Daily Light – June 19, 2019

Why God Made Your Mouth

Article by Scott Hubbard, Editor, desiringGod.org

The average person speaks at least 7,000 words a day, or about 50,000 words a week — the length of a short book. We are authors, all of us, publishing 52 books a year from this printing press called the mouth.

Which should make us pause occasionally to consider what kind of words we’re sending out into the world. Is it a better place because of our words, or worse? Do we wound others, or heal them (Proverbs 12:18)? Do we commend the fear of the Lord, or pour out folly (Proverbs 15:2)? Do we refresh others’ spirits, or break them (Proverbs 15:4)? For how little we often think of our words, they hold the power of life and death (Proverbs 18:21).

If we’re going to steward our speech well, we need to regularly remember why God gave us words at all. Perhaps no one verse captures his purpose clearer than a command from Paul to the Ephesians:

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. (Ephesians 4:29)

Here is a charter for the dinner table, the classroom, the smartphone, the office, and everywhere else we open our mouths: give grace.

Speak Grace

Given all that Paul says about grace in Ephesians, he could scarcely have handed our mouths a higher calling. Grace is that redeeming quality of God by which he saves us, seals us, and sanctifies us. By grace, God has blessed us in his beloved Son (Ephesians 1:6), raised us from the dead (Ephesians 2:5–6), and rescued us from our sins (Ephesians 2:8). God’s grace is rich, overflowing, immeasurable. Eternity will not exhaust his storehouses (Ephesians 1:72:7).

Now, Paul says, let your mouth give that. Take the grace you have received from God, and let it change the accent of your soul. Then take your little words, flavored with grace, and use them to carry on Jesus’s redeeming work in someone’s life.

Whenever God makes someone an object of grace, he also makes them an agent of grace. Just as Paul received a “stewardship of God’s grace” to preach the gospel (Ephesians 3:1–27–8), so too “grace was given to each one of us” (Ephesians 4:7). Even if we should feel as slow of speech as Moses (Exodus 4:10), if we have the Holy Spirit, we have a whisper of heaven in our hearts and on our tongues. We have grace to give.

Built Up in Jesus

Practically, giving grace means speaking words that are “good for building up” (Ephesians 4:29). Gracious words straighten bent-over saints, strengthen tottering legs, bind up bruised arms, and grow each other into “the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13).

“Give grace,” in other words, is a call to imitate the God whose words make worlds bloom into being (Psalm 8:3). Give life. See the image-bearer in front of you, and skillfully apply “the truth . . . in Jesus” (Ephesians 4:21). Match specific words from God to specific needs in others. Give your words weight; make them meaningful; say something worth saying. All to the end that others might grow up into Jesus — protected from lies, established in truth, rooted and grounded in grace.

Such grace is not confined to the sermon or the Bible study. Paul’s command rests over every Christian and every conversation. Give grace when you kneel beside your child’s bed, when you eat lunch with coworkers, when you sit around the campfire with friends, when you walk with your wife in the evening, when you stand in line at the grocery store, when you send your thirtieth email of the afternoon.

Lest we misconstrue the character of these gracious words, let’s add two qualifications: gracious words are not always nice, and gracious words are never easy.

Tough and Tender Grace

First, gracious words are not always nice. Despite the testimony of many thousands of cross-stitched pillows and greeting cards, grace is not the fluffy thing we sometimes make it out to be. Grace is not always comfortable, not always cozy, not always nice. Whereas nice words aim to make us feel good, gracious words have higher ambitions: to make us actually good — actually Christlike.

At times, then, gracious words will be tough words. The same apostle who told us to “give grace” did not refrain from reminding us that we were once dead in sin (Ephesians 2:1), nor from exhorting us to stand firm against the devil (Ephesians 6:10–11), nor from warning us of God’s wrath (Ephesians 5:6).

Neither did our Savior, the man whose words were ever “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). Sometimes grace fell from his mouth tender as the dew, and sometimes it thundered with the force of a prophet. Sometimes it bound up bruised reeds, and sometimes it pruned vines with a slice. Sometimes it said, “I am with you always” (Matthew 28:20), and sometimes, “Take up your cross” (Luke 9:23).

We too must sometimes broach conversations that make us feel like running away. For if our words are always nice, always pleasing, always politically correct, we are giving no more than half a grace.

