Paul Madson

THOUGHTS, QUOTES & REFLECTIONS

Month: October 2012

God’s Inscrutable Ways

The longer I walk with God the more I realize how much I still have to learn. The longer I study the Scriptures, the more I realize how much of God I still don’t understand. Why should that surprise us?

In Romans 11, the Apostle Paul, under the inspiration of the Spirit, wrote…

“Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of GodHow unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! ‘For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?’ ‘Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?’ For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” (Romans 11:33-36 ESV)

David Needham, former Distinguished Professor of Theology at Multnomah University (formerly Multnomah School of the Bible), wrote the following about what the Apostle Paul might have felt after penning the above words…

Dropping his pen and throwing up his hands, Paul says in effect, “Oh!  What a God!  Who can second-guess Him?  Who can begin to grasp the vastness of His truth?  Who can predict what He will do?  Who can trace out His logic?  Who can say “Now I’ve got Him all figured out”?

This God we worship is a most mysterious God.  Incomprehensible.  He refuses to be impressed with our neat theological boxes, as though we could write down a list of statements about God, draw a circle around them, and say we have it all…as though His being and His ways could be bound by the limits of our intelligence.

Not only is God higher than all our wisdom, Paul writes to the Corinthians, but even “the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom” (1 Corinthians 1:25). In other words, if God were capable of a stupid thought – if He were – that thought would be wiser than the wisest thought man has ever conceived.

So many of us struggle with pride at this very point. Somehow we feel we deserve to know and comprehend to the same degree God knows and comprehends.  As though he owes us an explanation for His actions! Yet for all eternity, you and I will bow before God who will always be greater than our greatest thought. His love, His patience, His holiness, His power, His purposes, His wisdom will forever leave us in a state of astonished wonder.

Does this mean that what we say or teach about God is wrong? Not necessarily. Yet it does mean that our grasp of what we say or teach scarcely begins to encircle the greatness of his being.  We stand only at the merest edge of comprehension.

And then Needham goes on to talk about God’s plan of salvation to save sinners from His wrath (i.e. “…we were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” – Ephesians 2:3)…

“The ultimate expression of God’s hatred of sin is found in what He did to His beloved Son. Is it possible for us to even begin to comprehend that huge mass of burning indignation against sin that hung over our Lord Jesus as they nailed Him to the cross?

What human being would have dreamed what God in His highest wisdom had in mind to do? That His plan was to pour out all of His vented wrath upon the Son of His love instead of upon us? That He had chosen a plan in which They – both the Father and the Son – would suffer most? Such thoughts are indeed as high above yours and mine as heaven is above the earth (Isaiah 55:7-9)!”

(David Needham – Close To His Majesty)

I have found that it’s only in humbling ourselves under God’s “unsearchable judgments” and “inscrutable ways” that true gratitude and thanksgiving can blossom. As long as I feel as though “God owes me an explanation,” I will always miss experiencing the joy that comes from genuine gratitude for all that God is and all that God has done – whether I fully understand it or not.

“Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.”

(1 Timothy 1:17 NASB)

Selah.

One Thousand Gifts

“Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him; bless his name!”
(Psalm 100:4 ESV)

“Our culture is riddled with a poisonous spirit of entitlement. We always think we deserve more. We’re disappointed with our family, neighbors, church, the waitress, the sales clerk, and the department of motor vehicles. Ultimately we’re disappointed with God. He hasn’t given us everything we want.

What madness! If only we could see our situation clearly-even for a moment.

We deserved expulsion; He gives us a diploma.

We deserved the electric chair; He gives us a parade.

Anything less than overwhelming gratitude should be unthinkable. He owes us nothing. We owe Him everything. When you realize you deserve nothing better than hell, it puts a “bad day” in perspective, doesn’t it?”

– Randy Alcorn

As we approach the Thanksgiving season in just over four weeks, I thought it would be appropriate to focus my next series of blog posts upon the profoundly important biblical concept of “gratitude.” Randy Alcorn shared some excellent thoughts on this subject a few weeks ago.

Be blessed.

Choosing Gratitude: A Must Read

Years ago, I determined that I wanted to write a book on theimportance of gratitude in the Christian life. But not long ago I readNancy Leigh DeMoss’s book Choosing Gratitude: Your Journey to Joy and realized I no longer needed to!

In fact, the two greatest books I’ve ever read on being thankful I read this year within a few months of each other, the other one being Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are. My list of 1,000 gifts includes Ann Voskamp and Nancy Leigh DeMoss for prompting us to cultivate a deeper and richer thankfulness.

Nancy’s Choosing Gratitude speaks powerfully to one of our most important issues as individuals, families, and churches. Nancy is biblical, honest, challenging, and practical. I enthusiastically recommend this book.

Thankfulness to God for His common grace and His saving grace and His special graces to us each day is something that should fill our hearts, and show our children and grandchildren and co-workers and neighbors the joy of Christ. Given what Jesus has done for us, our lives should overflow with gratitude. Sadly, too often they don’t.

“Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?” (Romans 11:35). The answer is nobody.

Our culture is riddled with a poisonous spirit of entitlement. We always think we deserve more. We’re disappointed with our family, neighbors, church, the waitress, the sales clerk, and the department of motor vehicles. Ultimately we’re disappointed with God. He hasn’t given us everything we want.

What madness! If only we could see our situation clearly-even for a moment.

We deserved expulsion;

He gives us a diploma.

We deserved the electric chair;

He gives us a parade.

Anything less than overwhelming gratitudeshould be unthinkable. He owes us nothing.We owe Him everything. When you realize you deserve nothing better than hell, it puts a “bad day” in perspective, doesn’t it?

Christians in Sudan – who’ve suffered unspeakably for their faith-are deeply grateful for God’s daily blessings. But us? We whine and pout.

Thankfulness should draw a clear line between us and a Christ-less world. If the same spirit of entitlement and ingratitude that characterizes our culture characterizes us, what do we have to offer?

If I grasp that I deserve hell, I’ll be filled with gratitude not only for God’s huge blessings – including my redemption and home in heaven – but also for His smaller blessings: sun, rain, a beating heart, eyes that see, legs that walk, a mind that thinks. If I don’t have these, I’ll be overwhelmed with the knowledge that I have plenty else I don’t deserve. And because Christ allowed Himself to be crushed under the weight of my sin, I’ll enjoy forever a clear mind and perfect body.

Lord, help us to be thankful people. Help us to be grateful for ordinary days. And during our bad days, remind us of what you are preparing for us-endless days filled with goodness and abundance, where we will look back with amazed delight at your deliverance and look forward with anticipation of the endless wonders yet to come.

“…giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Ephesians 5:20 ESV)

“…having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude.” (Colossians 2:7 ESV)

Selah.

 

Three truths that can change your life

Today, as Lisa and I celebrate 32 years of marriage, I thought I would share with you THREE truths (from an article by Pastor Justin Buzzard) that have formed the bedrock of our personal lives, our ministries and our marriage. I hope you are deeply encouraged and ministered to by these brief thoughts.

#1. God is Sovereign

God is sovereign. Nearly every page of the Bible proclaims God’s absolute sovereignty, his supremacy and power over all things. Every detail of your life, the decisions of kings and presidents, the lifespan of sparrows, swine flu, today’s weather, and each passing second of human history takes place under the umbrella of God’s sovereignty. God is in control of everything. Nothing is outside of God’s control.

If a single circumstance in the universe could occur outside of God’s sovereign control, then God is not God and he cannot be trusted. But the Scriptures reveal that God is completely sovereign and can be completely trusted.

“For I know that the LORD is great, and that our Lord is above all gods. Whatever the LORD pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps” (Psalm 135:5-6).

#2. God is Wise

God is wise. Nearly every page of the Bible speaks of God’s infinite wisdom. God looks down upon the galaxies and upon your problems, plans, and prayers with perfect perspective. God is never confused, worried, or uncertain about the course of this world or the course of your future. God never makes mistakes. Yesterday God governed the universe with infallible wisdom. Today God is doing the same. Tomorrow and forever God will govern the galaxies and the ghettos with absolute wisdom.

If God were sovereign, but not wise, we could not trust him. We’d always be worried about him making a mistake, always thinking we know better than God. But from Genesis to Revelation we encounter the portrait of a completely sovereign and completely wise God who can be completely trusted.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts”(Isaiah 55:8-9).

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes” (Proverbs 3:5-7a).

#3. God is Good

God is good. Nearly every page of the Bible testifies that God is good, that God is loving. Not an inch of evil, deceit, or indifference dwells in God. God is love. God abounds in steadfast goodness, love, mercy, and grace. The Bible tells a single story of a good God taking relentless action to love, rescue, and bless people who don’t deserve it. God has always been good and always will be good. God’s goodness is not a mood. God’s goodness is not a mood that changes based upon your performance or circumstances; his loving goodness is an eternally-solid attribute that the fires of hell cannot melt.

If God were sovereign and wise, but not good, you could not trust him. People who are powerful and smart, but not loving, scare me. We’d live endlessly insecure lives if we knew God to be sovereign and wise, but not also good. But the Bible consistently presents a threefold picture of God as totally sovereign, wise, and good, as one who can be totally trusted.

“The LORD is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. The LORD is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made” (Psalm 145:8-9).

“In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:9-10).

Preach These 3 Truths to Yourself

For the past few months I’ve been preaching these 3 truths to myself over and over again.

I do this because, by default, I don’t navigate life as though God is sovereign, wise, and good. Over the past year I’ve been convicted that my actions and attitudes reveal that I operate as though God is mostly sovereign, somewhat wise, and kind of good. I would never say I believe this, but my living reveals that I’ve built much of my life on a vision of God that is much smaller than the Bible’s gigantic vision of God as completely sovereign, wise, and good.

