Archive for the ‘Knowing God’ Category

Everyday Muslims pray that Allah would guide them on the straight path. Verse 6 of the opening Surah of the Qur’an says:

“Guide us to the straight path”

This is a good prayer. I was thinking about it today when I read Isaiah 35:

8 And a highway shall be there, and it shall be called the Way of Holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it. It shall belong to those who walk on the way; even if they are fools, they shall not go astray. 9 No lion shall be there, nor shall any ravenous beast come up on it; they shall not be found there, but the redeemed shall walk there (verses 8-9).

The highway is a highway of holiness. There are two key things about it: 1) You must be clean in order to be on it and 2) It is really safe, for even fools will not stray from it and nothing dangerous will be found on it.

Yes, God, guide me to the straight path.

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Adoption is certainly not a contentious issue, yet it is viewed very differently within Islam and Christianity. The rightness and beauty of adoption is so obvious to me, not only because it is clearly a biblical concept, but because it so wonderfully demonstrates the love of God for his people.

I am amazed to think that God would actually adopt sinful creatures into his family so that by faith in Jesus Christ we become sons and daughters. Here are a few verses that demonstrate this reality.

14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God” – Romans 8:14-16

12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. – John 1:12-13

1 See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. – 1 John 3:1

Many of our friends have adopted. We have seen them bring children into their families that do not look like them, children that were unwanted and even uncared for. But now everything has changed for these children. They are wanted. They are cared for. They have a mom and a dad who will do anything for them. Many of them have brothers and sisters who love them. These parents made a choice. They chose to bring a child not their own into their families. They chose to love these children as their own. This is a picture of God’s choice. He too chose those who were not his, those who were in fact unlovely and disobedient to him. “Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’ and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.’ And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ there they will be called ‘sons of the living God'” (Romans 9:25-26, quoting the prophet Hosea).

Watch the video below and see this beautiful picture of God’s love for us lived out in the love of these parents for their son Isaiah.

HT: Vitamin Z

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The Prophet Noah

Because we named our new son after the prophet Noah, I have spent some time reading the story of Noah and thinking about ways I can be praying for our son from the things I see in his life. As I have read the prophet Noah’s story (in the Bible it is found in Genesis 6-9), I have pulled out five things that I am praying for our Noah.

1. Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD

Noah lived during days of great wickedness. The Bible says, “The LORD saw the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5). God determined to judge the people of the earth for their wickedness, but he would save Noah, for “Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD” (Genesis 6:8).

2. Noah did all that God commanded him

God gave Noah the crazy command to build a giant boat in the middle of the desert. I cannot imagine the kind of ridicule he must have faced as he built that boat far from any water. It was not a small act of obedience and it was not a simple act that Noah could accomplish in a day and then go on being “normal.” It would have required lots of resources, lots of enduring of ridicule, and lots of faith. What was his response? “Noah did this; he did all that God commanded him” (Genesis 6:22).

3. God remembered Noah

After the ark was completed God told Noah to get on with his family and all of the animals. Then the Lord shut him in and it began to rain and rain and rain. It rained so much that the entire world was flooded and all living things, animals and people, were destroyed. It was catastrophic. And there was Noah and his family floating on a truly endless sea. God did not forget him. “But God remembered Noah” (Genesis 8:1). He caused a wind to blow over the earth so that the waters subsided, the ark settled on dry ground and Noah and his family were able to come safely out.

4. God blessed Noah

After Noah came out of the ark, his first act was to build an altar and worship the Lord. God promised that he would never again curse the ground because of man. “And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth'” (Genesis 9:1).

5. God established his covenant with Noah

The covenant God made was to never again destroy every living creature. It was a covenant of life. It was a promise of life. I am still amazed that God would come to our level and actually make covenants with us, that he would bind himself to promises made to creatures.

So I am praying:

  1. My Noah will find favor in the eyes of the LORD, that God will be pleased with him.
  2. My Noah will obey all that God commands even when others might thing he is crazy.
  3. God will remember Noah, that in the midst of all he encounters in his life the Lord will remember him and then act to bring salvation, deliverance and good into his life.
  4. God will bless Noah (see my posts on God’s blessing for what I mean by this [Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4]).
  5. God will establish his covenant with Noah and specifically that it would give him the new covenant promises so that Noah will be among his people and God will be his God, that Noah will experience the full blessing of all of God’s promises that are yes in Christ Jesus (see 2 Corinthians 1:20).

