Category Archives: God’s love

love that will not let me go

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From last night…

So, I’ve spent the past hour contemplating what to write today.  Words just seem inadequate.  So, I’ve read verses and quotes.  Somehow they seem dry.  My heart simply feels empty. 

At care group we talked about walking in faith in the midst of trials.  And though I know looking back at God’s faithfulness in the past gives hope for current strength and future hope and joy, tonight those words just seemed shallow. 

I don’t mean to make this trial greater than I should.  I don’t mean to imply that losing a child by a miscarriage is the worst thing I will ever or could ever face.  I know many friends who have suffered and are suffering much greater than we are.  But this week it has rocked my world.  And I’m left questioning. 

It somehow took me two and 1/2 hours to write those three short paragraphs.  Somehow the eloquence of last week has disappeared.  I want to keep this trial in perspective of the goodness of God.  I want to realize that while grieving is normal and acceptable, that I also have much to rejoice about.  Yet I feel so numb.

I feel like I’m back in that stage where I was years ago with sickness… I know there is hope for heaven, I know one day God will wipe all our tears away.  But I’m struggling to find the hope and joy for today.  I know the strength for tomorrow will be there… I just long to feel it today.

God is good to me.  This is what i believe.  It’s not necessarily how I feel.  But I will choose to focus on the love that will not let me go.

God’s love is better than unconditional

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God’s love is so much different and better than unconditional.

Unconditional love, by contemporary definition, starts and stops with sympathy and empathy, with blanket acceptance. It accepts you as you are, with no expectations. You can take it or leave it. But think about  what God’s love for you is like.

God does not benignly gaze on you in affirmation. God cares too much to be unconditional.

Read Psalm 121, Hosea 11, Hosea 14, Isaiah 49…the life of Jesus. The Lord watches you. The Lord cares. What His children do and what happens to His children matter.  Watching, caring and mattering are intense.  Complex. Specific. Personal.

Unconditional love isn’t nearly so good or compelling. In comparison it is detached, general, impersonal.  God’s love is much better than unconditional.

God is active. He decided to love you when He could have justly condemned you. He’s involved. He’s merciful, not simply tolerant.  He who abhors sin pursues sinners by name. God is so committed to forgiving and changing you that He sent Jesus to die for you. He welcomes the poor in spirit with a shout and a feast. God is vastly patient and relentlessly persevering as He intrudes into your life. God’s love actively does you good.

God’s love is full of blood, sweat, tears, and cries. He suffered for you. He fights for you, defending the afflicted. He fights you. He pursues you in powerful tenderness so that He can change you. He’s jealous, not detached.

His sort of empathy and sympathy speaks out: words of truth to set you free of sin and misery. He will discipline you as proof that He loves you. He, Himself, comes to live in you, pouring out His Holy Spirit in

your heart, so you will know Him. He puts out power and energy. God’s love has hate in it: hate for evil, whether done to you or by you. God’s love demands that you respond: believe, trust, obey, give thanks with a joyful heart, work out your salvation with fear, delight in the Lord.

God’s love is much better than unconditional.

David Powlison

He is altogether lovely

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“Yes, He is altogether lovely! This is my Beloved, and this is my Friend!” (Song of Solomon 5:16)

Why does the world reject the Savior of the world? Why do they abhor Him who is altogether lovely, and hate Him who is the best Friend of mankind?

O men of the world! what good can you desire which is not in Christ? The excellencies of earth are but His footstool; the excellencies of heaven are but His throne! How excellent, then, must He himself be!  His treasures are infinite–and open for you!

In Jesus are . . .
riches–if you are poor;
honor–if you are despised;
friendship–if you are forsaken;
help–if you are injured;
mercy–if you are miserable;
joy–if you are disconsolate;
protection–if you are in danger;
deliverance–if you are a captive;
life–if you are mortal;
and all things–if you have nothing at all.

Time and eternity are His! He can give you all the glorious things of eternity!

Moreover, He can deliver you . . .
from all your fears;
from sin–the worst of all evils;
from self–the most hurtful of all companions;
from death–the most dreadful of all changes;
from Satan–the most subtle of all enemies;
from hell–the most horrible of all prisons; and
from wrath–the most horrifying doom of all sinners!

Now, where will you find such a one as Jesus? Why, then, refuse life, and seek after death? All heaven is enamored with His beauty!

