What God Wants

God needs nothing from us, but there is something He wants from us. Do you have it?

Today’s reading: Isaiah 65-66; 2 Thessalonians 1

1Thus says the Lord:
“Heaven is my throne,
and the earth is my footstool;
what is the house that you would build for me,
and what is the place of my rest?
2 All these things my hand has made,
and so all these things came to be,
declares the Lord.
But this is the one to whom I will look:
he who is humble and contrite in spirit
and trembles at my word.          Isaiah 66:1-2

9 They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, 10 when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed.                                                                                                                                                                               2 Thessalonians 1:9-10

In the closing chapters of his prophecy, Isaiah describes the coming new heavens and new earth. Every pain, every disappointment, every sorrow of this world will be eliminated and forgotten (65:17). Who will enjoy this new creation? Who will have God’s favor? Surprisingly for those who don’t know God well, it is not those who have pompously tried to impress God. God doesn’t need our works. He doesn’t need a “house.” He inhabits the universe. There is nothing we can build for Him that would adequately reflect His glory.

But there is something in humans that gets God’s attention: a humble and contrite spirit that shows itself in trembling at His word. God is glorified properly by all who bow before Him and who take His word seriously. They may also be used by Him to do great things, but the key element of their lives is a heart that bows in worship before Him.

Paul, in his second letter to the Thessalonians, puts his call to holiness in the context of the return of Jesus Christ in judgment. Believers suffer at the hands of those who neither know God nor obey the gospel of Christ. Paul wants his readers to focus on living in a way that is worthy of the kingdom of God, worthy of His calling. He prays to God to work in them to this end, and he charges them to make every effort in this direction, too.

God looks for the contrite, humble heart, one that fears no one but God. Does He find that in you?

God Is…

Today’s reading: Psalm 93-95; Romans 11:22-36

4 Mightier than the thunders of many waters,
mightier than the waves of the sea,
the Lord on high is mighty!

5 Your decrees are very trustworthy;
holiness befits your house,
O Lord, forevermore. Psalm 93:4-5

33 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!

34 “For who has known the mind of the Lord,
or who has been his counselor?”
35 “Or who has given a gift to him
that he might be repaid?”

36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen. Romans 11:33-36

God is too great and glorious to be described in human words, but we must try. When we have exhausted our efforts, we worship Him by ascribing to Him all glory forever.

How do you describe God? Psalm 93 uses an analogy to the highest human authority, the king. Admittedly, that comparison falls far short because God is a king whose reign always was and always will be. He is eternal. He rules, but not over some limited territory, over the whole earth.

How do you describe God? The Psalmist draws from the most powerful forces in nature: a flood, mighty waters, the sea. The waters roar. They sweep away everything in their path. But that is not an adequate description of the power of God for He is mightier than the sea. He is on high above it all.

How do you describe God? Human kings make decrees, but they cannot guarantee their fulfillment. Maybe the kingdom will be overthrown. Maybe the king will die suddenly. The king’s decree is only a statement of his intention. But God’s decrees are “very trustworthy.” He is holy, set apart, completely other. Forever.

Paul compares God to the wisest counselor or the richest man on earth. They could add nothing to the Lord’s understanding nor supply Him with anything He lacks. The Apostle seems out of superlatives as he cries out, “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! …To him be glory forever. Amen.” We cannot adequately describe God, but give it a try. He is worthy and accepting of all our feeble, but heartfelt, efforts to praise Him.

Two Ways to Live

Today’s reading: Psalm 62-64; Romans 1

5 My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food,
and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,
when I remember you upon my bed,
and meditate on you in the watches of the night;
7 for you have been my help,
and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.                                      Psalm 63:5-7

21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.    Romans 1:21

Mankind is divided into two groups, those who find their satisfaction and joy in God and those who neither honor Him nor give thanks to Him. There are two ways to live and both are vividly contrasted in today’s readings.

The Psalmist opens his heart again and again showing us how much he longs for God. He is like one longing for water and air. He cannot live without his God. He finds his satisfaction in Him. He finds shelter and protection in Him. He praises God with joy. He sings of Him for joy. The worship of God is not a necessary but unpleasant discipline.   He finds delight in God.

