God’s Will: Moral Standards and Sovereign Control

by John Piper

“…The Scripture leads us again and again to affirm that God’s will is sometimes spoken of as an expression of his moral standards for human behavior and sometimes as an expression of his sovereign control even over acts that are contrary to that standard.

This means that the distinction between terms such as “will of decree” and “will of command,” or “sovereign will” and “moral will,” is not an artificial distinction demanded by Reformed theology.

The terms are an effort to describe the whole of biblical revelation. They are an effort to say yes to all of the Bible and not silence any of it. They are a way to say yes to the universal, saving will of Ezekiel 18:23 and Matthew 23:37, and yes to the individual, unconditional election of romans 9:6-23.”

-John Piper, Does God Desire All to Be Saved? (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2013), 35-36.

An Angry God

by Tim Challies

“What makes you angry? We all have triggers, don’t we? We all have certain contexts and situations, certain affronts to our dignity or pride that stoke the anger within. I know a lot about anger, as Aileen can no doubt attest. When she and I talk about God’s grace in our lives, and evidence of it, she will often point this out—that God has mellowed me, taken away that anger that often bubbled within and occasionally boiled over. When I moved out of my parents’ home on the day I got married, I left behind a hole in the wall that I had punched in a fit of anger a few months before. At one of the first homes Aileen and I lived in I cracked a door frame when I tried to smash it shut, once more in a fit of stupid anger. My immature anger just sometimes boiled over and got me into trouble. I always felt like an idiot after acting out, but in the moment my anger got the better of me; I often surrendered to it. I am profoundly grateful that God, in his mercy, has blessed me and blessed my family by taking away much of the immaturity, the irrationality, the lack of self-control that caused me to lash out like an angry toddler. I still known what it is to be angry, but no longer tend toward violent reaction.

According to one dictionary, anger is a strong feeling of displeasure, a kind of belligerence aroused by a wrong. And from experience I can say it is equally likely that it is anger aroused by a perceived wrong. If someone truly wrongs me, I may well express anger and do so with some justification. If someone slights me or otherwise damages my pride, it may also cause me to act angry but with no justification at all. Anger is inherently reactive, awaiting a trigger and then waiting to react in accordance with my nature.

We have all met angry people, haven’t we? People who react to tough situations with anger and people who often act out in this anger. Such people may react in surprising, unexpected and terrifying ways. They act as they do out of emotion. Anger is not one of those enjoyable emotions. It may channel a strange, sick kind of pleasure for a moment or two, but like all sin, it very quickly loses its luster. There is something scary about seeing a person act out in anger. And the bigger that person, the more powerful his position, the greater the fear. If my three year-old gets angry and lashes out, I am bothered but not afraid. But if I were to become angry and act out in anger, she would rightly be terrified because of what I could, I might, do to her in my rage.

It is little wonder that man fears an angry God. If we believe that God is so much greater than we are, so much stronger, so much more powerful, and if we believe that God is capable of anger and wrath, then we have little choice but to fear him as a child may fear a parent. And, indeed, man’s history with deity, whether with the true God or with any number of idols, has often been a position of terror, seeking by deed or sacrifice to appease his wrath. And so often, I think, we confuse human anger with divine wrath, imposing our own sinful, irrational, emotional anger upon God’s just, perfect, holy wrath. No wonder, then, that we seek to appease him, to assuage our guilty consciences and to hope against hope that we may have turned aside his wrath for another day.

And here it strikes me just how different the wrath of God is from my anger, from what we see in most human anger. Charles Leiter has said it well: “God’s wrath is not a temporary loss of self-control or a selfish fit of emotion. It is His holy, white-hot hatred of sin, the reaction and revulsion of His holy nature against all that is evil.” God’s wrath is revulsion. It is not mere emotion and is not at all irrational. It is so much more than emotion. You may know what it is to feel revulsion. Some time ago I heard of a woman who, upon finding out that her husband had been cheating on her, immediately vomited. It was as if her whole body was so affronted, so repulsed by her husband’s sin that it acted all on its own. Revulsion may be our reaction to a lukewarm sip of water when we were expecting ice cold or piping hot. We spew it out, repulsed. And this is sin to God. God’s wrath is a holy reaction, it is a holy and white-hot hatred of all that is evil. This is a good and just and fair reaction to something that is absolutely, fundamentally opposed to God’s very nature. Sin is against all that he is and all that he wants us to be.

