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Archive for January, 2014

God: Holy Generous

Stewardship: Our Generous God *

I’ve read a number of stories lately about our military warriors, and one of the things that strikes me is the different facets of personality they display.

The same man man can be utterly tender and loving toward his children, and utterly ruthless and violent toward his enemies.

We don’t say that he is two men, nor do we conclude that one facet must (of necessity) cancel out the other. We recognize that, in our complexity, we have very different responses to different classes of people.

Mercy and justice are not contradictory, though their joining in one person is a deep mystery.

When we embrace the truth that God is filled with goodness and generosity, that does not diminish or cancel out His other attributes. He is holy and good. He is kind and righteous.

From Psalm 145:

18 The Lord is near to all who call on him,
to all who call on him in truth.
19 He fulfills the desire of those who fear him;
he also hears their cry and saves them.
20 The Lord preserves all who love him,
but all the wicked he will destroy.

21 My mouth will speak the praise of the Lord, and let all flesh bless his holy name forever and ever.

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We need not hesitate to proclaim God’s mercies over all of His creation, and even over his enemies, the rebellious sons and daughters of Adam. But at the same time, God is morally pure. He hates all evil. His goodness and His holiness are fully interwoven, never to be separated.

In the final day of judgment, we will each give an answer for our stewardship of all of God’s gifts. Did we seek to know Him and be faithful (the subject of our studies next week), or did we selfishly squander the riches of His patient mercy?

You cannot have a Bible without the clear division between the righteous and the wicked. And God’s response toward each is morally consistent.

God is near to those who call upon Him in truth. His believing servants experience deep levels of generous goodness that the wicked cannot know, though deniers experience far more of it than they dare to acknowledge.

The psalmist concludes these 21 verses of astonishing goodness by acknowledging that the name of the Lord is holy. When we embrace Him, we embrace all of Him. And because He’s God, we can expect that our minds will struggle to contain His immensity!

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* This series is part of a 12-week study on the topic: Being Stewards of God <— (outline). We’re now in week 3, staring directly into the generous heart of God. If you’d like to receive these posts in your inbox, just put your email address in the Email Subscription box on the blog’s right sidebar >

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Godkind

Stewardship: Our Generous God *

We often experience a fear-based default setting in our souls, imagining God is distant, austere, and harsh. I know I certainly experienced that unpleasant sense (and still have to battle it back at times).

From the moment Adam and Eve sinned, they felt the guilt of their rebellion, and hid from God. We’ve been hiding every since.

We, who were made for easy fellowship in the light of God, now live in spiritual darkness.

So we are prone to believe the lie that God is cruel. Nasty. An unpleasant being. Who would want to come to a God like that, right??

However, Psalm 145, which we have been meditating on this week, puts the lie to that notion:

17 The Lord is righteous in all his ways
and kind in all his works.

If I breathe my next breath today, it is because of God’s sustaining kindness. If I feel the warmth of the sun, it is because of God’s rich provision (and, here in frozen NJ, I’d really like to feel more of that warmth!!) If I take God’s name in vain, while still enjoying food, sanity, health, shelter, the love of family and friends, the joy of a pet, the softness of a bed, the taste of coffee, and a thousand other undeserved blessings…well, that is all because of the kindness of God.

His generous kindness is written all over all of His works, for those who open their eyes to see. Even those who actively deny Him are feeding every moment from His kindness.

Every Christmas Eve, we watch Scrooge as a family. There, the austere and cold one is Uncle Ebenezer, and affectionate nephew Fred is the one showing love and seeking to thaw his uncle’s shriveled heart.

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And every Christmas season, Scrooge says, “Bah, humbug!” Yet Fred persists, explaining to his wife that he means to show his uncle kindness every year. Finally, Scrooge’s blind eyes and shriveled heart are opened – he receives mercy and kindness, and learns to give it to others.

He, who was the worst of stewards, began to take care of others.

Mankind is distant and cold. God is warmly present. It is we who need God-kind – and He is right there, ever filled with kindness, waiting for us to open our eyes and hearts to see and believe.

The best stewards are feasting on mercy and kindness.

