His will means life

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God is not concerned about you doing his will because he wants to be obeyed. He is concerned about you—about making you blessed with his blessedness. He is not thinking about himself, but about you.

–George MacDonald
(paraphrased)

Image: Nelleke Pieters

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Blind to the blessing

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It is generally true that
all that is required to make people 
unmindful of what they owe God
for any blessing is that they
should receive that blessing
often and regularly.

–Richard Whately
(1787 – 1863)

Image: Frederick G. Cotman

Fountain of rich grace

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Men are afraid to have good thoughts of God. They think it is a boldness to eye God as good, gracious, tender, kind, loving. I speak of saints. They can judge him hard, austere, severe, almost implacable, and fierce (the very worst affections of the very worst of men, and most hated by God). Is not this soul-deceit from Satan? Was it not his design from the beginning to inject such thoughts of God?

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Assure yourself, then, there is nothing more acceptable to the Father than for us to keep up our hearts unto him as the eternal fountain of all that rich grace which flows out to sinners in the blood of Jesus.

–John Owen
(1616 – 1683)

Image: Joseph Boltrukiewicz

Made in heaven

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Every bit of love and beauty and truth that anyone ever experiences on earth is made in Heaven and is a participation in Heaven. For Heaven is God’s presence; and God is present in all goodness, all truth, and all beauty . . . In God all goodness, truth and beauty exist, coexist and meet . . . God is the point of it all.

–Peter J. Kreeft
Heaven: The Earth’s Deepest Longing

Published in: on 10/05/2013 at 17:49  Leave a Comment  
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A trail of bread crumbs

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Whenever we experience
something truly beautiful,
it’s as if someone is leaving
a trail of breadcrumbs to the place
where we are fully known and fully loved.
Our task is to follow the bread crumbs
to see where they lead.

–Jonathan Martin
Prototype

A place to pour out His love

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The whole raison d’etre of the universe lies in the fact that God will not be alone, that he will not be without us, but has freely and purposely created the universe and bound it to himself as the sphere where he may ungrudgingly pour out his love, and where we may enjoy communion with him.

–Thomas Torrance
Trinitarian Faith

Grace and goodness

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O my Divine Love,
the desire I had to please You,
the tears I shed, my great labours
and the little fruit I reaped from it,
moved Your compassion.
You gave me in a moment, through
Your grace and Your goodness alone,
what I had been unable to give myself
through all my efforts.

–Madame Guyon
(1648 – 1717)

Spreading joy

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If God already had
perfect joy in himself,
why did He create us?
He must have created us
not to get joy but to give it.

–Tim Keller

Mysterious beauty

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I wondered over again for the hundreth time what could be the principle which, in the wildest, most lawless, fantastically chaotic, apparently capricious work of nature, always kept it beautiful. The beauty of holiness must be at the heart of it somehow, I though. Because our God is so free from stain, so loving, so unselfish, so good, so altogether what He wants us to be, so holy, therefore all His works declare Him in beauty…

His fingers can touch nothing
but to mould it into loveliness;
and even the play of His elements
is in grace and tenderness of form.

–George MacDonald

Memories of Eden

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For all of us, Eden’s loss hits hard. A snake comes into every garden, interrupting innocence with a divorce, a death, a shaming moment, or a terrible violation. It may have been dramatic or it may have been subtle, but whatever it was, it signaled Eden’s demise, the loss of innocence.

I wonder – if Adam’s sin courses through my veins, perhaps so does his memory of Eden. Could that be what it means to have “eternity written in our hearts?” – that we’ve been there before and its goodness has been imprinted on our souls?

Maybe it’s time that we begin to remember those days – those moments or relationships we experienced when all seemed right with the world.

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What if we looked at those memories
as bread crumbs left behind
by a God who loves us.

Perhaps if we pick them up, we’ll make our way back home, finding there a taste of a future that will be ours.

What do you remember about your Eden?

Spend time with that memory. Write about it. Be thankful for it.

–Al Andrews
(emphasis added)

 

The problem of pleasure

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Why is sex fun? Reproduction surely does not require pleasure: some animals simply split in half to reproduce . . . Why is eating enjoyable? Plants and the lower animals manage to obtain their quota of nutrients without the luxury of taste buds. Where are there colors? Some people get along fine without the ability to detect color. Why complicate vision for all the rest of us?

