Page 2 of 4

How Great Thou Art

yahwehEver met someone that you respected so much you dared not call them by their name. To you, they were Mr. or Mrs., Dr. or Professor, President or Dean. To refer to them by their first name would be disrespectful. The Israelites know how you feel. Though God’s chosen people they were in no way flippant in their approach to God.

John Piper introduces God as Yahweh:

The most common and the most important name for God in the Old Testament is a name that in our English versions never even gets translated. Whenever you see the word LORD in all capital letters, you know that this name is behind it. In Hebrew the name had four letters — YHWH — and may have been pronounced something like Yahweh. The Jews came to regard this word with such reverence that they would never take it upon their lips, lest they inadvertently take the name in vain. So whenever they came to this name in their reading, they pronounced the word “adonai” which means “my lord.” The English versions have basically followed the same pattern. They translate the proper name Yahweh with the word LORD in all caps.

This approach is not a very satisfactory thing to do, because the English word LORD does not communicate to our ears a proper name like John or Michael or Noël. But Yahweh is God’s proper name in Hebrew. The importance of it can be seen in the sheer frequency of its use. It occurs 6,828 times in the Old Testament. That’s more than three times as often as the simple word for “God” (Elohim – 2,600; El – 238). What this fact shows is that God aims to be known not as a generic deity, but as a specific Person with a name that carries his unique character and mission.

It is not my attempt to make God seem more distant by introducing him to you as YHWH, the God with the unpronounceable name. However it is my desire–in a world that takes his name in vain, in a culture saturated with “O my God” statements about good cupcakes and living room makeovers–that the grandeur and greatness of the LORD be embraced by his children.

The songwriter said it well:

O Lord my God, When I in awesome wonder,
Consider all the worlds Thy Hands have made;
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed.

Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art.
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art!

When through the woods, and forest glades I wander,
And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees.
When I look down, from lofty mountain grandeur
And see the brook, and feel the gentle breeze.

And when I think, that God, His Son not sparing;
Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in;
That on the Cross, my burden gladly bearing,
He bled and died to take away my sin.

When Christ shall come, with shout of acclamation,
And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart.
Then I shall bow, in humble adoration,
And then proclaim: “My God, how great Thou art!”

Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art.
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art!

Elohim (Part 3)

Not only is He Elohim the creator God, and Elohim the covenant God; He is Elohim, the God who is three in One. His voice resonates through the shining new creation, “Let us make man in our image.” In that instant, He confers with the Son and the Spirit. Their decision is unanimous. As a matter of fact, their decision is always unanimous. This is the Dream Team. They never disagree—never. Elohim is plural, yet consistently One.

In those early days, when the earth didn’t know the footprints of a man, where three-day old tigers explored newly created jungles, Elohim made a decision. Looking at His Son He said, “Let us make man.” Jesus, knowing that Eve would choose a bite of fruit over the sweetness of eternal bliss, said yes. Jesus, knowing that man’s failure would require His faithfulness, said yes. Jesus, understanding man’s proclivity toward sin and his eventual need for a personal Savior, said yes. No other team has ever worked like Elohim. Though He is three in One, He is One in three. There is no dissension, no difficulty. He is Elohim—creator, covenant-maker, and Christ.

In that moment of decision, Jesus looked across the years and saw you. He saw you cry in your mother’s arms. He watched you take your first steps. He witnessed your first spanking. He saw the tears of your mother when she left you at school for the very first time. He enjoyed your first basketball game, and the trophy, too! He cringed when you looked at your friend’s Algebra paper, hurt when you laughed at your poorly dressed neighbor. He wept when you went too far with your girlfriend. His heart broke when you said His name—and you weren’t talking to Him.

At that moment, He knew that creation would cause his crucifixion.

He looked across the years and saw the cross. He felt the tearing of the flesh as the whip tore into his back. He heard his own groans as he lifted the cross to his shoulders. He jerked when the nail ripped apart his wrist. He looked into the eyes of the one holding the hammer—and saw you!

