Saturday, April 30, 2016

The Attributes Of God: His Goodness

As I approached, camera in hand, to capture the beauty before me, I was overwhelmed with the fragrance of the white blossoms; announcing the arrival of spring, a fragrance most sweet; intoxicating. I love the arrival of spring, new life after a long season of cold and seemingly dead creation surrounding me. Isn’t that how the kingdom works? When we think something is damaged or dead, it turns out God is working behind the scene to fulfill His purpose?

The trees of the Lord drink their fill, the cedars of Lebanon which He planted, where the birds build their nests, and the stork, whose home is the fir trees (Ps. 104:16-17 NASB).

Creation is amazing. I love nature. I look at the world around me, and see the goodness of God.  I see His hand in the beautiful pink and white blossoms of the crabapple trees. I see His goodness even in the snow storm that killed the very blossoms I cherished—their fragrance snuffed outfor a time. Because I see His goodness in the way all of life bounces back from the wet, heavy, and cold snow. There is purpose in every season.

Psalm 104 is a beautiful song raised to God for His goodness in creation.  The angels cry out that the whole earth is full of His glory (see Is. 6:2-3).

The Hebrew word for “good” is towb. This word does not mean ‘good job’ or ‘I had a good time.’ Towb carries with it the sense of being beautiful. As we contemplate the wonders of His creation, and as He did call it good, it carries with it the connotation of being beautiful.

A.W. Pink eloquently explains in his Nature Of God, “All that emanates from GodHis decrees, His creation, His laws, His providencescannot be otherwise than good; as it is written, “And God saw everything that He made, and, behold, it was very good (Gen. 1:31).”[1] Thus the goodness of God can be seen first in creation. Creation is indeed good. It is indeed beautiful.

You alone are the Lord. You have made the heavens, The heaven of heavens with all their host, The earth and all that is on it, The seas and all that is in them. You give life to all of them And the heavenly host bows down before You (Neh. 5:6 NASB).

I love the diversity in creation..

The diversity of God’s creativity is not only displayed in the variety of bees, but in the blossoms as well. Some are white. Some are pink, some deep ruby red.  When the blossoms come to fruition, some will be leaves, some will be fruit, but they are each a part of the tree. We have to wait for the fruit to appear. They may look the same at present, but each blossom is unique and serves a purpose for the tree.

God’s good creation is illustrated most beautifully in man whom He formed from the dust, and breathed into him His life-giving and life-sustaining breath. We are His image-bearers the imago dei. God created us all in His image, yet we are all unique and have a distinctive purpose in God’s plan. Consider with me the intricacies of the human body:

 “The bodythe face, the features, the coloringcontains marks that identify us as individuals. These marks arise from our DNA and make us recognizable to the naked eye. But they provide more than a point of recognition for the sake of others; they are God’s imprint on each of us. These few features have seemingly infinite possibilities when rearranged in different shapes and sizes.”[2]

How can one dare say that God is not good? His goodness is displayed in His Mercy on His imago dei, the very ones that have forsaken Him, despised and rejected Him. The very image bearers that offer false incense at the altars of the false gods of secular-humanism, evolution, and the like. How can the clay question the potterwho are you, O man, who answers back to God? (see Is. 45: 9-11 and Rom. 9: 19-26).

It is comforting to know that God is good. In a world where there is so much evil, and many tragedies are witnessed, it is hard to imagine anything good; but God is good.

God’s goodness however, is not just in deed and actionit is His very essence. All the goodness there is in any creature has been imparted from the Creator, but His goodness is underived. For it is the essence of His eternal nature.

The lovingkindness of God endures all day long. Why do you boast in evil, O mighty man? (Ps. 52: 1 NASB).

God is good. He is the summum bonum, the highest good. The goodness of God refers to the perfection of His nature. It means that God is the final standard of good, and that all God is and does is worthy of approval.

No one but God is good (Luke 18:19 NASB).

His nature is so perfect there is nothing lacking or defective. Nothing can be added to Him to make Him better. He will never be more good than He is now. He will never be less good than He is now. God is immutableHe cannot change. He will not changeeven for the betterthere are no degrees of “better” in regards to His nature, because He is the summa bonum He is the very best good. He is the highest good.

Praise the Lord! Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; For His lovingkindness is everlasting. Who can speak of the mighty deeds of the Lord, Or can show forth all His praise? How blessed are those who keep justice, Who practice righteousness at all times!  (Ps. 106: 1-3 NASB).

Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, For His lovingkindness is everlasting. Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, Whom He has redeemed from the hand of the adversary (Ps. 107: 1-2).

For the Lord God is a sun and shield; The Lord gives grace and glory; No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly (Ps 84:11 NASB).  

