Giving Detailed Thanks for Coffee

coffee-mug

On one level, God’s will for us is plain.

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thess 5:16–18)

Putting aside the complex issue of God’s will, Paul’s exhortation makes it clear that thanksgiving must be a central part of the Christian life. Paul also writes that we should be “…giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father…” (Eph 5:20).

What does this sort of universal, always-on thanksgiving look like?

Give Thanks to God

Principally, God’s people should be thankful to be God’s people, because this is a gift. Just look at Exodus 15:1–18 where Moses sings and exults in God’s Red Sea deliverance.

For the Christian, all of God’s gifts flow from the supreme gift of salvation, and we should thank him for every one.

For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer. (1 Tim 4:4–5)

Moses’s song in Exodus 15 is a model of thanksgiving for us. Our modern ears might find it repetitive, but Moses is slowly rehearsing every powerful, saving work. Every detail is important, because God is in all of the details.

We glorify God when we thank him specifically. In particular, we draw attention to his generosity, power, and love when we delight in all the blessings that come from a particular gift. After all, God foreknew and planned every last blessing we experience!

Specific, Exuberant Thanksgiving

My aim is to model this type of thanksgiving.

I love coffee. This isn’t exactly a controversial opinion on the internet, since roughly 114% of Twitter bios mention it. But I’ve been reading and thinking a lot about coffee recently. (I’m teaching a class on it in the fall.)

This is just a case study; coffee isn’t the point. My aim is thanking God everywhere, at all times, for all things. I’m just getting started; how about you?

Thank You, God, for Coffee

God, thank you for coffee. What a good, pleasurable gift you’ve given!

Thank you for the way coffee tastes. I love the way the flavor varies by the origin and roast of the bean; from nutty to fruity to chocolaty, the differences are delightful. Thank you for the unmistakable jolt to my tongue when I take my first morning sip.

Thank you for the smell of coffee. You’ve created such a warm, enticing smell with this drink that many who don’t enjoy the drink welcome the smell. The intensity of the aroma over freshly-ground beans is arresting and invigorating. Thank you for the way the smell of the grounds is released by the water, pulling me like a tractor beam to the mug.

Thank you for the stimulation coffee provides. You created caffeine, and like everything you created it is good. How generous you are to give a safe chemical in a delicious form that helps so many focus, think, and create.

Thank you for the ritual that goes along with coffee. You’ve given us a welcome, peaceful process to create this great drink. From boiling to scooping to grinding to pouring, the predictable rhythm of those ten minutes is a respite from the rest of the day. Thank you for the opportunity to breathe and rest while the coffee brews.

Thank you for the beauty of coffee. Though I make it much more for its taste than its appearance, in the right hands coffee is gorgeous. You’ve created so many different shades of brown that complement and accent each other so perfectly.

Thank you for the availability of coffee. The bean is grown in limited parts of the world, but you’ve blessed the farming, processing, and distribution of coffee so that most countries have easy access.

Thank you for the conversations that coffee inspires. You’ve made it natural, at least in the States, to build friendships over this drink. So many people meet to plan, pray, study the Bible, or ponder your world while drinking coffee.

Thank you for the food that goes so well with coffee. Donuts, bagels, eggs—these all pair perfectly with coffee. This drink you’ve created is wonderful by itself, but it shines in harmony with every cake, pie, and pastry around. What delicious combinations you’ve made for us to enjoy!

God, we see your goodness and overflowing generosity in coffee. It points us to your character, your love, and the gift of your Son for us. Thank you!


Thanks for reading! If you’re interested, you can follow me on Twitter, subscribe to this blog by email (see the box on the upper right part of the page), or follow my blog’s RSS feed here.


Photo Credit: karl chor (2015), public domain

Advertisements

Technology and the Purpose of Family

The Tech-Wise FamilyWhat is the purpose of the family? Why did God structure our lives to involve these people, so close to us, for so many years?

In his latest book, The Tech-Wise Family, Andy Crouch answers this question with two words.

