God in a Nutshell: Love and Faithfulness

You Are Eternally And Unconditionally Loved!

There is nothing you can do to make God love you more! There is nothing you can do to make God love you less. God loves you! And when you truly “get that”, your life will be radically and eternally transformed—for the better.

gods-love

Read: Psalm 117 // Focus: Psalm 117:1-2

“Praise the LORD, all you nations; extol him, all you peoples. For great is his love toward us, and the faithfulness of the LORD endures forever. Praise the LORD.”

They say that dynamite comes in small packages, and so does one of the most powerful truths in all of Scripture. Psalm 117 is the shortest chapter in the Bible, but how profound these two verses are. The entire message that God has graciously communicated to mankind through his Word be summed up right here: God’s love toward us is great, and his faithfulness is unending.

Love and faithfulness—that is our God in a nutshell. He loves us unconditionally. We did nothing to deserve or earn his love. In fact, we have gone out of our way to repulse his love for us. (Romans 5:8) Yet he has stubbornly persisted in loving us.

And what can diminish his love for us? Nothing—not even our best efforts to drive him away. (Romans 8:38-39) He is faithful morning after morning, with each new day, to extend mercy, cover us with grace, shower us with goodness and embrace us with everlasting love. His love endures forever.

No wonder the authors of these psalms would often exclaim after writing of God’s great love and enduring faithfulness, “Praise the Lord!” What else is there to say.

Why don’t you join me today—at this very moment, wherever you are—and give a heartfelt “praise the Lord” shout-out to our loving and faithful God!

Praise the Lord!

Making Life Work: I dare you: watch this video and see if your day doesn’t get suddenly better. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V2mn86HdQFY&feature=related

Got An Owie? Start Running!

When our kids were small and got an owie, they would come running to Linda and me in a huge upset—weeping, wailing, the whole nine yards. From their view, the world was coming to an end, but from our perspective as parents, their cause for concern was no big deal, and neither was the solution. So we would pick them up, comfort their pain, dry their tears, kiss their owie and send them on their way, our consolation working wonders to restore peace and confidence in their little world. As adults, why do we forget to run to God with our owies? His perspective is much like ours as parents with our kids—only multiplied by indescribable love, unlimited wisdom and unmatched power to the nth degree. Best of all, the Father never fails to pick us up in his arms, soothe our aching heart and restore our broken world. Got an owie? Start running!

owie

Making Life Work
Read: Psalm 94 // Focus: Psalm 94:19

When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul.

When our children were small, they would sometimes come to my wife and me in a huge upset—tears, wailing, the whole nine yards. It might have been the result of a skinned knee, a snatched toy, a bad dream or any number of earth-shattering events. From the child’s view, the world was coming to an end, but from our perspective as parents, their cause for concern was no big deal, and the solution was never beyond our resources to rectify.

Of course, all parents experience that with their children—it is just a universal role moms and dads are called to play. But it is also universal that as adults, we forget what we know to be true for our children and we will often get in a huge upset over things that happen in our grown up world—a bruised ego, a blocked desire, a broken dream. We get an owe, and we get foot-stomping mad, or we get profoundly sad, or we start being bad—or all three.

When our children were losing it like that (in Psalm 94:18, the writer said, “when my foot was slipping”), we would pick them up and say something like, “there, there, little one, it’s going to be okay.” We would comfort their pain, dry their tears, kiss their owie and send them on their way with the knowledge that things were going to be okay. And each time, our consolation worked wonders to restore peace and confidence in their little world.

I suspect you know where I am going with this by now. From our view, the world sometimes seems like it is coming to an end. At times, it feels like our feet are slipping, that we are loosing our grip, that we don’t have the wherewithal to hold it all together much longer. But how do you think God sees our situation? Of course, his perspective is much like ours as parents with our children—only multiplied by indescribable love, unlimited wisdom and unmatched power to the nth degree.

Much like you, on a regular basis I have disappointing thing happen in my world—friends who let me down, partners who doesn’t appreciate the sacrifice I make to advance a shared ministry, plans that get blocked by unanticipated circumstances or diminishing resources or uncooperative people. Those frustrating situations can make me foot-stomping mad. And like the psalmist, when I respond in childlike upset, my anxiety rises within me.

So what do I do? I have learned to run to God. I take my owie to him. And he never fails to pick me up in his arms and soothe my aching heart. He is a willing and wonderful Father who holds me until I absorb his perspective and see my world from his vantage point.

When I run to Father, the outcome is predictable: His consolation always bring joy to my soul.

Making Life Work: Got an owie? Run to God! In another Psalm, David said what God is like ‘As a father is kind to his children, so the Lord is kind to those who honor him. He knows what we are made of; he remembers that we are dust.’ (Psalm 103:13-14)

God On Display

Reflect:
I John 3:11-24 & 4:1-21

“No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” (I John 4:12)

Ask a thousand different people for their concept of God and you will most likely get a thousand different depictions. But the Bible makes it plain that the chief expression of God is love. What does God look like? He looks like love.

