Does It Ever Seem Like God Hates You?

What we may perceive as a lack of love may actually be the embodiment of it

In the book of Revelation, John shares a grand vision with an epic scope, far reaching and future focused. But before we get to that, God has some first-century messages for seven area churches. Three of these messages appear in the third chapter.

In John’s supernatural dream, amid the seventh message to the seventh church, the one in Laodicea, Jesus says “Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent,” (Revelation 3:19, NIV).

We know Jesus and his Father are all about love. They love us. That’s why they made a way for us to hang out with them forever. Love sent Jesus to earth. Love sacrificed him for us. Love ushers us into heaven.

When I think of God’s love, I think of his mercy (not getting the bad things we do deserve) and his grace (getting the good things we don’t deserve). I like grace and mercy.

However, two things I don’t think about when I consider God’s love are rebuke and discipline. Yuck. Yet correction is part of love, too. Parents, discipline their children to keep them safe and healthy and to prepare them for adulthood.

So discipline, from both God and our parents, is a good thing. It’s an act of love.When God disciplines us, it’s because he loves us. Click To Tweet

When God rebukes and disciplines us, it’s because he loves us, not because he hates us, has given up on us, or is ignoring us. Correction is one way he expresses his love to us.

How should we respond to his discipline?

Jesus explains that, too. With all sincerity (earnestness) we need to change our ways (repent).

I think this might be one way we can show God we love him.

[Read through the New Testament of the Bible this year. Today’s reading is Revelation 3, and today’s post is on Revelation 3:19.]

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The Bible Informs Our Understanding of God

We get to know God better as we read about him in the Bible

The Bible helps us understand God. Read itIs the Bible a book about God or a book about his crazy people? The answer is yes. In combining these two ideas, we can say the Bible is a book that addresses God’s relationship with his creation. Therefore we can better understand God by reading about how he interacts and deals with people.

The Bible mentions God thousands of times. He appears in every one of its books,  (though his presence in the book of Esther is implied). His being permeates every page of the Bible.

To better understand God, we need to set aside the world’s unbiblical view of him. Humanity has a skewed perception of his character. And often they are just plain wrong. Popular culture is not a good source to learn about God. The Bible is.

Love: The prevailing theme I see in the Bible is love. The Bible shows God’s love of us and looks at how people respond to that love.

God loves us and we can love him in return. That’s what he wants. Though he won’t force us to love him, he does desire us to choose to do so. It’s called free will.

In the Old Testament, we see this love for him borne largely out of a healthy fear. In the New Testament, our love comes from the mercy he offers us through Jesus.God patiently waits for us, scanning the horizon in hopes we will come home to live with him. Click To Tweet

Patient: Though the Bible contains a plethora of themes that reveal much about God, I see patience as a key one. God is patient with us. Like a loving parent, he gives us chance after chance. He wants us to learn and to do what is right. Like the father in Jesus’s parable of the wayward son (the Prodigal), God patiently waits for us, scanning the horizon in hopes we will come home to live with him.

Personal: It’s clear God wants to have a relationship with us, so we can be in community with him. He walked with Adam in the garden. He revealed his being to Moses. He affirmed David’s heart toward him. He talked to Paul. He gave visions to many. He guided people to write about him and then compile these writings into the Bible we enjoy today. And, most importantly, he dispatched Jesus to point us to him and provide a means for us to be with God.

Eternal: The Bible shows God as existing outside of the time-space he created. Though beyond comprehension, he is eternal, with no beginning or ending. And he wants us to join him in that.

Though the Bible reveals much more about God, these four traits are a great start: God loves us and patiently waits for us to have a personal connection with him that will last through the rest of eternity. And that’s good news.

Does God Ever Loose His Patience?

Nahum offers some harsh words to the city of Nineveh about their future

Does God Ever Loose His Patience?The book of Nahum, a short three-chapter prophecy, centers on the city of Nineveh. If this city sounds familiar, if might be from the book of Jonah when God sends his prophet there to prophesy its destruction. After hearing Jonah’s blunt, half-hearted message of doom, all of Nineveh, from its king to its people, repents, and God gives them a reprieve. Jonah becomes mad and complains about this to God, almost criticizing his mercy.

Later the prophet Nahum resumes the predictions of doom on the people of Nineveh. In fact the entire book of Nahum focuses on Nineveh. It ends with the ominous words, “Nothing can heal you; your wound is fatal,” (Nahum 3:19). There is no hope. There is no call to repent or make amends for their errors. The verdict is final with no chance for appeal.

