Learning To Live In Love

Love – according to the famous lyrics; it’s a “many splendored thing”, “it’s what the world needs, NOW!” and apparently it’s “all you need.”

Love – everyone wants to feel it. We have love for everything from specific foods to sports teams, from pieces of art to places around the world. We want love from those we care about and value. Many of us want God to be one of those who loves us. Certainly God is faithful, shows mercy and dispenses compassion, but does he love (specifically me) all the time?

I want to believe the answer is yes and Scripture seems to back up that hope. If we dig past “God so loved the world” and get to the nitty-gritty of daily living the Bible is clear that God is for me even when I waiver in my love for him.

In the midst of some serious praise Psalm 103 has a bunch to say about our love relationship with God. Let’s look at four of those things.

  1. God’ love is unconditional…no matter what. Verse 8 tells us that his love is unfailing and that in the expression of that love he shows compassion, mercy and a really important one (to me) patience. When you think of the Prodigal Son remember that the father loved him, looked for him, ran to hug him and welcomed him home (complete with a party)  BEFORE he knew if his son was sorry for what he had done. When Peter denied having any knowledge of, or relationship to Jesus; he must have had a broken heart. Yet quickly after his resurrection he went out of his way to welcome Peter back BEFORE he talked with him. Unfailing, unconditional love is a wonderful thing.
  2. God’s love is not earned…or forfeited. When we do wrong we are still loved. It doesn’t mean there are no consequences or that the relationship doesn’t change, but it does mean that no matter what we are loved! In the middle of the Psalm we read that God does not constantly accuse us, remain angry forever, punish us for all our sins or deal harshly with us (even if we deserve tougher treatment than we receive). The psalmist continues by telling us that God is like a tender and compassionate father who understands we are weak and made of dust. He also states once again that the love of God is unfailing. You can’t hear that too many times.
  3. God’s love is unending…in power. It’s a simple statement but an important one. The unfailing love (there’s that promise again) is as great as the heights of heaven. There appears to be no limit, at least that we can determine, to the  size of the heavens (the space beyond us and past where we can see). I don’t know about you, but I’m glad that the awesome power of God is clothed in unfailing love.
  4. God’s love is unending…in time. Once again a simple statement and once again an important and profound truth. The love of God doesn’t have an expiration date. It doesn’t run out of patience, forgiveness or mercies. Most of us have tried the patience of someone in our lives. We may have cause others to get to the “end of their rope,” but not God. His love is constant, consistent, all-encompassing and always sufficient. Now that’s good news.

 

Quote of the week:

“My prayer is that, weary of such noise, we will turn back to the source of all calmness, that source is God. Everything we lack, God has in abundance: Compassion, sensitivity, patience and boundless love.”

Janet Jackson – 2018 Billboard Music Awards

Sunday Songs & Videos

Brennan Manning – Do You Believe That I Loved You?

Get Your Hopes Up – Josh Baldwin

Here I Am To Worship – Chris Tomlin

Holy IS The Lord – Chris Tomlin

Path Of Peace

Peace was the way our world was made to operate. One human race caring for and looking out for one another. Personal differences fueled by self-centered individuals lead to jealousy and murder…quite quickly I might add. Still we long for peace even if it is only an inner peace surrounded by a tumultuous world. How do live in peace?

  1. We need to pursue peace. Psalm 34:14 tells us to turn away from evil and do good – then search for peace and work to maintain it. We’re to run after peace which often means giving up some of our comfort and self-centered plans. We need to desire peace because it always comes at some cost. Then once we find it the psalmist tells us that we need to work to maintain it. Apparently our natural inclination is to stray away from the generosity of spirit that is required for peace.
  2. Remember that peace is promised to those that love the law of the Lord (Psalm 119:165). And what is that law? Well, according to Jesus you can sum it up by loving God, loving others (neighbors & enemies) and loving yourself. Be content to be with God. It is the unrest of the “desire for more, more, more” and lack of satisfaction that drives many of our conflicts.
  3. Listen carefully to what God says and then act. In other words, practice peaceful living. Psalm 85:8 tells us to listen carefully to what God says, for he speaks peace to his faithful people. We need that voice from God to counteract our own ways which the psalmist describes as foolish. In other words we need to know the difference between the voice of God and our own voice.
  4. Remember this: peace is our blessing. In Psalm 29, a psalm of praise we read about the voice of God. In fact after an introductory statement to worship God the rest of the Psalm talks about the voice of God – until the last sentence. There we read that the Lord gives strength to his people but he BLESSES them with PEACE. Mot of us like to feel blessed and we often say it to describe good things that happen in our lives. This is the ultimate blessing. God’s blessing over us is peace. That’s why this isn’t a teaching about the path TO peace, but rather a path OF peace. We are already in the midst of the peace of God we just need to live in the truth of that reality.

