Friday, June 29, 2018

Book Review: 'Knowing God'.... Revisited After 38 Years

I was cleaning out some cluttered closets in May when I found a box of some of my 'old books'.... things I had read as a very young Christian...probably too much meat for my infancy stage of spiritual development... and I picked my way through them, glancing at nearly 40 year old notes from a younger me...wondering if that person was still there and what would he think of me today.

I read a lot of important things back then, including exhaustive Bible charts and journals that I have in old spiral bound notebooks. These old ragged eared and yellowed classics caught my attention... Francis Schaeffer, C.S. Lewis, Bonhoeffer, Augustine, and many others.... did I have ANY clue what I was reading as a senior in high school!

But one book grabbed my attention that cloudy May day.... a book whose cover and title drew me as much that day as when I first saw it on a shelf in 1981- Knowing God by J.I. Packer.

As I first thumbed through the pages...I noticed that it was, for me, much like my infamous 'Read Thru The Bible' failures where I would get bogged down in Leviticus/Numbers and skip ahead to the Psalms... I could tell that I started well in this book, but did not devour it.... it was a scanner at best.

So I am pleased to report that the Lord, in His sovereign mercy of providential timing, brought this book back my way and I lost sleep over the last several weeks pondering anew what Jesus means when He says in John 17:3,  "And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. (ESV)"


I met J.I. Packer twice as he visited the old Briarwood Presbyterian Church (the old 280 Hwy location)- both times he came across so humble and unassuming.... but as I took time reading this book again, the DEPTH of Packer's knowledge of God's Word is hall of fame worthy.... and as exhaustive as he is in each chapter...he also has the grasp of the beautiful balance that Scripture has on almost any topic that touches human existence and meaning. Packer's writing has isn't just a book for the head. I remember enough of my former me (and still current me) to know I was reading this for the knowledge that 'puffs up' and shows off... but this is a book for the tender and broken hearted who needs to know how majestic and loving the God of the Bible is.


Oh my! This book is FULL of exhaustive thoughts regarding our God! The book is somewhat like the cover picture... a vast ocean with a glorious sunrise..both too expansive to really know...and nothing compared to the God who thought of them and made them in the first place.

I guess I am much more organized in my thinking now... but I appreciate the three large sections of content KNOW THE LORD (6 chapters)- BEHOLD YOUR GOD (11 chapters)- and IF GOD BE FOR US (5 chapters). This process is so important of persevering as a passionate Christian for decades...  I- How to Know God and encouragement to do so.... then II.  here are His transcendent attributes that make Him AMAZING... but the final section is the key....III HE LOVES YOU and HE IS ALL YOU REALLY NEED!

So young dumb me quit reading (based on my hen scratched etchings) way before the book got good.


If I remember this correctly, I met Dan DeHaan about a year before his tragic plane crash and I switched to his easier to digest version- "The God You Can Know" book. It too is an important book...but it is an appetizer only... I need the Packer version as well.

I need to go and find this book and re-read the forward that J.I. Packer wrote for Dan.

Regardless, these two books represent a lot of what is missing in current evangelical circles... we have lost the majesty, glory, and the 'larger than the cosmos' fascination of the CREATOR.

I used to spend hours contemplating the transcendence of God and concepts like His sovereignty and His creative, miraculous power were easy when I thought of how massive this BEING has to be!


Well, first of all... I finished it...all new annotations and exciting thoughts!

GOD KNOWS ME....this was probably what I attached to the most all those years ago....

wow- this one will preach... when we refuse to know God as He has revealed Himself in Scripture..when we make up our own versions of God...whether it be a warm furry giant Santa Claus or a Cosmic Cop... we are in direct violation of God's prohibition to make idols.

As we contemplate the unknowable... we are more apt to worship Him

For some reason...this is being impressed on  me- Am I acknowledging and abiding in God's Spirit- is my body a proper temple? Is my heart a good home?

