Sunday, September 28, 2014

Hymn of the Week - O For a Thousand Tongues

O For a Thousand Tongues - by Charles Wesley 
1. O for a thousand tongues to sing
 my great Redeemer's praise,
 the glories of my God and King,
 the triumphs of his grace!

2. My gracious Master and my God,
 assist me to proclaim,
 to spread through all the earth abroad
 the honors of thy name.

3. Jesus! the name that charms our fears,
 that bids our sorrows cease;
 'tis music in the sinner's ears,
 'tis life, and health, and peace.

4. He breaks the power of canceled sin,
 he sets the prisoner free;
 his blood can make the foulest clean;
 his blood availed for me.

5. He speaks, and listening to his voice,
 new life the dead receive;
 the mournful, broken hearts rejoice,
 the humble poor believe.

6. Hear him, ye deaf; his praise, ye dumb,
 your loosened tongues employ;
 ye blind, behold your savior come,
 and leap, ye lame, for joy.

7. In Christ, your head, you then shall know,
 shall feel your sins forgiven;
 anticipate your heaven below,
 and own that love is heaven.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Is it Egotistical of God to Pursue His Own Glory?

We've been discussing God's reason for creating the universe. He did it for his own pleasure and glory. We have also looked at the fact that glory means the density or weight of all of the attributes of God. His character overflows and expands. This resulted in his desire to create everything. As his glory flows out in a multitude of ways, it is received by conscious beings such as angels and people and reflected in all directions thus increasing his glory.

God's desire that he be glorified among all nations is behind all that he does. For example when he announced judgment, the Bible explains his reasoning:

Thus I will magnify Myself and sanctify Myself, and I will be known in the eyes of many nations. Then they shall know that I am the Lord.” ’” (Ezekiel 38:23, NKJV)

He forgives sin for the same reason:
I will cleanse them from all their iniquity by which they have sinned against Me, and I will pardon all their iniquities by which they have sinned and by which they have transgressed against Me. Then it shall be to Me a name of joy, a praise, and an honor before all nations of the earth, who shall hear all the good that I do to them; they shall fear and tremble for all the goodness and all the prosperity that I provide for it.’” (Jeremiah 33:8–9, NKJV)

“For My name’s sake I will defer My anger, And for My praise I will restrain it from you, So that I do not cut you off. Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction. For My own sake, for My own sake, I will do it; For how should My name be profaned? And I will not give My glory to another.” (Isaiah 48:9–11, NKJV)

Now the question often arises as to whether this makes God an egotistical tyrant, a megalomaniac, and/or a self-absorbed narcissist. When human beings constantly desire to be praised and admired, they are doing so at the expense of others who are their equals. When we brag about what we have accomplished, we are trying to lift ourselves up higher than our fellow human beings. God's Word forbids such attitudes. So why does God do it?

We learn from Scripture that God is complete and perfect in all his characteristics. He has no lack of love or beauty or goodness. He is perfect in righteousness and holiness. He is completely without sin of any kind. There is no other being in the universe equal with God. Certainly it makes sense for us as human beings to pursue those things which are good and honorable and just and to avoid those things which are sinful and harmful. If we're to look for what is perfect, we are looking for God. Nothing else is perfect. If God were to be deferring in his relationship with us and point us in a direction other than himself in order to be "more humble", he would actually be denying who he is and would be pointing us in the direction of some thing or some one that is not the best. Do we really want to be guided by someone who points us to that which really won't satisfy our deepest needs? What kind of being would it be that knows where all good and beauty and justice dwells, but steers us toward something lesser? Such a being would not be the God of the Bible.

The End For Which God Created the World by Jonathan Edwards which is given in its entirety in God's Passion for His Glory by John Piper
When I Don't Desire God: How to Fight for Joy by John Piper
Why God Created the World: A Jonathan Edwards Adaptation by Ben Stevens

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Why God Created - Part 2

Last time we talked about the fact that God created the universe for his pleasure and glory. But what does "glory" mean?  The root word behind "glory" means heavy or weighty. We sometimes use the word weighty in the sense of deep or important such as when we way this is a weighty topic. I think of when Dick Chaney was nominated for Vice President, the media was saying that George W. Bush needed someone like him because Chaney had "gravitas".  That meant he was weighty in the sense that he had strength and character and experience whereas it was claimed that Bush was a light-weight. So glory has to do with the weight or density of something rather than brightness or shining.

God is glorious because he is packed to the point of overflowing with all of his attributes. God is love. That means God is full of love. God's wisdom is glorious because he contains all wisdom and knowledge. He is packed full of it, so to speak.