SUNDAY SONGS

Come As You Are – David Crowder

I Shall Not Want – Audrey Asaad

Cornerstone – Hillsong

The Power of Praise

When are you most hopeful? What kinds of people or events give you hope? On the other hand, when do you feel hopeless?

We all want hope, but sometimes it just doesn’t seem to exist. When we are hopeful we are more likely to praise others and our circumstances. When we’re down, praise doesn’t flow quite as easily. But what if praise could lead the way to hope? What if praise was designed to be our default setting? How would that change how you live?

I suggest to you that praise is essential, that from God’s view praise is the engine that drives the universe.

Let’s take a look at Psalm 148. From top to bottom the Psalmist wants us to know that no matter who or what you, praise is the name of the game. He starts with – and closes with – the simple statement; “Praise the Lord!” In between he makes sure that everything and everyone understands their part in praising God.

  • The skies and heavens – vs 1
  • The angels & armies of heaven – vs 2
  • The sun, moon and stars – vs 3
  • The skies and upper atmosphere (once again) – vs 4
  • Every created thing, because God gave them life and set them in motion – vs 5 & 6
  • The earth and ocean creatures – vs 7
  • The “elements” – fire, hail, snow, wind, clouds…and the weather – vs 8
  • Topography & vegetation – mountains, hills, fruit trees & cedars – vs 9
  • Animals – wild & domestic, small ones and ones that fly – vs 10
  • People & power – kings, rulers, judges & ordinary folks – vs 11 & 12

He sums up the Psalm by declaring that they all should praise the Lord because his name and glory are so great we can’t completely grasp their vastness. He also declares that God has made his people strong and honors those who are faithful.

Apparently creation praises God simply by fulfilling the purpose for which it was created. It reminds me of the statement Jesus made in response to the demand that he stop the people from praising him as he rode into Jerusalem; “If they keep quiet, the stones (rocks) will cry out.”

We can do the same. We were created to honor God, to love, worship and praise his holy name – regardless of the circumstances. We praise, not because things are good but because it is the right and God-honoring thing to do. Praising God puts us in a better place to please him and yield to his will, which in turn also pleases him.

So, let’s praise the Lord – and please him – all in the same breath.

Sunday Stuff

An interesting article about hope:

Moving With God: Deeper Than Optimism, Hope Is A Virtue

Music

Holy, Holy, Holy – Audrey Assad

Every Praise – Hezekiah Walker

10,000 Reasons – Matt Redman

Your Deepest Desire

Life often doesn’t go the way we plan. As a matter of fact, life throws a mean curve-ball. Days start in one direction and then with little or no warning go sideways. Put a few of them together and it can get a little discouraging and become quite frustrating. Times like these often begin to raise questions of self-doubt. We have thoughts like:

  • Why aren’t things going my way?
  • What did I do to deserve this?
  • Why aren’t I more successful?
  • Doesn’t God love me anymore?

When things aren’t going well or others aren’t treating us in an encouraging & uplifting way we need to decide what it is we really need to improve our quality of life. What will genuinely make our life better, not just make us feel better for a little while. In other words, what is our deepest need or desire?

I would suggest that our deepest desire is to be valued by another; to be loved unconditionally by someone else. Let’s take a look at Psalm 43 to see what David wanted from God.

  1. David wanted to be declared innocent by God. He also wanted God to defend him, to contend for him – to fight on his behalf. He also wanted God to deliver him from peril, to rescue him.
  2. David moves on to express his feelings of abandonment. He is so dependent on God and ONLY God that he wants God to desire him and at the moment he feels as though God has hung him out to dry.
  3. David needs God’s light to shine really bright to direct him back to God. He really needs to be sure God hasn’t forgotten him. Following God’s light is always the right way to travel the path of Life.
  4. David is delighted with God and wants to sing his praises. He really hopes the feeling is mutual. David even goes so far as to say that the very source of his joy is God. It’s a great place to be because it is a fountain that will never run dry.
  5. David comes full circle in verse five by questioning why he is discouraged. He knows he shouldn’t be and that he needs to return to what he knows is true. He determines to be delighted with God and make praise the sound track of his life.

