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Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Photo by my cousin Georgia
We felt our readers might enjoy an ocean scene after the abundance of rural scenes we use!
Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade;
To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry;
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.
Oh, love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure—
The saints’ and angels’ song.
Listen to this message on your audio player.
"God Is Love"
"And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in Him" (1 John 4:16).
I would suspect that many of our readers quickly scanned the familiar I John Scripture text without pausing to give extended thought or marveling in the wonderful truth that John writes about when he states, "And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love." I'm aware that many of our readers catch our message "on the run" but I ask you today to pause now and throughout the day and ask yourself afresh, "Do I personally know the love God has for me? Do I fully realize how much I rely on it?"
Bible commentator Albert Barnes' insight on God's love is this: "In our trials; in the darkness which is around us; in the perplexities and in all that seems to us incomprehensible in this world, and in the prospect of the next, let us learn to repeat this declaration of the favored disciple, 'God is love'. What trials may we not bear, if we feel assured of that! What dark cloud that seems to hang over our way, and to involve all things in gloom, will not be bright, if from the depths of our souls we can always say, "God is love!"
Most of us were raised in countries where we repeatedly heard the Christian teaching, "God loves you." It's easy to take His love for granted or worse yet to just expect it. Songs like "Jesus loves me" and "Jesus loves the little children" formed our earliest impressions of God's love. I've heard many, many sermons on the love of God. I don't recall ever hearing a sermon exhorting me to hate others. Having preached or taught several thousand sermons over 35 years and writing over 3,000 of these daily encouragement messages it's certainly not a view I've espoused nor a topic that I would ever preach! It runs counter to the Biblical teaching of God's love for us and our love for others.
How wonderful to proclaim in song from early childhood,
"Jesus loves the little children,
ALL the children of the world,
red, brown, yellow, black and white
they are precious in His sight.
Jesus loves the little children of the world."
And this very day His multi-colored witnesses are scattered all over the world from the great cities to the most desolate regions declaring the essential, life-changing and hope-filled truth, that "God is love". In many places this is a new, even a startling revelation, since many other religious systems place no emphasis at all on the love of God. Some actually present a God of hate and vindictiveness to any who fail to follow that particular religious system.
Whatever you are going through today you can rely on the love of God to see you through! Perhaps a good exercise for us would be to list the ways in which we rely on God's love. Of course it would fill a page in no time, but it would be a visible reminder of the way our lives our enriched and our needs are met through a loving God.
"God is love." Even the smallest child can learn this description of God. The love of God is an attribute or characteristic of His divine nature. A.W. Pink has observed, "The better we are acquainted with His love—its character, fullness, blessedness—the more will our hearts be drawn out in love to Him."
"Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in Him." His Word calls us to love one another; in our home, in the church and in our broken, lost and dying world. Let us do so today!
Be encouraged today,
Stephen & Brooksyne Weber
Daily prayer: Father, we thank You for the love letters from John who presents important truths and none so important as Your relentless love for us. You are love, the very embodiment of that which You teach us to feel and to practice. It is also seen in our attitudes which then is made visible by our words and our actions. We are amazed by Your love and rely on it for our salvation, our daily existence, our present and eternal future and for our every provision. We express our love to You by giving You our lives. How easy and inviting that is because You are a loving God and we fully rely on You! Amen.
Hunsecker's Mill covered bridge over the Conestoga River
in Lancaster County, PA.
View of the Conestoga River from the open window in the Hunsecker's Mill covered bridge.
One of the few times I enjoy stopping enroute to another location is at the crossing where the Strasburg railroad train with the real steam engine passes; engineer and passengers waving, billowing smoke, whistle blowing and all the cool sounds of a moving train!
Each year our neighbor lets us harvest the apples off his tree so we went over last night to collect a large bushel full (actually a laundry basket!) Brooksyne will can apple sauce, apple butter and apple pie filling. They are also good fresh apples to eat unprocessed!
Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental ResourcesClick on the link to open and play.
(In some cases you may also need to click again to start the song.)
"The Love Of God" Video MercyMe
"How Deep The Father's Love For Us" Video Sarah Sadler
"Before The Throne Of God Above" Video Selah
"I Stand Amazed In The Presence" Video Chris Tomlin
Personal note: What a joy to write on the love of God and consider how God's love for us and His call for us to love one another is at the very core of our belief system. "Preachers of Hate" by Kenneth R. Timmerman powerfully and soberly documents the messages that dominate one particular religious system. See here for a description and reviews.