God’s reaction to sin is the good and necessary, the absolute best and perfectly just reaction. He will not act rashly in anger but will act justly in wrath. He willexpress this wrath against all sin. He must express this wrath against sin, because sin opposes all that he is as the perfectly holy creator of all that exists. How good it is, then, when we ponder God’s wrath, to know that his wrath has already been satisfied for those who trust in him. There on the cross, Jesus Christ took that wrath upon himself on behalf all those who were his own. There God required the just penalty due for that sin. And there the Father found perfect, eternal satisfaction for his wrath. And there you and I can turn our eyes and turn our hearts and trust and believe and know that Jesus Christ has paid it all.”

-Tim Challies,  http://www.challies.com/christian-living/an-angry-god

Great Is Thy Faithfulness

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father;
There is no shadow of turning with thee,
Thou changest not, Thy compassions they fail not,
As thou has been, thou forever will be.
 
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided
 
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me!
 
Summer and winter and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon, and stars in their courses above;
Join with all nature in manifold witness,
To thy great faithfulness, mercy, and love.
 
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided
 
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me!
 
Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
Thine own great presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today, and bright hope for tomorrow
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside.
 
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided
 
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me!
 
-Thomas O. Chisholm, 1923

Is It Ever Right to Disobey the Government?

Excellent post from the Gospel Coalition by Mark Coppenger:

“Recently, Representative Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) heaped contempt upon five ministers called to testify before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. The men were there to raise religious liberty concerns over the Health and Human Services Department’s policy of forcing institutions to provide contraception, sterilization, and abortifacients to their employees, even when the institutions found these options morally objectionable. Though Romans Catholics were particularly stung by this policy, four other members of the clergy—two Baptists, a Lutheran, and a Jew—came as co-belligerents for the cause of freedom of conscience.

Connolly’s fulminations included the charge that they were being used for “shameful” acts of political demagoguery. He mocked their speaking “as if people are going to jail over this. Shame! Everybody knows that’s not true.”

Actually, a lot of people know that it may well be true, and American Christians are preparing for the day when the state will no longer tolerate their “obstructionism,” their “phobias,” and their “offensive utterances.” Thus a half million believers have already signed the 2009 Manhattan Declaration, which says, in part,

Because we honor justice and the common good, we will not comply with any edict that purports to compel our institutions to participate in abortions, embryo-destructive research, assisted suicide and euthanasia, or any other anti-life act; nor will we bend to any rule purporting to force us to bless immoral sexual partnerships, treat them as marriages or the equivalent, or refrain from proclaiming the truth, as we know it, about morality and immorality and marriage and the family. We will fully and ungrudgingly render to Caesar what is Caesar’s. But under no circumstances will we render to Caesar what is God’s.

If this means jail time over refusal to pay fines, so be it. Of course, the specter of thousands of esteemed ministers in holding cells, getting rap sheets, may cause the commissars to go wobbly and back off for fear of the political repercussions.

Fuss Over Nothing?

Could Connolly be right about this being an overheated tempest in a teapot? After all,Americais noIranorSaudi Arabia, where Christian conversion and gospel preaching land you in prison, and even the grave. We’re a liberal democracy, a pillar of Western civilization, with its constitutive freedom of conscience.

But that status is tenuous. Classic liberalism (following Adam Smith and Edmund Burke, not Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid) is dying in the mainline Western nations as paternalists, cultural relativists, sensitivity police, and decadence-normalizers move in with their speech and tax codes to cow the faithful.

Åke Green and Daniel Scot are two cases in point. Green, a Swedish Pentecostal pastor on the littleislandofOland, was sentenced to a month in jail for “hate speech” and “agitation against an ethnic group” for preaching a sermon against homosexuality. Fortunately, the Swedish Supreme Court overturned the lower court’s ruling.

