Posts belonging to Category God

A John 3:16 Valentine Message

My parents emailed me this neat little valentine this morning, so I thought I would pass it along to you.

For God so loVed the world
      That He gAve
            His onLy
                      That whoever
        Believes In Him
              Shall Not perish,
        But have Eternal life. (John 3:16)

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Related post: What Is Love?

Thoreau and Ryken: Quotes on Contentment

We have had some good discussion and comments over at this week’s Sunday Morning SoundBytes. So I thought I would share a couple of the quotes that I shared at church during Sunday morning’s message on contentment.

The first quote is by Henry David Thoreau from his masterful journal, Walden; or, a Life in the Woods. Although Thoreau was not a Christian (and could be quite smug about it at times), he puts most of us to shame in this book when it comes to living simply and doing without. Here is his definition of what it means to be rich.

A man is rich in proportion to the number of things he can afford to let alone. (Henry David Thoreau; from Walden)

There is a contrarian viewpoint for you. A man is not rich according to what he has but according to what he does not need. Thoreau understood that contentment does not require more things or stuff. But he missed out on the deeper secret of contentment – which is finding your satisfaction in God. Philip Ryken, pastor at Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, PA, fills in the rest of the picture for us:

As long as we base our sense of contentment on anything in the world, we will always find some excuse to make ourselves miserable. Our problem is not on the outside–it’s on the inside, and therefore it will never be solved by getting more of what we think we want. If we do not learn to be satisfied right now in our present situation–whatever it is–we will never be satisfied at all. . . .

The truth is that if God wanted us to have more right now, we would have it. . . . If we were supposed to be in a different situation in life, we would be in it. Instead of always saying, “If only this” and “If only that,” God calls us to glorify him to the fullest right now. . . . Contentment means wanting what God wants for us rather than what we want for us. The secret to enjoying this kind of contentment is to be so satisfied with God that we are able to accept whatever he has or has not provided. (Philip Ryken, Exodus: Saved for God’s Glory, pp. 673-74)

Contentment is not found in things but in God. If only we could all learn this lesson well.

Tony Dungy: Asking ‘What’ Instead of ‘Why’

Here is a great quote by Tony Dungy from his new book, Quiet Strength: The Principles, Practices & Priorities of a Winning Life. Tony lost his 18-year-old son, James, back in 2005.

Why do bad things happen? I don’t know. Why did Jamie die? I don’t know. But I do know that God has the answers, I know he loves me, and I know he has a plan – whether it makes sense to me or not. Rather than asking why, I’m asking what. What can I learn from this? What can I do for God’s glory and to help others?

Tony Dungy is head coach of this year’s Super Bowl winning Indianapolis Colts.

Related articles:

God, Quantum Mechanics, and Chaos Theory

Mr. Dawntreader has another excellent post today in his series of articles on the book, Science & Faith: Friends or Foes? by Dr. C. John Collins.

Whereas quantum mechanics and chaos theory both suggest randomness in the world, the Bible reveals a sovereign God who is in control of the universe. So how does one reconcile the findings of quantum mechanics and chaos theory with a sovereign God?

My own hunch – and it is not much stronger than that – is that quantum mechanics is a model, and that it shows what the world acts like at its lowest level; but that we may well have reached the limits of our ability to know things with more precision than quantum mechanics allows.

But in any case quantum mechanics in itself . . . does not undermine the traditional Christian picture of the world with knowable natural properties behaving in a predictable and understandable way, under the rule of a wise and holy Creator. This is true for at least two reasons.

First, however spooky quantum theory may sound, it is highly mathematical: and this shows that the world is still intelligible, since that is just what mathematics is for.

Second, we experience the world at a much larger scale than the one quantum mechanics describes. And at this level, “ordinary physics” – Newton’s laws and all that – describes everything quite well. So we experience the world at a level that combines the tiny quantum effects, and all the goofiness gets washed out. (Collins, Science & Faith, p.223)

Mr. Dawntreader then goes on to discuss chaos theory using weather as an example.

