Manhood in light of a real, intentional, and loving God

I ended the last post with this statement, attempting to clarify what the God of the Bible is like in contrast to the gods of this world, highlighting 6 things about the Triune God.

However, if I believe in the God of Christianity, the Triune God, I have a God that is altogether different.  He is real (a). He created with intentionality (2). He created not out of need but out of love (3). He created and then didn’t run away but remains active in the world (4).  He takes all responsibility for what has been, what is, and what will be (5). And if I’ve been made in His image (6) – to do his works, think his thoughts, and represent Him in the world – that makes all the difference.

Now, I want to take a few minutes to unpack that.  Today’s post will cover 3, then the next post will cover 3.

He is real

I love what Glen Scrivener says about this.  There are 4 answers to the question, “What was there before the beginning?”  Scrivener argues that every worldview can be classified into 4 categories based on how they answer that question.  First, some answer the question with “nothing.”

If that’s true, then what is the consequence for humanity.  We’re an accident. We’re alone in the universe, just happy that some random molecules came together to form our little planet and our little lives.  We came from nothing and are returning to nothing, so what’s the point of manhood? Nothing.

The second answer is, “Chaos.”  Like Buddhists or Gnostists, something bad happened (we’re often not sure what) in the “cosmos,” and we’re the result.  We’re not just “nothing,” we’re the excrement of the Universe. It burped us out. So, men, life is chaos, and nothing really matters.  Do whatever you can to escape chaos, even if that means infidelity or abandoning your family.

The third answer is, “Power.”  Either power itself (big-bang) or an all powerful, solitary deity (the god of Islam or the Titans) caused us.  So, what’s the point of life? Power! Gaining power. Survival of the fittest. Creating a following of slaves and servants.  So, men, feel free to conquer and oppress because that’s what life is all about.

But, the Christian answer is different from every other answer.  Before creation, Christians argue, there was love. There was a Father loving His Son, in fellowship with the Spirit.  We take a sneak peek into Heaven in John 17. We hear God the Son, that’s Jesus, speaking to God the Father. Listen to what they were doing before creation:

17.5 And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.

17.24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.

The Triune God, the Christian God, Father, Son, and Spirit were sharing glory with one another before creation.  They were loving one another before the foundation of the world. The were giving to and receiving from each other.  They were enjoying each other. Isn’t that beautiful?! What does that mean for life? That it is the outflow of love, which we’ll look at in a moment.  And for men, it means that whatever characteristics we have, if we don’t have love, then we are not like God, and we are failing at the entire purpose of life.

He created with intentionality

Creation wasn’t a surprise.  It also wasn’t just thrown together like a kindergarten art project.  No, the all-wise God – Father, Son, and Spirit – working in tandem, together created the world and said afterwards, “It is very good.”  The heavens declare the glory of the Lord. The beauty of creation show his power and wisdom. He is intentional, and mankind is meant to live with intentionality within His creation and purposes.

He created out of love, not out of need

God wasn’t lonely before creation.  We’ve already seen that. He also didn’t need people to serve him, to meet his needs.  No, He was just fine without humanity, without creation. So, why did He create? The great theologians of the Church over the centuries all agree, Father, Son, and Spirit created as an overflow of the love they already experienced together.  They had so much love, that they wanted to create a people to whom they could further give their love. A people to fellowship in loving communion with, just like what they already had.

Here’s how Jonathan Edwards put it:  The spouse of the Son of God, the Lamb’s wife (the Church) is the reason for which all of the universe was made…God created the world for His Son, that He might prepare a bride for Him to bestow His love upon; so that the mutual joys between this bride and bridegroom are the purpose of the creation.

Isn’t that awesome!  And so, if that’s the purpose for God’s work, for God’s activity, for God’s leadership over the new world he has made, then that means we men already know the purpose for our own work, activity, and leadership.  Not to be served, but to serve. Not to have our needs met, but to meet the needs of others. Not to acquire and hoard, but to give and pour out.

Come back for the next post when we’ll cover the other 3 points!