In my search for related music I found this clip of several short segments of Billy Graham preaching on God's love followed by the hymn, "The Love Of God." I never weary of hearing Billy Graham preach the gospel!
Barne's note on this topic is here.
For further study today on the topic of God's love let me encourage you to read the chapter from A.W. Pink's "Attributes of God" (also found here, long out of copyright!)
THE LOVE OF GOD
There are three things told us in Scripture concerning the nature of God. First, "God is spirit" (John 4:24). In the Greek there is no indefinite article, and to say "God is a spirit" is most objectionable, for it places Him in a class with others. God is "spirit" in the highest sense. Because He is "spirit" He is incorporeal, having no visible substance. Had God a tangible body, He would not be omnipresent, He would be limited to one place; because He is spirit He fills heaven and earth. Second, God is light (1 John 1:5), which is the opposite of "darkness." In Scripture "darkness" stands for sin, evil, death; and "light" for holiness, goodness, life. God is light, means that He is the sum of all excellency. Third, "God is love" (1 John 4:8). It is not simply that God "loves," but that He is Love itself. Love is not merely one of His attributes, but His very nature.
There are many today who talk about the love of God, who are total strangers to the God of love. The Divine love is commonly regarded as a species of amiable weakness, a sort of good-natured indulgence; it is reduced to a mere sickly sentiment, patterned after human emotion. Now the truth is that on this, as on everything else, our thoughts need to be formed and regulated by what is revealed thereon in Holy Scripture. That there is urgent need for this is apparent not only from the ignorance which so generally prevails, but also from the low state of spirituality which is now so sadly evident everywhere among professing Christians. How little real love there is for God. One chief reason for this is because our hearts are so little occupied with His wondrous love for His people. The better we are acquainted with His love—its character, fullness, blessedness—the more will our hearts be drawn out in love to Him.
1. The love of God is uninfluenced. By this we mean, there was nothing whatever in the objects of His love to call it into exercise, nothing in the creature to attract or prompt it. The love which one creature has for another is because of something in them; but the love of God is free, spontaneous, uncaused. The only reason why God loves any is found in His own sovereign will: "The Lord did not set His love upon you, nor choose you because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people: but because the Lord loved thee" (Deut. 7:7,8). God has loved His people from everlasting, and therefore nothing of the creature can be the cause of what is found in God from eternity. He loves from Himself: "according to His own purpose" (2 Tim. 1:9).
"We love Him, because He first loved us" (1 John 4:19). God did not love us because we loved Him, but He loved us before we had a particle of love for Him. Had God loved us in return for ours, then it would not be spontaneous on His part; but because He loved us when we were loveless, it is clear that His love was uninfluenced. It is highly important if God is to be honored and the heart of His child established, that we should be quite clear upon this precious truth. God’s love for me, and for each of "His own," was entirely unmoved by anything in them. What was there in me to attract the heart of God? Absolutely nothing. But, to the contrary, everything to repel Him, everything calculated to make Him loathe me—sinful, depraved, a mass of corruption, with "no good thing" in me.
"What was there in me that could merit esteem,
Or give the Creator delight?
‘Twas even so, Father, I ever must sing,
Because it seemed good, in Thy sight."
2. It is eternal. This of necessity. God Himself is eternal, and God is love; therefore, as God Himself had no beginning, His love had none. Granted that such a concept far transcends the grasp of our feeble minds, nevertheless, where we cannot comprehend, we can bow in adoring worship. How clear is the testimony of Jeremiah 31:3, "I have loved thee with an everlasting love, therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn thee." How blessed to know that the great and holy God loved His people before heaven and earth were called into existence, that He had set His heart upon them from all eternity. Clear proof is this that His love is spontaneous, for He loved them endless ages before they had any being.
The same precious truth is set forth in Ephesians 1:4,5, "According as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him. In love having predestinated us." What praise should this evoke from each of His children! How tranquilizing for the heart: since God’s love toward me had no beginning, it can have no ending! Since it be true that "from everlasting to everlasting" He is God, and since God is "love," then it is equally true that "from everlasting to everlasting" He loves His people.