Family helps form us into persons who have acquired wisdom and courage. (53)

Wisdom and Courage

As so many have observed, the “information age” has not made us wiser people. Access to facts is not the same thing as wisdom.

Knowledge, these days, is very easy to come by—almost too easy, given the flood of search results for almost any word or phrase you can imagine. But you can’t search for wisdom—at least, not online. And it’s as rare and precious as ever—maybe, given how complex our lives have become, rarer and more precious than before. (56)

Crouch argues that wisdom is essential, but by itself it doesn’t have an impact. Wisdom makes a difference when it brings about action.

If all we needed were wisdom, that would be challenge enough. But it’s not all we need. Because we need not just to understand our place in the world and the faithful way to proceed—we also need the conviction and character to act. And that is what courage is about. (56)

How do we become people of wisdom and courage?

The only way to do it is with other people. We need people who know us and the complexities and difficulties of our lives really well—so well that we can’t hide the complexity and difficulty from them. And we need people who love us—who are unreservedly and unconditionally committed to us, our flourishing, and our growth no matter what we do, and who are so committed to us that they won’t let us stay the way we are. (58)

The Place of Technology

Crouch discusses technology in the context of the family. In particular, he writes about the relationship between technology and the reason family exists.

For technology, with all its gifts, poses one of the greatest threats ever conceived by human society to the formation of wise, courageous persons that real family and real community are all about. (62)

Crouch views the goal of technology as “easy everywhere,” and since this ethos often stands in opposition to growth in wisdom and courage, we need help.

What it all adds up to is a set of nudges, disciplines, and choices that can keep technology in its proper place—leaving room for the hard and beautiful work of becoming wise and courageous people together. (18)

Crouch is not against technology. He is simply passionate enough about the development of healthy, wise families that he doesn’t want anything (including technology) to stand in the way. So technology needs to be in “its proper place,” which Crouch summarizes in the preface in six ways.

Technology is in its proper place when…

  • it helps us bond with the real people we have been given to love;
  • it starts great conversations;
  • it helps us take care of the fragile bodies we inhabit;
  • it helps us acquire skill and mastery of domains that are the glory of human culture;
  • it helps us cultivate awe for the created world we are a part of and responsible for stewarding; and
  • we use it with intention and care. (20–21)

Recommendation

Though Andy Crouch begins The Tech-Wise Family with vision and principles, the book is stuffed with practical suggestions. He writes about the guidelines his family has tried to follow with regard to technology, and at the end of each chapter (in a “Crouch Family Reality Check”) he reveals how successful they were.

At its core, this is not a book about technology. This is a book about family, and a fine one at that. Crouch will provoke you, surprise you, and make you laugh. He models a way to approach technology neither as a gushing fanboy nor a fussy grump. His winsome vision of the family is primary, and technology must take a supporting role.

I enjoyed this book quite a bit, and I think many parents will benefit from reading it.

Thanks to Baker Books for providing me with a review copy of this book.


Disclosure: the links to Amazon.com in this blog post are affiliate links, meaning that I get a small percentage of any purchase you make on Amazon if you make that purchase after clicking through this link.

Six Ways to Respond to God’s Steadfast Love

Breezewood truck

Driving the Pennsylvania Turnpike can be rough, especially when you’re tired. The hills and farms all look the same, and it’s easy to get lulled to sleep by the endless pattern of signs: speed limit, exit, service plaza; speed limit, exit, service plaza.

Many of us read Psalm 136 this way. Every verse contains the refrain “for his steadfast love endures forever.” Though you may exult in this truth in verse one, you weary of it by verse 13. Your eyes skip along to the “interesting parts,” neglecting the other half.

But there’s gold in the repetition.

Behold the Promise of God’s Love

This psalm is a masterpiece, painting God’s work through history with the brushstrokes of his love.

The psalmist begins by highlighting God’s goodness and his supreme position above other gods (vv. 1–3). The next six verses describe God’s work as creator; he made the heavens, spread out the earth, and created the sun, moon, and stars (vv. 4–9).

