The Greatest Heartbeak

And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.

Rom. 5:5 NLT

What is the greatest act that I can do to break the heart of God? Burn my Bible? Fraternize with the New Atheists? Betray my church and ridicule them to the community? Take a road trip to every dive and house of ill-repute in the South? No, the greatest heartbreak I can cause my Lord is to refuse to believe that he loves me. After the events of the cross and resurrection if I still deny that Christ’s loves me, what more can God do to prove his love?

The greatest sorrow and burden you can lay on the Father, the greatest unkindness you can do to him is not to believe that he loves you.

John Owen quoted in Jerry Bridges (2006-05-05), The Discipline of Grace: God’s Role and Our Role in the Pursuit of Holiness (p. 127). NAVPress – A. Kindle Edition.

 

 

We Are Graven on the Palms of His Hands

 

I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me, for my Father has given them to me, and he is more powerful than anyone else. No one can snatch them from the Father’s hand.

John 10:28-29 NLT

Security is something we all long for in our in our relationships, especially in our relationship with God. We want to know that God will not turn his back on us in our greatest hour of need. We want to know that God the Father will be there when we fail. We want to know that God’s love for us is not dependent on the quality of our prayer lives or the perfection of our walk.

Jesus gave his disciples a word about their security in him and that word is for us as well (Isa. 49:15-16). Jesus said that he knows us personally and intimately in that he calls us by our individual names (John 10:3). Jesus grants us eternal life, not a finite experience, or temporary thrill, or a fickle fate, but a life lived in the presence of God, secure in his love forever (John 10:28). Jesus promises us that we will never perish, we need not worry about being cast off (John 6:37) or abandoned to Satan’s devices (John 10:28).

We are secure, we are engraved in Jesus’ palm (10:28) and we are held in the Father’s hand (John 10:29). We are a gift of the Father to the Son, the Father does not take back his gifts (10:29). Jesus and the Father are in complete unity of being, purpose, and goal: no conflict between them over their determined love for us (John 10:30).

If God would commit to rebellious, stiff-necked Israel his covenant love (Isa.49:15-16, 54:10), how much more are we secure in the work of the cross, the power of the resurrection, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and the promises of the new covenant.

What matters supremely is not, in the last analysis, the fact that I know God, but the larger fact which underlies it — the fact that he knows me. I am graven on the palms of his hands. I am never out of his mind.

All my knowledge of him depends on his sustained initiative in knowing me. I know him because he first knew me, and continues to know me. He knows me as a friend, one who loves me; and there is not a moment when his eye is off me, or his attention distracted from me, and no moment, therefore, when his care falters.

This is momentous knowledge. There is unspeakable comfort — the sort of comfort that energizes, be it said, not enervates — in knowing that God is constantly taking knowledge of me in love and watching over me for my good. There is tremendous relief in knowing that his love to me is utterly realistic, based at every point on prior knowledge of the worst about me, so that no discovery now can disillusion him about me, in the way I am so often disillusioned about myself, and quench his determination to bless me.

J. I. Packer, Knowing God (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993), 41–42, emphasis added.

HT: Desiring God 

 

Astonished Gratitude

Thankfulness that Flows From the Heart

And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Col. 3:17

Christian gratitude begins at the Cross. We were  God’s enemies, we despised his call on our lives and his claim on our hearts. The Holy Spirit reached out to us: he convicted, he wooed, he drew, he convinced us of the Father’s love for us. We melted under his influence recognizing that there was nothing in us that deserved saving.

By God’s grace, we saw Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross as our just punishment for ignoring, violating, and despising God’s commands. We were astonished by Christ’s sacrifice: gratitude overwhelmed us as we saw God’s grace acting to deliver us from our self-imposed darkness. In turn, we met the resurrected Christ, he not only forgave us, but renewed, restored, and healed us. Astonished gratitude was our only response then and continues our heart’s cry now.

When we learn to read the story of Jesus and see it as the story of the love of God, doing for us what we could not do for ourselves–that insight produces, again and again, a sense of astonished gratitude which is very near the heart of authentic Christian experience.

N.T. Wright

HT: N. T. Wright Quotes

Disappointment, His Appointment

On Responding to Disappointment

My suffering was good for me, for it taught me to pay attention to your decrees.

Psalm 119:71 NLT

Our daily choice: react or respond to life’s unexpected setbacks and mind-boggling disappointments (Heb. 12:14-15). Reacting is being angry at our circumstances, frustrated with people, and despondent at not getting our way (James 1:20).

Responding sees the bigger picture: God has an appointment in our disappointment. It is not God’s will that people sin, but when God allows their sin to touch our lives, then their actions have become God’s will for us (2 Cor. 4:7-12). To grow deeper in our relationship with the Lord, we must have a yielded heart: a willingness to allow God to use our trials and tribulations to produce the life of Christ in us (Phil 1:293:10). In order to grow spiritually, we trust God’s sovereign purposes. He is using selfish people, hard places, and broken things to give us our heart’s desire: genuine Christlikeness (Rom. 8:17).

Responding believes that our Heavenly Father has a divine appointment in the midst of our various trials and setbacks. It trusts God’s goodness knowing that God’s sovereign hand is operating in and through the baffling and trying times of life.