SMALL GOD- BIG PROBLEMS (A.K.A. 'meditations on His majesty')
This book was published in 1973- and Packer comments on depression, anxiety, dependence issues, as symptoms of people who have lost God.... little did he know then what we know now! The consequences are staggering!

I love this- learning to see as He sees... eternal lenses... righteous eyesight

Packer LOVES God's Word... and so do I... it is easier to love the God of the Word when we love His word.

I don't know how to write about this without causing issues the other way...but re-read these sections (Ch 12- Ch 17 and I bet you will be surprised.... and it includes:
as well.

Where do I begin here?

Contemplating and relating to God as FATHER is the best way to think of Him.

And the section on GUIDANCE helped me... we know SO LITTLE of God's will....

Packer suggests our problem with a lack of guidance is:

There aren't many books that require re-reading....but this is one of them. I challenge you to dust off your old copy of this and start meditating anew the things THIS GOD CAN DO!

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Intimacy and Interaction In the Spirit

As an educator, I do count the change of pace that summer brings as a bonus. Since I have become an administrator, the summers are still busy... but I always look at it as 'project based' and it definitely isn't the hectic pace of the regular school year.

So each June, I know it is very important to make my time in God's Word priority.  I usually pick a few themes or topics that I really want to dive in.... but this year, though I thought I was going in one direction... He threw me a curve ball and I have been meditating and exploring something totally unexpected.... life in the Spirit.

My most dangerous area of wandering is when I walk through life on my own.... it happens gradually... imperceptible... but time and time again, I have seasons where my life with God is more theoretical than actual. I love the concepts..... I can pontificate on the principles.... but though God's ways are on my heart is in full idol making mode and I have place myself in the driver's seat.

Along with this... in my spiritual development, I don't take time to acknowledge the Holy Spirit.. I don't know why. Now, I don't want to sound confusing here.. I know that God is One... and when I pray to the Father..the entire Trinity is involved... the Spirit is praying and Christ covers.

But what is being 'impressed' on me this summer is that if I want to grow in my intimacy with Christ..I need to pay more attention to His residence in my heart...which is the Holy Spirit. What moves the theory of the gospel to powerful reality is God's Spirit.


Let me spend a minute to write about why drifting from the Lord is so dangerous and costly. When God's Word is just a concept, I may be loving God with my mind...but my heart can grow cold and dead in a hurry. Without an active and intimate heart level relationship.... the very first thing that disappears is power.

John 15:5  I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. (ESV)

It doesn't take long for me to lose energy for God when I ignore the Spirit.

Why that is so deadly, is that my indwelling sin is always active and lurking.

I need supernatural power to always fight my ever present sin nature- my selfishness, my laziness, my gluttony, my idol addictions....

Once the power supply is cut and I stop the posture of repentance in my life and give sin too much room to bloom, it isn't long before my sense of conviction is gone, my spiritual senses are dulled, and I am wasting precious time sidelined from very important kingdom living and work.

It doesn't help that as soon as the enemy sees my lounging, he turns off the attacks and softly rocks me to slumber and sleep.

How in the world I get so far off track do quickly always surprises me, though it shouldn't.

And left to that state, I can go weeks/months playing the Christian game, saying all the right jargons, smiling and being sweet- but I am not laboring in prayer, not thinking about the Lord, not acknowledging Him, not sharing with others, not serving, neglecting personal and corporate worship... and dangerously vulnerable to serious sin.

But I also feel SO TIRED.... so I read less, exercise less, eat more.... and my physical fatigue is just an outward symptom of internal deadness.

Now, I get tired a lot even when things are going well...but it is a different type of fatigue... being exhausted after a great effort is SO much different than the weak, lifeless, bored lethargy that accompanies spiritual slothfulness.

ewww.... enough of that... that is the disappointing real me apart from the grace, love, and power of Christ. The old man me is a pitiful creature... I do not ever even want to think of the shame and misery, doubts and depression, loneliness and losing that would accompany my existence if I were left to my own devices.


So when I think about Re-connecting after a time of drifting, I alway seem to run through a litany of "R" words.....