“Let us make __________________________.” You fill in the blank. Write your name there. He knew what you would do to him, that one day you would hold the hammer; one day you would drive the nail. In total submission to the Father, He said, “Yes.”

Elohim. Amazingly consistent. Faithful One. He is the Creator God, the Coming Christ, and the Comforting Spirit. Jesus now sits at the right hand of God. He proclaimed with his death, “It is finished!” Never again will he face the cry of the crowd. Never again will he flinch as the hair is pulled from his face. Never again will he cry from a cross in desperate loneliness. The work has been done—the awesome task completed.

He didn’t leave you comfortless, though. You don’t fight this battle alone. No! The Holy Spirit, that third person of the Trinity, leads the way. He goes before you, is behind you, and lives within you. Jesus Himself said, “And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not behold Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you, and will be in you.” (John 14:16-17, NAS)

What a team! That’s Elohim. He started this thing called life. He redeemed your life. And He continues to make life possible through living inside you.

Before you read any further, stop and take inventory. Have you ever met a God who cares so much? Did you know that your Creator can be your Savior? Do you know Him personally? Need a friend, a guide? In this world of psychic powers and astrological predictions, looking for the sure thing? The real thing? Read no further. He is the way, the truth the life.

Bow your head, humble your heart and call out to Him right now. Ask Him to come into your heart and change your life. Pray this prayer. Elohim, Creator, Christ, Comforter, waits to hear from you—his most prized creation.

Dear Jesus, I know that I am a sinner. I need your forgiveness for my sins. I believe you died on the cross for my sins. I believe you were raised from the dead three days later and that you will return. I surrender my life to you. Forgive me of my sins. Change my life. Thank you for loving me.

Elohim (Part Two)

The very name means mighty, strong, powerful. When God chose to reveal Himself, he displayed His power. When God decided to invent humanity, He did so through the demonstration of unequivocal power. When God initiated human life, He did so as the Sovereign ruler of the universe. From Genesis 1:1 to 2:4, Elohim is used 35 times to describe God. Though other names come later, Elohim stands alone in these verses as the descriptive name of God. He is omnipotent.

The towering tree—God’s power displayed. The rush of the ocean tide—the power of God. A bird in flight—God’s power. A giraffe stretching his neck into the trees, an eagle soaring over the mountaintops, a form of a man lying lifeless on the ground until God breathes into him—God’s power. He is the omnipotent Elohim. He is the creator God.

And He is your creator. That’s right. He created you. The God who flung the stars into space designed you. The God who spoke worlds into existence speaks into the meager existence of your life. You may think He has forgotten you, that He has gone on a long journey, that you are out of His reach. He is omnipotent—the almighty God. He hasn’t gone anywhere.

Your greatest challenge doesn’t catch Him by surprise. Your deepest worry causes God to lose no sleep. Your secret fear is His public domain. He is God. If He can take nothing and make something incredible, He can take the mess of your life and create something beautiful.

Elohim—who watches the woman created for Adam listen to a serpent in tree limbs. He created the serpent—yet loved Eve enough to allow her to make her own choice. Elohim—who came walking in the garden, searching for Adam and Eve. Elohim, repulsed at the behavior of Noah’s generation. Though His wrath is stirred, his heart is moved with compassion. The boat leads His creation to safety—and reestablishes the line of descent from Adam. In the name Elohim is not only power, but covenant love. The rainbow—a physical demonstration of a loving God. Time and again, Elohim remembers His covenant and declines to administer total punishment to His people. Though He possesses the power to speak them out of existence with a word, He takes great pain in establishing His people through the spoken word. He is Elohim.

What ails you? What dominates your thinking, haunts your dreams? Perhaps it is someone. That boss you just can’t please. Your husband whose left you—again. Your children. You’ve prayed for them and God seems conspicuously absent. Answers are few—questions unending. The hurt in your heart is camouflaged by the smile on your face. God sees deep into your heart, to the very source of the problem. He knows the broken dreams, the unrealized goals.

Elohim

(This is part one of three introducing Elohim.)

