Coffee with God

ESV Coffee BibleHow is your time with God?  When you spend time with Him, do you see Him as pure or does He seem tortuous (Ps. 18:26)?

How about your intentional time in His Word?  Is it “more to be desired…than gold [and] sweeter also than honey” (Ps. 19:10)?

When spending time the the Lord in His Word, the prayers of Psalm 19:13-14 (ESV) become more than words and t-shirt verses:

Declare me innocent from hidden faults.
Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins;
let them not have dominion over me!
Then I shall be blameless,
and innocent of great transgression.
Let the words of my mouth and
the meditation of my heart
be acceptable in your sight,
O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

Bill Hybels has a great video about how time with Jesus, time of coffee, the Word, and a rocking chair, changed the life of a man:

God and “Good” People

GOD AND GOOD PEOPLE

By Michael Ramsden

“People are basically good,” writes one poet. “It is only their behavior that lets them down.”

Good bad scalesIt is remarkable today that despite religion, creed, or practice, many believe they are good enough to get into heaven. Perhaps there is so much bad news about others that they conclude by comparison they are superior, and thus, deserving of a place in eternity. But then it is even more remarkable that when Christians claim they know they are going to heaven, they are regarded as being conceited, boastful, and arrogant. People immediately ask: How can they think that they are better than everyone else?

The fact that the same person can think of himself as superior to others, while at the same time criticizing Christians for arrogance, underlines one of the effects of living in a world comfortable with inconsistency. Though the contradiction is frustrating, we all need to be able to respond coherently to the questions at hand: Why can’t I just be a good person? Isn’t it unfair of God to say that you can’t get into heaven unless you believe, even though you have been a good person? Who does God think He is?

Jesus was once asked a similar question by a group of inquirers: “What must we do to do the works God requires?” (John 6:28). Interestingly, the question was posed in plural form; it seems they were looking for a list of good things to do. But Jesus replied in the singular, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one God has sent” (6:29).

Of course, in the minds of those who feel they have lived a good life, Christ’s answer will not go unchallenged. What makes belief so special? Surely what we do is far more important than what we believe. How can a good person, who is not a Christian, be denied access to eternal life on the basis of belief?

The difficulty here lies in the assumption that is being made in each of these questions—namely, that there is such a thing as a good person. Jesus again offers further clarification in the form of question and answer. He was once asked, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Luke 18:18). The theory of the questioner was clear: Jesus is a good person; good people inherit eternal life, so what must I do to be in the same group? But Jesus’s reply was surprising. “Why do you call me good?” he asked (18:19). He then answered his own question: “No one is good—except God alone.”

The simple truth is that the issue is not about good people not inheriting eternity. Alas, the problem is much worse! Jesus seems to define goodness in terms of being like God, and on that basis there are no good people anywhere. Thus, the real question is not about who is good enough to get in to heaven. The real question is how God makes it possible for anyone to know and follow and be transformed by an eternal God at all. The answer is that we need to be forgiven, and that forgiveness is won for us through the Cross.(1)

In fact, this is precisely why the Gospel is called Good News, and why Christians do well to declare it. The good news is that knowing and following God is first and foremost about forgiveness. And thus, the Christian testimony is, in fact, far from arrogant! If a Christian is sure that he is forgiven it is not because he is good, but because he has received that forgiveness by believing in Christ.

In other words, if we will trust in and rely on Jesus—his promises, his person, his life, death, and resurrection—we can be sure that we are saved and living in his presence. Christians are not good people because they live morally superior lives to everyone else. They have been made “good” in God’s eyes because Christ has made forgiveness possible—because Christ has extended his own righteousness to those who will believe.

Good people will certainly inherit eternal life. However, the path to real and eternal life today lies not in religious observances or respectable acts, but in the forgiveness of a good God, given to us through the Cross of Christ.

Michael Ramsden is European director of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in the United Kingdom.

(1) For further reading on this subject, I recommend The Cross of Christ by John Stott.

Has Science Rendered God Irrelevant?

At Duke University, Oxford professor John Lennox addressed the topic of science and God; namely, if science has rendered God irrelevant.  With wit, insight, and a smattering of British humor the professor began with the foundations of science and faith and demonstrated that any claim that God is a concept best left in the Dark Ages is unscientific and uninformed.

 

Do Christians and Muslims Worship the Same God?

Not that long ago an interview was done with author and Yale Divinity School theologian Miroslav Volf on his book Allah.  In his new book, Volf claims that Christians and Muslims worship the same God.  He does a lot of theological dancing around the massive and fundamental differences between the Bible and the Koran regarding the nature of God in order to assert his claim.

