Tuesday, July 22, 2014
Posted by Hannah
God's love. It's so...unexplainable! So sweet, so precious. So fierce and relentless! From the cross to our very hearts, God's love is, to say the least, quite evident in our world. But why is it so hard for us to grasp and understand the fact that God loves us as we are? Perhaps it's because, compared to us, God's love is so big and grand. It's so beyond us. Beyond what we deserve. Many live their lives separated from God because, simply put, they refuse to believe in His love. Even many Christians can't seem to accept the simple fact that God loves them! The concept of God's love is something that I've struggled with in my walk. Several things led me to question the fact that God loved me. I struggled with His justice, and the fact that God could be both loving and just. I also struggled with the question of why so much evil exists in the world which, in turn, led me to doubt God's love because I couldn't seem understand why He would let bad things happen. Finally, my own sin and ungodly behavior caused me to question if God really loved me as I was. It was easy for me to accept the fact that God loved me when I was good! But when I sinned and fell short, I seemed to doubt God's love for me. In my eyes, God's love was conditional and it depended on my behavior rather than on His nature. In this post, I'll be tackling some of the questions and doubts that I've faced and that I think keep people from accepting God's love. For the Christian who's always believed in God's love, I challenge you to let His love penetrate your soul and change you from the inside out. Don't just believe in your head that God loves you. Let it sink into your heart, and you'll never be the same!
How could a loving God send people to hell?
This is a question that I think plenty of people struggle with. I always thought that God had to be either loving or just. He couldn't be both. For example, in my mind, the God who destroyed Sodom was far from the God that died on the cross for us. And the God that sent the flood couldn't be the same God that spared Nineveh from destruction. But the Bible teaches that God is both loving and just. In fact, love and justice collided at the cross of Christ, where God made a way to punish the sin yet preserve the sinner. God is not against us. He did everything in His power to provide a way for us to be made right with Him without compromising our free will. He has broken every chain and He's set us free! But it's up to us to choose to leave our dark lives behind and enter into the glorious light of Jesus Christ.
"The prison has been stormed, and the gates of the prison have been opened, but unless we leave our prison cells and go forward into the light of freedom, we are still unredeemed in actuality."
The thing we need to understand is that God doesn't want anyone in hell. He created us for a relationship with Him, and although we've all wandered from His truth (Isaiah 53:6), He never gives up on us. The cross proves just how far He's willing to go to make a way for us to be with Him forever. People end up in hell because, since God is just, He has to punish sin. And we're all deserving of hell. We deserve death, punishment, and eternal separation from God because of our sin. So would it be wrong or unjust if God gave us what we deserved? No. Just the opposite in fact. It would be fair and just if every human being that ever lived went to hell. The wages of sin is death and since we've all sinned, we all deserve death. We're all in the same boat: deserving of death but yet, in God's eyes, worth dying for. Like I said before, God wants no man in hell. "He doesn't want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent" (2 Peter 3:9). Our Lord "wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth" (1 Timothy 2:4).
"All God does in the end with people is give them what they most want, including freedom from Himself." -Timothy Keller
God allows us to choose our eternal destiny. He's given us His Son. He's given us His Word. But many choose to walk away from His promises. They've instead settled for the things of this world which were never intended to give us everything we were created to desire. Ultimately, only God Himself can fill the void that's in every human heart. God knows that He's the only thing that can truly, eternally, satisfy us. However, He still gives us a choice. For those who do everything in their power to run away from God and who reject Him and "suppress the truth" (Romans 1:18) their entire lives, God will eternally satisfy their desire to have nothing to do with Him. Check out this quote from C.S. Lewis:
"There are only two kinds of people--those who say "Thy will be done" to God or those to whom God in the end says, "Thy will be done." All that are in hell choose it. Without that self-choice it wouldn't be hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it."
