If the glory of God is the driving force behind missions, is God a narcicssist? God desires (hopefully as do we all) that there be a worshiping people before his throne from every tribe, tongue, nation and people (promised by Rev 5:9 and 7:9). John Piper has been one of the most vocal proponents that God is fully deserving of this glory from all. Missions involves gathering together worshippers so he gets more glory.
But for others, God’s concern for His own fame and glory seems to be “vain and egotistical”. Paul Copan tries to answer this question in an article, Divine Narcissism, in Philophia Christi (8:2:2006), “Why does God desire for us to worship, praise and glorify Him? Why is it wrong for us–but not for God–to be so self-preoccupied?”
His article is subtitled “A further defense of God’s Humilty”. Valuable thoughts for anyone with a passion for the glory of God.
Copan says that God should not be thought of as proud. “Rather, he has a realistic view of himself, not a false or exaggerated one. His view of himself isn’t distorted or unnecessarily lofty. He is God, after all!”
Speaking about praise, Copan says, “Praise is called for by creatures caught up with God’s greatness, power, goodness and love. Praise is the climax of realizing God’s excellencies, and creatures fittingly erupt in praise, spontaneously beckoning the rest of us to do the same. “ Amen and Amen!
What do you do when you have a compassion deficit?
Consider the empathy and compassion of Jesus and ask God to help us feel the same compassion He feels when we see others in need. Susan Muto says that reception of mercy generates compassion for others; compassion “will flow from the sacred heart of Jesus.”
From Brennan Mannings’s Abbas Child
As we experience the tenderness of God towards us, this tenderness, makes us feel secure and we discover that “we are thoroughly and sincerely liked by someone. . . The defense mechanisms of the imposter—sarcasm, name-dropping, self-righteousness, the need to impress others—fall away. We become open, real, vulnerable, and affectionate. We grow tender. 64
“The way of tenderness avoids blind fanaticism. Instead it seeks to see with penetrating clarity. The compassion of God in our hearts opens our eyes to the unique worth of each person.” 73
“The rhythm of relentless tenderness in the Rabbi’s heart makes loving terribly personal, terribly immediate, and terribly urgent.” 164
What a personal challenge I find here.
“Your gentleness made me great.” Psalm 18:35 (parallel with 2 Sam 22:36) A mystery here against which I am scratching, trying to understand. The one whose greatness is unsearchable (Psalm 145:3) is also gentle and as He stoops down” (NIV translation) He makes me great.
From the New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology,
(ii) Psalm 18:27 . David praises God for the victory going to the afflicted, while the proud are afflicted in this typical divine reversal of circumstances. In 18:35 , in the third part of the verse, we have “and your humility has made me great” (NIV you stoop down to make me great; note 2 Sam 22:36, “and your help has made me great”). Many conjectures have been proposed for the unusual form, but the sense of divine humility in 18:35  is not impossible (Ps 113:6). God’s condescension has saved David. God had stooped to conquer David’s enemies. The divine character had been exhibited in seeking and promoting the welfare of David. There seems to be no incompatibility between humility of this character and the exercise of God’s controlled power (Dawes, 46).
With permission, I wanted to share a slightly edited version of a post a friend made. He writes following the death of his wife and grandson and his reflections come out of a meditation on Psalm 23 and Romans 8:28.
Lord teach me to continue to weep. Losing my wife has been the hardest thing I’ve ever experienced. The loss of my grandson 2 weeks later added and deepened the loss. Maybe in this world where there is so much brokenness, darkness, pain, hurt, greed, so much that is not right, and not good – where so many are wounded, lost, stuck, broken and hidden in darkness – Perhaps my heavenly Father desires to teach me to weep over the losses of His heart, the pain in His creation, to mourn the lost, brokenhearted, and captives of this world. Pray for me to learn to not stop weeping. Pray my heart will grow to embrace my Father’s heart and weep not only for my losses but also for the losses on His heart.
Another post from my friend whose wife died recently. He writes following a family gathering and remembrances of his wedding day. Even in the midst of his pain and grief, he is ministering to others by his writing. Amazing really.
I’m learning about the nature of love and God’s love for me. He experienced this pain and sorrow and separation when He chose to give Jesus for one such as me. He chose that path for the opportunity for me to know Him and to become part of His family. I never would have chosen this path, but He chose it because of the joy set before Him and the hope of an eternity of he with me and I with Him.
