The God-chaser

The Bible introduces King David as a “man after God’s own heart.” We know the guy was far from perfect so what was the element that defined him in contrast to his predecessor, Saul, or his son-successor, Solomon? Someone described David as a God-chaser. I like that. I think such a description singularly defines a person after God’s own heart—someone who relentlessly pursues God in spite of being deeply flawed and broken.

While Saul was busy building a monument to himself (1 Samuel 15:12) and Solomon was focused on loving “many foreign women” and accommodating their gods (1 Kings 11:1-6), David was chasing after God. “As a deer pants for flowing streams, so my soul pants for you, O God, for the living God.” (Psalm 42:1, 2) “O God, you are my God; early will I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my flesh longs for you in a dry and thirsty land.” (Psalm 63:11) “My soul languishes for your salvation; I wait for your word.” Psalm 119:81. “I stretch out my hands to You; my soul longs for You…” (Psalm 143:6)

David was hungry and thirsty for God; he sought after God; he had a passion for spiritual things. Though he was a sinner he was also a man of repentance who saw his sin as potentially separating from the God who was his very life. “Have mercy upon me, O God…blot out my transgressions…against you, and you only have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight…I was brought forth in iniquity…create within my a new heart…cast me not away from your presence and do not take your Holy Spirit from me.” (Psalm 51:1-11)

Yes, David was a God-chaser and rightly called a “man after God’s own heart,” because he had a deep desire for God and doing the will of God. He was a shadow of another who would come to be known as the “son of David.” The Messiah, Jesus Christ, took what David imperfectly demonstrated and manifested those qualities to perfection. He relentlessly pursued God, his Father; his food was to do the will of the One who sent him; his entire purpose in life was to glorify his Father in heaven. Interestingly, we usually define the passion of Christ as his suffering and death, but his real passion was desiring to do the will of God more than he wanted to escape his pain.

I want to be like Jesus, but David shows me that it is possible to be a God-chaser inspite of my sin. David gives me hope that, though deeply flawed, I can be a man after God’s own heart!

Why would Jesus ever want my love ?

I was reading the account of Jesus’ public reinstatement of Peter (John 21:15-18) after his three-time denial. Three times Jesus asked Peter if he loved him. Three times came the sad but earnest reply, “yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”

Gone, however, was Peter’s loud bravado and proud comparisons. When Jesus used the word for love, it was agapao (full, unconditional love). James Boice called it 100% love. However, when Peter answered Jesus, he used the word phileo, meaning the love of friendship or fond affection. Boice called this 60% love. Perhaps Peter was not so sure that his love would not fail again.

After each question and response about love, Jesus commissioned Peter to the task of feeding and caring for those who would become followers under his ministry. I learn from this that ministry to others flows out of our love for Jesus. How can we help people grow to love Jesus if we do not? As important as this lesson is, I am amazed and baffled about something else in this interchange with Peter; that Jesus would want our love in the first place.

Thomas Watson weaves these two themes of love and service together, writing:

Love makes all our services acceptable, it is the musk that perfumes them. It is not so much duty, as a loving-duty, God delights in; therefore serving and loving God are put together. Isa 56: 6. It is better to love Him than to serve Him; obedience without love, is like wine without the spirits. O then, be persuaded to love God with all your heart and might.

It is nothing but your love that God desires. The Lord might have demanded your children to be offered in sacrifice; he might have bid you cut and lance yourselves, or lie in hell awhile; but he only desires your love, he would only have this flower. Is it a hard request, to love God? Was ever any debt easier paid than this? Is it any labour for the wife to love her husband? Love is delightful. Love must by definition be sweet — Bernard. What is there in our love that God should desire it? Why should a king desire the love of a woman that is in debt and diseased? God does not need our love. There are angels enough in heaven to adore and love Him. What is God the better for our love? It adds not the least cubit to His essential blessedness. He does not need our love, and yet He seeks it. Why does He desire us to give Him our heart? Pr 23:26. Not that He needs our heart, but that He may make it better…