We may not understand “why,” but we choose to trust our Heavenly Father who is good, loving, and gracious. We believe that the Father has our best in mind and is not rejecting us by allowing various difficulties in our lives (Heb. 12:7-12).

Responding comes forth from a thankful heart drawing us into the Holy Spirit’s wellspring of grace (Heb. 12:14-15). Responding says “yes” to God and looks for opportunities to grow in our intimate love relationship with Christ. In short, responding is confident that God has an appointment in our disappointment.

 

Disappointment, His Appointment

 

Disappointment-His appointment, change one letter

Then I see, that the thwarting of my purpose is God’s better choice for me.

His appointment must be blessing, though it may come in disguise.

For the end from the beginning, open to his wisdom lies.

 

Disappointment-His appointment, whose?

The Lord’s who loves me best,

Understands and knows me fully, Who my faith and love would test.

For like loving, earthly parent,

He rejoices when He knows,

That his child accepts unquestioned all that from His wisdom flows.

 

Disappointment-His appointment,

No good thing will He withhold, from denials oft we gather,

Treasures of His love untold,

Well He knows each broken purpose leads to fuller deeper trust,

And the end of all His dealings, proves our God is wise and just.

 

Disappointment-His appointment,

Lord, I take it then as such,

Like the clay in hands of potter yielding wholly to Thy touch.

All my life’s plan is Thy molding, not one single choice be mine,

Let me answer unrepining Father not my will but THINE.

Lyrics: Anonymous

Made popular by Phil Keaggy

Album: “Love Broke Thru”


My Portion

Our Inheritance is God

I cried unto thee, O Lord: I said, Thou art my refuge and my portion in the land of the living.

Psalm 142:5 KJV

Remember when your were a little kid and mom was dolling out the ice cream. Every brother, sister, or friend had to get the same amount. No one should or could feel cheated. Every one must have the same and equal portion of ice cream. The idea of “portion,” meant an individual part or share in something.

In scripture, the word, “portion,” means something different. Portion in the old King James Version Bible and in the writings of the Puritans meant, “inheritance” : something granted or given to us by God. The greatest gift that God can give us is himself. Therefore, God is our inheritance: all we could ever want or desire. He is our complete satisfaction, our perfect portion forever.

Our God is a safe portion, a secure portion. He is a portion that no one can rob you of. He is a portion that none can touch or take from you. He is a portion that none can cheat or spoil you of. God is such a portion, that no friend, no foe, and no devil can ever rob a Christian of. O Christians, God is so yours in Christ, and so yours by covenant, and so yours by promise, and so yours by purchase, and so yours by conquest, and so yours by marriage union and communion, and so yours by the earnest of the Spirit, and so yours by the feelings and witnessings of the Spirit, that no power or policy on earth can ever pilfer your portion, or cheat, or rob you of your portion. He is not only our God for the present, O no! He will be our God for ever and ever. If God be once your portion, he will be forever your portion.

Thomas Brooks, Works of Thomas Thomas Brooks, II:26-27, cited in Voices From the Past: Puritan Devotional Readings, ed., Richard Rushing (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 2009), 22.

Why Does God Love Us?

God Loves Us Because He Loves Us

The Lord did not set his heart on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other nations, for you were the smallest of all nations! Rather, it was simply that the Lord loves you . . . .

Deut. 7:7-8 NLT

Does God love us because we are good little boys and girls? Does God love us because we attended church all our lives? Does God love us because we are talented, pretty, and full of life and personality? Does God love us because we keep all the rules and obey all the norms of our society? No, he loves us because he loves us. It has nothing to do with our performance, it has every thing to do with his grace and glory.

Love is at the bottom of all. We may give a reason of other things, but we cannot give a reason of his love. God showed his wisdom, power, justice, and holiness in our redemption by Christ. If you ask why he made so much ado about a worthless creature, raised out of the dust of the ground at first, and had now disordered himself, and could be of no use to him, we have an answer at hand: Because he loved us. If you continue to ask, But why did he love us? We have no other answer but because he loved us; for beyond the first rise of things we cannot go. And the same reason is given by Moses, Deut. 7:7–8: ‘The Lord did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because you were more in number than any people, for ye were the fewest of all people; but because the Lord loved you . . . .’ That is, in short, he loved you because he loved you. All came from his free and undeserved mercy; higher we cannot go in seeking after the causes of what is done for our salvation.

Thomas Manton, The Complete Works of Thomas Manton, 2:340–341.

HT: Miscellanies

God Is Good

Every Page of the Bible Teaches It

The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble and He knows those who trust in Him.

Nahum 1:7 NKJV

That God is good is taught or implied on every page of the Bible and must be received as an article of faith as impregnable as the throne of God.

A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy (New York, NY: HarperCollins, 1992), 128.

No society resents God like our society. We feel that we are owed a good life free from trouble negated of suffering full of prosperity. If our lives do not meet our expectations, we resent God, and question his goodness. Constantly intellectuals are confirming our offense. We have been mistreated by God and everyone should know our pain. Therefore, we live our lives as victims of the injustices of the Almighty God.

