Archive for the 'God Spoke' Category

Christ’s Suffering Is Beyond Our Comprehension

Regarding the suffering of Jesus, I often find myself thinking, ‘But did he have to deal with… (this, that or the other thing that he didn’t directly experience)?’ This doesn’t matter, because he suffered virtually infinitely more than we could ever suffer, in any way, no matter what. He had to. That was a revelation for me which is something God brought up while praising him. There may be some people who might comprehend his physical suffering, but much worse is the infinite aspect of it–being punished for all of the sins and sinfulness of all time (Rev 7:9), and being forsaken by his own infinitely loving Father, all after living a perfect life as a human being.

This not only demonstrates that he can identify with the depth of all of our suffering, but much more importantly helps us to begin–to whatever infinitesimally small degree–to comprehend what Christ did to atone for our sin (Rom 3:25) and bring us peace with God (Rom 5:1).

This reminded me of some concepts in The Person of Christ by John Owen (see quotes below). He writes about how no man could atone for the sins of other men. Just looking at the obedience Jesus learned–I know that I would be crushed if I had to deny myself the way he did during his perfectly lived life, which was necessary in order to be a perfect sacrificial lamb. I’m having a hard time just dealing with the relatively small losses that I’ve had, and not being able to embrace God’s will for me in those areas.

The recovery of mankind was not to be effected by any one who was a mere man, and no more, though it were absolutely necessary that a man he should be; he must be God also.

It was necessary, that an obedience should be yielded to God and his law, which should give and bring more glory and honour unto his holiness, than there was dishonour reflected on it, by the disobedience of us all.

Such an obedience could never be yielded to God by any mere creature whatever; not by any one who was only a man, however dignified and exalted in state and condition above all others. For to suppose that God should be pleased and glorified with the obedience of any one man, more than he was displeased and dishonoured by the disobedience of Adam, and all his posterity, is to fancy things that have no ground in reason or justice, or any way suitable to divine wisdom and holiness. He who undertakes this work must have somewhat that is divine and infinite to put an infinite value on his obedience; that is, he must be God.

The people to be freed, redeemed, and brought to glory, were great [in number] and innumerable; ‘a great multitude which no man can number;’ Rev. 7:9. The sins which they were to be delivered, ransomed, and justified from, for which a propitiation was to be made, were next to absolutely infinite. They wholly surpass the comprehension of any created understanding, or the compass of imagination. And in every one of them there was something reductively infinite, as committed against an infinite majesty. The miseries which hereon all these persons were obnoxious to, were infinite, because eternal; or all that evil which our nature is capable to suffer, was by them all eternally to be undergone.

The Person of Christ by John Owen

Knowing How Much God Loves Us

This is a repost from Nov 21, 2013.

My wife and I love cats, and love our cats, probably more than we should. Right now we have one. We just lost her brother a few weeks ago. (I’m not writing this for sympathy.) We have often said and still say, “If [they]she only knew how much we love her” or “If she only knew how well she’s treated.” Even though she’s gotten whinier since her brother died (which also means she’s healthy, because like her brother, she has kidney disease) and is a diva princess, we love her all the same.

I believe the love God has for his children may be similar in that way. Even though we have no idea how much God loves us, can’t begin to appreciate it fully–and even wonder why he seems so harsh–he still loves us more than we’ll ever know in this lifetime. That’s part of what real love is. When a spouse develops a disease that renders them unable to know you or appreciate how much you love them, you don’t divorce them, as some like Pat Robertson would advise, you love them as best as you can.

One of the differences with us compared to cats or people with something like Dementia (who, if you don’t mind the incredibly insensitive joke, might not be all that dissimilar) is that our knowledge of how much God loves us can be increased. In order for this to happen, we need to spend time in Scripture and also prayer. One nice thing about this is it can’t be put into the legalism category in any way. This is for our benefit, and God’s glory. Learning more about God’s love isn’t going to make God love us more. That doesn’t even make sense. When God tells us to work out our own salvation, that’s not a command to “do our chores”, it’s something for our good–something that’s possible for us to love to do. This is what is written about God’s law in the Old Testament over and over. David and other inspired writers loved God’s law, whether it’s the Pentateuch, God’s commands or the Old Testament as they knew it.

