WHEN YOU FEEL LIKE GOD DOES NOT LOVE YOU

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Sometimes I doubt God’s love. I know that sounds strange, especially because I am a pastor. But, in case you didn’t know, pastors struggle to believe just like every other sinner in the world. So, yes, I doubt God’s love often. And, yes, I am that fickle. But I have a friend who is helping me to see the glories of Jesus and to believe God’s outrageous love for sinners like me.

In his book “The Glory of Christ” John Owen lists a few questions you can ask yourself if you are doubting God’s love. Read so that you may “walk in the paradise of God and enjoy the sweet perfume of his mediatorial love”-

All who believe that Christ is God value his love and so are never happy with vague ideas of his love as mediator. To have clear, distinct ideas of Christ’s love, ask yourself the following questions:

1. Whose love is it? It is the love of the divine person of the Son of God who laid down his life for us (1 John 3:16).

2. How did this love of the Son of God show itself? It showed itself in the divine nature by eternal acts of wisdom, goodness and grace. And in the human nature it revealed itself by deeds of pity and compassion, shown by his works and his sufferings for us (Eph. 3:19, Heb. 2:14-15, Rev. 1:5).

3. Did we deserve Christ’s love? No, we deserved wrath, not love. This thought should be enough to humble you and bring you into the best attitude of mind to meditate on the glory of Christ’s love as mediator.

4. What did the love of God procure for us? It procured our eternal salvation and our enjoyment of God forever.

With such clear ideas of the love of Christ, and by worship, you may walk in the paradise of God and enjoy the sweet perfume of his mediatorial love (Song of Sol. 2:2-4).

Finally, do not be content to have right ideas of the love of Christ in your mind unless you have a gracious taste of it in your heart. You may taste that the Lord is gracious, that is, you may experience for yourself his grace in your heart. If you do not actually experience the love of Christ in your heart, you will not retain the idea of it in your mind.

Christ is the meat, the bread, the food provided by God for your soul. And there is no higher spiritual nourishment in Christ that his mediatory love, and this you should always desire. In his love, Christ is glorious. No creatures, angels or men could have the least idea of it before it was revealed by Christ. And after it was seen in this world, it is still absolutely incomprehensible.

God Loves You Where You Are

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Working on a sermon and was reminded of this gem of a quote by Jack Miller.

“God loves you where you are, not where you have been pretending to be… The last thing we want to admit is that we are weak, foolish, and sinful. But we are tense in our imagined righteousness. What we really need is just to face the truth about ourselves. When we do that, our lives have a special appeal to God and to unbelievers. God loves to hear a person cry out in heartbroken honesty, ‘Lord, I am nothing but a poor sinner. Send help quickly or I’ll die!’” {Repentance: A Daring Call to Real Surrender, p.86-87}

So glad that Jesus loves me where I am and not where I’m pretending to be. Confession: I pretend a lot. I can “do fake” real good. I can “play Christian” very well. And the One who sees through my shams loves me where I’m at. File that under “GOSPEL GOODNESS.”

In the Serious Apprehension of the Gospel

I’m currently reading Christian Love by Hugh Binning (1627-53), one of the Puritans. His story is fascinating. He graduated from the College of Glasgow in 1646 at the age of 19 and was shortly thereafter named the chair of Philosophy at the college. He was ordained in 1650 and pastored a church for 3 years before his death at age 26. During this time Binning preached a series of 40 sermons from Romans 8:1-15 called “The Sinner’s Sanctuary.” At the age of 26, I don’t think I was qualified or capable of preaching 40 sermons from Romans 8:1-15! Three of these sermons are included at the end of Christian Love.

In “Sermon 37” (I love the title!) Binning explains how constant Gospel rehearsal provides the rest that we need when our hearts condemn us:

Therefore to the end that you whose souls are once pacified by the blood of Christ, and composed by his word of promise, may so enjoy that constant rest and tranquility as not to be enthralled again to your old fears and terrors, I would advise to you…

1. That ye would be much in the study of that allowance which the promises of Christ afford. Be much in the serious apprehension of the gospel, and certainly your doubts and fears would vanish at one stroke of such a rooted and established meditation. Think what you are called to, not to fear again, but to love rather, and honor him as Father.

Be much in the serious apprehension of the Gospel, my friends. Think about it. Read about it. Talk about it. Blog about it. Tweet about it. Keep dwelling on God’s amazing love for sinners. There’s nothing more rewarding and beneficial to a Christian. I promise.

Benji

Put My Tears In Your Bottle

You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book? Psalm 56:8

I know that the holidays can be tough for many people. We miss loved ones, family members, friends, etc. As if life wasn’t hard enough in this fallen world, the holidays come along and seem to highlight this. So let me encourage you today (and I’m really just encouraging myself).

God sees and knows all of your pain, heartache, sadness, tears, etc. He’s seen you go through a whole box of Kleenex. He’s seen you toss and turn in your bed. He sees all of that and takes note. Psalm 56:8 is telling us just how much our Father cares for us. Think about it: God knows every late night bed tossing that has occurred in your life. He has collected every tear that you have shed. He has written down all of your pain and sadness in a book.