Scot, a math professor and Assembly of God minister, had fled Pakistan for the safety of Australia, only to be convicted of “vilifying” Islam when he spoke in churches, explaining the roots of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. He was ordered to purchase tens of thousands of dollars in ads inMelbournepapers, apologizing to Muslims. He refused, at great legal expense, and the case went to the Australian Supreme Court, which ruled in his favor. And Americans of biblical conviction are also beginning to feel the heat. For instance, a Methodist retreat center inNew Jerseylost its tax-exempt status for excluding same-sex marriage ceremonies from its grounds.

When Should We Take a Stand?

Of course, this raises the question of when it is appropriate to take a stand, and when it is better to simply retire from the field, as did Catholic Charities in Massachusetts, when it stopped its adoption ministry because the law said it could not discriminate against same-sex households. After all, obedience to the law is the default position for Christians. That’s the teaching of Romans 13:1-7, which Paul wrote when the government was in many ways unsavory. But this is not an absolute duty, for we rightly celebrate the stand of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in Daniel 3 and Peter and John’s defiance in Acts 4:1-21, where they ignored an order to stop preaching and teaching in Jesus’ name.

Still, we have to avoid the temptation to become hypersensitive to every affront to our scruples. I may be incensed over where some of my tax money is going, but I shouldn’t turn my back on the IRS in protest. And I may dislike the order to move my abortion protest across the street from a “clinic,” but I don’t need to provoke a trip in the paddy wagon by ignoring the mandated buffer zone.

So where do we draw the line?

We can certainly follow Peter and Andrew in insisting that our gospel preaching is inviolate. And there are moral outrages that no men of conscience could countenance, such as an order by Nazis to turn in Jews for transport to the death camps. But sometimes, the outrage is more particularly anti-Christian, as when 17th-century Japanese were required to show their disrespect for the faith by stepping on a tile bearing the image of Jesus (fumi-e) or face torture and death.

In contrast, in the modern West, speech codes and their supporting humiliations and fines are the bludgeons of choice. But in either case, believers must not flinch from speaking the truth in love, whatever the cost.

What shall we say, then, of that gray area where we’re not murdered or muzzled but merely mugged? I suggest we consider our witness, whether we might be bringing glory or embarrassment to God. For comparison, we might consider our take on other faiths’ possible complaints of ill treatment. For instance, I think we would rally to the side of Muslims forced to serve pork in their rescue mission. Government pressure at this point would be gratuitously offensive, whatever the rationale—whether a recent study placing pork at the base of the food-guide pyramid or the need to sustain the nation’s pork farmers by broad purchase and distribution of their product.

But when an American Muslim woman (or her husband) insists that she wear a niqab for her driver’s license photo (not an issue inSaudi Arabia), then popular sentiment rightly shifts to the government’s side, which counts an ID showing only the eyes an absurdity. By extension, we should reflect on how reasonable or absurd our own complaint might be.

Should Even Unreasonable Religious Beliefs Be Protected?

Of course, the public may not “get it” the first time through. We may need to strive mightily to make our point that a certain religious conviction or principle is crucial to us and that when the state slights our conscience, it behaves badly. Such was the burden on the Miami-area Santeria, the cult sacrificing chickens in their worship. Defenders did well to note that their killings were humane and that there was already a lot of bird “sacrifice” in the land, whether by KFC or the members of Ducks Unlimited.

Some beliefs, though, are not only curious, but dangerous: a Jehovah’s Witness refusing a C-section meant to save her unborn child because she objects to the accompanying blood transfusion; a Christian Science couple declining treatment for their son’s bowel obstruction that could rupture and cause death from peritonitis; a Christian school proudly declaring itself exempt from the general fire code. But the government can be just as unreasonable in pressing its will upon the faithful.

As we make our case for liberty, we need to show our logic, expose the illogicality of our foes, link arms with co-belligerents, exhibit dignity in the face of indignities, and make it very clear that there are limits to our flexibility.

