Christianity 201

February 18, 2018

Sunday Worship

This is the third in a series which was posted last spring at Whole Life Worship. I’ve added links to the other two parts. In their original order, the three deal with the breadth of God’s character, the depth of His Love and the height of his greatness.  Dr. Douglas M. Lee is a worship pastor, conference speaker, and seminary professor. He is currently on staff as the Associate Pastor of Worship Arts at Community Baptist Church of Rancho Cucamonga (California) and serves as an adjunct professor at Azusa Pacific University Graduate School of Theology

God-in-a-Box

Worship is a response to the goodness and greatness of God. The problem is that most of the time we are unaware of how good and great God is. The way we overcome this is by improving our “view” of God. I touched on expanding our perception of God in the breadth of His character and the depth of His love. Today, I want to talk about the dimension of “height.” We need to grasp how “high” God is, how He is so far beyond what we can think or even imagine.

It’s easy to put God into a “box.” In fact, it’s so easy we do it without thinking. Whenever we get a little too familiar or cozy with God, we are doing it. Whenever we think we know how God operates or what He’s going to do, we’ve already done it. Whenever our worship of Him becomes routine or stale, it’s likely that we’ve contained “God” (meaning: our concept of God) in a box.

The second of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:4) was to not to create an idol or an image of anything in heaven (including God). There are multiple reasons for this commandment, but I think one of the main reasons was to keep us from worshiping something less than Him. Making an image of Him or His context is like putting “God in a box.” Something in a box or fashioned in a man-made image can be measured, calculated, manipulated and controlled. And it is in our sinful human nature to do that to God.

Good thing for us, God is so much bigger than anything any box we try put Him in! (And He’s really good at shattering these boxes.) But it’s important to know how we tend to put God in a box. I see two main boxes God gets shoved into:

  1. Theology – theology is a big word that basically means “what we think about God.” So don’t let the word scare you: everyone who thinks about God has a theology. Usually, our theology is based on what we interpret from the Bible. However, there are a lot of other factors (more than we care to admit) that influence our theology, such as: our cultural values, our political ideals, socio-economic biases, personality, etc. Sometimes our theology puts God in a box: like “God doesn’t do this or that,” or “God always does something in a certain way,” or that God is limited or “bound” by certain things.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I love theology. And, to a certain extent, we need theology. It helps us organize our thoughts and understandings about God. BUT, it’s important to know that all theology is limited. It is a “box” that puts labels and qualities on God. It is not God and I’ve seen God blow away my theology many a time. However, way too many Christians hold onto their theology too tightly, and their rigidity blinds them to the fact that God is “beyond comprehension.” More importantly, rigid theology keeps people from seeing the amazing greatness of God, and therefore, from true worship.

  1. Expectations – we have many expectations of how God responds to us. For example, if we become unemployed, we pray for God to provide for our needs. Now God may use many different ways to meet our needs, but we all have expectations on how this will happen. We may expect God to give us a job that pays more, that has better hours, that is located a mile from our house, that will be rewarding and fun, and that will pop up in less than a week’s time. Our expectations are usually nice, linear paths, with no bumps or hassles. But God might have a different idea of what your journey to provision will be. Like our theology, if we hold onto our expectations too tightly we may miss the opportunities God gives that will – not only meet our needs – but transform our character and the world around us.

Seeing the “height” of God’s ways comes only when we have a light hold on our theology and expectations. As the LORD says in Isaiah 55:9:

As high as the heavens are higher the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.

Thank God that He is so much bigger than the boxes we put him in! Sometimes we need to let Him blow our mind and give us a larger vision of who He really is.

It was the vision of the “height” of God’s surpassing greatness that caused the Apostle Paul to pen these words:

Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments,
and his paths beyond tracing out!
“Who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has been his counselor?

Who has ever given to God, that God should repay them?”
For from him and through him and for him are all things.
To him be the glory forever! Amen. (Romans 11:33-36)

How big is your God? The bigger your God, the greater your Whole Life Worship.


