Do We Deserve God’s Love?

I want to pose a question, do we deserve God’s love? Depending on my mood that day, the answer may be different. There are days when I feel the hope of the hope around me, in me, and in the lives of others—I see the promise of humanity—and I say yes, we deserve God’s love. After all, we are His children.

There are other days when the darkness abounds. Hope seems but a paradise lost, and I can’t help but think or our unworthiness. After all, doesn’t the immense holiness of God cause him to be repelled by our misdeeds?

So what is it? Do I need to taper the hope with a reminder of my misdeeds? Or do I need to see my self as more than just actions but as an image-bearer of God?

Yes.

To what? Both.

Yes.

This question was posed to me, and others in a group that I am a part of that explores and asks some hard questions about our faith. As we gathered that Sunday night a few weeks ago, reflecting on that week’s chapter from Brian Zahnd’s book, Sinners in the Hands of a loving God. The room gathered different sexes, races, denominations, and upbringings. The room was divided but strangely united. Yes, people fell on either on one side or the other, but no one felt they could blatantly reject the other side.

To find the answer, we need to start at the beginning. Genesis 1:27 has become one of my most favourite verses.

So God created mankind in his own image, 
in the image of God he created them; 
male and female he created them.

Three times, in a row I might add, God declares that he created us. Not only that, but God created us in his image. We are God’s children. After Genesis 3, however, the relationship changes. Suddenly, through the belief in a lie from the tempter, man and woman no longer believe that they were made in the image of God, but instead, think that they need something more—something other than God—to complete them. Thus they are marred with their misdeeds.

While one camp believes that this angered God so much that he wanted to destroy us (not sure what has taken him so long), the other, which I tend to find myself in, would say that God loves us despite our mistakes and longs for us to see who we truly are as His children. I believe the former idea has become so dominant in recent thought that it has marred the truth of the second claim.

So I believe we can move the question to, do children deserve their parent’s love? I think most people would say yes. Have they done anything to deserve it? No. Their existence qualifies them to be loved, not for what they have or have not done, but because of whose they are. Children are created in the image of their parents. 

But what if that child steps outside the purpose their parents willed for them? Is Mussolini less deserving of his mother’s love because he was a fascist dictator? Is Stalin disqualified from his Father’s love because of his cruel dictatorship? I might argue it is the lack of love that drives many children to hate, not unconditional love.

When describing how sin affects our made-in-Gods-image, one member of the group mentioned above stated, “It is like this indoor table I have on my back deck. It’s not meant to be outside, but it has been through all the elements. It wasn’t meant to be outside in the rain. It deserves to be inside.”

After all, it was made for the inside. The person who made the table made it for the inside. It deserves to be treated the way the initial builder intended. Did the table do anything to deserve to be inside? Of course not. It was meant to be.

So it is with us. We were meant to live and be in the love of God. We deserve God’s love because we were made in His image. We are his children. Though we find ourselves places we should not be, out in the rains of life—maybe rains of our own doing—we deserve more and better. It’s what we were created for. Instead, we accept a lesser fate believe what was meant to be inside should be outside. We think we can compensate for it. We reject the love of God, filling our lives with everything but what we deserve.

I write in my book Hidden Faces,

Just as God deals with Adam and Eve’s shame, so Jesus comes to deal with ours. Adam and Eve’s shame is represented in their nakedness, but with the skin of an animal (Gen 3:21), representing the replacement of the perishable (fig leaves) with the imperishable (animal hide), it thus shows us that it’s only God who can deal with our shame. 

Only God can deal with our hearts, bring the table in from the rain, and restore it to how it is supposed to be.

But table, don’t be fooled. You have done nothing to be brought in, just as my kids have done nothing to earn my love. We don’t earn God’s love. We receive love because we are the King’s kids. 

So, do you deserve God’s love? Of course, you do, for you are a child of God.

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A Response to John MacArthur

The Christian world either cheered or booed as the most recent words from John MacArthur, rang. It wasn’t that long ago that MacArthur was throwing those in the Pentecostal and Charismatic movement out of Christendom with his “Strange Fire” teachings.

Though the Pentecostal/Charismatic is a large contingent, it is nothing compared to the most recent victims of his vitriol. While aiming at Beth Moore, MacArthur spoke against all women who have some inkling to want a position that might have to do with teaching men, and further, wanting powerful positions.

MacArthur and I would fall on opposite ends of the theological spectrum. Though he may not consider me to be, I consider him a brother in Christ. We are both a part of the body.

And this is why I wanted to wait a few days after the uproar to respond to his comments. It is also why I will respond the way that I am. I feel that 99% of what I’ve seen in response is not Christ-like.