The five ministers who testified before the House committee—Meir Soloveichik, Matthew Harrison, Craig Mitchell, William Lori, and Ben Mitchell—served us well in this regard. But the public debate continues, and it may well happen that Representative Connolly and his ilk will not grasp the gravity of the situation until the jail doors slam on dozens, hundreds, and even thousands of clergy.”

-Mark Coppenger is professor of Christian apologetics at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and director of the seminary’s Nashville extension. He also serves on the editorial team for two online resources, Kairos Journal and BibleMesh. He has a PhD in philosophy from Vanderbilt and an MDiv from Southwestern. His third book, Moral Apologetics, was published in October 2011.
Posted here: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2012/03/14/when-should-christians-engage-in-civil-disobedience/
italics added

His Final Interview: C.S. Lewis on the Future and Space Travel

Randy Alcorn quoting C.S. Lewis’ last interview and speaking on the glory of God in the universe.

“Shortly before he died November 22, 1963 (yes, the same day as John F. Kennedy), C. S. Lewis granted his final interview to Sherwood Elliot Wirt, of Decision Magazine. It’s a fascinating interview. I found the final two questions and answers interesting:

Wirt: What do you think is going to happen in the next few years of history, Mr. Lewis?

Lewis: I have no way of knowing. My primary field is the past. I travel with my back to the engine, and that makes it difficult when you try to steer. The world might stop in ten minutes; meanwhile, we are to go on doing our duty. The great thing is to be found at one’s post as a child of God, living each day as though it were our last, but planning as though our world might last a hundred years.

We have, of course, the assurance of the New Testament regarding events to come. I find it difficult to keep from laughing when I find people worrying about future destruction of some kind or other. Didn’t they know they were going to die anyway? Apparently not. My wife once asked a young woman friend whether she had ever thought of death, and she replied, “By the time I reach that age science will have done something about it!”

Wirt: Do you think there will be widespread travel in space?

Lewis: I look forward with horror to contact with the other inhabited planets, if there are such. We would only transport to them all of our sin and our acquisitiveness, and establish a new colonialism. I can’t bear to think of it. But if we on earth were to get right with God, of course, all would be changed. Once we find ourselves spiritually awakened, we can go to outer space and take the good things with us. That is quite a different matter.”

-C.S. Lewis, September, 1963

“As a fan of his space trilogy, I especially love Lewis’s final answer in light of the biblical teaching of a new heavens and New Earth, in which righteousness dwells (2 Peter 3:13). In such a new universe, with a new outer space, might people build and travel and explore to the glory of God?

The stars of the heavens declare God’s glory (Psalm 19:1), yet how vast and distant they are. God made countless billions of galaxies containing perhaps trillions of nebulae, planets, and moons. Not many in human history have seen more than a few thousand stars, and then only as dots in the sky. If the heavens declare God’s glory now, and if we will spend eternity proclaiming God’s glory, don’t you think exploring the new heavens, and exercising dominion over them, will likely be part of God’s plan?

As a twelve-year-old, I first viewed through a telescope the great galaxy of Andromeda, consisting of hundreds of billions of stars and untold numbers of planets, nearly three million light years from Earth. I was mesmerized. I also wept, not knowing why. I was overwhelmed by greatness on a cosmic scale and felt terribly small and alone. Years later I first heard the gospel. After I became a Christian, I found that gazing through the telescope became an act of delighted worship.

From the night I first saw Andromeda’s galaxy, I’ve wanted to go there. I now think it’s likely I will.

It’s hard for me to believe God made countless cosmic wonders intending that no human eye would ever behold them and that no human should ever set foot on them. The biblical accounts link mankind so closely with the physical universe and link God’s celestial heavens so closely with the manifestation of his glory that I believe he intends us to explore the new universe. The universe will be our backyard, a playground and university always beckoning us to come explore the wealth of our Lord—as one song puts it, the God of wonders beyond our galaxy.”

