Tuesday, August 12, 2008

God is love

Tomorrow night @ 730 PM is our bi-weekly Men's Group. Below is a message from our fearless leader Chris that he gave on Sunday, July 20.

God Is Love

This morning I would like to talk to you about the very nature and character of God, as the bible declares Him and how I have experienced Him. Throughout the bible we find many words used to describe God in an active way. God is a Holy God, He is a merciful God, He is a God full of compassion. God is a redeeming God, God is a just God, and He is a gracious God. Our God is a faithful God.

C.S. Lewis writes, "God is the one who loves us; not because we are lovable, but because He is love; not because He needs to receive but because He delights to give."

There are many other words used to describe Him as well, but there is one word that is not only used as a descriptive word, but a word that declares a state of being; that word is Love.

Probably the simplest example of what I mean that I can share is a description of ice. When water freezes it becomes ice and we can than say its state of being has changed from being fluid (water) to solid. We are also able to say that ice is solid, as in it now has an inherent strength to it, or will not break easily. So than the word solid when used to describe ice, not only becomes a describing word but it also becomes a word used to declare a state of being.

When I first began my journey towards the Lord, He imparted that truth to me simply, yet powerfully. Going through some of my old things I came across a bookmark I received after my first communion in the Catholic Church. On that bookmark was a scripture, "1 John 4:8 - God Is Love"

The impact of reading that scripture on that day still resonates within me powerfully. It has become part of the bedrock of my belief system, and one of the foundational truths of my faith.

God Is Love

Not just another word used to describe an action God has towards us, but a word that declares a state of being. God is not simply just a loving God - God is Love. Most Christians start off believing this truth joyfully, but than as time goes by, and misunderstanding and hurt arise, they often forget and start to believe differently.

So if God is love, what does that mean? In our world many times our definition of love can be skewed because of how he have experienced it or how we have been shown it. For some love is nothing more than a sexual act, and so that is what they seek after. For others the idea of loving someone means being the ultimate nice guy. One who never rocks the boat, someone who always wants to please others, even to the point of disregarding truth for the sake of peace.

In 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 the apostle Paul gives us the true meaning of the word love.

"Love endures long and is patient and kind, love never is envious nor boils over with jealousy, is not boastful or vainglorious, and does not display itself haughtily. It is not conceited arrogant or inflated with pride; it is not rude and does not act unmannerly. Love does not insist on its own rights or its own way, for it is not self-seeking. It is not touchy, fretful or resentful; it takes no account of the evil done to it. It does not rejoice at injustice or un-righteousness, but rejoices when truth and justice prevail. Love bears all things, hopes all things, believes all things, and endures all things. LOVE NEVER FAILS."

God Is Love

Now some of you may be wondering, "So if God is love, why is the world so full of pain and suffering, why is there unanswered prayer, why do bad things happen to good people?" Though none of us have perfect understanding for these and other unanswered questions, I can share with you what the bible declares and what my own experience has taught me.

God is love, and because He is love He does not force His ways upon us. Instead because of His great love towards us, He gave us free will to live our lives as we see fit. We are free to love, but we are also free to hate. We are free to forgive, and we are free to be vengeful. We are free to be peacemakers, and we are free to cause wars. We are free to create, but we are also free to destroy.

Because we live in a world still corrupted by sin and free to do as we will with our lives, pain and suffering do abound. The good news is though, that God in His inestimable wisdom and love already knew this would happen and has acted accordingly. He sent His Son Jesus Christ to die on our behalf, thus redeeming us and the world in which we live. The fullness of His death and resurrection and the impact it has had is yet to be revealed though.

In the book of Isaiah 55:8-9 the Lord says, "My thoughts are not you thoughts, and My ways are not your ways, as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts." We as limited human beings have a very limited understanding of how one event may impact another, and as such pray and ask for many things we think are good for us, and from our vantage point they may very well be. God on the other hand is not only omnipotent, but also omniscient, and omnipresent, and has perfect understanding of how one thing will affect another. Science has shown that the whole world is interconnected to an unbelievable degree, and yet we want what we want most times without so much as glancing at the impact our wants may have on everything around us.