The longer we look on ‘created gaieties’, the leaner and less lovely they grow; so that, by the time we have viewed them forty, fifty, or sixty years–we see nothing but vanity in the creature! But when ten thousand ages are employed in beholding the perfection and beauty of Jesus–He still appears more and more lovely–even altogether lovely!

Alas! I can say nothing of His true excellencies! They overwhelm my laboring thought, and are too vast for my feeble conception to bring forth!

(from “Solitude Sweetened” by James Meikle, 1730-1799)

how would you define Christiantiy?

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“The question can be answered in many ways, but the richest answer I know is that a Christian is one who has God as Father…Our understanding of Christianity cannot be better than our grasp of adoption…The truth of our adoption gives us the deepest insights the New Testament affords into the greatness of God’s love. Were I asked to focus the New Testament message in three words, my proposal would be – adoption through propitiation.” J.I. Packer

“Observe, concerning the first advent, that the Lord was moving in it towards man. ‘When the fullness of time was come, God sent forth his Son.’ We moved not towards the Lord, but the Lord towards us. I do not find that the world in repentance sought after its Maker. No, but the offended God himself in infinite compassion broke the silence, and came forth to bless his enemies. All good things begin with him.” Charles Spurgeon

“That justification-by which we mean God’s forgiveness of the past together with his acceptance for the future-is the primary and fundamental blessing of the gospel is not in question. Justification is the primary blessing, because it meets our primary spiritual need. We all stand by nature under God’s judgment; his law condemns us; guilt gnaws at us, making us restless, miserable and in our lucid moments afraid; we have no peace in ourselves because we have no peace with our Maker. So we need the forgiveness of our sins, and assurance of a restored relationship with God, more than we need anything else in the world; and this the gospel offers before it offers us anything else…But contrast this, now, with adoption. Adoption is a family idea, conceived in terms of love, and viewing God as father. In adoption, God takes us into his family and fellowship-he establishes us as his children and heirs. Closeness, affection and generosity are at the heart of the relationship. To be right with God the judge is a great thing, but to be loved and cared for by God the Father is greater.” J.I. Packer

“I once knew a good woman who was the subject of many doubts, and when I got to the bottom of her doubt, it was this: she knew she loved Christ, but she was afraid he did not love her. ‘Oh!’ I said, ‘that is a doubt that will never trouble me; never, by any possibility, because I am sure of this, that the heart is so corrupt, naturally, that love to God never did get there without God putting it there.’ You may rest quite certain, that if you love God, it is a fruit, and not a root. It is the fruit of God’s love to you, and did not get there by any the force of any goodness in you. You may conclude, with absolute certainty, that God loves you if you love God.” Charles Spurgeon

she is ugly

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Wonder, O heavens! and be astonished, O earth! that this most glorious Immanuel, the Prince of Peace, whom angels worship, and before whom the seraphim bow–should from all eternity engage to come and seek His Bride from this poor world, and claim her for His own!

Yet so it is!

But she is filthy and polluted! (Ezek. 16:6; Job 15:14-16; Isa. 64:6) Then His own precious veins shall pour forth the rich crimson flood to cleanse her, (Rev. 1:5) and His Spirit shall open the fountain to wash her from her sin and uncleanness. (Zech. 13:1)

But she is naked and bare! (Ezek. 16:22) Then He will cast His skirt over her, (Ezek. 16:8) and will for her, weave in the loom of the Law (Rom. 5:19) fine linen–clean and white–a robe in which she shall be fit to appear at His court!  Moreover the Spirit shall bring near the righteousness of Jesus, (Isa. 46:13) clothing her with “the garments of salvation,” and covering her with the “robe of righteousness,” “as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.”

But she is diseased! (Isa. 1:5, 6) She is a leper! (Ps. 51:5)  Yet will He bring her health and cure, for He says, “I am the Lord who heals you;” and He is actually made to be sin for her, (2 Cor. 5:21) that she might be made “the righteousness of God in Him.”  

But she has no personal charms—she is ugly!  Then He will put His loveliness upon her, and through it her beauty shall be perfect.

But she is poor! So He bestows Himself and His fullness upon her–and thus endows her with unsearchable riches!

But she is unwilling, and has no heart to the match, for she obeys a hostile prince! (Eph. 2:2,3) Her delights, too, are in the world and the flesh. A new heart will He give her, and a right spirit will He put within her. The Holy Spirit shall make her willing in the day of His power. “I will cause you to forget your images of Baal; even their names will no longer be spoken.” (Hosea 2:17) So that, prostrate at His feet, she shall say, “Lord, our God, other lords than You have ruled over us, but we remember Your name alone!”