We are free to spend time learning how wide and long and high and deep God’s love is for us. Even though much of this comes about through experience–God directing our circumstances, comforting us,  providing for us–Scripture is primarily where we gain the knowledge of God and his love. We can know that God will speak to his children through Scripture and reveal more and more of himself to us, even if there are times when he seems quiet in that regard. There is also comfort in God’s wrath, knowing how much he hates evil, how it will be destroyed forever in the end and how much God is for us in this evil world (Romans 8:31 and much of Revelation and Genesis and the Bible come to think of it). But that’s for another post.

Let’s participate, or keep on, more and more.

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge–that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Ephesians 3:16-19

Oh, how I love your law!
I meditate on it all day long.
98Your commands are always with me
and make me wiser than my enemies.
99I have more insight than all my teachers,
for I meditate on your statutes.
100I have more understanding than the elders,
for I obey your precepts.
101I have kept my feet from every evil path
so that I might obey your word.
102I have not departed from your laws,
for you yourself have taught me.
103How sweet are your words to my taste,
sweeter than honey to my mouth!
104I gain understanding from your precepts;
therefore I hate every wrong path.
105Your word is a lamp for my feet,
a light on my path.
Psalm 119:97-105

Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.
2 Peter 1:2

Also see:
How Does God Love? – Word of Life Wisconsin

A Simple Way To Pray

Martin Luther wrote a letter to his barber giving him ideas on how to pray. This section of the letter comes right after he explains how to expand on the Lord’s Prayer, which is something I like to do once a week.

I do not bind myself to such words or syllables, but say my prayers in one fashion today, in another tomorrow, depending upon my mood and feeling. I stay however, as nearly as I can, with the same general thoughts and ideas. It may happen occasionally that I may get lost among so many ideas in one petition that I forego the other six. If such an abundance of good thoughts comes to us we ought to disregard the other petitions, make room for such thoughts, listen in silence, and under no circumstances obstruct them. The Holy Spirit himself preaches here, and one word of his sermon is far better than a thousand of our prayers. Many times I have learned more from one prayer than I might have learned from much reading and speculation.

–Martin Luther, A Simple Way to Pray by Martin Luther (PDF File)

This sounds very familiar. What I’ve realized in the last few years is that much of prayer like this, as far as praise especially, and thanks, is actually meditating. According to the Bible, the Holy Spirit is involved when we pray. He opens our eyes to new things we hadn’t thought of (John 14:26, Ephesians 1:17) but are still Biblical. I think this is what Luther is saying here.

Although this may sound like it’s bordering on mysticism, God often gives me new ideas of things to praise him for. They are almost always obviously Biblical. If not, careful investigation is important because of how deceitful our hearts can be. This is where we listen, and then meditate on what the Spirit has revealed to us, or just reminded us in a new way. These seemingly small things can be very profound. This is what Luther means by the “Holy Spirit himself preaches”, and is contrasted with mere human “speculation” apart from the Bible. The Spirit helps our prayer life to ‘evolve’ as we learn more about how to pray. We can also imitate Paul’s prayers and pay attention to all of the different aspects of the Psalms.

What I quoted from above is from a PDF file of A Simple Way To Pray, which can be easily read on your computer or smart phone, if you have one. One page a day makes for a good devotional. There is also a tiny book that’s 68 pages long, but as far as I know, it contains the same thing as the PDF file, which is in the public domain. There is also another PDF file with a quote from R.C. Sproul and various items about Luther and prayer. I highly recommend this material.

