Dad is missing you

This afternoon I go to pick up my two daughters (aged 4 and 8) who have been staying with my parents for a week. While they have been enjoying an action-packed week with Grandma, I have spent days and evenings sanding, painting and varnishing a new bedroom for them. It has been a labour of love for my kids.

All up I have probably spent around 100 hours on this project, prior to that the builders took a month and $25,000 to build the new room, which had been planned for over a year.

Jesus is a builder and he too has a project on the go (John 14:2). Being God his house is a bit bigger than mine, it was planned for much longer (Ephesians 1:3-4) and the cost has been horrific (Colossians 2:14). God’s motivation has also been love for His children (1 John 3:1).

I miss my girls and really want them home again, but at least I know they are with people who also love them and are trustworthy. Jesus has left us in capable hands too (John 16:7), with the assurance that he is coming to get us when the time is right (John 14:3).

Your heavenly Father loves you and is wanting to give you the kingdom (John 16:27, Luke 12:32).

Clothing sin in the beautiful garments of righteousness

“It seems to be a fact of life that human beings cannot continue to do wrong without eventually reaching out for some thin rationalization, to clothe an obvious wrong in the beautiful garments of righteousness.”

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary on 19 April 1961.

Looking back 50 years and across the Pacific ocean it is easy to see slavery in the USA as obviously wrong and the rationalization as very thin indeed. The question we need to face is what are we currently rationalizing and dressing up in pseudo-righteousness that will be seen by others (in other times or places) as obviously wrong?

The worst thing in the world is …

“We have learned that suffering is not the worst thing in the world – disobedience to God is the worst” A Vietnamese pastor, imprisoned for his faith (from the Voice of the Martyrs Facebook page).

This should not be shocking to me, but it is.

I think the reason is with the word ‘disobedience’ – my idea of the word disobedience is approximately the same as ‘naughty’, a little bit over the line but not too bad. Without really stopping to consider the implications, I consider ‘disobedience’ to be a mild thing, not like idolatry or murder or blasphemy. Which, when you do stop to think about it, is really dumb.

Disobedience is not treated so lightly by the apostle Paul in Romans 5:19, Adam’s sin was disobedience to the express command of God. So too my own disobedience to anything I know is commanded by God is sin. Of course there are false ideas about what might be commanded by God – the odd feeling I get when contemplating speaking about Christ to someone is not God, it is fear. What Jesus does command is not to fear men (Matthew 10:28) and that if I deny Him, he will deny me before the Father (Matthew 10:32-33).

My theology of suffering is purely theoretical, with an underlying assumption that the worst thing in suffering would be to lose my faith in Christ. This quote has me wondering how sound my faith is if I consider disobedience to be a small thing?

I will let Jesus have the last word: “whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” John 3:36.

Plodding is OK

Whenever a mature Christian comments on how they could have better use their time, it is worth paying attention. Especially if that Christian is still known as a faithful servant of Jesus 200 years after he died. So take note of what John Newton wrote about his own reading habits:

Alas, how much time have I lost and wasted, which, had I been wise—I would have devoted to reading and studying the Bible! But my evil heart obstructs the dictates of my judgment, I often feel a reluctance to read this book of books, and a disposition to hew out broken cisterns which afford me no water, while the fountain of living waters are close within my reach!

In Jeremiah 15:16 the prophet says that God’s words became a delight to him, implying that they were always so. It is generally the case with us that God’s words do not initially delight us. The Bible is a big book, it is culturally far removed from our western materialist experiences, and it’s meaning is very deep.

Whenever something is deep we need to spend time peering into it in order to see the substance of what is held in those depths. It will take repeated readings of the Bible to take it all in, but lots of small readings over time will get you there. Again, from John Newton:

To make a few efforts, and then give up—is like taking a few steps and then standing still, which would do little towards completing a long journey. But, though a person walked slowly, and but a little way in a day—if he walked every day, and with his face always in the same direction, year after year—he would in time travel over the globe! By thus traveling patiently and steadily through the Scripture, and repeating our progress—we would increase in Scriptural knowledge to the end of life!

Plodding through the Bible is OK, just keep going!

Here is the entire Reading the Bible article by John Newton.

Beautiful invisible God

God is invisible (1 Timothy 1:17) and no one has ever seen God, though Jesus has made known to us God as He really is (John 1:18).

What about the theophanies of the Old Testament such as Genesis 32:28-30, Exodus 24:9-11, and Isaiah 6:1 is which people did see God? These were manifestations in which God showed Himself in a physical form but that form is not the fullness of what God is actually like.

The invisibility of God is why science can never lead us to God. By definition science can only investigate and describe what it can observe. God is not such a specimen, He is not even a phenomenon that can be analyzed. So far as science is concerned, God cannot be measured, so God cannot exist. It is only through the person of Jesus Christ that we can know God. (For more on this listen to The Unseen God by Dick Lucas).

There are several reasons why we cannot see God. The obvious one is because He is spirit (John 4:24) and we cannot see spirit beings with our physical eyes. Another reason is that He is holy and we are sinners. He dwells in unapproachable light (1 Timothy 6:16), we dwell in places darkened by sin. It is therefore merciful of God to have veiled Himself so that we are not destroyed by seeing His glory in our sinful state.

A day is coming when that veil will be taken away and every eye will see Christ (Revelation 1:7) and be terrified. Yet for those who belong to Him it will be glorious to see His face (Revelation 22:4). As Wayne Grudem writes:

“When we realize that God is the perfection of all that we long for or desire, that he is the summation of everything beautiful or desirable, then we realize that the greatest joy of the life to come will be that we “shall see his face”.”
From Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology p189.

Should we have a turn being poor?

My 8-year-old daughter was watching news footage of the catastrophe in Haiti with me this evening. Afterwards, while eating dinner she commented that it’s not fair that people have to always be poor, in her words, “they should get to be rich and we should have a turn being poor.” I was very proud of her. She did qualify this by stating that, “we should still have clean water and some food to eat, but not much.”

In my heart I was thinking that it wouldn’t be at all nice to be poor, but I am also pleased that she thinks like this. It seems that currently every passing day convicts me on how affluent I am, how desperately poor most of the people in this world are and that God loves the poor.

I would like to give more than I do, but I do have bills to pay and a family to feed – we are struggling to pay our own living costs. There is no easy answer, I cannot bring myself to make my wife and children have less, I need to find ways to spend less myself if I want to give more. I also need to work on becoming a more giving person from the heart, less selfish in other words.

Still, I cannot get Luke 16:19-25 out of my head – what if I have already had my chance?

Inspired again

See what God has made

I was feeling distinctly uninspired about blogs today – I am noticing how banal and trivial many blogs are, even (perhaps especially) blogs written by Christians (I expect a bit more depth from Christians). I then noticed how trivial our culture is as I walked through town at lunch time and felt even less inspired. Why add to the existing deluge of trivia on the internet?

Then my screensaver displayed this photo which I snapped the other day.

At the time I was impressed by the near-perfect form of this dandelion. Today I look at it compared to the ‘fun’ culture around me and the technical wizardry of our time and am awed by the finesse, skill, care and beauty that God has put into a thing that will literally disintegrate in a puff of wind. He actually designed it to fall apart and waft away in the wind, there is intentionality and purpose in this beauty, which was growing in the weeds of my unkept back yard!

This brings to mind Isaiah 40:8 which really is about the frailty of men, not just plants, and the staggering relevance to my observations of our culture that comes from the rest of Isaiah 40. If you are feeling dry and distant from God, it is not long really until we will hear the cry “Behold your God!” (Isaiah 40:9, Revelation 22:7).