Has God Mellowed Out in His Old Age?

I’m currently reading through the book of Numbers, and this morning I read through the spies checking out the land God promised to them, their lies, and their complaints, yada yada yada. I read about God’s anger against the wicked, grumbling Israelites and the punishment that follows. Then in Chapter 15, there is this small portion-5 verses-that tells about the time someone was publically breaking the Sabbath by gathering sticks, and the Lord said “stone him to death”. Geez. That seems a bit overdramatic. And frankly, I was frustrated and literally, out loud, said:

“See, LORD. This is why people don’t like you!”

He just commanded someone to be STONED to DEATH for PICKING UP STICKS on the Sabbath! In fact, there are many times we read about similar stories in the OT. And it’s easy while reading through the Old Testament to see God as short-tempered and ungracious. Though I KNOW there are also countless examples of him being gracious and as Moses declares, “slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, forgiving iniquity and transgression”, the times where he is not, definitely stand out in my mind.  This is why people love New Testament Jesus and avoid like the plague Old Testament Yahweh.

And then, (because I am a quote junkie) I remembered this quote by Pastor R.C. Sproul:

“When there’s something in the Word of God that I don’t like, the problem is not with the Word of God, it’s with me.”

Dang, R.C.! Okay, so there is something wrong with me (that I already knew!) but what is it?

According to Scripture, God is immutable-never changing. He is the same “yesterday, today, and forever” (Heb. 13:8, Malachi 3:6, James 1:17, Ps. 102:24-27).  So why does it sometimes seem to me that God was a cranky dictator, but now he’s more lenient and gracious, and less sensitive and severe? Why do I like the responses of God less in the OT although I KNOW that He hasn’t changed in the NT?

The Holy Spirit graciously showed me the answer. The answer is (as it often is) the Cross.

Here’s the thing, God’s CHARACTER, RIGHTEOUSNESS, and PERFECTION have NOT changed. But, whereas his wrath once was rightfully poured out on individuals, through Jesus Christ, his wrath CHANGED to be poured out ONCE for ALL WHO BELIEVE on Jesus Christ. So God is still as deeply offended by blatant sin as he was in the time of Moses. But FORTUNATLEY for us, instead of sentencing us to death-he sentenced Christ to death.God still is INCREDIBLY serious about sin-but FORTUNATELY for us, Jesus Christ took all our deserved punishments so we don’t have to fear God’s punitive reactions to our crimes. In the Old Testament, God had the ground swallow people (Numbers 16:32), and if I view my sin correctly, I realize there are PLENTLY of times I rightfully deserved that to happen to me! But ON THE CROSS, CHRIST mercifully absorbed all of God’s reactions to our sins.

So when you and I read Old Testament stories of God’s wrath, instead of thinking “Ugh. I hate that God was so dramatic against sin!” focus on these 2 things–

  1. God STILL FEELS THAT way about sin! Don’t minimize your offenses against God-they are severe, He HATES them, and they do deserve punishment!
  2. PRAISE God ALL THE MORE for His kindness is sending Christ so that His children no longer need to be punished for their sins!

God is infinitely more holy and righteous than we ever realize. That truth plus the incredible grace displayed in sending God the Son to die for us, should motivate us towards joyful obedience and humble adoration!

Sproul

Keller

My Life’s Mantra: Three Lists

I’m a list person. You’ll find them everywhere. I have a notebook by my bed-full of lists, sticky notes surrounding my desk-list city, and one of my most-used apps on my phone: Wunderlist-a list of lists! I list my groceries, my prayer requests, and even my friendships (my co-workers make fun of me-but I need to be organized!)-and find it to be helpful to visually categorize things in my life. With that being said, you’ll not be surprised that my life’s mantra equates to categorizing all things in my life into one of three lists.

Find the things that increase your affections for Christ, and with all your heart-pursue those things. 

Identify the things that neutralize your affections for Christ, and as much as possible-avoid/redeem those things. 

Know the things that decrease your affections for Christ, and for your soul’s sake-run from those things. 

These lists will be different for every person, and this is not an exhaustive list for me-but it’ll give you a good snapshot 🙂 Oh and as a side note, I do think that many things mentioned in List Two have the potential to be moved to List One-it just takes intentionality and a desire to worship God in all things! AND there are things naturally in List One, that if I get lazy or negative or look away from Christ, they will transition to List Two. :0

List One: Things that Increase my Affections for Christ

  • Quality time with God
    • Journaling
    • Reading His word
    • Reading about Him
    • Doodling quotes about Him
  • Talking about God
    • With unbelievers
    • With my sisters and brothers in Christ
    • With my mentor ❤
    • With the world wide web!
  • Enjoying the world He made (especially with friends!)
    • At the beach
    • On a run
    • In a kayak
    • On a trail
    • In the city
    • Some music 🙂
  • Blessing the senses He gave me!
    • Through coffee and icecream (not together though…)
    • Making and having dinner (with friends!)
    • Good music
    • Aesthetics
  • Enjoying the relationships He gave me
    • Family
    • Friends
    • Co-workers
    • Church family
  • Random Things
    • Learning in general (TED Talks=time of worship for me!)
    • Movies that spur good conversation