People end up in hell for wanting to do things their way instead of God's way. They want to be the god of their own lives and they refuse to surrender to the One who gave it all. At one time or another we've all went our own way instead of following God. So we all deserve hell. But through Jesus we've been given the choice to repent and live a life of freedom by the grace of God. Many reject this offer and continue in their stubborn, unrepentant ways. God's love for them will never change, and His desire for none to perish will never fade. However, God is a just God, and in the end, He will give people what they most desire, even if it's eternal separation from Himself.
If God loves us, then why does He let bad things happen to us?
While, on this side of heaven, we can't completely answer the question of why God lets bad things happen, we can know and rest secure in the fact that when suffering does seep into our lives, it's never because God doesn't love us. When we become hurt and affected by the evil in this world, we can begin to doubt the fact that God loves us. I'm not going to attempt to answer the big question of why evil and suffering exist in the world (today), but I want you to be convinced that when something bad happens to you, it's not because God doesn't love you.
Sometimes we fall into the trap of thinking that God's love for us depends on our circumstances. When life's good, God must love us! But when things take a turn for the worst, why is it that we start to doubt God's love? You see, God's love in the Bible isn't portrayed as a "Santa Claus, because I love you I'll give you everything you want" kind of love. The God of the universe possesses a radical, scandalous kind of love that's constant in the midst of hardship and suffering. It never changes. Nothing in this world can separate us from the love of God!
"For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." -Romans 8:38-39
If nothing can separate us from God's love, then who can really stop us? The God of everything says that we can never lose His love. We can never slip beyond His grip of grace. There is no pit so deep that God's love is not deeper still! This is why Paul says that we are "more than conquerors through Him who loved us" (Romans 8:37). We are conquerors in life, not because we are immune to trial and pain, but because our God is greater than all and He promises that the worst things in life can never separate us from His mighty love.
Lets take a look at the life of Jesus. It's clear that God loved Jesus (Matthew 3:17). It's also clear that Jesus did not live an easy life. The prophet Isaiah describes Jesus as "a man of suffering and familiar with pain" (Isaiah 53:3). Jesus was homeless for a time, He was hated by many, even His own brothers rejected Him, and He eventually died a cruel death upon a cross after being brutally beaten. If God loved Jesus, then why did He allow Him to go through such terrible suffering? "It was the LORD's will to crush Him" (Isaiah 53:10). No one could fathom the plan of God that involved His only Son, Jesus Christ, dying on a cross to set the world free from its sins. Even on this side of the resurrection, it's still so hard to contemplate the Lord's mighty plan known as the gospel. Perhaps this is why Paul refers to the good news about Jesus as a "mystery" so much in the New Testament! It is a mystery. God is a mystery. And while He does choose to reveal certain things to us through His Word and the Holy Spirit, some things He keeps hidden from us on this side of heaven. This is why we don't always know why bad things happen to good people. But through God's promise in Romans 8:28, we can trust that He will work all things together for the good of those who love Him and who are called according to His purpose. Even if you don't know why certain things are happening in your life right now, you can have faith that God still loves you! His love is constant in the midst of hardship and suffering, and He's the only true refuge. When we're broken and utterly dependent, we get the incredible opportunity to experience the love of God in a personal way. What I want you to take away from this is that God's love is not dependent on our circumstances. He loves us when life's good, and He weeps with us when life gets hard. He really is the only thing in this world that never changes, and if we want security, we have to run to Him and trust His promise that nothing can separate us from His love. You might not be able to see through the pain, but God's love is still the true and constant reality. He will never stop loving us. I pray that if you're going through a hard time right now, you'll lean your head against the chest of Jesus as He wipes the tears from your eyes and loves you with an unfathomable love that cannot be stopped by anything.
Does God still love us when we sin?