As a loving God He is also vastly more interested in the state of our hearts than in our circumstances. He understands that troubling circumstances are often the very tools needed to bring us growth and change. Romans 5:3 says, "Tribulations worketh patience, and patience experience, experience hope, and hope maketh not ashamed because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given to us."

When a child asks their parent for some candy right before bedtime, typically the parent says no. The child’s response typically would be to get angry because they do not understand why the parent says no. All the child understands is that something has been withheld form them. Now the parent has the greater understanding and is indeed showing love to their child by saying no. If the child were to eat candy right before bed, blood sugar levels would rise, energy would increase, and the child would be unable to go to sleep in a timely manner. This is just a small idea of what our understanding can look like next to God's in any given circumstance.

If we take a look at the story of Job in the bible we have an extreme picture of grueling, almost tortuous circumstances of a man who was fully devoted to God in every way. In fact it appears as though God even brags a little about him to Satan. Now God is not the one who brings about the circumstances that assault Job in this story, but He does allow them to happen. God knew everything about Job and the state of his heart and knew there was a problem with it, and He loved Job enough to want to deal with that problem.

You see Job was amazing in how he served God, and how he loved God, and God was with him in all things and blessed him greatly. Unbeknownst to Job though something had crept into his heart unawares that if left unchecked would have been devastating to his relationship to God and his life in general. Job was starting to become self-righteous, and relying on his own works to get favor from God, rather than allowing his blessing to come from God's grace and divine favor. He came to a place where he justified himself through his own actions rather than looking to God for his justification.

So our loving God takes a step back from Job's life and allows Satan to have his way with him. Job ends up losing everything in the ensuing ordeal, his wealth, his honor, even his children are not spared. His body becomes wracked with boils and hives; all that he is left with is his life. Than to top that all off his last three friends come to see him, and instead of offering words of consolation for his time of trial and grief, they further chastise him with their words and are of no comfort whatsoever. By the end of their long conversation back and forth what is hidden in Job's heart comes out and is finally revealed, his self-righteousness. Though he justifies himself, he still does not clue into what he has just said though.

Another man who is younger than Job's three friends and Job than speaks up after listening to all their words quietly, and he speaks on God's behalf. He declares to all of them what he has seen and heard and the error of all their words, he even pinpoints Job's error to him, still Job does not clue in. Finally the Lord himself shows up in a whirlwind, and basically asks Job who in the heck he thinks he is to demand things or an answer from the Creator of all things, and chastises Job for believing that his own works have anything at all to do with his receiving from God.

Ultimately, Job realizes once and for all that he had become self-righteous and repents of it, and the Lord forgives him. In the end God does bless Job once more, with wealth, honor, health, children, and a life long enough to see his grandchildren's grandchildren. In fact he is given twice as much as he had before the whole event took place.

Every time God is faced with us praying for our circumstances to change, as well as us asking Him to change or heal our hearts, He will always go for the heart. He knows that our hearts health is vastly more important than any circumstance we may be in or facing.

God Is Love

In my own personal journey with God I have found that He is not only interested in removing any bad things that have entered my heart, but He is also very interested in healing it of past hurts and pain. Whether our wounds have been buried so deep we have forgotten them or they have just scarred over and we have become numb to the pain, it seems to me He is always far more willing to heal us than we are to be healed.

There was a time in my life when emotional pain was more than I could bear, and instead of choosing life or healing I chose death. My great plan to rid myself of my pain consisted of smoking enough crack cocaine to overdose and die and therefore be pain free, and if I didn't die than at least I was too stoned to remember my pain anymore. During that period of my life is when God found me. He called me by name, said He loved me more than I could ever imagine, and that He would heal my heart, and I would hurt no more.

I than began an amazing journey towards Him and freedom from the lifestyle I had chosen. He called me his son, and revealed Himself to me through various means, and I came to believe that I was healed of my former hurt; but I was wrong. In His great wisdom God knew that I was not prepared for Him to touch the deepest places of my pain, and instead He set to work on growing me up. He taught me some wisdom and understanding, He put people around me who loved on me and encouraged me, and He dealt with less painful things in my heart.