List Two: Things that Neutralize my Affections for Christ

  • Some Social Media
    • Complaining instead of peacefully praying (about what’s going on in the world)
    • Comparing instead of praising
  • Being lazy (not resting…actually being bum like)
  • Media intake without processing/reflecting
    • I NEED to talk about a movie after i watch it in order to “redeem” it from List 2, to List 1. This may just be me-but I want to dialogue about the lies portrayed as truths, and the evils portrayed as good. I want to welcome God into my TV/Movie viewing and do that best through conversation! I understand not everyone is like this and that is a-okay 🙂
  • Working haphazardly
    • If I work hard and with a focus on honoring God in my job-it’s totally in List One, but the days (and weeks) that I just go into work without remembering WHY I work, and WHO I ultimately work for-it’s List Two.

List Three: Things that Decrease my Affections for Christ:

  • Most TV Comedies
    • Humor that I find funny, that God does not
    • Wasting hours
    • Being convinced that I want what the world has
  • Some Social Media
    • endlessly scrolling through Pinterest humor, Facebook, Twitter, etc.
    • being too intrigued by the world’s gossip/interest (buzzfeed stories for me)
  • Pining for what I don’t have
    • Wishing/daydreaming/coveting breeds mistrust and discontentment

So that is what I came up with! This is something that helps me, and maybe it’ll help you too! Write out your three lists, and see what you can do to eliminate things from List Three! Also see if you can transfer things from List Two to List One with a little prayer and focus 🙂 Through Jesus Christ, God has given us the GREATEST GIFT in life-and that is HIMSELF. We can know, enjoy, and love Him! Let’s prepare for eternity and do it as much as possible!!! (Also, make sure you read these quotes below!)

We make a god out of whatever we find most joy in. So, find your joy in God and be done with all idolatry. - John Piper

Biblical Homemaking: on being an unfaithful bride {how trials reveal your true affections} biblicalhomemaking.blogspot.com

"Sin is what you do when your heart is not satisfied with God." - John Piper

Is Salvation Beautiful to You?

diamond

 

“Just as a jeweler in a store will always use a black velvet background to display the splendor of an exquisite diamond, so the intricate, dazzling beauty of the gospel is only fully seen when we understand what the Bible says about man’s radical condition outside of Christ. It’s a bleak and dark picture to be sure. Yet only when we understand the immensity of the problem can we find the right solution – and see the futility of all other man made remedies. We need far more than a moral pep talk; more than some medical first aid for our gaping wounds; and even more than even an oxygen mask to help us breathe more easily. What we need is a miracle! What we need is a resurrection!” – John Samson

The moments when I am not as impressed by the work and wonder of Christ on the cross, just so happens to be the exact same moments when I am numb to my sin and or mesmerized by my own “virtues” and the fleeting pleasures of this world. Sometimes, I don’t see the beauty of my own salvation, because I’m being entertained and blinded by this life. The happy triune God of the universe and His gift of salvation is ever before me.  Beautiful. Stunning. Entrancing. It is right before my eyes and under my nose, but somehow I miss its brilliance and I’m not seeing it’s beauty.  Are you with me? Has the work that Christ did on our behalf lost it’s luster? Is it not so shiny? Not so sparkly?

Oh gee.

We often need a reality check.

We often need to see ourselves more clearly.

We often need to be reminded of the ephemeral nature of this life.

We often need to be reminded of what life apart from Him would be like.

We often need to be reminded of His gracious, unmerited, magnificent love.

Pray for your affections and understanding of God to be increased. Prayerfully read Scripture-even if you don’t feel like it! Especially if you don’t feel like it! Look at who He is and what He has done. Look at who you are and all that you have done. Each salvation story is a jaw-dropping, praise-evoking,  joy-bringing, undeserved, irrevocable miracle! Whether you were a 4 year old growing up in a solid, christian home, or a thief hanging on a cross-your salvation is a miraculous gift. What blessings come when we see God’s grace, and glory, and goodness against the backdrop of who we are apart from Him! How much more beautiful and treasured is my salvation when I remember where I should and could be without it! Peace and God-centered adoration and delight will flow through our spirit when we intentionally work to put the radiance of the gospel in front of our radical condition outside of Christ.

I’m not showing you a pebble and asking you to be in awe of it. I am showing you the most rare, precious, valuable gem in existence asking you to marvel at its worth. Jesus Christ and his gospel is the only exhilarating, essential, life-giving, fulfilling, captivating truth in the universe! Look at it and be amazed!

When I Sat Down During Worship

Earlier this year I went to a youth conference for Junior and Senior High Schoolers. I sat in on a few of the sessions and was super impressed with the story telling and communicating of biblical narratives told by the speakers. Also I had forgotten how crazy/energized teens are! I mean, college students are pretty wild too, but junior/senior highschoolers at youth conferences are a whole ‘nother breed of human.

Gotta love ‘em.

