God’s Not Mad At You – Or is He?

As a child I remember asking my grandpa if he ever smoked. That. Was. Wrong. If tension were a color, the room turned blistering red. And I ran out of that room to the safety of grandma (who had a secret stash of candy in the linen closet close by).

My grandfather loved me, though I learned never to ask if he had ever smoked (he did, and he apparently really wanted to forget about that habit!). My father loves me, too, though there were times I elicited degrees of wrath with my behavior. As a father who loves his children dearly, I have felt some wrath at my children’s behavior, as well. Most of these instances are directed at a behavior which must stop for the good of the child’s moral development.

Sadly, there are countless cases of “wrath” that are abusive, not corrective. There are some who view all men through a lens of heartbreaking pain and bitter sorrow. Such deep, festering wounds can often be traced back to a father, or other male authority figure who abused his position.

The truth is, we all abuse our positions because we are sinful. There have been multiple times I’ve gone to my children and asked forgiveness for having lost my temper, or snapped off a harsh word or two. I’ve had to ask my wife for forgiveness many times. Bottom line, I’m a man with a sinful nature. My wrath is seldom pure.

As a result, it’s tempting to view God only through the lens of His abundant love, mercy, forgiveness and grace. All of which are true. His mercies are many, His grace is abundant, His love exceeds our imagination. He certainly deals with us all according to His mercy.

In the same way that God’s love is pure, so is His wrath.

Interestingly, by comparison to God, we find that our love is as impure as our wrath.We link our ‘love’ to feelings. We ‘love’ people so long as they please us. We actually have a saying ‘falling out of love.’ God knows nothing of this transient, loosey-goosey love.

In the same way that God’s love is pure, so is His wrath. While we might feel a milligram of righteous wrath at some evil act, we soon hijack that wrath with our own self-righteousness and overreact in a sinful way. See, our wrath–like our love–is tied to our emotions (which tend to be self-serving and prideful). Once the spark is lit, it rages, soon bursting from the furnace and consuming everything (or at least more than we intended).

God’s wrath is not tied to emotion. He’s not like us. His thoughts are not our thoughts, His ways are not our ways. When He turns His wrath towards us, it is measured and just. He deals out exactly what is needed according to His purpose. We can trust this.

I’m reading through Isaiah and came across this verse:

“In overflowing anger for a moment I hid my face from you, but with everlasting love I will have compassion on you,” says the LORD, your Redeemer.” Is. 54:8

Isaiah spoke to a people who had forsaken God and were about to be taken over by their enemies. He prophesied about their suffering and spoke toward their deliverance. Remember that this book has immediate application to the people at the time. But it also has application on a larger scale to God’s true Israel, the Bride of Christ, the congregation of the redeemed, the Church.

On a personal level, this applies to each of the redeemed children of God. We do, indeed, endure the wrath of God. Except it is in small measure to what the unbelievers will face. It is also confined and brief. God is slow to anger, but quick to treat us according to His mercy. While suffering lasts for the night, joy will come with the morning.

At times, we go through things that have us in despair, like the young wife in Isaiah 54. We feel abandoned by God, forsaken when we are full of youth. We feel cast aside. Our enemies deride us as fools, forsaken by our God. Yet, out of the apparent oppression, through the thick gloom of our sorrow, the Lord rescues us. He lifts us up according to His mercy, His covenant, His grace.

Our part is to confess our sin. We can trust He is faithful and just to forgive us and cleanse us. But His mercy and grace are not dependent upon our performance. At times, we may be suffering quite apart from any obvious sin (like Job!). Other times, we may be deep in sorrow because we’ve gone astray in our obedience.

In both instances, we must humble ourselves before God, attest to His glorious character and perfect nature. If we’ve sinned, we must confess.

I like this quote from Matthew Henry:

“It is often the condition of Christian churches and of particular believers; without are fightings, within are fears; they are like the disciples in a storm, ready to perish; and where is their faith?”

We fret at so much. We begin to wonder, where’s my faith? How could God love me if I’m so faithless? We begin thinking God has led us out to the wilderness to die.

Don’t fear, He hasn’t. His overflowing wrath is for a short time, but His love is everlasting!

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What Must I Do To Be Saved?

Salvation is so easy, even a caveman could do it! Salvation is so easy, what are you waiting for? Just believe. Right? Get your fire insurance. It’s free. Well–actually–it’s not. I can hear the ‘just believe’ crowd chambering rounds … let me explain. Your life literally depends on this.

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Real Love – How To Know It When You See It

What Is Love?

In 1 Corinthians 13 the Apostle Paul gives a description of love. This is often a go-to verse for a wedding ceremony. But, with divorce topping between 40-50%, and subsequent marriages for divorcees being higher, it’s safe to say that ‘love’ is something we really need to understand.

Hint: Paul doesn’t say that it’s an emotion that’s here to-day and gone tomorrow. That was Tony Asher and Brian Wilson on Pet Sounds, for those trivia buffs out there.

So, what is love? I thought I’d do a series on this, taking each of the 11 signposts noted by Paul. The purpose is for anyone who reads this to say, “does that describe me?” and then, “how can this be more true of me?”

The first marker for Love is this: Love is patient!

Another translation has ‘love’ as ‘charity,’ and ‘patient’ as ‘long-suffering.’ Here’s what Matthew Henry notes in his commentary:

It is long sufferingmakrothumei. It can endure evil, injury, and provocation, without being filled with resentment, indignation, or revenge. It makes the mind firm, gives it power over the angry passions, and furnishes it with a persevering patience, that shall rather wait and wish for the reformation of a brother than fly out in resentment of his conduct. It will put up with many slights and neglects from the person it loves, and wait long to see the kindly effects of such patience on him.