-Randy Alcorn, 03-05-2012, http://www.epm.org/blog/2012/Mar/5/his-final-interview-cs-lewis-future-and-space-trav

Fierce Tornadoes and the Fingers of God

John Piper gives a hard, but scriptural response to the devastating tornadoes which afflicted our nation. We grieve suffering because we see the pain it brings. But suffering is a result of the Fall and our sin, and thus we cannot blame God. His divine purposes are perfect and aren’t we thankful that He sent His Son to rescue us from the consequences of the Curse!

Posted at Desiring God:  http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/fierce-tornadoes-and-the-fingers-of-god

“Why would God reach down his hand and drag his fierce fingers across rural America killing at least 38 people with 90 tornadoes in 12 states, and leaving some small towns with scarcely a building standing, including churches?

If God has a quarrel with America, wouldn’t Washington,D.C., or Las Vegas, or Minneapolis, or Hollywood be a more likely place to show his displeasure?

We do not ascribe such independent power to Mother Nature or to the devil.

God alone has the last say in where and how the wind blows. If a tornado twists at 175 miles an hour and stays on the ground like a massive lawnmower for 50 miles, God gave the command.

•“The wind of the Lord, shall come, rising from the wilderness, and it shall strip Ephraim’s treasury of every precious thing” (Hosea 13:15).

• “The Lord turned the wind into a very strong west wind, which lifted the locusts and drove them into the Red Sea” (Exodus 10:19).

• “God appointed a scorching east wind” (Jonah 4:8).

• “God commanded and raised the stormy wind” (Psalm 107:25).

• “Even winds and sea obey Jesus” (Matthew 8:27).

But why Marysville and not Minneapolis? Why Henryville and not Hollywood?

God has spoken about these things. Consider three ways he addresses — all of us.

1. Job, “Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

Job’s ten children died because “a great wind came across the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young people” (Job 1:19).

Job cries out to God, “Why have you made me your mark? . . . Why do you hide your face and count me as your enemy? . . . Why do the wicked live, reach old age, and grow mighty in power?” (Job 7:2013:2421:7).

In other words, Why Henryville, and notHollywood?

God’s answer to Job is not that he was a worse sinner than the “wicked” — or that Maryville had some dark secret.

His answer was, “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! ‘For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?’” (Romans 11:33–34Job 15:836:22f).

Job’s loss was not a measure of his immorality. “Job was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil” (Job 1:1).

In fact, perhaps God chose Job for that deadly wind because only the likes of Job would respond: “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21).

2. Luke 13:4–5, “Unless you repent.”

A Tower fell and killed 18 people in Jesus’ day. Jesus spoke into that situation: “Those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:4–5).

This is a word to those of us who sit safely in Minneapolis or Hollywood and survey the desolation of Marysville and Henryville. “Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

Every deadly wind in any town is a divine warning to every town.

3. 1 Peter 4:17, “God’s own people are not excluded.”

We are not God’s counselors. Nor can we fathom all his judgments. That was the lesson of Job. Let us beware, therefore, of reading the hand of providence with too much certainty or specificity. God is always doing a thousand things when he does anything. And we see but a fraction.

But stir into your mental framework this truth: When a time for judgment comes, it usually includes, and begins with, God’s own people. That’s what the apostle Peter says.

“It is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” (1 Peter 4:17Jeremiah 25:29Ezekiel 9:6Amos 3:2).

Therefore, God’s will for Americaunder his mighty hand, is that every Christian, every Jew, every Muslim, every person of every religion or non-religion, turn from sin and come to Jesus Christ for forgiveness and eternal life. Jesus rules the wind. The tornadoes were his.

But before Jesus took any life in rural America, he gave his own on the rugged cross. Come to me, he says, to America— to the devastated and to the smugly self-sufficient. Come to me, and I will give you hope and help now, and in the resurrection, more than you have ever lost.

You can show your partnership in suffering, and help lift the load, at Samaritan’s Purse.”

-John Piper, 03-05-2012

Is Easy Worship Enough for God?

A great new article on worship that is both convicting and inspiring. Check it out at: http://www.stonewritten.com/?p=1718. A great question, am I willing to die at the altar of God; am I willing to fully surrender myself to Him everyday?