His love is displayed in His goodness:

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him! (Matt. 7: 7-11 NASB).

His goodness is revealed in His mercy, patience and graceHis goodness He pours out on humanity, “God’s mercy is his goodness toward those in distress, his grace is his goodness toward those who deserve only punishment, and his patience is his goodness toward those who continue to sin over a period of time.”[3]

The Goodness of God appeared most illustriously when He sent Jesus Christ to us,

To redeem them that were under the law that we might receive the adoptions of sons (Gal. 4:45 NASB).

“Christ walked with men on earth that He might show them what God is like and make known the true nature of God to a race that had wrong ideas about Him. This was only one of the things He did while here in the flesh, but this He did with beautiful perfection.”[4]

In the face of evil, it is hard to see good; remember the words of Sam to Frodo, when he felt hopeless and in despair of the times;

Sam: It's like in the great stories Mr. Frodo, the ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were, and sometimes you didn't want to know the end because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end it's only a passing thing this shadow, even darkness must pass. A new day will come, and when the sun shines it'll shine out the clearer. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (New Line Cinema, 2002). 
We have a greater assurance than Sam and Frodo; the goodness of God is at the heart of every believer’s trust. The evil we face is not just some shadow, it is a real evil that Christ Jesus has defeated. Christ is coming, and He will wipe out all the wickedness from the earth. It is the excellency in God which grabs hold of our hearts, because His goodness endures forever, we need never to be discouraged:

The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble, And He knows those who take refuge in Him. Nahum 1:7

The presence of evil in the world does not negate that God is good. Nor is it reasonable to question God’s existence in light of evil:

“When you say there's too much evil in this world you assume there's good. When you assume there's good, you assume there's such a thing as a moral law on the basis of which to differentiate between good and evil. But if you assume a moral law, you must posit a moral Law Giver, but that's Who you're trying to disprove and not prove. Because if there's no moral Law Giver, there's no moral law. If there's no moral law, there's no good. If there's no good, there's no evil.” ~ Ravi Zacharias

Just because there is evil in the word, does not mean that God is not good. It is not the absence of God that evil proves, rather it is the expression of our sin and fallennessour evil choices. But even to the worst of sinners, God’s Mercy is reaching out offering redemption.  

“Nor can the benevolence of God be justly called into question because there is suffering and sorrow in the world. If man sins against the goodness of God, if he despises ‘the riches of His goodness and forbearance, and longsuffering,’ and after the hardness and impenitency of his heart treasurest up unto himself wrath against the day of wrath (Rom. 2: 4-5), who is to blame but himself? Would God be good if He punished not those who ill-use His blessings, abuse His benevolence, and trample His mercies beneath their feet?”[5]

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age (Titus 2: 11-12 NASB).

“To allow that God could be other than good is to deny the validity of all thought and end in the negation of every moral judgment. If God is not good, then there can be no distinction between kindness and cruelty.”[6]

The goodness of God. God is the Creator of the world, and is its Source and Sustainer. Goodness has its source in God. Those who know and love God, understand that all goodness comes from God. We do not believe that God loves us because we are good, but because He is good.

“Since evil must ‘use’ good in order even to exist, it is appropriate that good, being superior, should be able to return the favor. But good does not ultimately ‘use’ evil by manipulating it, but rather by absorbing it through sacrifice. There is a price to be paid for good to overcome evil; and God, precisely because He is good, is willing to pay it.”[7]

So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men. For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous. The Law came in so that the transgression would increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, even so grace would reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord (Rom. 5: 18-21NASB Emphasis mine).

This is the goodness of Godthat He loves us, and though we are fallenoffers redemption through the loving sacrifice of His Son. So beautiful. So Good. 

Taste and see that the Lord is good. Ps. 34:8

My scribbling....

[1] Ravi Zacharias, The Grand Weaver: How God Shapes Us Through The Events Of Our Lives (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2007), 24.
[2] A.W. Pink, The Nature Of God (Chicago: Moody Press., 1999), 70.
[3] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 199.
[4] A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge Of The Holy (New York: HarperOne, 1961), 84.
[5] Arthur W. Pink, The Attributes Of God (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1975), 59.
[6] Tozer, 82.
[7] Donald T. Williams, Reflections From Plato’s Cave: Essays In Evangelical Philosophy ( Lynchburg: Lantern Hollow Press., 2012), 142.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The Psalms, Eugene Peterson, and Bono

I wanted to take a moment and post a quick mention of this video; I have been waiting for it to be released for a while now! Eugene Peterson is one of my favorite authors. You will find quotes of his writing here often. Though he is widely known for his translation of the Bible The Message, his other writings have influenced my life and writing in a special way. I love his poetic writing, coupled with theology; it grabs hold of my heart in magnificent ways. The introductions to each book of the Bible in The Message are profound, and bring life to the Bible’s authors in a way I have never read before. I love his writing, and I pray that I can write like him one day. This video discussion with Bono on the Bible, and honesty in Christian art is worth the twenty minutes of your time. I pray that it will inspire you to read the Psalms, and the rest of the Bible through new eyes, and to think differently about Christianity and the arts.