I’m learning that one of my “tasks” of becoming, one of the “big blocks” is about rooting my identity more firmly, more deeply in the Lord Jesus. He’s the strong, safe and secure anchor of my heart and soul. The boat of my life surges up and down, to and fro – battered by the storms of this present season, but the anchor of hope holds fast to Jesus – the author and the perfector of my faith. what a gift from Him.
May you find Him as true and sure in the trials you are experiencing today.
More from my friend John who lost his wife a few months ago.
In my grieving process, I am where I am but the LORD is “I am who I am!” He, my shepherd is with me here where I am and that’s enough. The creator God of the universe who is powerful, present, the God of all comfort and the one who always initiates toward us with His loving kindness, mercy and grace is at my side joining me in my grief. Where else can I look for help but to the Lord who rides in majesty and Who is my help! He is and He is my help. Rest my soul rest.
It takes great power to show mercy.
Remember what Schindler said about mercy to the German commandant, Amon in Schinder’s List? Amon was trying to impress Schindler with his power, “They fear us case we have the power to kill arbitrarily.”
Schindler responds with a discussion about killing a man when he commits a crime, “That’s not power though that’s justice. That’s different then power. Power is when we have every justification to kill and we don’t.”
Schindler describes a scene of a man who is guilty and knows he is going to die. He throws himself on the ground and begs for mercy because he knows he’s going to die.
When you pardon that condemned man, when you show him mercy, “That is power,” said Schindler.
Amon then goes on to show mercy to some of the Jews in the camp (which was Schindler’s hope after all!).
Reflecting on Psalm 51 and the words mercy, kindness and compassion used in verses 1 and 2.
The request is for God’s mercy–chanan, a “beneficient action freely offered or received”. Chanan “contributes to the well-being of another or to the health of an ongoing relationship” (such as to the poor or oppressed). God gives favor and “his favor is rooted in his disposition to show favor” (not because we deserve it!)
Mercy can be requested because God is kind–chesed which is translated in many different ways–lovingkindness, loyal love, faithfulness. In all of its meanings, it has a strong relational aspect. Like chanan above, chesed often “describes the disposition and beneficient actions of God toward his faithful.” Chesed is shown because of a covenental relationship; it is deliverance or protection by a superior party and it is shown in the “context of a deep and enduring committment between two partners.”
What I found very interesting was the following statement: Chesed saves people from disasters or oppressors. Even though it provides eventual salvation, it “does not eradicate the anxiety of the endangered while they await deliverance.” And so the dynamic is as follows: “one must discover God’s loyal love all over again at each new crisis.”
We can also request mercy from God because of his compassion–racham. Something that goes beyond what ought to be given. Racham is the grounds for a prayer for mercy and forgiveness. “It is a warm compassion which goes the second mile;” “which is ready to forgive sin” and which replaces “judgement with grace.”
Out of God’s kindness and compassion, He is able to powerfully bestow mercy on us.
How have you shown mercy to someone this week?
More from my friend John’s journal following the death of his wife.
“It feels so unreal, so hard, so lonely. I know the truth but I don’t like it right now. I think I never will. Death is so wrong. It is evil. It is not part of God’s intent. I’m raw, shredded, wounded…I shrink from this path. I am weak & seek another way – any way, just not the way of brokenness, loneliness and sacrifice.”
“Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgements and his paths beyond tracing out! Who has known the mind of the Lord?….” Romans 11:33-36.
“Central to the Christian experience is the art of questioning God,” says Rob Bell in Velvet Elvis. Bell’s Nooma short videos are some of the best around (I need to order a few of the more recent ones) and his Sex God was outstanding. So, I picked up Velvet Elvis a few weeks ago and decided to read it while on vacation. Bell continues his discussion about questioning God:
Not beligerent, arrogant questions that have no respect for our maker, but naked, honest, vulnerable, raw questions, arising out of the awe that comes from engaging the living God.
This type of questioning frees us. Frees us from having to have it all figured out. Frees us from having answers to everything. Frees us from always having to be right. It allows us to have moments when we come to the end of our ability to comprehend. Moments when the silence is enough. 31
What stimulates a longing for God? John Fischer had the following in his Dec 9 2009 email which says it well and valuable to remember during this season.
With every longing, every shortage, every need…
We’re looking for the Lord.
With every heartbreak, every disappointment, every loss…
We’re looking for the Lord.
With every accomplishment, every triumph, every gain…
We’re looking for the Lord.
