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Piper: The Pleasures of God December 11, 2008

Posted by heldveld in Book Reviews, John Piper.
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pipertpofgodI’ve had this book sitting on by shelf for almost two years and have finally got around to reading it. I’m not sure why I waited so long; maybe I was overloading on Piper books (3 last year) or had some other theological question I desired to read a book on, but I am thankful that I finally did get around to it. This book has a lot of what I, and I assume most of Piper’s many other fans, have come to enjoy most about his books- They are written in a warm easy to read style, with tons of scripture references and great anecdotal references to the lives of other Christians.

In the introduction Piper asks:

“Do you feel loved by God because you believe he makes much of you, or because you believe he frees you and empowers you to enjoy making much of him? It is the difference between the modern world where all terminates on self and the Biblical world where all terminates on God” (pg. 11-12)

So then if our world terminates on God and “The worth and excellency of a soul is to be measured by the object of its love” with God being the most excellent thing to love, what is God like? What aspects of God bring him pleasure? We need to know God to truly love him. Through 10 chapters Piper guides us through God’s pleasure in his various attributes and actions. Helping us to get a better Biblical understanding of the nature of God. The subtitle of the book ‘Meditations on God’s Delight in Being God’ describes well the subject of this book.

While all chapters are helpful, I found myself gain the most from four in particular:

Chapter 4 ‘The Pleasure of God in His Fame’– This chapter really opened my eyes to an attribute that I never really thought about before. He uses the story of Samuel and the Exodus to make his main point and ends with a hopeful yet challenging call to missions. How true that God desires his name to be known through out the world.

Chapter 8 ‘The Pleasure of God in the Prayers of the Upright’– Why pray? This can be a tough question for Calvinists since we know that God is sovereign and unchanging.  So does prayer ‘change things’ or not. Piper shows that changing things is not the point ‘Prayer is his delight because prayer shows the reaches of our poverty and the riches of his grace”.  God commands our prayer so we learn to rely on him our creator, sustainer and redeemer.

Chapter 9 ‘The Pleasure of God in Personal Obedience and Public Justice’– In this chapter he examines 1 Samuel 15:22 “Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offering and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD?” Since the answer is no this leads to the questions of Why does God delight in obedience and is that good news. He gives several reason for God’s delight in obedience but one convicting reason for God’s pleasure is that disobedience is idolatry, which enthrones man “obedience, being the exact opposite , in all these things enthrones and honors God. Therefore God has great pleasure in obedience.”

Yet we know we can’t keep the law so is this bad news for us? Not really, Piper explains several points but hits big with the fact that the obedience that God loves is the obedience of faith “True saving faith is not the kind of belief in facts of the gospel that leaves the heart and life unchanged’. We see that our faith gives us salvation first and foremost but it also gives us the desire to obey and honor our Savior.

Chapter 10 ‘The Pleasure of God in Concealing Himself from the Wise and Revealing Himself to Infants’– Piper breaks this out by basically showing how ‘infants’ are those who rely on God while the ‘wise’ rely on themselves. He closes this chapter with a call to both study the word and pray for illumination as the two work together in growing our understanding. He also stresses how God needs to be central in all Christian scholarship.

In closing another thing that I like about this book (and other books by Piper again) is that they awaken in me a desire to read the Bible more. He quotes so much scripture highlighting its depth and wisdom.  You soon become aware that these short quotations are but a sample of the feast.

It is available from Westminster Book Store

Calvin and the Power of Preaching God’s Word December 5, 2008

Posted by heldveld in Calvin, Joel Beeke, Richard Phillips.
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“Calvin preached from the Bible every day, and under the power of that preaching the city began to be transformed. As the people of Geneva acquired knowledge of God’s word and were charged by it, the city became, as John Knox called it later, a New Jerusalem from which the gospel spread to the rest of Europe, England and the New World.

– James Montgomery Boice ‘Whatever Happened to the Gospel of Grace?’

calvin

Interesting enough, I came across this great quote in both of the books I’m currently reading; Richard Phillips’ ‘Zechariah’ from the Reformed Epository Commentary series and Joel Beeke’s ‘Living for God’s Glory’.

Richard Phillips explains that pre-Calvin Geneva was an immoral city and that Calvin’s preaching changed the face of the city. This shows the sanctifying effect of Biblical preaching. In ‘Living for God’s Glory the quote is from a chapter by Robert Oliver on Reformed preaching. In that context we see how Calvin’s preaching of the Bible lead to the spread of the gospel.

It’s wonderful to see a historical example of the power of preaching the word.  Most importantly for the salvation of individuals but, also to the improvement of society.

Haggai on Today’s Economy? December 4, 2008

Posted by heldveld in Haggai, Scripture.
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haggai

Haggai 1:2-11(English Standard Version)

2 This is what the LORD Almighty says: “These people say, ‘The time has not yet come for the LORD’s house to be built.’ “3 Then the word of the LORD came through the prophet Haggai: 4 “Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?”

5 Now this is what the LORD Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. 6 You have planted much, but have harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.”

7 This is what the LORD Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. 8 Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build the house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored,” says the LORD. 9 “You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why?” declares the LORD Almighty. “Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with his own house. 10 Therefore, because of you the heavens have withheld their dew and the earth its crops. 11 I called for a drought on the fields and the mountains, on the grain, the new wine, the oil and whatever the ground produces, on men and cattle, and on the labor of your hands.”

The book of Haggai is written at the time when the Jews were returning to Jerusalem from their exile in Babylon. One of the tasks of the returning Jews was to rebuild the temple. We see that God has with held good things from his people “because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with his own house.”  This really struck me as I think about the ‘ruin’ of today’s church; more entertainment than worship, more pop psychology than God’s wisdom- where to stop? All the while so many of us (I’m guilty but changing) place much concern on our own homes, wealth and families to the neglect of God’s.

I’m not sure why as a Calvinist I have trouble placing God behind the bad and good things that happen in today’s world, a sovereign God obviously controls all. My guess is that I don’t want guess God’s motives or tie worldly blessing too close to God’s real blessings. Yet could this neglect be leading to our current economic woes?

My prayer is that by whatever means used God will bring a revival of true religion to his church.