The Relationship Between God’s Love and God’s Power

He heals the broken in heart…He tells the number of stars.  Psalm 148:3,4

God shows active pity in the small circles of human experience and unmeasured power in the great realms of creation.

There is a relationship between God’s love and His power. Without His love, why would we be inspired to love him? Without His power, why would we fear Him as Lord? God is neither too far off or too near. If we only see God’s power we will only develop a sense of duty but never regard ourselves as children of the King. On the other hand, when we recognize God’s goodness and nearness but forget He is high and lofty then we are apt to be seized by panic and pessimism when enduring trying circumstances.

It is a Terrible Thing to Despise Love

God’s love is unchangeable. At the Last Supper Jesus knew Judas had gone out to betray him. HE KNEW IT!

Did Christ not love Judas? That very night he said to him, “Judas, what you do, do quickly,” and when Judas, meeting him in the garden, kissed him, he said, “Betray your master with a kiss?” Was this not the voice of love and compassion that should have broken Judas’ heart? Jesus loved Judas in the very hour that he betrayed him.

That is what is going to make Hell so terrible–you go there with the love of God beneath your feet. It is not that HE doesn’t love you but that you despise his love.  It is a terrible thing to despise love.

God Rejoices Over Us with Singing

“The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in His love He will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.” Zephaniah 3:17

WOW! A God who is with ME!

A mighty warrior He is!

God takes delight in me? How can that be?

He will no longer rebuke out of His love!

Instead, He rejoices over me (and you!) with singing?!

What does it mean when someone says that they’ve been called into vocational ministry?

It means that during the ordinary places and times of life God has called us over a period of time when we grew locally attentive to an inward desire that ebbed and flowed but didn’t fade. We then set this desire prayerfully before God moment by moment, day by day. We took steps during that time to test by Scripture in community whether we had the gifts to match the desire. Along the way, those who locally knew us best and those whom we’d attempted to serve told us that they were strengthened in Jesus because of our use of these gifts. Consequently, after a time, we took awkward and faith-filled steps, not knowing where these steps might lead. But by then were assured by this unfading desire and these community affirmations that God might actually be leading us. Circumstantial opportunities then arrived and we surrendered our lives to this out of obedience and gratitude to God.

Godly Grief vs. Regret

The Devil and God both talk about sin, but in different ways with dramatic impact. While the Holy Spirit convicts us of sin, never is the Holy Spirit identified as a accuser. God’s way of confronting His people in their sin Paul calls “godly grief” (2 Corinthians 7:9-11).

First, godly grief produces not just tears or new resolutions. It actually produces repentance–which means a real turning point. The change is new and incomplete, but real.

Second, the grief from God leads the person back to a fresh acquaintance with the provision of salvation–the merit and mercy of Jesus.

Third, grief from God purposes to send regret away: “For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret” (7:10).

In contrast, there is a kind of sorrow for sin that has nothing to do with God. Over the years I have found that those caught in the sin of lying, for example, require the most active energy and time–particularly if lying has been a way of life.

Why is this so? On the one hand, a long life of this sin gives a person a strong skill set with manipulation. Such a person is adept at tears, quoting the right verses, giving meaningful looks of the eyes, and saying what the person in front of them wants to hear. It is easy to conclude that someone has godly grief when actually he is feeling sorrow because he got caught and is simply trying to do what he needs to in order to get everyone off his case and to get back to normal.

A grief that is self-generated and made mischief with the Devil “produces death,” Paul says (vs. 10). That is, it sheds tears but does not turn; it makes resolutions and quotes verses. But it neither rests upon Jesus alone nor surrenders to God.

Regret still tells the story in the first person present, as if we are still in the moment. It happened years agao, but we who listen get the idea from you that it happened recently.

Regret can also keep secrets. We put the lid on it and tell no one to preserve our image. It gradually eats away at us. But godly grief will eventually turn our sinful secrets into testimonies of grace.

You Have Not Because You Ask Not

The seven closing words of James 4:2 (“you have not because you ask not”) contain the secret of the powerlessness of the average Christian, of the average minister, and of the average church. We ask, “Why is it that I make such poor progress in my Christian life?  Why do I influence others for Christ so weakly?” God answers in the words of the text: “Neglect of prayer. You have not because you ask not.”