With every mystery, every question, every doubt…
We’re looking for the Lord.
With every struggle, every challenge, every win…
We’re looking for the Lord.
I love the way John Piper starts out his post, which is a copy of his speech to the American Association of Counselors. He says, I am a man
- who must crucify the love of praise every day;
- who struggles with the same adolescent fear at age 63 that he had at 15, the fear of looking foolish;
- who is prone to feel self-pity and pout when he doesn’t get loved the way he wants;
- who is almost never sure he has used his time in the best way and therefore struggles with guilt;
- who is short on compassion and long on critical analysis;
- who can freeze up emotionally when he’s tired, and feel instinctively that it’s someone else’s fault;
- who loves to praise God in the great assembly and feels a constraint on his spirit in his own living room;
- who has loved his wife of forty years imperfectly and spent with her over three of those years with a Christian counselor trying to become better images of Christ and the church;
- and who never feels sure that his motives are pure, including right now, for why he is telling you all this.
I am sure he does this on one level because he is speaking to a room full of counselors but on a deeper level so that they will see why he needs and loves the grace of God. The grace of God enables us to behold the glory of the Son of God and beholding that glory, we are transformed (Jn 1:14-16 and 2 Cor 3:18) into that same image. Thus, we discover what we were created for–that we might praise the glory of his grace (Eph 1:14-16). Piper says,
If praising God’s glory is our final destiny, then seeing and savoring and praising God’s glory must be at the heart of what it means to be fully human. Seeing and savoring God is, therefore, the heart of mental health.
And here is where Piper makes a point that so many of us get wrong, “Authentic, heartfelt, truth-based, God-centered praise is the mark of mental health, not a means to mental health.” As we behold His glory, as we praise His glory, we are made whole but that is not why we praise His glory. God reaches out to us in loves and we have a deep experience of His love so that God receives more glory from our praise. As Piper says,
“. . . feeling loved by God means feeling glad that God not only crushed his Son for me, but that he is now crushing every vestige of desire in my life that competes with the pleasure of the praise of the glory of his grace.”
And for all of us who have had some experience of the healing that God’s grace brings to us, we recognize that we would never have come to this point on our own. Piper closes out about this point,
There is only one hope for Christ-exalting transformation in our preaching and our counseling—the supernatural work of God giving us eyes to see and hearts to savor the all-satisfying beauty of the glory of the grace of God. When that happens, our obsession with self will be broken, and beholding the glory of the Lord, we will be changed into his image from one degree of glory to the next.
Classic John Piper, bringing us back to the Scriptures and to what is of supreme importance, the glory of God.
Another significant word I heard this week came from a student during a lively discussion we had on the difference between missions, mission (of God) and missional. Henry had taken a recent class on missional spirituality and it had changed his life. He said that missional spirituality is “giving careful attentiveness to what God is doing in the world and to the person of God.” He said this concept has transformed the way he lives his life. There is something here for me, something which attracts me.
Yes, “careful attentiveness”—requires me to be alert, observing and listening. Might we even say, it requires me to have surrendered my agendas? To what God is doing—sounds a bit like Blackaby’s Experiencing God. Don’t put God into a box, don’t assume or presume the way in which he will work. Expect in a sense to be surprised at any time with His activity and yet, it is not a passive, for I will be actively paying attention to the activity of God. Of course, it requires knowledge of the character of God and the humble discernment as I ask, is God at work in this place, event, person etc? And “careful attentiveness to God Himself.” So, I am keep my gaze focused carefully on God even as I am looking around in the world to see where He is in action. I reflect and meditate and enjoy who He is and revel in my relationship with Him. There is joy and mystery and movement and wonder and delight and much more than I could ever imagine.
Just remembered the language that Eugene Peterson uses to describe spirituality, in his Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places. He says
Spirituality is “transcendence vaguely intermingled with intimacy”( 27) “Living, living fully and well, is at the heart of all serious spirituality.” 29 In order to be spiritual, we need to maintain vigilance and attentiveness. Vigilance is “discerning the de-spiritualization of spirituality” by a “continual and careful reading of Holy Scripture.” 30 Attentiveness is “noting the many and profligate ways in which God gives life, renews life, blesses life,” and is “nurtured in common worship and prayer.” 30
Following is a paraphrase from Deut 7:6-8 (reading from New Living) for meditation
Simply, because he loves you . . .
you are a holy person
who belongs to YHWH your Elohim
Of all the people on the earth
YHWH your Elohim chose you
to be his special treasure.