The short answer to this question is yes. I think that most of us believe in our heads that yes, God still loves us when we sin. It's basically Christianity 101. God's love for us never changes. However, I think that we all struggle to truly believe in our hearts that God loves us when we're at our worst. It's easy to believe that God loves us when we're good. But we somehow think that God loves us less when we sin. This is just simply not true. Yes, God hates sin and He can't stand how it ruins the lives of His children. But God's love for us remains the same even when we fall short. Before you were even born, God loved you. He saw every mistake you would ever make and every sin you would ever commit. He saw it all. He knew you; all of you. He knew the deepest, darkest parts of yourself that you hide from the rest of the world. He knew the real you. He saw every piece of your broken life and, before you could even think or make a decision for yourself, He concluded that you were worth dying for. You are worth dying for. Just you. As you are. With all of your imperfections and shortcomings, God still loves you with an everlasting love and He still died for you. He wants you in His kingdom. Yes, He wants you to be holy and blameless like His Son Jesus, but He's patient with you. He's working in you and, at this very moment, He's interceding for you (Philippians 2:13, Hebrews 7:25). God is for you! He's cheering you on and He wants you to succeed. He isn't staring you down just waiting for you to mess up so He can mark it down on your permanent record. He's not against you. How could Someone that died for you be against you? Whenever you have doubts about God's love for you, turn your face toward the cross, and take a few moments to gaze upon blood-drenched Jesus, whose blood was poured out for you. Simply put, God still loves you when you sin. This should give you amazing security and confidence to live for God, knowing that if you fall, Jesus will be right there to catch you.
I think that to us, God's love is more of a concept or idea that an actual real, living, breathing, moving force. In my life, I always believed that God loved me. I heard it every Sunday and my parents ingrained in me the fact that God loved me. But I just believed it in my head. I didn't really know what it meant that God loved me. I never let it sink into my heart that the God of the universe loved me just as I was. We as Christians have to come to grips with the fact that what we believe is truly revolutionary, and it has the power to change the world. We just have to unleash it, leave everything behind, and engulf this world with the incredible love of Christ! But how can we do this if we don't believe God loves us? I still remember the day that I truly came to a real understanding of how much God loved me. After that day, no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't deny it. I had experienced it, and God confirmed to me clearly in His Word that He loved me! So I stood firm on His truth and God continues to give me a greater, deeper understanding of His love as I grow closer to Him. I was reading some verses in Romans 5 when it just hit me: God loves me. Knowing all the wrong things I would do, He still died for me. All of a sudden I felt so much peace and love and joy I just didn't know what to do with myself! It was probably close to midnight but I just felt this overwhelming need in my heart to go love someone. I couldn't get rid of it! I was so overjoyed and overcome by the love of God and His touch on me that I just had to give it away to somebody else. Here are the verses that I was reading:
What I really want you to take away from this post is that God loves you. No matter what's going on in your life, no matter what the people around you are saying, and no matter what you're feeling at this moment, God loves you with a relentless, strong, Daddy-like love that cannot be stopped by anything. Once you accept in your heart that God loves you as you are, your life can become an overflow of His love. God can begin to remake us and shape us into His image by teaching us how to love correctly. We start to reflect the love of Christ when we experience its power on our own lives. And as we go deeper in our walk with Jesus, we'll begin to love those who are tough to love. We'll make sacrifices for other people, since Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice for us. We'll give more than we take. We'll serve our community as the Body of Christ since "even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many" (Mark 10:45). My point is that if we truly let God's love manifest itself in our hearts, we'll look more like Jesus because He is love. This is the beauty of the gospel. God's truth is made complete in us when we start to extend the same love and grace that He showed us on the cross. My prayer is that the truth of God's love will motivate and empower you to share the gospel with a world that needs it. Amen.
"My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you." -John 5:12
at 2:34 PM
Saturday, July 5, 2014
Posted by Hannah
I am like the biggest doubter on the planet! If I was alive during Jesus's time, I would have definitely been the "doubting Thomas" of the group. Doubts are my "thorn in the flesh" so to speak. Although I know God wants me to have faith, He actually uses my doubts to keep me from becoming conceited. It's almost like I walk with a limp, and because of this, I'm forced to lean upon the shoulder of God every day as I learn to trust in His grace. If I had it all together, there would be no need for Jesus. God has used my doubts for His glory and I believe He wants me to use what I've learned about faith to comfort, teach, and encourage others. I want to share with you some of the doubts I've struggled with and the truths that God has revealed to me through His Word and His Spirit. I'll be starting a three-part series regarding different doubts that I've had and how the Lord has helped me to overcome them. I pray you get something out of it and that God will use everything to draw you closer to Him.