What Edwards and Stevens (see references below) helped me to understand is that the Bible speaks of glory almost like communication. When we communicate with someone, we first have the thought inside of ourselves. Then we express our thoughts in action of some kind, usually words, but sometimes gestures. That information spreads out to a listener and is received. Finally there is a response or reaction of some sort in the listener. That's the whole purpose of communication to transfer a thought or idea from one person to another such that there is a response.

Glory functions in a similar way. The glory of God, i.e. the weightiness of God's goodness, beauty, truth, righteousness, etc. is first in him.

For example:
Arise, shine; For your light has come! And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you.” (Isaiah 60:1, NKJV)

Then the glory of the Lord went up from the cherub, and paused over the threshold of the temple; and the house was filled with the cloud, and the court was full of the brightness of the Lord’s glory.” (Ezekiel 10:4, NKJV)

And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19, NKJV)

Then, his glory flows out from him. The fancy word is "emanates". It spreads out and broadcasts from him. Creation is an example of this. God's desire to create, spread his glory out in the creation of the universe.

For example:
For He received from God the Father honor and glory when such a voice came to Him from the Excellent Glory: “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”” (2 Peter 1:17, NKJV)

And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one:” (John 17:22, NKJV)

Since part of that creation are conscience beings such as angels and human beings, we are a result of that creative act and, because we and the angels are conscience beings, we are observers of God's creation. If God had not created conscience beings there would be no audience except the three persons of the trinity themselves.

And he said, “Please, show me Your glory.” Then He said, “I will make all My goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before you. I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.”” (Exodus 33:18–19, NKJV)

“I will set My glory among the nations; all the nations shall see My judgment which I have executed, and My hand which I have laid on them. So the house of Israel shall know that I am the Lord their God from that day forward.” (Ezekiel 39:21–22, NKJV)

Arise, shine; For your light has come! And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you. For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, And deep darkness the people; But the Lord will arise over you, And His glory will be seen upon you.” (Isaiah 60:1–2, NKJV)

And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace.” (John 1:16, NKJV)

Finally there is a response on the part of the receivers of that glory. It produces an effect in us and we can respond and reflect God's glory because we are made in his image. As God's glory is reflected from us, it can be seen by others and the process continues and God's glory expands.

For example:
Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16, NKJV)

But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 3:18, NKJV)

For all things are for your sakes, that grace, having spread through the many, may cause thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God.” (2 Corinthians 4:15, NKJV)

Whoever offers praise glorifies Me; And to him who orders his conduct aright I will show the salvation of God.”” (Psalm 50:23, NKJV) 

The End For Which God Created the World by Jonathan Edwards which is given in its entirety in God's Passion for His Glory by John Piper
When I Don't Desire God: How to Fight for Joy by John Piper
Why God Created the World: A Jonathan Edwards Adaptation by Ben Stevens

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Why Did God Create the Universe? -Part 1

I've been meditating and thinking a lot lately on the question: Why did God create the universe? I want to share with you some of the things that I have learned from the Scripture and from some other resources that focus on what the Scripture teaches. Since many of these thoughts were generated by what others have written, I've listed a few references at the end of this post to give them credit for thinking these things ahead of me and to point you in a direction that might be helpful for you as well. (But the reader should not assume that everything I've written here should be attributable to these authors. I respect them too much for that.)

What got me started on this originally was a point that John Piper makes in several of his books that the greatest joy that we as human beings can have is to know God intimately. Along with that is the idea that when we enjoy God and find our pleasure in Him, God gets the glory.  And it turns out that God's glory is the purpose of everything. So knowing God and finding joy in him works to promote the very purpose for which God created the universe and us. So pursuing real joy and glorifying God are one and the same.

Let's begin by looking at several passages of Scripture. 

Everyone who is called by My name, Whom I have created for My glory; I have formed him, yes, I have made him.”” (Isaiah 43:7, NKJV, emphasis mine)

Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.” (Revelation 4:11, AV, emphasis mine)

So from this small sampling of verses we can see that God's purpose in creating was for his pleasure and for his glory. When we speak to one another, we often say, "So, what's the bottom line?"  We want to get to the point. And the point of Scripture is that God created for his glory. He didn't need anything. He didn't need fellowship. He was not incomplete in himself. Everything in creation started out in God, and so we have nothing to offer back to God that he didn't already have.

For who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?” (1 Corinthians 4:7, NKJV)

That means that everything we have came from God. We have nothing in and of ourselves.

Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out! “For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has become His counselor?” “Or who has first given to Him And it shall be repaid to him?” For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen.” (Romans 11:33–36, NKJV)

Everything we have we have received from him. We cannot offer him anything that he did not have beforehand and so his motive for creating could not have been in order to get something from us, even love and fellowship. He had love and fellowship among the persons of the trinity throughout all of eternity past.