What Gracious Words Cost

For all their variety, however, gracious words are not capricious, as if we speak a tough word here, a tender word there, hoping to strike the balance. No, grace tailors its words to the needs of the moment; it searches for speech that “fits the occasion” (Ephesians 4:29). Which means such words never come easily.

Gracious words are always specific words — words that match this situation, not that one; words that fit this person, not another. We must move beyond our favorite promises and favorite stories to ransack “the truth . . . in Jesus” (Ephesians 4:21), applying appropriate parts of God’s multifaceted truth to our multifaceted experience. As we talk with others, we must go to work in the mines of our mind, passing words through the fire of careful thought, and smelting from them fresh, pointed truth.

Too often, my words fail to give grace because I haven’t first given due attention to the person in front of me. I drift in and out of the conversation, my mind drawn to all manner of irrelevancies: What’s for lunch? What am I going to do tonight? I’m not sure that shirt fits him. Words that come from a distracted mind are graceless words, words as weightless as the air that carries them.

Our tongues do not drift into giving grace. Words worth speaking come at the cost of fully engaged attention, wise discernment, creative thought, emotional investment. But oh, what a reward they bring! Gracious words drop from someone’s mouth like fruit from a tree of life, satisfying giver and receiver alike (Proverbs 15:418:21).

Question and Prayer

How shall we cultivate this kind of speech? We know from Jesus that grace will come out of our mouths only if grace is already living in our hearts (Matthew 12:34). But even when grace is doing its work of demolishing, building, and renovating inside us, learning how to package that grace into words often takes practice.

As a simple first step, consider stopping for a moment the next time you are about to enter a conversation, and take up a question and a prayer.

Question: What does this person need? What kind of words will “fit the occasion”? The need will not always be obvious, but even asking the question can posture us to pay attention.

Prayer: Lord, keep corrupting words from coming out of my mouth. Fill my mouth with grace.

Then walk into the conversation, remembering (wonder of wonders!) that you — weak, struggling you — have grace to give. In God’s hands, your words can become a means of carving a brother or sister into the image of Jesus Christ. Then listen, give your attention, ask perceptive questions, activate the gears of your mind. And when the time comes, open your mouth and give grace.

Scott Hubbard is a graduate of Bethlehem College & Seminary and an editor for desiringGod.org. He and his wife, Bethany, live in Minneapolis.

Daily Light – June 18, 2019

How Free Do You Really Want to Be?

Article by Jon Bloom, Staff Writer, desiringGod.org

Who are the freest people in the world? The people who are freest from the world.

So, how free are you? I’m not asking if you can give me the right answer. I trust you know that “for freedom Christ has set us free” (Galatians 5:1) and that “there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). You and I know that Christ has set us free from needing to achieve “a righteousness of [our] own that comes from the law” since we have by God’s grace been given the free gift of “the righteousness from God that depends on faith” in Christ (Philippians 3:9) — a mind-blowingly glorious truth.

“Who are the freest people in the world? The people who are freest from the world.”

The real question for you and me is, are we really living in the freedom Christ has given us? What Jesus purchased and gave to us is not an abstract theological category that we will only realize after we die, but a life-governing, joy-producing, experiential, and radically free reality that begins now. He sets us “free indeed” to live in the world as long as we are in the world (John 8:36).

The secret to experiencing this freedom all depends on where home really is for us.

The Key to Living Free

Over and over in the godly lineage of Hebrews 11, we see people who lived remarkably free here on earth. What made that great cloud of witnesses so free?

We might be quick to answer, “Faith!” That’s true, of course, but it doesn’t go deep enough. Because everyone lives by faith. “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). Everyone lives by faith in what they believe is true about reality, most of which they cannot see or personally prove. All human beings are wired to live this way.

What made our faithful forebears free was Who they ultimately believed in (Hebrews 11:6) and where they believed he was leading them:

For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city. (Hebrews 11:14–16)

There’s the key: they desired a better country — a heavenly one. They really desired it because they really believed it existed. They believed in the better country so much that they were content to “[die] in faith, not having received the [earthly] things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth” (Hebrews 11:13).

They were free to do the best and hardest good in the world because they were free from needing to belong to the world.

