Living In God’s Presence

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“Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. For our God is a consuming fire” (Heb. 12:28-29).
“Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do” (Heb. 4:13).
There are two reactions that we can make as we live in the presence of God.  The first is irreverence and the second is reverence and godly fear.
Leonard Pitts Jr. illustrates irreverence when he wrote exposing Jeffrey Darnell Paul who portrayed Martin Luther King Jr. as a “playa” holding up $100 dollar bills while a scantily clad women looked on.  Pitts wrote, “Irreverence is not the liberating of the American mind, but the calcifying of the American heart against anything sacred” (Jan. 16, 2012, Columbus Dispatch).
-Irreverence leads to the death of civility.
-Irreverence produces a tyranny all its own.  A ban against holding up anything above the fray, or regarding anything as too sacred for too long.
-Irreverence violates the Golden Rule (Do unto others as you would have them do unto you).  When we mock and ridicule leaders that deserve our respect, then we lower the bar for everyone.
Cindy Brandt gives some examples of irreverence in Irreverence is the New Reverence (Huffington Post, 7/22/2014).  First, Nadia Bolz-Weber, minister of a Lutheran Church in Denver, CO, who is heavily tatted and foul-mouthed.  An obvious example of the “double-minded” (James 1:8) who mocks her own religion with her faulty character.  Second, Jamie the Very Worst Missionary (a female) whose voice contains crude humor and who quoted God as using profanity.  She mocks the holiness of God with such depictions.  Third, some Facebook pages: “Unvirtuous Abbey”; “Stuff Christian Cultures Like” which is a page that exists solely to brutally mock Christian culture.
-Irreverence manifests impiety towards God.
-Irreverence consists of disrespectful attitudes and actions.
-Irreverence toward God is blasphemy.
-Irreverence is disregard for the authority and character of a superior.  There is no higher authority than God.
Reverence is respect for the authority and character of those who are superior in rank or position.
Reverence for God combines the fear of God with the love of God.  Reverence for God involves an understanding of His power to punish the evil-doer, but, also, His great love and mercy toward them that love Him.
Reverence is indispensable to true religion.  Charles Simmons rightly observed that, “Reverence is the very first element of religion; it cannot but be felt by every one who has right views of the divine greatness and holiness, and of his own character in the sight of God” (Christianity Then and Now, Jan. 1, 2012).
There are several glimpses of reverence in God’s Word.  Each involves a deep sense of understanding that we live in the presence of God.
Moses’ call to the prophetic office is given in Exodus 3:1-6.  Moses sees the burning bush and is instructed to take off his shoes for the ground upon which he was standing was holy.  In the presence of a holy God, we have a keen sense of our own unworthiness.
In Exodus 32:19, Moses displayed reverence for God by his zeal for the Lord.  When Moses sees the sin of the people of Israel after receiving the Ten Commandments from God, he is filled with anger and breaks the tablets of stone.  Zeal for God is produced by reverence for God and His laws.
During the period of the restoration of the Jews to Palestine, Ezra was instrumental in guiding the people spiritually to return to the Lord.  In Nehemiah 8:5,9, he reads the Law of God.  When he reads the Law, all of the people stood up.  When he finished, they all wept.  Reverence for God produces respect for God’s Word.
Nehemiah helped Ezra in the rebuilding of Jerusalem after the 70 years of Babylonian captivity.  In Nehemiah 1, Nehemiah learns of the condition of the city of Jerusalem from his brother, Hanani.  He wept, fasted and prayed.  Reverence for God motivates us to intimacy with God.  In face of the task of the rebuilding Jerusalem, Nehemiah sought God first.
When David sinned in conceiving a child with Bathsheba, he received word from the prophet Nathan that the child would die.  David prayed and fasted until he learned that the child died.  Immediately, he washed himself and entered into the house of God to worship.  Reverence for God gives God the glory even in the face of God’s chastening.  The reverent heart seeks to glorify God at all times.
The Roman soldier at the foot of the cross experiences all of the miracles at the time of Jesus’ death.  He hears the seven sayings of Jesus while He was on the cross.  At the end, he says, “Truly this man was the Son of God” (Mark 15:39).  The persuasive power of God intervening in human history produces reverence for God that expresses itself in confession of God’s Son.
-Reverence for God is a feeling evoked by the Glory and Holiness of God.
-Reverence is the result of understanding in the fullest sense who God is.
-Reverence produces in us a strong feeling of unworthiness in God’s presence.  It produces respect, humility and submission to God.

