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GOD CARES ABOUT YOU
From a natural standpoint, the most surprising thing about God is that he is love. It is not hard to conceive of a divine being who possesses immeasurable power or immortality or knowledge—other religions have such Gods. For some of us, it is not that difficult to envision a God who expresses affection for us. But who could have dreamed up a being whose love is so extreme that he became incarnate to prove it? On the face of things, God would seem like a bad negotiator—trading power for weakness, riches for poverty, honor for humiliation. He even traded light for darkness, spending nine months in the womb so that he could convince us of his love and reconcile us to himself. God's love is extreme and fierce. He is a suitor who won't be put off, won't be denied, won't be spurned—unless, of course, we are obstinate and foolish enough to believe that he really doesn't love us despite the obvious proofs of his love. For those who will receive him, his love is unfailing, steadfast, eternal, full of kindness, and far beyond anything we could ever ask or imagine.
This is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.
GOD REVEALS HIMSELF
This is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.
What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? if God is for us, who can ever be against us? Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won't he also give us everything else? Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself. Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God's right hand, pleading for us.
Can anything ever separate us from Christ's love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? (As the Scriptures say, "For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.") No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.
And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God's love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God's love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Understanding His Love
The bible uses two primary images to speak to us of God's love. in the Hebrew scriptures (the Old Testament), his love is portrayed through the metaphor of marital love and commitment. He is a loving God who justly demands, though does not get, absolute fidelity from the people he loves. Even so, he continues to love them despite their unfaithfulness. The book of Hosea speaks of God binding himself to his people forever. The New Testament extends this metaphor by identifying Jesus as the bridegroom and the church as his bride.
Scripture also uses the metaphor of parental love. Throughout the Old Testament, God is described as a loving Father to his people, Israel. Jesus develops this imagery in a way that shocks his contemporaries—addressing God as his Father and inviting his followers to do the same.
The Hebrew word 'ahab can be translated "love, lovers, friends, allies." It refers to the love between husband and wife, as well as to the love that exists between parents and children. it can also refer to the intimate bond of friendship. Used thirty-two times throughout scripture in connection with God, it speaks of his faithful love for Israel and his love for justice and righteousness.
Deuteronomy 6:5 commands God's people to "love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength." This scripture has become part of a larger prayer called the Shema, the first words of which are drawn from this passage: "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one" (Deuteronomy 6:4, NIV). Observant Jews recite this prayer morning and evening, and often on their deathbeds, expressing their heartfelt response to God's faithful love.
Biblical love is not merely a matter of affectionate feelings or passion but is expressed through loving actions. Just as God shows his faithful love by acting redemptively in the lives of his people, we are called to show our love for God through obeying him, loving his Word, and living in faithfulness.
The other Old Testament word for love is hesed, which can be translated "mercy, loving-kindness, covenant faithfulness." it speaks richly of the undeserved love given by someone who is in a position of power, thereby capturing the generosity of God's love.
In the New Testament, the verb agapao and the noun agape are used to describe human love as well as the love God has for people. This love is completely undeserved, stemming from God's character rather than from anything in us that would attract his love. The New Testament also uses the greek verb phileo to speak both of human and divine love and often to describe the love between friends.
If we have any doubts about the fierce nature of God's love, we have only to remember the words of John 3:16: "This is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life."
Such sacrificial love demands a response. Like Jesus did, we are called to love our enemies. This doesn't mean we have to feel affection for them, but it does mean we must act in love toward them. Galatians 5:22 describes love as a fruit of the spirit. Only God's spirit alive within us can enable us to receive God's love and express it to others.
When we love God, we cannot help but love our neighbors.
Lord, no one has loved me the way you have. Even when I was far from you, you called me and fought for me and stretched out your arm to save me. Thank you for blessing me every day—for speaking to me, sustaining me, forgiving me, refusing to give up on me. Thank you for protecting my soul. I love you, Lord.
Studying His Love
1. What comes to mind when you hear the word love? How does your experience of love compare with the biblical ideal?
2. What in your life makes you doubt God's love?
3. What do you think it means to love God with "all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength"? Be specific.
4. How have you been able to express the love of God to others?
5. How would your life be different if you could affirm Paul's words from Romans 8:31-32 in every situation, saying, "If God is for me, who can ever be against me? Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for me, won't he also give me everything else?"