We don't talk about this word, but it is the initial spark of life of the new birth. Without God' Spirit, we would not have a chance.
Ephesians 2:1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins (ESV)
1 Peter 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, (ESV)
If I ever look back and see any spiritual fruit of obedience, it is nothing for me to take pride is a work of God and I am eternally and humble grateful!

This has been the drumbeat of June for me this year. I have already written on this twice... but the desire to grow more intimate with God's Spirit requires me to TURN AROUND...change the things that have been driving Him away and pushing Him out.

Repentance is God's consistent clarion call to all.....
Acts 17:30–31
[30] The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, [31] because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.” (ESV)

Revelation 2:4–5
[4] But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. [5] Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. (ESV)

Matthew 3:2- John the Baptist: “Repent, the kingdom is at hand”
Matthew 4:17- Jesus: “Repent, the kingdom is at hand”
Mark 6:12- Disciples: “ proclaimed people should repent
Acts 2:38- Peter: “Repent and be baptized”
Acts 17:30- Paul: “Command all everywhere to repent


Finally, Repentance has a goal...obedience and holiness which pleases and glorifies God. This is also the final release of the enemy's accusation of shame.

I have already given credit for the beginning of this process to the writing of Rosaria Champagne Butterfield- here is how she writes it.... a DAILY posture of a believer:

"Sin must be dealt with in a posture of Christian combat, not in expected or celebrated defeat and failure. We are to use the full armor of all the means of grace that God gives to us. This (daily posture) teaches us that conversion gives you freedom from the crime of sin and gives you the liberty to respond to God's grace of conversion through repentance and obedience.... it was then that I got it: repentance and the love of God- and the obedience to His law that grows from them- were the missing links between shame and grace."

By the way.... any movement of repentance in my life is THE SPIRIT working in me.


Isaiah 43:19 Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. (ESV)

Life is wearisome and we live in a world of decay. The God shaped hole in our hearts causes even the best things to grow dull and old. We are in need of renewal... and God is the one who brings back the newness... if we are willing to wait on Him.


Do I want revival? It seems like a simple question. But I am not so sure. A.W. Tozer argued that a revival of the current Christianity would be a tragedy which would set the church back a hundred years.

 But YES- I want my heart and life, but OF COURSE YES, I want to see it in my church, school, state, nation... world.

Selfishly, I would love for my children to see a massive outpouring of God's Spirit in such a way that it is tangible.

Habakkuk 2:14 For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea. (ESV)

Talk about intimacy and interaction with the Spirit!

When we think about a revival, I am always mindful of what B.B. Warfield shared about his experience as a Princeton student from the years 1868-1871:

“It was said in our time that no class in Princeton ever passed through its four years without experiencing a religious revival. Our class formed no exception. Our revival came near the end of our Junior year. Almost all students remarked at some time of the “means of grace’ .

Revival is prayed and prepared for:
1-  Study, Preaching and Commitment to Practice the Bible
2-  Corporate Worship
3-  Vigilant and vigorous discipline
4-  Prayer and witness of students themselves, resulting in conversions


Intimacy and Interaction with the Spirit bubbles up in joy...'rejoice' is not only an enthusiastic and strong response... it literally means 'reclaim great joy and delight".

And when I think of rejoice, I always think of Paul in the Phillipian jail.... in chains? rejoice because the gospel is going forth.... preaching in pretense? rejoice, Christ is being proclaimed..... the end is near? REJOICE
Philippians 2:17 Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. (ESV)
Philippians 3:1 Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you is no trouble to me and is safe for you. (ESV)
Philippians 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. (ESV)


So when I am beat down and weary.... I am running low on my intimacy with God's Spirit...but as I apply these "R" words.... I find Holy energy and Godly Rest.

Psalm 46:10 “Be still, and know that I am God.

So please pray for me to work through the "R" words.... with a goal of being intimate with God's Spirit and ever mindful that my body is His temple.