It is terribly difficult to predict weather. There are simply too many factors. The initial condition is far to difficult to measure. The output is nonlinear. Weather is therefore a chaotic system. Hence we use predictions based on probability instead of knowing exactly what will happen based on natural laws.

Does this undermine a biblical worldview?

Hardly. This is nothing more than a math problem that is too difficult for us to solve at present. Nothing more, nothing less. If we could precisely measure the initial conditions and every single factor, we could precisely say what tomorrow’s weather would be.

In conclusion, neither quantum theory or chaos theory presents a serious challenge to a biblical worldview.

I encourage you to read the full article at the Dawn Treader site.

Related post: God’s Providence and Scientific Investigation

God’s Providence and Scientific Investigation

I am enjoying reading Mr. Dawntreader’s articles on the book, Science & Faith: Friends or Foes? by Dr. C. John Collins. Dr. Collins is an Old Testament professor at Covenant Theological Seminary. He has his undergraduate and first graduate degrees in engineering from MIT, and a Ph.D. in lingusitics from the university of Liverpool. He is also an expert in Hebrew.

I especially liked this article on the topic of God’s involvement in this world and its effect on science.

In theological terms, this falls in the area of study called providence. How involved is God in the natural world? If he is heavily involved, does it make the study of science pointless?

Collins unpacks God’s involvement in the world by stating the classic Christian understanding of God’s providence. God created real things with real properties (i.e. natures) each with the possibility of causing things. God ceased creating but goes on maintaining and governing. That is, he keeps his creation doing what it is supposed to be doing …

This raises a question. Does God do everything?

In a sense, yes. In a sense, no. God directly governs this world. His purposes are holy, wise and thoroughly good; and he sees to it, that in the end, his purposes stand. The reason the laws of physics work is because God keeps them working day after day. They serve his purpose. So God is directly involved in all of creation daily. However, God created a universe with a web of cause and effect and things that have natures … and one of the properties of those natures is to cause things. In that sense, God did not write this blog post. Mr. Dawntreader did …

Is it still possible for Christians to study and learn about the natural world if God is so involved in it? Of course it is, and we should learn as much as we can. In fact, it is because God sustains this world and gives it order that forms the basis and foundation for studying it.

I encourage you to visit the Dawn Treader site to read the full article, plus the earlier articles on the book as well. This looks like an excellent book on science and faith, and I have added it to my “books to read” list.

Related post: The Bible is to Theology as Creation is to Science

Churches Stop Calling God “Lord”

Some churches have stopped using the word ‘Lord’ to speak about God or Jesus. This comes from the Arizona Daily Star:

“‘Lord’ has become a loaded word conveying hierarchical power over things, which in what we have recorded in our sacred texts, is not who Jesus understood himself to be,” St. Philip’s associate rector Susan Anderson-Smith said. [from St. Philip’s in the Hills Church in Tucson, Arizona] …

St. Philip’s isn’t the only local church to re-examine its language. Other local religious leaders already are eschewing the use of “Lord” for similar reasons. First Congregational United Church of Christ in Midtown even has a different name for The Lord’s Prayer. They call it “The Prayer of Our Creator.” “We do still use the word ‘Lord’ on occasion, but we are suspicious of it,” First Congregational pastor Briget Nicholson said. …

St. Francis in the Foothills United Methodist Church has been minimizing its use of Lord for two decades, senior pastor David Wilkinson said. “We usually change ‘Lord’ to ‘love’ or ‘soul’ or ‘light,’ ” Wilkinson said.

So, these churches do not want to use the word ‘Lord’ to refer to God or Jesus, because ‘Lord’ implies a hierachical relationship of power that they do not find in their sacred texts. When I read the Bible, I read about a God who is the all-powerful ruler over all creation. I think the word ‘Lord’ describes that very well. I just did a quick computer search of the word ‘Lord’ in the Bible. It is used 170 times in the gospels, 6,459 times in the Bible as a whole. (NIV) Not all of these occurrences refer directly to God or Jesus, but the vast majority of them do.