You see, he lavished his love on you . . .
How great is the goodness you has stored up for those who fear you. Ps 31:19
Fits well with what I have been reading in Peterson’s Christ Plays. For Peterson, fear-of-the-Lord is one of the four terms that help us to live well. Fear of the Lord is a “term for the way we live the spiritual life—not just what we do and say but the way we act, the way we speak.” 39-40 He says it is a term that shows the human side of spirituality without making us the center of the subject. 40
He says that we cultivate the fear of the Lord in personal prayer and corporate worship.
“We deliberately interrupt our preoccupation with ourselves and attend to God, place ourselves intentionally in sacred space, in sacred time, in the holy presence—and wait. We become silent and still in order to listen and respond to what is Other than us.” 41
“Fear-of-the-Lord is not studying about God but living in reverence before God. We don’t so much lack knowledge, we lack reverence. Fear-of-the-Lord is not a technique for acquiring spiritual know-how but a willed not-knowing. It is not so much know-how we lack; we lack a simple being-there.” 44
Started reading Psalm 31 this week and verse 19 seemed to jump out at me. Reading from the New Living Translation,
“How great is the goodness you have stored up for those who fear you.”
Why overwhelmed by his goodness? Because it is undeserved. Because there is no reason that I should experience the goodness that comes regularly into my life! I have heard some say (and I suspect that many others think) that they have earned all (ok, most of) the good things that are in their life. But James 1:17, says that whatever is good comes down from God above. The generous, overwhelming, extravagant love of God toward us is the only reason to explain why we have what we have and others do not. Because He is good and Jesus tells us that no one is truly good except God (Luke 18:19), Because He delights to gives good gifts to his children (Mtt 7:11) and indeed to the whole world (Acts 14:17). And so overwhelmed by (His) goodness, we are full of thanks and are generous toward others, sharing the good that He has graciously given to us. And because He is Good, how could we ever think to boast or flaunt what we have? A couple of attempts trying to depict goodness in a photo
Looked up goodness in Grudem’s Theology and he says, “‘Good’ is what God approves.” Not a particularly useful definition to me. But I do like his last sentence where he helps me understand how goodness relates to his mercy, patience and grace, “Thus God’s mercy is his goodness toward those in distress; his grace is his goodness toward those who deserve only punishment; and his patience is his goodness toward those who continue to sin over a period of time.” (198, italics original) Now, I even more overwhelmed by his goodness!
More from Brennan Manning’s Abba’s Child
“If God is viewed primarily as omniscient, growth in wisdom and knowledge becomes the foremost priority of human existence. If God is envisioned as all-powerful, seeking authority in order to influence others is the way to become like God. If God is viewed as immutable and invulnerable, grantite-like consistency and a high threshold for pain is the way to godliness.67
For Manning, I think His primary view of God is that of compassion or love.
Found a new way of talking about the good news of Christianity. Check out James Choung’s website, Tell It Slant where you can find a CT article about his new book and I found a 3 min you tube clip in which he shares a presentation of the four circles
Reading this week in Psalm 25, a Psalm in which the author seems to be trying to trust (wait, hope, follow) a God, full of unfailing love and faithfulness despite defeat, deceit, deep distress and potential disgrace. Verse 11 stands powerfully at the center of the Psalm, “For the honor of Your name, forgive my many, many sins.” NLT And then, in verse 18, the Psalmist pleads,
Feel my pain, see my trouble and forgive all my sins
This is a Psalm I needed to read! Then, I pulled out Craige’s commentary on Psalms 1-50 and this is what he had to say,
The prayer is that of a person who has made the choice and is walking the road of the righteous; but the dispassionate wisdom has been transformed to passionate petition, for the right road is not an easy one on which to walk. It is lined with enemies who would like nothing better than to put the walker to shame; and the traveler on the road is also plagued with internal doubts, as he recalls in his mind previous wanderings from the road and former sins. The essence of the road of the righteous is this: it is a road too difficult to walk without the companionship and friendship of God.
The Psalmist, troubled from without and within, has stopped for a moment in the way; he knows he cannot turn back, but scarcely knows how to continue. And so he prays that God would show him the raod and make him walk in it (4-5). He knows that he does not deserve such guidance and strength, but as one forgiven of sin, he is confident that God will show him the road again (v2b).
Now, I know why I need to read this Psalm this week. I am desperate for the companionship and friendship of God on this journey.