Friday, December 30, 2016

named in figures and images

"...that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for 'In him we live and move and have our being'; as even some of your own poets have said, 'For we are indeed his offspring.'" (Acts 17:27-28 ESV)

"Because of this intimate relationship, God can be named in the terms of His creatures, and He can be spoken of anthropomorphically.  The same Scripture which speaks in the most exalted way of God's incomparable greatness and majesty, at the same time speaks of Him in figures and images which sparkle with life.  It speaks of His eyes and ears, His hands and feet, His mouth and lips, His heart and bowels.  It ascribes all kinds of attributes to Him -- of wisdom and knowledge, will and power, righteousness and mercy, and it ascribes to Him also such emotions as joy and grief, fear and vexation, zeal and envy, remorse and wrath, hatred and anger.  It speaks of His observing and thinking, His hearing and seeing, His remembering and forgetting, smelling and tasting, sitting and rising, visiting and forsaking, blessing and chastising, and the like.  It compares Him to a sun and a light, a fountain and a spring, a rock and a shelter, a sword and buckler, a king and a judge, a husbandman and a shepherd, a man and a father.  In short, all that can be found in the whole world in the way of support and shelter and aid is originally and perfectly to be found in overflowing abundance in God.  Of Him the whole family in heaven and earth is named (Eph. 3:15).  He is the Sun of being and all creatures are His fleeing rays." 

~ Herman Bavinck, Our Reasonable Faith

Saturday, December 17, 2016

beholding his glory

"One of the greatest privileges and advancements of believers, both in this world and unto eternity, consists in their beholding the glory of Christ."

"No man shall ever behold the glory of Christ by sight hereafter, who does not in some measure behold it by faith here in this world."

"Grace is a necessary preparation for glory, and faith for sight."

"For nothing can perfectly comprehend that which is infinite, but what is itself infinite. Therefore the blessed and blessing sight which we shall have of God will be always 'in the face of Jesus Christ.'”

~ John Owen, from The Glory of Christ

Saturday, December 10, 2016

kingdom prayer

"Pray then like this: 'Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread...'"  (Matthew 6:9-11a ESV)

Many of us find that our our prayers often don't seem to rise above our own personal needs or immediate family concerns.  We see that we're called to pray for the honor of God's name, the coming of Christ's kingdom, and that God's will would be done on earth... but daily bread may seem more real and practical.   Besides, how does one measure the effectiveness of big prayers, like the advance of the gospel or the coming of his Kingdom?

I've been helped recently in praying for bigger things, things that relate to progress of God's Big Story on earth, or what theologians call "the history of redemption."   Consider Revelation 8:3-4...

"And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer, and he was given much incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar before the throne, and the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel."  (Cf. Rev. 5:8)

The "prayers of the saints" -- those words uttered to God in prayer meetings, prayer closets, nursing home rooms, prison cells, home groups, at breakfast nooks and bedsides -- are heard, presented, savored, and made a part of the Lord's sovereign activity in heaven, as he rules over the earth. 

When we pray about matters that matter to God, we are participating in his work around the world. Prayer is a very real participation in the ongoing history of redemption.  This is "kingdom-centered" praying, which in the Lord's instruction on prayer, comes before "daily bread" praying.  

Our personal story, along with our family and church stories, all need to be embedded in God's much larger story.  Praying for the honor and sanctity of God's name around the world, for the advance of his gospel into all the nations, for the coming of his Kingdom, and for the day of universal obedience -- these are not vague and far-off requests.  They are very close to us in our identity as beloved children of the sovereign God.  John calls them "prayers of the saints." Such prayer, as Tim Keller writes, will "give us relief from the melancholy burden of self-absorption.” 

Indeed, prayer can give us a greater sphere of influence than our words and deeds alone.  What we do and say around others has a limited circle of effect.  But prayer, by contrast, can be involved in many events around the world: comfort for believers under trial, power for the proclamation of the gospel, judgment upon the forces that oppose the Lord, assurance for new believers, conviction upon the unrepentant, for conversions, for healing, perseverance, light, and strength to churches and believers we are yet to meet.  (But one day will!)

By our lives we influence those around us.  By prayer we share in God's activity in the world, and in history.  In prayer we become partakers with God in his great work of redemption.  

Friday, December 9, 2016

placed within our reach

The Nativity Story (2008)

"And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth... No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father's side, he has made him known."  (John 1:14, 18 ESV)

"Through revelation, the incomprehensible and utterly transcendent God places himself within our reach. The sovereign God, who eludes our attempts at mastery, by speculation, good works, or mystical experience, places himself in our hands as a free gift. Instead of being consumed, we are reconciled, redeemed, and made adopted heirs of his kingdom in the Son and by his Spirit, through his Word."  

~ Michael S. Horton, Pilgrim Theology.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

a Trinitarian prayer

The Trinity Window at Holy Trinity Church, Hertford, UK.  
"Good morning heavenly Father,

good morning Lord Jesus,

good morning Holy Spirit.

Heavenly Father, I worship you as the Creator and Sustainer of the universe.

Lord Jesus, I worship you, Saviour and Lord of the world.

Holy Spirit, I worship you, Sanctifier of the people of God.

Heavenly Father, I pray that I may live this day in your presence and please you more and more.

Lord Jesus, I pray that this day I may take up my cross and follow you.

Holy Spirit, I pray that this day you will fill me with yourself and cause your fruit to ripen in my life: love joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Holy, blessed and glorious Trinity, three persons in one God, have mercy upon me. Amen."

~ The Morning Prayer of John Stott (1921-2011) as found in The One True Light: Daily Advent Readings from the Gospel of John, by Tim Chester.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

the goodness of wisdom

Here are some recent highlights from reading The Everlasting God, by Broughton Knox, on God's wisdom and goodness...

God’s covenant relationship with creation, when expressed in personal terms, means that he is faithful; he fulfills that which he promises. He is the faithful God and we are to reflect his faithfulness in our relationships, not only with God, but with one another.

The faithfulness of God is the most important aspect of his goodness.

First, there is the relationship, then there is the responsibility of that relationship. From this flows the authority which God has over all, and which leads in turn to the obligation on all of obedience, thanksgiving and honor.

Knowledge applied purposefully but not towards the good of others is not called wisdom but cunning. Wisdom must always be good.

His infinite knowledge coupled with his infinite power and infinite goodness mean that he has infinite wisdom.

God’s wisdom is marvelously displayed in the created world. As the psalmist exclaims, “O Yahweh, how many are your works! In wisdom you have made them all.” The world has been created to accomplish ends of blessing, of joy and of fellowship with God. It marvelously achieves these ends. Take for example our body, that aspect of creation about which we know most. It has plainly been created in order that we might enjoy life. Our five senses all are vehicles of pleasure, as we see the beauty of the world, as we hear the sounds of music, as we taste the food which we need to sustain our life, as we enjoy the fragrance of a flower, as our bodies feel the sensation of the surf or of the wind. All these things are aspects of God’s wisdom in conferring on us joys. Looked at from another point of view, the body is marvelously contrived to accomplish its ends of relationship, with all the pleasure—physical, mental, emotional, spiritual—that relationship brings. The eye, the face, the language structure of our brain, are designed to express our inner being to one another. Our sexual natures, both psychological and physical, are marvelously designed to relate us in joyous fellowship.