Seven years I walked with Him, seven years of what I would call blissful blessing, where His peace lay upon me as a blanket. He became my closest friend and confidant, my trusted ally through this walk of life. Not in my wildest dreams did I ever expect my old pain to still be there, lurking in the darkest recesses of my heart. When the fullness of time came for my healing to begin, I was taken completely unawares. Things started to go dreadfully wrong as I saw it, my blessings seemed to dry up, my prayers seemed to bounce off the walls, and before I knew it all I had been given was stripped away. Stripped away so that once again I could see what was hidden in my heart, my old pain. Once again when faced with that pain I made the same choice I did so many years ago, I chose death instead of life, once again drugs became my place of refuge, once again I was a broken shattered shell of a man.

There was one difference this time around, God was with me and I knew who He was, and I knew He loved me. He walked alongside me through my pain, ignoring my pleas for my circumstances to change. Instead He showed me grace like I could not imagine, as my life was spared again and again, no matter how many times I passed out from smoking too much crack cocaine. He listened to my cries, He understood my frustration and my actions, and He kept on loving me through it all never abandoning me. Always His goal being to show me that I could choose life when faced with that pain, that death was not my only option. Facing me with a grace that would not quit, a love that never stopped. He even went so far one day as to continue to allow me to do what I wanted and remove His protection He had given me. Very clearly one day I heard Him say "Ok my son, though it grieves me deeply, if death is truly what you want, I will let you go." in an instant I knew if I took another hit I would die. That's when I finally clued in that death was not truly what I wanted, healing was. I wanted to live, but I needed to be healed, and that day is where the healing of my heart truly began.

It has been almost seven years again now, and to be honest I am still not finished dealing with the consequences of my actions during that time, but other things have been given to me that far outweigh what was lost. I know my God loves me, I know my God always has my best interests at heart, and I know my God will never abandon me.

So why do I believe some of my bad experiences have happened to me? Why do I think God doesn't seem to answer some of my prayers? Why do I think bad things happen to good people?

I believe it is because He knows what it is going to take to heal the human heart.

I believe He knows what needs to be gone through if we are serious about being truly healed.

I believe that He is such a loving God, that if we are as serious about our hearts as He is, than He will take us down the road that we need to go down, He will walk with us through the dark places of our hearts, exposing the darkness and pain within.

I believe He will stand with us as we face it and He will lead us to the other side where true healing can be found.

God Is Love

God is love, and we are His children. He has declared His love for us not only through the beauty of creation, but irrefutably by the death and resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ. He calls us righteous because of His Son, and has made us to be joint-heirs with Christ. He has plans to prosper us and give us hope, His thoughts towards us daily outnumber the grains of sand by the sea, and the word says He dances over us with joy.

God Is Love

God is love, He will not forsake us nor leave us, he collects all of the tears we cry, and our prayers are a sweet smelling incense to Him. He is perfect in all His ways; His judgments are always tempered with mercy and grace. He is the author and finisher of our faith, and neither life nor death, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things to come can separate us from His love that is given to us through His Son. Daily He stands at the door to our hearts, calling us to come sit, and reason together with Him. His mercies are new everyday, and as far as the east is from the west has He removed our sin from us. His grace is from everlasting to everlasting and more than sufficient to see us through any and all trials we will face. His truth will set us free and His Son has given us life.

If we ever mange to truly believe this, if we can ever grasp that God is for us and not against us, if we can ever come to the place where we are able to accept His forgiveness and live lives free from condemnation and guilt, than I believe we too will have come to the place where from prison Paul the apostle says " For I have learned in whatsoever state I am therewith to be content, I know how to be abased and how to abound, everywhere and in all things, I am instructed both to abound and suffer need. I CAN DO ALL THINGS THROUGH CHRIST WHO STRENGTHENS ME."

Our God is Love, and His mercy endures forever. (by Chris Eisenkrein)


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