Machu Picchu, Peru Photographer: Allard Schmidt (The Netherlands)
If you have spent any amount of time in a healthy Protestant Christian church you have probably heard that God loves you. It is probably one of the more fundamental things you have heard in the church. This message you have heard is with good reason because it is indeed a central tenet of the Christian faith and is integral to God’s character. The God of the Bible doesn’t only state He loves people, shows He loves people, but He declares He is love itself. (1 John 4:8)
God’s goodness and love is supposed to be Christianity 101. Yet despite all of this I have noticed over the years I have had at times serious doubts about God’s character. At different points in time I have tried to figure out the root of my doubts, and I believe the reasons vary and are not always simplistic. My doubts don’t come out of nowhere, they come from tough questions, they come from personal experiences, they come from difficult passages in the Bible, and evil things I have read in history. Have you ever had doubts about God’s character, His ways, His love, His goodness, or even His existence? My guess is that if you have been a Christian long enough you probably have to some degree. Your are not alone even heroes of the faith throughout history have voiced similar doubts at times, yet remained faithful to God. John Wesley never quite overcame profound self-doubt. At age 63, he wrote to his brother “I do not love God. I never did. Therefore I never believed, in the Christian sense of the word. Therefore I am only an honest heathen…and yet, to be so employed of God.* John wesley preached over 40,000 sermons in his life, created over 5,000 different written works, and most amazingly rode on horse back over 250,000 miles around the world preaching the gospel (a distance equal to ten circuits of the globe along the equator).**
The goal of the next 30 devotions is to hopefully help you through some of these doubts. I want your faith to be strengthened and I want you to be reminded again about how good God is. This is important because the way we see God deeply matters to God. How can we serve God, say He is good, but then not really believe it? It would be only lip service. It wouldn’t be authentic love or worship. God desires affectionate and authentic worship from His people. Authenticity and affectionate love won’t come if you believe God is not worthy of it.
In the Book of Revelation Jesus addresses seven of the early churches about their spiritual state. Jesus tells the church in Ephesus: “‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.”
The big idea here is that the church of Ephesus from all accounts probably looked like a healthy church filled with good works. The problem however was deeper in that they had lost their fervent affectionate love for God. Their works were hollow to God. Jesus died on the cross for our sins with a passionate and sacrificial love. God is looking for worshipers who are passionate for Him.
My hope is that the next 30 devotionals can be one more tool, to spur your love for God on a deeper level. This following devotionals were written over a fifteen year period from sermon notes, blogs, and books that I have felt have help drive home points that have been helpful for me. The truth these journals are more written for me, than for you. I write to wrestle with concepts. I write because I enjoy it, it gives me life. I write, because it helps me remember the God whom I serve and love.
You may find my writing style a little different. Some of the writings may include what seems to be excessive bullet points, it is here I am hoping to drive home points on issues and avoid the trap of simplifying issues that are not simple. Over the next 30 devotionals you may find it helpful here to write down what things God is doing in your life. The people of Israel throughout different stages in history set up stones as altars for physical reminders of God’s faithfulness. Phylacteries have been worn by Jews throughout history to remember God’s words. These were boxes containing slips inscribed with scriptures worn on the arm and head. Literally everywhere they went they would see physical reminders of God’s word. Perhaps, journaling can be a tool for you to write down and remember who God is and all He has done for you.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Wesley ^ Eerdmans 2003, p. 168.; Letter to His Brother on 27 June 1766; cp. Journal, 14 October 1738; 4 January 1739**
Doubting book by Allistair Mcgrath
*Christianity today article “John Wesley: Did you know?”, 1983.