All I can say is that I’m guilty of the opposite. I have patience … to a point! I endure evil … but have my limit! If provoked, I feel resentment, indignation and start cherishing thoughts of revenge. You know, to help God think of ways to repay those dastardly people who treated me unfairly.

Guess what? That’s not love! Ouch!

I dare say, nobody does this. In fact, even our non-Christian culture admits that society today is one of hyper-sensitive offence. From public bathroom selection to wedding cakes and someone’s personal faith in Jesus, our culture seems to be a bright, bulging wound. Use the wrong word on Social Media and you’ll be “flamed.”

We’ve got a problem in our world with bullying, both cyber and the garden-variety. That activity shows the depths of the lack of love in our world. On the other side, we’ve got people who are not long-suffering of the pain inflicted by the bullies.

My mom used to always say to me and my siblings, “It takes two to fight!” And that’s true. Maybe one person instigates the conflict, but the victim keeps it going.

In the ’60s there was an anti-war slogan, “What if they had a war but nobody came?” Being analytical, I’d say who’s the “they?” But the point is that someone may do something hurtful and the victim can decide to … pay that price for the bully.

There’s Always A Cost

Love costs us. If there is no cost, it’s worthless. Those roses a husband buys his wife cost money. If he opts to collect wild flowers, it’s a nice gesture, but won’t be as amazing as when he parts with his money for something more special.

That’s the easy part, though. Buying flowers or taking your spouse out for dinner is something that is fun for you, too!

How about returning goodness for meanness? That’s not as fun. No fist-bumps for being kind to a bully. That type of behavior costs us more than overpriced roses.

A bully owes the victim an apology. He needs to acknowledge the wrong he’s done and admit it was wrong. He needs to make amends with good behavior, showing that he’s repented from his bullying ways.

But that’s not likely to happen. It certainly won’t happen when we return the favor, an eye for an eye.

Love is patient. It endures the mistreatment of people and returns good for evil. It is patient when that good return is never admitted or acknowledged.

We Don’t Have To Look For Mean People

While patience is the hallmark of love, it doesn’t mean we go looking for bullies to hurt us. There will be enough of them finding us in life. Jesus taught us to turn the other cheek when someone strikes us, not to go find them again so they could hit us over and over. He taught us to go the extra mile when compelled by someone (referring to a law that required Israelites to carry baggage for a Roman official if told to do so. Under the law they had to go one mile. Jesus taught that they should go two. So, more than the law required). But Jesus didn’t teach that we should go finding people to have them compel us in such a way.

These circumstances will happen naturally. We’ll have people at work that say unkind things, or stab us in the back. We’ll have church leaders abuse their position and inflict pain. We’ll have family members treat us with contempt and envy. The commuter on the freeway will cut us off, honking and using the “swear finger.”

We don’t have to go looking for it. But true love is found in the patience that we have for all of those situations.

We Don’t Have It In Us

Here’s the kicker: We don’t have real love in us. God is love. Many will try to indict God by saying, “If God exists, why does He let all the horrors go on in the world?” Well, God is patient. God rains good things on the righteous and the unrighteous. God’s goodness is meant to bring people to repentance.

Even though it doesn’t seem to bring people to repentance (rather, it seems to make them think they can get away with whatever they do) it will stand as a statement against them. When the Judgment comes, what will people say when God points out all their wickedness and their disregard for His mercy?

I believe we cannot show this patient love until we have accepted God’s love and Lordship. I believe it is an outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

This isn’t to say that every Christian will demonstrate this patience perfectly. But, increasingly as they allow the Holy Spirit to fill them.

Do you want to know if you have the Holy Spirit? Paul was telling the Corinthians that it isn’t in the amazing signs and wonders like prophecy, speaking in tongues, etc. It’s in how we love.

Does your love show an increasing amount of patience and long-suffering?

Daily Devotional: Warrior Babies!

Out of the mouth of babies and infants, you have established strength because of your foes, to still the enemy and the avenger. Psalm 8:2

We often think God should act immediately. We have visions of how He should put people to shame when they commit evil, or do wrong.

Who hasn’t been treated unfairly, or been wrongfully accused? Which of us has not had our pride stepped on or our feelings dragged through the mud?

In those instances, we might cry out and expect God to reveal Himself in a show of force.

But our understanding is like a small child’s compared to a wise parent. Our sense of justice amounts to a sneering face with a protruding tongue directed at the offending party.

God, on the other hand, works in ways that seem slow to us. They seem long in arriving, as if God uses ancient sea vessels to deliver His goods when there are jet planes available!

Often, we fail to see our own guilt and should pray, along with the Psalmist for God to point out our faults and judge us.

Ultimately, we rest on God’s given righteousness, not our own. We don’t have any righteousness to claim.

Our trust is in God, but also in His timing. Our faith rests in His strength, which is established from the mouth of infants. God defeats His foes with babies, not grizzled warriors.

Specifically, God defeated the great foe, Sin, through one baby, Jesus. Our savior was born to a poor couple–outcasts on a weary road, holed up in a stable. No guards to protect this tender life. No supernatural show of force. Just a warning from an angel and a long, arduous journey to Egypt, away from home and family. Just a looming threat of a mad king who murdered hundreds of babies in Israel to wipe out the Messiah.

God is not mocked. And He doesn’t act according to the wisdom of His creatures. We need to trust His strength … which is established in what we’d consider foolishness.

Is There Anything Good About Terror?

Would you want to be called terrifying? What do we think of when we hear the word terror? We fear ‘terrorism,’ so we have a “war on terror.” We’re rightly fearful of terror. It describes hopeless fear. And the book of Isaiah uses it to describe the Lord.

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