6. Take a moment to pray, asking God to deepen your knowledge of his unfailing love so you can reflect his kindness to others.
PRAYING IN LIGHT OF GOD'S LOVE
This is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.
Reflect On: John 3:16
Praise God: For Jesus, the irrefutable proof of God's love
Offer Thanks: Because God will never stop loving you
Confess: Any tendency to doubt God's love
Ask God: To help you perceive the depth of his love for you and for others
* * *
Not long ago I was swimming laps in a pool near my home. Normally my goggles help me to see the line down the center of the lane so I don't incur brain damage by swimming straight into the side of the pool. That day my progress was particularly slow because the goggles kept filling with water. About halfway through, after stopping every half lap to adjust them, I identified the problem. It seems I had put the goggles on upside down. No wonder they were taking on water.
Afterward, it occurred to me that upside-down goggles could be a useful metaphor for describing an affliction many of us share. When it comes to understanding God's love, some of us have things upside down. Though we've heard that God is love, and though we can believe he loves others, we can't quite believe he loves us. So we try hard to be good, and we wallow in guilt whenever we fail to measure up. We try to exercise faith but find it difficult because we lack the energy that comes from knowing we are loved.
Part of the problem is that we live in a fallen world. Many of us have never experienced unconditional love. Always there have been strings attached.
A second problem is that there is demonic interference. Like static on a radio, this interference takes the form of doubts and lies that the devil tries to implant so that it will become impossible for us to perceive how much God cares about us. If he can damage our confidence in God's character, he can impede or even destroy our Christian witness.
Suffering can also sharpen our doubts. How, we wonder, could a powerful, all-loving God allow evil into our lives? If he is a loving Father, why doesn't he do a better job of protecting us?
The answer to such questions is not simple. It comes in part from knowing God more deeply so we can understand the interplay between love and freedom. It also comes from comprehending that real love is multifaceted and stronger than mere affection.
As we learn more about God's attributes, we may find that we are able to turn our spiritual goggles right side up so we can perceive his love more clearly, interpreting life's events not in terms of our circumstances but in light of the truth we know: "This is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16).
PRAYING IN LIGHT OF GOD'S LOVE
When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.
"Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?"
Jesus replied, "'You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments."
Reflect On: Romans 5:6-8; Matthew 22:36-40
Praise God: For being love
Offer Thanks: Because God first loved you
Confess: Any tendency to think you have to earn God's love
Ask God: To let his love overflow in you
* * *
I have a friend whose teenage Son has difficulty showing any kind of affection. The other day his younger sister asked whether he loved her. Chase just shrugged as if to say, Maybe I do, maybe I don't, probably not, but who cares? But his little sister wouldn't give up. She proceeded to ask a long line of questions: "Who do you love? How about your favorite teacher at school? What about the dog?" Chase couldn't work up much enthusiasm for anyone except the dog.
Then came the question my friend couldn't help but overhear: "Chase, do you love Mom and Dad?"
"Kind of," Chase replied, his voice flat.
Though it wasn't what my friend wanted to hear, she wasn't surprised. While many teenagers fail the "love test," her son had never been good at it. She knew that her autistic Son had difficulty expressing love for anyone. I wondered about the impact this must have had on their relationship. We parents can put up with a lot because we know that deep down our children love us. But what would it be like to care for a child who seems incapable of reciprocating, when love only moves in one direction?
When we think about love, we often think about people who are attractive to us. We love them because they're beautiful, kind, affectionate, caring, courageous, smart, funny, or good. Something about them stirs our affection. But God is different. His love isn't fixed on us because we're good looking or great or perfect. The impetus for his love lies entirely within himself. The Bible says that God loved us when we were still wretched, still off track, still living in a way that deeply offended him. No law of mutual attraction was at work. God loved us simply because at his core he is love. That's why Jesus could say to his followers that if someone slapped them on the cheek, they should turn the other cheek for another slap. He was talking about loving unlovely people with divine love, not human love.
Many of us are still applying a human model to our relationship with God. Perhaps that's why we find it so difficult to believe God loves us. We think we're the ones who need to become lovable. Certain that we don't deserve God's love, we perpetually doubt him.
Isn't it time to stop making that mistake—to turn to God once and for all, surrendering our sin and brokenness in exchange for his life-altering love? Why don't we ask him to help us find a way to receive his love today?