An empty wasteland. Blackness. A deep abyss. Falling and never landing. Looking and never seeing. Darkness. Emptiness. Nothingness. Chaos. Perpetual night. Thick, black darkness. No east because there is no west. No up—there is no down. No sense of direction. Purposeless. Void of meaning. No beautiful neighborhoods—there is no earth to build upon. No highways. No cars. No one. The cry of a newborn baby—never heard. The budding of a spring flower—never seen. The flutter of a butterfly’s wing—never felt. The sweet juice of a savory strawberry—never relished. The aroma of a summer rose—never enjoyed. Life never lived.

And God said.

God’s voice broke the silence. His words pierced the darkness. The time had come for the interruption of emptiness, the declaration of creativity.   “Let there be light!” And there was light. God’s first creative activity—light. Oceans would have to wait. Mountain peaks be patient. Galaxies on hold. Light came first. Darkness dissipated. Nothingness evaporated. Emptiness filled.

And God said.

Darkness fled like a hunted prisoner. Never again would light and darkness mix. Never again would darkness overpower light. From this creative moment, light would always dominate darkness. Darkness settled for second place—forever. Day and night became reality. No longer would life be lived in continuous blackness. Night would always be sandwiched between two days.

And God said.  

Nothing became something. Darkness surrendered to light. The abyss became the Grand Canyon. Chaos succumbed to organization. All because God spoke.

And God said.

Three words that have done more to change the course of history than any words ever spoken. Who is this God? Who is this God who dared interfere with the status quo? Who is this God who spoke and worlds came into existence? Who is this God who displaced darkness with the announcement of light? Who is this God whose word is so trustworthy that the mere mention of his plans brings them into existence?

He is Elohim. Creator God. Designer of the universe. He is the One who broke into nothingness and left orbiting planets and pulsating stars in its place. Elohim—the One who stirred up dust and breathed into it the breath of life. Elohim.

The very name means mighty, strong, powerful. When God chose to reveal Himself, he displayed His power. When God decided to invent humanity, He did so through the demonstration of unequivocal power. When God initiated human life, He did so as the Sovereign ruler of the universe. From Genesis 1:1 to 2:4, Elohim is used 35 times to describe God. Though other names come later, Elohim stands alone in these verses as the descriptive name of God. He is omnipotent.

God Will Have His Way

Eli, Israel’s priest was aged and his two sons, Hophni and Phinehas were worthless rebels. Rather than assist in the temple worship they gorged themselves on the sacrifices. They mocked worship and blasphemed God. Eli, who knew better, only helped them. Israel’s future depended on a gluttonous priest and his two spoiled brat sons. And the word of the LORD was rare in those days; there was no frequent vision. (1 Samuel 3:1 ESV) Even God had gone quiet.

But God will have his way.

What Israel didn’t know was who God had waiting in the wings. He wasn’t a decorated general or a celebrated politician. He didn’t run a Fortune 500 company or lead a major non-profit organization. He was a boy–his name Samuel. Born from the former barren womb of the anguished Hannah, she gave him to God. Little did she know that her boy would step up to the plate in the bottom of the ninth with two outs. God called little Samuel to a big task.  And the LORD came and stood, calling as at other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant hears.” (1 Samuel 3:10 ESV)

God will have his way.

Within a short time of Samuel’s call, Israel fell to the Philistines. In a day 30,000 Israelites died, including Hophni and Phinehas. When Eli heard the news, he collapsed and died of a broken neck. Why did God judge Israel? Because Eli refused to discipline his sons. Why? Because he refused to heed God’s warnings. Phinehas’s wife was pregnant. When she heard the news of the defeat of the Israelites and the death of her husband, she went into labor. She aptly (and sadly) named her baby boy Ichabod saying, “The glory has departed from Israel!”

But God will have his way.

God called Samuel. Samuel answered God’s call. Though God’s glory had departed from Israel, his love for Israel had not waned.