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* This series is part of a 12-week study on the topic: Being Stewards of God <— (outline). We’re now in week 3, staring directly into the generous heart of God. If you’d like to receive these posts in your inbox, just put your email address in the Email Subscription box on the blog’s right sidebar >

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Stewardship: Our Generous God *

Have you ever heard of Deism? Perhaps you’re not familiar with the term, but the deistic worldview surrounds us.

Wikipedia briefly defines it this way: Deism holds that God does not intervene with the functioning of the natural world in any way, allowing it to run according to the laws of nature.

In other words, there may be a god, but He’s not involved.

The God of Israel and the Church – the God of Abraham, Moses, David, Isaiah, Jesus, Paul, and all who adhere to biblical teaching – that God doesn’t bother conforming to deistic standards.

He’s totally involved.

14 The Lord upholds all who are falling
and raises up all who are bowed down.
15 The eyes of all look to you,
and you give them their food in due season.
16 You open your hand;
you satisfy the desire of every living thing.

(from Psalm 145)

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God is not only the Creator of all things – He is the actively involved Sustainer. He is personally involved with every aspect of His universe, and with every creature in it.

“Look at the birds of the air,” Jesus said. “They do not sow, nor reap, nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.”

But this is not just an abstraction about the world out there. It is very true of us, as individuals made in His image. A reading of Psalm 139 leaves us breathless with the extent of God’s involvement, even in the formation of our very cells in the womb.

As good stewards of our pets, we personally remain involved – generously loving, providing for, and sustaining them. With heartfelt affection. Would we believe that God is somehow a lesser being than we are?

No-one would care about being the steward of a deistic god. A lovingly involved Father, however, is worthy of all affectionate service.

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* This series is part of a 12-week study on the topic: Being Stewards of God <— (outline). We’re now in week 3, staring directly into the generous heart of God. If you’d like to receive these posts in your inbox, just put your email address in the Email Subscription box on the blog’s right sidebar >

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Stewardship: Our Generous God *

Yesterday, from Psalm 145, we look at how exceedingly great God’s generosity is. You might call it immeasurably huge. Infinitely rich. Keep trying. Words fail…

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But the psalm doesn’t stop there. Let’s consider how broad God’s generosity is. How far and wide does it extend?

8 The Lord is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
9 The Lord is good to all,
and his mercy is over all that he has made.

10 All your works shall give thanks to you, O Lord,
and all your saints shall bless you!
11 They shall speak of the glory of your kingdom
and tell of your power,
12 to make known to the children of man your mighty deeds,
and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
13 Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
and your dominion endures throughout all generations.

Consider the words bolded above. God’s goodness hovers over every single thing He has ever created. Every galaxy, every star, every planet, every plant, every animal, every snowflake, every person.

Furthermore – God’s generous kindness extends over all of time. Noah’s generation. Moses’ generation. Israel’s times of wandering, and settling, and exile. Jeremiah’s lamentable time. Jesus’ time. Yesterday. Today. Forever.

Sometimes, when we experience a particular blessing, we say something like, “God was good to me today.”

What we really need to say, at every moment and in every generation, is “God is good, and glorious, and generous. Always and everywhere. No matter what I am experiencing at this moment. The Lord is gracious and merciful. Period.”

OK, that’s a little wordy. God is good. That’ll do.

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* This series is part of a 12-week study on the topic: Being Stewards of God <— (outline). We’re now in week 3, staring directly into the generous heart of God. If you’d like to receive these posts in your inbox, just put your email address in the Email Subscription box up there on the right sidebar >

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Stewardship: Our Generous God *

Just how generous is God?

Let’s take a look, this week, at how Psalm 145 paints the portrait of God’s immense heart of goodness and kindness. As we look at the first seven verses today, consider the superlatives used to describe God and His works (I have bolded these words below):

1 I will extol you, my God and King,
and bless your name forever and ever.
2 Every day I will bless you
and praise your name forever and ever.
Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised,
and his greatness is unsearchable.

4 One generation shall commend your works to another,
and shall declare your mighty acts.
5 On the glorious splendor of your majesty,
and on your wondrous works, I will meditate.
6 They shall speak of the might of your awesome deeds,
and I will declare your greatness.
7 They shall pour forth the fame of your abundant goodness
and shall sing aloud of your righteousness.