It struck me, after reading my umpteenth book on the problem of pain, that I have never seen a book on “the problem of pleasure.” Nor have I met a philosopher who goes around shaking his or her head in perplexity over the question of why we experience pleasure. Yet it looms as a huge question: the philosophical equivalent, for atheists, to the problem of pain for Christians. On the issue of pleasure, Christians can breathe easier.

A good and loving God would naturally want
his creatures to experience delight,
joy and personal fulfillment.

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Christians start from that assumption and then look for ways to explain the origin of suffering. But should not atheists have an equal obligation to explain the origin of pleasure in a world of randomness and meaninglessness?

. . . Where does pleasure come from? Chesterton settled on Christianity as the only reasonable explanation.

Moments of pleasure are
the remnants washed ashore
from a shipwreck, bits of Paradise
extended through time.

We must hold these relics lightly, and use them with gratitude and restraint, never seizing them as entitlements.

. . . Evil’s greatest triumph may be its success in portraying religion as an enemy of pleasure when, in fact, religion accounts for its source: every good and enjoyable thing is the invention of a Creator who lavished gifts on the world.

–Philip Yancey
Soul Survivor

In hot pursuit

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God is like a highway patrolman
pursuing you down the interstate
with lights flashing and siren blaring
to get you to stop–not to give you a ticket,
but to give you a message so good
it couldn’t wait till you get home.

–Author unknown

The expansive goodness of God

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In the beginning, God formed Adam,
not as if he stood in need of humanity,
but so that he would have someone
to confer his benefits upon.

–Irenæus (2nd century)
Against Heresies

Published in: on 03/11/2013 at 7:13  Leave a Comment  
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The joyful awareness

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The goal of prayer is to live
all of my life and speak all of my words
in the joyful awareness of the presence of God.
Prayer becomes real when we grasp
the reality and goodness
of God’s constant presence
with ‘the real me.’

–John Ortberg Jr.

One day we shall laugh

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You will yet know the dignity of your high calling, and the love of God that passes knowledge. He is not afraid of your presump-tuous approach to him. It is you who are afraid to come near him. He is not watching over his dignity. It is you who fear to be sent away as the disciples would have sent away the little children. It is you who think so much about your souls and are so afraid of losing your life, that you dare not draw near to the Life of life, lest it should consume you.

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Our God, we will trust you. Shall we not find you equal to our faith? One day, we shall laugh ourselves to scorn that we looked for so little from you; for your giving will not be limited by our hoping.

–George MacDonald
The Higher Faith

Faith is rest

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Faith is rest, not toil. It is the giving up all the former weary efforts to do or feel something good, in order to induce God to love and pardon; and the calm reception of the truth . . . that God is not waiting for any such inducements, but loves and pardons of His own goodwill, and is showing that goodwill to any sinner who will come to Him on such a footing, casting away his own poor performances or goodnesses, and relying implicitly upon the free love of Him who so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son.

—Horatius Bonar (1808-1889)
“The Everlasting Righteousness”

Expect good surprises

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“Enlarge the place of your tent, and let them
stretch out the curtains of your habitations;
do not spare; lengthen your cords,
and strengthen your stakes.”
(Isaiah 54:2)

The prophet was telling the people that their tents were far too small. They needed to enlarge them, and quickly. God was coming, so they needed to let their tents be stretched as far as they could be. They needed to lengthen their ropes, deepen their pegs, for they were going to need one mighty big tent to accommodate the gifts of God.

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The same is true for us. We’ve constructed personal and theological dwellings for ourselves that are far too small. Then God comes to us, and there’s no room for him, for we’ve poured foundational habits, framed rigid attitudes, and rooted our lives with limited goals that are inadequate to contain him.

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When God comes to us,
he gives us life — abundantly.

This continues to be one of the great Christian surprises. All the stories in the ancient world about the gods were very different. When the gods came down among humans, which they did with some frequency, they robbed them. Life diminished in contact with the gods. People never knew whether some stranger might be a god in human disguise, ready to cheat them out of something that was important to them.