“Live as People Who Are Free”

The depth of our understanding of our freedom in Christ is revealed by how free we are, like those saints, to live as strangers and exiles on earth. The proof of our freedom is in the pudding of our pursuits.

“The secret to experiencing freedom all depends on where home really is for us.”

True faith manifests both in what we say with our lips(Romans 10:9Hebrews 13:15) and in the way we live. Yes, the people of old “[spoke] thus” (Hebrews 11:14). But they also lived thus: Abel offered, Enoch walked, Noah constructed, Abraham obeyed and went and offered, Sarah conceived, Isaac and Jacob blessed, Joseph instructed, Moses refused and chose and considered and left and kept, the Israelites passed through, Rahab lived (Hebrews 11:4–31). And “time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets” (Hebrews 11:32).

Some of these examples are more commendable than others. But their lives of faith, their “obedience of faith” (Romans 16:26), still speak, though they have long since passed away (Hebrews 11:4).

This is why Peter tells us to “live as people who are free” (1 Peter 2:16):

We are free to no longer live as captives to the world’s values and claims and cravings and threats, since “here we have no lasting city” (Hebrews 13:14).

We are free to “walk by the Spirit, and . . . not gratify the desires of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16), since “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Corinthians 3:17).

We are free to not “lay up for [ourselves] treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for [ourselves indestructible] treasures in heaven” (Matthew 6:19–20).

We are free to be content in whatever situation we find ourselves, since we know that our heavenly Father will supply all our needs (Philippians 4:1119).

And we are free to die, since to be with Christ in his heavenly country is “far better” than anything we’ve known here (Philippians 1:23).

How Free Do You Want to Be?

Yes, all this freedom, and far more, is available to us as Christians. I suspect all of us, no matter how far along we are in the faith, would admit we’re living beneath our inheritance.

The question before us is this: How free do we want to be? This is where we begin to squirm. Our flesh does not want to be free from the world. Our indwelling sin is drawn to “the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life” (1 John 2:16). To lose them feels like losing life. To which Jesus says, “Whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 10:39).

Whatever it takes, don’t settle for anything less than the full freedom God has for you.”

Ponder that sentence. Pray over it, and let it probe you all day. What does the Spirit point out to you in the word “loses”? It is likely that the things he brings to mind — things that feel like losing your life to let go — are, in reality, holding you captive to this world and inhibiting you from living fruitfully in the kinds of kingdom-abundance Jesus wants to give you (John 10:10). Respond to the Spirit! Jesus wants you to find greater freedom and real life.

Whatever it takes, don’t settle for anything less than the full freedom God has for you. Seek with all your might to run unencumbered the race God has set before you, like those who ran before you, who freely chose to live like strangers and exiles here because their real citizenship is in heaven. For those who are freest in the world are those who are freest from the world.

Jon Bloom (@Bloom_Jon) serves as author, board chair, and co-founder of Desiring God. He is author of three books, Not by SightThings Not Seen, and Don’t Follow Your Heart. He and his wife have five children and make their home in the Twin Cities.

Daily Light – June 17, 2019

Daily Devotional from David Niednagel.  David uses the S.O.A.P. method in his time of daily meditation and study.  (study, observe, apply, pray)

2 Corinthians 4:16-18  We never give up

2 Cor. 4:16 That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. 17 For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! 18 So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.   NLT

We never give up!” Never? Isn’t there a time to give up? No! Why? Because when someone with Christ living inside is “broken”, the light of Christ shines out. Paul’s life was Christ (Phil 1:21) and his message was Christ. And the message was so unusual, it took more than words. Jesus’ life of humility, serving and brokenness must be displayed, not just described. So Paul gladly endured the rejection and violence because he was confident that it was a necessary part of evangelism and discipleship. (Col 1:24) And rather than getting more discouraged and depressed, his spirit was being renewed more every day. How did he do that?

He kept reminding himself that the persecution wouldn’t be too severe (they could only kill his body and Jesus would raise it back up) and it wouldn’t last too long (seldom more than 70 years). He also claimed that he would share in Christ’s glory when He comes with his angels (Rom 8:17-18; 2 Thes 1:7-10) and it would more than make up for whatever disrespect and shame others tried to dump on him. Everything visible (our clothes, cars, houses, bodies, etc) is temporary, so he was thankful for them and used them and cared for them, but he could let them go. Life was more than things.