Though we tend to see God as full of grace and mercy, of forgiveness and second chances, his patience is not limitless. When it comes to the city of Nineveh and all the evil it represents, God has had enough. Their sins are lethal, with no option for restoration. This time there is no repentance; this time there is no second chance. History records its destruction.We cannot fully know God or understand his ways. Click To Tweet

If this view of God makes you uncomfortable, as it does me, recall that we cannot fully know God or understand his ways. We want to rightly bask in his love, but we must not lose sight of the need to also fear him. Nahum and the city of Nineveh remind us of this other side to God’s sovereignty.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Nahum 1-3, and today’s post is on Nahum 3:19.]

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Are You a Friend of Sinners?

It’s hard to embrace those who are different from us but we should

Jesus is a Friend of Sinners, by Peter DeHaanThe word sin is an unpopular one in today’s culture. Postmodern thinking rejects moral absolutes and advocates that anything goes. Under an ideal of tolerance, society claims that to label an action as sinful is judgmental, closeminded, and unacceptable. Ironically they become intolerant of people who talk about sin.

In reality, everyone sins (Romans 3:23).

It’s just that we downplay or even ignore our own sins, while we recoil from the sins of others, which we deem as more objectionable or even abhorrent.

The Bible says Jesus is a friend of sinners (Matthew 11:19, Luke 7:34). This slur comes from his detractors, and he repeats it. They intend it as criticism, but we see it as a badge of honor. We admire Jesus for hanging out with the people that the righteous religious society rejects: prostitutes, adulterers, tax collectors, lepers, the sick and unclean, other races and mixed races, and so forth.

It seems Jesus accepts everyone the religious leaders discard. In fact he makes a point to do so, often going out of his way to welcome them. He embraces them; he loves them.

We respect Jesus for doing so. Shouldn’t we do the same?Be like Jesus and embrace those the organized church reviles. Click To Tweet

Shouldn’t we make a point to behave more like Jesus and reach out to those the organized church reviles? Who might this be? The other political party? Muslims? The LGBT community? Pornographers? Those with a criminal record? The list goes on. There is no end.

Hosea writes that God desires mercy not sacrifice, that is, offering mercy trumps following a bunch of rules (Hosea 6:6). Jesus confirms this and adds that these folks are the reason he came (Matthew 9:12-13).

Let’s be more like Jesus and befriend those who the church rejects.

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Where Do You Stand on the Judgement Versus Mercy Debate?

If you’ve been reading along in our New Testament reading plan, you’ve just finished the book of Titus and will wrap up your Bible reading for the year with the short book of Philemon. Congratulations for finishing! (Next year let’s read the entire Bible together. Look for posts here each Tuesday that align with the reading plan.)

Where Do You Stand on the Judgement Versus Mercy Debate?The book of Philemon is actually a letter Paul writes to Philemon. In it Paul advocates for mercy instead of judgement for their mutual colleague, Onesimus. Onesimus deserves a stern dose of justice for running away, but Paul pleads for mercy instead.

This sounds a lot like Jesus and us. Our misdeeds demand judgement but Jesus offers mercy to everyone, but only those who follow Jesus can actually receive his mercy and grace. God’s Law demands justice, but his love gives grace. Jesus makes the difference.

The Bible doesn’t say if Philemon extends Onesimus the mercy he doesn’t deserve or demands the justice that he does, but I think Philemon sets aside judgement and justice to present mercy and grace – just like Jesus does for us.

Thank God for Jesus, for mercy, and for grace!

What do you think Philemon did after reading Paul’s letter? How would you have treated Onesimus? God’s Law demands justice, but his love gives grace. Jesus makes the difference. Click To Tweet

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How Many Times Should We Forgive Someone?

Jesus shared a story (parable) about forgiving others.

Jesus’ illustration was prompted by Peter, who asked if forgiving someone seven times was enough; Peter thought seven times was generous. Jesus upped the figure considerably, saying seventy-seven times. But we don’t take this amount literally, instead understanding that Jesus really meant we need to forgive others “more times than we can count” or “without limit.”

Jesus’ story, however, takes the idea of forgiveness to another level. A man, who owed a huge debt he could never repay, begged for mercy, for more time to make payment. But instead of receiving additional time, the debt was forgiven.

But then the man threatened someone who owed him a tiny bit of money. No mercy was given; no forgiveness was offered. He withheld from others what had been given to him.

Because of the man’s selfishness and not treating others as he was treated, his debt was reinstated and he was thrown into prison and tortured. Our fate will be no different if we don’t forgive others.

We, who have been forgiven much by God, need to likewise forgive others. The risk of withholding forgiveness is too great.

