Monthly Archives: March 2013

The God Who Does Not Change

God’s Character, Part 3

Our trips out west to visit my wife’s family only happen every year or two. But whenever we catch a plane to San Diego, we’re always surprised and how many things are different from the last time we were out there. New restaurants, more homes (how is there even room for more?), new highways . . . more smog. The same is true with technology, laws, weather – you name it. Change is everywhere. Change is constant.

However, the Bible tells us that God does not change (Malachi 3:6).

Of old you laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you will remain; they will all wear out like a garment. You will change them like a robe, and they will pass away, but you are the same, and your years have no end. (Psalm 102:25–27, ESV)

Some of us like change – we just can’t wait for the new iPhone or for winter to melt away into the blossoms of spring. And granted, much of the change that takes place around us is a good thing. But mark this; it is a very good thing that the God of the universe does not change. Imagine if his morals changed. One day greed and immorality were wrong and the next they were tolerable. Or what if he, like many churches today, changed his standards based upon what is popular and acceptable in the culture?

What if God’s moods changed? Imagine coming to him in prayer not knowing whether he was feeling benevolent or was a bit grumpy because the angels kept him up with their singing the night before? How confidently could you approach him then?

God has told us that he has accepted Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins on the cross. But what if he changed his mind about that – that you now need to throw some good works in the mix to make yourself “good enough” to merit forgiveness?

Sometimes I like a little change, but not when it comes to the One whom I worship, thank you very much. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). And that is a very good thing.


Slow Down!

For the past several weeks, I’ve been reflecting on living a hurried life. I become convicted of patterns and pursuits counterproductive to the mission to make disciples. The rhythm of society these days seems to be so out of step with the cadence Jesus set out for his disciples. Here is the Savior of the world, the Author of time, never in a hurry in accomplishing the most life-changing, history-shaping mission the world has ever known.

Someone in a hurry makes an idol out of time. They allow the present to be dictated by the future. Lusting after not-yet moments, we deprive ourselves from the already present moments when we are called to love. Skillful living is making most of the time through a redemptive lifestyle, and ironically, making the most of time does not come by hurrying up but by slowing down.

One of the great hindrances to life on mission is being in a hurry. Have you noticed how impossible it is for a hurried person to love someone? They may be physically present, but they are mentally distant. They may give you lip service, but their hearts are far from you. Don’t get me wrong. There are good intentions with being in a hurry. I want to get things done. I love being productive. But when the product takes precedence over people, then my usefulness ironically makes me unproductive for the mission. Even worse, I begin to treat people like product rather than objects of my affection–to listen, to learn, to love. All those things that takes time–things that the absence of margin and presence of hurry rob us from experiencing as we controlled by a rhythm of life that takes the life out of us.

Disciples of Jesus cannot be controlled by time or enamored by the future. Idolizing time breeds unbelief in Jesus, who is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. When we are set free to slow down, we can calibrate our lives according to the cadence of the kingdom. One of the simplest ways of being out of step with the world is not living to keep up with it. I am not advocating a life of laziness but rather a pursuit of presence. It’s a perseverance in abiding, not a fleeing for fleeting moments.

Truly, Jesus’ yoke is easy inasmuch as Jesus is not in a hurry. My yoke is hard because the burdens I create are heavy. I’m learning the joyful consequences of preferring Jesus’ yoke over mine. And when His joy is mine, I find that His glory shines in the very places and among the faces of people I’m privileged to love and give my life away. So Lord, let me live on mission so that when the Spirit calls me to make much of Jesus, I can genuinely respond with “present.”


Why Christians Don’t Need to be Afraid

We will not die apart from God’s gracious decree for his children.

James 4:14-15

“If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”

Matthew 10:29-30

“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.”

Deuteronomy 32:39

“See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand.” (See Job 1:21;1 Samuel 2:6; 2 Kings 5:7)

Curses and divination do not hold sway against God’s people.

Numbers 23:23

“There is no enchantment against Jacob, no divination against Israel.”

The plans of terrorists and hostile nations do not succeed apart from our gracious God.

Psalm 33:10

“The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; he frustrates the plans of the peoples.”

Isaiah 8:9-10

“Take counsel together [you peoples], but it will come to nothing; speak a word, but it will not stand, for God is with us.” (See 2 Samuel 7:14; Nehemiah 4:15)

Man cannot harm us beyond God’s gracious will for us.

Psalm 118:6

“The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?”

Psalm 56:11

“In God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me?”

God promises to protect his own from all that is not finally good for them.

Psalm 91:14

“Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name.”

God promises to give us all we need to obey, enjoy, and honor him forever.

Matthew 6:31

“Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ . . . Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

Philippians 4:19

“And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”

God is never taken off guard.

Psalm 121:4

“Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.”

God will be with us, help us, and uphold us in trouble.

Isaiah 41:10

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

Isaiah 41:13

“For I, the LORD your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, ‘Fear not, I am the one who helps you.'”