Hope Against Hope

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Speaking of Abraham, Paul wrote, “Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations; according to that which was spoken, So shall they seed be” (Rom. 4:18).  Paul gives us the essential elements of hope.
First, God’s word is essential to hope.  In Abraham’s situation the word of God came in the form of a promise. The promise was repeated to Abraham on various occasions.  However, a complete statement of it is given in Gen. 22:17-18, “That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies.  And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice.”  Paul references this prophecy and applies it specifically to Jesus Christ as the fulfillment (Gal. 3:16).  This promise was not fulfilled in Ishmael.  It was fulfilled through Isaac (the son of promise).
Second, God’s power is essential to hope.  Abraham and Sarah were old.  Abraham was 100 years old when Isaac was born and Sarah was 90.  In addition to their old age, Sarah was barren.  Paul mentions both obstacles in Rom. 4:19.  The seed promise could not be fulfilled without God’s power.  “Is anything too hard for the LORD? (Gen. 18:14).  God has the power to accomplish His purposes!  God’s power is also a grounds for hope.
Third, man’s faith is essential to hope.  Abraham’s faith was not weak.  Yea, it was strong!  Abraham is known as the “father of the faithful” (Rom. 4:12; Gal. 5:26-29).
Abraham did not reject God’s promise in the face of his own impotence and Sarah’s barrenness.  He believed God.  He believed the promise that God made to him.  As a result, he hoped against hope.  His faith in God’s promise and power gave him hope in the face of his and his wife’s physical “deadness” (Rom. 4:19).  He was fully persuaded that God could perform what He had promised (Rom. 4:21).  Abraham’s faith in God’s ability to perform His promise was tested when God commanded him to offer his son, Isaac, as a sacrifice (Gen. 22).  Abraham believed that if he took the life of his son, that God could raise him to life again and so continue with His promise and its fulfillment (Heb. 11:19).
Hope is confident expectation of good things to come.  This confidence is based upon God’s Word and God’s power to accomplish His purposes.  Faith in God’s promises working by God’s power gives hope.  Abraham’s hope was realized when Isaac was born.  Isaac’s birth strengthened Abraham’s faith even more.
Without faith in God’s promises and power we cannot please God (Heb. 11:6).  Without faith in God’s promises and power we cannot have hope.  Unbelief is a bandit that robs of hope.  Faith and hope are inseparable and both are based upon God–His faithfulness to His word and His power to accomplish His purposes.

