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.”
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.
From John Fischer’s post of March 25 by the same name
God doesn’t want your ability as much as he wants your availability.
We shine in our abilities; God shines in our availability.
Our ability makes us strong; our availability makes us vulnerable.
People are impressed with our abilities; God is impressed with our availability.
Practice improves our ability; faith improves our availability.
Our ability makes us popular; our availability makes God popular.
Not everyone is able; but anyone can be available.
Our ability draws on our natural talents; our availability draws on our spiritual gifts.
Ability can put us in the way; availability keeps us out of the way.
Our ability is fine; our availability is better.
God teams up with our ability; He gets inside our availability.
These are all reasons why God doesn’t want our ability as much as he wants our availability.
You might expect the above statement to come from a health and wealth proponent but it comes from a man who is soon to die; who has lived with severe chronic pain and cancer the last few years. Following are excerpts from an interview Timothy Dalrymple had with William Stuntz. One of the most compelling pieces I have ever read. Thanks to my dear wife. Headings are mine but the rest is excerpted from an interview with Stuntz.
God is eager to bless
My experience of cancer especially is that God is just so eager to bless. I find blessing all over the place, not in the cancer itself but all around it. It would almost be easier to answer what blessings I have not found.
Since my cancer diagnosis, I have experienced more friendship from more people than at any other time in my life. I’ve experienced not just a quality of medical care but a kind of medical care, humane medical care delivered by humane and decent people, that seems Christ-like to me. I don’t know the religious convictions of all the people who have treated me, but I certainly believe that they are used by God in ways that are really quite extraordinary to bring blessing to people who are in circumstances that lead them to hunger for blessing. I do hunger for blessing in the midst of these medical conditions, but I regularly find that hunger satisfied.
Life has become more concrete
Chronic pain and cancer both make life more concrete. In times of good health, when our bodies are doing everything we want and expect them to do, there is a tendency to think of spiritual life as something that is anything but concrete. That’s not possible, I find, in my present circumstances. My medical conditions, independently and together, are inescapable. Perhaps that’s the key feature. They are there all the time. There is no time when I am not aware of them. I hurt all the time. I’m exhausted all the time. There is no escaping either of those states of affairs. I simply never feel like I used to feel virtually all the time.
I am more than but not less than a cancer patient
I want to be more than a cancer patient and chronic pain patient. But I cannot be less than a cancer patient and a chronic pain patient. Those are large parts of my life. They are part of who I am. Although I would love to have my pain and my cancer removed tomorrow, that would not be an easy thing. I would have to learn how to be somebody else.
NOT Believing in the God of Disappointment
What I am displeased with is my own living of life. I feel an acute sense that I ought to have done better with the circumstances I was given. This is one of the reasons why it cut me so deeply when people suggested that suffering is God’s discipline — because I find it so very, very easy to believe in a God who is profoundly disappointed in me.
It seems utterly natural to believe in the Disappointed God, because I myself am disappointed. He must be even more disappointed, I think, because his standards are so much higher than mine. How could he not be disappointed? That makes complete sense to me.
It’s the other God, the God who does not experience that kind of disappointment, the God who sees me the way that Prodigal Son’s father saw him — that is the harder God for me to believe in. It takes work for me to believe in that God.
God longing for me is unspeakably sweet
“You will call and I will answer. You will long for the creature your hands have made” (Job 14:15).
I find those lines very powerful. The concept that God longs for the likes of me is so unspeakably sweet. I almost cannot bear to say them aloud. They are achingly sweet for me to hear.
There are many passages I love, but that one in particular has grabbed hold of me. Job’s hope, it turns out, is more realistic than his despair.
Just read an article in which “knowing God” was stated to be more important to the Eastern religions of Buddhism and Hinduism versus the importance of “knowing about God” of to Christianity. While I beg to disagree, there does seem to be some element of truth when you look at the experience of many Christians (and yes, I am including myself here). According to Gary Moon, the reason why there is so little distinction between Christians and non-Christians is because Christians (and I would add especially evangelicals) tend to focus on salvation as judicial pardon from sin instead of intimate “knowing” of God.
BUT John 17:3 says, “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” According to Moon, we enter into eternal life by “knowing” God, a knowing which he would describe a “deeply intimate, interactive, and transforming friendship built upon abiding, living in the other.” Apprenticeship with Jesus, p. 125
Moon gives a great quote at the beginning of chapter 14 in the above book from Dallas Willard,
In the purpose of God’s redemptive work communication advances into communion and communion into union. When the progression is complete we can truly say, “It is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me” (Gal 2:20) and “For me, living is Christ” (Phil 1:21).