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From Desiring God:

The Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola, LA, is the largest and historically one of the bloodiest maximum-security prisons in the USA. In 2009, Desiring God and John Piper were invited to Angola to learn about prison life, hear from men who have been radically changed by the gospel, and minister to many of the 5,000 inmates.

Don’t Waste Your Life Sentence confronts you with the realities of inmates who, though their lives appear to have been wasted, often have a greater grasp on eternity than those on the outside.

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From Doug Wolter:

As I look at the Psalms, I’m amazed at how little we do and how much He does.  For example:

Psalm 23:1-3

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me besides still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Psalm 40:1-3

I waited patiently for the LORD;
he inclined to me and [he] heard my cry
He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog,
and [he] set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure.
He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God.

Psalm 55:22

Cast your burden on the LORD,
and he will sustain you;
he will never permit the righteous to be moved.

Psalm 91:14-16

Because he holds fast to me in loveI will deliver him;
I will protect him, because he knows my name.
When he calls to meI will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble;
I will rescue him and [I will] honor him.
With long life I will satisfy him
and [I will] show him my salvation.

In summary, all I need to do is come poor and needy because He comes to me rich in mercy. Hallelujah!

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Oh My God

I’ve only seen the trailer, but I hope I will be able to see the movie. The premise of the movie is simply someone going to 23 different countries asking the question, “What is God?”

Hugh Jackman is in the video and states that if you put a bunch of religious leaders (Jesus, Krishna, Buddha, etc.) at a table he “can’t see them having an argument.” This sentiment sounds great as people try to build bridges between people of different religions, but it is empty and won’t work. They would have arguments (read the New Testament and see how Jesus argued against the religious leaders of his day). My point is that arguments don’t negate peace. In fact, I believe that true peaceful dialogue between people of different faiths depends on having people who will be honest enough to tell someone else that he or she is wrong, but to do it in a respectful, honorable, and loving way.

I’m not offended when someone tells me wrong if he has first listened to me and sought to understand me. I welcome such honesty. It gives me freedom to say what I was already thinking, “You’re wrong!” :)

Another thing that looks interesting is that the filmmaker doesn’t just ask religious experts. I like the idea of asking regular people about their concept of God.

HT: Ibtisam B.

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I recently preached a sermon on the prophet Jonah (Yunus) so I have been thinking about repentance. For those who aren’t familiar with the story of Jonah, here it is in a nutshell (or you could read the whole book in the Old Testament in about 10 minutes).

The Lord told the prophet Jonah to go to Nineveh and call out against it for all their evil. Instead of obeying he tried to flee from God by getting on a boat sailing to Tarshish. The Lord then caused a great storm on the sea and the only way for the sailors to be saved was for them to throw Jonah overboard. Jonah was then swallowed by a great fish and after praying from its belly, the fish vomited Jonah on dry ground. God again told him to preach to the Ninevites and finally he went. When the Ninevites heard his simple message of judgment they repented. All of them. From the king to the lowliest servant. God then showed mercy to them all.

One thing that Jonah teaches us is that we must be repentant people. After God showed mercy to the Ninevites Jonah was angry because he didn’t want them to be saved. He didn’t want them to repent. God chastised him for his anger and asked, “And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle” (Jonah 4:11)? That is the last verse of the book and leaves us wondering whether Jonah will repent of his lack of compassion.

The tricky thing with repentance is that so few of us understand what it means. Here is my basic four part definition. 1) Repentance means that we are sorry for our sin. We actually grieve our sin for how it affects others and the way it brings dishonor to God. 2) Repentance means that we confess our sin as sin. We don’t blame others (“I’m sorry I got angry, but if you hadn’t . . .”). Our sin is our sin and when we repent we say so. 3) Repentance means we ask for forgiveness. We recognize that our sin is an offense and that it needs to be forgiven. 4) Repentance means that we turn away from our sin and turn towards God. Repentance doesn’t guarantee that we will never commit that act of sin again, but it does mean we won’t tolerate it in our lives and we will do all that we can to see change come in our lives.

God commands that people everywhere repent (Acts 17:30-31). It is the call to repentance that God gave after Jesus Christ died and rose from the dead. “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 238).

This is hard to do. I cannot repent and be proud at the same time and unfortunately pride is my common disposition. I am naturally inclined to think I am better than you. This is why I need to God’s grace. I need him to overcome my sin and give me the gift not only of faith, but also the gift of repentance (see 2 Timothy 2:25). There isn’t one of us who does not sin everyday. Therefore we each ought to repent everyday. Do you?

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