"Is God real?"
Man, this has by far been the toughest most consistent doubt I've had since I've truly started seeking God. I think that everyone at one time or another questions the existence of God. It's actually good to ask if God's real because it can ultimately lead us into a relationship with Him. However, it can also keep us from coming to Christ because as Hebrews 11:6 says, we can't come to the Lord without first believing that He exists. I can testify to the existence of God because He has completely transformed my life. It used to be all about me all the time, but God came near and He showed me that He's the only thing worth living for. In the past, I have clearly heard God's voice on several occasions and I continue to hear His whispers everyday through His Spirt and His Word. There are literally countless testimonies of people who have been changed by God and God alone. I believe that perhaps the greatest defense for the existence of God is the changed lives of the people who follow Him.
"A man with an argument is no match for a man with an experience." -dc Talk
Consider the very first disciples of Jesus. Ten of the eleven were martyred. Think logically with me for a second. Would these men give up everything and subject themselves to extreme torture and cruelty for something that might have been true? Would they lay down their lives for someone who claimed He would rise from the dead, but didn't? Would they really leave everything behind for a God who didn't even exist? I don't think so. These men touched Jesus. They knew Jesus and saw Him face to face. Thomas touched the wounds on His wrists and His side. 500 people claimed they saw Jesus alive after He was crucified. And still today, millions of people claim to see Jesus at work in their lives, and the way they live their lives is the ultimate proof that God exists. Despite all the evidence, a lot of people say that it's just too crazy to be true! Jesus...God's Son? One with God? Crucified, but yet alive? And how can people say that God actually lives inside His followers? That's just impossible! And what kind of God would come to this screwed-up world to sacrifice Himself for sinners that deserve death? I'll be honest, sometimes the gospel is hard to believe. But the thing is, the Bible actually says that the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing (1 Corinthians 1:18)! The bottom line is, God is beyond our understanding. We can't choose not to believe in God based on the fact that we are unable to understand Him. This is because the Bible says that God is far greater than anything we could even imagine! In Ephesians 3, Paul talks about the love of God that "surpasses all knowledge." Simply put, we can't understand God's love. But the thing is, we can't let our inability to understand affect our ability to believe. Check out this section from 1 Corinthians 1 that compares and contrasts the wisdom of man with the wisdom of God:
Let's go back to the countless testimonies of Christians who, throughout history, have claimed to have been changed by God. Shall we zoom into the life of the apostle Paul? He was Saul before Paul you know. I think we like to shape Paul into the image of this unstoppable, "super Christian," but before God confronted him, Paul was "a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man" (1 Timothy 1:13). He hated Christians and did everything in his power to wipe them off the face of the earth. In fact, he was on his way to go kill some more Christians when all of a sudden, a brilliant light appeared and a voice said, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?" Paul went blind and just like that, he was sent on his way to Damascus where he received his sight and began to get acquainted with the apostles. Acts 9:20 says that "at once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus Christ is the Son of God." What a testimony! One second, Paul is on a mission to kill the Christian faith and the next, he's preaching the faith he once tried to destroy. How can the transformation in Paul's life be explained without the existence of God? If Jesus didn't rise from the dead, then there's no way that a man who formally believed that Christianity was a big superstition could suddenly just started preaching the exact opposite of what he previously held as true. It's just not reasonable. Obviously, something happened to Paul. Something that was so dramatically life-altering that it even caused Paul to change his name! A personal encounter with Jesus might seem like foolishness to those who have never had one. But for those of us who have experienced the power, presence, and incredible love of Jesus in our lives, there's no denying His existence. We, as Christians, are the proof of God's existence and love! We have the God of the universe living inside us. Let's join together as the body of Christ and allow God to live through us in such a way that the world will see God's life within us.