Beginning in verse 10, the psalmist writes of the pivotal deliverance from Egypt. The psalm slows down, crediting God with each step along the way—the Passover, the Red Sea, and the defeat of Pharaoh (vv. 10–16).

In their journey through the wilderness, God gave his people victory over nations who opposed them. In verses 17–22, the psalmist rehearses God’s military might and his provision of land. This stanza connects God’s promise-keeping love (see God’s covenant with Abraham in Genesis 12:7 and 17:8) to his commitment to fight for his people.

The psalm closes with a summary: God remembered, rescued, and provides for his people (vv. 23–25), so we should thank him.

Sing the Refrain of God’s Love

Through all 26 verses, the refrain is the same: “for his steadfast love endures forever.” Behind God’s creative work, his saving work, his fighting work, his providing work—through all the high drama, God’s love is the explanation.

And God’s love is not reserved for the mountain tops. His steadfast love is revealed in the valley of the wilderness years (v. 16) and the mundanity of mealtimes (v. 25).

God’s steadfast love is behind and underneath everything he does. None of his characteristics or actions can be separated from his love. We can easily affirm this integration when considering the exodus or promised land, but it applies equally to God’s justice and wrath (see vv. 15, 17–20). From top to bottom, God is love.

Grasp the Steadfastness of God’s Love

If the biblical authors highlight and underline their writing by repetition, we should pay careful attention to this refrain. It appears in each and every verse—26 times in all.

For his steadfast love endures forever.

Notice the whopping three references to time in this refrain. God’s love is steadfast. His love endures. His love endures forever.

It’s hard for finite humans to digest that word, forever. Everything we see, do, or know comes to an end. What is true for food and clothing we also witness in our emotions. We’d like to claim that our love (for a spouse, for a parent, for a child) is steadfast, but we know better. In anger or impatience, apathy or bitterness, we withhold our love from those most dear to us.

How different God’s love is from ours! His love is steadfast, never diminishing in volume, never weakening in strength, never retreating, never tainted. Though we may feel alone or unloved, reality is different—his love endures forever.

We struggle to digest this truth; we’re prone to dismiss or forget God’s love. In times of suffering, loss, or deep sadness, we often resist with our heart what we know with our mind. Like the psalmist, we need to repeat this truth as often as possible: God’s steadfast love endures forever.

Personalize the Beauty of God’s Love

Here are two ways to internalize God’s love.

Put the psalm on repeat. Read Psalm 136 every morning and evening for a month. (Read every word, careful not to skip the repeated line!) Listen to it on your phone or tablet. Like the woodpecker, a persistent tapping in the same spot sometimes yields a breakthrough.

Write your own version of this psalm. Take up a journal, recount God’s work in your life, and end each line or paragraph the same way: “For his steadfast love endures forever.”

Consider the Cost of God’s Steadfast Love

God’s love for his people reached a crescendo in the incarnation. He aimed to redeem his people, and he had to deal with their sin, once and for all. In his steadfast love, God sent his Son. For his love is a pursuing, costly love.

God demonstrated his abiding, enduring love in Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. When Jesus was “made sin for us” on the cross, the Father withdrew his protective love for a time. The Father’s love for his people was manifest in wrath toward sin, and the Son was crushed for our iniquities. Jesus knew the Father’s full fury; he experienced the absence of God’s love so we would know it forever.

Give Thanks for God’s Steadfast Love

Why does the steadfast love of God matter? How does it change us?

One clear application comes out of this psalm: Give thanks. This is the only exhortation in the entire psalm, and it appears four times (vv. 1, 2, 3, 26). In fact, all of the descriptions of God, including the refrain about his love, are given as fuel for thanksgiving.

So give thanks to God for who he is. He is the Creator, Savior, Conqueror, and Provider that Israel needed then and that we need now. Thank God for all the ways his steadfast love has rung out in history and in your life. Don’t hesitate to include the routine aspects of your day; from the miraculous Red Sea crossing to God’s provision of food, everything flows from his love.