If your greatest need is God then it can be filled all the time, regardless of our actions or attitudes. God unconditionally loves us. Consider this quote from Brennan Manning.

At the risk of sounding like a country cracker cowboy preacher, allow me to raise some intimate, personal questions about your relationship with Jesus of Nazareth. Do you live each day in the blessed assurance that you have been saved by the unique grace of our Lord Jesus Christ? After falling flat on your face, are you still firmly convinced that the fundamental structure of reality is not works but grace? Are you moody and melancholy because you are still striving for the perfection that comes from your own efforts and not from faith in Jesus Christ? Are you shocked and horrified when you fail? Are you really aware that you don’t have to change, grow, or be good to be loved?

Sunday Songs

Surrounded – Michael W. Smith

Defender – Rita Springer

My Lighthouse – Rend Collective

Escape or Energize – You Choose

What discourages you? What happens when a run of bad days, events & circumstances invades your life? Do you run away, try various ways to escape or become depressed*? What encourages you? What helps you really feel better? What is it that you really want; at this moment?…out of life?

According to Psalm 42 our greatest need is derived from our relationship with Jesus. The psalmist starts with the phrase, “As the deer longs for streams of water, I long for you, O God.” David raises a great question for us, “What do we REALLY long for?” Following up we need to think about how that need can be met. In this Psalm David goes through a process of questioning God while at the same time reminding himself of what he has known to be true about God. To examine this we’ll start at the end of the Psalm and work our way to the beginning.

  1. David asks God why in verse 9. He wants to know why he feels as though God has forgotten him and why he needs to continue in grief and anguish. It’s OK to ask these questions.
  2. David affirms God’s love. He is discouraged. He is displaced from his comfort and security zone. He is mired in grief. In response David declares, “Each day the Lord pours his unfailing love upon me.”
  3. David sings & praises God. In verse eight he continues the thought of God’s daily love by declaring, “through each night I sing his songs and pray to the God who gives me life.”
  4. David recalls God’s truth. (verse 8) While he wonders why his heart continues to be so sad and why he remains discouraged he determines to put his hope in God and praise him. In this passage David not only declares that he praises God but he also refers to him as  his Savior – the one who delivers him and sets him free.
  5. David remembers worshiping God…with others. (verse 4) David’s heart is breaking as he longs for the days of leading the procession of worshipers as they sang for joy with thanksgiving. No wonder the writer of Hebrews encouraged us to not forsake meeting with others to worship – it encourages our heart.
  6. David thirsts for God. We’ve come full circle. We’re back at the beginning with David declaring his need for God and his desire to stand before him. He simply wants to be in the presence of his God.

So, what is your greatest need? Is it something intimacy with God can fill?

NOTE: As I prepared for this talk I came across a blog post from CRM, an organization with ministries throughout the world. The article, Finding Your Way To Water In The Midst Of Soul Drought contains a link to The Broom Tree Exercise that helps you see how God is at work in your life.

* the reference here is not to clinical depression or any other medical condition – we’re talking about a somewhat prolonged sadness that makes sense based on life events.

Sunday Songs

Come To Me – Jenn Johnson: Bethel

All My Hope – David Crowder

I Shall Not Want – Audrey Assad

Be The Refuge (4/22/18)

Last week we talked about where we turn in times of stress. Often the important factor in how we deal with stress was that we feel better – even momentarily. Today we continue with refuge. More important than feeling safe we want our refuge to BE safe.

The Scriptures tell us that God is our strength & refuge. Is this significant to you? Why?

What is the main component of the gospel? I’d suggest that it is love. We all know John 3:16, “God so loved the world…” But how does that translate into practical everyday expressions? 

As messengers of the gospel we can’t just sit back and say, “I’m saved it’s all good.” That would be selfish. So if it’s about helping others see and find the way to God’s love, let’s figure out how, what and why.

Let’s build the case for being the refuge.

  1. KNOW YOUR DNA

The basics: we were made in the image of God. We should show that with a God loving attitude.