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The psalmist writes of overflowing expressions of praise, because God is exceedingly great in all of His being and His works. Words are inadequate to capture how infinite God is in all of His attributes – including His generosity.

Why does this matter to us? Well, stewardship is all about care – pouring out oneself to provide for and cultivate others. God is THE primary example set before us in creation (Psalm 65:9-13), in redemption (Ephesians 2:4-7), and in daily providence (Matthew 6:25-34).

Will we be good stewards? The starting point is right here in Psalm 145 – meditating richly, in our minds and hearts, on the greatness of God. Gazing ever more deeply into His exceedingly generous heart, we cannot help but become more like Him (1 John 3:1-3).

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* This series is part of a 12-week study on the topic: Being Stewards of God <— (outline). We’re now in week 3, staring directly into the generous heart of God. If you’d like to receive these posts in your inbox, just put your email address in the Email Subscription box up there on the right sidebar >

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In the Adult Sunday School class this week, we considered the fact that stewardship is not a mere set of actions – it is a posture of glad responsibility shaped by our belief in (and experience of) God Himself:

Stewardship Core

When we are immersed in the generous goodness of God – poured out continually in creation, redemption, and daily providence – then we will experience the renewal of heart that makes us stewards (caretakers) in His image.

This is why stewardship cannot be separated from the glorious truth of sonship. Only a son or daughter of the King will be a loyal and responsible steward.

As we deepen our embrace of the generous God this week here on the blog, we’ll dig into Psalm 145, highlighting select verses that teach us about the depth of His loving care.

Feel free to join us by subscribing to the blog.

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* This series is part of a 12-week study on the topic: Being Stewards of God <— (outline). We’re about to start week 3, staring directly into the generous heart of God. If you’d like to receive these posts in your inbox, just put your email address in the Email Subscription box up there on the right sidebar >

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Stewardship: God – Man – Earth *

Why are people so afraid about the end of the world? Well, it’s a matter of belief.

If we believe that our actions are the only determiner of the end (or saving) of the world, we will be crushed by the fearful responsibility. If we understand that the God who created the world also is in charge of its future, however, a whole different perspective resides in our minds and hearts.

When we take the teachings of the Bible seriously, we arrive at this worldview about the relationship of God, Man, and the Earth:

Stewardship Dominion 1

God is Creator and ruling King over all; mankind, made in His image, is created in a symbiotic relationship with earth, and given the charge to rule and cultivate it.

On the other hand, if we take a God-denying posture and believe that the physical universe is all there is, and that we somehow showed up as an evolved being with no special identity or place, then we’ll typically end up where many extreme-environmentalists go:

Stewardship Dominion 2

In this perspective, man is subordinate to the earth and the universe, and any stewardship is based on the idea of preserving the environment for future generations (surely not a bad motive, though incomplete).

This latter worldview is a pretty fearful place to live, actually. If you think it through, we, as a race, ultimately have no purpose (though our hearts tell us otherwise). As individuals, we are temporary specks without meaning or eternal identity (though our hearts tell us otherwise). And we’re told that we’re supposed to be subordinate to an environmental system and not disturb it (though our hearts, our behaviors, and our history show otherwise).

And, we are susceptible to all sorts of apocalyptic doomsday pronouncements about climate change, overpopulation, fossil fuels, and the like – because the earth is all we have and we’re screwing it up. We will be biased toward fear-doom because we do not see and embrace the God who over-rules all things. The God who understood perfectly well the man-earth dynamic when He created them together.

What we believe totally shapes our attitudes and our actions. God-denial leaves us empty and fearful, trying to rationalize a worldview that militates against our God-given instinct and conscience. A right posture of worship and obedience, however, grants us confidence tempered with realism – God is ultimately in charge, but we have a charge from Him to fulfill. And He is a profoundly generous, benevolent, and abundant King – an involved Ruler – which is the theme we’ll explore next week.

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* This brief devotional is part of a 12-week study on the topic: Being Stewards of God <— (outline). We’re on week 2, discussing the relationship of man to his planet. If you’d like to receive these posts in your inbox, just put your email address in the Email Subscription box up there on the right sidebar >

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