There are also some very good books on The Lords Prayer that I’m familiar with:

Heart Corruptions

This is the last part of a prayer from The Valley of Vision. It describes so well what God is doing very recently, and what I want, even though the prayer is really about before and after being saved.

Thou hast struck a heavy blow at my pride,
at the false god of self,
and I lie in pieces before Thee.

But Thou hast given me another master and lord,
Thy Son, Jesus,
and now my heart is turned towards holiness,
my life speeds as an arrow from a bow
towards complete obedience to Thee.

Help me in all my doings to put down sin and to humble pride.
Save me from the love of the world and the pride of life,
from everything that is natural to fallen man,
and let Christ’s nature be seen in me day by day.
Grant me grace to bear Thy will without repining,
and delight to be not only
chiseled, squared, or fashioned,
but separated from the old rock
where I have been embedded so long,
and lifted from the quarry to the upper air,
where I may be built in Christ for ever.

Some of this almost sounds like an overly enthusiastic New Year’s resolution. These things may take a lifetime just to make some progress with God’s grace. Sometimes we want him to go faster, but when it comes to illuminating the depth of our sin, maybe not so much.

I need to remember this, along with things God has shown me in the past, such as not murmuring (The Art of Divine Contentment–I’ve been forgetting that one a lot lately), that I’m not my own, that I can’t straighten what is crooked (Ecclesiastes 1:15), that I’m not as abandoned to God* as I need to be (in which The Pursuit of God is a good barometer), and others.

*That may sound like a cliché, which isn’t usually me, but in my mind it’s a meaningful way of putting it. At least I didn’t write ‘sold out’ or ‘on fire’. (Emoticon goes here.)

Counter-cultural Thought of the Day: Dependency

Sounds like a bad word, doesn’t it?

I was meditating on how we are dependent on God and how dependency is seen as a bad thing in almost every way in our culture, whether it’s medications (except caffeine of course) or people or many other things. God wants us to be dependent on him. It’s for our good. We need to humble ourselves in that way. It was good to think about; it’s difficult to do.

Blessed are those who recognize they are spiritually helpless.
The kingdom of heaven belongs to them.
Matthew 5:3 GW

The LORD is good. He is a fortress in the day of trouble. He knows those who seek shelter in him.
Nahum 1:7

The LORD is my shepherd. I am never in need.
Psalm 23:1

My soul clings to you. Your right hand supports me.
Psalm 63:8

Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive,a and your joy will be complete.
John 16:24 TNIV

That could be an extremely long list obviously. I just picked a few in my head.

God Speaking in Prayer – Part 2 of 2

The original post is here: God Speaking To Me In Prayer – Part 1

I almost forgot about posting the other part. I wrote, “Often when I’m in the praise phase of my praying, God brings to light something new to praise him for. He’s been doing this almost once a week for a very long time now.” What I’m realizing is that when I’m praying, especially praising, I’m also meditating at the same time. I’m “talking to myself” about who God is and dwelling on what I’m praising him for. I’m also seeking new (although nothing is really new) things to praise God for. They are often things I’ve already though of in the past that God is bringing up again, or things in Scripture that are brought to mind (John 14:26). When God speaks, it’s usually about himself, and it’s always found in Scripture. (Future post material) If it’s sketchy, I will look it up to make sure. I’m a little unsure about the title of this post, but I’m stuck with it. It could be “Meditating With God”. I don’t want to make it sound like inspired revelations that could stand on their own. I didn’t take the time to put Scripture with them.

These are quick, unedited things I’ve tried to write in Evernote. Unfortunately, I’ve forgotten to write down as many as have been written. Some of it can’t be expressed well in words, and some don’t make complete sense now.