The Trustworthiness of God’s Lovingkindness

God, love, surrender No Comments

The word in Hebrew that corresponds to the English word grace in the New Testament is hesed.  This is a beautiful word.  The definition of this word is: “unfailing love, loyal love, devotion, kindness, often based on a prior relationship, especially a covenant relationship (Strong’s Concordance, p. 1389).
The word is used of a quality of God’s nature that is manifested in the covenant relationship with His people expressing His unfailing love or loyal love.
The constancy of God’s love is the basis for our surrender and obedience to God.  God’s lovingkindness invites and motivates our love for Him.
The word lovingkindness is found in Psalms 26 times.  Lovingkindnesses is found four times for a total of 30 times.  This word (hesed) occurs throughout the Psalms and indicates an awareness the Israelites had of God’s love and kindness which produced mercy, redemption, salvation and forgiveness.
Lovingkindness is an aspect of the Divine Nature.
Hesed is always attributed to God in the Psalms.  It is a feature or aspect of deity that is described as:  marvelous (Psa. 17:7); excellent (Psa. 36:7); Good (Psa. 69:16); and better than life (Psa. 63:3).  It is hard to find something that is “better than life.” But, when you discover God’s loyal love, His lovingkindness, you have found something truly wonderful.
Lovingkindness is associated with three important things:  mercy, life, and truth.
“Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions” (Psa. 51:1).  Forgiveness is the result of God’s loyal love.  “Quicken me after thy lovingkindness; so shall I keep the testimony of thy mouth” (Psa. 119:88).  “Consider how I love thy precepts: quicken me, O LORD, according to thy lovingkindness” (Psa. 119:159).  To quicken is to make alive.  God’s loyal love produces real life which is spiritual life.  God’s loyal love is connected to truth.  “I have not hid thy righteousness within my heart; I have declared thy faithfulness and thy salvation: I have not concealed thy lovingkindness and thy truth from the great congregation” (Psa. 40:10).  “I will worship toward  thy holy temple, and praise thy name for thy lovingkindness and for thy truth: for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name” (Psa. 138:2).
The lovingkindness of God produces our salvation (Psa. 17:7).  God’s trustworthiness in lovingkindness invites surrender in us.  Surrender of the human will precedes obedience to God.  Obedience without surrender is shallow and vain.  Obedience with surrender is rich, meaningful and produces devotion to God.  Our faith in God is prompted by His loyal love.  We can trust God because it is not possible for Him to disappoint us.  We are crowned with lovingkindness.  “Who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies” (Psa. 103:4).
The mercies of the LORD are new every morning (Lam. 3:22-25).  This is the basis of our salvation and hope.  We can confidently put our trust in God whose loyal love will never fail us.  We must surrender to His will and trust in His power to save us.

 

Nebuchadnezzar’s Testimony

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In Daniel chapters 2,3 and 4, king Nebuchadnezzar interacts with Daniel and the God of heaven.  Through each of the experiences that Nebuchadnezzar has with God, he increases his understanding of the one, true, and living God.
Nebuchadnezzar was a polytheist.  A polytheist believes in many gods.  What possibly could a polytheist learn about the true God?
In Daniel 2, Nebuchadnezzar calls for his magicians, astrologers, sorcerers and Chaldeans to interpret a dream that he has experienced.  Adding to the difficulty of the situation, we are informed by the king that he had forgotten the details of the dream (2:2, 2:7).  These men were asked to recount the dream and give the interpretation of it.  The magicians were the priestly scholars attached to the temples of the gods.  They dealt in different types of magic.  There was creative magic that focused on delivering from illnesses.  There was prognostic magic which dealt in divination or attempts to foresee impending events.  There was dream magic.  Assyrian dream manuals are known to us today.  Finally, there was malevolent magic which involved inflicting some type of harm to enemies.  Astrologers were involved in casting horoscopes and making predictions based upon the stars.  Sorcerers used charms and spells.  The Chaldeans were the elite of Babylonian society.  They were masters of great learning.  Nebuchadnezzar probably belonged to this elite group.  The king desired that these special and learned men relate to him his dream and its meaning.  They were the very best of Babylon.  However, none of them could interpret the dream.  The king then determined to destroy them.  Daniel recognized the dilemma and after receiving the dream and its interpretation from God (Dan. 2:19), he went before the king and said, “But there is a God in heaven that revealeth secrets, and maketh known to the king Nebuchadnezzar what shall be in the latter days.  Thy dream, and the visions of thy head upon thy bed, are these…” (Dan. 2:28).   Then, Daniel revealed the dream to the king.  Nebuchadnezzar said, “Of a truth it is, that your God is a God of gods, and a Lord of kings, and a revealer of secrets, seeing thou couldest reveal this secret” (Dan. 2:47).   The true God knows the past, present and future.  Daniel demonstrated that he and his friends were ten times better than the Chaldeans (Dan. 1:20).  God makes a significant difference in our lives.
In Daniel 3, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego are delivered by God from the fiery furnace.  Nebuchadnezzar made a great image similar to the one that was revealed in the dream that he had and that was revealed to him by God through Daniel.  The king commands that all in the kingdom of Babylon must fall down and worship the great image.  Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego refused to bow (Dan. 3:16-18).  King Nebuchadnezzar ordered them to be burnt alive in the fiery furnace.  However, God preserved them and delivered them.  Once place into the fire, the fire had no power to consume them.  In Dan. 3:28-29, Nebuchadnezzar said, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who hath sent his angel, and delivered his servants that trusted in him, and have changed the king’s word, and yielded their bodies, that they might not serve or worship any god, except their own God.  Therefore I make a decree, That every people, nation, and language, which speak any thing amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made a dunghill: because there is no other God that can deliver after this sort.”  Nebuchadnezzar now learns that God saves by His power.  God can nullify the word of the king.  God is worthy of the trust of His children.  God’s glory is to be praised and protected.
In Daniel 4, Nebuchadnezzar is punished by God for lack of moral integrity (righteousness), failure to be merciful to the poor (no love for neighbor), and overgrown pride (Dan. 4:30) (lack of love for God).  God humbles the king and causes him to eat grass like an ox and to change his physical appearance in a most grotesque way (Dan. 4:31-33).  After this experience, Nebuchadnezzar said, “Now I Nebuchadnezzar praise and extol and honour the King of heaven, all whose works are truth, and his ways judgment: and those that walk in pride he is able to abase” (Dan. 4:37).  Nebuchadnezzar once again acknowledges God’s power.  He praises God for His truth and judgments.  He recognizes God’s eternality (Dan. 4:1-3).
With every new experience, Nebuchadnezzar grows in his knowledge and understanding of the true God.  He learns that there is a God in heaven who: knows the past, present and future, elevates His children, saves His children from their enemies, has power to nullify the word of a king, is worthy of the trust of His children, possesses a glory that surpasses that of men and all idols, is great and eternal, has a kingdom that is eternal, judges sinners and humbles them, and whose greatness is unsurpassed even by the king of the greatest empire in the world at that time.  The testimony of Nebuchadnezzar is the unprejudiced testimony of a man who was a polytheist, but who came to know the one, true and living God!