I hope you cling to the God of Psalm 56:8 this Christmas season. I hope you truly believe that God has kept every tear of yours in a bottle. I hope you truly believe that God has kept a journal of all of your sorrows. What a caring, kind, gracious Father we have. Read this verse, meditate on this verse, memorize this verse until it gets down into the nooks and crannies of your heart and you realize just how much God loves and cares for you.

Benji

When Grace Doesn’t Strike Down, But Lets People Scarf Down

I just had to post this today based on yesterday’s sermon and based on something that happened to me yesterday. My sermon was all about giving grace to those who don’t deserve it. So after preaching 3x, I came home exhausted, only to discover that one of my kids had broken one of my cherished African art pieces. I bought this very cool woodwork 20 years ago in Ghana, West Africa. It was made of one piece of wood but was tangled together in a very unique way. And yesterday one of my kids got angry at his brother and threw it at him. And this is what I came home to…

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By God’s grace I did not flip out on my son, I just told him that I forgive him. Very simple: “I forgive you, son.” And then I woke up this morning to find, in his bed, that he had drawn a picture of it to try and make up for it…

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This reminded me of an incident in the Old Testament where grace also won the day.

As soon as they entered Samaria, Elisha said, “O LORD, open the eyes of these men, that they may see.” So the LORD opened their eyes and they saw, and behold, they were in the midst of Samaria. As soon as the king of Israel saw them, he said to Elisha, “My father, shall I strike them down? Shall I strike them down?” He answered, “You shall not strike them down. Would you strike down those whom you have taken captive with your sword and with your bow? Set bread and water before them, that they may eat and drink and go to their master.” So he prepared for them a great feast, and when they had eaten and drunk, he sent them away, and they went to their master. And the Syrians did not come again on raids into the land of Israel. 2 Kings 6:20-23

Some passages in God’s word have made “the Big Time.” By that I mean they are the more “famous” passages that many Christians know, that preachers preach more regularly on, that make it into children’s Bibles, etc. There’s nothing wrong with that at all. But there are others that sometimes get “lost” due to the more famous stories. 2 Kings 6 is like that. It contains the well-known story of the floating axe-head (2 Kings 6:1-7) and the “unseen” horses and chariots of fire that were Elisha’s source of comfort and strength in the face of a Syrian army that wanted him dead (2 Kings 6:8-19).

But what follows these 2 events often gets overlooked. On the surface, verses 20-23 do not seem too exciting when compared with the previous narratives. Elisha had just caused an iron axe-head to float, then he followed that by asking Yahweh to open his servant’s eyes to see into the spiritual world, and then he asked Yahweh to strike the Syrian army with blindness because they wanted him dead. Pretty exciting stuff! And then Elisha has a BBQ for said Syrian army. Not so exciting. Or is it?

Elisha led the blind Syrian army to Samaria and took them behind enemy lines. He prayed that the Lord would open their eyes and “Voilà!” they could see again after a ten-mile trek. There they were; face to face with their enemy. Then the king of Israel asks Elisha if he should strike the Syrian army down with the sword. You expect that to happen at this point in the narrative. But Elisha responds that they should not be killed but rather be served some BBQ. What gives, Elisha? These people want your head on a platter and you want to serve them a great meal on a platter? What happened to you, Elisha?

Grace. That’s what happened; that’s what we see working here. Rather than give these wicked Syrian soldiers a taste of their own medicine, Elisha gives them a taste of some good ole fashioned Israeli cuisine. The Syrians feasted on bread and water (and I’m sure many other delicacies because the author describes it as a “great feast”) but what they really ate that day was grace. Grace has a way of lighting up every taste bud in your heart. That’s why the Syrians at least delayed their future battles with Israel (see verses 23 and 24). They were overwhelmed by the generosity of Elisha and the city of Samaria. The Syrian soldiers feasted on grace; they did not get what they deserved.

That’s how grace works. That’s how grace has always worked. Whether you’re behind enemy lines and enjoying a BBQ in the ancient Near East or messing up your life on the coast of California. Grace is there. We see grace most clearly in the Gospel. God does not give us what we deserve because of Jesus’ perfect life, death, and resurrection.

I don’t know about you, but I love to feast on grace. I love to stuff myself with grace. I love the Gospel. But so many times I see myself acting like the king of Israel and wanting to “give people the sword” rather than give them grace. So many times I would rather strike people down with the sword instead of letting them scarf down on grace, even when they mess up my Chipotle order- especially when they break a cherished African wood piece. In these moments, I need to re-learn the Gospel from Elisha. He said, “Put the sword down. Let our enemies scarf down… on grace.”

When others wrong you, irritate you, offend you, hurt you, and get under your skin, don’t seek revenge. Try dispensing grace. Forgive as you have been forgiven (Colossians 3:13). My tendency is to rehearse over and over (with amazing accuracy!) the offense that I have suffered. Yet I struggle to rehearse (with amazing accuracy) the Gospel. Oh, that we would be people that rehearsed the Gospel and not grievances! Oh, that we would be a church that put the sword down and let others scarf down on grace!