  • Having to listen to a psychologist [I don’t remember what this means, but ‘listening to “advice”‘ could be substituted]–Jesus had to put up with much worse than this, being God and having to listen to people who think they know what they don’t.
  • Meditated on God lavishing everything on us. The cross, material things, our inheritance, what the Holy Spirit does etc,
  • Reading in the OT about all the things that had to be done to atone for sins and all of the stipulations of the law regarding it, and God did all of that for us in Christ. Everything.
  • Me (who never got in trouble) getting in trouble in elementary school by “giving a girl a bloody nose”, or so it seemed to others. I was sent to the disciplinarian, thinking this would never happen to me. My teacher gave me the dirtiest look I have ever seen. She looked like she wanted to torture me to death.

    That’s just one incident of one “sin”. Jesus took on the sin of all who would be saved and the wrath of God for those sins. I can’t begin to imagine that.

    And just from my own perspective–I’m not a good person and I’m bad enough that Jesus needed to suffer for me. That alone is a huge sacrifice.

  • 1 Timothy 6:19
    By doing this they store up a treasure for themselves => eternal
    that is a good foundation for the future, => future this life
    so that they can keep their hold on the life that is real. => now and ongoing
  • Instead of thinking about how another person feels about what I say, think about what God thinks about what I would say. [I forgot about this one!]
  • If you were a ‘respecter of persons’ and idolized an athlete or famous person or older person that you were completely in awe of, but didn’t know, imagine them wanting to hang out with you and listen to you, help you out, comfort you, give their life for you and give you all that they have. That’s God, and more.
  • Running a race is painful. Runners enjoy it. It’s long and arduous.
  • When we do good, we can’t claim it for ourselves (Acts 3:26). Everything good comes from God (James 1:17). God gets all of the glory (1 Peter 4:11), not some of it. When we do bad, or do nothing (James 4:17), we can claim that for ourselves. It’s our sinful nature working in us (James 1:14). When we do something good, or have an ability that we develop, it’s God who compels us to act (Phil 2:13) and gives us the ability (1 Corinthians 4:7). The only thing we can boast about is that we know the Lord, but even that is because He delighted in us first (Jeremiah 9:24).

Regarding that last one, in Calvin’s Institutes, he writes about how God will then also give us credit for the things that he originally did for us or enabled us to do. Grace upon grace?

Also listen to:
Mumblings from God
for a Reformed view of how God doesn’t speak to us, which I will hopefully delve into at some point on this blog.

God Speaking In Prayer – Part 1

Don’t worry, I’m not imagining that God is telling me what socks to wear.

Often when I’m in the praise phase of my praying, God brings to light something new to praise him for. He’s been doing this almost once a week for a very long time now. These are always things that can be found or confirmed in Scripture. While I have a sort of mental list of things I pray for, I always sort of meditate as I’m praying, and let prayers evolve over time. I use the ATCS model. (Many use ACTS, but I just can’t seem to be like everyone else.) Adoration (Praise for who the triune God is), Thanksgiving (for what God has done), Confession, and Supplication (asking for stuff, mainly spiritual though). Sometimes I think it may be best to do confession first, which I may try.

These are quick, unedited things I’ve tried to write in Evernote. Unfortunately, I’ve forgotten to write down as many as have been written.

  • Saw a song book of my wife’s named “Light” just when I was praising God for sending his Son into the world. I hadn’t thought about Christ being the “light of the world” in a while.
  • We have what Job badly wanted–a mediator
  • We receive benefits of the different aspects of the Trinity, as if they were made for us
  • If you don’t believe that God has you where He wants you, and that He owns you and can do whatever He wants with you, then it’s very difficult to trust Him when something worse comes along.
  • We are part of the Israelite lineage because of being grafted in
  • Christ with the Father for eternity (past), and then has broken fellowship on the cross
  • Reading the Bible chronologically and getting to Luke and feeling like getting to the top of a mountain similar to Hebrews reaching Canaan?
  • God our Father is like someone we most respect in the world becoming our Father x (times) infinity
  • The OT gives us a shadow of the temple. When I look at my shadow, it’s just an outline. That’s hardly anything. The level of detail we see in the OT is very fine–and that’s just a shadow. How much more is where he really is. And we will inhabit that place someday. As we are now, it would be too overwhelming.
  • The joy Jesus must have felt when he was raised from the dead
  • It’s amazing how much God has given us. While praising God He helped me realize another level of how much He’s given us in our inheritance–The Kingdom itself, heaven with a place for us there, triumph and judgment of evil at the end, the fruits of the Spirit, knowledge, strength, and on and on. This is in addition to Christ and the cross, which is praised for all of the time and has also been increasing in awareness and ramifications.