But there were things that would last, and they were not “things”. They were the souls of humans and the glory of the eternal God. Paul taught himself to fix his vision on those things that were invisible.

Lord of Glory, You humbled Yourself, gave up everything, but were raised up and will receive everything back for eternity. I praise Your humility and Your majesty! And thank You that You have chosen to share it all with us. Help me consider it as much a privilege to suffer for You as to believe in You (Phil 1:27-29), and be as faithful as Paul was. Help me fix my eyes on the glory You will share with us, more than on the cars and things of this world. Lord, may my spirit be renewed every day even as my body wears out, and may Your life shine out through me. Amen!

Daily Light – June 14, 2019

Treasure in the Field

Enjoying God Through the Game of Baseball

Article by Joe Rigney, Professor, Bethlehem College and Seminary

I’m not necessarily aiming to win you to my joy in baseball. What I do hope to do in focusing on my particular joy in baseball isillustrate how to enjoy God himself through his created world.

I’ve selected baseball as the case study because it’s a thick joy, a complex joy, with many layers. Some joys are simple and direct. You eat honey and then you go straight to God. Honey is good. God is good. But other joys are complex and interwoven and take us deeper into the world first, before they take us Godward.

Psalm 19 shows us that the heavens declare the glory of God in a thick and indirect way. The sun moving across the sky is like a bridegroom on his wedding night, and like a mighty warrior running into battle (Psalm 19:4–5). So, if you want to hear the glory of God in the heavens, you have to first dive deeply into weddings and marriage and battles and manhood and the sun. You have to explore the thickness of creation in order to know and enjoy God clearly in it.

Enjoying the Perfect Game

That’s the kind of thick joy that baseball is for me. First, there is the physical aspect. Running, throwing, hitting, catching, coaching — all of these require physical effort and skill, which engage us as embodied beings.

Second, there’s the recreational aspect. Baseball, like many forms of recreation, provides a respite from the cares and burdens of life.

Third, there’s a philosophical aspect. Baseball is “a perfect game” — so claims David Bentley Hart in his essay by that title. Hart says that baseball may be America’s greatest contribution to the history of civilization.

He rightly notes that baseball is distinct from most other sports, which are basically about moving a ball from one end of the court or field or pitch to the other in order to score more goals or points than the other team before time runs out. Baseball is different. There’s no clock, only 27 outs, which means, as Yogi Berra famously said, “It ain’t over till it’s over.” As long as there is one out, one strike left, anything can happen.

There’s the exact fittingness of the dimensions — ninety feet between the bases, and sixty feet and six inches from the rubber to the plate. Everything so exquisitely timed that a ball fielded cleanly in the infield is almost always an out, but a slight bobble is almost always a hit.

It’s a team sport with a decidedly individualistic bent, as pitcher and hitter stare each other down with little to no help from anyone else. There are the tactics and strategies that change from inning to inning and pitch to pitch. There’s the seasonal movement from the promising brightness of spring training to the dog days of summer to the intensity of autumn (and the knowledge that all good things come to an end).

As Hart also notes, baseball recalls the innocence of Eden, as well as the intrusion of evil into paradise, whenever the Yankees come to town. These be deep matters, and the philosophically inclined among us have much to ponder in America’s pastime.

Thick Joy

Fourth, there’s a social dimension to the enjoyment — the teamwork, the shared training that builds brotherhood and camaraderie.

Fifth, for me, there’s a multifaceted familial dimension. My grandfather played and managed in the majors. My dad worked in the front office for minor league teams. My father-in-law has been an Astros fan since the sixties and got to experience, in person, the greatest game in Astros history (Game 5 of the 2017 World Series) with his wife and two children.

There’s the bonding with my boys as I practice and play with them. And there’s a nostalgic dimension for me now, as I coach my boys, and remember my childhood when my dad taught me to throw and hit, and I played in the front yard with my brothers.

Finally, there’s a bittersweet dimension, because five years ago, we buried my dad after a seven-year battle with dementia, and I miss him most on the baseball diamond. I wish he could see my boys play. In short, for me, baseball is a thickly woven thing of earth.

