The Way God Speaks

A couple months back, James MacDonald examined personal revelation in his Hope in the Authority of the King series. Here he explains his perspective on the way God speaks:

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MacDonald describes five methods in which God speaks:

  1. From the Word of God itself (this is most common)
  2. From the Word through a person (this is less common)
  3. From a person, not contradicting the Word (this is not common)
  4. From the Holy Spirit to my spirit (this is uncommon)
  5. In a dream to my mind (this is very uncommon)

You can find a PDF of the chart shown in the video here.

The first two, we’ve undoubtedly all experienced at some point.

If you’ve read the Bible wanting to hear from God, you’ll hear from Him. [Read more...]

J.I. Packer: Nehemiah's God

 

What makes a man of God is first and foremost his vision of God, and it will help us to know Nehemiah better if at this point we look at his beliefs about God, as his book reveals them. . . . So what did Nehemiah believe about the one whom ten times over, six times in transcribed prayers, he calls “my God”? 

[T]he God of Nehemiah is the transcendent Creator, the God “of heaven” ([Nehemiah] 1:4-5; 2:4, 20), self-sustaining, self-energizing, and eternal (“from everlasting to everlasting,” 9:5). . . . God was to Nehemiah the sublimest, most permanent, most pervasive, most intimate, most humbling, exalting and commanding of all realities. 

[T]he God of Nehemiah is Yahweh, “the LORD,” the covenant making, covenant-keeping, promise-fulfilling, faithful God of Israel (9:8, 32, 33). . . . The prayerful dependence on God that sustained Nehemiah throughout his leadership career, and that he so often verbalizes as his book goes along, was an expression in his faith in God’s covenantal commitment to him and to those he led, just as was his declaration as he arranged Jerusalem’s defenses, “Our God will fight for us!” (4:20). Nor was his faith in God’s faithfulness disappointed. Nehemiah’s God showed himself to be a faithful covenanter who did not let his servant down. 

[T]he God of Nehemiah is a God whose words of revelation are true and trustworthy. . . . God had told his people who he was, what he wanted from them, how he would react should they rebel, and what he would do should they come to their senses and repent after rebelling. 

“Remember,” prayed Nehemiah, “the instruction you gave your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations, but if you return to me and obey my commands, then even if your exiled people are at the farthest horizon, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place I have chosen as a dwelling for my Name” (1:8, alluding to Lev. 26, especially verse 33; Dt. 28:64 and 30:1-10, especially verse 4). . . . 

The Law that God gave his covenant people to show them how to please him was, for Nehemiah, the unchanging standard of righteousness, just as God’s promises were, for him, the unchanging basis of future hope and present confidence. 

These three convictions about God were most certainly the making of Nehemiah. Without them, he would never have cared enough about God’s honor in Jerusalem to pray that the city be restored, nor would he have sought the taxing and terrifying role of being the leader in that restoration, nor would he have had what it took to keep going in the face of all the apathy and animosity that his leadership encountered.

J. I. Packer, A Passion for Faithfulness: Wisdom from the Book of Nehemiah, pp. 37, 39-42 (emphasis mine) 

God Loved You By Calling You

The above is a powerful excerpt from John Piper’s final sermon before beginning his eight-month sabbatical, Consider Your Calling from 1 Cor. 1: 26-31:

For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

I would highly recommend you listen to the whole thing as it’s quite moving and encouraging.

The following text is from the sermon’s transcript:

“For consider your calling, brothers.” What is Paul referring to? Their job? Being a carpenter? Homemaker? Teacher? No. He is referring to the work of God in calling them to himself out of darkness into light, out of death into life. You can see the meaning pretty clearly in verses 22-24:

For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. [Read more...]

"My Goal is to be a Faithful Minister of Jesus Christ until He Calls Me Home" – Matt Chandler at Together for the Gospel 2010

Matt Chandler was a special guest at Together for the Gospel 2010, sharing about how his experience with cancer has impacted him and his theology:

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“My goal is to be a faithful minister of Jesus Christ until he calls me home,” says Chandler.

I don’t know about you, but I’m not sure I’ve got that kind of faith. But I want it.

When we suffer, will we suffer well? Will we look at our circumstances with despair or will we join Paul in saying,

For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account.

Philippians 1:21-24

HT: Matt Robbins

Whatever Makes You Feel Good About You


Morals play a large part in religion; morals are good if they’re healthy for society. Like Christianity, which is all I know, the values you get from like the Ten Commandments. I think every religion is important in its own respect. You know, if you’re Muslim, then Islam is the way for you. If you’re Jewish, well, that’s great too. If you’re Christian, well, good for you. It’s just whatever makes you feel good about you.

A “non-religious white girl” from Maryland, as quoted in Christian Smith’s essay, On “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism” as U.S.Teenagers’ Actual, Tacit, De Facto Religious Faith

In his book, Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers, sociologist Christian Smith describes what he refers to as “the de facto dominant religion among contemporary teenagers in the United States is what we might call ‘Moralistic Therapeutic Deism.’”