From the same author:

One of the blockages to worship of God is being unaware of who God really is and what He has really done. When we can actually view the mercies of God through the eyes of our heart and soul, the response to worship Him flows freely and powerfully – leading to amazing transformation of our surrendered lives (Romans 12:2).

Check out God’s 3-D Mercies.

March 1, 2017

God Draws a Picture of Himself

Ever asked a kid to draw a picture of himself or herself? We heard a story many years ago about a very young child who was denied admittance to a prominent school because they couldn’t draw such an image.

Describing yourself can be a difficult task. Some people have no problem writing a resumé and boasting of their accomplishments, while some find it a challenge to talk about themselves.

Pause for a moment and think about this…what do you think God would say if he were drawing a verbal picture of Himself?

…So how does God talk about God?

I recently got an update from someone where I live who is off working for a ministry organization; “He is who He says He is, and Exodus 34, where God describes His character in the Bible for the first time, reminds us of this.

I decided to check out this passage and I offer it to you here in bullet point form. But first, The Lord said to Moses, “Chisel out two stone tablets like the first ones, and I will write on them the words that were on the first tablets, which you broke…” I can hear Moses saying, “Oh…yeah…sorry about that.” It is a rather comedic moment, though not quite as comedic as Aaron’s answer as to where the golden calf came from; the thing that causes Moses to lose it and break the tablets in the first place. But I digress. Then:

Then the Lord came down in the cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed his name, the Lord. And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord,

  • the compassionate and
  • gracious God,
  • slow to anger,
  • abounding in love and
  • [abounding in] faithfulness,
  • maintaining love to thousands, and
  • forgiving wickedness,
  • [forgiving] rebellion and
  • [forgiving sin. Yet
  • he does not leave the guilty unpunished;
  • he punishes the children and
  • [he punishes] their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.”

I’ve never formatted a Bible verse quite like that and I trust the formatting doesn’t offend anyone, but we see here 12 characteristics or traits of God’s self-description.

Take a few minutes to slowly re-read that list and think about the God-picture that you have, or that of your friends, neighbors, relatives or co-workers.

Matthew Henry notes 3 primary things God says in this passage:

1. That the God with whom we have to do is a great God.
2. That he is a good God
3. That he is a just and holy God.

It is the second and third aspects of this that seem to confound readers today. Henry notes:

His greatness and goodness illustrate and set off each other. That the terror of his greatness may not make us afraid, we are told how good he is; and, that we may not presume upon his goodness, we are told how great he is. Many words are here heaped up, to acquaint us with, and convince us of, God’s goodness, and to show how much his goodness is both his glory and his delight, yet without any tautology.

Of God’s goodness he notes:

(1.) He is merciful.
(2.) He is gracious.
(3.) He is long-suffering.
(4.) He is abundant in goodness and truth.
(5.) He keeps mercy for thousands.
(6.) He forgives iniquity, transgression, and sin.

Of his justice, Henry writes:

(1.) He will by no means clear the guilty.
(2.) He visits the iniquity of the fathers upon the children.

The last point may be a stumbling block for many. Henry writes:

He may justly do it, for all souls are his, and there is a malignity in sin that taints the blood. He sometimes will do it, especially for the punishment of idolaters. Thus he shows his hatred to sin, and displeasure against it; yet he keepeth not his anger for ever, but visits to the third and fourth generation only, while he keepeth his mercy for thousands. [underlining mine]

What happens next?

29 When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the covenant law in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the Lord. 30 When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, his face was radiant, and they were afraid to come near him.

 

 

 

April 10, 2016

It’s All About God!

•••by Russell Young

Modern Biblical teaching, at least from a western perspective, has become focused on mankind and the blessings that have been promised to him if he would only “believe.”  The consequence of this focus is weakening the church and distorting the truths about God.

It is not uncommon to hear “believers” lament the fact that God is not answering their prayers; after all He is a good and faithful Father who loves them unconditionally and wants the best for them.  The “love’ and the “best,” of course are according to their own understanding.   Contemporary song writers don’t hesitate to exuberantly express that God “adores” them and how “pleased” He is with them.  In their thinking God’s grace has assured them of a place in His Eternal Kingdom.

