Christianity 201

October 6, 2019

God: What He Did was Who He Is

In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. – Hebrews 1:1-2 (NIV)

In my formative spiritual years, I remember hearing this:

We worship God for who he is.
We praise God for what he has done.

For some, the distinction may not be entirely clear as when we substitute the word thank as in:

We worship God for who he is.
We thank God for what he has done.

I was taught this in what we might call, for lack of a better term, an ecclesiastical setting; in other words, the intent of the speaker(s) was to communicate the difference between simply saying “thanks” versus bowing our hearts in total adoration for who God is; his power, might, majesty and… wait for it… his merciful love.

I get that.

But I think it also needs to be said that, long before the foundations of the earth were laid, it was part of God’s plan all along to make a way of atonement.

God didn’t simply wake up one morning (!) and say, “This sacrificial system isn’t working, we need to try something else.”

The broad story arc of the Bible points to the coming of a Savior. He didn’t simply know that this is where the story was going to lead, rather he had planned out that the opportunity for humankind to experience forgiveness that was both full and free was the direction of the story — the plot line — from the beginning. Dispensationalists call this “the age of grace.” I would call it the “age of atonement.” We went from having to cover our sins to having our sins be covered.

And here is my point:

This whole plan is a reflection not only of what God did — though it is certainly that — but also indicative of who God is.

His actions and his act of mercy toward we who are sinners are indistinguishable from his nature.

He is a God of love.

He is a God of mercy.

He always has been.

The LORD passed in front of Moses, calling out, “Yahweh! The LORD! The God of compassion and mercy! I am slow to anger and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.  Exodus 34:6-7a (NLT)

When we consider God’s nature, we often end up at the big O-words — omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent — and can forget he is loving and merciful and in his ways that are far above our ways has devised a plan none of us could ever imagine.

For that we offer thanks; we offer worship; we offer ourselves.


Here are some thoughts on thanks from Ruth’s worship set this morning:

 

November 12, 2013

Balanced Praying

Romans 8:26a In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should…  (NASB)

Luke 11:1 One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray…” (NIV)

 

Sunday’s piece on treating prayer like it was the same as placing a fast-food order, ended up being Tuesday morning’s piece at Thinking Out Loud. Sometimes in the quest to find pictures to accompany articles, I discover all sorts of other things from sources that end up getting used here.

This one is all about a smart phone app. However, it contained with it so many implications about what we were discussing that I decided to use it here, which also meant ‘borrowing’ the pictures that came with it. The article is titled Praying Scripture and at the end I’ll give the link for the app. Take some time to study the various elements in the graphics.



Two years ago, I began the development of Prayer Prompter. My original concept for a prayer app was to have two separate sections, one for Scripture passages organized by topic and the other one for prayer requests. The first mockup looked like this.
Prayer Prompter 1

Later, I changed the name of the top section to “God Speaks to Me…” which was the shortened form of “God speaks to me through His Word”. I wanted to encourage users to “hear from God” by reading passages of Scripture, thinking about them and using them as the basis for prayer.

Prayer Prompter 3

The first few folders in the top section follow the “ACTS” prayer method; Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving and Supplication. ACTS has part of my prayer life as long as I can remember. It helps me to pray in an orderly and logical fashion.

Recently, I started wondering where the ACTS prayer method originated but I couldn’t find anything, at least, not until I heard about a book published in 1710 by Puritan pastor Matthew Henry, called “A Method for Prayer”. His method can be summarized as follows:

1 – “Address to God and Adoration of Him”
2 – “Confession of Sin and Declaration of Repentance”
3 – “Petition and Supplication” (for oneself)
4 – “Thanksgiving for the Mercies of God”
5 – “Intercession and Supplication to God for others”
6 – “Conclusion of our Prayers”

Do you see the ACTS pattern in his “method”? I do. The only difference is that “supplication” is broken into two parts, praying for oneself and praying for others. So, I conclude that the ACTS method for organizing prayer is more than 300 years old!

Theologian, Puritan scholar and author Dr. Joel Beeke said recently, “The Puritans prayed out of hearts saturated with Scripture. They especially delighted in turning promises into prayers. William Gurnall said, ‘Prayer is nothing but the promise reversed.’ He also said, ‘The mightier any is in the Word, the more mighty he will be in prayer.’ This pattern of praying the Scriptures culminated in Matthew Henry’s book, A Method for Prayer, where he collects hundreds of Scriptures under different headings to guide the Christian in prayer.” (An excerpt from the blog post, “Pray Like a Puritan” by Tim Challies)

So, after almost two years of working on Prayer Prompter, I just realized something that should have been obvious to me from the beginning. The top section of Prayer Prompter is all about — Are you ready for this? — praying Scripture! As a result of this amazing discovery, I am changing the title of the top section to — and this should come as no surprise! — “Praying Scripture”. I am also changing the title of the bottom section to “Petition/Intercession”. These new titles will be part of the next upgrade of Prayer Prompter which will be available in a few weeks. For new users of that upgrade, the Home screen (dashboard) will look like this:

Prayer Prompter 2

Note: If you are already using Prayer Prompter, the upgrade will not change your existing titles but, if you want to change them yourself, check out “Get Started>How To” on the website or “How-To” in the “Help Topics section of Prayer Prompter.)