PRAYING IN LIGHT OF GOD'S LOVE
If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn't love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God's secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn't love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn't love others, I would have gained nothing.
Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance....
Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love. I Corinthians 13:1-7, 13
Reflect On: 1 Corinthians 13:1-7, 13
Praise God: For showing us what love is
Offer Thanks: That the greatest of all virtues is love
Confess: Any hostility that keeps you from proclaiming the gospel with love
Ask God: To increase your love for those who disagree with you
* * *
My aunt and uncle had a cabin in northern Michigan. It was a great place to visit, especially in warm weather when we could swim or fish in the river. One summer, when I was fourteen, my uncle purchased an old wreck to drive around in the woods. I was surprised when he handed me the keys, assuring me that I—who had never been behind the wheel of a car—couldn't possibly damage it. Treating it more like a tank than a car, I gladly took the wheel. Sadly, my excursion ended when the car refused to budge after running over a large stump. I'm not much of a mechanic, but I think it may have been the universal joint.
Excerpted from PRAYING the ATTRIBUTES of GOD by Ann Spangler, Stephanie Rische. Copyright © 2013 Ann Spangler. Excerpted by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
A Crash Course on God.................... vii
Chapter 1 God Cares about You Loving.................... 1
Chapter 2 God Is Better than You Think Good.................... 21
Chapter 3 God is bigger than You Think Infinite.................... 39
Chapter 4 God is Mot Moody Unchangeable, Immutable.................... 57
Chapter 5 God is Not Weak All Powerful, Omnipotent.................... 75
Chapter 6 God is Close to Everywhere Present Everywhere, Omnipresent...... 91
Chapter 7 God is Never Surprised All Knowing, Omniscient.................. 107
Chapter 8 God is Never Frustrated Patient.................... 125
Chapter 9 God Always Knows What to Do Wise.................... 141
Chapter 10 God Has No Limits Eternal, Self-Sufficient.................... 161
Chapter 11 God Is a Lover Jealous.................... 179
Chapter 12 God Is Always Fair Just, Righteous.................... 195
Chapter 13 God Leans toward Compassion Merciful.................... 213
Chapter 14 God Never Gives Up Faithful.................... 231
Chapter 15 God Is Better than Anyone You Know Holy.................... 249
Chapter 16 God Is an Artist Creative.................... 265
Chapter 17 God Is above It All Transcendent.................... 285
About the Author.................... 307
Posted September 30, 2013
In a similar manner as her previous book, Praying the Names of God, Spangler offers Praying the Attributes of God, a look into God's character. The book is organized into daily readings discussing a variety of God's characteristics. Each chapter deals with one attribute of God; God is good, infinite, unchangeable, omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, patient, wise, self-sufficient, jealous, righteous, merciful, faithful, holy, creative, and transcendent.
I was impressed with how well Spangler described each characteristic of God and provided scriptural proof of the attribute. I loved the way each chapter was organized into daily readings. In each characteristic, there was some repetitiveness from one day to the next, but it was helpful to read the main scripture verses several times. The format was easy to use and understand. I also liked the way Spangler quoted Christian writers and preachers from the past. I always enjoy reading quotes from C.S. Lewis, and was happy to see that Spangler referenced Lewis several times.
This is definitely not a light-reading book. There is a lot of information given and it took some time for me to chew it over and really think about how each attribute of God has impacted my life. I think the amount of reading for each day is just about right and gives readers a lot to mull over as we go about our day. I wouldn't recommend trying to read more than one day per day - this is a book to be savored!
If you want to deepen your understanding of God and improve your prayer life, this is a very educational, informative book. I recommend it to anyone hungering for more knowledge of God. I also liked Spangler's stories that she shared throughout the book.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the Tyndale Blog Network in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.
1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 4, 2014
Love this devotional book! I’m so glad I was able to read it and benefit from Spangler’s great writing. I’ll definitely be looking for her previous books!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 9, 2014
This is a great devotion book. The author chooses 17 attributes, focusing on one each week. Each week includes five daily devotions that will help readers more fully understand the character of God by learning more about the attributes of God.
Of course, this book is good for personal use and study, but I also think this could be a great option for a small group Bible study or even to use with one or two accountability partners. If you are looking for a devotion book that will draw you into Scripture and help you know God better, check out this book. [4 stars]
I received a free copy of this book from Tyndale House in exchange for my fair and honest review.