Wednesday, March 7, 2018

The Attributes of God: Love

God Is Love 1 John 4:8.

I spent the first part of my morning on the couch watching as one of my heroes of the faith was laid to rest. The legacy of this General will stay with me forever. Though I rejoice that he has received his heavenly reward, my heart broke when he passed. Many spoke and shared touching stories of how this great man of God touched their lives. Tears fell hard as I listened to the daughter who returned home in her fallenness and brokenness to find her father waiting for her with loving arms open wide. The unconditional love of a father. Her father was not God, but he showed her that day who God is and how He loves the broken-hearted. The prodigal son jumps off the page of the Holy Writ and into my heart. 
The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love {1 Jn. 4:8 NASB}.

Scripture tells us three things concerning the nature of God; He is spirit {Jn. 4:24}, He is light {1 Jn. 1:5}, and He is love {1 Jn. 4:8}. God does not simply love us, He is Love. Love is not one of His attributes, but His very nature.[1] Oh if only we had a full grasp on the love of God! The more we experience and understand His love—its character, fullness, blessedness—the more our hearts will be drawn out in love to Him.

I am so thankful for His love. I cannot fathom how He can possibly love me, yet He does. His love is unchanging and it cannot be influenced by anyone or anything. I cannot cause Him to love me more and I can’t do anything to make Him love me less. His love is free, spontaneous, and uncaused. He loves me when I am loveless.

God is eternal which means He has no beginning; His love is eternal. I cannot wrap my finite mind around His love for me—I am but dust. I am undone.

I have loved you with an everlasting love;Therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness{Jer. 31: 3 NASB}.

From eternity God set His heart upon His people. Everything about God is infinite. His essence fills heaven and earth. He knows all and sees all. He is all-powerful—nothing is too hard for Him. His love is without limit, it cannot be fathomed, it cannot be measured.

God’s love is one of the grandest themes in all of Scripture.[2] The Bible is God’s story of love for all creatures. The Preacher’s daughter spoke of being comforted in her father’s arms in the midst of her darkness—her brokenness. This is a beautiful picture of our heavenly Father and His love for us. God’s love means that God eternally gives of Himself to others.[3] It is part of His nature to give of Himself in order to bring about good to His people.

His love was evident at creation in the Trinity. Jesus speaks to this truth in John’s gospel in one of the most beautiful prayers ever spoken—His High Priestly Prayer:

Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am, so that they may see My glory which You have given Me, for You loved Me before the foundation of the world” (Jn. 17:24 NASB emphasis by author). God loved and honored Him from all eternity. The Beloved Disciple wants us to know this truth, “The Father loves the Son and has given all things into His hand”{3:35 NASB}. The love between the Father and Son also presumably characterizes their relationship with the Holy Spirit even though it is not explicitly mentioned.[4] This eternal love of the Father for the Son and both for the Holy Spirit demonstrates that the Trinity seeks to bring joy and happiness to each other and to us as well. The Trinity’s self-giving love is expressed in God’s relationship to mankind. He loves sinners which is why He sent His Son to redeem everyone who will accept this precious gift of grace.

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life {Jn.3:16 NASB}

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us {Rom. 5:8 NASB}.

I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me {Gal. 2:20 NASB}.

Christ loves sinners. He loves all people. He came and died for all mankind—because of His love for us. His love drove Him to the cross. It is unfathomable to me that God set his love on us and that He longs to bring us true joy and happiness. It doesn’t mean that we will have a trouble-free life, but He is working all things for our good {Rom. 8:28}and His love for us is eternal.

God’s love is so amazing and it is even more profound that we can and should return our love to Him:

And He said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment” {Matt. 22:37-38 NASB}.

The way we demonstrate our love for God is by obeying His commandments. Just as God has bestowed His love on us, we can pour out our love on Him by living a life of obedience, living a life of worship and prayer, and by doing so, we bring joy to His heart.

As the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, So your God will rejoice over you {Is. 62:5 NASB}.

The Lord your God is in your midst, A victorious warrior. He will exult over you with joy, He will be quiet in His love, He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy. {Zep. 3:17 NASB}.

To read all in this series of the Attributes of God click here
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[1] A.W. Pink, The Attributes Of God (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1975), 77.
[2] John S. Feinberg, No One Like Him (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001), 349.
[3] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 199.
[4] Ibid.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Psalms To See Me Through Psalm 28: He Hears and Answers Prayer

David prayed this psalm when Saul and others, including his own son Absalom, declared their loyalty to David yet their hearts were set on destroying him. This psalm continues the theme from Psalm 26 and Psalm 27 in prayer to the Lord for deliverance. David once again follows his petition with praise to God for answering his prayer. David knew how to reach Yahweh.

A Psalm of David.
To You, O Lord, I call; My rock, do not be deaf to me, For if You are silent to me, I will become like those who go down to the pit. Hear the voice of my supplications when I cry to You for help, When I lift up my hands toward Your holy sanctuary {vv. 1-2}.

God’s holy sanctuary. David does not neglect the sanctuary for it is where he finds God’s presence and is filled with grace. Let us boldly enter the throne of grace {Heb. 4:16}. Don’t forget the sanctuary, run to God and as you lift your hands in worship—like David—you too will find the grace you need. God has manifested himself to man in His word, so when we are afflicted we can fix our hearts on Him. God should be the object of our faith, hope, and prayer. The Lord encourages us through his servant the prophet, “Call to Me and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things, which you do not know {Jer. 33: 3}. He is our Rock—“there is no rock like our God” {1 Sam. 2:2}. 

