Tag Archives: love of God

I am okay

Words of Grace 

 

What do you say when you have had a hard week? When things have piled up against you and any one of them seems like too much? Sometimes the most you can say is, “I am okay.”

One of my favorite passages from Paul is in 2 Corinthians 4:

We are hard pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed—

In other words, it’s been a tough week, but we are okay.

Not destroyed. We may not be able to see hope right now, but we trust it is there. We may not feel great about ourselves or the life around us, but we not in despair. We may not know how all of this will turn out, but we are still looking up.

Most of us don’t need to feel great all the time. We understand that we are in a battle against an enemy. We understand that there is competition for our place in life. We understand that the others around us have crummy days. We understand that society is broken.

I think regular people can take a lot. I know that those of us who have the presence of the Lord and the promise of His everlasting love can take even more. To be okay simply means that we are not destroyed by whatever we are going through. We will not be destroyed because the Lord is with us and will never leave us.

I might not have a smile sometimes, but I am okay. I might not have the time or the strength to lift my hand in sacrificial service, but I am okay. I might not be able to see a way out of my trouble, but I am okay. I am not destroyed and I will not be destroyed.

I am okay because Jesus loves me. I am okay because this world is not my final home. I am okay because I am fully forgiven and accepted. I am okay because I am never alone.

No, I refuse to say that everything is wonderful when I don’t feel that way. I have to be honest and admit to my pain or my struggle. But I also know that I am okay . . . and I want you to know that as well.

In 1870, Horatio and Anna Spafford lost their only son to scarlet fever. The next year, Spafford lost almost all his financial assets in the Chicago fire. Then, in 1873, Mrs. Spafford and their four daughters left for Europe while Horatio stayed back to try to recover some of his business. The ship had an accident and the four Spafford girls drowned. Only Mrs. Spafford survived.

Out of that series of tragedies, came the words to a wonderful song, “It Is Well with My Soul.” It was Horatio Spafford’s way of telling people, including himself, that he was okay.

 

I am okay

Jesus loves me

He will never leave me nor let me go

I am safe in Him

I am okay

 

 

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But what about…

Grace 101

There are times when the preacher goes from preaching to meddling.  Some people might think of this post as meddling.  You might be right.

Jesus told us to treat others in the way we would want to be treated.  I think there’s a reason He said that.  It’s because you will never receive what you are unwilling to give to others.

You see, the hardest part of the path is not what we find in the church or even in our judgment of ourselves.  The part of the path that is least likely to receive the message of grace is our judgment of others.  We see the sins of others more clearly than we see our own.  We sometimes have less patience and forgiveness for others than we would like to experience ourselves.

Often, when I talk with people about grace, the fact that God has dealt with our sins and no longer holds them against us and has done everything necessary for us to be saved, I get a response like this: “That’s nice but what about…?”  The example given is usually some behavior observed in others that is offensive to the person.  Usually it’s something the person doesn’t see in himself.

Can you live with your girlfriend and still be saved?  Can you drink to excess and still be a Christian?  Can you be a part of XYZ church and still go to Heaven?  Can you smoke, cuss, look at porn, cheat on taxes, steal cable TV, lie, drive badly, or have doubts about some facts in the Bible?  If these behaviors won’t keep a person out of Heaven, what will?

It is very difficult for us, even with an understanding of grace, to let go of the judgments we learned.  We have invested in a game that measures success on the basis of doing better than others.  Notice that it is not doing well, not really.  No, we have trouble believing that we can do well, but we sure can do better than some of the people we know.

Listen, I do this.  I suspect we all do.  I know grace teachers who proclaim boldly the love of God and sufficiency of the person and work of Jesus but criticize and complain about other people’s behavior.  I know that there are certain things that trigger my irritation and are hard to ignore when it comes to letting Jesus deal with His people.  After all, they are only accountable to Him, not to me.

Why do we judge?  Some of it comes from the values drilled into us by parents, church, or life.  We see certain behaviors as wrong, simply because we were taught they were wrong.  Some people, according to our prejudices, are unacceptable because of those behaviors.

And some of this comes from the energy and frustration we spend trying to avoid the passions and temptations that come along in our lives.  We work to stay away from sin, and then we become frustrated when we see others who don’t seem to try to avoid it at all.  We are especially tested when we are supposed to understand that Jesus accepts them just as He does us.

But listen: how will we ever really accept the truth about the way the Lord accepts us if we can’t believe that He accepts others the same way?  If He rejects one because of a certain behavior, then why would He not reject us when we do the same thing—or anything else that is sin in His eyes?  We will not receive the joy and peace of knowing the love of God if we don’t see that He accepts all people just as He accepts us.

Yup, that’s meddling.  Lord help me to remember this throughout the day!

(Since I wrote this post, I have received a comment on the previous post that has prompted me to add this paragraph.  When others hurt us, they are accountable to God for their sin.  If they truly belong to Him and He chooses to forgive them, that’s His business because He is their Master and they answer to Him.  But that doesn’t make their actions less evil or sinful.  God is not the Author of evil nor does He condone evil done by the hands of His people.  We can acknowledge this without being legalistic or unforgiving.  It is certainly true that Christians can hurt each other and participate in the work of the evil one as we operate in the flesh.  There are many admonitions against believers hurting each other in Scripture.  If we fail to understand that Christians can do things which are evil, we will misplace the blame for that evil.  Instead, we must allow the Lord to love and forgive as He wills and trust His servants to His hands.  He may discipline or change them, but He will not stop loving those who are His.  And remember, not all who claim His name are His.)

