God’s Heart is Love

by Eleanor Gustafson

We talked on Monday about fearing God and that it’s not just an Old Testament thing. The New Testament gives us the classic example of Ananias and Sapphira and their little white lie. Believers were selling property and giving the proceeds to the Apostles to distribute as needed. Ananias and Sapphira sold some property but fudged on how much they had received. They wanted to look good. Had they said they were keeping part for themselves, who would have objected? Just don’t lie. Peter asked, “Did you sell you land for x number of dollars?” “Oh, yes!” Dead.

Fear indeed, but we need to see God in his full dimensions, not just the parts that make us feel good. However, the essence of God is love. The doctrine of the Trinity makes sense only in this understanding of love. One person cannot love in a vacuum; love requires at least two persons. Long before the universe and all its inhabitants existed, the triune God was giving and receiving love. God IS love, and that’s our bottom line.

But the other important God dimension is his holiness. Less comfortable but necessary for us to be able to understand who he is. A holy God cannot tolerate sin—BAM! You’re dead. A loving God provided atonement for our sin and receives us back to his loving home. Jesus—God himself—made the way. He IS the way.

Even in the context of sin, God shows his love. We see this in Psalm 51, David’s confession of his affair with Bathsheba:

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love… Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight… You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it… My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

Keep in mind that even though David was guilty of both of adultery and murder, God called him a man after his own heart.

As we learned from Narnia, God is not a tame lion. He’s not safe, but he’s good.

The novel I’m currently writing lines out the concept of a spiritual True North, versus Magnetic North. Without going into the science of those terms, we can say that Magnetic North can lead us astray spiritually, whereas True North keeps our heart compass tight to God, no matter the circumstances. We are a grand mix of sin and devotion, but moment by moment, we look to the love of God to pull us out of the mire and into his presence.

One of my favorite quotes is by Mike Yaconelli in The Wittenburg Door, issue #131:

I would like to suggest that the Church become a place of terror again; a place where God continually has to tell us, ‘Fear not’; a place where our relationship with God is not a simple belief or a doctrine or theology, it is God’s burning presence in our lives. I am suggesting that the tame God of relevance be replaced by the God whose very presence shatters our egos into dust, burns our sin into ashes, and strips us naked to reveal the real person within. The Church needs to become a gloriously dangerous place where nothing is safe in God’s presence except us. Nothing—including our plans, our agendas, our priorities, our politics, our money, our security, our comfort, our possessions, our needs.

Fear God, yes, but know that you are much loved by this holy God.


Eleanor K. Gustafson (aka Ellie) began thinking up stories when she was five or six years old. When she started to read, God grabbed her with—yes—a story that had an invitation at the end, and she was hooked for life. But after reading her early attempts at writing, friends and even her mother told her straight out to stick to music as a career. She pushed manfully along, however, and began publishing both fiction and nonfiction in 1978.

The Stones: A Novel of the Life of King David is her fourth novel and builds off the biblical account of David, bringing the characters and dramatic elements to life and full color. A graduate of Wheaton College in Illinois, she has been actively involved in church life as a minister’s wife, teacher, musician, writer, and encourager. Additional experiences—riding horses, gardening, house construction, tree farming, and parenting—help bring color and humor to her fiction. One of her major writing goals has been to make scriptural principles understandable and relevant for today’s readers through the undeniable power of story.

Website – http://www.eleanorgustafson.com

Amazon reviews – http://www.amazon.com/The-Stones-Eleanor-Gustafson/dp/1603740791/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1342304125&sr=8-1&keywords=gustafson+stones

Book Recommendation: The Stones: A Novel of the Life of King David by Eleanor Gustafson

Back cover blurb:

With comprehensive detail and flowing prose, Eleanor Gustafson crafts the retelling of King David s life from his teenaged anointing to his death as seen through the eyes of Asaph, a Levite historian. Fictional in scope, yet with amazing scriptural accuracy, The Stones provides a revealing, behind-the-scenes glimpse into biblical history with all the twists, turns, thrills, and romance of the world s great drama.

You will be there as:
A young teen collects stones to take on a giant.
A prideful rebel takes count of his fighting men.
A fallible leader succumbs to lust, temptation, and deceit.
A poet and musician grows closer to God through prayer and worship.
A man after God s heart discovers the unfailing love and forgiveness of his Creator.

The Stones is an epic adventure of man s innate need to worship God and rely on Him for strength and how badly things can go when he fails to do so.

Narelle: I really enjoyed reading The Stones. The fictionalised story of King David’s life provided a fascinating insight into a famous Biblical character that could be equally enjoyed by male and female readers.