And Samuel grew, and the LORD was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground. And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba knew that Samuel was established as a prophet of the LORD. And the LORD appeared again at Shiloh, for the LORD revealed himself to Samuel at Shiloh by the word of the LORD. (1 Samuel 3:19-21 ESV)

I am convinced that the answer for our country’s woes will not come from a politician. It definitely won’t come from media moguls or dot.com executives.  Somewhere in the shadows is a Samuel.

Because God will always have his way.

Ask Great Things of a Great God

ask-god-for-help

O FOUNTAIN OF ALL GOOD,

Destroy in me every lofty thought,
Break pride to pieces and scatter it
to the winds,
Annihilate each clinging shred of
self-righteousness,
Implant in me true lowliness of spirit,
Abase me to self-loathing and self-abhorrence,
Open in me a fount of penitential tears,
Break me, then bind me up;
Thus will my heart be a prepared dwelling
for my God;
Then can the Father take up his abode in me,
Then can the blessed Jesus come with healing
in his touch,
Then can the Holy Spirit descend in
sanctifying grace;
O Holy Trinity, three Persons and one God,
inhabit me, a temple consecrated to thy glory.
When thou art present, evil cannot abide;
In thy fellowship is fullness of joy,
Beneath thy smile is peace of conscience,
By thy side no fears disturb,
no apprehensions banish rest of mind,
With thee my heart shall bloom with fragrance;
Make me meet, through repentance,
for thine indwelling.
Nothing exceeds thy power,
Nothing is too great for thee to do,
Nothing too good for thee to give.
Infinite is thy might, boundless thy love,
limitless thy grace, glorious thy saving name.
Let angels sing for
sinners repenting,
prodigals restored,
backsliders reclaimed,
Satan’s captives released,
blind eyes opened,
broken hearts bound up,
the despondent cheered,
the self-righteous stripped,
the formalist driven from a refuge of lies,
the ignorant enlightened,
and saints built up in their holy faith.
I ask great things of a great God.

From the Valley of Vision, a book of Puritan prayers.

Two Roads

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference. –Robert Frost
railroad
Frost talked about two roads. The Psalmist talked about two realities: a tree and chaff. Personalize this as a prayer. Put your name in the blanks:
Blessed is _____________ who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his (or her) delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he (or she) meditates day and night. ___________ is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that __________ does, he prospers. (Psalm 1:1-3)
If you do not know Christ, or if you’re living your life by your plan, not God’s, fill your name in these blanks:
The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away. Therefore _________________ will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; for the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of ___________ will perish. (Psalm 1:4-6 ESV)
Will you take the road less traveled by?

10 Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me When I Graduated High School

now

  1. Your best days are ahead. High school is a warm-up for the rest of your life. The biggest things in your life have not yet happened: College. A career. Marriage. Children. Buying a house. That’s what life is made of.
  2. Who you’re with matters as much as what you do. Doing the right thing with the wrong people will ultimately land you in the wrong place. You can change what you do, but you can’t change who you’re with.
  3. Air is thin on the mountaintops…don’t rush through the valleys. Suffering is inevitable. It’s also when you grow. Don’t avoid it–embrace it.
  4. What you do when you’re single is what you’ll do when you’re married. You won’t suddenly change when you walk down the aisle. The habits you make now, you’ll practice then. Be careful who you become.
  5. If you write down your goals, you’ll be more likely to accomplish them. We are all prone to drift so focus is necessary. If you don’t aim for anything…well, you’ll hit your target every time.
  6. Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you get neither. (Ok, so I didn’t come up with that. My distant cousin C.S. Lewis did.) I spent four years of college aiming at earth. Heaven came into clear focus in graduate school and I’ve never been the same since.
  7. Attitude trumps aptitude almost every time. How you handle knowledge is almost as important as knowledge itself. Pride goes before a fall. (Proverbs 16:18)
  8. You’re never as good as everyone tells you when you win, and you’re never as bad as they say when you lose. (Lou Holtz) In other words, don’t believe your own press. God opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble. (1 Peter 5:5)
  9. Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less. I have no idea who said this, but it’s true. Humility is not self-deprecation; it is selfless living. There is a big difference.
  10. Jesus is everything. I know it sounds cliche, even trite, because so many people say it. But it’s true. Name one other person who, before you ever did anything good for him, was brutally beaten, crowned with thorns, and hung on a tree so you could have the life you’ve always wanted. Jesus is everything.

