Loving God’s Law

Psalm 119:97 O how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day.
The law is a revelation of God’s character. It reveals the holy righteous character of God. Theft is not wrong primarily because it will hurt another person. Theft is wrong because God is not a thief. Adultery is not wrong primarily because it causes damage to families. It is wrong because God is always faithful. When we who are created in his image steal or commit adultery, we are misrepresenting God. We are lying about the character of God.
One reason that the Psalmist can say that he loves the law of God is because the law reveals the character of God and he loves God. Naturally if he loves God and has God as his father, he will love that which reveals his character. He will want to live in such a way that speaks only truth of God. And the only way for anyone to have this love of God is for God to take out the wicked God-hating heart and replace it with a heart of love. This is only possible by a supernatural work of the Holy Spirit made possible by Christ’s death on the cross. The Spirit will write love of God on the heart of the believer. This love for God will result in the love of the law of God.
Unfortunately many speak about God’s commandments in ways that don’t reveal a love for them. For example, some see that God has spoken against sodomy and because they can’t argue themselves past the clear meaning of scripture, they will begrudgingly accept it as God’s command. Yet they will still think the biblical punishment for it is too harsh.  Some are egalitarian in mindset but see that there are clear scriptures that forbid a woman to preach so they begrudgingly hold to these texts. Because they can’t wiggle out of a few texts, they will like a lawyer only hold to the strict letter of these few commands while looking for loopholes anywhere they can find them. Rather than embrace and love the sexual design that God has for men and women because it reveals something of his character, they will halfheartedly follow only the texts they can’t escape from. These maybe signs that the heart has not really been changed. These could be signs that we have not really started to love the Lord our God with all our hearts, souls, and minds.

Space, The Final Frontier

Space the Final Frontier

Space, the final frontier”, those words from Star Trek, one of my favorite television shows when I was younger, have fueled my imagination for years. Something about the stars and planets just excites me. As a child, I can remember getting for Christmas a set of glow in the dark stars and the moon to put on my bedroom ceiling. That simple inexpensive gift was one of the most valuable I have ever received. From then on I slept under the stars every night. Even now as an adult, there is nothing that takes my breath away quite like a clear starlit sky. Since moving to Kentucky and getting a job as a student minister in Cropper where the terrain is flat and wide open, I have been amazed at how the stars seem to burst forth from one side of the horizon to the other on a cloudless night. I can just stare up into the heavens for hours as lights twinkle and seem to fade into view the longer I look.

I am convinced that King David too was an avid star-gazer. In Psalm 19, David writes that the heavens declare the glory of God. David is absolutely correct. David also writes in Psalm 8 that God displays His splendor above the heavens. It is amazing to think that God spoke and brought all of creation into being. Sometimes in life, it is easy to get puffed up in pride or to think highly of one’s self. When the daily events of life begin to creep up on us, we tend to magnify our current circumstances and in turn magnify our significance. But just like David when we look into the night sky and see the billions of stars and all the work of God’s fingers, we begin to see the smallness of man. When we realize that our galaxy, the Milky Way, contains 200 to 400 billion stars of which the closest is 4.25 light years away and that our universe has billions of galaxies, then we can begin to catch a glimpse of just how small we are and how large God is. All of our problems and things that we find so much significance in become increasingly insignificant when viewed in relation with the entire universe.

When David views the stars in Psalm 8, he sees the insignificance of man, but yet he also sees the absolute kindness of God in that God would look favorable upon man. In all of creation, God in His love has set man just a little lower than Himself and set man up to have dominion over the earth. I am just amazed that God would entrust to us, the care of his creation. God who holds the entire universe of billions and billions of stars in the palm of His hand, chooses to let us share in His glory and majesty. It is beyond comprehension to think that God would love us this much. It is even more mind-blowing that God would Himself become man and die on the cross for a creature as insignificant as me.

It is in light of this great divide between God’s greatness and our smallness that makes our sin such a foul stench and injustice. That after God created us and loved us enough to share in His glory, we have rebelled and turned our hearts against Him in a futile attempt to be God is a gross betrayal of that love. When I think of my sin in this context, I am disgusted by my betrayal of His love and glory. In Psalm 51, David also comes to this conclusion regarding his sin. He rightfully concludes that he had sinned against God and not only was God able to punish him but that God would be justified and blameless if he did. It is in light of this greatness of God and smallness of ourselves that must realize that we can only do one thing and that is throw ourselves upon the mercy of God. In Psalm 51, after having committed adultery and murder David threw himself upon the mercy of God. He begged God for only what God could do, namely to cleanse him from the stain of sin. God doesn’t need or want our sacrifices. God already owns the entire universe, there is nothing that we can give Him to repay for our sins. God desires one thing and that is a broken and humbled heart. If God loves us enough to put us in charge of His creation then surely God loves us enough to forgive our sins when we run to Him. David knew this. He knew that only the one who created his heart could give him a clean heart pure from sin.