Name-calling has no place in the Kingdom of God. We must challenge and push each other–holding one another accountable, in love.

John MacArthur is Complementarian: This means that men and women have different but complementary roles and responsibilities in marriage, family life, religious leadership, and elsewhere. It is because of this view that MacArther, while asked to comment about Beth Moore, a popular writer and teacher in and outside the Southern Baptist Convention, said, “Go home!” Both MacArthur and the other guest stated that she was arrogant, and MacArthur said something of the sort to her just “Hocking jewellery.”

Unlike MacArthur, I am on the other side of this view. To make a long story short, the prophet Joel in the Old Testament declared that when the Spirit of God dwells in God’s people, that it will equally be poured out on all.

I will pour out my Spirit on all people. 
Your sons and daughters will prophesy, 
your old men will dream dreams, 
your young men will see visions. 
Even on my servants, both men and women, 
I will pour out my Spirit in those days.

Joel 2:28–29

Also, if Jesus’ death and resurrection have broken the curse of Genesis 3 (“Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you. Ge 3:16), then why do we force women back under that curse?

Saying this, we are still brothers in Christ. Beth Moore is our sister.

Despite the deep chasm that lay between us theologically, I still love him (though he makes it really hard sometimes). I don’t want to get into a theological debate with him or anyone else over his comments. He is entitled to his interpretation. Though I think it is wrong, I do not believe that it is the main issue.

What troubles me the most is that MacArthur, a respected and important voice in some circles, was rude, dismissive, flippant, and frankly not in a tone, tenor, or word choice showed an ounce of love.

This is what disturbed me the most.

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.

John 13:34–35

This is what I would to say to you, John MacArther…

John, if I may call you that, I was disturbed by your lack of love. I was disturbed that those who do not know Christ heard such wrath directed toward another child of God, furthermore, a person who is also a follower of Christ. This is not how you speak to anyone, let alone a woman who longs to see people encounter the risen Christ, as you do.

I hope I am assuming correctly, John, when I say that I believe that you want to follow God with all that you are. I hope that you want to see God reign in your heart as well as this world. It is because of this I want to remind you of love.

God is love, as Jesus disciple, John tells us. We are to be known by that love. We must remember that the second greatest commandment, to love our neighbour, is like the first, loving God. As we love God, we love our neighbour, and as we love our neighbour, we love God. There was no love in your words. What is most troubling to me is that this is not the first time. You have allowed vehement words of hate spew from your lips without consideration of the destructive and demeaning nature of them. To quote U2, “Love’s the greater law.”

The Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Corinth

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

1 Co 13:1–3

We can disagree, but we are not to not love. Though there is disagreement in belief and function, we are to engage each other in love.

Love

Love

Love

Please, for the love of God, LOVE!

In the meantime, ladies, think, What Would Aimee Semple McPherson Do (minus the crazy stuff)?

How Donald Trump helped me become a better follower of Jesus

You may not believe it, but Donald Trump has made me a better follower of Jesus.

It is not because of his example. It’s not because of his integrity. Nor is it that he exemplifies leadership. That is not something I want to get into. I’m trying to be as apolitical as I can while still trying to make my point.

The reason he has made me a better Christian is that there are things that have been brought up during his Presidency. Things such as immigration, racism, and sexism.

Here’s the truth, I didn’t think in-depth about many of the dark things that have been stirred-up recently in peoples hearts.

I am a white middle-class male from Canada. This means I have seen and experienced the world in a particular way, a way that is not wrong. However, it is a way that is ignorant of the issues of others. Why? Because I’m a white, middle-class male from…Canada.

I need to be honest. I never thought about immigrants. I don’t mean this in a mean way. I didn’t think about issues of race. I’m not racist, thus I assumed neither were others. Unless I was confronted with it, I never thought about sexism. I presumed everyone thought the opposite sex was equal.

I guess I just figured that though they were issues at one time they weren’t now.

With every passing day of the last few years, I have been confronted with my ignorance. It has caused me to think deeply about the heart of Jesus.

The hatred some have propelled upon immigrants has caused me to think about how I would feel if I were desperate for a better life for my family. I think of Mary and Joseph, Jesus parents, who fled to Egypt to escape persecution (and it wasn’t because he was white…. because he wasn’t).

The racism thrust violently upon those who don’t look like me has caused me to open my eyes. I hadn’t seen it before. I naturally didn’t experience it. If my friends had, they hadn’t told me, and I hadn’t been aware of it while around them. How would I feel if I were maligned, targeted, and attacked? I would probably want to stand up for my freedom. I would probably be sick and tired of being disrespected.

The vulgar words people have directed toward the opposite sex have made think about my wife and daughter and mother. Would I want someone to speak in such ways to them?