1 Peter 2:5  you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. (ESV)

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

Throwing My Idols..... Sudden Waves of Grace or Clouds of Judgement?

The more I read the Old Testament (which I love) two powerful images seem to be grabbing my attention.

The first image is a man, clinging to an idol, who has his eyes opened to the beauty, majesty, and compassion of Yahweh and casts his idol to the ground, running to the open arms of his God.

The second image is a man, clinging to his idol, refusing to acknowledge or bow to Yahweh who casts his idol to the ground when God appears in the cloud of judgement knowing now it was a foolish disposition.... too late.

The Bible is so full of powerful passages that dictate the details of God's grace. But there are also many places where Scripture sings it poetically.... and the images produce powerful healing and comfort.

Recently in my reading, God poured out such a passage. It was one of those times...I was beyond weary and needed to wait on the of those ever present seasons of life.... and just when I was convinced I was done for... He surprised me with an extra dose of grace.

The source of this experience is Isaiah 35- GREAT NEWS!


Note: Reader warning.... a so- called trigger alert..... the following is not for the weak.

Before we get to 35... let's backtrack in context and see why this is so dramatic and sweet. This passage comes after some sad sections of what was going to happen (AND DID HAPPEN) because of sin and the promise of judgement for that rebellion. Chapters 28-33 have SIX oracles of WOE. Let me say that 1 WOE is BAD enough, WOE/WOE/WOE is the normal cry and has the power of the trifold fullness of completions (contrast to trifold HOLY/HOLY/HOLY). BUT SIX WOES...OH MY! 

There is equal distribution of judgement here.... the images are very similar... and the cycle is familiar.... prosperity leads to a temporary glory, but because of sin and idolatry the inevitable decay happens. Sin has its own consequences contained in the activities. But during the slow decay, God also has a surprised settled time where he drops the final hammer of destruction.

It's sad how many people see God as the bad guy here.... He is only doing what He says He will do... He has to, it is His nature to do so, and Sin is a corrosive enemy... like a rotted section of a building... at some point, it HAS to be taken out- it is too harmful NOT to do so.

The Bible never shys away from this brutal truth... God has a response of wrath in the face of sin... a face of fury when confronted with the destructive cancer of sin.

It is in the New Testament as well.... Want to see how much God hates sin? Just look at what took place on that cross!

 Behold, the Lord has one who is mighty and strong;
like a storm of hail, a destroying tempest,
like a storm of mighty, overflowing waters,
he casts down to the earth with his hand. (Isaiah 28:2 ESV)

And the results of this response to sin? It is a wiped out wasteland when He finishes... 

the proud crown of drunkards are trodden underfoot, those who make lies their refuge are beaten down in sheer terror, the proud are lowered to the dust, the scoffers are broken into pieces,  all of God''s enemies are surprised by the  sudden destruction by war, those who hide secret sin in the dark are suddenly exposed in shame, those who manipulate and make alliances with the world discover that refuge to be suddenly worthless and empty. Those who seek justification by turning to 'smooth words' of heresy are suddenly broken to pieces like a clay jar whose fragments and shards can no longer be found. The armies of enemies, strong in the their armor and weapons, will be terror-stricken at the voice of the Lord when He strikes them. At the sight of God, people start throwing away all of the idols that they were holding on to as slaves to their worthless promises...too late!

What does the countryside look like after this visit of God's settled disposition to all things sinful?

chaff, wastelands, deserts, blood, waterless soil of sulfur, smoke of destruction, decay of death, thorns, wild animals... who now would want that real estate?!

But this happens to all of us who continue in sin... this is the state of our inner man of indwelling sin... it is a sleepwalk of death... we are PRONE TO WANDER...and it is a wonder if we ever come back!

Paul asked a great rhetorical question in Romans 6:21.... " what is the benefit of the things that you are now ashamed?" and follows it by ending the discussion "The end of those things is death".

It is UNBELIEVING to continue in sin
It is ILLOGICAL to continue in sin
It is UNTHINKABLE to continue in sin

Yet- how sad that we do so... I go back and pick up my idols way too often!