Anyway, there was a really cool indie Christian band playing worship for the senior high students. Skilled musicians. Super hipster. Great combo. We stood and began worshiping through singing and I was immediately sort of rubbed the wrong way when the lyrics were so artists and cryptic that I wasn’t quite sure what we were talking about. And though I think that style of music might not be best for corporate worship, I understood the gist of what we trying to say and so onward we went. The next song/songs where very basic with few words and even less depth. I didn’t want to be frustrated or a “worship snob” so I quickly reminded myself how I love simple hymns like “God is so good” which isn’t wordy or theological, but simple and true. This is the same sort of thing. But as we sang another song with simplistic, one-sided, me-centered choruses, I thought to myself,

“This is so vague and gospel-less. I could easily be a Buddist singing to Budda asking for blessing, or an Islam singing to Allah of his greatness, or a Mormon singing to my nontrinitarian god about my desire to feel him. And I would barely need to change a word.”

And so I sat down.

As that thought entered my mind, I was so angry at the idea that hundreds of young people who could be worshipping God, but learning nothing and singing nothing exclusively about Him. I started feverously journaling about my frustration with the lyrics and the deep need to be teaching songs rich with many truths about God. In high school these students are studying psychology, and physics, and philosophy, and trigonometry-we stretch their minds in all sorts of ways scholastically, but when it comes to theology all we can have them sing is an indie version of Jesus Loves Me? They can comprehend so much more than that! We need to give it to them.

I let my thoughts roam a little bit. I sat there with my legs and arms crossed and after writing a while checked my phone, probably facebook, and looked around. I saw students with their hands raised high, and their voices raised higher, I saw some disengaged, but most had their eyes fixed on the words on the screen.

I realized I should probably pray.

So I learned forward, elbows to knees, to pray. I’m not sure what I was going to say, probably something about God working in hearts in the midst of milk-like theology, but I didn’t even get a chance to get the words out because I was immediately convicted.

This thought came to my mind:

“You know who God is, you have the ability and opportunity to worship Him in song, and you are deliberately choosing not to.”

I instantaneously stood to my feet.

After standing there for a second I began thinking about/processing what I had just thought. How dare I stop worshipping God. All truth is God’s truth and worship is such a matter of the heart. My focus on what I would change, instead of the God who has changed me is (another!) clear reflection of my foolishness and immaturity.

Though, it was NOT wrong to think those things of wanting the songs for corporate worship to have more depth, its timing was misplaced.

I thought about my amazing earthly father. What if someone where to stand on stage, boasting of how sweet and kind and gentle he is. Would I get annoyed, or outraged and say, “That is not even the tip of the iceberg! How dare you only talk about those things! He was also fair in the way he punished us and showed us what righteous anger looked like. He has loved my mother so well, and is selfless to her-not just to you!” Wouldn’t that be ridiculous? Isn’t that not the place or the point?

My desire for worship lyrics to most wholistically and reverently represent the triune God of the Bible is not wrong, but my desire to stop worshipping Jesus Christ and complain about it was wrong. I know I could have still worshipped, and after my stubborn heart was revealed to me I did!

I praise the Lord that at both the college I work at and the church I attend, our leaders do a great job of mixing songs of “childlike faith” with songs lyrically rich to help us grow in our understanding of the gospel of Christ. But next time there is a worship song that is played that is not heretical, but simply shallow, I’m not going to have a seat. I’m going to engage my heart and mind, even add words of praise of my own, to worship the only God who is worthy of all adoration, praise, thanksgiving, honor and glory.

What do you think? Right response? Wrong response? Additional thoughts?

Remind Yourself of Truths

The first Saturday of every month I meet with some wonderful ladies for a Bible/book study. This morning was such an incredible blessing. We were able to be transparent and vulnerable, and really shared some deep heartaches with one another.

One of the conversations that came up was about how often we don’t feel God’s peace and presence throughout our day. Sometimes we spend time in the morning with our awesome God (often times we do not), but it does not seem to carry through our work day-we still feel anxious, frustrated, and peace-less. We do not want this to be the case! We are prone to wander,  prone to forget the God we love. How can we bind our wandering hearts to Him?

A practical suggestion that arose (among many!) was to choose a song, or a passage of Scripture to meditate on throughout the entire day. So instead of just reading in the mornings and forgetting what we read by dinner time, we were challenged to choose something to constantly be thinking about and chewing on throughout the day. It may be a word, phrase or concept from the passage read (or didn’t read!), or it could be a song that magnifies the truths found in Scripture. Write it on a post-it note, whiteboard, or put that song on repeat!

So I wanted to encourage you to do the same. Try and meditate on a truth about our wonderful, glorious, gracious King via something! Anything! We need to remind ourselves of truth continually! We are weak and forgetful! At least, I know I am! We need to have truth echoing through your mind and heart at every twist and turn of your day.  Because it is easy to believe the lies thrown at us (or that we tell ourselves!) so continually in our days, but we MUST train ourselves to immediately run our Source of Truth and cling to His goodness, justice, perfection, and love.

Read His word to know Him.

Obey His word to honor Him.

Believe His word to trust Him.