And now that the Spirit has touched her heart, she feels she is diseased, and discovers her filthiness and nakedness, knows she is ugly and poor, and cannot think the Bridegroom’s heart is towards her, or that she can find favor in His eyes. And therefore she cries out, “I am black!” “Behold, I am vile! My loveliness has turned into corruption!” But He overwhelms her by responding, “You are all beautiful, my love, there is no spot in you!”

Then she exclaims, “Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm; for love is as strong as death!” He replies, “Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are Mine! When you go through deep waters and great trouble, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown! When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior!”

Now she ventures, with a captivated heart, to declare, “My Beloved is mine, and I am His! He is the chief among ten thousand! He is altogether lovely!”

“May you experience the love of Christ, though it is so great you will never fully understand it!” Ephesians 3:19

(“The Marvelous Riches of Savoring Christ, The letters of Ruth Bryan” October 31, 1849)

I need such a friend

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Jesus knows all my wants and weaknesses; all my sin and misery. He knows the malice of my enemies, and the foolishness of my heart. He has power to subdue my whole nature to Himself, and to defeat the wiles and machinations of my foes.

His grace is all-sufficient.  His love is infinite.  His wisdom cannot be defeated.  His power cannot be resisted.  

He has all power and strength–and I am very weak. He has all the knowledge to understand my whole case, and all the wisdom necessary to direct everything concerning me. He makes no mistakes. He is never deceived. He is never outsmarted. He knows all things. He knows my weaknesses.  He knows my sorrows. He knows my heart. His wisdom never fails. He is never confounded or perplexed. He has as much mercy and kindness as I need. His loving-kindness is so great that we cannot fathom its top or the bottom–the length or the breadth of it. The ocean of the Divine love is boundless and inexhaustible! It is infinite!

I have no sorrow to which He is a stranger.  He sympathizes with me in all my sufferings and temptations.

I need just such a friend.

“Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”   Hebrews 4:16

(William S. Plumer)

bless the Lord

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Emily, you are commanded to bless the Lord.  Use every ounce of strength within you to give praise to his holy name.  Even when your soul is tempted to despair and give up hope, bless the Lord.  Do not forget what He has done for you. 

He forgave all your countless sins on the cross.  Every single one.  Even the ones that your conscience still condemns you of.  To show he has power to heal your soul, He has also in mercy healed your physical diseases many times in the past.  Remember when he healed your hip that Sunday on the steps of the church?  Remember when your pastors prayed for you and your migraines started to get better?  Remember the bus ride when you were so afraid?  Look back!  Remember what He has done!  Do not give up hope – He has the power to do it again now.  He pulled your life up from the pit that you had dug for yourself.  Instead of leaving you in rags, He gave you His righteousness. 

Though it was your head that deserved to be crushed and wounded for your sin, He gave love that never changes and he showed you great mercy.  Though you deserve punishment and his wrath, He instead looks on you in favor, because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. 

Not only did He forgive you but He satisfies your soul with countless good things.  Remember your church?  Have you forgotten what a gift those people are to you?  Remember your home?  Remember the little things you prayed for and He graciously gave you?  Do not grow weary… He provides the strength in your weakness.  He gives you renewal and power, like an eagle flying gracefully above the storms, he will renew your weary soul too. 

When it seems that others get away with evil, rest in knowing that God is just.  He will punish those who oppress you unjustly. 

This is the same God that led Moses and showed his power to the nation of Israel.  He did not give up on them when they sinned and failed to trust him.  Find comfort in looking back and seeing how merciful He was to them.  He is just as merciful and gracious to you.  He is not angry at you when you fail, rather He overflows in unchanging love towards you.  Remember he does not just work by “teaching you a lesson” and He is not angry with you. 

God is merciful… He does not give you what you deserve.  What you deserve is death yet he graciously forgives your sins.  Through Christ, God displayed his steadfast love for his children, by removing your sins far from you… as far as east from the west and heavens from the earth.  

Like a loving father, God shows compassion to you.  He does not expect perfection from you, He knows that you are very weak.  You are weak like grass or like a flower.  Even just a little wind can knock you off your feet and completely throw your world upside down.  But through every change in life, the steadfast love of the Lord will never end.  It will continue to your children, and to their children. 

The Lord rules over the earth. His kingdom is supreme over everything. 

