How can I be sure God loves me?

The sun is shining. The sky is blue. The lake reflects the sky. The trees are deep, living green. You and your family are healthy and happy. Work has been going great. You feel like a million bucks.

Wouldn’t you agree that God loves you?

Yes, today perhaps.

But clouds may cover the sun tomorrow. The lake can look rough and angry. The leaves will fall. The world can look bleak. Today’s good health turns into tomorrow’s sickness, accident, or death. Things may go sour at work. A family’s fragile happiness can turn to dust. Horrible things like earthquakes and terrorist attacks happen in God’s beautiful world. Then you ask, “Does God still love me? How can I be sure?”

You can’t be sure by looking around in the world. In fact, there’s another complication. We all have the voice called conscience inside us. Conscience tells me that I should do right. It also tells me that sometimes I do wrong. I don’t deserve God’s love. In fact, I deserve to be punished. I can’t be sure that God loves me by looking inside myself.

No, the only way to be sure that God loves you is if he tells you so himself.

He did tell you. He sent his Son Jesus with a message for the world. No one has ever seen God, but God the heavenly Father’s Son came to earth to tell us about him. Jesus tells us that God loves the world—all people. He loves us in spite of all the wrong we do. Jesus showed us God’s love not just with words but in action. He gave his life for us.

So how can I know that God loves me? Not by my experiences in the world. Not by looking inside myself. Only God’s messenger, his own Son Jesus, can tell me for sure. The message Jesus brought is written in the Bible. The Bible brings us Jesus. Jesus says God loves us—always. His word can make us sure of that.

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:9-10).

What is love?

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. – 1 John 3:16

If you asked ten different people what love is you may very well receive ten different answers. Ask a three-year-old and his answer may be a simple “mom.” Ask a psychologist and you may have to settle in for a long and complicated response. The answer given by a fifteen-year-old girl will likely be very different than the one given by a sixty-year-old man who has been married to the same woman for 42 years.

Even though these answers may all be different, they likely all revolve around the same thing–emotion. Describing what love is usually involves describing how a person makes them feel or the committed feelings they have about a certain person.

God doesn’t talk about emotion when he describes love in his Word. He talks about action. “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.”

Love is defined by the greatest act of self-sacrifice ever made. God’s own Son gave up his life for you. He didn’t do it because of the way you made him feel. He did it because he knew it was the only way for you to live with him forever. He shed his blood not because he saw some great potential within you. He shed his blood because the sin within you needed to be washed away.

Jesus Christ laid down his life for you because his desire to save you eternally was far greater than any desire to preserve his own life. That selfless, self-sacrificing action is the very definition of love.

Now that you know what love is, go and love others.

Why does God love sinners?

Let’s take another question first. “Why do mothers love their children?” Mothers love their beautiful babies, but they love their ugly babies, too. It’s not because of how the child looks or what the child does. Mary, the mother of Jesus, loved her son. But probably the mother of Judas, the traitor who turned Jesus over to his enemies, loved her son as well.

Why do mothers love their children? God made mothers that way. Mothers love their children. That’s the way mothers are. We call it “mother-love.” It’s an unnatural mother that does not love her own child.

God’s love is something like mother-love. God loves the people he makes. That’s the way God is. In fact, God made us so that he could love us. In the beginning God made the world. At the end of his creation he made the human race, a man and a woman. The world and everything in it is a gift from God to the human race. He made you and me in our time because he wanted to love us, too.

Because God our maker loves all of us so much, he deserves the obedience, respect, love and trust of the human race. Beginning with the first humans, we haven’t given God what he deserves. We keep cutting ourselves off from the God who made us. We are rebels who run away from God. In other words, we are all sinners.

Why does God still love us?

He loves us because that’s the way he is. God is love, and he doesn’t change. Because he loves us, he made a plan to bring the rebellious human race home to himself again. That plan is the main plot line that runs through the whole Bible.

Really, the whole Bible is the story of God’s love for sinners like you and me. Why does he love us? That’s the way he is. God is love, and he doesn’t change. No matter who we are. No matter what we’ve done.

God says: I the LORD do not change (Malachi 3:6). God is love (1 John 4:16). He describes his plan in John 3:16: God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

The Good Shepherd Leads You

The Lord is my Shepherd; I’ll not be in want. – Psalm 23:1

Psalm 23 describes our Savior God as our Shepherd. And because he is our loving Shepherd, we come to this confident conclusion: we shall never be in want—we shall never lack anything we truly need.

How does the Lord our Shepherd give us such confidence? We can trust where our Good Shepherd leads us. He guides us for our benefit, even if it doesn’t always appear that way.

Many people want to be leading their own life. As they strive after numerous things, they look somewhat like a dog chasing its tail. They pursue money, possessions, popularity and many other things, but those things don’t give them any true peace and lasting fulfillment. They know what they want for themselves, but they miss what they need for a relationship with God.