I feel Satan has been quick to attack me in this season, quick to lodge in my mind doubts about God’s sovereignty, wisdom, and goodness. And I imagine, in these uncertain times, Satan is quick to attack many of you, quick to tempt you to view God through your circumstances rather than view your circumstances through a biblical lens.

So, Join Me. Fight back!

When you wake up in the morning, when you feel anxious or discouraged, when you’re driving home from work, preach to yourself:“God is Sovereign! God is Wise! God is Good!” Say this to yourself over and over again. Choose to live by faith, rather than by sight.

Forget your past. Forget how you used to operate, how you used to be a prisoner to your circumstances and feelings. Build your life on the truth. Preach more gospel to yourself. Tell yourself every hour that God is sovereign, wise, and good. The truth will set you free. Your emotions will begin to come in line with the truth.

Doubt your old doubts and saturate yourself in the Scriptures. Be transformed by the renewal of your mind. Read and meditate on and pray through your Bible with this threefold lens, always on the hunt for indications of God’s sovereignty, wisdom, and love. Meditate on Romans 8 or Matthew 6 or Psalm 139. Soak in a book like Jerry Bridges’Trusting God: Even When Life Hurts.

Let your imagination begin to be filled with true images of God. See him as sovereign. See him sitting on his throne, wise and good. See Jesus-behold what he did for you at the cross, the place where God’s sovereignty, wisdom, and goodness show in clearest expression. Never again think of yourself or your problems or your plans without Jesus and his blood shed for you in clear view. Let the Spirit sanctify you and your brain chemistry as you rebuild your life on a true vision of God.

God is Sovereign. God is Wise. God is Good.

These 3 truths have been changing my life. God is changing my life. May he change yours.

“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31)

Brothers and sisters, can I hear an Amen?

Source: Pastor Justin Buzzard

 

The Gift of Forgiveness

“…and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” (Matthew 6:12 ESV)

“Refusing to forgive someone is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.”

One of my favorite blogs is by Ray Ortlund (of The Gospel Coalition). Here is a recent post of his on renouncing violence.”

“Without entrusting oneself to the God who judges justly, it will hardly be possible to follow the crucified Messiah and refuse to retaliate when abused.  The certainty of God’s just judgment at the end of history is the presupposition for the renunciation of violence in the middle of it.” (Miroslav Volf, Exclusion and Embrace (Nashville, 1996), page 302.)

The biblical message of God’s final judgment is our reason for gentleness now.

“But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God…So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God. Therefore let us not judge one another anymore…” (Romans 14:10,12,13a NASB)

“Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord.” (Romans 12:19 NASB)

“…and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously.” (1 Peter 2:23 NASB)

John Piper wrote the following about “revenge”…

“Who is a better candidate to take vengeance – you or God?

Consider God for a minute. No wrong ever committed against you, not in the darkest hour of any night, has ever been missed. It is written in a book in heaven. He knows every wrong committed against you. He sees the evil of the wrong far better than you see it. He hates the evil of the wrong 10,000 times more purely and righteously than you hate the evil of the wrong. He claims the right to settle accounts for you. And the big issue then is, do you believe he will?”

“When you are wronged, God is saying to you: I saw it. You’re right. They’re wrong. I hate what they did to you. You give me that anger. I’m going to settle this for you, and I will settle it better than you could ever settle it. Justice will prevail. Do you trust me?”

Four ways to battle the unbelief of bitterness

1. Believe that what the Good Physician prescribes for you is good! (Colossians 3:8)

2. Cherish being forgiven by God! (Ephesians 4:32)

3. Trust that God’s justice will prevail! (1 Peter 2:23)

a. We must leave room for God’s wrath.

b. God hates evil far more righteously than you ever could.

c. Though absurd, Jesus entrusted himself to the Righteous Judge.

d. If you hold a grudge, you slight the Judge.

4. Trust God’s purpose to turn the cause of your anger for your good! (1 Peter 1:6-7)

Here’s C. S. Lewis, ‘On Forgiveness’…

“To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you. This is hard. It is perhaps not so hard to forgive a single person great injury. But to forgive the incessant provocations of daily life – to keep on forgiving the bossy mother-in-law, the bullying husband, the nagging wife, the selfish daughter, the deceitful son – how can we do it? Only, I think, by remembering where we stand, by meaning our words when we say our prayers each night ‘forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those that trespass against us.’ We are offered forgiveness on no other terms. To refuse is to refuse God’s mercy for ourselves.”

Are you carrying the overwhelming, massively heavy burden of “unforgiveness” on your back (in your heart)? Isn’t it time to “let it go?” Isn’t it time to extend the forgiveness that God has given to you to the person(s) that offended you?

Life is too short and eternity is too long…to carry any unnecessary baggage as we journey through this sin-filled world.

“Be kind to one another,

tender-hearted,

forgiving each other,

just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.”

(Ephesians 4:32 NASB)

Selah.

 

 

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