Bless the Lord, you angels, those created to do His will.   Bless the Lord, the hosts of heaven, you who have gone before me and are an example to me of suffering in patience and trust.  Even creation blesses the Lord, the One who rules over them and provides for their every need. 

Oh my soul, my weary soul that is so prone to discouragement, bless the Lord.  He has done so many great things.  He is worthy of my praise.  Bless the Lord.

Psalm 103 (in the words of me)

when the dots don’t connect…

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lately i seem to be back into a season where the dots just don’t seem to connect.  i’m weary.  physically i’m weak.  emotionally i’m tired.  spiritually i’m worn down and dry.  mentally i’m… well, i guess i’ve never been right in that area… :)

i have failed to cling to my hope in Christ.  i’ve failed to trust Him to provide.  i’ve questioned whether God really wants what’s best for me.  i’ve accused Him of forgetting me… or simply leading me on only to later disappoint.

i’m powerless to lift myself from the pit that i am in. 

and then i’m reminded of the gospel… Christ came to lift me from my own self-made destruction and misery.   He came to give me a rock of hope to cling to that will never fail… not in physical pain, loneliness, confusion, darkness… never.  He promised He would never leave me. 

that applies not only to the day He redeemed my soul 4 years ago but for today as well. in the middle of a migraine, He holds me.  In the middle of my questioning His goodness, He holds me secure in His arms of love.  In the middle of loneliness, He never leaves my side.  In my tired weariness, He reminds me that He is the God who watches over me and He never sleeps.  There is never a moment when He is not in control of every event of my life. 

I’m reminded of the hymn “Be Still my Soul.”  While visiting Covenant Life a few weeks ago, we sang this song… its been in my head ever since.  It is such a great example of “talking to yourself” instead of “listening to yourself.”

 I think my favorite line is “be still my soul your Jesus can repay from His own fulness all He takes away.”

In the past few years, its obvious with even a brief glance at my life that God has taken much.  He’s taken friends.  He’s taken people I looked to and respected.  He’s taken a sense of belonging and home.  He’s taken my health.  He’s taken much more. 

But I have the promise that He will never take His presence from me.   And knowing that, nothing else matters.  I’d rather Him take my health, security and comfort than to leave all those and take His presence.. 

That is the reason that my soul can be still.  That is the reason my weary soul can find hope.  I am just praying for grace that God will connect those dots…

For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him.  He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken.  On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God.   Trust in him at all times, O people;  pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us. (Psalm 62:5-8)

Be still, my soul: the Lord is on your side.
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain.
Leave to your God to order and provide;
In every change, He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul: your best, your heavenly Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

Be still, my soul: your God will undertake
To guide the future, as He has the past.
Your hope, your confidence let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul: the waves and winds still know
His voice Who ruled them while He dwelt below.

Be still, my soul: when dearest friends depart,
And all is darkened in the vale of tears,
Then shalt you better know His love, His heart,
Who comes to soothe your sorrow and your fears.
Be still, my soul: your Jesus can repay
From His own fullness all He takes away.

Be still, my soul: the hour is hastening on
When we shall be forever with the Lord.
When disappointment, grief and fear are gone,
Sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul: when change and tears are past
All safe and blessèd we shall meet at last.

Be still, my soul: begin the song of praise
On earth, believing, to your Lord on high;
Acknowledge Him in all your words and ways,
So shall He view you with a well pleased eye.
Be still, my soul: the Sun of life divine
Through passing clouds shall but more brightly shine.

does Jesus care?

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Nahum 1:7 “The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him,”

 1 Peter 5: 7 ” Cast all your cares upon him; for he cares for you.”

 I have once again been struggling in my heart with the question of “does Jesus care?”  Its been a common struggle for me over the past few years to think of God as vindictive or angry as opposed to a loving and caring Father. 

 When things in my life don’t make sense, I tend to assume that God is holding out on me… keeping good things from me to punish me or simply to teach me a lesson.  Instead He’s been reminding me lately that confusion or His apparent silence doesn’t equate with apathy… and it doesn’t necessarily mean that He is trying to “teach me a lesson.” 

 It simply means that its another opportunity for me to trust that what He’s said is true… that He knows what’s best for me… that He has planned my steps… that He guards my ways… that He watches over me… that He is good and wants good for me… that He cares.