Also see:
God Speaking in Prayer – Part 2 of 2

Knowing How Much God Loves Us

My wife and I love cats, and love our cats, probably more than we should. Right now we have one. We just lost her brother a few weeks ago. (I’m not writing this for sympathy.) We have often said and still say, “If [they]she only knew how much we love her” or “If she only knew how well she’s treated.” Even though she’s gotten whinier since her brother died (which also means she’s healthy, because like her brother, she has kidney disease) and is a diva princess, we love her all the same.

I believe God loves his children similarly. Even though we have no idea how much God loves us, can’t begin to appreciate it fully–and even wonder why he seems so harsh–he still loves us more than we’ll ever know in this lifetime. That’s part of what real love is. When a spouse develops a disease that renders them unable to know you or appreciate how much you love them, you don’t divorce them, as some like Pat Robertson would advise, you love them as best as you can.

One of the differences with us compared to cats or people with something like Dementia (who, if you don’t mind the incredibly insensitive joke, might not be all that dissimilar) is that our knowledge of how much God loves us can be increased. In order for this to happen, we need to spend time in Scripture and also prayer. One nice thing about this is it can’t be put into the legalism category in any way. This is for our benefit, and God’s glory. Learning more about God’s love isn’t going to make God love us more. That doesn’t even make sense. When God tells us to work out our own salvation, that’s not a command to “do our chores”, it’s something for our good–something that’s possible for us to love to do. This is what is written about God’s law in the Old Testament over and over. David and other inspired writers loved God’s law, whether it’s the Pentateuch, God’s commands or the Old Testament as they knew it.

We are free to spend time learning how wide and long and high and deep God’s love is for us. Even though much of this comes about through experience–God directing our circumstances, comforting us,  providing for us–Scripture is primarily where we gain the knowledge of God and his love. We can know that God will speak to his children through Scripture and reveal more and more of himself to us, even if there are times when he seems quiet in that regard. There is also comfort in God’s wrath, knowing how much he hates evil, how it will be destroyed forever in the end and how much God is for us in this evil world (Romans 8:31 and much of Revelation and Genesis and the Bible come to think of it). But that’s for another post.

Let’s participate, or keep on, more and more.

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge–that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Ephesians 3:16-19

Oh, how I love your law!
I meditate on it all day long.
98Your commands are always with me
and make me wiser than my enemies.
99I have more insight than all my teachers,
for I meditate on your statutes.
100I have more understanding than the elders,
for I obey your precepts.
101I have kept my feet from every evil path
so that I might obey your word.
102I have not departed from your laws,
for you yourself have taught me.
103How sweet are your words to my taste,
sweeter than honey to my mouth!
104I gain understanding from your precepts;
therefore I hate every wrong path.
105Your word is a lamp for my feet,
a light on my path.
Psalm 119:97-105

Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.
2 Peter 1:2

Making Peace With the Wrath of God

Because if there is no wrath by God on sin, and there is no such thing as Hell, not only does that actually make what happened to Jesus inexplicable—Jesus staggering the way He is, asking God, “Is there any other way?” [and] sweating blood means that He was wimpier than hundreds of His followers, if there was nothing like [God’s wrath]—but…the main thing is, if you don’t believe in the wrath and Hell, it trivializes what He’s done…. If you get rid of a God who has wrath and Hell, you’ve got a god who loves us in general, but that’s not as loving as the God of the Bible, the God of Jesus Christ, who loves us with a costly love.