Terrors will come, some of us will die, but not a hair of our heads will perish.

Luke 21:10-11, 18

“Then [Jesus] said to them, ‘. . . there will be terrors (!) and great signs from heaven. . . . and some of you they will put to death. . . . But not a hair of your head will perish.'”

Nothing befalls God’s own but in its appointed hour.

John 7:30

“So they were seeking to arrest him, but no one laid a hand on him, because his hour had not yet come.” (See John 8:20; 10:18)

When God Almighty is your helper, none can harm you beyond what he decrees.

Hebrews 13:6

“So we can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?'”

Romans 8:31

“If God is for us, who can be against us?”

God’s faithfulness is based on the firm value of his name, not the fickle measure of our obedience.

1 Samuel 12:20-22

“And Samuel said to the people, ‘Do not be afraid; you have done all this evil. . . . For the Lord will not forsake his people, for his great name’s sake.'”

The Lord, our protector, is great and awesome.

Nehemiah 4:14

“Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome.”


The God Who Can Be Known

Character of God, part 2

As we think about God’s character and simply who he is, perhaps it is obvious to state at the outset that God can be known. It is possible, at least to some degree, to grasp in our minds what God is like. The reason for this is because God has made a choice. He made a choice in eternity past that he would create us and, not only that he would create us, but that he would, of his own accord, reveal himself and have a relationship with us.

He has shown himself to us in general ways, such as through creation. Psalm 19:1 says, The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. But he has also shown himself in very specific ways, such as though the Bible and through sending his only Son, Jesus Christ. In Christ, God has not only told us about himself, but he actually revealed himself to us personally.

No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known. (John 1:18, ESV)

It is a most glorious truth that God has chosen to do this. He was certainly not required to do so. He was not bound or forced to make himself known to us. He simply chose to. If he hadn’t, there wouldn’t be even a remote chance at a relationship (1 Cor. 1:21).

In the Wizard of Oz, the great and powerful Oz was simply a poser who did everything to conceal his true identity. If everyone found out that he was a regular, ordinary man, he would be revealed as a fake and a fraud.

There is no danger of such a discovery with God. He boldly makes himself known to us and the more we delve into the knowledge of the one who made us, the more glorious and beautiful he becomes to us. He is the God who can be known.

 


A Monday Morning Prayer

 For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers, saying, “I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.” And again, “I will put my trust in him.” And again, “Behold, I and the children God has given me.” Heb. 2:11-13

Dear Lord Jesus, this Scripture is a treasure of measureless worth. I’ve thought, said, and done a lot of things about which I am truly ashamed. I’ve been painfully shamed, and I’ve shamed people I dearly love. Shame is a pillaging thief, one which robs us of dignity, freedom, and joy. So when I hear you say you’re not ashamed of us—that you’re not ashamed to call me your brother—it humbles and gladdens me like nothing else.

Indeed, Jesus, you’re the only one who can break the pilfering, paralyzing, hope-sucking power of our shame, because you have completely broken the condemning power of our guilt. How we praise you for doing everything necessary to deal with the ways we’ve been both agents and victims of sin—sin which has led to multiple layers of shame.

We freely cry, “Abba, Father,” because you first cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34). You took all the guilt and all the shame of our sin on the cross. I really do believe this. I really want to experience it more fully.

Because God has placed us in you, we are now “of the same family.” What more could we possibly want in this life and the life to come? And you’re the only one who can make us holy, for you are our wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, our holiness, and our redemption (1 Cor. 1:30). What peace, what transcendent and everlasting peace this brings to our hearts.

Lord Jesus, now you constantly sing to us of the Father’s love—you declare his praises to our hearts every time we hear the gospel; every time we gather with our brothers and sisters to worship the Triune God; every time we take the bread and cup of holy communion; every time we read the Scriptures; every time we listen to your voice in creation proclaiming the majesty and mercy of God.

Jesus, you’re not ashamed of us—you’re not ashamed of me. This is the theology I passionately defend. Make it the doxology in which I fully delight. So very Amen I pray, in your most holy and compassionate name.

From: Scotty Smith


Out in the Deep End

Behold, God is great, and we know him not; the number of his years is unsearchable. (Job 36:26, ESV)

Did you ever go swimming in the deep end of the pool when you weren’t quite capable of it? Your head disappears under water only to emerge as you spit and sputter. As you realize your mistake, you quickly grasp for anything you can to anchor yourself.

That’s a little bit like Job felt when he encountered God. He had a small God who could only perform or act in a certain way. When the Creator of the Universe revealed himself to Job, our dear friend Job stepped out into the deep end.

Over the next few days, my posts will explore the character of God and will examine what scripture says about him. My hope is that as we take a fresh look at the glorious person of God our hearts will rise with the apostle Paul’s and say:

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?” “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen. (Romans 11:33–36, ESV)