“One of my favorite definitions of worship comes from the famous Hasidic Jewish Rabbi, philosopher, and mystic, Abraham Joshua Heschel. He defined it this way:

‘Worship is a way of seeing the world in the light of God.’

I come from a faith tradition that places a lot of emphasis on outward, passionate expressions of worship. And so naturally I have learned to love it when I can sense God’s presence in powerful ways in the context of corporate worship. However, the other side of the coin is that I have too often approached worship based on my feelings. The truth is that worship has a little to do with feelings, but it has a lot more to do with perspective.

Here is some perspective. It can be an awful thing to approach the altar of God. Altars are where things die. And if God is calling you to the altar he is indeed calling you, at least in some way, to die. Perhaps death sounds a little melodramatic. But we will always lose something at God’s altar. And we hate losing. We hate losing things we are holding onto because possessing something, even something trivial, gives us a sense of control. And we hate to lose our sense of control because our illusion of control is often what gives us a sense of life. And of course all of us hate to lose our life.

The paradox is that the altar that will take my life is also the threshold that will give me new life. Jesus said it this way, “If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it” (Matt 10:39 NLT). This is not just true in salvation, it is true of every altar that God puts before me. There are many stories in the bible in which this is illustrated. I am going to use the Exodus.

We all know the story. God used signs and wonders to miraculously deliver the Israelites from the hand of Pharaoh. Not only did the Israelites escape, they escaped with serious loot. Once they got out of town God allowed Pharaoh’s heart to change (again), so that he would be determined to pursue them. Of course, God told Moses that he was doing all of this so that he could deliver them in even more spectacular fashion. One would think that after all the Israelites had witnessed this would be an exciting proposition. But remember what we said about our fear of altars? Of losing possessions? Of losing control? Of losing our lives? Sure enough the Israelites did not enjoy approaching this altar anymore than the rest of us. Here was there response in Exodus 14:10-12:

‘As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians, marching after them. They were terrified and cried out to the LORD. They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians’? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!”’

I would take the time to poke a little fun at the Israelites if it were not for the fact that I have uttered similar cries so many times. Moses appears to be the righteous one at first when he responds in 14:13-14 this way:

‘Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.”’

However, that was evidently not the response that God was looking for, and presumably the inward prayers of Moses took on a different character than his brave exhortation to the Israelites.  For God immediately responded to Moses with this in 14:15:

‘Then the LORD said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on.”’

It is all kind of humorous as a detached observer. The Israelites screaming that they are going to die. Moses trying to scream over them to be brave and be still, while inwardly crying out to God for help. And God snapping at Moses and telling him to stop crying and start moving. It must have been chaotic. I know the feeling, because it is the feeling of the storm of resistance that hits us as we approach the altar of God.

But herein lies the point. When these types of thoughts and feelings are swirling about us we tend to check out of worship. Yet, it is for those very moments that worship was made. Certainly there is a type of worship that is happy, carefree, and light. But the kind of worship that is preceded by threats and fears, confusion and darkness–that type of worship is what I call altar-ing worship. It has the appearance of death in front of the threshold, but it has the surprise gift of life on the other side. We are afraid of the threat of the altar going in, but surprised to find ourselves altered coming out. When we have been altered by the altar we have experienced altar-ing worship.

Did Moses and the Israelites “see the world in the light of God” on the other side of their altar? When they reached the other side they immediately burst into song and dance. Miriam the prophet grabbed a timbrel and led all of the women in song and dance. Their perspective had changed. Their feelings had changed, too. They were lavishing in altar-ing worship. Take another few minutes to meditate on their song. But before you do, consider that thing that you are holding onto. Perhaps this is the day that you lay it down at the altar, and pick up your timbrel on the other side.

I will sing to the LORD,
for he is highly exalted.
Both horse and driver
he has hurled into the sea.
 