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Can you see how fresh and liberating the prophets words were to a people conditioned to expect the worst from divinity? Every one of Israel’s contemporaries, hearing that God was coming would have put a padlock on the door. Israel did the opposite. And so should we.

We should expect the best from God, not the worst —
to be blessed, not cursed, to be surprised
by his generosity, not by his chicanery.

–Eugene Peterson

Jesus shows us God

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As Christians—as followers of the Lord Jesus—when we talk about God, we are talking about one who has entered into the very fabric of our world, who has come as close to us as we are to ourselves, a God who has become incarnate. When we talk about God, ultimately, we are always talking about Jesus. For the God of the gospel is the God who has come among us in Jesus of Nazareth. We believe in God because of Jesus.

Jesus is the one who showed us the face of God—
Jesus shows us the truth of God,
Jesus shows us the love of God.

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Jesus is God’s smile beaming at us out of the depths of eternity. Jesus is God’s love wrapping around us, seizing us and not letting us go. Jesus is God’s grace, reaching into the darkest and most shameful dimensions of our experience. Jesus is God’s healing, binding up the wounded.

Jesus is God’s goodness, in a world
full of chaos and disaster and catastrophe.

Jesus is God’s great strength for the weak. Jesus is water for the thirsty, and when you drink that water you will never thirst again. Jesus is bread for all those who are starved and hungry, famished for something good and something true. Jesus shows us God. He is not God’s explanation, he is not God’s argument, he is not God’s debate. He is God’s simple, great, loving act, showing us, Here I am, here you are.

In Jesus, God shows us God.
That I believe, is the whole secret
of the Christian faith.

–Ben Myers
(emphasis added)

The most daring phrase of all

We think of the enormous sacrifices of those early Christians; but what struck them was the immensity of their inheritance in Christ. Take that one phrase (surely the most daring that the mind of man ever conceived) . . .

“We are the heirs of God.”

That is what they felt about it, that not God Himself could have a fuller life than theirs, and that even He would share all that He had with them! Tremendous words that stagger through their sheer audacity!

And yet, here we are, whispering about the steepness of the way, the soreness of the self-denial, the heaviness of the cross, whining and puling, giving to those outside the utterly grotesque impression that religion is a gloomy kind of thing, a dim, monastic twilight where we sit and shiver miserably, out of the sunshine that God made for us…

–A. J. Gossip
(1873-1954)

Spreading goodness

God’s goodness is a . . . spreading goodness . . . If God did not have a . . . spreading goodness, he would never have created the world.  The Father, Son and Holy Spirit were happy in themselves and enjoyed one another before the world was. But God delights to communicate and spread his goodness.

–Richard Sibbes
(1577–1635)

What makes God glorious

God’s glory does not lie
in self-aggrandizement
but in self-giving.
God glories not in domination
but in loving.
What we see most centrally
in God is the shining
radiance of love.

–Clark H. Pinnock
(1937 – 2010)

Astounding liberality

Jesus once declared that God is “good to the ungrateful and the wicked” (St. Luke 6:35), and I remember preaching a sermon on this text to a horrified and even astonished congregation who simply refused to believe (so I gathered afterwards) in this astounding liberality of God. That God should be in a state of constant fury with the wicked seemed to them only right and proper, but that God should be kind towards those who were defying or disobeying His laws seemed to them a monstrous injustice. Yet I was but quoting the Son of God Himself . . .

We do not need to explain or modify
His unremitting love towards mankind.

–J. B. Phillips (1906 – 1982)
(emphasis added) 

His pleasure is to give

It is written that God has “created all things for His pleasure.” At first thought that sounds selfish, until one realizes that His pleasure is that of giving His all. He’s not looking for something to get from us to fulfill His desires or to please Himself, but rather His pleasure is to give.

–Christopher Bernard

The most wonderful idea of all

To know GOD is Life Eternal . . . To know God is to know Goodness. It is to see the beauty of infinite Love . . . It is to see the King of Heaven and Earth take infinite delight in Giving. Whatever knowledge else you have of God, it is but Superstition. Which Plutarch rightly defines, to be an Ignorant Dread of His Divine Power, without any joy in His goodness. He is not an Object of Terror, but Delight.