Let the Gospel promise found in Proverbs motivate you to dispense grace today:

If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat, and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink, for you will heap burning coals on his head, and the LORD will reward you. Proverbs 25:21-22

If you dispense grace, there is a reward. If you dispense grace, the Gospel goes on display. If you dispense grace, God gets glory big time because the focus shifts away from you and your pity-party and your hurts and your self-absorbed mindset and your desire to seek revenge and it shifts to Jesus, which is where it belongs.

The church where I serve as a pastor is trying to take our first name seriously: Grace. We’re learning to forgive because we have been forgiven. We’re learning to dispense grace.

Put the sword down. Let people scarf down on God’s grace.

Pumpkin Spice

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How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! Psalm 119:103

It’s fall- that time of year when Starbucks brings back their “Pumpkin Spice Latte.” It’s been out for a while now, but suddenly pumpkin spice is everywhere, and not just at Starbucks. If you want something that smells like or tastes like pumpkin spice, you can find it. Pumpkin spice has so saturated culture that @ChrchCurmudgeon recently tweeted, “Just picked up my new Pumpkin Spice Study Bible® from ‪@LifeWay!” Pumpkin spice is everywhere these days. So if you’re one of those “pumpkin spice lovers” (or even if you’re not), let the sweetness found in pumpkin spice lattes and pumpkin spice cakes and pumpkin spice muffins and pumpkin spice pancakes and pumpkin spice cookies remind you of the sweetness of the Word of God. Then remember that there are people in this world who don’t have a copy of it. Then remember what William Tyndale went through to make the Bible available to us.

William Tyndale (1494-1536) was a humble, young scholar who became one of the most hunted fugitives ever, pursued by King Henry VIII, Cardinal Wolsey, Sir Thomas More and others. His crime? Translating and circulating the Bible in English! He was caught and killed, but his unquenchable vision was marvelously fulfilled and we now enjoy the fruits of his labor as we read the Bible in our own language.

Tyndale wanted to see the Scriptures available for everyone to read. One day, a priest visiting Little Sodbury openly attacked Tyndale’s beliefs. Tyndale replied, “If God spare my life, before very long I shall cause every plough boy to know the Scriptures better than you do!” Too often, English-speaking Christians take for granted that we have the Bible in our language (not to mention the fact that many of us have several copies, even the Bible on our phones!). Perhaps these statistics from wycliffe.org will enable you to see the great need for God’s Word to be available in every tongue:

almost 7,000 …the number of languages spoken in the world today

more than 1,800 …the number of languages without any of the Bible, but with a need of Bible translation to begin

about 340 million …the number of people who speak the 1,800+ languages where translation projects have not yet begun

nearly 2,200 …the number of translation programs currently at work

nearly 75% …amount of the world’s remaining Bible translation needs that are located in the three areas of greatest need (Central 
Africa 
& Nigeria, Mainland
 & Southeast Asia, 
Indonesia 
& The Pacific Islands)

nearly 1,300 …the number of language communities which have access to the New Testament in their heart language

more than 500 …the number of language communities which have access to the entire Bible in the language they understand best

7.125 billion+ …the population of the world

Give thanks today that you have the Bible in your language. Then read it passionately, vigorously, and voraciously! And then pray that God would raise up missionaries to translate the Bible into the languages of the 340 million who still have no copy of God’s Word. And remember that His word is sweeter than pumpkin spice!

WHEN GOD GIVES YOU A BLISTER

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Ever have one of those days where your patience is tried? I mean really tried. I mean one of those days where it seems like everyone on the planet is in on the joke? Of course you have. And we should not be surprised that we have days like this because we live in a fallen, broken world. So how do we “arrest our hearts” so that we begin to see that things and people and circumstances that test our patience are actually good for us? I’ll let two people share their thoughts- George Downame and the apostle Paul.

George Downame (c.1563-1634) is one of the lesser-known Puritans but his words on patience are what you may need today:

Our Physician makes these outward blisters in our bodies, to draw out the poisonous corruption that is in our souls: and therefore let us endure what He imposes with patience, and never murmur against Him for effecting His cure; knowing that it is but childish folly to abhor the medicine more than the disease.

How often do we murmur against what Jesus brings into our life for our cure? How spiritually immature is it that we abhor the medicine (God’s sovereignty in arranging our days and situations in order to make us more like His Son) more than we abhor the disease (our selfishness, sin, etc.)?

So how do we endure difficult people, situations, etc. in order to be conformed to the image of Jesus? Let the apostle Paul help you today:

May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy… Colossians 1:11

In order to endure trials and difficulties and people and situations that test our patience, we need outside help. We need the power that emanates from God’s glorious might. Only His power can enable us to endure with patience and joy. Only the power of the Holy Spirit can enable us to endure “these outward blisters” that God imposes on us. Only the power of the Holy Spirit can help us to not abhor the “medicine” that God brings into our lives. Only the power of the Holy Spirit can enable us to see that God brings the “medicine” of trials and difficulties in order to remove the disease of sin and selfishness that permeates our hearts.

Have you thanked God for the outward blisters He has made on you?

Struggling to give thanks for God-ordained blisters,
Benji