We gain an insight into what made David tick, including his close walk with the Lord and the very public consequences of his sin. We discover a man who had a difficult relationship with King Saul before receiving a kingship and multiple blessings from the Lord. Yet David was human like the rest of us and we witness his struggles to remain obedient to God in all areas of his life.

The story follows the events in 1 and 2 Samuel. I liked learning more about the lives of the people who were close to David, especially his wife Abigail and David’s commander in chief, Joab. Joab was a fascinating and complex character, and the narration provided by Asaph added an authentic flavour to the story.

The battle scenes were realistic and we are given a birds eye view of the mighty warrior men and the people who surrounded David, both friends and foe. We learn about David’s complex relationships with his many wives and children, and how his deceit with Bathsheba led to dire consequences. I highly recommend this book to those looking for a fast paced and action packed Biblical fiction story about one of the greatest men in Israel’s history.

buy the book from The Book Depository, free delivery

Read a FREE sample at Amazon.com

Our Holy, Fearsome God

by Eleanor Gustafson

King David is one of the most fascinating characters in the Bible. A man of multiple personnas—shepherd, musician, warrior, lover of God, king, ladies’ man—he gallops through the entire Bible with startling relevance for us today.

David was a mighty warrior who fought only in the name of and for the honor of God. He freed the nation from its enemies, completing the task begun by Moses and Joshua, and also drew tribal factions together—an even more daunting task. In my book (The Stones: A Novel of the Life of King David), I tried to portray David as the first national leader who truly understood Israel’s holy destiny. The nation of Israel, her land flowing with milk and honey, finally began to look and act like the treasured possession God had promised through Abraham and redeemed from Egypt. And, of course, David was the shepherd/king archetype of Jesus, the true Son of David.

Any discussion of the David story must include a number of sticky issues—David the sinner, David the man of blood—in some cases obeying God’s command to wipe out entire populations, including infants and livestock.

And both of those point up yet another issue—the fear of God that put David flat on his face on a number of occasions. We generally don’t like the concept of fearing God. Too Old Testament, we say, so we “translate” fear into reverence or awe, more in keeping with the New Testament’s God of love, grace and mercy. David, though, knew raw fear—when Uzzah touched the ark and was struck dead, when Nathan nailed David over his sin with Bathsheba, and when he saw the angel of death after numbering the fighting men.

Let’s look more closely at Uzzah. Years earlier, the Philistines had captured the ark but found it too hot to handle and sent it back to the Israelites. For 70 years it remained in the care of a Levite family until David decided to give it a permanent home in Jerusalem. An excerpt from my book shows the deadly implications of having that holy Presence in their midst.

…………

David circulated among the musicians, leading the singing and shouting. Then, at the height of land . . . an ox stumbled. No obstacle, no unevenness. A misstep, perhaps. The hand of God, perhaps. Whatever, the cart lurched, and without thinking, Uzzah put out his hand to steady the ark.

From all reports, he seemed to swell and then deflate as though he had popped, as though his body tried but could not contain such a strong infusion of life.

David’s face went deathly white. Then dragging a wheezing, constricted breath from deep within, he howled against this outbreak against Uzzah.

It seemed clear in retrospect what went wrong. Uzzah obviously did not think carefully about what he was doing. He had grown up around this object. When the ox stumbled, he reached out to steady it. A reflexive act. His last act.

The ark of God, the holy God; the ark called by the Name, the name of the Lord Almighty; the ark of the Presence that can kill… (2 Samuel 6:2, not verbatim)

…………

Striking people dead puts God in a bad light that we on this side of the cross find uncomfortable, if not dismaying. But even in the New Testament, we find a clear example of fear in the story of Ananias and Sapphira. Stay tuned for our continued discussion (on Wednesday), along with the other side of the coin.

Eleanor K. Gustafson (aka Ellie) began thinking up stories when she was five or six years old. When she started to read, God grabbed her with—yes—a story that had an invitation at the end, and she was hooked for life. But after reading her early attempts at writing, friends and even her mother told her straight out to stick to music as a career. She pushed manfully along, however, and began publishing both fiction and nonfiction in 1978.

The Stones: A Novel of the Life of King David is her fourth novel and builds off the biblical account of David, bringing the characters and dramatic elements to life and full color. A graduate of Wheaton College in Illinois, she has been actively involved in church life as a minister’s wife, teacher, musician, writer, and encourager. Additional experiences—riding horses, gardening, house construction, tree farming, and parenting—help bring color and humor to her fiction. One of her major writing goals has been to make scriptural principles understandable and relevant for today’s readers through the undeniable power of story.

Website – http://www.eleanorgustafson.com

Amazon reviews – http://www.amazon.com/The-Stones-Eleanor-Gustafson/dp/1603740791/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1342304125&sr=8-1&keywords=gustafson+stones