It is easy to be ignorant of things you have never experienced. How could you not be? But if it flies in your face and you still choose to ignore the issues, then it is just as bad as being the one to disperse the hate.

God told the Israelites as they were about to enter the land he had promised them, the land where they were to exemplify what it means to live a God honouring life, “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbour as yourself. I am the Lord.”

We love our neighbour because we are our neighbour. You are not better than them. Nor are you worse. We are equal. We are not to hold cold war grudges, or cast stereotypes upon others. We are to love. Jesus takes it even further when he declared for us to love our enemies and bless those who persecute you.

There is no place for xenophobia in God’s Kingdom.

There is no place for racism in God’s Kingdom.

There is no place for sexism in God’s Kingdom.

If right now, this is causing you to say, “Yes, they do need to treat me equal, they do need to treat me as a neighbour.” You’re missing the point.

You can’t control anyone, but yourself.

What is your role?

Who do you not treat as equal?

What issue have we ignored?

When we can begin to address these issues in our own heart, that is when we will start to see the world as God sees it. A world in which immigrants are welcomed and defended, a world in which we celebrate diversity but know we are all the same, a world where men and women see, work, and learn next to each other with full respect for one another.

Thank you, Donald Trump, you have made me aware of these vast issues that are still a very present reality. It has caused me to look at my self and the parts of the world I influence and decide to be a better follower of Jesus.

3 Things you Should do Before Leaving a Church

“I need a church that meets my needs” as if we’re a pre-teen relationship and not the body of Christ, people leave the churches they attend all the time. Where I live, there’s a known circuit, with a few new churches entering the loop. This is not unique to where I live.

With all these people going from one church to another, we need to ask ourselves, What are the steps we should take before we head for green pastures (or pastors).

Here is my take on the three steps you should take

(1) Is it personal or theological? Evaluate.

Personal issues can happen in various ways. Some are serious, but usually, they are not. Whenever you are in a community of people, there will be personality clashes. We see it on sports teams–we see it in the workplace–we see it in church. Chester and Timmis write,

“Community may sound exciting in theory, but in practice it is also painful and messy. When you share your lives with people, you can be sure you will annoy one another! But grace makes us humble.”

The church is called to live in the community it is designed for, but as these authors point out, it is difficult. However, as they also note, grace becomes a powerful tool. Most times, when something gets “personal” in a bad way, and we want to leave a church, it is for a minor issue. Usually a different opinion, an offence over a statement, or perception about a situation.

Way too often, people are easily offended and leave a church, not reconciling the relationships nor feelings.

This is not how we have been called to act!

We are called to love one another! Jesus stated in the book of John, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Community isn’t our calling. It’s to love each other. Community is the result of the love. “Those who are in love with community, destroy community;” writes Bonhoeffer. “..those who love people, build community.” We need each other. If we throw away relationships like used paper towel, we are left alone with a mess and no one to help us clean it up. As the old Italian proverb says, “The one who drinks alone, chokes.”

Personal issues are just that–personal. Usually, it has something to do with you. If it does have more to do with the other person, then you talk about it. {spoiler alert}

The Church needs different personalities. That includes the weird and difficult ones. Plus, how do you know you are not the weird and difficult one? Just because your friends tell you you’re not doesn’t mean a thing (who is to say they don’t fall in the weird and difficult category too!).

I believe there would be a lot less movement from church to church if we all gave each other a little grace. What if instead of leaving we were part of the solution. What if God wants to use you as an agent of change towards His grace and love?

The second part of this is theological. Just like personal, so much of this is your interpretation. We need to weigh whether the theological issue is a small issue or a significant issue. Paul told Timothy that the church was not to “argue about words.” Churches argue about some of the most foolish, small, unimportant theological issues. We should be able to have disagreements on matters without it meaning splitting a church. After all, we are to be known by our love.

Yes, of course, there are significant differences. Egalitarian vs. Complementarian–Calvinist vs. Arminian/openness–sola Scriptura vs. traditional readings. Such differences can make it hard to find theological unity. They can tend to be distractions to our growth in Christ. So while we are to love each other in Christ, we can grow deeper in our faith when we can find agreement on significant issues.

There are also small issues. Who wrote 2 Peter? Is Job or Jonah a parable? Was Jesus born on Dec 25 or not? (idk). No need to fight! These are nothing to trifle over. These are insignificant, and it is only your pride stopping you from growing together.

We must allow different opinions to spread their wings. If not, we are saying that our interpretation of God and the Scripture are infallible. I hope we all know that that isn’t true for any of us.

(2) Pray. And then pray some more.

Before you pray about whether you should leave a community or not, you should be praying for the people/pastors/deacons/elders who you have an issue with.