The creed of this religion, as codified from what emerged from our interviews with U.S. teenagers, sounds something like this:

  1. A God exists who created and orders the world and watches over human life on earth.
  2. God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions.
  3. The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about one-self.
  4. God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when he is needed to resolve a problem.
  5. Good people go to heaven when they die.

“It’s just whatever makes you feel good about you,” says the teenager from Maryland. Reading Christian Smith’s essay, On “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism” as U.S.Teenagers’ Actual, Tacit, De Facto Religious Faith, was a real eye-opener. Because at the heart of it all:

It’s all about us.

Am I the only one who finds that a bit depressing? [Read more...]

Book Review: Forgotten God by Francis Chan

Title: Forgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit
Author: Francis Chan
Publisher: David Cook

Depending on who you talk to, the Holy Spirit is either overly discussed or utterly neglected. Francis Chan would be firmly in the latter group.

“[W]hat if you grew up on a desert island with nothing but the Bible to read? .  . . [Y]ou would be convinced that the Holy Spirit is as essential to a believer’s existence as air is to staying alive,” writes Chan (p. 16). And that’s why Chan wrote Forgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit—to help believers recapture the necessity of the Holy Spirit to the Christian life.

Running on Fumes

Chan feels that we have lost a robust understanding of the Holy Spirit. We have neglected Him. This neglect has caused us to look and act no differently than our surrounding culture. But this should not be. Chan writes,

If it’s true that the Spirit of God dwells in us and that our bodies are the Holy Spirit’s temple, then shouldn’t there be a huge difference between the person who has the Spirit of God living inside of him or her and the person who does not? (p. 32)

In this assessment, I think Chan is right on. If our lives do not have a marked difference in any way aside from what we do on Sunday morning, perhaps we have some bigger questions to ask ourselves, no? If we were dead but now live, there should be some kind of marked difference in how we live, what we think and how we speak… shouldn’t there? [Read more...]

Book Review: Angels by David Jeremiah

 

It’s really cool to believe in angels. It’s definitely cooler to believe in angels than in Jesus.

They’re everywhere today. Cutesy little figurines in the church merch section of the Christian bookstore. TV shows about guardian angels. In movies, angels are the moody romantic lead, the friendly guide, the likeable and smarmy comedic lead… Heck, a couple weeks back, there was even a movie about humanity having to be saved from God’s wrath (brought by a legion of angels, who possess people as though they were demons) by the archangel, Michael, who has rebelled against God and kills the other angels with machine guns!

Then there’s books. I don’t know about you, but generally when I see a book about angels, I get a little nervous. Usually the only ones I see are by folks like Sylvia Browne and other new age spiritualists.

I say all this to give you a picture of the apprehension I faced when I saw the invite to read Angels by Dr. David Jeremiah. Because I’d never read any of his work before, I decided to give it a shot, uncertain of whether or not it would be beneficial or about as sketchy as a book with fold-out end times charts.

I was pleasantly surprised by what I found. Jeremiah’s book offers a refreshing, helpful look at the topic of angels as he takes readers through the Bible to discover who they are, what they do and why it matters.

Babies in Diapers Don’t Wield Fiery Swords

Jeremiah does not present angels as being huggable, friendly creatures, departed loved ones who now have wings or babies in diapers. Instead, he presents us with the Bible’s far more impressive and terrifying view. [Read more...]

Book Review: God the Holy Trinity

Title: God the Holy Trinity: Reflections on Christian Faith and Practice
Author: Timothy George (editor)
Publisher: Baker Academic

“When I was a student at Harvard Divinity School during the 1970s, one of my teachers published a book entitled God the Problem,” writes Timothy George, contributor and editor of God the Holy Trinity, Reflections on Christian Faith and Practice.

“While reveling in obscurity and complexity may be the delight of some theologians, if there has ever been a genuine ‘problem’ in Christian doctrine, then surely it is how the eternal God can be both One and yet Three at the same time” (p. 9).

Yet, this is exactly what all orthodox Christians confess: that God is both One and Three, who has made Himself known as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. While this doctrine is confusing and wrapped in mystery, it is essential to the Christian faith. [Read more...]

Holy Spirit vs. Holy Scripture

I love a good “Aha!” moment, and reading Jim Belcher’s book, Deep Church (read the review here) gave me more than one.

Consider the idea of the “relational hermeneutic.” (For those who are curious, “hermeneutics” is the technical term for the theory and method of how we interpret Scripture.)

As described Belcher describes it, in a relational hermeneutic “nothing is privileged, not even the Bible, over the community in discovering and living out truth. The Bible is just one of the conversation partners” (p. 145). Basically, truth is determined by the people of God, the Bible and the guidance of the Holy Spirit together in community. [Read more...]