How Natural Joys Become Joys in God

But joy in baseball is a natural joy. There is nothing spiritual about it. So how does my joy in baseball become a joy in God? That’s the question Christian Hedonists ask. There are hundreds of answers to this question. I’ll give four.

1. Baseball trains future men.

Joy in playing and coaching baseball becomes joy in God when I recognize that physical training has some value, including value as a picture of training in godliness (1 Timothy 4:8). A significant part of that value is in raising boys to become men.

Baseball, like many sports, creates the opportunity for channeling masculinity in fruitful directions. Baseball awakens ambition, competition, the drive for excellence, intense emotions in victory and defeat. These are all good, but dangerous. Coaching my sons in baseball is an opportunity to train them to master these emotions and to cultivate humility, patience, diligence, perseverance, and joy in all circumstances. Such habits of natural virtue and self-mastery are a crucial part of growth in maturity and are of great use in cultivating spiritual virtue and godliness.

2. Baseball allows me to express God’s heart to my sons.

Joy in baseball becomes joy in God when I share joy with my sons and therefore love them by showing them what God is like. We know the distinct delight of introducing another person to one of our favorite pleasures. The pleasure of sharing is distinct in kind from the pleasure of the object or activity. It’s one thing to enjoy reading a book that I love; it’s another flavor of joy to give that book to my son whom I expect will also love it and find that he does. The anticipation of sharing that story with him, of seeing him light up at the same parts, of entering into the joy for the first time, is its own reward. This is what parents are: the bringers and introducers of joys.

God is like that. He is a hedonist at heart, as C.S. Lewis wrote. He loves to be the bringer of joys. One reason he made the universe is so that there could be some third thing which he could bring to us, eyes aflame with knowing expectation, and say, “Here you go. Try it.”

We catch a glimpse in the creation of Eve — Adam’s solitude, God’s recognition that it’s not good, the failed attempt at finding a helper among the beasts, and then the deep sleep, the awakening, the triumphant “At last!” I can’t help picture God with a sly grin as he builds the woman from Adam’s rib. He pictures the scene when Adam awakes; he anticipates the euphoria, the way that parents anticipate their children’s joy on Christmas Eve as they place the presents around the tree.

I know it’s an analogy; God is, after all, simple and timeless, without shadow of turning (or anticipation). Whatever likeness there is between my experience as the bringer of joy to my sons and God’s experience of bringing joy to us, there is also a great unlikeness, because God is not in time, God is not complex, God does not anticipate, God does not change. But despite that unlikeness, I believe that the likeness is real. My joy in sharing baseball with my boys is something like God’s joy in sharing everything with me, including baseball.

3. Baseball helps me toward holiness.

Joy in baseball becomes joy in God when it helps me to kill sin and pursue holiness. When I’m on the field, burdens lift. There’s a much-needed respite from the pressures of life and ministry, an echo of Eden, which I deliberately wield in the fight of faith. When I’m shaping my boys into men and sharing joy with them and showing them what God is like, I’m doing what I was made for.

And so, in coaching, I feel God’s pleasure. And in feeling God’s pleasure, I put my sin to death. I’m a better husband, a better father, a better pastor. When I wield baseball in the fight for holiness, joy in baseball becomes joy in God.

4. Baseball points me to the world to come.

The bittersweetness of my dad’s absence brings a note of earthly sorrow and heavenly hope into the present joy. In other words, my sorrow on the field points me forward to the day when sorrows and sighings flee away. My sadness because of my dad’s absence on that baseball field is a reminder of the coming day when, as Tolkien said, everything sad comes untrue.

I sometimes imagine heaven as a little-league baseball game, with my boys playing, me coaching, and my dad watching. It’s a joy I’ll never have on earth. I don’t know that I’ll have it in heaven. I have no idea how the distinct joy of playing catch with a 7-year-old while being watched by a 70-year-old could be there. How old will we be in heaven?

A mother knows that the pleasure of holding her newborn is one of the highest joys of her life. But how can there be newborns in heaven? And isn’t my heavenly baseball game just like a barren woman who pictures herself in heaven rocking her newborn to sleep? What is the point of imagining such impossibilities?

But in my case, the heavenly ball game is not what I really want. The ball game is a placeholder for something. It’s a way of reaffirming my belief in Revelation 21:4: “he will wipe away every tear from my eyes.” It’s my way of believing the promises of God.