And as you give thanks to God, remind yourself and everyone around you about his love. It is steadfast, and it endures forever.

This post originally appeared at Unlocking the Bible.


Photo Credit: Ben Schumin, Creative Commons License

My View from the Worship Team

worship

I’m on the worship team at church, so when it’s time to sing, I’m looking out at the congregation. I see it all—the joy, the struggles, and the boredom. I’m reminded how Jesus welcomes all of us, that his body is made up of all sorts of different people.

To the passionate, early 40s woman—It lifts my heart to see you worship God. You close your eyes, lift your hands, and focus on every word. Not all of us are so demonstrative with our bodies in worship, but your love for God can’t come out any other way. I see the joy in your face and I see the children around you—they’re watching. You’re giving them a picture of devotion to our Savior. I’m so glad you’re part of our family.

To the young father near the front—I love to see you teach your son to sing. You crouch down and point to the words on the screen, helping him to follow along now that he is starting to read. The church needs men who sing, and it’s great that you’re training him in these early years. You’re helping build up the body of Christ; I’m glad you’re part of our family.

To the silent man in the back pew—you sit as far away from the preacher as possible. You stand during the songs, but you don’t sing. You don’t look bored as much as you look angry. You sit by yourself, though you act like someone is forcing you to attend. I hope you find our church is a safe place to doubt, to ask questions, or to simply show up as you are. I don’t know you well, but I’m glad you keep coming back.

To the two older ladies in the back—you are a treasure! You have trouble standing during the praise songs, and you might not be able to see the screen. I know we don’t always make our services easy for you, but I love seeing you here. You are models of faithfulness, wisdom, and grace, quick with a hug or an encouraging word for anyone that needs either. You point me to our Savior with your steady trust in him. I want to be like you as I grow older; I’m glad you’re part of our family.

Our church isn’t perfect. We’ve got a lot of learning and loving and growing to do. But as God gathers his imperfect people around his perfect Son, I’m glad to be a part of this family.


This post is an imaginative essay. I don’t sing on the worship team, and none of the people in the essay are specific individuals in my church. These characters are amalgams of people I have seen and known (and imagined) over time.


Thanks for reading! If you’re interested, you can follow me on Twitter, subscribe to this blog by email (see the box on the upper right part of the page), or follow my blog’s RSS feed here.


Photo Credit: John Price (2015), public domain

Christians Must Be Fluent in the Gospel

Gospel-Fluency

The gospel of Jesus Christ is more than a greeting at the door of the church. It is the bedrock truth that energizes, sustains, comforts, and motivates a Christian throughout his life.

Jeff Vanderstelt wrote his new book Gospel Fluency to help us see the gospel as a language we must learn to speak.

We need the gospel and we need to become gospel-fluent people. We need to know how to believe and speak the truths of the gospel—the good news of God—in and into the everyday stuff of life. In other words, we need to know how to address the struggles of life and the everyday activities we engage in with what is true of Jesus: the truths of what he accomplished through his life, death, and resurrection, and, as a result, what is true of us as we put our faith in him. The gospel has the power to affect everything in our lives. (Gospel Fluency, Kindle location 223)

The Gospel is How We Change

This is a strong, helpful book. Jeff Vanderstelt fills his writing with stories, suggestions, and biblical truth.

My favorite chapter was Chapter 9 (Fruit to Root). In this chapter he writes about diagnosing our beliefs and how the gospel shapes our repentance.

A basic assumption in this chapter is that our behaviors are not the worst sin problem we have.

Part of our job in growing in gospel fluency is paying attention to the overflow of our hearts. What comes out in the form of thoughts, emotions, and behaviors finds its origin inside of us. Too often, we focus our attention on changing the external rather than addressing the internal. (Gospel Fluency, Kindle location 1464)

At the bottom of our sinful behavior are usually lies we’re believing about God. Vanderstelt helps us see the bad fruit in our lives and trace it to the bad root. He uses four questions to uncover unbelief.