A Thanksgiving Prayer

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David expresses a beautiful prayer in I Chronicles 29:10-19.  He makes this prayer prior to leaving the kingdom to his son, Solomon.  He glorifies God and credits Him as the source and owner of all things.  He gives thanks to the Almighty.  He prays that the spirit of joy that existed in Israel at that time would always be present.  And, he prays for Solomon.  Solomon is young and  inexperienced.  David has given him an important task: to rule over Israel and to build the temple.  David prays that Solomon will walk in the ways of the LORD.  The prayer begins with these words, “Blessed be thou, LORD God of Israel our father, for ever and ever.  Thine, O LORD, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory,  and the majesty: for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine; thine is the kingdom, O LORD, and thou art exalted as head above all.  Both riches and honour come of thee, and thou reignest over all; and in thine hand is power and might; and in thine hand it is to make great, and to give strength unto all.  Now therefore, our God, we thank thee, and praise thy glorious name.”  In all humility, we say, AMEN!

Father, Son and Spirit

God, Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ No Comments

Father, Son and Spirit–The Trinity and John’s Gospel is written by Andreas J. Kostenberger and Scott R. Swain. The book is part of the series, New Studies in Biblical Theology edited by D. A. Carson and published by InterVarsity Press in 2008. This book is a special study of a special topic. The authors give a thorough analysis and study of the words, God (theos), Father, Son and Spirit in the Gospel of John. They consider each term in the various parts of John’s Gospel: the Prologue, the Book of Signs and the Book of Glory. Then, they draw some theological conclusions based upon their analysis of the passages. I have completed a review of this book and added it to my Book Reviews page on my blog. Why not take a moment to read it?