Here are just a few of those sacred texts that a church might want to reflect on before getting rid of the word ‘Lord’ with regards to God and Christ.

  • “I am the LORD, and there is no other; apart from me there is no God.” (Isaiah 45:5)
  • Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.” (Matthew 22:37-38)
  • “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46)
  • “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am.” (John 13:13)
  • Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28)
  • “Therefore, God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:9-11)
  • “On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.” (Revelation 19:16)

(HT: PastorBlog)

Virginia Tech, God, Suffering, and Faith

Pastor Mark Roberts shares some helpful resources for thinking about suffering and evil in the wake of the killings at Virginia Tech.

In light of the tragedy at Virginia Tech, I thought it might be helpful to put up some resources for people who are looking for answers to the tough questions having to do with suffering, evil, God, and faith. Though there are limits to our understanding, and thus to the satisfaction [we] will find in this conversation, nevertheless I believe there are some truths we can know that will help us find guidance and even solace.

Mark’s post provides links to some helpful articles, books and sermons discussing God and the problem of suffering and evil in the world. You can link to the resource page here.

Mark also has an excellent post today on caring for people who are grieving.

The most important thing we can do is be present with those who hurt. Sometimes our presence will be literal. Sometimes it will be expressed through a card or a letter or a meal. Presence says “I am with you. And I will be with you through this process.” Presence doesn’t try to make things better. It doesn’t offer explanations or solutions. Presence doesn’t try to fix things. Rather, it offers love in tangible, faithful, and non-invasive ways.

Our American tendency is to want to help people feel better, to take away their pain. Thus we’re often tempted to “cheer people up.” We want to say things like, “I’m sure God will work good things out of this tragedy.” Now this might be true. Indeed, I believe it is. But when people are in the midst of deep grief, such words, even when true, can seem terribly superficial.

I appreciate Mark’s unique blend of compassion, wisdom, and insight. I enjoy reading his blog and recommend it to you.

Newsweek: Is God Real?

Newsweek’s April 9, 2007 religion feature by Jon Meacham is entitled: Is God Real? The article is a follow-up to Newsweek’s recent religious poll and the discussion/debate Newsweek hosted between Christian pastor Rick Warren and atheistic author Sam Harrison on the same question.

Meacham describes the two debate participants as follows:

Warren believes in the God of Abraham as revealed by Scripture, tradition and reason; Jesus is Warren’s personal savior and was, Warren argues, who he said he was: the Son of God. Harris, naturally, takes a different view. “I no more believe in the Biblical God than I believe in Zeus, Isis, Thor and the thousands of other dead gods that lie buried in the mass grave we call ‘mythology’,” Harris says. “I doubt them all equally and for the same reason: lack of evidence.”

Newsweek religion contributor Rabbi Marc Gellman adds his own thoughts to the subject in his April 5, 2007 article, “Problems and Mysteries.” I got a chuckle out of Gellman’s closing words. After commenting on his own Jewish faith, Rick Warren’s Christian faith, and Sam Harris’ lack of faith, Gellman signs off with these three greetings:

Happy Passover to my Jewish readers.
Happy Easter to Rick and all my Christian friends.
And to Sam Harris, happy springtime.

Is God real? This is the most basic question of faith, and one that must be addressed in order to come to God. Hebrews 11:6 says: “Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”

Without God there is no meaning to life. Without Christ there is no hope of resurrection and life beyond the grave. There is just “happy springtime.” Springtime is nice, but it cannot compare with Easter. May you know the reality of God and his love for you in Christ this Easter season.

God in the Ground

“Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock. He rolled a big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb and went away.” (Matthew 27:59-60)

Today is Holy Saturday. It is a day when Christians around the world find themselves caught between remembering the crucifixion on Good Friday and celebrating the resurrection on Easter Sunday. It is a day of mixed emotions. It is a day of waiting and anticipation.