Our love to God is a sign of His love to us. We love him because he first loved us.’ 1John 4: 19. By nature we have no love to God; we have hearts of stone. Ezek 36: 26. And how can any love be in hearts of stone? Our loving Him is from his loving us. If the glass burn, it is because the sun has shone on it; so if our hearts burn in love, it is a sign the Sun of Righteousness has shone upon us. (Thomas Watson – The Ten Commandments 2. Introduction Love)

Jesus took a repentant Peter and accepted the love he had to offer—then put him to work. And as Peter continued to live for Jesus, his love grew to 100%. We know that because many years later he was able to die for Jesus and not deny him. We don’t know the circumstances surrounding his death. Tradition says that he was crucified in Rome under Emperor Nero, and that he asked to be crucified upside down because he was not worthy to die in the same manner as Jesus. Apocryphal? Perhaps . . . but it sounds like something 100% love would do.

Jesus says to you, “Do you love me”? What is your response?

Good Friday Sorrow…Too Much to Bear

I just experienced a wonderfully profound time of worship and prayer with my Wheaton College graduate community. Our Chapel program presented an interactive time of contemplation on the sufferings of Christ leading up to and including his painful crucifixion. It was held in the Billy Graham Center Museum and featured several venues for such meditation and prayer.

It was utterly beautiful and moving, yet it amazed me how hard it was to grasp such things. The physical, emotional, relational, and spiritual sufferings of Jesus were (and are) simply unfathomable to me. I tried to make myself more sad, but I could not; more horrified, but it didn’t work. I even thought of my own brokenness and pain, but even that had a basement floor I couldn’t dig through to the sufferings of Christ.

I often experience a similar limitation in a powerful moment of worship. It might be an overwhelming sense of God’s glory conveyed through the Word or song, but it passes through so quickly. It seems that I have not been made for too much pain or too much glory. Perhaps it is partly my personality and partly my finite inability to process the numinous, but I expect that to a certain extent you can also identify with this. Why can’t I feel these things more deeply!

However, the thing I do grasp (even though it is just as unfathomable) is the love that God revealed to me in Jesus Christ. It is because my heart responds to such love like dry ground to a spring rain. And there blossoms within me an awe for Him, as well as a desire to be generous and to help alleviate the sufferings of others. The Love of God! How do we articulate it? It is beyond words and can only be received and given out. But one hymn writer did try to describe it like this:

Could we with ink the ocean fill and were the sky of parchment made; Were every stalk on earth a quill and every man a scribe by trade. To write the love of God above would drain the ocean dry; nor could the scroll contain the whole, though stretched from sky to sky. The love of God, how rich and pure; how measureless and strong…

On this Good Friday as you contemplate the sufferings and death of Jesus Christ on behalf of your sin, do not whip yourself with guilt if you do not feel the depth of His pain. It was unfathomable.  Instead, stand amazed in the presence of Jesus the Nazarene, and wonder how he could love (you), a sinner condemned, unclean. How Marvelous, How Wonderful!

 

 

 

Love Letters to Everybody and to No One

love letterHave you ever written an anonymous note or letter to someone who you wanted to encourage or criticize without them knowing who you were? As a pastor I get them all the time; “suggestions” for how to do church better or how to improve on my preaching. On a more romantic note, when I was in the sixth grade I used to write anonymous notes to girls that I liked and would place them in their desks during recess.  “Dere Betty, I think yur cute. Have a nice day. Yur secret admireror.” I loved to watch them smile as they read the notes and looked around trying to guess who their Prince Charming was. Times have changed… now we have a national movement that encourages the writing of love letters that are truly anonymous; the writer doesn’t know the recipient who, in turn, has no idea who the writer is. Yep— the object loved does not know the lover, and the LOVER DOES NOT KNOW THE OBJECT LOVED. Continue reading “Love Letters to Everybody and to No One”