"What if you have what somebody needs to find Jesus?" -Carl Lentz
What if there's something in your story, in your testimony, that can actually play a part in someone's salvation? God can't use a story that you're unwilling to tell. Part of the reason God comforts us in our troubles is so we can share with others how God has brought us through different things (2 Corinthians 1:4). We have to remember that God loves the whole world! He shows no favortism. And He wants to use our testimonies to reveal Himself to those around us. We just have to be willing to take that leap of faith, to line ourselves up with God's will, and to share our story with the people God has surrounded us with. Don't think that, for whatever reason, God can't use your testimony to touch people. He's worked in your life for a reason, and He wants to use you to comfort and encourage those around you. Like I said before, our testimonies are the ultimate proof of God's existence. But if we aren't willing to tell our stories, then what are they really worth?
"All of you set free by Tell how he freed you from oppression." , tell the world!
-Psalm 107:2 (MSG)
Simply put, a lot of people don't believe in Christianity. They don't believe in God and they don't believe that Jesus was the Son of God. But this shouldn't affect us or cause us to change our faith and our stance on what we know to be true. Jesus said that the road to heaven is a narrow one, and He's been showing me how hard it truly is to be a Christian in this world. I think we have a natural tendency to go with the crowd. Everyone wants to be like everyone else, and I think that many people spend their entire lives trying to fit in. But when we put our faith in Christ, we're choosing to walk against the flow of society. We're no longer a part of the worldly culture, and we become one with Christ as we learn to walk according to His commandments by His grace. The world says love your friends and hate your enemies, but Jesus tells us to love our enemies, to bless those who persecute us, and to pray for those who mistreat us (Luke 6:27-28). This is impossible without the love of God in our hearts. Also, a popular belief in the world is that life is all about us and that death
is the ultimate loss. Philippians 1:21 completely contradicts this statement as Paul says, "For to me, to live is Christ (not me) and to die is gain (not loss)." In addition to all of this, the world and everything in it is completely temporary. Even life is temporary. And we are constantly searching for joy, acceptance, purpose, and satisfaction in the temporary things of this world. The truth is, life can never be what it was always meant to be without God because we were "made by Him and for Him (Colossians 1:16)." That's why it breaks my heart when people reject God because they're rejecting the only One who can give them everything they were created to desire! Jesus is the only thing that's eternal and He needs to be the Rock upon which we stand. Perhaps this is yet another defense for the existence of God. As C.S Lewis says, "If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world." So don't let what other people say influence what you know to be true! Read the Bible and explore Christianity for yourself before you decide if Jesus is the truth. Don't just accept what others are saying without looking at what Scripture says. If you are truly sincere in your search for truth and you seek God with all your heart, He will reveal Himself to you (Jeremiah 29:13). Christian, don't give up! Trust God and keep the faith despite what everyone around you is saying. Jesus said that "in this world we will have trouble." But He tells us to take heart, because He has overcome the world (John 16:33)! "Our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all (2 Corinthians 4:17)." God is faithful and although at times you may feel like the only one who wants to please God, that's not the truth. There are countless Christians around the world who are standing with you. And even if you really were the only one on earth who loved God, God would still be with you. "If God is for us, who can be against us (Romans 8:31)?" He promises to be with us until the very end of the age (Matthew 28:20). When you grow weak in your faith, lean into His grace and draw strength from His Word. Don't give up!
"Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it." -Matthew 7:13-14
I'll leave you with this amazing video that explains how reasonable the existence of God truly is:
I really hope that this post encouraged you in your walk! Love you guys!