What a Day That Will Be!

And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. (1 Peter 5:10 ESV)whataday

Sometimes knowing how familiar words are defined can be worshipful in the study of Scripture. Here’s how dictionary.com defines these four words:

Restoreto bring back to a former, original, or normal condition, as a building, statue, or painting; to bring back to a state of health, soundness, or vigor. And here’s the kicker: we don’t know what our former, original condition looked like. We have never experienced it! We have to go all the way back to the Garden of Eden, see Adam and Eve without the condition of sin to know that. What a Day That Will Be!

Confirm–to establish the truth, accuracy, validity, or genuineness of; corroborate; verify: to acknowledge with definite assurance. Peter wrote to scattered Christians who had lost their homeland and their identity as good Jews. Here he promises them a permanent place with a permanent status. What a Day that Will Be!

Strengthento make stronger; give strength. What encouragement! To those who are physically or emotionally weak right now–God will strengthen you! It may be today…it will definitely happen in eternity. What a Day that Will Be!

Peter saved the best for last:

Establishto found, institute, build, or bring into being on a firm or stable basis; install or settle in a position, place; to show to be valid or true; prove; to establish the facts of the matter; to cause to be accepted or recognized; to bring about permanently. What a Day that Will Be!

John Newton, former slave trader and author of Amazing Grace, said it this way:

“I am not what I ought to be, I am not what I want to be, I am not what I hope to be in another world; but still I am not what I once used to be, and by the grace of God I am what I am.”

If you have time, take about 2 minutes and listen to the words of this old song:

Throwback Thursday: We Don’t Know What To Do

throwbackThis week I’m starting throwback Thursday…revisiting popular posts.

What follows is the simple prayer Jehoshaphat prayed when he received word that three armies were advancing against him–they were less than 30 miles away! From Jehoshaphat’s prayer we learn these simple, yet profound principles for praying during difficult times. His prayer opened with these words:

“O LORD, God of our fathers, are you not God in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. In your hand are power and might, so that none is able to withstand you. (2 Chronicles 20:6 ESV)

Pray the character of God. Jehoshaphat was praying in the presence of all of Judah. They needed to be reminded of God’s great character. God, in heaven, has a perspective you and I will never have. He knows the end from the beginning. For Jehoshaphat, it was important to remember that God ruled over all the kingdoms of the nations. Do you believe that God rules over whatever you’re facing? He continued to pray:

Did you not, our God, drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel, and give it forever to the descendants of Abraham your friend? And they have lived in it and have built for you in it a sanctuary for your name, saying, ‘If disaster comes upon us, the sword, judgment, or pestilence, or famine, we will stand before this house and before you—for your name is in this house—and cry out to you in our affliction, and you will hear and save.’ (2 Chronicles 20:7-9 ESV)

Pray the works of God. God doesn’t need to be reminded of what he has done in the past–we do. Jehoshaphat, in the hearing of his people, prayed God’s mighty works. What has God done for you? What mighty works has he performed? As Christians, we need only go back to the agonizing cross and the empty tomb to see God’s greatest work for us.

And now behold, the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir, whom you would not let Israel invade when they came from the land of Egypt, and whom they avoided and did not destroy—behold, they reward us by coming to drive us out of your possession, which you have given us to inherit. O our God, will you not execute judgment on them? For we are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” (2 Chronicles 20:10-12 ESV)

Pray your personal problems. Jehoshaphat named them–men of Ammon, Moab and Mount Seir. What are you facing today that seemingly has a stranglehold on you? Name it. Ask for God’s help. Be real. We do not know what to do. What hard words for a king to pray in front of his people!

But our eyes are on you. Turn your eyes on Him today.