Look what it cost. Look what He did. Look what He was taking. You get rid of wrath and Hell, He’s not taking anything close to this. And therefore, what you’ve done is you’ve just turned His incredible act of love into just something very trivial, very small….

And by the way, if the anticipation of these sufferings—if the very taste of these sufferings—sent the Son of God into shock, what must it have been to drink them to the bottom?

How Tim Keller Made Peace with the Wrath of God, a part of a quote from a post which is a quote from a sermon

This to me is a very sobering explanation of the “additional suffering” as I might call it, that Christ went through. This is what many of us didn’t know about (or might not yet realize) until later on in our knowledge of what Jesus accomplished on the cross.

In order to go along with this, one must believe in penal substitution, which I most definitely do. I do not believe that it’s “cosmic child abuse”, which John MacArthur responds to. If you would like to read more about it you can read a long treatment of the subject by J.I. Packer or a shorter one at 9Marks.

Praise God for loving the world in this way. I don’t know why He had to work it out this way. Maybe it’s to show the depth of His love for us.

When I praise God, each week He’s been showing me something new to praise Him for. One of the recent ones is that Jesus didn’t have to die on a cross. What was required was a blood sacrifice, meaning a death. Aside from prophecy, Jesus could have died by the sword, or literally drank a cup of poison. But more than the horrific death on a cross, He drank the cup of God’s wrath, as a sinless person, dying an unrighteous death in an unrighteous way by unrighteous people, and then being forsaken by his Father, which is far worse even than “just” dying on a cross, which was probably the worst way people were put to death.

Always Be Joyful

Always be joyful.
1 Thessalonians 5:16

I was sitting in a chair at the pharmacy waiting for one of my medications. The cashier said, “Can I help the next person?” I asked this guy which of us was there first, knowing that I probably was but wanting to be polite. He said, “Well I’ve been waiting a long time” (so was I!) and just went ahead of me. Another woman who didn’t have all of her marbles was there and her name was called by the pharmacist in back saying that hers was ready. I tried to politely in a roundabout way tell her that my name had been called quite a while ago. But when the cashier was ready, she just walked right up there.

It’s painful for me to sit or stand because of my lower back pain. Walking is less painful, until chronic fatigue kicks in, but then I’d lose my place.

By the time I got home I was pretty miffed at my lack of assertiveness and how people just went in front of me and how much pain it causes, especially because this was on the way home from a doctor appointment.

My first thought was–what Jesus went through isn’t even comparable to waiting at a store. What I went through was absolutely nothing. But where is the joy in that? I still feel grumpy. So then I thought about the results of what Jesus did for me on the cross, God resurrecting him, and the Holy Spirit and whole of the Trinity residing in me. Getting to know and love God has been increasingly great (John 17:3). What a great thing that is! That’s something to be joyful about. So I thought about that, which is Scriptural. I think we need to let Scripture constantly inform us. If we work on things using our own reasoning, we start to think of things that we think we should think about, but God may steer us in a different direction, in one way or another through the truth of His Word, at some time or another. Reason #47 to memorize Scripture.

I can also be joyful and thankful that because of this situation God taught me something and further revealed another aspect of being joyful. This is a minor situation. The major ones will be more difficult. Praise God that He teaches us through his Holy Spirit with the truth of His Word.

God wants us to be patient in everything and be glad that we are in His Kingdom.

Colossians 1:11-12 NRSV
May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light.

I love the NRSV’s rendering of that and often hang onto it. In any situation, we can look up and be joyful in what we have in God.

Colossians 3:1-3 NRSV
So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

If we are sorrowful upon any worldly account, yet still we may always rejoice [spiritual joy; in God]

–Matthew Henry

For further reading, based on Psalm 73:

book-faith-on-trial Martin Lloyd-Jones