We are made in the image of God

Genesis 1:27 – So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

We should reflect that by having the attitude of Jesus 

Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? 2 Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose. 3 Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. 4 Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.

5 You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. 6 Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. 7 Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, 8 he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.

9 Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

2. KNOW YOUR POWER AND POTENTIAL

We know that, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” – Phil 4:13

We are strong in Christ. We have been given the spirit of power 

2 Timothy 1:7 – For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.

We are free, clean and not condemned – Romans 8:1

Romans 8:1 – So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. (Also verse 11 – The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you.)
3. KNOW YOUR PLACE

It’s sort of like those nesting dolls with one inside another and so forth. This is the ultimate in security. We are wrapped up in the intimacy of the relationship of God the Father and God the Son.

We are in Christ, in the Father

John 14:20 – When I am raised to life again, you will know that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.
4. KNOW YOUR PURPOSE

Share the burdens and recovery of others

Galatians 6:1-3 – Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself. 2 Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. 3 If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important.

Help build up those around you

Romans 15:1-7 – We who are strong must be considerate of those who are sensitive about things like this. We must not just please ourselves. 2 We should help others do what is right and build them up in the Lord. 3 For even Christ didn’t live to please himself. As the Scriptures say, “The insults of those who insult you, O God, have fallen on me.” 4 Such things were written in the Scriptures long ago to teach us. And the Scriptures give us hope and encouragement as we wait patiently for God’s promises to be fulfilled. 5 May God, who gives this patience and encouragement, help you live in complete harmony with each other, as is fitting for followers of Christ Jesus. 6 Then all of you can join together with one voice, giving praise and glory to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 7 Therefore, accept each other just as Christ has accepted you so that God will be given glory.

Sunday Stuff for 

God, Where Are You? CRM Blog

http://view.vzaar.com/14089821/player?showplaybutton=rollover&brandText=Consider%20the%20thistles.&border=none&hideFullScreen=false&socialSharing=0,0,0&autoplay=true&apiOn=true” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener”>Roll Away The Stone – Becca Stevens of Thistle Farms

God Is…Always

People come & go. Sometimes they behave, and sometimes – not so much. As much as we may promise to “be there” we sometimes fail; after all we’re only human. But God on the other hand is not human. So we take his promises to be always true. The Scriptures tell us that God cannot violate his character, that he is the same yesterday, today and forever. Therefore, God is who God is…all the time.

With that being said let’s take a quick look at Psalm 46. The descendants of Korah wrote this Psalm of praise. In these eleven verses the Psalmist asks us to stop and think three times (verses 3,7 & 11). There is much to ponder in these verses.

The Psalmist declares that God is our REFUGE, REFRESHMENT & REST and he is RELENTLESS in pursuing his plan & purpose in earth.

The Psalm begins with a statement that God is our refuge & strength. In other words he is our offense & defense. As a refuge he defends us with protection and as our strength he fights for us – offense. No matter what comes our way the unchanging God is our refuge & strength.

Next we find that God is like a flowing river or bubbling spring that gives life through refreshing water. This water comes from inside his city – the City of God – that can’t be destroyed. And in case you have forgotten the God who fights for us and is our fortress is always with us…so think about that.

Finally, the hardest thing for many of us is finding rest in God. Not because he doesn’t provide rest but because to find it we need to be still. We live in a fast-paced world that doesn’t put a premium on rest. In fact many of us are so busy that we are sleep deprived. So being still in times of crisis is not high on our list of priorities.

However, it is when we stop and listen for the still, small voice that God speaks with; that we will be reminded that the God of the Angel Armies is among us.

Sunday Songs

A Mighty Fortress – Jesus Culture

I Shall Not Want – Audrey Assad

We Will Not Be Shaken – Bethel

Surrounded – Michael W. Smith

 

Praise God With Your Whole Fine Self

Psalm 103 begins with, “Let all that I am praise the Lord, with my whole heart, I will praise his holy name.” As I read those words I imagine the Psalmist thinking that since God is all in I should be as well. David remembers the good things God has done for him.

Now fast forward to today. We know God is all in since he gave his son’s life, so in our praise we should also be all in. If we are both all in then there is an emotional equality in the relationship. This kind of equal commitment is essential to a healthy relationship.

Let’s take a quick walk through the Psalm. At the start David mentions the good things God has given. So, what are these things? Forgiveness of sin, healing, redemption from death, love, tender mercy, renewed energy, righteousness and justice – now that’s quite a list.