God desires his glory to be praised and declared.
The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork. Day unto day utters speech, And night unto night reveals knowledge. There is no speech nor language Where their voice is not heard. Their line has gone out through all the earth, And their words to the end of the world. In them He has set a tabernacle for the sun,” (Psalm 19:1–4, NKJV)

And God desires that we should declare his glory.

Declare His glory among the nations, His wonders among all peoples.” (Psalm 96:3, NKJV)

But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;” (1 Peter 2:9, NKJV, emphasis mine)

So God is ultimately the source of everything good and right and beautiful.  He was and had everything before he created. Therefore, he didn't create because he needed anything.  Multiple verses of Scripture teach us that God created ultimately for his enjoyment, pleasure and glory and he desires that we his creatures respond by exulting in and praising his goodness and glory.

But what does glory mean?  This is something I had not known and understood before so we'll pick that up next time.


The End For Which God Created the World by Jonathan Edwards which is given in its entirety in God's Passion for His Glory by John Piper
When I Don't Desire God: How to Fight for Joy by John Piper
Why God Created the World: A Jonathan Edwards Adaptation by Ben Stevens

Monday, September 22, 2014

Memorization Monday - Colossians 1:9-10

Some of us are memorizing the book of Colossians. Here are the two verses for this week.

For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God;” (Colossians 1:9–10, NKJV) 

One of the things we notice about New Testament prayers is that they are mostly focused on spiritual requests. Most of us focus on our needs for health, safety and wisdom. These are always worthwhile things to pray about since God wants us to come to him as our heavenly father and share our needs with him. But he is primarily focused on that which is good for us spiritually. His focus is on the advancement of his will and kingdom and therefore he tells us to seek first the kingdom of God and everything else will take care of itself (See Matthew 6:33). 

So in these verses we see Paul praying that people will be filled with the knowledge of God's will and that they would walk worthy of the Lord and that they would be fully pleasing to him. These are the kinds of requests that need to be the focus of our prayer life.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Hymn of the Week - All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name

All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name by Edward Perronet
  1. All hail the pow’r of Jesus’ Name!
    Let angels prostrate fall;
    Bring forth the royal diadem,
    And crown Him Lord of all!
  2. Ye chosen seed of Israel’s race,
    Ye ransomed from the fall,
    Hail Him Who saves you by His grace,
    And crown Him Lord of all!
  3. Let every kindred, every tribe,
    On this terrestrial ball,
    To Him all majesty ascribe,
    And crown Him Lord of all!
  4. Oh, that with yonder sacred throng
    We at His feet may fall!
    We’ll join the everlasting song,
    And crown Him Lord of all!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Our Praying Reveals our Heart

John Piper writes in his book "When I Don't Desire God" on page 139:  Prayer is the revealer of the heart. What a person prays for shows the spiritual condition of his heart. If we do not pray for spiritual things (like the glory of Christ, and the hallowing of God's name, and the salvation of sinners, and the holiness of our hearts, and the advance of the gospel, and contrition for sin, and the fullness of the Spirit, and the coming of the kingdom, and the joy of knowing Christ), then probably it is because we do not desire these things. Which is a devastating indictment of our hearts.

He goes on to say, "How we pray reveals the desires of our hearts.And the desires of our hearts reveal what our treasure is. And if our treasure is not Christ, we will perish. 'Whoever loves father or mother more than me,' Jesus said, 'is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me' (Matt. 10:37)."

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Hymn of the Week - A Mighty Fortress

A Mighty Fortress -- Martin Luther 
1. A mighty fortress is our God, 
 a bulwark never failing; 
 our helper he amid the flood 
 of mortal ills prevaling.  
 For still our ancient foe 
 doth seek to work us woe; 
 his craft and power are great, 
 and armed with cruel hate, 
 on earth is not his equal.

2. Did we in our own strength confide, 
 our striving would be losing, 
 were not the right man on our side, 
 the man of God's own choosing.
 Dost ask who that may be?  
 Christ Jesus, it is he; 
 Lord Sabaoth, his name, 
 from age to age the same, 
 and he must win the battle.

3. And though this world, with devils filled, 
 should threaten to undo us, 
 we will not fear, for God hath willed 
 his truth to triumph through us.  
 The Prince of Darkness grim, 
 we tremble not for him; 
 his rage we can endure, 
 for lo, his doom is sure; 
 one little word shall fell him.

4. That word above all earthly powers, 
 no thanks to them, abideth; 
 the Spirit and the gifts are ours, 
 thru him who with us sideth.  
 Let goods and kindred go, 
 this mortal life also; 
 the body they may kill; 
 God's truth abideth still; 
 his kingdom is forever.