3. It is sovereign. This also is self-evident. God Himself is sovereign, under obligations to none, a law unto Himself, acting always according to His own imperial pleasure. Since God be sovereign, and since He be love, it necessarily follows that His love is sovereign. Because God is God, He does as He pleases; because God is love, He loves whom He pleases. Such is His own express affirmation: "Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated" (Rom. 9:19). There was no more reason in Jacob why he should be the object of Divine love, than there was in Esau. They both had the same parents, and were born at the same time, being twins; yet God loved the one and hated the other! Why? Because it pleased Him to do so.
The sovereignty of God’s love necessarily follows from the fact that it is uninfluenced by anything in the creature. Thus, to affirm that the cause of His love lies in God Himself, is only another way of saying, He loves whom He pleases. For a moment, assume the opposite. Suppose God’s love were regulated by anything else than His will, in such a case He would love by rule, and loving by rule He would be under a law of love, and then so far from being free, God would Himself be ruled by law. "In love having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to"—what? Some excellency which He foresaw in them? No; what then? "According to the good pleasure of His will" (Eph. 1:4,5).
4. It is infinite. Everything about God is infinite. His essence fills heaven and earth. His wisdom is illimitable, for He knows everything of the past, present and future. His power is unbounded, for there is nothing too hard for Him. So His love is without limit. There is a depth to it which none can fathom; there is a height to it which none can scale; there is a length and breadth to it which defies measurement, by any creature-standard. Beautifully is this intimated in Ephesians 2:4: But God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us: the word "great" there is parallel with the "God so loved" of John 3:16. It tells us that the love of God is so transcendent it cannot be estimated.
No tongue can fully express the infinitude of God’s love, or any mind comprehend it: it "passeth knowledge" Eph. 3:19). The most extensive ideas that a finite mind can frame about Divine love, are infinitely below its true nature. The heaven is not so far above the earth as the goodness of God is beyond the most raised conceptions which we are able to form of it. It is an ocean which swells higher than all the mountains of opposition in such as are the objects of it. It is a fountain from which flows all necessary good to all those who are interested in it (John Brine, 1743).
5. It is immutable. As with God Himself there is "no variableness, neither shadow of turning" (James 1:17), so His love knows neither change or diminution. The worm Jacob supplies a forceful example of this: "Jacob have I loved," declared Jehovah, and despite all his unbelief and waywardness, He never ceased to love him. John 13:1 furnishes another beautiful illustration. That very night one of the apostles would say, "Show us the Father"; another would deny Him with cursings; all of them would be scandalized by and forsake Him. Nevertheless "having loved His own which were in the world, He love them unto the end." The Divine love is subject to no vicissitudes. Divine love is "strong as death ... many waters cannot quench it" (Song of Sol. 8:6,7). Nothing can separate from it: Romans 8:35-39.
"His love no end nor measure knows,
No change can turn its course,
Eternally the same it flows
From one eternal source."
6. It is holy. God’s love is not regulated by caprice passion, or sentiment, but by principle. Just as His grace reigns not at the expense of it, but "through righteousness" (Rom. 5:21), so His love never conflicts with His holiness. "God is light" (1 John 1:5) is mentioned before "God is love" (1 John 4:8). God’s love is no mere amiable weakness, or effeminate softness. Scripture declares, "whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth" (Heb. 12:6). God will not wink at sin, even in His own people. His love is pure, unmixed with any maudlin sentimentality.
7. It is gracious. The love and favor of God are inseparable. This is clearly brought out in Romans 8:32-39. What that love is from which there can be no "separation," is easily perceived from the design and scope of the immediate context: it is that goodwill and grace of God which determined Him to give His Son for sinners. That love was the impulsive power of Christ’s incarnation: "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son" (John 3:16). Christ died not in order to make God love us, but because He did love His people, Calvary is the supreme demonstration of Divine love. Whenever you are tempted to doubt the love of God, Christian reader, go back to Calvary.
Here then is abundant cause for trust and patience under Divine affliction. Christ was beloved of the Father, yet He was not exempted from poverty, disgrace, and persecution. He hungered and thirsted. Thus, it was not incompatible with God’s love for Christ when He permitted men to spit upon and smite Him. Then let no Christian call into question God’s love when he is brought under painful afflictions and trials. God did not enrich Christ on earth with temporal prosperity, for "He had not where to lay His head." But He did give Him the Spirit "without measure" (John 3:34). Learn then that spiritual blessings are the principal gifts of Divine love. How blessed to know that when the world hates us, God loves us!
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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, New King James Version (NKJV) Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. and the King James Version.
Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and I make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and to prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."
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