Marvelous Grace & Beautiful Wrath

In our previous posts we’ve seen

  1. The Sons of Korah (SoK), men who deserved death but had reserved mercy wrote Psalm 45 a song to the King
  2. Deep affection that was being communicated to the King, in fact, it is a love song, with words that only a lover would use.
  3. That the King in the Psalm is Jesus and he’s described as smelling like an altar, temple, incense, and dead body.

Now we want to look more deeply at WHY the Sons of Korah are so crazy about Jesus.  Let’s start back in Verse 2.

2 You are the most handsome of the sons of men;
 grace is poured upon your lips;
 therefore God has blessed you forever.

That first line is striking.  Dudes don’t describe other dudes that way any more.  Is that manhood?  YES, this is absolutely the MOST MASCULINE inclination you could ever have.  This is no mere mancrush! The SoK aren’t just praising him for a great fastball, big biceps, or an impressive intellect.

Friends, this is serious.  Right now, how do you feel about Jesus.  When Bible translators throughout the centuries have tried to capture this in English language, they’ve really struggled!  Our language can’t capture the height of beauty that is being communicated.

  • KJV – Thou art fairer than the children of men
  • Chaldee – Thy beauty, O King Messiah, is above that of the sons of men
  • Mudge – Thou art wonderfully fair beyond the sons of men
  • Alexander – Beautiful, beautiful art thou above the sons of men
  • ESV – You are the most handsome of the sons of men
  • NASB – You are fairer than the sons of men

Those last two, newer translations really seem to fall flat, don’t that.  Now, when William Plummer, 19th century scholar, tried to capture the point of this passage, listen to what he said:

In true religion, everything turns on our views of Christ, v.2.  What do we think of him?  Is he in our opinion and thinking incomparable?  Do we regard him as “fairer than the children of men?”  Is he, or is he not the chiefest among ten thousand and altogether lovely?  If you don’t love him, if you don’t admire him, if you wouldn’t, in a fair trial, die for him, you are not his. Luke xiv. 26, 27, 33.

So again: How do you feel about Jesus?  Don’t tell me you’re just not an emotional person.  I use to say that…I invented that. Let’s not fool ourselves.  How we feel about Jesus is a striking indicator of the reality and quality of our faith.

So, what was it about Jesus that the SoK wanted to highlight?

GRACE

Grace was on his lips!  Grace! He came to us with grace.  We are so broken, but he has healing.  We are vicious to each other, but he’s tender.  We get angry, defensive, and mean at the drop of a hat, but he is patient.  Notice what the Gospels say:

And all spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth.  LUKE 4.22

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, for the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. JOHN 1.14, 17

He wasn’t just being nice…he was bringing the very goodness of God, the word and presence of God to us.  He was the very embodiment of the grace of God.  The kindness and tender compassion of God.

Children ran to him, prostitutes found him to be the safest place they’ve ever known, people wanted to be with him.  They all found in him the answers to their deepest longings: how can I be right with God?  How can I know peace?  How can I have God as my very own?

But, it gets better There’s more good news.  He brings grace, but he also came with a Sword…wait, what?!

3 Gird your sword on your thigh, O mighty one, 
in your splendor and majesty! 4 In your majesty ride out victoriously
 for the cause of truth and meekness and righteousness;
 let your right hand teach you awesome deeds!
 5 Your arrows are sharp
 in the heart of the king’s enemies;
 the peoples fall under you.

So, they also praise the King because he comes with a sword.  Does that seem shocking to you? I think part of the reason we find that shocking is because we continue to say things like: “God is loving, but he’s also just.”  As if those things are opposed to each other. Or “God is merciful, but he’s also holy.” Statements like that show how far from the Bible we’ve strayed.