at 10:25 AM
Saturday, March 29, 2014
Posted by Hannah
Perfect. So perfect. Everything is good. Life…is pure. It’s amazing…it’s perfect. How it was always designed to be. They, the first “us,” had everything…everything! They lacked nothing. They shared in beautiful fellowship with their Creator. They had all the food, all the water, all the animals, all the beauty they could ever want. They had God! God who is a necessity to every soul. God who also makes Himself an option to every soul. A necessity and an option…God! He gave them everything they were created to need, want, and desire. But…the serpent. The craftiest of all the animals. “Did God really say?” “You will not certainly die!” With the reaching of the hand and the eating of the fruit, Eve said, “No God! You are not enough. This is not enough. There has got to be something more…something other. No! I want more. This can’t be all there is. You can’t be all there is. No God! I don’t want what you give. I want something else.” Heartbreaking! So…so illogical! So stupid! “No God, I don’t want you and what you give, even though I was handcrafted for you and what you give.” How can this be? Satan, who’s still at work today, tells us, somehow convinces us, that there is something out there that’s better than God. He tells us God isn’t enough. So we search. We dive headfirst into the “tree” of the world and devour every fruit that promises to give us satisfaction, purpose, and meaning. And, sooner or later, we discover that it’s still not enough. It’s almost like we’re afraid to trust that God is all we need. Everyone needs God, but not everyone wants God. Everyone soul needs God, but not every soul chooses God. God is a necessity to our souls, but He’s also an option. We have to choose Him. He won’t force Himself on us, because He is Love. I want to be a soul that says “yes” to God and what He gives! I want to be fully satisfied in my Creator! I want my Designer to be the focus, the center, the goal of my life. I was created for Him, and I will choose to sing “God is enough” all the days of my life!
at 10:08 AM
Monday, March 3, 2014
Posted by Hannah
Back and forth, back and forth. Up and down, in and out. There I go! I’m rising high…above it all. Thriving. Rejoicing. Living. I am the crest, the highest part of a wave. I am trusting, relying, abiding, and believing. I’m filled with a faith that can move mountains, and I feel as if nothing can move me. I’m secure, at peace. Suddenly, I break. I crash. I pound toward the shore. I’m falling, struggling. I’m doubting. I’m scared. I’m not trusting, not believing. I’m sinking. I hit the sand hard. For a split second, I’m still. I’m at peace again. I’m filled with joy! But then, I get swept back out into the sea. Not trusting. Not believing. I’ve hit the trough, the lowest part of a wave. I’m drowning. I’m doubting. I’ve taken my eyes off Jesus. I can’t see truth, can’t trust truth. I feel alone, abandoned. Suddenly, I begin to rise again! I’m on top of the world! I’m believing that God is who He says He is, and that He will accomplished all that He’s promised to do! I have faith once again! But the wave soon collapses and with it, so does my faith. I break. I crash. I pound toward the shore. I’m still. I’m swept away. I’m drowning, doubting. Then, I rise. Back and forth, back and forth. Oh, when will it end! I hear the Spirit’s soft whisper. It will end when I stop living by sight, and start living by faith. I know that I don’t know it all. I know now that I don’t have to know it all. I don’t have to see the big picture. I just have to trust the One who does. The One who holds the whole Earth in His hands! The One who made me, and loves me. The One who died in my place. Jesus. I trust Him. And by faith, I rise! I can’t see it all. But by faith, I trust the One who does.
“But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.” –James 1:6-8
at 12:11 PM
Saturday, February 8, 2014
Posted by Hannah
You are a product of God! You were handcrafted by the Creator of the universe. You are a masterpiece in the eyes of your Designer! You were made in the image of God. He created the very idea of you. He created you so intimately that you can never really find yourself apart from Him. He knows you better than you know yourself! He knows the number of hairs on your head (Luke 12:7). He made you and He loves you. He has an incredible plan for your life! No matter what anyone says, you are not a mistake!
"Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be." -Psalm 139:16
You are not an accident! The Lord purposely placed you on this planet. Your birth was a God-planned event. Before God formed you in the womb, he knew you (Jeremiah 1:5). You were created to know and glorify your Creator! What a purpose! And what an identity...made in the image of God. How thrilling! You are worth so much to God! As Ann Voskamp says, if He gave His Son to save you, won't He give anything? You, yes you, are worth the blood of Jesus! To God, you are worth the death of His only Son. His opinion of you is the only one worth believing. God cannot lie (Titus 1:2) and He never changes (Hebrews 13:8). Trust Him and believe His truth over the lies of the world.
I really hope this post encouraged you today! It was just something short to remind you of your incredible purpose and worth and God's unending love!
at 8:44 PM