God created and They (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) created for Their good pleasure or according to Their plan and interests.   When His original creation was completed, He “saw” (advised Himself, approved) all that He had made and declared it to be “very good” (Genesis 1:31); it pleased Him.  This original creation state is the one on which God rested His approval.  Concerning man, it is revealed that man had been made in God’s “image.” (Genesis 1:27) That is, man had been created in God’s moral likeness, pure and regular in all his thoughts and imaginations.

When the focus is taken from the Creator and put on man, the believer allows himself all kinds of permissions and allowances; God does not.  Paul wrote that the believer is to work out his own salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12) and that he is to be once more conformed to image of the Son of God. (Romans 8:29) The focus of teaching needs to shift back to the promotion of reality.  God is loving and merciful but he is also, holy, Sovereign, and King.

“Believers” who rest in their determination of their love for God and His for them need to reflect more fully on teachings concerning the New Covenant.  The writer of Hebrews has made it clear that many are still living on “milk, not solid food” which is teaching about righteousness. (Hebrews 5:12-6:3) The Lord said that, The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John.  Since that time, the good news of the kingdom of God is being preached and everyone is forcing their way into it.  It is easier for heaven and earth to disappear than for the least stroke of a pen to drop out of the law.” (Luke 16:16, NIV)

Permissive TeachingTeaching that permits an eternal hope without satisfying the heart of God is deceptive.  God’s “love” does NOT nullify the law and His requirement for holiness on the part of those who will dwell with Him.  Adam and Eve were created holy and those who will dwell with Him must be holy. (Hebrews 12:14) No one will be able to “force” his way into His Kingdom.

The bulk of modern theology has taken the focus of the believer’s attention from God and onto himself.  The message so misrepresents the truth that many are prepared to disown God because of His failure to bring “good” into their lives.  He is seen as the all benevolent Father abounding in love and in blessings allowing the nature of those expected blessings are determined by the heart of man and his perceived needs.

It is no wonder that the world is confused about the Christian faith.  When “believers” go about living according to the desires of their flesh and in the interests of the world and fail to experience their expectations from a loving God, their faith ends up proven false according to their understanding of God’s goodness.  God expects His people to love Him with all of their heart soul and mind (Matthew 22:37) and to be humble before Him.

As one retired pastor has written, “We gladly portray a gospel of God’s love and forgiveness, but neglect or downplay, or water down if you like, obedience, confession, repentance.  This message virtually ignores the ongoing work of the cross.  The Holy Spirit makes it clear in numerous passages that God wants, and is looking for a holy people, a pure ‘Bride’ for His Son, nothing else; not a harlot, living for the things of Egypt, but a pure and righteous ‘Body.’”

Those who allow promises of God’s grace and mercy to cover rebellious and disobedient hearts and who ignore His holiness are living in the deceptions of the Evil One.  It’s ALL about God!  Creation was for His good pleasure.

March 11, 2016

The Wonderful Part About Death

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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Today we pay another return visit to the blog of Gordon Rumford, one of the most faithful devotional writers online, and someone whom I had the opportunity to hear in person many years ago. Click the title below to read at source.

Can Death Be Wonderful?

“Precious in the sight of the Lord
is the death of His saints.”
Psalm 116:15

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As I prepared for a funeral, and in studying the Scriptures concerning this matter of dying, it has occurred to me that we are usually too much caught up in the tragic aspects of death, such as suffering and loss.

We find it difficult to look at the other side of the matter.

In 1 Corinthians 15:26 (KJV) we read, “The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.” 

So the Bible clearly tells us that death is an enemy. We are also taught in Scripture that humanity was originally made for the presence of God. So why is this thing called death the common lot of us all?

In Romans 5:12 we read that the experience of death came about as the result of the sin of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. The verse also explains that death happens to all of us because we personally commit sin. When the Bible states that all of us have sinned, it does not mean that all of us are as actively evil as we can possibly be.