God’s love is not opposed to his holiness, justice, or wrath.  No, God IS LOVE. This is 1 John 4.16. This is what he is like at his core.  In fact, John says if you don’t love, it’s certain that you don’t even know God because to know Him changes you and makes you loving.  God is love, at his core, and so EVERYTHING he does flows out of that, even wrath

God’s wrath isn’t opposed to his love.  No, Michael Reeves says it this way: wrath is what happens when a loving God encounters evil.  Wrath is the loving response to evil.  And we actually know this instinctively…

Imagine going outside in a few minutes and as you step out the door you see a man abusing a little child.   How would you respond?  How OUGHT you respond. What would loving behavior look like?  If you see it and turn a blind eye to it – you are not loving.  If you see it and say, “well, we all have our struggles” then you are not loving. Love would do everything it could to bring an end to evil.  It will judge it. And it will bring holy consequences against it. The King has a sword…hallelujah.

Let’s look a little more closely at this loving war that the King is waging:

4 In your majesty ride out victoriously
 for the cause of truth and meekness and righteousness;
 let your right hand teach you awesome deeds!



What would you ride in the Ancient Near East?  A motorcycle? A segway? No, a chariot, and this king rides to victory on a chariot of truth, meekness, and righteousness.  He goes to war against evil by means of truth, meekness, and righteousness.  This is a different sort of King altogether.  He’s not a dictator simply hellbent on maintaining control.  He’s not Allah simply looking to make the world submit.

This King is the truth.

He is meek.

He is our righteousness.

What does he smell like? He smells like salvation for sinners!

The Psalm is about to change gears.  We’re about to find out something exciting:  The King is getting married!

Does Jesus Rescue God?

We saw in our previous posts in this series (1, 2, 3) that what we believe about God, his character, his heart towards us, shapes everything else in our life and faith.  In this post, because of that, let’s draw our eyes towards the Lord and see what He is really like. Let’s see what he thinks about you. Is He just putting up with us, tolerating us?  Is he just watching from Heaven, waiting to jump on us after every little mistake? Let’s find out.

How do we know what God is like? John 1:18 tells us: “No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.” So, how do we know what God the Father is like? Jesus reveals Him! We cannot know God apart from Jesus. He is the exact representation of His nature. That is a very important point for us.

That means there is not some unkind, ugly god lurking in the dark somewhere who is only holding back his hatred for us because of Jesus. No! God is, as I first heard from Glen Scrivener, “Jesus-shaped” from first to last. The famous poet, Lord Byron once said, “If God’s not like Jesus, He should be!” But, HE IS! That’s why Jesus has said, “if you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father,” meaning you know what the Father is like because you see what I’m like. I’m the image of the invisible God. I only do what I see the Father doing…so when Jesus is loving us, he’s just doing what the Father is doing! He doesn’t have to rescue a cantankerous God…no, the Father is all loving!  I think this is where we get into a lot of trouble…

If you try to imagine God without Jesus, you are thinking of an idol. LET ME SAY THAT AGAIN. If you try to imagine God without Jesus, you are thinking of an idol. Michael Ramsey, former archbishop of Canterbury, put it this way, “God is Christlike, and in Him there is no unchristlikeness at all.”  God is Jesus-shaped!  In fact, let’s start to use that title “God” a lot less.  Instead, let’s talk about our loving Father and our brother and husband, Jesus, who has come to save us, and the Holy Spirit who makes all of the Father’s promises, which are YES in Jesus, true for us!

So, if we want to know what the Father thinks of us, and how he feels about us, how he is towards…we look to Jesus.  And that’s just what we’re going to do in the next post.

Christians who don’t know God

Of course, after the previous post, you may be thinking, “I’m not Muslim,” so my view of God is just fine. While I hope so, I wanna push back. Do you know God? And by KNOW, I don’t mean a superficial, Sunday school awareness of a few stories from the Bible. It’s not a “I grew up in a Christian family” type of faith. Those kinds of faith are washed away when suffering comes, like a house built on sand.

And this is why I think this is SO SO SO important. If our faith isn’t truly our own OR if it’s inaccurate, then when sin prevails, when suffering comes, when our prayers seem to bounce off the ceiling, what do we do? What happens when shallow faith meets deep suffering?

What happens if deep down we don’t believe that God is 100% good.  If we think he’s a “contract God,” who will only be good to us if we’ve first satisfied his demands.  If we wake up in the morning and think, “I better have a quiet time and pray or God won’t be pleased with me.”  Friends, that’s not the Gospel.  That’s not Christianity.  That’s not our God.