The LORD is my strength and my defense;
he has become my salvation.
He is my God, and I will praise him,
my father’s God, and I will exalt him.
The LORD is a warrior;
the LORD is his name.
Pharaoh’s chariots and his army
he has hurled into the sea.
The best of Pharaoh’s officers
are drowned in the Red Sea.
The deep waters have covered them;
they sank to the depths like a stone.
Your right hand, LORD,
was majestic in power.
Your right hand, LORD,
shattered the enemy.
 

In the greatness of your majesty
you threw down those who opposed you.
You unleashed your burning anger;
it consumed them like stubble.
By the blast of your nostrils
the waters piled up.
The surging waters stood up like a wall;
the deep waters congealed in the heart of the sea.
The enemy boasted,
‘I will pursue, I will overtake them.
I will divide the spoils;
I will gorge myself on them.
I will draw my sword
and my hand will destroy them.’
But you blew with your breath,
and the sea covered them.
They sank like lead
in the mighty waters.
Who among the gods
is like you, LORD?
Who is like you—
majestic in holiness,
awesome in glory,
working wonders?
 

You stretch out your right hand,
and the earth swallows your enemies.
In your unfailing love you will lead
the people you have redeemed.
In your strength you will guide them
to your holy dwelling.
The nations will hear and tremble;
anguish will grip the people of Philistia.
The chiefs of Edom will be terrified,
the leaders of Moab will be seized with trembling,
the people of Canaan will melt away;
terror and dread will fall on them.
By the power of your arm
they will be as still as a stone—
until your people pass by, LORD,
until the people you bought pass by.
You will bring them in and plant them
on the mountain of your inheritance—
the place, LORD, you made for your dwelling,
the sanctuary, Lord, your hands established.
 

The LORD reigns
for ever and ever.”

Teach Children the Bible Is Not About Them

Here’s a great article from Sally Lloyd-Jones looking at how we should teach our children about God through how we teach the Bible.  Check it out at: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2012/02/21/teach-children-the-bible-is-not-about-them/

 “When I go into churches and speak to children I ask them two questions:

First, How many people here sometimes think you have to be good for God to love you?They tentatively raise their hands. I raise my hand along with them.

And second, How many people here sometimes think that if you aren’t good, God will stop loving you? They look around and again raise their hands.

These are children in Sunday schools who know the Bible stories and probably all the right answers, and yet they have somehow missed the most important thing of all.

They have missed what the Bible is all about.

They are children like I once was.

As a child, even though I was a Christian, I grew up thinking the Bible was filled with rules you had to keep (or God wouldn’t love you) and with heroes setting examples you had to follow (or God wouldn’t love you).

I tried to be good. I really did. I was quite good at being good. But however hard I tried, I couldn’t keep the rules all the times so I knew God must not be pleased with me.

And I certainly couldn’t ever be as brave as Daniel. I remember being tormented by that Sunday school chorus “Dare to Be a Daniel” because, hard as I tried to imagine myself daring to be a Daniel, being thrown to lions and not minding . . . who was I kidding? I knew I’d be terrified out of my skull.

How could God ever love me?

I was sure he couldn’t because I wasn’t doing it right.

Breaking Spells

One Sunday, not long ago, I was reading the story of “Daniel and the Scary Sleepover” from The Jesus Storybook Bible to some 6-year-olds during a Sunday school lesson. One little girl in particular was sitting so close to me she was almost in my lap. Her face was bright and eager as she listened to the story, utterly captivated. She could hardly keep on the ground and kept kneeling up to get closer to the story.

At the end of the story there were no other teachers around, and I panicked and went into automatic pilot and heard myself—to my horror—asking, “And so what can we learn from Daniel about how God wants us to live?”

And as I said those words it was as if I had literally laid a huge load on that little girl. Like I broke some spell. She crumpled right in front of me, physically slumping and bowing her head. I will never forget it.

It is a picture of what happens to a child when we turn a story into a moral lesson.

When we drill a Bible story down into a moral lesson, we make it all about us. But the Bible isn’t mainly about us, and what we are supposed to be doing—it’s about God, and what he has done!

When we tie up the story in a nice neat little package, and answer all the questions, we leave no room for mystery. Or discovery. We leave no room for the child. No room for God.