Blogging the Psalms: The Perfect Worshiper

Who is the perfect worshiper of the Lord? Who is worthy of standing before Him?

O Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent?
Who shall dwell on your holy hill?

He who walks blamelessly and does what is right
and speaks truth in his heart;
who does not slander with his tongue
and does no evil to his neighbor,
nor takes up a reproach against his friend;
in whose eyes a vile person is despised,
but who honors those who fear the Lord;
who swears to his own hurt and does not change;
who does not put out his money at interest
and does not take a bribe against the innocent.
He who does these things shall never be moved.

Psalm 15:1-5

[Read more...]

Book Review: In the Beginning, God

Title: In the Beginning, God
Author: Marva J. Dawn
Publisher: IVP Books

“The Bible is all about God,” writes Marva J. Dawn in the opening paragraph of her latest work, In the Beginning, God. “That might seem an overly obvious point with which to begin a book on character formation, but if we consider the mater seriously, we discover that we often read the Bible imagining it is about ourselves.”

Dawn wants readers to understand the enormous shift in perspective that occurs when we stop asking, “what does this text say about me,” and start, instead, by asking, “What is God doing in this text?”

That is the big idea behind In the Beginning, God. The book primarily is a study of Genesis 1-3 and how their focus on God as the principle transforms our attitude toward faith, Scripture and worship from self-improvement to adoration.

What’s Good

There’s actually quite a bit to like in this book. Dawn’s suggestion of reading the creation account of Genesis 1:1-2:3 as liturgy emphasizing the poetic aspect of the chapter is intriguing. [Read more...]

What Does 2010 Hold in Store?

The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance,
but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty.

Proverbs 21:5

I’m not really a “New Years Resolution” guy, but I have to admit, the new year is a great time to reflect on, evaluate and correct patterns of life. And because of that, I have been thinking a lot about what 2010 has in store.

God willing, our second daughter will be born in a couple months. This will be good.

My oldest daughter will hopefully be potty-trained. And this will be very good. (Seriously, the kid can change her own diapers; it’s time to get this show on the road!)

But what do I actually want to see happen this year? What do I want to accomplish?

Some time ago, Donald Whitney offered a number of questions to be asked in prayerful reflection:

  1. What’s one thing you could do this year to increase your enjoyment of God?
  2. What’s the most humanly impossible thing you will ask God to do this year?
  3. What’s the single most important thing you could do to improve the quality of your family life this year?
  4. In which spiritual discipline do you most want to make progress this year, and what will you do about it?
  5. What is the single biggest time-waster in your life, and what will you do about it this year?
  6. What is the most helpful new way you could strengthen your church?
  7. For whose salvation will you pray most fervently this year?
  8. What’s the most important way you will, by God’s grace, try to make this year different from last year?
  9. What one thing could you do to improve your prayer life this year?
  10. What single thing that you plan to do this year will matter most in ten years? In eternity?

These are some really good questions and are worthy of a lot of thought, careful examination and planning.

I’m hopeful that it’ll be a good year. What about you?

What's the Real Story of Christmas

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A thought-provoking short film from St. Helen’s Bishopgate in London on whether or not the Christmas story happened and what it means:

We all know about the real Christmas. Don’t we? Mary and Joseph. Away in a manger. Donkey. 3 wise men and the shepherds. Of course you do. You probably even played a shepherd or a wise man when you were 5.
Now you’re older and it’s all Noel Edmunds, booze, bills and unwanted visits to relatives.

This film brings Christmas back to it’s roots. The real Christmas. Where the manger mings, the baby cries and where a star really shone. The Christmas that is for everyone, everywhere.

HT: Justin Taylor

Oh My God

Oh My God is a documentary that asks the question, “Who is God?”

The filmmaker, Peter Rodger, travelled to 23 different countries around the world just asking this question. In his travels, he didn’t just ask “experts” to explain their concept or understanding of God. He asked normal folks.

And Hugh Jackman.

Check out the trailer:

Jackman’s quote is pretty interesting:

If you put Buddha, Jesus Christ, Socrates, Shakespeare, Arjuna, Krishna together at a dinner table, I couldn’t see them having any argument.

It’s a really nice sentiment, the belief that all religions are fundamentally the same (although I’m not exactly sure how Shakespeare fits into the “religious figure” camp), and therefore, they do not stand in conflict.

It’s a nice idea that we hear a lot. Heck, it’s an argument I threw out a lot back in the day. But as nice as it is, it’s not true. Jesus doesn’t allow for it. What we see in the New Testament is that Jesus debates a lot. He challenges the assumptions of the religious leaders of the day, and even those of His own followers, asking them, “Who do you say I am?”

But that’s what makes the movie intriguing to me; it’s asking, perhaps, the most important question we can ever ask:

Who is God?

It’s a question I’m glad Rodger is asking.

I’m curious if he discovered an answer.

HT: Z