  1. What am I doing or experiencing right now?
  2. In light of what I am doing or experiencing, what do I believe about myself?
  3. What do I believe God is doing or has done?
  4. What do I believe God is like? (Gospel Fluency, Kindle location 1477)

Vanderstelt uses a story about his wife to help explain how these questions are used in practice. When uncovering unbelief, ask the questions in this order. You’ll arrive at the lie(s) you’re believing about God, at which point it’s time to confess your sin.

So often, when people are led to confess their sins, they only confess their sinful behaviors. In other words, they confess the fruit. They say: “I’m sorry I lied. Please forgive me.” Or: “I looked at pornography. I know that’s wrong. Please forgive me.” The problem, however, is that they need to confess their sinful beliefs—the roots, the stuff below the surface that is motivating and producing their behaviors, the sin beneath the sins. All sin stems from wrong beliefs—lies we believe—and ultimately from our unbelief in Jesus. And because we generally don’t go beyond the fruit to the root, we end up aiming at behavior modification instead of gospel transformation. “I’m sorry, I promise I won’t do it again” or “I’m going to try harder in the future” are among our typical responses. (Gospel Fluency, Kindle location 1535)

The gospel brings us to the truth about God. Vanderstelt then suggests working from “root to fruit” by asking those four questions in the reverse order. Our lives are changed as we confess our faith and see the grand implications of the gospel.

Commendable

Chapter 9 is worth the price of the book, but wait, there’s more. His chapter on listening was excellent. He sets all of his application within the context of a local church, showing how learning to speak fluent gospel is a community project.

I’m grateful to Jeff Vanderstelt for writing this book. I recommend it!

Thanks to Crossway for an advance reader’s copy of this book.


Disclosure: the links to Amazon.com in this blog post are affiliate links, meaning that I get a small percentage of any purchase you make on Amazon if you make that purchase after clicking through this link.

Now, We Laugh

6019067180_87b7b8ae1b_z

The victory seemed sure. Against the odds death lashed this man to the wood, this wonder who spoke so much of life. Jesus had assaulted death’s kingdom at every turn, and now, with a final cry, he ran out of breath.

His body found a tomb, and fear stationed a rock and guards. These bouncers would let no one in.

They faced the wrong direction. They missed the show.

∞∞∞

Who knows what sounds or sights burst inside. Perhaps it was ear-splitting, a blinding flash. Maybe it was quiet and small, a hiccup of life stirring the body.

Jesus flung death aside and the boulder with it. The grave clothes lay discarded on the ground. The mighty guards passed out from fear, replaced by heavenly officers.

As he walked out of the tomb, Jesus laughed at death. The righteous Son of God had finished his work. Now he pulsed and thrummed with life.

∞∞∞

We follow our Savior between the times. We see the hatred and the grabbing of the old way, kicking and jerking toward and within us. We mourn and cry and resist.

But we are not all mourning. We know the new way. We laugh at the good news—not because it’s funny, but because it’s so good. We are amazed and overcome and grateful, and we laugh the laugh of those who are free.

We laugh that the good news would be spoken to us. We laugh that we would be loved and adopted. We laugh that we would be promised such a future.

∞∞∞

Death will make its final, futile attempts. It will throw us in the ground, a stone on top.

Who knows what sounds or sights will come. Jesus will fling death aside and the stone with it. The heavenly officers will take us further up and further in to the city coming down.

As we join the throng, we will laugh at death. Where is your sting? Where is your victory?

∞∞∞

Without the curse, without frustration and thorns, we will rejoice forever. In the presence of our Father, we will know as we have been fully known. In our joy, we will laugh.

That joy is not just for Then. It is not just for Easter morning. It is for now and now and now, because the bond Jesus secured cannot be broken. We are grabbed and held by everlasting, full-to-the-brim love.

We will laugh forever because we will be with God, safe. And we laugh now, because we need the practice.