But God didn’t promise me the baseball game with my sons and my dad. That’s true. But he did promise, “No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly” (Psalm 84:11). “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32).

All things, including the baseball game and the barren woman’s child. Either heaven will have my ball game, or something better. Either heaven will see the barren woman with her baby, or something better. But since I have no clear picture of what the “something better” might be, I project my greatest desires (which are often the converse of my greatest earthly sorrows) and then say, “Even better than that.”

Make Imagination Serve Your Joy

So you see, the exercise is not in vain. The fact that the mind of man has not conceived what God has prepared for those who love him doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t exercise our mental muscles, just as the fact that the love of Christ surpasses knowledge doesn’t mean that we should cease trying to know it. Pushing the limits of our conceptions (provided we remember that they are only our conceptions) doesn’t threaten the joys of heaven. No one will be disappointed, least of all me. We work out our imaginations here so that we can, metaphorically speaking, give God’s omnipotent goodness a workout there.

Joy in the things of earth become joys in God when they are

received and recognized as pictures of spiritual reality and on-ramps to spiritual virtue,

shared with others as a way of loving them,

wielded as a weapon in the fight of faith, and

enjoyed (or grieved) as a way of anticipating the joys of the new heaven and new earth.

And that’s just a sample. There are countless variations and combinations of earthly joys, custom-made for each one of us, all designed as invitations from God to know and delight in God. Each joy individually, and all earthly joys together, are calling us to go further up and higher in to the life of the God of all pleasure.

When enjoyed rightly, they transform the idolatry and ingratitude of Romans 1 into the thanksgiving and adoration of the renewed heart. Every good and perfect gift comes down from the Father, and every good and perfect gift is designed to lead us back to the Father of lights, in whose presence is fullness of joy and at whose right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Joe Rigney (@joe_rigney) is assistant professor of theology and literature at Bethlehem College & Seminary and author of The Things of Earth: Treasuring God by Enjoying His Gifts. He is a pastor at Cities Church.

Daily Light – June 13, 2019

Friends:  The ‘reason’ that people cannot see or know the beauty and glory of God ‘is because’ they are unable to do so.  It is not that they are unwilling…no.   It is that they are unwilling because they are unable.  Today, please pray for 2 people who are in your circle of relationships who are unable to see our glorious God.  Pray that God will remove the veil that the dark side has placed over their spiritual eyes ‘so that’ they can come to know and see Him who is our God and King.   

2 Corinthians 4:1-4  Spiritual blindness

Today’s devotional is from pastor David Niednagel.  David uses the S.O.A.P. method in his daily devotional time (study, observe, apply, pray).

4:1 Therefore, since God in his mercy has given us this new way, we never give up. 2 We reject all shameful deeds and underhanded methods. We don’t try to trick anyone or distort the word of God. We tell the truth before God, and all who are honest know this. 3 If the Good News we preach is hidden behind a veil, it is hidden only from people who are perishing. 4Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. They are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News. They don’t understand this message about the glory of Christ, who is the exact likeness of God.NLT

Paul’s message of the New Covenant was “veiled” to some. They didn’t understand it and rejected it, but Paul did not change it to get more people to accept it, because he knew there was nothing better! This New Covenant where God met all the requirements and offered people all the benefits sounded too good to be true. It was so different from the Old Covenant where the Jews had to be obedient to everything first before they received the blessings. Here the blessings came first, and obedience was the heart response of all those who understood what God had done.

The “veiling” was not lack of intelligence, but spiritual blindness. Satan did not want people to know who Jesus really was/is, or to understand grace. I don’t think any other religions, then or now, have a God who is both righteous and gracious. Some have a god who forgives, but there is no record of any other God who humbled Himself and took the punishment of the people, where He maintained His righteousness and paid the price for forgiveness.

Lord Jesus, You are amazing! Thank You for Your sacrifice for us while maintaining Your righteousness. Thank You for removing the veil from my eyes and giving me the privilege of telling the message to many others. I pray You would give me many more opportunities to declare that, and in every case, for You to go before me and remove the veil and blindness from the hearts of those who hear it, so they can call out for Your grace and forgiveness. Amen

Daily Light – June 12, 2019

Do Human Technologies Ever Threaten God’s Sovereignty?