Whether it be a personal issue or theological issue, our humanity can get in the way. We can be set off by a comment, opinion or body language, and it can skew our whole entire thought process. I love what Andy Stanley says about other’s words,

“When someone’s words stir something inside of you, remember, it’s inside you. That makes it a you issue. You need to own it.”

Yes, they may have issues, but what is happening in you at that moment is “a you” thing, and you need to take it to God. Often we react when things begin to stir. While accountability and understanding are essential, they need to happen within the context of love. In the words of the Apostle Paul, we are a body. We want the body working in wholeness.

There is a caveat though. Your temptation will be to pray for God to change their mind/attitude/heart. That’s normal. After all, you are the offended or the one in the right, and God clearly needs to work in their heart…..

Not so fast.

Don’t be so self-righteous. We are all broken people who are addicted to our selfishness.

When you pray for them, you need to be praying that God blesses them and pours His amazing love upon them. After all, Jesus did say to pray for our enemies and those who persecute us. I believe your heart will begin to be changed, after all, that is all you can control.

When you pray for them, it helps you see them for who they are–a child of God. It helps you push past the issue and see a God-loved-child who is a part of the body of Christ. It will also help you see that your battle isn’t against that person or their opinion/worldview but,

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

Ephesians 6:12

The Pastor isn’t your enemy. Dorthy, the worship leader, isn’t your nemesis. Just because Tom has an opinion about everything and feels free to share it despite how it makes others feel, that doesn’t mean he’s the villain. Our enemy is the brokenness from Hell itself that is ravishing each and every one of our lives, the brokenness that God has come to break.

Pray blessing on the person or church and ask God to increase your love for them. Do it until it happens. Only as your love increases to a burden are you ready for step three.

(3) Have a responsible, adult conversation. Not an email, text or facebook message.

If we never talk about our issues and each other’s issues, we can never be iron sharpening iron. If you never talk about what is on your heart, don’t assume the other person knows. Living as a body is hard. Just look at your own body. You need to exercise and to eat right as a whole unit, or there will be problems. Talking with each other in loving, responsible, and sensible ways is all a part of the exercise. To wait until you are in crisis is neglecting the body. It is like the person who never takes care of themselves and is then surprised when they have a significant health issue.

This conversation shouldn’t be one where you say that you are leaving nor you threatening to leave. The discussion should be about the health of the relationship, and that person should be the prime directive. After all, now that you have prayed and have a burden for all parties, you should be more concerned about the health of the person and church to which there is an issue.

If your first time discussing the issue you have is when you are wading a threat or say that you are leaving, that is your wrong, and you need to repent. Remember, you can only control your heart.

If you have thought it through, prayed for, and discussed, only then is it appropriate to consider leaving and that discussion needs to be filled with love and care, even if it is only on your end. It is also a discussion that needs to happen face to face. It will probably hurt, but it is the most healthy way to experience an amputation (after all, we are a body).

There are a few other steps that could be added. However, I believe if you follow these three basic steps, you will be along the road to help yourself and our churches be a much healthier place.

What are some steps that you would add?

Check out the resources used in this post

Your great love

Verse 1

G  D     Em     C     D      Em

I could say, a thousand times

         C         D             G

how much I love you God

G  D     Em     C     D      Em

I could sing, the greatest songs

         C         D             G

of melodies touch the heart

Pre chorus

C                                            Em

none of these can ever come close

       D                     C

To your great love for me

C                                            Em

Even when I fall short

  D                     C

Your love never fails me

Verse 2

G  D     Em     C     D      Em

I could touch, a million souls

         C                  D                  G

and never come close to your power

G  D     Em     C     D      Em

I could say the sweetest words

         C         D             G

that move the stone heart close to clay

Chorus

D                                   C         G

Jesus, your cross has said it all

Bm7                                      Cmaj7

you showed your great love for me

  D                                     C           G  

You lived, you loved, you took my place

Bm7                                  

you showed your great love 

Am7  Bm7   C2                            Am7  Bm7   C2

                           Your great love

Verse 3

G  D     Em     C     D      Em

I could serve, a billion lives

         C                  D                  G

To show how much I love you God

G  D     Em     C     D      Em

I could go the furthest mile

         C                  D                  G

To tell the world of your mighty works

Pre

Chorus

Verse 4

G  D     Em     C     D      Em

You gave your life upon that cross

         C                  D                  G

So I would how much you love

G  D     Em     C     D      Em

You rescued me, from the cruse

         C                  D                  G

even though I was far away

Pre chorus 2

C                                            Em

‘cause nothing will ever come close

       D                     C

To your great love for me

C                                            Em

Even when I fall short

  D                     C

Your love never fails me