Even in the chapters I just buzzed through... all throughout, there are ample promises of God's goodness, his promise to restore, to repair, to rebuild, to heal....

Isaiah 30:18–22
Therefore the LORD waits to be gracious to you,
and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you.
For the LORD is a God of justice;
blessed are all those who wait for him.

[19] For a people shall dwell in Zion, in Jerusalem; you shall weep no more. He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry. As soon as he hears it, he answers you. [20] And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide himself anymore, but your eyes shall see your Teacher. [21] And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left. [22] Then you will defile your carved idols overlaid with silver and your gold-plated metal images. You will scatter them as unclean things. You will say to them, “Be gone!” (ESV)

It is never true to say the Old Testament is about a God of wrath and the New Testament is about a God of Love.... Both Testaments glorify the same God Whose nature never changes.

Isaiah 35

[1] The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad;
the desert shall rejoice and blossom like the crocus;
[2] it shall blossom abundantly
and rejoice with joy and singing.
The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it,
the majesty of Carmel and Sharon.
They shall see the glory of the LORD,
the majesty of our God.

I can apply this figuratively to my sin sick soul.. but there is a dual fulfillment of these promises. These things came true literally and we can apply them as principles.

Sin leaves me dusty and thirsty, broken and fruitless.But here is the promise...waves of grace are about to change the desert wilderness to beautiful, restored brilliance.

(3] Strengthen the weak hands,
and make firm the feeble knees.
[4] Say to those who have an anxious heart,
“Be strong; fear not!
Behold, your God
will come with vengeance,
with the recompense of God.
He will come and save you.

This is how I often feel, but God is gracious to save me- 
never late... but seldom early.

[5] Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
[6] then shall the lame man leap like a deer,
and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.
For waters break forth in the wilderness,
and streams in the desert;
[7] the burning sand shall become a pool,
and the thirsty ground springs of water;
in the haunt of jackals, where they lie down,
the grass shall become reeds and rushes.

Sudden waves of grace! I LOVE vs 7

[8] And a highway shall be there,
and it shall be called the Way of Holiness;
the unclean shall not pass over it.
It shall belong to those who walk on the way;
even if they are fools, they shall not go astray.

Am I on the highway of holiness?.. it is the upward call of God in Jesus Christ for obedience. 

[9] No lion shall be there,
nor shall any ravenous beast come up on it;
they shall not be found there,
but the redeemed shall walk there.
[10] And the ransomed of the LORD shall return
and come to Zion with singing;
everlasting joy shall be upon their heads;
they shall obtain gladness and joy,
and sorrow and sighing shall flee away. (ESV)

What a place! How I long for that state of bliss!

As I close, I recently read an amazing prayer of confession from John Owen. Here is that prayer:

"I am a poor, weak creature; unstable as water, I cannot excel.
This corruption is too hard for me, and is at the very door of ruining my soul; and what to do I know not.
My soul is become as parched ground, and an habitation of dragons.
I have made promises and broken them; vows and engagements have been as a thing of nought.
Many persuasions have I had that I had got the victory and should be delivered, but I am deceived; so that I plainly see, that without some eminent succour and assistance, I am lost, and shall be prevailed on to an utter relinquishment of God.
But yet, though this be my state and condition, let the hands that hang down be lifted up, and the feeble knees be strengthened.
Behold, the Lord Christ, that has all fullness of grace in his heart, all fullness of power in his hand, he is able to slay all these his enemies.
There is sufficient provision in him for my relief and assistance.
He can take my drooping, dying soul and make me more than a conqueror.
He can make the dry, parched ground of my soul to become a pool, and my thirsty, barren heart as springs of water;' yea, he can make this habitation of dragons,' this heart, so full of abominable lusts and fiery temptations, to be a place for grass' and fruit to himself,"

Go back to the fist images that I outlined... which idol thrower do you desire to be? Then throw yourself fully in the Savior's care! Don't wait until it is too late.