It is good to remember that we are merely caught between the observances of these two days. On that first Holy Saturday, Jesus’ followers were caught between the actual events of Good Friday and Easter. They had to go through the full day with Jesus their Lord and Master crucifed, dead and buried. On Easter we celebrate the empty tomb. But on that holy and sacred day the tomb of Jesus was woefully full.

Jesus’ followers did not know that Easter was coming (although they should have!). We do, and that makes all the difference. We live on this side of the resurrection. On this Holy Saturday and every Holy Saturday we serve a risen Savior.

So let us rejoice in Christ who died and rose again. But let us also remember this day when Jesus’ body lay buried in the tomb. Let us feel for the disciples whose hope was buried along with him. And let us marvel at the incongruent wonder of God in the ground.

John Stott on Human Suffering and the Cross

Here is an excerpt on human suffering and the cross from John Stott’s landmark book, The Cross of Christ:

I could never myself believe in God if it were not for the cross. The only God I believe in is the One Nietzsche ridiculed as ‘God on the cross’. In the real world of pain, how could one worship a God who was immune to it? I have entered many Buddhist temples in different Asian countries and stood respectfully before the statue of Buddha, his legs crossed, arms folded, eyes closed, the ghost of a smile playing round his mouth, a remote look on his face, detached from the agonies of the world. But each time after awhile I have had to turn away. And in imagination, I have turned instead to that lonely, twisted, tortured figure on the cross, nails through his hands and feet, back lacerated, limbs wrenched, brow bleeding from thorn pricks, mouth dry and intolerably thirsty, plunged in God-forsaken darkness. That is the God for me! He laid aside his immunity to pain. He entered our world of flesh and blood, tears and death. He suffered for us. Our sufferings become more manageable in the light of his. There is still a question mark against human suffering, but over it we boldly stamp another mark, the cross which symbolizes divine suffering. ‘The cross of Christ … is God’s only self justification in such a world’ as ours.1 (John Stott, The Cross of Christ, pp. 335-336)

1 P.T. Forsyth, Justification of God, p. 32.

Newsweek Poll: 9 in 10 American Adults Believe in God

Here are some of the figures from the latest Newsweek poll, conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International on March 28-29, 2007. According to the poll, which questioned American adults aged 18 and older on political and religious beliefs, 9 in 10 American adults believe in God.

Here are some of the other results from the poll.

Of the 1,004 American adults surveyed:

  • 91% believe in God
  • 87% identify with a specific religion
  • 82% identify themselves as Christians (5% say they follow a non-Christian faith, such as Judaism or Islam)
  • 48% reject the scientific theory of evolution
  • 34% of college graduates say they accept the Biblical account of creation as fact
  • 10% identify themselves as having “no religion”
  • 6% said they don’t believe in a God at all

The “believe in God” number seems low to me compared to other polls I have seen in the past, and the “do not believe in God” number seems high. And although it may be nice for 82% of American adults to identify themselves as Christians, if 82% of all American adults truly followed Christ, I think we would see a very different moral climate in our country. You can read the actual poll questions here.

John Calvin Lite

So, have you ever thought about reading John Calvin’s four volume, 1734 page work, The Institutes of the Christian Religion? I am guessing probably not. I am a seminary graduate and a pastor, and I have not read the whole thing.

Calvin’s Institutes is a classic in Christian literature, and yet most Christians are completely unfamiliar with it. The size of the task is daunting. Not many of us feel we can read 1734 pages of theology. (Remember, Calvin had to write all those pages!)

What if you could get a taste for the book and its contents by reading 100 brief paragraphs which summarized the whole? What if you could do it for free online right at your computer? Well, you can. The Rev. William Pringle assembled his “One Hundred Aphorisms, Containing, Within a Narrow Compass, the Substance and Order of the Four Books of the Institutes of the Christian Religion.” Designed as a reference to the work, the aphorisms also provide a good summary and introduction to the Institutes.

If you are up for a little theology today, try reading them at one of the following links:

Advice: Don’t try to read them all at one. Just read a few paragraphs at a time, then stop and think about them. Then come back later and read some more.