And that’s why I wrote The Jesus Storybook Bible. So children could know what I didn’t:

1. That the Bible isn’t mainly about me, and what I should be doing. It’s about God and what he has done.

2. That the Bible is most of all a story—the story of how God loves his children and comes to rescue them.

3. That—in spite of everything, no matter what, whatever it cost him—God won’t ever stop loving his children . . . with a wonderful, Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love.

4. That the Bible, in short, is a Story—not a Rule Book—and there is only one Hero in the Story.

I wrote The Jesus Storybook Bible so children could meet the Hero in its pages. And become part of His Magnificent Story.

Because rules don’t change you.

But a Story—God’s Story—can.

**********

Editors’ Note: The new Jesus Storybook Bible Curriculum by Sally Lloyd-Jones and Sam Shammas contains 44 lessons revealing how Jesus is the center of each Bible story and how every story whispers his name. It includes activities, notes for teachers based on material from Timothy Keller, memory verses, handouts for children, a hardcover copy of The Jesus Storybook Bible, and three audio CDs containing David Suchet’s reading.”

Poem on the Death of the Child of a Godly Man

There was a blameless man who was so godly he would pray
For the sins of all his children at the dawning of the day”
“Perhaps these ones I love have cursed the ever-blessed God;
So I slay this lamb and beg that You withhold Your gracious rod.”
 
Still, God saw fit to bruise him in His dark, mysterious grace,
But behind a frowning providence He hid a smiling face.
For the Lord is not so simple as to strike without an aim;
The brightly burning furnace is a purifying flame.
 
There was a tested man who lost his all and then some more.
He buried his face into his hands and bowed upon the floor.
The he cried, “Shall we receive so much that’s good from God above,
But reject His hard calamity that strikes with equal love?”
 
There was a weeping man who said that God was to be blessed
Both in poverty and riches, both in safety and distress.
So the Lord received His praises both in honor and in shame,
For this broken man found strength to say: “Lord, blessed be Your name.”
 
There is a throbbing man who is so very dear to me.
And just like the shattered Job of Uz, he’s picking up debris.
His life is now bereft of one that he had so adored.
Still, I hear him say with quivering voice, “Oh blessed be the Lord.”
 
The Lord is always giving, yet He sometimes takes away.
But the Sun still shines as brightly in the night as in the day.
Dr. Varner, please keep saying, as you feel the piercing sword:
“Oh, blessed be our sovereign God. Oh, blessed be the Lord.”
 

-David Gunderson, poem on the death of Dr. William Varner’s daughter Lynda Joy in 2005 at the age of  26. David Gunderson wrote this in response to hearing Dr. Varner mention at her funeral Job’s statement: “The Lord has given and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

http://dribex.tumblr.com/post/16886997117/lynda

Grace to the Heathen

Isaiah 56:1-8 Rewards for Obedience to God
 
Thus says the LORD, 
“Preserve justice and do righteousness, 
For My salvation is about to come 
And My righteousness to be revealed. 
 
“How blessed is the man who does this, 
And the son of man who takes hold of it; 
Who keeps from profaning the sabbath, 
And keeps his hand from doing any evil.”
 
 Let not the foreigner who has joined himself to the LORD say, 
“The LORD will surely separate me from His people.” 
Nor let the eunuch say, “Behold, I am a dry tree.”
 
For thus says the LORD,
“To the eunuchs who keep My sabbaths, 
And choose what pleases Me, 
And hold fast My covenant,   
 
To them I will give in My house and within My walls a memorial, 
And a name better than that of sons and daughters; 
I will give them an everlasting name which will not be cut off.
 
 “Also the foreigners who join themselves to the LORD, 
To minister to Him, and to love the name of the LORD, 
To be His servants, every one who keeps from profaning the sabbath 
And holds fast My covenant; 
 
Even those I will bring to My holy mountain 
And make them joyful in My house of prayer. 
Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be acceptable on My altar; 
For My house will be called a house of prayer for all the peoples.”
 
The Lord GOD, who gathers the dispersed of Israel, declares, 
“Yet others I will gather to them, to those already gathered.”