 

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Hyper-love?

 

It is interesting that those who accuse us of a doctrine of “hyper-grace” don’t also accuse us of “hyper-love.”  After all, the whole understanding of the gospel is about the love of God.  Grace is simply the means God uses to act on His love.

But, of course, we are accused of going “over the top” about love, aren’t we?  I was recently in a discussion with someone who wanted me to admit that there are limits to God’s love.  When I wanted him to delineate those limits, he couldn’t.  He just wanted to be sure that I left room for God’s anger, wrath, and hatred.  Those things were important to him and I wasn’t talking about them enough.

Now, let me say at the outset that I see the anger of God in the Bible.  I see His wrath and even hatred.  But it isn’t pointed at individuals.  It is pointed at sin.

There’s a great story in 2 Chronicles 33 and 2 Kings 21about a man named Manasseh.  This man was king in Jerusalem after Hezekiah, his father, died.  He was very bad.  He led the people away from the Lord in ways others had not.  He even sacrificed his own children in the fire.  He shed innocent blood throughout Judah.  Eventually, the Lord sent the Assyrians to capture Manasseh and take him into captivity.

And God said He was angry.  In 2 Kings 21, God says that Manasseh had provoked Him to anger.  The Lord tried to reach out to Manasseh, but he wouldn’t listen.  So, with hooks in his nose, Manasseh went into bondage.

Now, how would it have helped for the prophets of God to come to Manasseh, while he was in bondage, to tell him how much God hated him?  Suppose they had told Manasseh of the wrath of God against him and the anger God felt as He looked at Manasseh.  Would that have helped?  Or would that have driven Manasseh farther away?

Instead, when Manasseh was suffering and broken, when his sins had brought him to the lowest place of his life, he cried out to the Lord.  For some reason, he thought God might hear him and forgive.  And that’s exactly what God did!  He not only forgave Manasseh, but He brought him back to Jerusalem and set him up again as king of Judah.  Amazing Love!

You see, that little story, hidden in the back rooms of Scripture, is not a story of the anger of God, but a story of the love of God.  It was love that moved the heart of God to send Manasseh into captivity.  It was love that moved the heart of God to forgive and restore Manasseh.  This was likely the most cruel and evil king who ever sat on Jerusalem’s throne, yet God loved him.  He abused and killed the people, even his own children, yet God loved him.  The love of God is greater than any sin and reaches out to any sinner.

Is that a love that’s too big?  Should we tone it down a little to make sure there’s room for hate and anger?  I don’t think so.  This is the love of God and it is as big as He is.

Maybe we should accept the term, “hyper-grace.”  If grace is the working out of the love of God for us, then it would have to be over the top, bigger than anything.  If grace proceeds from the love of God, then nothing can even pretend to balance it, counter it, or soften it.

Maybe hyper-grace is the natural result of hyper-love.

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Evil in the World

What do you say after an event like the one that happened Friday?  It feels like you have to say something, but almost anything seems trite against the horror of little children being executed by a madman.  My wife and I have come up with a little thing that helps us to understand the strange and, often, troubling things people say in times of stress.  “When you have a choice of two or three things you could say, you will almost always choose the dumbest.”  So often we walk away from a brief conversation and wonder why we said what we did.  And, just as often, we have to walk away forgiving the other person for what he or she said.

So I am simply going to say this: there is evil in the world.  Sometimes the evil bursts out in ways that bring terror and grief.  Sometimes the evil is so plain to see that we can’t explain it away or excuse it.

People all over the nation are crying out for gun control, as though more gun control would stop such violence.  The people of China are not allowed to own guns, but children have been attacked with axes, box cutters, meat cleavers, and knives.  In fact, 22 children were slashed in Henan Province on Friday, the same day as the Sandy Hook School killings.  This isn’t about guns, or mental health, or divorce, or public schools—this is about evil.  Evil uses whatever it can to bring harm.

The young man who committed this act worked evil.  The evil in his heart grew and twisted and festered until it found a way of expression.  In Romans, Paul speaks of sin as a force within him, even as a believer (Rom. 7:17).  Sin takes advantage of the world and its cruel influences to twist our flesh and move us to do things we regret.  Sin is evil and sin is in each person.  Sin is as natural to us as breathing air.

That’s why we need a Savior.

The limited and tilted picture we get of the young murderer is of someone who needed to know in his heart that he was loved.  Yes, I understand that he had some diagnosed psychological problems, but the story so far speaks volumes about the lack of security and love in his life.  We may never understand what finally snapped in him, but I can’t help but wonder if things would be different today if he understood the love of Jesus for him.

As you go about your business today, love people.  Sometimes it is hard and the only love you may find is a little more patience and a decision not to say what you think the person deserves.  But, if the love of Jesus is in your heart, share it.  And don’t be afraid to tell people where it came from when they ask why you are kind.

Love is the one thing that multiplies as it is shared.  You have more for yourself as you give it away.  Yes, there are people who cannot accept love and people who use your love to take advantage of you.  I don’t blame anyone for being careful.  Loving someone is not the same as giving in to their addictions and cruelties.

The evil of many generations apart from God—the evil of a culture that is becoming increasingly narcissistic—the evil of a church that seeks to appease God through lists and rules and legalistic standards—has found its way to the hearts of our young people.  They are struggling in ways few of us ever did.  Sexual promiscuity, drugs, homosexuality, suicide—these are part of their lives now.  They need to know the love of Jesus.

Be sure to tell your kids and grandkids what you are learning about being loved.  It will make a difference!

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