I know the progression is not yet complete in me! The last few days I have been wrestling with lots of self-doubt and fear and only minutes after spending a lovely time alone with God early this morning reflecting on what it means for me to fear God, I found myself furious over an email that I received in which I felt publicly humiliated (another story). But, I also know that God is not finished with me!
Moon suggested the following spiritual exercise to help us celebrate salvation as living in intimate union with God:
Spend the next twenty-four hours abiding in God and then resolve to spend as many present moments of the day “with God” as you can. (italics mine)
Helpful Hint: At any point you become aware of yourself thinking about either the past or the future, let those thoughts go and return to being with God in the present moment. After a few deep breaths, ask him simply, “What should we do together right now?”
Let’s see what happens.
“I believe that the essence of sin is the fear that God does not have our best interests at heart.” 97 So said Gary Moon in Apprenticeship with Jesus: Learning to live like the Master. I am currently in the section called “Know Yourself” and there are four chapters here, The Good, Bad, The Ugly and The Beautiful. Naturally, I want to write about “The Bad.”
Moon says that when we begin to fear that God does not have our best interests at heart, we try to control things. Then, he concludes the chapter with some reflections and says, “Consider that apart from God’s presence and grace, your soul is lost and ruined.” He then asks us to consider what happens when God is not in control of your life and when he is not in control.
Three questions for reflection come out of this
What happens when I am in control of my
What happens when God is in control of my thought
What can I do to allow God to be in control in my life?
Maybe I will share my answers later in the week.
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.
More Lenten reflections from Catherine Larson out of James 4:17 at Breakpoint. Some of us are better than others at “avoiding the wrong things” but how do we measure up in “doing the right things”? I didn’t say express those hurtful words last week to my sister but I withheld love and encouragement!!
“Anyone who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins” is what James 4:17 says. Actually, when you read Jesus, even avoiding the bad is not as easy as I previously thought. Jesus says, if you look at a woman with lust in your heart, you have already committed adultery with her (Mtt 5:28)
Sin is both omitting goodness as well as committing evil. Larson writes,
“It reminds me what a huge gap there is between me and the perfect standard God requires. I have committed sins. But I have also omitted goodness. I have neglected the words of praise someone needed; I’ve idled away my talents; I’ve not been generous when God has prompted.
Larson also writes about repentance; that is “a good place to begin before we ever come close to thinking about the wrongs others have done to us.”
Reading this morning in Psalm 94 and Luke 12:22-34. Because of what has been happening of late, I spent some time reflecting on Ps 94:18
I felt myself almost slipping and your unfailing love, Oh YHWH supported me
When doubts filled my mind your comfort gave me
Renewed hope and joy
The slipping and doubt are the parts that connect with me. As someone emailed me this week, “Sounds like you may be starting to push the envelope a bit again and are definitely under attack. A bit worn down, not feeling well, busy schedule, interpersonal challenges, personal attacks…..slow down, focus on God.”
Then I came to Lk 12:22-34-actually, my reading for yesterday that I didn’t read yesterday—too busy!!!
Some questions I asked
- What do I worry about?
- Why do I worry?
What should I do when I begin to worry? Remember
- I am valuable to God v24
- Worry does not change anything
- What I worry about is often (always?) connected to what I fear. Sooo, I need to face my fears.
- Make the Kingdom of God my primary concern. Is God’s agenda or mine more important today? What I value occupies my heart and thoughts.
- Be generous with others-when we release what we hold onto so tightly, we find freedom.
I thought of the words of Abigail to David in 1 Sam 25:29
“Even when you are chased by those who seek your life, you are safe in the care of the LORD your God, secure in his treasure pouch.” NLT but in the NIV, “. . . the life of my lord shall be bound in the bundle of the living with the LORD your God. He shall sling out, as from the pocket of a sling.”
- I do NOT need to protect myself
- It is NOT all up to me and it is NOT all about me.
- GOD is in control. GOD cares for me.
- I can relax and stop worrying.
- I can abandon myself to His will.
I am much more aware today of the potential of evil within me than I was twenty years ago. What is the nature of evil that I do? I know that I do evil when I disobey God. But, anyone who has been a Christian for very long knows that a solution focused on commandment-keeping does not work. Why? Because as John Piper says,
So, even if we are (relatively) successful in keeping the commandments, we have still failed to deal with the the root problem of evil. Again, Piper says,
But lawbreaking is not the essence of my evil. Desiring anything above God is the essence of my evil, before any commands name it.
The only solution is a changed new heart, led by the Spirit of God who awakens in me a desire for God above all esle. Read the entire post by John Piper here