Photo Credit: cheriejoyful (2011), Creative Commons License

The Gallery (First Quarter, 2017)

art gallery

Over the past year I’ve felt like a pedestrian beside a busy interstate. Cars whiz past incessantly. I can’t think with all the noise.

It’s the internet, guys. I don’t use it so good. I’ve sought out what’s new-new-new, and it’s left me malnourished and unsatisfied.

In an effort to slow down, think, and let the best of the internet sharpen and edify me, I’m starting an infrequent (but regular!) blog series. I’m calling it The Gallery because that’s the image that best fits my idea.

I’m trying to find a happy middle between a daily roundup and The Best of The Year. I want to call attention to some of the best articles, videos (not this time), and podcasts I’ve noticed that might still have relevance. For now, I’ve settled on posting this roundup once a quarter.

These are the best things I’ve run across in the first three months of 2017. They deserve multiple readings or listens. Their quality demands thoughtful consideration (or reconsideration).

This isn’t the best of the internet, because I have no desire to cast my net as wide as possible. This is the best of what I encountered, taking all my preferences and oddities into account. Enjoy.

Articles

  1. Mathematics for Human Flourishing, by Francis Su (personal blog) — As the outgoing president of the Mathematical Association of America, Francis Su gave a plenary talk at the big, national math conference in January. Francis Su is a Christian and you can hear it in the way he talks about mathematics and opportunity. This is one of the best speeches I’ve ever heard, and it’s the only one at a math conference I’ve ever seen get a standing ovation. I was in the room and I could tell something special was happening. At this link you’ll have the chance to read, listen to, or watch the speech. (For the math-squeamish, don’t worry—there’s no math in the talk at all!)
  2. “But I didn’t mean to be racist”, by Jemar Tisby (Fathom Magazine) — I’ve been thinking a lot about race and the church over the past 6–12 months. Jemar Tisby has been a consistently helpful voice. In this article he writes about the difference between intent and impact, and he calls white evangelicals to empathy. This is worth reading prayerfully.
  3. The Mad Truth of La La Land, by Jennifer Trafton (The Rabbit Room) — La La Land was the best movie I saw this quarter, and it’s made me think a lot. This article helped me process the movie, the characters, and the ending. And Jennifer Trafton showed me what the movie teaches about love. Top notch.
  4. Confessing the Sin of Platforming, by J.A. Medders (personal blog) — What an honest, revealing, God-glorifying personal essay this is! J.A. Medders writes about rejection and his desire to be known. I suspect everyone who writes online struggles with this. (I do.) I needed to read this.

Podcasts

  1. Cultivated (Harbor Media) — Mike Cosper hosts a great interview podcast with Christians about faith and work. Cosper asks his guests about their sense of calling and listeners are treated to some great stories. This podcast launched in the fall of 2016, but there were some great episodes released in January and February.
  2. Pass the Mic (Reformed African American Network) — The tagline for this podcast is “Dynamic Voices for a Diverse Church.” Tyler Burns and Jemar Tisby host this podcast which aims to “address the core concerns of African Americans biblically.” I have learned so much from this podcast. The hosts and guests have helped me to grow a bit in understanding what minority citizens experience in the United States and in the church. I love that the hosts, even while acknowledging the difficulty and frustration that goes with racial reconciliation, proclaim the power of the gospel in every episode. All the episodes are tremendous, but I especially enjoyed the interview with Andy Crouch.

Photo Credit: Ryan McGuire (2014), public domain

King David on the Resurrection

520114756_6fca07c5e7_z

There’s a moment at the end of the Gospel of Luke that surprises me every time I read it.

Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” (Luke 24:44–47)

The resurrected Jesus speaks with his disciples and tells them that he fulfilled all that was written about him in the entire Old Testament. He says it is written that the Messiah should die and be raised, and that the gospel would be preached to the whole world.

Did you catch that? Jesus said his resurrection was predicted in the Old Testament. So…where was that again?