Do not drag me away with the wicked And with those who work iniquity, Who speak peace with their neighbors, While evil is in their hearts.  Requite them according to their work and according to the evil of their practices; Requite them according to the deeds of their hands; Repay them their recompense. Because they do not regard the works of the Lord Nor the deeds of His hands, He will tear them down and not build them up {vv. 3-5}.

We all have people who say they love us. They promise to be our friend for life—that they have our back—only to find that they stab us in the back when it serves their purpose. David experienced many such people. He knew their actions to be wicked and he prayed that he would not be swept away with them and suffer their punishment. He didn’t want to be punished along with them and I think, he also did not want to get swept away by the same behavior. He did not want to love people to their face yet turn his back on them when it served him. He knows the Lord warns against being double minded and unstable{James 1:5-8}.

Blessed be the Lord, Because He has heard the voice of my supplication. The Lord is my strength and my shield; My heart trusts in Him, and I am helped; Therefore my heart exults, And with my song I shall thank Him. The Lord is their strength, And He is a saving defense to His anointed. Save Your people and bless Your inheritance; Be their shepherd also, and carry them forever {vv. 6-9}.

David always follows his prayers with praise to God knowing that He will answer. Yahweh is faithful to him. Yahweh is always faithful when we pray. The outcome may not be what we asked for but He will always answer with exactly what we need.

David declares that the Lord is His strength and shield. Strength is often associated with the Ark of the Covenant, the pure gold ark symbolized the presence of God. It was also a reminder that He is the covenant-keeping God. The cherubim who adorned the lid of the ark symbolized strength and power. They were assigned to guard the Garden of Eden with flaming swords after Adam and Eve were exiled. The glorious sound of their wings is likened to the voice of God Almighty when He speaks {Ezek. 10:5}. A sound so loud and marvelous it was heard in the outer court of the temple. They surround the throne of God in Revelation. They bring fear and awe and yet they are not as strong and powerful as Yahweh. The Lord is David’s strength and He is our strength as well. He is a strong tower for us to run and find refuge. God is not only David’s strength, He is also a refuge. He is a fortress of salvation for His anointed—here it is referring to David or one of the priests—now it is for all of us. Salvation is available to all who will run to Him.  

The Tabernacle in the wilderness had many covers of protection. They protected from storms and weather. They protected from wild animals and intruders. This represents God protecting His anointed people. We can run to Him for protection and safety. He is faithful and trustworthy. He will never leave us or forsake us. Don’t be complacent in your relationship with the Lord though. David worshiped Him and trusted and believed in Him. He promises to be with us always, but we must do our part. Worship is the key to God moving in your life. Cultivate a life of prayer and a life of worship. He is our Shepherd and will give us rest.

To read all the Psalms in this series click here: Psalms To See Me Through

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Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Waiting In The Winter

I am sitting on my pink prayer couch listening to worship music. I need some time in the Presence of the Lord to be refreshed—a sabbath rest. I feel drained—I need this time desperately.   

It’s bitter cold out but the sun is shining brightly. Snow is falling from the trees in the chilling breeze—giving the appearance of snow-fall. The twirling flakes glisten in the sunlight. Capturing the beauty on camera eludes me. I am not familiar enough yet with my camera to know how to capture the beautiful scene happening just outside my window. I remember that I snapped a couple of photos the day before while it was snowing. God’s creation is amazing and beautiful. It gives me peace.

Winter. I feel as though winter is my perpetual season—naturally and spiritually. I am awaiting Aslan to arrive and break this curse of winter over the land. My beloved lilac shows no sign of life; I long to see the beautiful lavender flowers waking up from their cold slumber. I long to see fruit blossoms on my apple and apricot trees. The past few years we experienced mild winters that fooled the trees into blooming, only for the blossoms to be lost to one last frost that rears its head and destroys any hope of fruit. Where I live, it doesn’t matter if the grand groundhog sees his shadow or not—there are at least six weeks left of winter to be had.

The thing about seasons is that though it seems that they will last forever—they do change. They are a constant in the laws of nature. I have found that there is little one can do to make the natural seasons change. It is also true that spiritual seasons will last as long as the Lord needs them to last. You can pray, read the Word, and fast but if the Lord wants you in that season there is little you can do to break from the cocoon of winter and spread your wings and fly into spring.

There is a time and purpose for everything under heaven {Eccl. 3:1 NASB}.

Winter may last longer than you or I want, but God promises that He will never leave or forsake us. Though it is hard sometimes, we can rest in His promise. Winter is long, dark, and cold but He will not leave us in those hard times forever.

Every seed buried in sorrow you will bring forth in its time.[1]

After I have prayed and stood on the Word and believed and I find myself still in winter, I have to rest in the Lord and know that He has me there for His purpose. So, I pray some more, I worship, I cultivate a grateful heart, and I seek the beauty in the season that I am in and rest, knowing God cares for me and is working out everything for good. There is always a reason to worship and praise Him for all He has done—all that He has created.

Before I know it spring will be here and I will soak myself in the warmth of the sun. And it will be His timing and for His purpose. Look for the beauty in every season.

He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end {Eccl. 3:11}.

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[1] Elevation Worship, There Is A Cloud 2017.