Many ministries ask, “Why is it that I see so little fruit from my ministry? Why are there so few conversions?” And again God replies, “You have not because you ask not.”

Guess what I’m asking for this morning?

Can You Trust God, Right Where You Are?

In Jeremiah 29, two different kinds of preachers are giving sermons to the Israelites in exile. The one is Jeremiah who speaks from God. He tells the exiles that they will have to reimagaine life where they are. They aren’t going anywhere for 70 years. This means that all but the babies born at the time will have passed away and finished their lives in exile, away from the Promised Land. The babies will have lived most of their lives by the time a chance to go back “home” arrives. The message is hard to take.

Another group of preachers is saying the opposite. “Don’t put down roots!” they are saying. “God wouldn’t keep you in exile like this!” “He is going to get you out of here!” “This place is temporary; get ready to move!”

Which church would you prefer to attend while in exile? I think I’d prefer not to listen to Jeremiah. In fact, a verse from this passage is quoted to cast a vision for the future. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future (Jeremiahs 29:11).”

What I failed to realize as I take up this wonderful promise is that almost everyone who originally heard it knew that they would never experience its fulfillment in Jerusalem, where they wanted to be. They had to grapple instead with the truth that the future and the hope for them with God would take place right where they were in exile–where they would live and die. Their great grandchildren would experience the fullness of the future and the hope back in Jerusalem. The next generation would get to move but not them.

What does it mean for us if the future and the hope that God has for our welfare means that we will have to trust Him right where we are?

Five Ways Jesus was a Hospitable Leader at the Last Supper

Jesus intentionally created a space that was physically, spiritually, emotionally, attitudinally, and communicatively hospitable.

  1. The Last Supper was physically hospitable. He paid special attention to the physical space. Prior to the Supper, He sent Peter and John to get the space read for the passover feast. They had to find and purchase a lamb and secure enough wine for dinner. Jesus was very specific about the physical environment.
  2. The Last Supper was spiritually hospitable. John tells us that Jesus knew he came from the Father, had authority from the Father, and would eventually go back to the Father. The fact that He was at home with the Father created a spiritual climate that allowed everyone in the room to also feel at home.
  3. The Last Supper was emotionally hospitable. John says that Jesus “showed the full extent of His love.” That”s the greatest key to being a hospitable leader. If we want to warm hearts, we have to figure out appropriate ways to convey love in the teams and organizations we lead.
  4. The Last Supper was attitudinally hospitable. Jesus demonstrated the attitude of a servant by wrapping Himself in a towel and washing his disciples’ feet. he wasn’t an authoritarian but someone who met the needs of His followers. He was a servant-leader.
  5. The Last Supper was communicatively hospitable. This wasn’t just another passover supper. It was a leadership talk for the ages. During the meal, Jesus made a new covenant agreement, cast a vision for His disciples’ future, engaged in extreme team-building, and prayed passionately for His followers.

He intentionally created an environment to make His disciple feel welcome and comfortable because He knew what they were about to hear would change the world. There is so much to learn about the leadership of Jesus.

Only One…

There is only one kind of person: sinner (Romans 3:23). All people–Jew and Gentile, old and young, rich and poor, male and female, black, white, brown–ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

There is only one way of salvation: “The righteousness of God is through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe, since there is no distinction (Romans 3:22).”

And there is only one God who justifies both the religious and irreligious through the same means: faith (Romans 3:30).

The gospel, Paul says, creates a new, inclusive humanity that overcomes the divisions created by the pride that comes from distinguishing ourselves from others.

God Will Provide

When God asked/tested Abraham to sacrifice his only son and then provided a ram at the last minute as a replacement for Isaac, Abraham celebrated and called that place, “Yahweh Yireh,” “The Lord will provide.”

Abraham proved faithful to the test. Yet the place of his testing is not called, “Abraham will be faithful.” No, it is called, “God will provide.” For this story ultimately is about the faithfulness of God. The God who makes covenant with Abraham can be trusted, even if God cannot be understood at times. For God both tests and provides.