Peter’s Sermon

Many people rightly point to Psalm 22 or Isaiah 53 as places to turn for Old Testament teaching on resurrection. But today we’ll examine how the apostle Peter answered this question.

Peter began his Pentecost sermon by explaining that the early Christians had received the Holy Spirit. He then talks about Jesus—his arrest, death, and resurrection. In explaining that “it was not possible for [Jesus] to be held by [death],” Peter does a strange thing. He quotes David in Psalm 16:8–11.

For David says concerning him,
‘I saw the Lord always before me,
for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken;
therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced;
my flesh also will dwell in hope.
For you will not abandon my soul to Hades,
or let your Holy One see corruption.
You have made known to me the paths of life;
you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’ (Acts 2:25–28)

Then Peter interprets for us.

Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. (Acts 2:29–31)

Whoa.

Peter says that David, believing God’s long-term promise, knew that the Messiah could not be abandoned in death. He would not decay in the tomb.

As with Jesus, so with Us

Knowing that David was speaking about the Messiah in Psalm 16, what can we now learn from that text?

Because Psalm 16 is written in the first person, we should read David’s words—at least in part—as speaking prophetically not just about Christ but for Christ. After expressing confidence in the resurrection from the dead (v.10), we read this.

You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (Psalm 16:11)

Though we may be eager to apply these verses to ourselves, let’s slow down.

Jesus had enormous, painful, tortuous work to accomplish. He bore a weight of sin we cannot imagine, and in his death on the cross he suffered an agony of soul far beyond the bodily pain he endured. His eternal Father turned away, and the Son felt the wrath of God against sin. On the cross there was no presence of the Father, no joy, no pleasures.

But the resurrection (and ascension) turned this story around. Jesus was vindicated by his resurrection and was welcomed back into perfect communion with his Father. In place of the wrath, loneliness, and fury he felt in his crucifixion, Jesus would now have “pleasures forevermore.”

These delights await us too. We can gain nothing greater in the new heavens and earth than God himself and the full joy that comes from his presence. But that fellowship was bought for us at a great cost. The promise is first for Jesus—who died for us but over whom death could never be a victor. And then it’s for us, because we follow our elder brother in his resurrection.


Photo Credit: James Emery (2007, Creative Commons License

Does God Just Tolerate Me?

grandparents-1927320_640

I have some close friends at church who are grandparents. For them, the cliché is true—they are over the moon about their grandchildren!

My friends would move mountains to spend time with their grandchildren. They soak up every moment of each visit and anticipate the next. They delight in their grandchildren.

Something that delights us does more than make us momentarily happy. It stirs our hearts, and the ripples wash lightness through our bodies. You might delight in a favorite place, a dear friend, or a treasured book or movie.

Have you ever pondered what delights God? The Bible provides a surprising answer.

The Anointed One

Our answer comes from the book of Isaiah. Aside from the Lord himself, the major characters in Isaiah are the Coming King, the Coming Servant, and the Coming Anointed One (the Messiah). We see pieces of Jesus’ mission in each of these prophetic figures.

At the end of Isaiah 61, the Anointed One rejoices in the task set before him (v. 10). He is dressed in “garments of salvation” in the same way that a couple prepares themselves for their wedding. These clothes mark the Messiah for his momentous work.

It’s no secret—the task of the Anointed One is salvation for God’s people (61:1) and the glory of God’s name (61:3). As surely as the earth brings forth plants, God guarantees that the Messiah’s mission will succeed (61:11).

Despite God’s promise, the Anointed One is not passive. He is determined, zealous, and vocal that the righteousness and glory of God’s people be displayed before all nations and kings (62:1–2).