Because all of us have the sentence of physical death on us, we need to accept the biblical teaching that our relationship with our Creator is broken. This brings us to the matter of why Jesus came into the world. If you read Romans 5 you will see that Jesus is described as the One Who came to restore what was lost by Adam and Eve.

When a person confesses Jesus as Lord, they are put into a different relationship with death. For believers, death can only give them infinitely more of Jesus than can be acquired in this life. Paul said in Philippians 1:21 (KJV),

“For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.”

So, while death is unnatural for anyone, it becomes a friend to Christians. We, who believe in Jesus as the Son of God, ought to view death then as a defeated enemy. 1 Corinthians 5:8 (KJV) says,

“We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.” 

What makes the death of believers “precious”, in the eyes of the Lord, is the fact they come into His immediate presence at death. Jesus prayed in John 17:24,

“Father, I want those whom you have given Me to be with Me
where I am so that they may see My glory…”

The heart’s desire of God is for His people to be with Him to enjoy His presence and be liberated from this world of sorrow and sin. Hence, it is a great time for the Lord when one of His people goes through the doorway of death and enters heaven.

Many times I spoke to the particular person whose funeral I conducted we shared in the Scriptures quoted above. He was excited about going to see Jesus, just as the disciples were in the resurrection appearances of our Lord. Yes, for the Christian, death is wonderful. Not the experience of leaving our earthly body behind, but in seeing Jesus.

The King there in His beauty, Without a veil, is seen:
It were a well-spent journey, Though seven deaths lay between.
The Lamb, with His fair army, Doth on Mount Zion stand,
And glory—glory dwelleth In Immanuel’s land.  

– Anne Cousins

August 13, 2015

Things Not Present in the Age to Come

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away. -Rev. 21:4 NASB

This is from David Murray, author of The Happy Christian and Jesus on Every Page at the blog Head•Heart•Hand. You’ll want to use these links to Revelation 21 and Revelation 22 (links are to NIV, you may select a different version). Click the title below to read at source.

8 Things You Won’t Find in Heaven

Heaven is so heavenly that it’s often hard for earthly creatures to understand what it will really be like. That’s why the Bible often describes heaven in terms of what will not be there. For example, the last two chapters of the Bible tell us eight things that will not be there:

1. No Sea (Rev. 21:1): Does not necessarily mean that there will literally be no sea. Rather “sea” is a common biblical metaphor for the storms of life, the mysteries of life, and the barriers and distances that separate us in life.

2. No Tears (21:4): Why? Verse four tells us, there will be no more pain or death. Imagine, we will never cry or hear a cry ever again.

3. No Temple (21:22): “Yes! No churches!!” says an unbeliever. But it’s no churches because everything is church; everything and everywhere is worship. Here we often experience churches without God. There we will experience God without churches. How? Because “the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it.”

4. No Sun or Moon (21:23): Again, not necessarily literal but a biblical symbol for time. No more time pressure, no more stress of having too much to do and too little time to do it. No sun and no moon also means no shadows, no fluctuations in life, no ups and downs. How can this be? “For the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof.”

5. No Locked Gates (21:25): Because no threats and no thieves. All is at peace and all is at rest. Perfect and total security.

6. No Night (21:25): Meaning, no ignorance. The smallest child in heaven knows more about God than the greatest theologian on earth. No night also means no spiritual drowsiness and sleepiness.

7. No Sin (21:27): All the causes, acts, and effects of sin will be abolished. Impossible to even think a sinful thought.

8. No Curse (22:3): Not just no curses from men and women. Also, no evidence or experience of any curse of God on us or the environment. Because Christ became a curse for us (Gal. 3:13), not one atom in us or our new world will have any trace of the divine curse.

These eight things will not be there.

The question is, will you be there?

June 24, 2014

Serving God in Your Generation

“When David had served God’s purpose in his own generation he fell asleep; he was buried with his fathers and his body decayed” (Acts 13:36).