If you have never read his other books, consider yourself deficient. You must read them; you will never read the Bible the same way again. I have not read them all, but I promise they are all on my wish list on Amazon!

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

The Parable Of The Ten Virgins: In Such An Hour As You Think Not Part I

Then the kingdom of heaven will be comparable to ten virgins, who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were prudent. For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, but the prudent took oil in flasks along with their lamps. Now while the bridegroom was delaying, they all got drowsy and began to sleep. But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps.  The foolish said to the prudent, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’  But the prudent answered, ‘No, there will not be enough for us and you too; go instead to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.’ And while they were going away to make the purchase, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding feast; and the door was shut.  Later the other virgins also came, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open up for us.’ But he answered, ‘Truly I say to you, I do not know you.’ Be on the alert then, for you do not know the day nor the hour. Matthew 25: 1-13

Waiting. Waiting is hard. God does not always come quickly or according to our timing. I am constantly looking out for the kairos—the divine interruption of my mundane chronos. The Lord uses these waiting times to prepare and equip us for His bidding. Waiting is painful. Preparation is tedious and boring. Equipping is very frustrating. But if we submit to the process it will be far easier than fighting it.   

These ten women are awaiting the coming of the bridegroom; the Second Coming of Christ. We too, are awaiting the Bridegroom. We await His second advent, and we await His promises to be brought to fruition in our lives in the here and now. This waiting, this tedious, frustrating, hard waiting is preparing us to meet Him. It is a time to let Him search our hearts and to make us ready. Are we prepared to meet Him? If He came tomorrow, would your lamp be filled with oil? The wicks trimmed? We wait and wait, but are we really ready to meet Him? Do we wash ourselves in the water of the Word (see Eph. 5:26)? Do we pray without ceasing (see 1 Thess. 5:16-18)? Do we fast? (Matt. 6:16) Do we seek Him above all else? (Matt. 6:33) Do we have a sufficient supply of oil so our lamps will not burn out?  Will we be counted with the five wise or the five unwise?
The five unwise are obviously an example of ill-preparedness, but they did a few things right. First, they were all virgins which represents holiness. The wise and unwise alike went out to await the arrival of the bridegroom; they are all waiting for Christ. All of them were invited to the wedding; they all received salvation.  What did the five do to be counted as unwiseTheir lamps were filled with oil, they were ready, just as the five wise women. The lamps represent the Word of God.

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. Ps. 119:105

Though these five unwise had the Word, that is all they brought, and it was not enough.

Now while the bridegroom was delaying, they all got drowsy and began to sleep. But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. Matt 25: 5-7

Trimming the wicks on the lamp was important. Let’s revisit the tabernacle of Moses to understand the importance.

God commanded Moses to instruct Aaron to tend the lamps twice every day—once in the morning and once in the evening. Jesus uses the language of trimming the wicks, because the hearers would be familiar with the function of the priest tending the lamps. First, the high priest trimmed off the burned pat of the wick. If the flame is too big it creates too much smoke. Unfortunately, a lot of Christians are more a puff of smoke than a brightly burning light to lead others to Christ. There is no real warmth or power in his or her life. There is also nothing that would attract others to them; the overabundance of smoke chokes people and they can’t see the flame for all the smoke. Unless the wicks are trimmed properly, not only will there be an abundance of smoke, but improper light as well. God wants a pure light and a faithful witness to go forth.

 The trimming of the lamp speaks to Jesus our High Priest cutting off the burned part in our lives. He cuts away the sin that keeps us from Him—which happens while we are waiting for Him. Jesus desires to reveal that which needs to be removed from our lives; He has burned off those dead works and He wants to fill us with oil.

All ten women trimmed their wicks. This represents the salvation experience, and a desire to live for God.  The Lord is calling us to draw near to Him. He does not want a religious church. He wants a people who love Him and know Him. He wants to know you in a deep intimate way. He wants us to seek His face. The five wise virgins not only filled their lamps with oil to make it through one night, they brought extra for the journey.  