Biblically, God’s goodness is affirmed and glorified. God is gracious in that he reaches out to us in a world scarred and marred by our sin. God is good for he always tells the truth, keep his promises, and loves us with a love that surpasses any human love. God is sovereign, he is wise, and he is loving.

God in his love always wills what is best for us. In His wisdom He always knows what is best, and in His sovereignty He has the power to bring it about.

Jerry Bridges, Trusting G0d Even When Life Hurts (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2008), 17.

Security in Christ

God’s Covenant Promise

Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy,

Jude 24

When I first became a Christian, I was asked if I believed that a truly converted soul could lose their salvation. The question perplexed me, “Is my salvation dependent on my behavior or God’s faithfulness?” I determined that God’s covenant faithfulness was greater than my weaknesses, failings, and inadequacies.

Covenant is an eternal binding promise made by God to believers that he will love us unconditionally. This eternal covenant is not a contract. In a contract, the relationship is based on performance, if the terms of the contract are broken, the relationship is terminated under penalty. In a covenant relationship, love is the basis of the relationship. If the covenant is broken, the offended party pursues the offender winning back their heart through discipline, grace, and love (Jer. 31:31-34). Under the new covenant, God makes this very promise, “I will make with them an everlasting covenant, that I will not turn away from doing good to them. And I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me” (Jer. 32:40). Notice the key phrase, “That they will never turn away from me.” God promises that even when we stray, he will pursue us, conquer our hearts, and win us back again to a life of obedience.

The basis for our security in salvation is not ultimately our righteousness or obedience but God’s promise, God’s power, God’s purpose, and most of all God’s passionate love for us in Christ. God is committed to preserving us in faith, for if we were to stumble so as to fully and finally fall away, God stands more to lose than we do.

Sam Storms, “A Defense of the Perseverance of the Saints – Part II,” November 6, 2006, www.enjoyinggodministries.com.

Compromise or Hardness of Heart: Is That Our Only Choice?

God is Love and Holiness

Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.

Eph. 4:15 NLT

We tend to cast God in our own image. We can only experience one thought, one feeling, or carry out one act at a time (Psalm 121). We often assume that since we are limited than God must be so constrained. However, God can be merciful and holy at the same time (Exodus 34:6-7). He can be gracious and righteous simultaneously. The Lord can be loving and performing judgment in the same act.

Believers, and non-Christians, tend to emphasize one character attribute of God over and against his other qualities. We focus on love while ignoring to need to walk in the Spirit and obey the clear dictates of scripture (Gal. 5:16). Or, we emphasize the commands of God without acknowledging the Lord’s graciousness that enables us to obey. However, this either/or kind of Christian is a false dichotomy. Love without compassion or righteousness without mercy are not our only choices.

As Christ lives in us, we trust his Holy Spirit to make Christ known in and through us. As we keep in step with the Spirit (Gal. 5:24-25), we will understand when to have compassion on the hurting and when to take a stand on God’s law. As believers, there is no need to compromise Christian conviction and no requirement to be hard hearted enforcers of God’s law. We can act in love and holiness at the same time because a loving and holy God lives in us (John 16:12-14).

If we stress the love of God without the holiness of God, it turns out only to be compromise. But if we stress the holiness of God without the love of God, we practice something that is hard and lacks beauty. And it is important to show forth beauty before a lost world and a lost generation. All too often young people have not been wrong in saying that the church is ugly. In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ we are called upon to show to a watching world and to our own young people that the church is something beautiful.

Several years ago I wrestled with the question of what was wrong with much of the church that stood for purity. I came to the conclusion that in the flesh we can stress purity without love or we can stress the love of God without purity, but that in the flesh we cannot stress both simultaneously. In order to exhibit both simultaneously, we must look moment by moment to the work of Christ, to the work of the Holy Spirit. Spirituality begins to have real meaning in our moment-by-moment lives as we begin to exhibit simultaneously the holiness of God and the love of God.

Francis A. Schaeffer, The Church before the Watching World (Downers Grove, 1971), 63.

HT: Ray Ortlund

The Gaze of Christ

All-Knowing and All-Loving

All that which the Father giveth me shall come unto me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.

John 6:37 ASV

All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.

John 6:37 ESV

When Jesus gazes into our eyes, our hearts are overwhelmed. When Jesus looks at us, we know that he knows everything about us. As a result, we expect divine rejection. However, Jesus’ look is a gaze of love. It is Christ’s love that says, “Draw near to me, I know your need, I created you, and I am ready to heal and restore you.” Christ’s gaze is a look that knows everything about us, yet still loves us.

Like Matthew, former tax collector and erstwhile apostle, we are dazed by Christ’s gaze. We drop everything to follow him. We are one and at the same time, fearful and strangely drawn to a Savior who knows all our faults, failings, and foibles, yet still loves us. Christ gaze is a look that says “Trust me, I know who you are, what you have done, and I am ready to love and change you.” Christ loves us as we are, also he loves us so much, he will not leave us as we are.

God loves us; not because we are lovable but because He is love, not because he needs to receive but because He delights to give.

C. S. Lewis, Letters of C.S. Lewis, 231.