Barrel of MonkeysThere was a toy years ago called Barrel of Monkeys where you dump out a small barrel containing plastic monkeys, each one having a leg reaching down and a hand reaching up. You use the leg of one to pull up the hand of another — or take turns doing so — and then keep adding new monkeys to see how many can be lifted at one time. You end up with a whole bunch linked together, the foot of one holding the hand of the next.

The “overlap” aptly describes how each generation passes on the ways of God to their children, and then they teach these things to their children. In this case by “children” I also mean spiritual children, the next generation at your church or in your community. We’ve also looked at this concept as a “chain of grace” here and here.

I was drawn to this verse after it appeared a few days ago at DailyEncouragement.net.  Stephen and Brooksyne write:

Our life is a part of the overall fulfillment of God’s purpose. Consider the first part of the second daily text, “When David had served God’s purpose in his own generation.” In the historical books we have a lot of information on David. Apart from Moses, we may have more biographical information on David than any other Old Testament personality. But the apostle Paul, preaching in a Jewish synagogue in Pisidian Antioch, makes a simple statement concerning David’s life, “When David had served God’s purpose in his own generation.”

God places us all on this earth for a season, a period of time known as our “own generation.” The amount of time we have varies; some die young, others in their middle ages and yet others at a “ripe old age”, one of the most colorful descriptions of age in the Scriptures! (See Genesis 25:8.) But like David, all of us (except the final generation) will eventually fall asleep (die) and our physical bodies will decay though our spirits will soar.

We can live our life for self or in consecration to God’s purpose.  Many of you have heard the saying, “Only one life will soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last.” Today, let us, like David, seek to serve God’s purpose in our generation! I ask you, how are you impacting others for Christ and eternity?

Authors Kerry and Chris Shook write about this passage. Be sure to read this in context by clicking the link.

…Every generation must face that same challenge. David accepted it in his day. The Gospel writer, Luke, records it in Acts 13:36 when he wrote, “David served God’s purpose in his own generation….” We’ve seen how he courageously stood against the giant Goliath, became the greatest King Israel ever had and led them to become the most powerful nation in their day politically, economically and spiritually. Think about it. David could have simply coasted out the rest of his days in ease! Yet, there was one longing, unfulfilled dream in his heart. David passionately pursued his desire to build a Temple for God, a permanent resting place for the presence of God to dwell among the people of God. Up to this time, Israel still worshipped out of a tent that went back to their wilderness wanderings with Moses. Now was the time, he thought! “This will be a lasting legacy of faith for generations to come to secure the spiritual welfare of Israel!”

David’s love for God extended far beyond his own lifetime and personal comfort. He wanted future generations to know God and love Him as well. In Psalm 22:30-31, David wrote, “Our children will also serve him. Future generations will hear about the wonders of the Lord. His righteous acts will be told to those not yet born. They will hear about everything he has done.”…

A few years ago, Australian blogger Susan Tumut wrote on this passage:

God chooses to use people to do the many different tasks that he wants completed. God doesn’t have to use people. After all he could have created robots or puppets but rather he gives us the privilege of being involved in his plans. Since God’s plans are eternal we are involved in something that has lasting significance. We can “leave our mark” on the world by being connected to the One with who has already left, and continues to leave, His mark on the world.

The tasks God gives us are not impossible. In this chapter we read that “As John was completing his work…” (v.25) and “David had served God’s purpose in his own generation” (v.36). John the Baptist and David completed the tasks God gave them to do. Vastly different tasks but both God initiated tasks. Not always done perfectly, David made many mistakes in his personal life. Yet God looked at his heart and said, “I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do” (v.22).

John the Baptist had moments of doubt. He testified that Jesus was the Son of God, “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptize with water told me…” (John 1:32-34). However later he was not so sure: “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?” (Matthew 11:3). Yet ultimately John completed the task God gave him.

Likewise, we can complete the tasks God gives us.

Go Deeper: For more, listen to a podcast by Dr. Os Guinness teaching on three principles from the life of David derived from this single verse.

We’ll also have more on this verse tomorrow.