Not the sloppy, squishy, anything goes kind of love our world knows. Not the ever-changing love that rises and falls with one’s current emotional state that far too many people today understand love to be. Not the selfish kind of love that loves to the degree that love is requited.

No—real love is an unconditional love; it is a sacrificial love; it is a proactive love; it is a love that seeks out unworthy objects. It is a holy and righteous love; it is a tough love; it is an unchanging love. It is that kind of love that is at the core of God’s nature. It is this love that is the essence of his being.

And though no one has ever seen God, he has made himself visible by the evidence of his love in this world. Wherever you see this kind of love, there, in a very real sense, you see evidence of God. Whether you see evidence of love in the wonder and majesty of nature or in the selflessness and sacrifice of humanity, there God has left his fingerprint of love.

But God is best seen in the lives of his redeemed ones as they live in loving community within the family of God. Whenever you see authentic fellowship, spiritual unity, self-sacrifice, forgiveness, serving—you are seeing love in action; you are seeing God.

When you see God’s people reaching out to a lost world, loving the unlovely, serving the poor, preaching the Good News to the lost, laying down their lives so that hostile people can see the Father, there you have God’s love on display; there you see God.

And God is especially visible when his love is on display in you. When you love with no thought of love in return; when you go out of your way to love; when you love in response to hurtful and hateful actions; when you suffer, but patiently love; when everyone else has given up but you stubbornly love anyway…

When that kind of love in action is displayed in you, there God is seen.

“Our love to Him is the proof and measure of what we know of His love to us.” ~John Newton

Reflect and Apply: Think of practical ways that you can demonstrate the love of God through your life today

God On Display

Essential 100—Read:
I John 3:11-24 & 4:1-21

“No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” (I John 4:12)

Ask a thousand different people for their concept of God and you will most likely get a thousand different depictions. But the Bible makes it plain that the chief expression of God is love. What does God look like? He looks like love.

Not the sloppy, squishy, anything goes kind of love our world knows. Not the ever-changing love that rises and falls with one’s current emotional state that far too many people today understand love to be. Not the selfish kind of love that loves to the degree that love is requited.

No—real love is an unconditional love; it is a sacrificial love; it is a proactive love; it is a love that seeks out unworthy objects. It is a holy and righteous love; it is a tough love; it is an unchanging love. It is that kind of love that is at the core of God’s nature. It is this love that is the essence of his being.

And though no one has ever seen God, he has made himself visible by the evidence of his love in this world. Wherever you see this kind of love, there, in a very real sense, you see evidence of God. Whether you see evidence of love in the wonder and majesty of nature or in the selflessness and sacrifice of humanity, there God has left his fingerprint of love.

But God is best seen in the lives of his redeemed ones as they live in loving community within the family of God. Whenever you see authentic fellowship, spiritual unity, self-sacrifice, forgiveness, serving—you are seeing love in action; you are seeing God.

When you see God’s people reaching out to a lost world, loving the unlovely, serving the poor, preaching the Good News to the lost, laying down their lives so that hostile people can see the Father, there you have God’s love on display; there you see God.

And God is especially visible when his love is on display in you. When you love with no thought of love in return; when you go out of your way to love; when you love in response to hurtful and hateful actions; when you suffer, but patiently love; when everyone else has given up but you stubbornly love anyway…

When that kind of love in action is displayed in you, there God is seen.

“Our love to Him is the proof and measure of what we know of His love to us.” ~John Newton

Reflect and Apply: Think of practical ways that you can demonstrate the love of God through your life today

What’s In God’s Wallet?

Project 52—Memorize:
I John 3:1

“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.”

The man who penned this heartwarming verse arguably understood the love of God better than any other human being. It was John the beloved, the Apostle of love. Of course, he was also the author of the most well-known, well-loved verse in the entire Bible—John 3:16,

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

That is the whole Bible in just one verse. There’s not a simpler, yet more profound truth in the Bible than this: God loved the whole world so much that he gave his Son to die for it. But that is not just some moving statement of God’s universal love; it is also a profound declaration of his personal love for you. St. Augustine, the 4th century North African Bishop, one of the most influential figures in church history, said it this way,

“God loves each and every one of us as if there were only one of us.”

Did you realize that if you were the only person on this planet, God would’ve loved you so much that he still would have given Jesus to die for your sins? There would still be John 3:16 if you were the sole human being ever created. Max Lucado wrote an entire book just on that one verse called “3:16”. Here is how he put it,

“If God had a wallet, your photo would be in it.”