We see from this Psalm that these benefits come from a benevolent father. His character has been revealed since the days of Moses. He is characterized by compassion, mercy, patience and unfailing love. God doesn’t constantly accuse us or remain angry forever AND he doesn’t punish us as harshly as we deserve. One of the neatest things is that our Father knows we are just dust. We are weak humans but he loves us still.

In contrast our Father sits on the throne in heaven. He rules over everything yet is accessible to us because of his unfailing love. So again we say, “Let all that I am, praise the Lord.”

Sunday Songs

10,000 Reasons – Matt Redman

All My Hope – David Crowder

The Stand – Hillsong

It’s Easter – Welcome Home!

If in his crucifixion Jesus saved us from eternal death it is the resurrection that saves us to life – life abundant and eternal. Obviously there are many angles through which to view the story of Holy Week, so we didn’t break new ground on Sunday, but we did look at three characters in the story and hopefully in the process we were encouraged.

When you mention Joseph in connection with Jesus most often we think of his earthly father. But for a moment let’s look at the Joseph who comes from Arimathea. Joseph was a member of the High Council who pushed for the arrest and death of Jesus. He didn’t agree with their stance and at great risk to his place in the community he asked to take the body of Jesus and give him a proper burial. Joseph had no inside info. He heard the same teachings as the others and he believed them to be true by faith. So along with another “secret” follower, Nicodemus he buried Jesus in an unused tomb. It had to be love that drove him to keep Jesus from a criminal’s common grave and bury him with dignity – even if he didn’t understand what was going on.

Now let’s look at the group of women who visited the grave early Sunday morning. They were family, friends and followers of Jesus. They were preparing spices for Jesus’ body but stopped for the Sabbath, then on Sunday morning they headed out to anoint their beloved. Again, no inside info or understanding of how this was all going to work out. Yet their faith and love compelled them to act.

Finally we see the main character in this whole event – Jesus. He has experienced the highs and lows of being human and on the previous Friday was wrongfully charged, convicted, tortured, mocked and murdered at the hands of the Roman empire. His closest friends are not getting that this is the fulfillment of prophesy. Many are in hiding. Yet with love the risen Jesus confronts and comfort them and encourages their faith. Much like the father of the “Prodigal Son” he simply welcomed them all home with love.

So each time you walk away, deny Jesus by your actions, lose faith, willfully sin or whatever – Jesus is waiting to say…”Welcome home my beloved, I’ve missed you.”

Sunday Songs

He’s Alive – Guy Penrod

Easter Song – Keith Green

Arise My Love – Newsong

Great Expectations

Have you ever been let down by a friend? Have you ever felt abandoned in a time of need? If you are a member of the human race the answer is yes. Sometimes the other person dropped the ball, but there are times when our expectations for them were unrealistic. For instance, we can have a good time with friends but we can’t expect them to provide true happiness for us.  Doctors can make us better with proper treatment, but they can’t cause us to live pain and illness free forever.

On what is now referred to as Palm Sunday the people in Jerusalem were expecting Jesus to be a conquering warrior who as their King would overthrow the Roman Empire. These were incorrect expectations because God had other plans. So what are realistic expectations of God in relation to our lives?

According to Psalm 40, David’s expectations were wrapped-up in his understanding of God and went a long way in determining his level of contentment. Let’s take a quick look.

At the outset David clearly states that he expects God to guard him and provide a place of refuge. He also expects that God will be in charge and provide things that are good. Finally, part way through the Psalm David expects that God will instruct him and guide him so well that he will know what is right even in the depths of his heart…at night.

Why does David expect these things? His understanding of God is that if he seeks refuge in God, God will provide. He acknowledges God is in charge, therefore he expects God to guide, influence and provide.

However, the key to this all working is that David is content with what God provides and where he leads. He doesn’t expect God to keep him from all of life’s hardships, but he does expect that God will not abandon him. This contentment leads to an inner peace, a glad heart and a rejoicing spirit. In other words, a life that finds joy today and has hope for tomorrow.

Those are great expectations but not unrealistic ones.

Sunday Songs & Meditations

Hosanna

Palm Sunday Plans & Expectations

Come To Me – Jenn Johnson

At The Mention Of Your Name – Bethel

Hosanna – Hillsong