The great news is that this forgiveness and grace is given freely. Sometimes though we associate free with cheap but the gift of God was not cheap. In order for God to forgive and still be just, someone had to pay for sin. God sent His only Son to live the life I couldn’t and then to die in my place. In Romans 5, it says that while I was an enemy of God, He died for me. Just as Adam’s betrayal of God has led to the whole of the human race being cursed and deserving of death, the righteous love of Christ brings about our restoration. My works and deeds could never begin to fix the damage done by my sins. It takes the work of the one who never sinned to repair that damage. To think that the God of the universe would first of all create me and then second of all forgive my betrayal is amazing. God not only forgives but He gives me the promises that Jesus rightfully earned.

If it is not by my actions or deeds that I am saved then can I go on sinning? Romans 6 answers with a resounding no. Why should I continue to be a slave to destructive power of sin? If Jesus came to free me from sin and repair my relationship with God why would I even want to go back to the chains of sin.  Sin is a deadly master looking to destroy. The God who created the heavens loved me enough to free me from that slave master. Yet there are times I try to run right back into those tyrant arms of sin. The good news is that not only did God free me from sin but that by His work I am also His. Those who belong to God, God holds and sustains. Even when the times in my life I try to go back to the old master, God does not let me go back under that slavery. God’s love truly is amazing in that He not only forgives us our sin but He works in us to make us righteous.

When I look at the billions of planets, I wonder why God did not just destroy us and start again on another planet. I am amazed at God’s persistent love for us. I am amazed at the unworthiness of myself and the great majesty of God. I am thankful that God forgives and gives new life to me. It is with David as in Psalm 51 that I can say, “O Lord, open my lips, That my mouth may declare Your praise.”

Our Desires

Psalm 145: 16 You open your hand;
you satisfy the desire of every living thing.

          What are the desires of my heart? In Psalm 145 verse 16 it says that God opens His hand and satisfies the desires of every living thing. We all have desires. Desires are more than just wants. Wants come and go. Sometimes I want to eat a Reese Peanut Butter cup. Sometimes I want to read a certain book or go see a certain movie. To want something is more shallow in feeling but to desire something is deep. To desire is a much deeper feeling, almost a feeling that can’t truly be expressed in words. Desire influences want. Our choices are based on our strongest desire at the moment of the decision. So what does the Bible mean when it says God satisfies the desires of every living thing. Does this mean that God is like a wishing well or a magic genie ready to fulfill your ever command? No. Instead it means that God in the end will give us what we most desire. While this might sound like a great thing it can also be a very tragic and unfortunate thing. The bible teaches that our natural desire is for evil. In proverbs 21:10 it says that the soul of the wicked desires evil. Proverbs 13:2 says the desire of the treacherous is for violence. God is good in that He gives us our desires but our desires are ultimately for evil. People always ask how a loving God could send anyone to Hell and the answer is that God is only giving people what they ultimately desire namely evil. In Romans 1:25 it talks about God giving people over to their evil desires, “Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.” The good news that I am grateful is that God can change our desires. God can give a new heart and make us a new creation with Godly desires. Psalms 37:4 says “Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” It is only by God’s grace that I can have new desires. God is good because He fulfills our desires whether they be for life or destruction. God is great because He made a way through Jesus to give me a desire for God. I desire to spend my life knowing God and becoming more like Him. It is a joy to know that God who gave me that desire will fulfill it.

God is near

Psalm 145: 18 The LORD is near to all who call on him,
to all who call on him in truth.

Sometimes when studying theology and God, we sometimes have a way of talking about God in lofty philosophical terms that strongly emphasize His transcendence. It is true that God is transcendent over His creation. There are facets of God that we will never understand because we are finite creatures bound by time and space. God on the other hand is infinite and is not bound by time or space. God is also immutable and does not lack in anything. God has every quality in himself in infinite capacity therefore God is not in need of anything. God does need us to give Him anything. Furthermore we have nothing to give Him which we have not first been given. With all of that said, it is so nice to know that God is not some far off God of only transcendence but that He is near. Psalm 145 is a Psalm of praise to God. It speaks of His majesty and power but then starting in verse 14 but specifically in verse 18, we are taught that God is near to all who call on Him. God is close and personal. He stands ready to hear our cries and pleas. Because God is so great and His kingdom is full of power, then God is able to do something about our cries. It is amazing to think that the God who controls the tides and the winds is never further than a prayer away from those who have trusted Him.