Give thanks that we do not have to be part of this vain chase. We do not lead. Our Shepherd does, and his lead is always for our greatest benefit. He supplies everything we really need for our physical life. Most importantly, he gives us what we absolutely need for our souls: the forgiveness of sins which he provided by laying down his life for us!

Take comfort in the confidence that your Good Shepherd is always leading you. Trust him, and gladly follow the Lord who is your Shepherd.

Does God really care?

Does a shepherd care about a lost sheep?  Does a father care about a wayward son?

Jesus Christ used both examples to assure those who have made terrible mistakes, assumed deplorable lifestyles, or suffered grievous loss that God cares for them. Jesus was being criticized because he “welcomed sinners” (Luke 15). So he defended his compassionate care with two stories that people would understand.

In the story of the sheep, a shepherd owns a hundred sheep, and one of them becomes lost. He takes a calculated risk, leaves the other ninety-nine sheep, and goes after the lost sheep. He calls it by name. He rescues it.

He joyfully puts it on his shoulders.

The wayward son isn’t ignorant, like a sheep, but rebellious. He demands his inheritance and then lives the wild life in a distant country until he spends it all foolishly. His money and his pride gone, so he returns to his father and pleads to be hired as a servant.

Instead, he is welcomed by his father like a king. A party is thrown in his honor.

Now, a shepherd may take a privilege or two away from a sheep that tends to stray, just to keep that rascal in plain sight. A father may not be so willing to extend responsibility to a foolish son. Neither indicate lack of loving care, however, but just the opposite – a loving care that is willing to help even if it hurts.

We will sometimes see the loving care of God and appreciate it. Other times we will see sadness and pain. During sad times our limited understanding can yield to our faith that God understands more than we do, and he cares in a way we can’t understand.

We turn to his promises and hold him to his Word, “In all things God works for the good of those who love him” (Romans 8:28).

How Can I Live in the Presence of God?

Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes. (Romans 10:4)

If you want to live in the presence of a holy, perfect, and righteous God, then you need to be holy, perfect, and righteous yourself. If you are holy, perfect, and righteous, then you can live in his presence and live in his presence forever.

This is the situation that every single human being ever born into this world finds him or herself in. It’s also a problem. A huge problem!

It’s a problem because none of us can meet this standard that our holy, perfect, and righteous God has placed on us. We are, by our very natures, stained with sin and so everything we think, say, and do is stained with sin too. We have failed to meet God’s standard. We have not kept his law in the righteous way that he demands. We deserve to be cast away from his holy, perfect and righteous presence forever.

This is how the story of every single human being ever born into this world would end if…

…if Christ would have never entered into our story. But praise be to God, he did! He entered into the story of humanity as God himself made flesh and into our story for a very important reason. He came to live the righteous life that God demands of us. The righteous life that we could not live on our own he lived in our place–perfect obedience all his life to every last one of God’s laws. Now, his righteous life is for all of humanity as a free gift. So, how does this gift of righteousness become our own?

God’s Word teaches, “Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.”

Christ’s righteousness becomes our own through faith. Through faith in what Christ has done for us, we personally receive the righteousness that Christ has won for the world. Therefore, through faith in what Christ has done, we stand before our righteous God with the righteousness that he demands from us—not a righteousness we attempt to produce ourselves, but the righteousness that has been gifted to us by Christ. That means, by faith in Jesus we live in God’s righteous presence forever!

What Is the Trinity?

“Trinity” means “three-in-one.”  It’s true, the word “Trinity” is not in the Bible.  But the concept is.

The true religion has always stated that there is only one Divine Essence who is called “God.”  From the beginning of time God has revealed himself as the LORD God (Genesis 2:4) and there is no other but him (Isaiah 44:6).  Monotheism set the Hebrews apart from other nations (Deuteronomy 6:4), and Christianity follows the same truth.

God the Father is God.  Jesus spoke of him as “the only true God” (John 17:1,3).  The apostle Paul spoke of God the Father as the creator God and the source of life (1 Corinthians 8:6).

God the Son is God.  Hebrews chapter one emphasizes that fact, explicitly saying “the Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word” (1:3).  We believe as the Bible teaches that “in Christ all the fullness of the deity dwells in bodily form” (Colossians 2:9).  And we believe that “he is the true God and eternal life” (1 John 5:20).  Besides, the Bible attributes to Jesus all the characteristics of God (Matthew 28:18).  Jesus is also to be worshiped as true God (Matthew 28:17; Hebrews 1:6).  The New Testament shows that Jesus is the redeemer of the world from sin and the power of Satan.

God the Holy Spirit is God.  “The Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Corinthians 3:17).  He is distinguished from the Father and Son when Jesus said, “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor, the Spirit of truth, to be with you forever” (John 14:16-17).  The Holy Spirit is more than an impersonal power of God.  He grieves (Ephesians 4:30), and is the person of the Trinity who works faith in our hearts.  Ananias lied to the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:3).  Some people “speak against the Holy Spirit” to their damnation (Matthew 12:32).

