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


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


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.


First Commandment People

First Commandment People

Matt 22:34-40, Mark 12:28-31, Luke 10:25-28

Cn. Glenn E. Davis

First Sunday after Epiphany:

The Baptism of Jesus

January 10, 2009

Illustration: The Movie, “Field of Dreams”:

Ray: You guys are guests in my corn.

I’ve done everything I’ve been asked to do.

I didn’t understand, but I’ve done it.

I haven’t once asked what’s in it for me.

Shoeless Joe: So, what are you saying?

Ray: I’m saying, “What’s in it for me?”

Shoeless Joe: Is that why you did this? For you? I think you’d better stay here, Ray

Point: No matter what kind of sacrifices Ray made, he was continually thinking about himself. Self-centeredness is not love. Love is yielding my rights, privileges, and needs for the sake of God and others (2 Cor. 5:14-15).

Divine Purpose: The Goal of our lives;

We were created by a passionate God to be a passionate people and are heart-fulfilled only when we passionately love and pursue the passionate God. John 4:23.

Divine Call: The conviction that drives our choices;

Love is the passionate unselfish choice for the highest good of God and others without concern for reward or recognition.

Who would forsake the One they follow if they were bound by chains of love? These chains set free and don’t bind (1 Cor. 13; Matt. 22:34-40).

[Ambrose, “Your Portion,” Day by Day with the Early Church Fathers (Peabody, Mass: Hendrickson Publishers, 1999), 272.]

Love is NOT simply an emotional warm and fuzzy feeling, but rather the selfless, passionate giving of oneself to God and his commands. Love desires God’s will and cannot imagine living any other way.

Love is NOT niceness: smiling a lot and never hinting that something or someone is wrong.

Love is NOT sentimentality: warm, fuzzy feelings that are supportive of any, all, and every behavior.

Love is NOT mere sexuality; it does not demand immoral behavior.

Love is NOT turning a blind eye.

Love IS obedience to God’s commands.

Love IS hard choices and saying “no” with strong warning.

Love IS calling sin, “sin.”

Love IS selfless, forgiving, unoffending, and serving.

God IS love.

Matthew Chapter Twenty-Three

Verse 34) Love IS not about competition and pride.

Verse 35) Love IS not about “being right.”

Verse 37) Love IS giving oneself passionately and totally to God. Love deliberately prefers God’s commands to our own desires and wants. Nothing less than giving your entire being in love, devotion, obedience and service to the God of Israel.

“Mind, soul, and body” is Jesus way of saying that the entire person is to be sold out to God.

Jesus is quoting the Shema (Mark 12:29-30; Deut. 6:4-5), verses that are recited twice a day by every dedicated first-century Jew. Often by stating the obvious, a speaker is quite profound. In this verse, Jesus reminds the Jews that the essential quality of a relationship with the God is love. The Shema is repeated all day, but its meaning could be forgotten. Jesus points out the obvious-a relationship with God is just that-a relationship.

Verse 39) Love IS about others. Love assists others in their passionate pursuit of God by helping them adjust their lives to God’s plan and purposes. Love is fulfilled when others reap God’s blessing with my assistance.

We already love ourselves-we make sure we have food, shelter, clothing, nurturing relationships, etc. Now, Jesus calls on us to do the same for others.

Love for others . . .

1. Concrete responsibly to care for others needs (James 2:14-17).

2. Putting others first by NOT thinking first and only about “what you are going to get out of it.” (Illustration: Field of Dreams).

3. We naturally already love “ourselves.” Don’t wait for inner healing to love others.

Illustration: As a pastor, I have heard expressed many times, “I love Christ, but I can’t stand people,” or” I love Christ, but I don’t care for his Church.” However, it is not possible to claim that you love Jesus without being in love with his people. First John teaches that my relationships with people reflect my relationship with God (1 John 2:9; 3:14-15; 4:20).

If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen” (1John 4:20, ESV).

You love Jesus, in turn, Jesus is in love with people, therefore, you will love people since you love Jesus (1 John 4:10-11).

Everything that comes as a barrier between us another, be it never so small, comes as a barrier between us and God. We have found that where these barriers are not put right immediately, they get thicker and thicker until we find ourselves shut off from God and our brother by what seem to be veritable brick walls. Quite obviously, if we allow New Life to come to us, it will have to manifest itself by a walk of oneness with God and our brother, with nothing between (Roy Hession, The Calvary Road, pg. 36).

Verse 40) Love IS the essence of a relationship with God and the heart of his commands. Loving God and others brings life.

Luke 10:25-28, “Do this and you will live.”

Definition: Eternal life is life and life more abundantly-it is being alive in the realm where God lives. Life is walking with God in unending communion, enjoying his unlimited blessing, experiencing his unconditional love, and receiving his undeserved grace.

Conclusion: We are called to be a first commandment people: we are not fulfilled unless we passionately love our passionate God and serve a passion-driven people. Be passionately in love with your passionate God as you transform your passions into love for others.

We are passionately in love with God because God’s passionate love for us was displayed on the Cross. God’s passionate, transformative love changed our hearts from self-centeredness to Christ-centeredness by the power of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, God’s love enables us to love others with his passionate love. First commandment people have their priorities in order: they have fallen in love with God and they love what he loves-people.