To know Him therefore as He is,
is to frame the most beautiful idea
in all Worlds.

He delights in our happiness more than we: and is of all other the most Lovely Object. An infinite Lord, who having all Riches, Honours, and Pleasures in His own hand, is infinitely willing to give them unto me. Which is the fairest [most wonderful] idea that can be devised.

–Thomas Traherne
(1637 – 1674)

A self-giving God

God’s divinity does not consist in his ability to push things around, to make and break, to impose his will from the security of some heavenly remoteness, and to sit in grandeur while all the world does his bidding. Far from staying above the world, he sends his own glory into it. Far from imposing, he invites and persuades. Far from demanding service from men in order to enhance himself, he gives his life in service to men for their enhancement. But God acts toward the world in this way because within himself he is a life of total self-giving.

–Arthur McGill

Only plenteousness

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In God there is no hunger
that needs to be filled,
only plenteousness
that desires to give.

–C. S. Lewis


Does God crave recognition?

I am doing a study course on missions and yesterday in my readings I ran into this sentence: “God wants to be more than globally famous—He yearns to be truly worshiped.” I found that phrase rather troublesome. God is “yearning” to be worshiped by people of all the nations? Is God on a huge ego-trip? Is it acceptable for God to crave recognition just because He is God? Does being the Most High make vanity appropriate?

A musician would attract criticism if he produced music with the express purpose of getting applause and fame. Most would agree that he should be driven by the higher motive of love of music rather than the benefits that accrue from producing it. If he performed merely with a view to getting applause, would he not be stooping to serve his own vanity and pride? Could we conceive of God as being driven by similar motives?

The Scriptures command us to imitate our heavenly Father. If He passionately pursues the purpose of seeking His own glory, I guess we should all follow suit. Or should we? Seeking our own glory sounds a whole lot like self centered carnal ambition, and you don’t need a doctorate in theology to realize that is not something Scripture encourages us to do. If we began to crave praise and recognition would we not be falling prey to our sinful pride and personal vanity? Seeking our own glory is definitely not an appropriate motivation. To think, then, that our Father in heaven is filled with passion to be worshiped surely must be a misunderstanding.

Our concept of God needs to be
rooted in Jesus Christ.

The Son of God is the visible image of the invisible God. As we look at him we see what God is really like. And what kind of God does Jesus bring into view? We see a God who stoops to wash feet, a God who says: “I did not come to be served but to serve and to give,” a God who bleeds on a cross for sinners. Never did he seek applause or insist upon receiving recognition, although he had every right to receive it. He was all about blessing, and loving and serving. He was the epitome of humility and compassion.

The God that Christ revealed
was not yearning to receive worship;
he was yearning to serve.

The central revelation that Jesus gave us about God is that God is love. And if God is love, does that not mean that He is completely other focused? Is not love by definition self giving, self sacrificing, and self forgetful? Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that what God yearns to do is to love, bless, give of his unending abundance. And in so doing, does He not magnify the goodness and greatness of his Person? Perhaps this display of goodness and grace is what most “glorifies” him.  And is this outpouring of God’s blessing and goodness not what prompts people to become grateful admirers and worshipers of this wonderful God?

If there is a sense is which God desires to be worshiped, is it not because worship is the only reasonable response to who He is and what He has done, and the only healthy and sane attitude for His creatures? To worship anything or anyone else is absolute foolishness, it is to walk in darkness, it is to walk in death. To worship God is to be rightly related to the only fountain of life and goodness and beauty. It is to enjoy the One who is infinitely enjoyable. It is to find with joy the purpose of our existence. It is not so much that worship is something God craves (as if He needed to have His self esteem built up) but something He wants by His grace to lead us to because it is the place of joy and blessing and glory.

Perhaps it would be better to think of God as focused on carrying out his marvelous purposes of goodness rather than craving worship. It is right and proper and beneficial that He be worshipped. Good artists deserve recognition. Our Creator is worthy of all praise. But worship is generated because God has given Himself to a creative outpouring of his undeserved and extravagant goodness. The performance is breathtaking. God is all about displaying the riches of his grace—and worship is what happens as a result. We are captivated by the music and cannot but respond with praise. It is irresistible.

–Jurgen Schulz

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