Article by John Piper

Story of Babel

Before I try to answer that question, let’s look at the story from the bible about the Tower of Babel.  It’s a really interesting story, and let’s see if addresses this articles question:

“I think the point of the text is that man’s efforts to compete with God are pathetically weak and futile.”

Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. (Genesis 11:1–5)

I think that’s sarcasm. This tall tower that’s going to reach into the heaven can’t even be seen from heaven. I love it. The story continues,

And the Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. “Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.” So the Lord dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth. And from there the Lord dispersed them over the face of all the earth. (Genesis 11:6–9)

A Small Tall Tower

Now, Noah is saying that it sounds like God was threatened by these humans getting out of hand, and he wonders if God is threatened today by a far superior technology than burning bricks and putting them together with bitumen. If Noah is asking, “Does the text teach that there are, resident in human nature, ingenuities and abilities that, left uncheck by God, would frustrate God’s purposes and thus vie for the very place of God?” then there are two ways to answer it.

First, observe that the first point of the text seems to be that this effort on man’s part to build a tower with its top in the heavens was ridiculously futile. God had to, so to speak, come down in order to see it. I think the point of the text is that man’s efforts to compete with God are pathetically weak and futile.

So, the first answer to the question seems to be that even if God doesn’t intervene the way he did by confusing the languages, the human race is never going to attain the upper hand over its Creator by building its way to God’s throne by any technology whatsoever. That’s the first answer, which I think is implied in the text.

God Is God

The second answer is more important. I think we see it when we ponder the very nature of Noah’s question. The more I think about this question, the more it sounds like this: Would God be threatened by man — man’s ingenuities and man’s abilities — if God were not God? In other words, would God be threatened by man’s action if God could not sovereignly counter man’s actions at any time and in any way he pleases? The answer would be “Well, yes. God would be threatened by the glory of men if God were another creature like man rather than being the all-glorious, all-powerful God.” But he is God.

“God would be threatened by the glory of men if God were another creature like man rather than being the all-glorious God.”

God calmly puts man in his place. God is not threatened by any of man’s ingenuity or capacities because he can and does frustrate all of them at any moment, in any way he pleases, which is what he did in Genesis 11:7. He confused the language.

In other words, the point of the story is precisely that God cannot be threatened by man’s designs or actions because God is God. God is sovereign over all man’s designs and actions. If man begins to achieve things that God does not want them to achieve, God simply stops them. He takes the steps necessary to frustrate their designs. That’s the point. They were taking steps to do things that were highly damaging to the human soul, and highly dishonoring to God. So God just stopped them.

He could have stopped them in one hundred ways. They could have gotten sick. They could have had opposition. I mean, good night, he had a hundred ways he could have stopped them, and he chose to do it by confusing their language.

Child’s Play

There are two answers to whether God is threatened today by the amazing technology and ability of the human race. First, he’s not threatened because all our most advanced technology is simply child’s play as far as God is concerned. Our most advanced physics and artificial intelligence is a kindergarten primer in God’s library — at best. We’re talking about God here.

Second, he is not threatened because at any moment in one hundred ways, he can simply thwart the plans of science, business, technology, and nations. That’s what Psalm 33:10 says: “The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; he frustrates the plans of the peoples.” That would apply to all science, all business, all education, all technology, all industry, all military. “The Lord brings the counsel of man to nothing; he frustrates the plans of the peoples.”

Now, both of these answers, I think, are implied in Genesis 11. The great achievement of the tower is pathetic in God’s eyes, and he can frustrate any pathetic human plan he pleases.

John Piper (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is author of more than 50 books, including Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist and most recently Why I Love the Apostle Paul: 30 Reasons.

Daily Light – June 11, 2019

God’s Sovereign Plans Behind Our Most Unproductive Days

Article by John Piper

How is God at work in our most unproductive days, when it feels as though we’ve accomplished nothing and fallen far short of our own plans and expectations? Those days are frustrating to us, but they are not outside of God’s sovereign power. It leads to today’s question on what efficiency looks like in the first place, a very good question from a listener named Melinda.

I will explain what I mean by “God’s priorities for efficiency in this life are not ours.” But let me say first, right off the bat, that the reason I want anybody to know that is not so that they can get more done, but so that they do what they do in the right spirit. That’s preface over everything I have to say.

