  Mark 12:30

We saw last week, the Great Commission is our job description. All disciples are disciple-makers

Being a disciple-maker is not primarily an ability issue, it’s a love for God issue

To obey the Great Commission, we need to embrace the Great Commandment 

To love God is essential to our identity as his people

When God first presented his covenant to the people of Israel, they were commanded to love God with all their heart (Deuteronomy 6)

After the people chased after sin, the Lord reaffirmed his covenant and repeats the Great Commandment (Dt 10)

In Dt 30 the Lord spoke about future times of failure and how he would restore them so they would again love him with all their heart

After the Israelites settled the land God had promised them, they were reminded about the Great Commandment (Joshua 22)

When Jesus is asked what the most important commandment is, he repeats that it is to love God with all that we are!

Love for God is the motivation that most faithfully leads us

The nature of love is to pursue its object

 “Owe no one anything, except to love each other” (Romans 13:8)

The principle is that no matter how much we have loved, the next moment we “owe” more love

 “Love never ends” (1 Corinthians 13:8)

These passages show us that true love always wants to do more and to give its best

Love for God counteracts our greatest obstacles and dangers

These are love for self (selfishness) and love for the world

Our problem is not our lack of love; it’s the focus of our love

When we act purely for God’s sake in love, it is the highest honor we can give him

Fear, guilt, duty and reward have their place, but are lesser motivations

Faithfulness to God for His sake alone reveals our great esteem for him

The Bible gives three primary evidences that we love God

1.  When we obey God (John 14:21)

2.  When we take joy in obeying God (1 John 5:3) 

3.  When we love our fellow believers (1 John 5:1)  

Summary Thoughts

Love pursues the other person and puts their interest above our own

Love for God pursues a relationship with him and submits to him

Since the gospel is God’s great work and desire, if we are to love God (the Great Commandment) we must be disciple-makers (the Great Commission)

Disciple-making expresses our commitment to love God

The Great Commandment to love God, is our internal condition; and the Great Commission to make disciples, is the resulting action

What do you believe about the Great Commandment?

(1)  If you think this is overemphasized, you need to hear what God has to say about being half-hearted

“Because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth” (Revelation 3:16)

(2)  If you think God is worthy that we should love him with all that we are, you need to take action (that’s what love does)

 

A MOTHER’S DAY TRIBUTE

My mom, Susan Huber, with my sister Dana

My life has been wonderfully affected by the lives of two moms, the one who raised me, and the one I married. 

Susan Huber is my mother and Debbie Huber is my wife. They are uniquely different people and yet in what matters most, they are similar. When I think about their lives, two defining qualities always come to mind. These qualities are so obviously apparent that everyone who knows them and reads this blog will be able to give an enthusiastic “amen”!

The first quality is love for God. They want to serve Him and please Him in every way they can. As with anyone, they have to labor at living for God, but His rule is not an imposition to them. I have regularly seen them take joy in the opportunities they have to follow God. 

Being around them causes me to more easily see and be convicted by my own half-heartedness toward God. This truly is a gift, because it routinely prods me to work at being faithful. Their maturity and love for God doesn’t stay within themselves, God wonderfully uses it to grow me, and so eventually touch even more people!

Sept 2012 - close upwith Debbie, my wife and best friend

The second quality (which flows out of the first), is their consistency. Each day their attitudes are the same. Like everyone, some days they are tired, frustrated or harried. However, that does not keep them from living the same way as they do on cheery days.

I have never had to wonder, “How will she be today”? This is also a great gift to me, because it has made my life smoother and much more pleasant. And it causes my sour moods to stand out and helps me to recognize that they are out of place.

These two entwined qualities have been a tremendous benefit to me and to all whose lives are touched by them. These character traits have turned their lives into resplendent displays of God’s grace. We can take encouragement in knowing that these qualities will grow and bear an abundant harvest in any heart that is fertile soil.

For all the moms who read this blog – your lives are appreciated far more than you probably know. May God allow you to see that reality with fresh eyes!

BELARUS JOURNAL 2.06.13

When I looked out the window this morning, I was embarrassed for every snowman I have ever made. The snowman sculpted by the students under Galina’s guiding hand is an impressive sight. He is large, perfectly rounded and smooth. He has small feet and nubby arms which hold a large sprig from a dried plant. Large metallic looking medallions serve as buttons; he has a long carrot nose; his expressive mouth is large and red. A hat is on his head and a snappy looking scarf wraps around his neck.

Jake was missing from class; he has a mandatory physical examination for military service. Men are usually deferred from service until they finish college. However, earlier this year 5 men in my class were told they would have to go into the military now. That issue has not been fully resolved. PLEASE PRAY these students can finish their studies at the Bible College first.

I began class by dividing the students into two teams which I named the Snowmen and the Ducks. I came up with snowmen for obvious reasons and I chose the name ducks because I know it in Russian. Each team had to read Romans 8 and write down a list of all the works of the Holy Spirit found in the chapter. The winning team would get a prize. I didn’t know what it would be at the time, but ended up giving chocolate granola bars.

I had to cross off a few items from each team’s list because they repeated the same points using different words. As in He leads . . He guides us. In the end, the Snowmen won by a single point 17 to 16. When the Snowmen received their prize and the Ducks were left empty handed, Vasa said I was the first teacher to give just one group a reward. I guess it is my New Jersey sensibilities that allow me to leave the vanquished on the floor. However, I did throw the remaining granola bar for the Ducks to divide up between them – after all, I am a Christian New Jerseyan.