God’s Delight

The results of the work of the Anointed One are astonishing and life-changing:

The nations shall see your righteousness,
and all the kings your glory,
and you shall be called by a new name
that the mouth of the Lord will give.
You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord,
and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.
You shall no more be termed Forsaken,
and your land shall no more be termed Desolate,
but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her,
and your land Married;
for the Lord delights in you,
and your land shall be married.
For as a young man marries a young woman,
so shall your sons marry you,
and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride,
so shall your God rejoice over you. (Isaiah 61:2–5)

God’s people will be a “crown of beauty” in his hand (v. 3). A king’s crown is the physical sign of his royal position and glory. Amazingly, God’s people are a sign of his kingship and evidence that he is glorious. It’s hard to believe when looking around (or in the mirror), but God says it will be so.

Perhaps even more dramatic is the renaming in verses 2 and 4. The people shall go from “Forsaken” to “My Delight Is in Her,” and the land will go from “Desolate” to “Married.” Why the change? Is it because of all the good the people have done, all the yield the land has produced? Not hardly.

God changes the people’s name for a simple, profound reason: love. “For the Lord delights in you” (v. 4). To highlight this in the brightest colors, Isaiah writes that God will rejoice over his people as a groom rejoices over his bride (v. 5).

What was predicted long ago is our reality now. What a reality!

I rarely imagine God rejoicing over me. I think he occasionally disapproves of me and that he mostly tolerates me. I can be persuaded that he loves me at times. But to delight in me? That seems too outlandish, too fantastic to believe. But it’s true!

For Isaiah, the good news has never been just for Israel. God is eager for others to join his family; Israel must “prepare the way” and “build up the highway” (v. 10). The references to “the people” and “the peoples” (v. 10) show how God welcomes both Israelites and Gentiles to his holy city. They will all be called “The Holy People, The Redeemed of the Lord” (v. 12).

At the end of this chapter, God wraps all his people together, giving them the same name. In a nod back to verse 4, they will be called “A City Not Forsaken” (v. 12). The Lord delights in his people, and their new name reflects his abiding, promise-backed love.

The Forsaken One

It’s hard to read this passage without wondering about this dramatic change. Why will the people no longer be forsaken?

Over many years and in many ways, Israel sinned against God. Though God turned away from them for a time, his covenant promise pulsed in the background of history. Through his Anointed One, God would fulfill this promise at the pinnacle of his justice and mercy.

God delighted in his Son, but in his hour of greatest need, the Father turned away. Jesus felt this abandonment like a hot knife tearing into his soul. On the cross, he cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46)

We deserve to be forsaken. But our name is “Forsaken” no longer because Jesus was forsaken for us. God delights in us because his Son—the one in whom he delighted the most—became sin for us (2 Corinthians 5:21).

The Loved Ones

What difference would it make if we absorbed these truths into our bones? How would our lives change if we were sure of God’s delight in us?

Two applications come to mind.

First, we’d be more willing to take gospel-driven risks. If the delight of our heavenly Father is secure, then the potential harm to our reputations or social networks won’t be scary. If God smiles, we can shrug off others’ frowns.

We would also be more likely to trust God in uncertain times. God is not only sovereign and wise, he is good and loving. Even if we cannot connect the dots between our circumstances and God’s intentions, we can be sure there is a straight line from his heart to his providence in our lives.

This post originally appeared at Unlocking the Bible.


Photo Credit: anonymous (2016), public domain

Book Giveaway: The Curious Christian

bpiperIn case you missed it, last week I reviewed the book The Curious Christian, by Barnabas Piper. It’s a great book—I think you’d benefit by reading it.

I have an extra copy of this book, so I thought I’d give it away! Here are the rules.

  1. I will only mail to the 48 continental United States. Sorry!
  2. Enter only one time per person.
  3. The giveaway will close at 12:00 noon (Eastern) on Saturday, March 18. I’ll choose the winner at random using the Random.org website.
  4. I’ll email the winner for a mailing address, and I’ll delete all other entries. I will use your information for nothing at all unless you win.

Go here to enter the contest. Thanks!

Update: The contest is now closed. Thanks to all who entered!


Disclosure: the link to Amazon.com in this blog post are affiliate links, meaning that I get a small percentage of any purchase you make on Amazon if you make that purchase after clicking through this link.