I don’t know if you really get this or not—and I pray that somehow, somewhere it becomes reality to you, perhaps even before you finish reading this blog, or maybe as you memorize and reflect on this verse. But the truth is, God has a crazy, inexplicable, unreasonable love for you! He really does.

Karl Barth was one of the most brilliant and complex theologians of the twentieth century, writing volume after volume on the meaning of life and faith. A reporter once asked Dr. Barth if he could summarize what he had said in all those volumes. Barth thought for a moment and then said:

“Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”

That’s the whole of God’s truth in a single phrase. Lean into that today—you are the object of his lavish love; you are Abba’s favored child. That is what you are!

Reflect & Apply: Peruse Ephesians 1-2 and make a list of all the things that God has lavished on you through Jesus Christ. Your list should have at least 10 “spiritual blessings” on it.

Such Wondrous Love

Essential 100—Read:
Genesis 3

“And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” ~Genesis 3:15

Genesis 3 has to be the saddest chapter in the entire Bible. Adam and Eve lived in the most amazing environment—the Garden of Eden; had everything human beings could hope for—peace, security, provision, fruitfulness, and purpose; experienced unfettered spiritual intimacy—they literally walked and talked personally with God; they were created to live eternally—they were untainted by sin, suffering, sickness and death.

But they threw it all away for the temporary pleasure of sin.  And the human race has suffered the terrible consequence ever since—the increasing breakdown of the environment, the insatiable hunger for satisfaction, separation from God and death.

Yet this also has to be the most beautiful chapter in the entire Bible, because here in Genesis 3:15 we find the first promise in Scripture of a Redeemer, a Messiah who will come and save man from his sin. Although Adam and Eve have traded their trust in God for self-rulership—a heartbreaking rejection of the Creator’s offer of unfettered relationship, endless provision and full partnership with him in ruling over his creation—he lovingly and graciously offers them a way back to restored fellowship and eternal life through this promise of a Redeemer: The woman’s offspring, who will crush Satan’s head (Genesis 3:15 is the first of many prophetic references to Jesus in the Old Testament).

When I think of how deliberate our rejection, how complete our rebellion, how despicable our sin in Adam, yet how gracious and how merciful our God is in response, I am reminded of the chorus of an old hymn we used to sing in the church where I grew up, Such Love, Such Wondrous Love:

Such love, such wondrous love,
Such love, such wondrous love,
That God should love a sinner such as I,
How wonderful is love like this!

As Jean Vanier beautifully wrote, “Love is an act of endless forgiveness.” Yes, such forgiving, redeeming love; such wondrous love!

And that just about says it all, doesn’t it?

Reflect and Apply:  Genesis 3 tells the story of how Adam and Eve voluntarily entered into sin, and how Satan craftily lured them into it by his deceptive promises.  That is the way it always is with sin: It promises what it can’t deliver, then delivers consequences that rob us from God’s promise of soul satisfying provision.  Consider how sin may be tempting you away from God’s provision with deceptive promises—then make a decision to reject sin and run to God.

There You See God

Read I John 4

“No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God
lives in us and his love is made complete in us.”
(I John 4:12)

Thoughts… Ask a thousand different people for their concept of God and you will most likely get a thousand different depictions. But the Bible makes it plain that the chief expression of God is love. What does God look like? He looks like love.

Not the sloppy, squishy, anything goes kind of love our world knows. Not the ever-changing love that rises and falls with one’s current emotional state that far too many people today understand love to be. Not the selfish kind of love that loves to the degree that love is requited.

No—real love is an unconditional love; it is a sacrificial love; it is a proactive love; it is a love that seeks out unworthy objects. It is a holy and righteous love; it is a tough love; it is an unchanging love. It is that kind of love that is at the core of God’s nature. It is this love that is the essence of his being.

And though no one has ever seen God, he has made himself visible by the evidence of his love in this world. Wherever you see this kind of love, there, in a very real sense, you see evidence of God. Whether you see evidence of love in the wonder and majesty of nature or in the selflessness and sacrifice of humanity, there God has left his fingerprint of love.

But God is best seen in the lives of his redeemed ones as they live in loving community within the family of God. Whenever you see authentic fellowship, spiritual unity, self-sacrifice, forgiveness, serving—you are seeing love in action; you are seeing God.

When you see God’s people reaching out to a lost world, loving the unlovely, serving the poor, preaching the Good News to the lost, laying down their lives so that hostile people can see the Father, there you have God’s love on display; there you see God.

And God is especially visible when his love is on display in you. When you love with no thought of love in return; when you go out of your way to love; when you love in response to hurtful and hateful actions; when you suffer, but patiently love; when everyone else has give up but you stubbornly love anyway…

When that kind of love in action is displayed in you, there God is seen.

Prayer… Dear Father, I pray that your love will be on display in me today.

One More Thing…
“Our love to Him is the proof and measure of what we know of His love to us.” —John Newton