 Thinking through these things reminded me of the song “does Jesus care?”  I love the words: “Oh yes, He cares… His heart is touched with my grief…When the days are weary, the long nights dreary, I KNOW my Savior cares.”

 1 Peter 5: 7 ” Cast all your cares upon him; for he cares for you.”

Does Jesus care when my heart is pained
Too deeply for mirth or song,
As the burdens press, and the cares distress,
And the way grows weary and long? 

Refrain:
Oh, yes, He cares, I know He cares,
His heart is touched with my grief;
When the days are weary, the long nights dreary,
I know my Savior cares.

Does Jesus care when my way is dark
With a nameless dread and fear?
As the daylight fades into deep night shades,
Does He care enough to be near?

 Does Jesus care when I’ve tried and failed
To resist some temptation strong;
When for my deep grief there is no relief,
Though my tears flow all the night long?

 Does Jesus care when I’ve said “goodbye”
To the dearest on earth to me,
And my sad heart aches till it nearly breaks—
Is it aught to Him? Does He see?

Refrain:
Oh, yes, He cares, I know He cares,
His heart is touched with my grief;
When the days are weary, the long nights dreary,
I know my Savior cares.

1 Peter 5: 7 ” Cast all your cares upon him; for he cares for you.”

NEXT recap

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this past weekend, I had the privilege of attending and serving full time at the NEXT conference in Baltimore MD.  I had a great time and came back completely exhausted yet so incredibly refreshed…

Looking back, here are a few of the top highlights … (I’m sure I’ll be delving into more of the details at some point in the future but for now my brain is too tired to do so!)

1.  God seems to have a tradition of using worship during the conference to teach me a lot and this year was no exception.  There were several new songs and we actually recorded a live album during the conference (I’ll post a link to it when its available… I think they said that it will be downloadable for about $5).   Every worship set seemed to have the same theme … God’s unchanging, overwhelming, undeniable love for sinners like me. 

God seemed to impress on my heart even before the conference to pray for physical healing in my body.  As I began thinking through this, I met a powerful feeling of guilt… how can I ask God for such a gift?… knowing that He has already given me so much?… knowing that His glory is more important than His gifts?… knowing that ultimately it is He, not a body of good physical health, that will satisfy. 

He used the worship sets to reveal that my desire not to pray for this was pride… that I wanted to somehow earn it, yet instead He is holding out an open hand of love and favor freely to me…  “But God, don’t you see there is still so much sin in me?  Don’t you know I don’t deserve such a gift?”  “Yes, my child, but I love you…I sacrificed my Son and He gave His life for your freedom.  I desire good gifts for you.  And I may not heal you but I want you to know I love you and I delight in you asking and looking to me to be your gracious Provider.”  

I had some sweet times of prayer, just crying out to my God for mercy.  I know that He wants my good.  And at this point I don’t know if that involves physical healing, but I’m asking for it and hoping and praying that in His mercy the answer to this prayer would be a “yes.”

2.  Since I was ushering and working through portions of every main session I was not able to really focus on the sermons like in years past.  I wasn’t able to take any notes (that being said, I’m really glad they record the main sessions).  So during each sermon, I found myself just trying to grasp for just one drop of truth in the midst of the deep theological current that was being shared with us. 

I think in many ways this was helpful for me where I’m at right now in my life.  I didn’t leave the conference overwhelmed with a million things I need to learn and apply and change.  I left the conference with one overwhelming truth… my God is full of love and rich in mercy and that truth brings freedom. 

One quote from the final sermon was the main quote God used to remind me of this.  Sinclair Ferguson was speaking on the return of Christ and His ultimate control over the world.  He made the comment that “if God had returned 18 months ago, some of you here would be in hell today.”  My mind immediately went to the book of Revelation and the persecuted saints crying out “how long, sovereign Lord will evil go unpunished?  How long until you avenge our blood?”  It hit me with a blood-curdling reality and overwhelming pool of mercy that if God had answered those many prayer even only 5 years ago, then I would be in hell today.  That if God had not withheld his anger and had not shown patience that I would be in hell.  It was just an amazing reminder of God’s mercy to me. 

That quote allowed my faith in God to grow… to grow in seeing that He is sovereignly in control, even when it seems He is delaying unnecessarily.  Often I see a delay in answered prayer as either indifference or anger (in a “get it together and then I’ll answer your prayer” kind of way).  I’m grateful He opened my eyes to see the mercy behind what doesn’t make sense to me. 

…stay posted for more thoughts…  :)