Who Is Jesus?

faith, God, hope, Jesus Christ No Comments

The focus of the Gospel of John is to answer the question, “Who Is Jesus?” The answer to this question gives insight into another question, “Who Is God?” In the opening eighteen verses of this Gospel, John uses several descriptive terms to identify Jesus. They are: Word, Creator, Life and Light, Only begotten Son, and Christ.
Jesus the Word
“In the beginning was the Word…” (John 1:1). John is the only New Testament writer to use the term, Word, to describe Jesus. The Greek word logos is translated by the English term, Word. John is referring to the fact that Jesus is the full and complete revelation of God (deity) to the world. Jesus declares the Father (John 1:18). Every characteristic of deity was possessed by Jesus (John 14:9, Col. 2:9). He is the express image of the Father (Heb. 1:3). To affirm that Jesus is deity is to give insight into the godhead. Clearly, in John 1:1, the Word was with God (distinct from God the Father, but present with Him in the beginning-Gen. 1:1) as part of the godhead. The Word was God (God is from the Greek word theos indicating the nature of His essential being–or deity). The Word is an agent of Creation. Creative power belongs to God alone and Jesus is creator (John 1:3). Therefore, Jesus is God (deity). God (the Triune God) is an eternal, self-existing, all-powerful spiritual being manifested in three distinct persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Each of these persons share together in one divine essence to form one essential being–the Triune God. This understanding of the godhead is further developed in the Gospel of John. It emphatically refutes atheism.
Jesus the Creator
“All things were made by him…” (John 1:3). “All things…” refers to each item individually considered. Each minute part of the creation is included in the creative power manifested by the Word. “Made” means “came into being.” This refutes the concept of the eternality of matter. Every material thing that exists in the universe had a beginning. “By” indicates agency. Jesus was with God the Father at the beginning of all things (Gen. 1:1, Col. 1:16). Jesus possessed and demonstrated full creative powers–a characteristic of deity. If we deny creation, we deny the true identity of Jesus Christ. If we deny Jesus as creator, we must also deny Him as savior of the world!
Jesus the Life and Light
“In him was life; and the life was the light of men” (John 1:4). Jesus is the source of all life-physical, spiritual and eternal-because He is the creator of all things. All life comes from Him who is the source of life. Consequently, belief in Jesus requires that we reject the notion of spontaneous generation. Spontaneous generation, the notion that non-living things can produce living organisms has never been proven scientifically. Yet, this concept is an important aspect of organic evolution. Not only is Jesus the life (John 14:6), but, He is the light. The word light refers to truth and moral uprightness (John 14:6). Light is in conflict with darkness (error and moral corruption). But, light dispels the darkness (John 3:21). Men love darkness rather than light because the truth rebukes their sinful deeds. The only hope men have to win over sin and death is to come to the light.
Jesus the Only Begotten Son
Twice in the prologue to John’s Gospel Jesus is referred to as “the only begotten Son” (John 1:14, 18). In John 1:14, the affirmation is made that the Word was made flesh. This refers to the Virgin Birth of Jesus. The conception of Jesus was a miracle. Luke describes it in these words, “And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb…Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall these things be, seeing I know not a man? And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:31-35). Jesus was (eternally existed) but He was made or became flesh (at a certain point in history) (John 1:1, 14). Jesus is the Second Person of the godhead who took human form and was made in the likeness of a servant for the purpose of suffering the death on the cross and securing our eternal redemption (Phil. 2:5-11).
Jesus the Christ
“…but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ” (John 1:17). The word Christ refers to the Messiah. Jesus is the anointed one. He was anointed with the Holy Spirit at His baptism (Matt. 3:16-17, Acts 10:38). John the baptist was an eyewitness to this event (John 1:32-34). John’s testimony validates Jesus’ claim to be the hope of Israel and the hope of the world. Jesus Christ gives us grace and truth. Grace is the unmerited favor of God and reveals God’s goodness toward us in the unspeakable gift of His Son (John 3:16; II Cor. 9:15). Truth is the very words proceeding forth from God (the Triune God). The words of Jesus (His teaching, especially His commands) will judge us in the last day (John 12:48).
The revelation of Jesus Christ by John is convincing and faith producing. It is only by believing in Jesus Christ that we can have eternal life (John 20:30-31). Authentic faith in Jesus involves trusting Him and obeying Him (John 3:36). Do you know Jesus? Have you obeyed Him?

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