And, when suffering comes, it’s normal to hear statements/questions like, “If God were really loving, this wouldn’t have happened.” OR “What kind of God would do this, allow this?” Or as Woody Allen said, “If God exists, I hope he has a good excuse.” Do you see it: The question at the center of each of these statements is “what is God like?”

And for Christians, maybe we haven’t walked away from the faith, but maybe we’ve just decided to partition our lives. What I mean is that we still believe in God, but we’ve made sure to guard the precious things in our lives from Him…because we’re just not sure we can trust him with our kids, our work, our calling, our finances, our ___________. And I think there are probably a lot of us here today living in that reality.

We say, “I just can’t handle it if that happens again. I can’t do that again. Please, not again… please.” And at that point, God isn’t even in our thoughts…at that point, he’s somewhere, we still believe, but we almost dare not ask again where He fits in all this. That feels like it would just make it all harder, it would hurt just a little bit more…This is the danger of Shallow Faith colliding with Deep Suffering.

Can we really say with the hymnist, “…when all around my soul gives way, he then is all my hope and stay”?  I think this is a question with eternal ramification and for some of us, it’s a life-and-death issue.

Do you remember that our view of God will determine our life with Him?  It will shape our faith, our prayers, our mission, our view of the Bible, our view of the Church.  If we Christians are walking about with this amount of ambiguity about the character and goodness of God, then weep for the world!  Weep for the Church!  What a sad situation we find ourselves in.  It must change.  In the next post, we’ll turn out eyes to the one, true and living God, and it WILL make all the difference.

What about you?  In the comments below, please share where you’re at with God.

2 Writers/Speakers Who Are Influencing Me

OK, I felt compelled to write this entry for two reasons. First, to point you to a few wonderful folks that have had a lot of influence on me of late, whether authors, bloggers, speakers, etc. Second, I almost feel like I need to do this as a sort of disclaimer! Some of these folks have so shaped my thinking that I can hardly look at any issue without their influence being apparent (at least to me), even when I’m talking about issues that I haven’t heard them address specifically. So, this serves sort of as a blanket footnote or acknowledgment. I do try to cite them when I quote directly or when I’m sharing something that has come straight from them in one way or another, but I may miss one here or there. And, honestly, again, I see their influence in almost every post, even when I’m not quoting them, so much of the good in my writing and none of the bad can be attributed to them.

So, read them, listen to them, enjoy them…better yet, enjoy the Jesus they have helped me learn to enjoy!

Image result for michael reevesMichael Reeves is the principal of Union, a ministry based in Oxford, England that is doing fantastic work. Seriously, you need to check them out. Mike has, first and foremost, helped me think about God. If I am ever trying to clarify who God is in order to help us understand anything else rightly, it’s primarily due to Mike’s influence. If I’m writing about the Trinity, God’s Glory, the Reformation (and Reformed Theology), Church History, or the Difference Jesus makes, he’s had a huge role in that. I know Mike slightly, mostly through his works, but looking forward to getting to know him more in the days/years ahead. Check out his resources at http://www.uniontheology.org and books at Amazon.

Image result for glen scrivenerGlen Scrivener is an evangelist based in Eastbourne, England. He leads a ministry called Speak Life. I love how they are working to help the church be more winsome and more Biblical in their evangelism. Glen, like Mike, has had a great impact on me in learning to clarify who God is and who He is not, and enjoying Him. He’s also been a major encouragement in my grasping how much the Old Testament is all about Jesus, and the Word exists to help us encounter Jesus! I love his Youtube journey through the Bible called Reading Between the Lines. Finally, he’s helped me continue to clarify my understanding of mission and what it is God is doing in the world. He blogs at christthetruth.net.

So, if I’m talking about those issues…even if I’m not quoting these 2 men, you can bet that they have significantly influenced what you’re hearing. Which means that you should be really be reading what they are writing and listening to what they are teaching instead of me. But if you want to keep hanging out around here, you are very welcome!