 Let’s take a look at the oil.  The five unwise filled their lamps but did not bring any extra oil with them. The other five were counted as wise for filling their lamps and bringing extra vessels of oil with them. What does this oil represent?  Oil in the Bible is the symbol of the Holy Spirit. Olive oil is mentioned over two hundred times in the Bible. Oil was used for lamps, it was also used as a medicinal agent for healing, anointing kings and priests, in the prayer of faith (James 5:13-16), and when miracles were wrought as in Mark 6:13.

The Israelites were to bring an offering of beaten olive oil for the light so that it would burn continually and not go out. As we read in Leviticus 24:2 the children of Israel were commanded to bring the oil for the lampstand. The people were to bring the oil in order for the lamp to burn continually.  Aaron was to trim the wicks and tend the lamps twice a day. He would trim the wicks by pruning away the burnt part of the wick and filling the lamps with oil.  But the people were commanded to bring the oil for the lamp. To keep our lamps burning, we need a filling of the Holy Spirit every day.  When the Tabernacle was dedicated, all the furniture was placed in order just as the Lord had shown Moses on the Mount. When the Tabernacle was dedicated, the Lord sent fire out of heaven and lit the Brazen Altar by divine fire. Though God lit the initial fire, the people were responsible to keep it burning. They were commanded to bring wood everyday so the priests could keep the altar fire going continuously. The fire from the altar was used to light the lampstand during the dedication. God draws us to salvation. He lights the initial fire in us. But it is up to us to keep the fire going. Many times we get caught up in doing works for God, and serving His house that we forget all about seeking Him. We can’t hear His voice if we’re not listening.    

To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: The One who holds the seven stars in His right hand, the One who walks among the seven golden lampstands, says this: ‘I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false; and you have perseverance and have endured for My name’s sake, and have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Therefore, remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place—unless you repent. Revelation 2: 1-5

The church in Ephesus was doing all the right things. The things that could hinder the church from being a light, were not allowed a foothold, and Jesus admired them for their discernment. They believed in Jesus, they remained true to the foundations of truth; they tried those who claimed to be true prophets and apostles and found them to be false. They trimmed their wicks.  So what was Jesus rebuking them for? He said they had lost their first love.  They were so caught up in doing the work of the Lord; they forgot to maintain their relationship with Him. Jesus came to be a personal Savior to each one of us. He wants to walk with us like He walked with Enoch. He wants to walk with us like He walked with Adam before the fall.  We can get so entangled with “works” instead of relationship. Holiness becomes an outward appearance instead of an inward heart issue.  Jesus felt so strong about their condition He admonished them to repent or He would snuff their light out!  They needed to repent and go back to their first love. All the good works they were doing could not replace the relationship they were neglecting with the Lord. 

The five unwise filled their lamps with the oil, but that was the depth of their relationship with the Lord.  They believed one lamp full of oil was enough. Their knowledge of Him and their relationship with the Lord did not grow. To keep our lamps burning, we need to fill it with oil every day, trim the wicks, and fill our oil pots. The Lord was purposeful in commanded Aaron to tend the lamps twice every day to paint a picture for us to not neglect our relationship with the Lord.  The oil they brought could not carry them until the arrival of the bridegroom. The five unwise only brought their initial experience with God to get them through. But the Lord is seeking intimacy with us. He wants an ongoing relationship. 

The foolish said to the prudent, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’  But the prudent answered, ‘No, there will not be enough for us and you too; go instead to the dealers and buy some for yourselves. Matthew 25: 8-9.

There comes a time when we can no longer rely on other’s experiences and other’s faith. We have to know God for ourselves and see Him move on our behalf. We cannot get into heaven on another’s relationship. We are going to have to have our own relationship with Him.

Ho! Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; And you who have no money come, buy and eat. Come, buy wine and milk Without money and without cost. Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, And delight yourself in abundance. Isaiah 55:1-2

In this verse Jesus is inviting us to come and buy directly from Him. We can have what He has freely offered without price, because He paid the price for us.  

This is what the five wise were saying, It is too late to buy any—though you can try. But you can’t last on my oil.  My oil won’t get you into the wedding. The five were wise because they knew this.  There was not enough for them and everyone else. If you are not prepared, there’s one to blame but yourself.  This may seem selfish of behalf of the wise, but they paid their price. There was nothing they could do for the other five. They came prepared and they had their oil.  Often there are those who want what others have, but they don’t want the preparation time, or to wait. They don’t want to buy their own oil— it is too much work. They want the prize not the price.

Notes From A Bibliophile

Because I love books so much, I want you to love books too! There are so many classics that are left behind collecting dust. They are treasures and gems. There needs to be a revival of some of these old classics, full of doctrine and orthodoxy.

I found a few available for free on Kindle (at the time of posting). I pray you download a few to your Kindle and enjoy with a warm cup of tea (or coffee if you prefer).

“You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.” C.S. Lewis