There are many places in Scripture that mention all three Persons of the Triune God (Matthew 4:16-17).  God has always presented himself in plural terms (Genesis 1:26).

There are three Persons, each one the complete God, and yet there is no more than one single God.  “We worship one God in three persons and three persons in one God” (from the Athanasian Creed of the Christian church).

The Father is God. The Son is God. The Holy Spirit is God. And they are one God.

Give Thanks to the Lord

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. – Psalm 118:1

Maybe you’ve heard these words spoken at the end of a dinner prayer. Maybe you’ve heard one of your “church” friends say them, and thought: “Good?!? Enduring love?!? Oh really! Show me.”

Oil flowed into the Gulf of Mexico like water over Niagara Falls. Anarchists revolted at a meeting of the world’s leaders and set police cruisers on fire. “God is good? He has enduring love? Show me.”

Children are born with birth defects. Convenience store clerks are shot. The economy is uncertain. Unemployment threatens the stability of millions of families. People still die. I am lonely. “God is good? He has enduring love? Show me.”

Has anyone, or anything, ever let you down? Plenty of times. Has your love ever gone unreturned? You’ve stopped counting. Many times you’ve probably wondered where to turn; you’ve asked, “Who can I trust?”

This psalm calls out to you, to me. It’s an “Hallelujah” psalm, meaning “Praise the LORD!” Long ago, God’s people sang the words of this psalm toward the end of their Passover meal. That special occasion was a time for the people to remember how God rescued their nation from slavery in Egypt; it was a picture of God’s rescue of all people from their slavery to sin. The Passover meal was a way that God showed each generation how much he truly loved them.

Would disaster continue to interrupt their lives? Would prosperity be withheld? Would earthly death continue to pick away at their loved ones? Yes, yes, and yes. Yet the people sang out praise and thanks to their merciful God for deliverance from all these trials of life. . . and more: “Because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved” (Ephesians 2:4,5).

Give thanks to our Savior God for his mercy and deliverance from death through Jesus. Jesus shows us that God is good. Jesus proves that his love for us endures forever.

Why do bad things happen?

In this world, why do bad things happen at all? One would have to agree that bad things do happen to all people. War, poverty, disease, sickness, accidents, pain, sorrow, death occur everyday to people around the globe. The rich, the poor, the intellectual, the illiterate, the strong, the weak, the old, the young can all be stricken and afflicted by that which we might define as bad.

This is not how God envisioned the world he created. When he was done creating the world, God looked over his creation and we read his evaluation in Genesis 1, “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.” What happened to this world that was very good? The answer again is found in the Bible, just a few short pages away from Genesis chapter 1. Adam and Eve, the first humans created by God, listened to the temptation of the devil, chose to go against God’s command and so sinned. Sin entered this perfect world. The effect of this sin was felt not only by Adam and Eve, but by all of creation. God told Adam, “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field.”

About 4000 years after Creation, the Bible gives us an evaluation of the status of the world with these words: “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.” All of creation is tainted by evil. The ultimate evil that sin brought into the world is death, which awaits all living things on earth.

What good is there in this world that is so steeped in evil? On this side of eternity, the bad things keep happening. Evil will continue to happen until the end of time. God has not left us without hope. God in his love sent his one and only son, Jesus, into this world to live as our brother and to suffer the sorrows of this life, including a horrible death in our place. In exchange he guarantees us a place where we might enjoy goodness and mercy forever. There will be no more sorrow, or crying or pain. As believers in Jesus, the bad things of this life will pass away and we will be able to experience paradise in heaven.

Why am I here?

You’ve seen the sign maybe at a freeway off ramp, or maybe on some street corner. It is usually held by an unshowered man in untidy clothes. It says, “Need food. Will work.”

Now imagine the opposite. A sharply dressed gentleman next to a shiny limousine is holding a sign that reads, “Looking for someone to help. Will provide whatever you need.”

Can you guess which of them is God, and which is you?

God has an abundance of love, forgiveness, and peace and he delights in sharing it with those in need.

A long time ago God created people as his companions in a perfect world, but sin spoiled that relationship. Now people, by nature, are afraid of God, confused about God, and no longer as interested in God as he is in them.

God does not want to have a broken relationship with you. God delights in restoring peace and harmony between him and you. He uses your lifetime to accomplish this restoration.

God also gives you the privilege of doing things for him. You can be his hands, assisting the needy. You can be his voice, encouraging a friend. You are never too young or too old to be helpful.

God shares his forgiving love with you, and he looks for you to respond to it. You are here to receive the gift of God’s love and to share it.

There is a poster that says it this way:

  • Yesterday is history.
  • Tomorrow is a mystery.
  • Today is a gift.
  • That’s why they call it the present.

The Bible says it this way, “Always give yourselves fully to the word of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58).