Your Priorities

Now what do I mean by saying, “God’s priorities for efficiency in this life are not ours”? I mean that our priority may be that between 10:00 and 11:00 this morning I planned to run to the bank and get some cash so that I can be back in time to pay the teenager who is cutting my grass while a neighbor watches my two- and four-year-old for me. That’s the plan.

“Frustrating human efficiency is one of God’s primary means of sanctifying grace.”

You feel good — I’m making this up — that you very efficiently worked. You feel good that you worked it out. You worked it out so that the neighbor was available, the teenager could come, and you could get to the bank and get back before both of them had other engagements.

Those are your priorities, and you have an efficient plan: cut grass, kids watched, bank trip made, boy paid, everyone off to their next engagement. Victory. Efficiency. That’s what I mean by “our efficiency.”

God’s Priorities

However, God in this case has a totally different set of priorities.

Your neighbor was scheduled to be at a real estate office at 11:30 a.m. so she could join her husband to close on a new house — a house which, unbeknownst to them, has a flawed foundation. The teenager was planning to take his money from cutting the grass and pool it with some of the guys and buy some drugs that they shouldn’t be using. You hit a traffic jam caused by a rollover of a semi (which has another story behind it). You’re locked up on the freeway for an hour. You never even get to the bank.

You rush home as fast as you can, but you get there an hour late. You have no money to pay the boy, and your neighbor has missed her appointment. You are frustrated almost to tears.

Your efficiency proved utterly useless to accomplish your priorities. You failed, but God’s priorities totally succeeded. He wanted to hinder that boy from buying drugs, he wanted to spare the neighbor from purchasing a house that’s a lemon, and he wanted to grow your faith in his sovereign wisdom and sovereignty.

Now, that’s what I mean by “God’s priorities for efficiency in this life are not ours.”

Joseph’s Slow Journey

In my view, this isn’t happening just now and then; it’s happening all the time. When you read the Bible, you see in virtually every book the story of God doing things that are not the way humans would do them or want them done. God almost never takes the shortest route between point A and point B.

“You’re not being measured by God by how much you get done.”

The reason is that such efficiency — the efficiency of speed and directness — is not what he’s about. His purpose is to sanctify the traveler, not speed him between A and B. Frustrating human efficiency is one of God’s primary — I say primary, not secondary — means of sanctifying grace.

The story of Joseph in Genesis 37–50 is one of the clearest examples, right? Joseph is hated by his brothers, thrown in a pit, sold into slavery, sold to Potiphar, accused of sexual harassment, thrown into prison, forgotten by Pharaoh’s butler, then finally — seventeen years in? — made vice president of Egypt so that he could save his family from starvation.

The moral of the story comes in Genesis 50:20. Joseph says to his brothers, “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.” God had an agenda. God had a plan. God meant it for good.

It’s as if he said, “You guys, you rascals, were the ‘traffic jam’ that kept me from getting to the bank for seventeen years. But God was positioning me to be the savior of my people, and he was in no hurry. I was being tested at every single point. Would I trust him with his seemingly meaningless inefficiency? It wasn’t meaningless.”

Paul’s Change of Plans

When Paul was trying to get to Spain, he did so with a good plan. He had a plan — he had a really good plan. He basically said, “I’m going to go to Jerusalem and deliver the money. Then I’m going to get on a boat, go to Rome, gather some support, and end my life in Spain.” What a great plan. But then he found himself in prison in Rome. What did he say?

He says it in Philippians 1:12–13: “I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ.”

His priorities for efficiently getting to Spain were shattered, but God’s purposes to evangelize the imperial guard in Rome stayed right on track.

A Daily Plan

Here’s the implication for all of us:

“Efficiency of speed and directness is not what God is about. His purpose is to sanctify the traveler.”

By all means, make your list of to-dos for the day. By all means, get as good at that as you can get. Prioritize the list. Get first things first. Make your plan. Do the very best you can. Go ahead and read a book about it.

Then walk in the peace and freedom that, when it shatters on the rocks of reality, which it will most days, you’re not being measured by God by how much you get done. You’re being measured by whether you trust the goodness and the wisdom and the sovereignty of God to work this new mess of inefficiency for his glory and the good of everyone involved, even when you can’t see how.