By contrast, Paul describes people who take no interest in God. They have no time to praise Him. They give Him no thanks. They presumptuously go on their merry way in foolishness. They have no excuse for their negligence, because God’s invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature are clearly perceived in creation (vs. 19-20). Rather, than worship and thank God, however, they grow more foolish and exchange the glory of God for images of animals. They worship creatures, not the Creator.

Man is made to worship God and if he will not worship God he will worship something less than God for he must have an object of worship. It is common to call our celebrities “idols”. Why not? We worship them and they encourage it. The only problem is they are fallen humans, not worthy of worship. They, too, will be called to answer for their idolatry.

Find your satisfaction and joy in the eternal triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He is magnificent. He is worthy of all our praise and worship. There are only two ways to live and the choice is clear. [1]

[1] To see a presentation of the gospel go to: http://www.matthiasmedia.com.au/2wtl/

In the beginning, God

Today’s reading: Genesis 1-2; Matthew 1 (click on the reference to open the reading in a new window)

Welcome to a new year in the Bible. I hope you will join me here as we read and think together about the most important book ever written. In our daily schedule, we will be reading through the Old Testament and New Testament simultaneously, but these Testaments do not describe simultaneous events.[1] There were about 2000 years of history between Genesis and the birth of Jesus Christ in Matthew.

One of the advantages of this reading plan is that we immediately get into the New Testament without neglecting a careful reading of the Old. We get an appreciation for the great cosmic events which set the backdrop for all the rest of the Bible and for human history.

As you read today, consider how God is revealed in Genesis 1-2. He shows His care for the universe and for Man. He makes the first human couple in His image with an implied purpose to reflect His glory and He gives them a very good world with meaningful work.

When we turn to Matthew, we read about the genealogy of Jesus Christ beginning with Abraham whom we will meet shortly in Genesis 11. The birth of Jesus is surrounded with scandal as his mother, Mary, is pregnant before marriage to Joseph. Joseph is reassured by an angel that he need not reject Mary but take her as his wife. Her son is conceived of the Holy Spirit. He will save His people from their sins.

Tomorrow we will learn in Genesis how sin entered into human history making necessary a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, but take note that in the genealogy of Matthew 1 there are, besides Mary, three mothers mentioned whom we will meet later in our Old Testament readings all of whom experienced sinful abusive relationships. Even in the lineage of Jesus there was a need for deliverance from the ravages of sin.

The God of the Bible is one of power, love, and justice. This book shows how crucial it is to understand how He has acted to create us and all things and to save those who trust in Him from the devastating effects of sin. Before we finish, we will see that He will restore all things and establish a new heavens and earth in which righteousness dwells forever.

[1] As an alternative plan, you may want to consider reading straight through the Bible using my book Cover to Cover: through the Bible in 365 days available at Amazon.com for Kindle readers.

 

God Created

“Today’s Reading: Genesis 1:1-3:24” (Click here to open)

My selection: Genesis 1:27-28 “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.  And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.'”

These three chapters set the context not only for the rest of the Bible but for all of human history.  Volumes have been written about these brief passages but  I must pause at verses 27-28 of chapter one to reflect on who man is, what he is, and why he exists.

1.  Man was created (therefore, not self existent, not self sufficient, not a random result of time and chance).   2.  Man was created in God’s image (therefore not a mere animal, not worthless).  3.  Man was created male and female (therefore not asexual, homosexual, nor bisexual).  4.  Man was blessed and commissioned by God to multiply and to have dominion  over the earth (therefore, not purposeless, not useless, not solitary).

How many of the current problems facing our society stem from our losing sight of one or more of these foundational claims of the Bible?

We cannot instantly solve all of these ills but I challenge you to start this New Year with thanks and praise to God for His good and hospitable creation, corrupted though it became and continues by man’s sin.  Praise Him for His coming kingdom in which all the good of original creation and more will be established forever.

Tomorrow’s reading:  Genesis 4:1-5:32 Click reference to open.