Romans 8 is rich in theology, application and encouragement. We were scheduled to use most of the day for it, and we needed it. One place that slowed us down was in understanding how Jesus did not operate out of His own divine nature on earth, but by the power of the Holy Spirit. They struggled with how His human and divine natures interacted and what implications this had in His redemptive acts we covered in chapter 3. They were far from shallow in their thinking. At one point Phil finally said, “I used to think differently”. What an encouragement as a teacher to see students visibly grow in their understanding and heart for the truth!

The other point that brought us to a crawl was the “leading” of the Holy Spirit. There is a lot of subtlety to this as well as a lot of misuse. We went slowly and kept to what the Bible says and I think we all ended up in the same place – or at least pretty close.

We were all ready for lunch. When I commented out loud about the speed in which the guys devoured their meals again, Galina innocently piped up, “That is because they just eat, you do a lot of talking”. So there it is!

Looking at my Twitter account, I noticed Christianity Today magazine tweeted a link to yesterday’s blog post about teaching Romans at the Bible College. That was an unexpected surprise.

Afternoon periods are the hardest. The day has been long and drowsiness begins its siren call to the students. Added to those factors is that we had tough theology to slog through. I have to say they were up to it. The longer I am with this class, the more I like them as a group and respect them as students. The questions continue to be thoughtful and investigatory calls for understanding.  

Wednesday night mean a drive to Gatovo to be with a group of people I dearly love! Their love for us is like walking through the forest after a rain. All the plants and trees are so saturated; everything you brush against soaks you. My visits with them are a soaking of care and kindness.

We arrived to an abundant and beautiful table of food. Along with dishes of fruit and cold meats there was Annya’s dish of dough baked with savory cheese and meat, Luda’s pastry shells filled with chicken, cheese, egg and pickle (believe me it works); and someone’s mushroom tarts. But the centerpiece was Sophie’s gorgeous cake of sour cherry, chocolate and cream.

As I was finishing my second helping of most everything, Annya place a prodigious section of Sophie’s cake before me. I took a breath and began. There were a couple times when I had to stop and gather myself, but it was consumed. Anatoly only had TWO pieces tonight.

I taught from 2 Kings 5:1-15. In the Russian Bible the books of Samuel are also called Kings, so from their perspective I taught from 4 Kings chapter 5. The theme: “Is God worthy of our obedience”. The message begins and ends with these two questions

     (1) What level of obedience does God deserve from you? 

     (2) What obedience does He get from you?

At times the sermon is hard hitting, and with an unknown audience, I might have softened a couple challenges. Afterward, I told them I recognized it had tough parts, but I preached to them like I would to the people of Greentree; and that I knew and loved them too much to soften it – although I did seek to include strong encouragements. In the end, God is worthy of complete obedience AND it truly is best for us. It will become sweetness to our souls.

It occurred to me as I spoke to them that I have been freshly impacted this trip by how much I love them. I have long known this and expressed it many times – but it seems as if my love for them and the church of Belarus has plunged to new depths. I feel it for God’s people in both of my “home” churches.

I encourage you to seek to love God more – no I plead with you to pursue Him more consistently and zealously. What in this world is worth placing before Christ?!  Has He not already proven His worthiness?  Has He not demonstrated that following Him is always better than any other good found in this world?

Will you pray for these realities to be deeper in your soul?  Are you willingly to sincerely ask God to reveal where your love is dim and needs to burn more brightly?  Will you consider what step of consistent obedience will lead you to live out greater love for God?

 

MAKING GOD’S HEART SMILE

How do you feel inside when one of your children or grandchildren call out your name as they see you and run up with a wide open embrace? Now if we are talking about teenage children, well, there is a good chance they are after money, the car, or permission for something you will think is a sketchy idea. However in talking about kids in general – this makes us feel wonderful.

I can still here the cries of “Daddy!” from my preschool children when I would come through the front door after work. They would wrap themselves around my legs, as I tried to make my way to the kitchen to greet Debbie, who was usually there preparing a delicious dinner.

When my daughter, Jillian was around 7 or 8 years old, she would appear next to me every week sometime after the Sunday morning service. Usually I would be in the midst of a conversation, when suddenly I would feel her little hand slip into my own. She would not ask or say anything; she just wanted to be with me.

These are precious memories. Indeed they fall into the “priceless” category. They also have a precious instructive value about God. He is the perfect Father, who is filled with abounding love “that surpasses knowledge” (Ephesians 3:19).  Here is the wonderful lesson: if our hearts which are marred by selfishness feel these great delights of love when our children show their love to us – how much more does God’s heart burst with joy, when we run to him, and when we just want to be with Him.

We can be uncomfortable thinking that God has strong positive emotions toward us. We know He has strong negative emotions when He judges evil.  In a similar way, God has strong emotions when He delights in our godliness. It is true – we can make God’s heart smile by coming to Him with hearts wide open to know and obey Him.

This perspective can help bring us to our prayer time, when our flesh is trying to convince us how boring and wasteful it will be. Remind yourself of the pictures you have experienced in the delights of sharing life with loved ones, and know that God, who made us in His image, delights in this as well.