The Gospel Coalition decided to do a short response to Volf’s book through an interview with former practicing Muslim, and now Christian pastor, Thabiti Anyabwile.  The short answer to “Do Christians and Muslims worship the same God?” is “No.”  In the five minute interview, Anyabwile gives his theological and first-hand experiential reasons why Volf’s conclusions simply fall apart:

Not Like Us

“When we belong to Christ, lest and less do we believe that God is like us, and more and more do we become like God (2 Cor. 3:18; 1 John 3:2).”
-Jonathan Leeman (Don’t Call it a Comeback, p. 57)

When a person thinks about “what God is like”, more often than not the person starts with their own characteristics and then attempts to make them “better”.  In other words, “God is like us” is the way most people think about God.  Jonathan Leeman, a co-author of Don’t Call it a Comeback, challenges this assertion.  Leeman declares God is not like us.  He goes on to declare that the attitude that “God is like us” is at the heart of sin:

We know that God knows more than we do, and that he’s morally superior – “better”.  But we still assume that God, broadly speaking, shares our sense of justice and morality, our views on love and sex, our politics and passions, our ideas of an evening well spent and a life worth living.  He’s basically like us… like me.

It is this assumption that’s at the heart of what the Bible calls our sin.  The Serpent promised that we could be “like God,” which is really just another way of saying, “God is like you, so do as you please.”  And we have believed this lie ever sense…

What does the Bible mean when it says that God is not like us?…[It is] saying that God is not like us because his purposes cannot be thwarted; he is unimaginably powerful and breathtakingly good; he is shockingly gracious and loving to the undeserving; he has known the end since the beginning.

Over and over the Bible has to say he’s not like us because we repeatedly try to make him like us.  We squeeze God into our own mental universes.  We domesticate him and fashion him after our image.  But what foolishness!… God is not like us, but far more worthy and far more holy.  He is not to be trifled with… What’s more, we can comprehend him – not fully, but sufficiently (pp. 48-49).

Leeman spends the next several pages opening up some of the ways that we can comprehend God through the pages of Scripture.  Before concluding his chapter, he pauses to emphasize why we must have a proper theological understanding of God according to the Bible, rather than establishing our theology of God based upon ourselves:

God is not like you or me.  He’s unimaginably better.  He’s mightier, fiercer, more loving, more majestic.  He is holy, holy, holy…

Either God will be the center of one’s doctrinal solar system or something else will.  What we believe about God determines what we believe about everything: It determines how we view Scripture… It determines how we understand the gospel… It determines how we view the church…

What we believe about God also determines how we live today.  Belief in God is not merely an epistemological matter.  It’s a matter of lordship and the heart’s affections.  Either we live in rebellion against God, indifferent to the harm we cause others, or we live in obedience and worship, demonstrating among God’s people the loving and holy oneness of the Father and Son through the Spirit (John 17:20-26).  A right trust in God ultimately yields holy individuals and a loving church, a community of people who display God’s glory before all heaven and earth (Eph. 3:10).

When we belong to Christ, less and less do we believe that God is like us, and more and more do we become like God (2 Cor. 3:18; 1 John 3:2) (pp. 56-57).

Seeing God or Eating Blackberries?

Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes,
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.
-Elizabeth Barrett Browning

We live in a world that cries out the glories and imagination of God.  All of creation declares His handiwork (Romans 1:19-20; Psalm 19:1). If we would simply pause.  Stop.  Clear our minds from the clutter and tasks of the day. If we would start looking upon the world around us we would begin to see the masterpiece of creativity and natural engineering that our Creator has put into every blade of grass, every snowflake, and every living creature.  Praise and glory would ascend to the heavens to Jesus Christ – the One by whom, through whom, and for whom all things were created (Colossians 1:15-16).

If we do not pause, then we will go right on through life using the creation and enjoying creation, but never realizes the amazing One who gifted us His creation for our care and use.  Rather than seeing the Beauty that the world is pointing us toward, we will ignorantly sit around eating blackberries.

Spiritual Disciplines and God’s Heartbeat

“The disciplines require us to do things, but not for doing’s sake.  This doing leads us into being in the presence of God so that we can sense the rhythm of God’s heartbeat underlying the surface rhythms of daily life.  And being with God is what shapes us, more and more, into the image of God originally planted within us and redeemed in Christ.”
-Richard Foster (Life with God, p. 136)