Again, it isn’t my intention here to try to sell something; the creators won’t know this is here until it appears. But sometimes when you try to blend theology and technology, it forces you to have to think about things in a more detailed, or more unique way.

So… if you’re interested in learning more about Prayer Promoter, click here.

June 26, 2012

Holiness and Righteous Practiced to Impress Other People

George Whitten is the editor of Worthy Devotions, another Alltop – Christianity indexed website.  One of the key features at Worthy is the topical index which allows you delve into any one of a wide variety of subjects. For those of you who want to dig a little deeper, Worthy should be bookmarked — use the link at the bottom — in your computer.  The title of this post, Kiss the Son, lest He be angry! intrigued me because it’s based on a verse I remember hearing in children’s church many years ago. Now I understand it more clearly.

Psalms 2:10-12 Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.

Revelation 5:12-13 Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing. And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.

In the beginning of Psalm 2, David points out that the kings of the earth are against the Lord and his “anointed” [Mashiach “Messiah” in Hebrew]. David recognized the true authority of God and advises the kings and rulers of the world, as well as their subjects, to “kiss the Son, lest he be angry.” The act of “kissing the Son” would be one of homage to a king, and would indicate submission to the kingship of the Son. Those who are wise will do so before the Son, the Messiah, comes to judge the world!

Men have often tried to appear holy and righteous before other men – but God is seeking those who will worship Him in “spirit and in truth”. This reminds me of a story of Francois Fenelon.

In the 17th century, Fenelon was the court preacher for King Louis XIV of France. On one particular Sunday when the King and his attendants arrived at the chapel for the regular service, there was no one else present except the preacher, himself.

“What does this mean?”, King Louis demanded.

“I had published that you would not come to church today, in order that your Majesty might see who serves God in truth and who flatters the King,” Fenelon replied.

Let’s be sure that our worship of God is true and faithful and that we aren’t trying to please men in doing so. Serve the Lord with a Godly reverence for who He is, and what His Son has done for you, since He is worthy of your worship, and… He is looking at your heart.

by George Whitten, Editor of Worthy Devotions

November 5, 2011

A Third Kind of Love

In three different contexts this week, I was confronted by the writings of A. W. Tozer.  One of these, earlier this week, concerned a piece he wrote that was titled, “Three Kinds of Love.”  At first, I thought this would be an explanation of the difference between phileos, eros and agape love.  But it turned out to be something quite different; he writes about the love we have for God. 

Rather than just run the excerpt today, I’m going to try to paraphrase what Tozer wrote…

He begins by saying that traditionally, religious writers talk about two kinds of love for God:

  • The love that springs out of gratitude for God:  “I love the Lord because he has heard my voice and my supplications,” and “We love him, because he first loved us.”  Ps. 116:1 and I John 4:19, italics added.  This is a very basic, elementary kind of love that actually has selfish overtones: It’s a love that is driven by benefits we receive
  • The love of the admiration of excellence: A higher level of love where the selfishness factor is reduced, and is replaced by a consideration of God’s glorious being; his power, knowledge and might become the driving factor; we love him because of all that he is.

But then, Tozer takes it to another level and introduces the analogy of a mother of what we would today call a special-needs child, in this case one who is considerably developmentally challenged.  (This was a rather progressive example in Tozer’s day; and I use it now with apology to those of you whose families are touched by the reality of a special needs child or children.)

He says that, “The child excites no gratitude in her breast, for all the benefits have flowed the other way; the helpless infant has been nothing but a burden from the time it was born.”  This is a child that won’t be helping set the table, won’t be taking out the garbage.

At the second level, “Neither can the mother find in such a child any excellence to admire, for there is none.”  This is a child whose artwork won’t be adorning the refrigerator door; whose report cards won’t be shown off to the aunts and uncles.

Yet she loves the child with a great intensity.  Her life and the life of her child are more intertwined than they were before she gave birth.  They are bonded emotionally.  It is what he calls “the union achieved by hearts; more beautiful than anything that can be experienced by flesh and blood.”

There is no element of because.

It’s not, “I love because;” because there is no because. It’s simply, “I love.”

This is the third kind of love, what he calls a supranatural love.

For the last 48 hours, I’ve been trying to process how the story of the mother relates to our love for God.  Tozer notes that we all have things to be thankful to God for; just as we all have moments where we are overcome by the excellence of magnificence, the great majesty of God. 

But I’m trying to find in my own heart the parallel to the third type of love, something that is not the product of logic, or enumeration of God’s attributes, or any other because.   

Tozer says,

If this all seems to mystical, too unreal, we offer no proof and make no effort to defend our position. This can be understood only by those who have experienced it.  In the rank and file of today’s Christians it will be rejected or shrugged off as preposterous.  So be it.  Some however, will read and will recognize an accurate description of the sunlit peaks where they have been for at least brief periods and to which they long often to return.

And such will need no proof.

today’s thoughts based on Three Degrees of Love as it appears on pp. 147-150 of the 1955 Christian Publications edition of The Root of Righteousness.