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Archive for October, 2009

Is God a bully?

Richard Dawkins thinks so:  “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.” (Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion, 31)

So does this man who writes, “Who – except for an ancient priest seeking to exert power by the tried and tested means of fear – could possibly wish that this hopelessly knotted skein of fable [The Old Testament] had any veracity?” (Christopher Hitchens, God is not Great, 103).

Sadly many Christians even “wince” when the issue of the wrath of God is brought up.  “It is sad indeed to find so many professing Christians who appear to regard the wrath of God as something for which they need to make an apology, or who at least wish there were no such thing” (Arthur W. Pink, The Attributes of God, 82).

So, is God a bully?  Read this article which begins with the quotes above so that you can answer someone who thinks God is a bully.

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The faithfulness of God

Next time you sing “Great is Thy Faithfulness”, sing it with a greater understanding of this infinite attribute of God!

“Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations,” (Deuteronomy 7:9, ESV).

“if we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself.” (2 Timothy 2:13, ESV).

“O Lord God of hosts, who is mighty as you are, O Lord, with your faithfulness all around you?” (Psalm 89:8, ESV).

“Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds.” (Psalm 36:5, ESV).

“God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?” (Numbers 23:19, ESV).

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”” (Lamentations 3:22-24, ESV).

“While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.”” (Genesis 8:22, ESV).

“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.” (Hebrews 10:23, ESV).

“Who among you fears the Lord and obeys the voice of his servant? Let him who walks in darkness and has no light trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God.” (Isaiah 50:10, ESV).

“You have appointed your testimonies in righteousness and in all faithfulness.” (Psalm 119:138, ESV).

“God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:9, ESV).

“He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.” (1 Thessalonians 5:24, ESV).

“Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.” (1 Peter 4:19, ESV).

Wayne Grudem has summed it up well, “God’s faithfulness means that God will always do what he has said and fulfill what he has promised.” Systematic Theology : An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. p. 195

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Is it OK for believers to “swear with the best of them?” Is cussing a matter of Christian liberty? Is it helpful to relate to the world?  Does the Bible have anything to say about recreational profanity? If you haven’t met some Christians who think mild swearing is OK in our culture, you probably will soon. It is a growing trend–even sometimes in the pulpit.

Phil Johnson explains why this is unnecessary, unwise, and unbiblical.

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Philippians 4:9 ends with “and the God of peace will be with you!”  To know the God of peace you must first have the peace of God. That comes through receiving forgiveness of sins by calling on the name of Jesus Christ to save you based upon His death on the cross. The Bible reminds us, ” Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” (Romans 5:1-2, ESV). To learn more about how to have peace with God, click here.

But if you have peace with God, you can also enjoy the peace of God in your life.  “The God of peace will be with you!” God with you!  What a great thought!  Jesus promised to be with us until the very end (Matthew 28:20). And God promises us, “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10, ESV).

To encourage you about the God of peace in your life, here are many of the NT passages that remind us of this truth:

“May the God of peace be with you all. Amen.” (Romans 15:33).

“The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.” (Romans 16:20).

“For God is not a God of confusion but of peace. As in all the churches of the saints,” (1 Corinthians 14:33).

” Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.” (2 Corinthians 13:11).

“Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thessalonians 5:23).

” Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.” (Hebrews 13:20-21).

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Parental laxity

“We may learn [from Eli] how cruel parental laxity is, and how fatal mischief may be done, by neglect of the plain duty of restraining children. . . .He who tolerates evil which it is his province to suppress, is an accomplice, and the blood of the doer is red on his hands.”  –Alexander MacLaren

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Asaph was really down, discouraged and depressed in Psalm 77.  He cried to the Lord but it didn’t seem to do any good. Trouble dogged him by day and restlessness at night.  He couldn’t sing himself to sleep and he questioned God’s mercy and forgiveness in his life.  But his path out of discouragement was remembering the mighty works of God.  He said, “I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your wonders of old. I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds.” (Psalm 77:11-12, ESV).

That is a key: When we are discouraged, we must stop, meditate, and really focus on God’s mighty works in the past–both in the lives of His people and in our own experience. Calvin points out, “The reason why so many examples of the grace of God contribute nothing to our profit, and fail in edifying our faith is, that as soon as we have begun to make them the subjects of our consideration, our inconstancy draws us away to something else, and thus, at the very commencement, our minds soon lose sight of them.”

So today, child of God, remember how God has delivered you in the past and especially how He redeemed you from your slavery to sin and how He set you free from the punishment of His fierce anger.  Psalm 77 will help you do that for “What a strong encouragement there is here for discouraged believers in this passage. . . The mighty exploits of God are designed to tell the story of God’s working in the affairs of men.  Each episode should infuse powerful hope into hearts.  The God who has worked so mightily in the past stands ready to help his people in the present.” (Steve Lawson).

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Would you be happy with this scenario:

Your college-age daughter in her early 20’s meets a young, Christian man who “sweeps” her off her feet and they establish a relationship.  Over break, she brings him home so you can meet him for a couple of days and give your approval of him, even though she has already given her heart to him.

You meet him a couple or three times after that and then one day he calls you up to arrange a meeting so he can ask for your daughter’s hand  in marriage.  Sounds pretty good? Better than average even–in today’s culture.  How would you react? Would you think it a fairy tale or a travesty?

Here’s one father’s take on it:

“First, why is it acceptable for a young man to ask a father for his daughter’s hand in marriage after he has already stolen the daughter’s heart? Young men should ask a father’s permission before they begin the courtship process, not after they have completed it. This father was backed into a corner. What could he do? Was he really supposed to make the young man slow down and wait while he vetted him properly? Was he going to ask the young man to refrain from seeing his daughter until he determined his suitability as a potential suitor even though the young woman had already given herself to him?

This is not a fairy tale, this is a travesty! Where was the father when this young woman needed him? Where was the objective observer whose keen eye searched for all the biblical prerequisites? Where was this young woman’s protector?

Second, why is it acceptable for a father to give his consent to a young man he has only met two or three times? Does this father know with any degree of certainty that the young man standing before him is squared away theologically, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually? Is he really going to be able to determine this young man’s suitability while he and his wife jump headlong into planning and paying for a wedding?  And if he does find the young man wanting and calls off the wedding, what price will his daughter pay?

I realize these questions may seem shocking to some. After all, the scenario I described represents the fairy tale for which most Christian parents pray on behalf of their children. I know for a fact that many people find my assessment on this matter archaic, unrealistic, and naïve at best. However, my question is simply this: why should a young man ask permission at all if we don’t really believe that the permission is necessary? Is this merely a beloved old-fashioned tradition? Or do we really believe that a father has a genuine responsibility to approve and vet the man to whom his daughter pledges her love?

I believe we have compromised on this point. We have underestimated the power of emotional attraction between men and women. We have overestimated the ability of young men and women to evaluate the suitability of a potential mate objectively. And we have underestimated the importance of protecting our hearts in such matters. We raise a generation of young men who think differently about courtship.”–Voddie Baucham, What He Must Be

Your thoughts?

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