[Matthew 18:21-35]

Beware the Adulteress

The book of Proverbs contains the majority of the Bible’s mentions of the word “adulteress” (seven times in Proverbs compared to five times in the rest of the Bible). An “adulteress” is “a woman who commits adultery,” that is, she has sex with someone other than her husband. In today’s language, that is referred to as “cheating.”

Solomon warns his son — and all men — to stay away from the adulteress.

The Law of Moses notes that both the adulterer (the male participant) and the adulteress (the female participant) should be put to death (Leviticus 20:10). That is how serious God views the breaking of marriage vows.

Although the majority of modern society takes a much more casual perspective on lifelong monogamy, God’s staunch opposition to adultery hasn’t changed. Fortunately, his response has. In the Old Testament (as mentioned above), the prescribed response to adultery is judgment. However, in the New Testament, Jesus — God’s son — demonstrates a kinder, gentler response: mercy (John 8:1-11).

However, remember that even though Jesus will give both the adulterer and adulteress mercy and forgiveness, the offended spouse may not likely be so understanding.

[Mentions of adulteress in the Bible.]

How to Treat One Another

Consider how the Bible teaches us to treat one another:

Love one another [John 13:34, John 13:35, Romans 13:8, 1 Peter 1:22, 1 John 3:11, 1 John 3:23, 1 John 4:7, 1 John 4:11, 1 John 4:12, 2 John 1:5]

Accept one another [Romans 15:7]

Instruct one another [Romans 15:14]

Submit to one another [Ephesians 5:21]

Forgive one another [Colossians 3:13]

Teach one another [Jeremiah 9:20]

Teach and admonish one another [Colossians 3:16]

Encourage one another [Judges 20:22, 1 Thessalonians 5:11, Hebrews 3:13, Hebrews 10:25]

Agree with one another [1 Corinthians 1:10]

Fellowship with one another [1 John 1:7]

Give to one another [Esther 9:22]

Live in harmony with one another [Romans 12:16, 1 Peter 3:8]

Be kind and compassionate to one another [Ephesians 4:32]

Serve one another in love [Galatians 5:13]

Bear with one another in love [Ephesians 4:2]

Be devoted to one another in brotherly love [Romans 12:10a]

Honor one another above yourselves [Romans 12:10b]

Greet one another with a kiss of love [1 Peter 5:14]

Greet one another with a holy kiss [Romans 16:16, 1 Corinthians 16:20, 2 Corinthians 13:12]

Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs [Ephesians 5:19]

Spur one another on toward love and good deeds [Hebrews 10:24]

Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling [1 Peter 4:9]

Administer justice, show mercy and compassion to one another [Zechariah 7:9]

Clothe yourselves with humility toward one another [1 Peter 5:5]

Do not deceive one another [Leviticus 19:11]

Do not break faith with one another [Malachi 2:10]

Do not degrade your bodies with one another [Romans 1:24]

Do not lust for one another [Romans 1:27]

Stop judging one another [Romans 14:13]

Do not hate one another [Titus 3:3]

Do not slander one another [James 4:11]

Micah’s Personal Prescription

As the prophet Micah gives a series of stinging rebukes against the nations of Israel and Judah, he takes pause for some personal reflection.

As if keeping a journal, he wonders how he should approach God.  With reverence, with offerings, with sacrifices?  No.  That is not what God wants.  God requires something much different, for him to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly.

Then Micah returns to his God-promoted discourse of doom.  After a bit more invective, he becomes filled with remorse, saying, “What misery is mine?”

Micah then reflects some more, delving into a depressing bit of introspection, before confidently affirming that his hope is in God; Micah will wait and God will hear him.

So Micah’s personal prescription then becomes to:

Act justly, love mercy, walk humbly, and hope in and wait on God.

Works for me.

[Micah 6:6-8, Micah 7:1, Micah 7:7]

God’s Sovereignty At Work

In the story of Jonah, we see God’s sovereignty at work, with God exercising control over nature.  Here’s what God does:

  • He sends a wind [Jonah 1:4]
  • He calms the sea [Jonah 1:15]
  • He provides a fish to shallow Jonah [Jonah 1:17]
  • He commands the fish to deposit Jonah on dry land [Jonah 2:10]
  • He makes a vine grow to give shade to Jonah [Jonah 4:6]
  • He causes a worm to chew the vine and kill it [Jonah 4:7]

Furthermore, God’s sovereignty allows him to show mercy towards the people of Nineveh and not destroy them as he had originally planned.

However, God does not exercise control over Jonah, allowing him to do what he wants, when he chooses,and how pleases.  Jonah has free will — and God does not interfere with that even though Jonah’s choices cause him a lot of grief.

God gives Jonah the freedom to mess up — or to do what is right.  That’s how God rolls.