I invite you to look at--

My Website where you will find: ordering information and chapter summaries for The Beauty of God for a Broken World; audio sermons; a few poems and hymns; and some other essays.

My Videos where you will find a few two-minute videos on various subjects related to The Beauty of God for a Broken World.


Monday, December 16, 2013

Hand in Glove

Did you ever stop to think what made it possible for the Son of God to become a human baby? He is infinite and almighty. We are frail and finite. He is larger than the universe; we are very much smaller than the planet on which we live. His ways are higher than our ways—so far higher as to be virtually incomprehensible to us much of the time. How could it be suitable for God to become a man?

Let’s take an easier question. Most of us in the northern states are wearing gloves at this season of the year. What part of your body are your gloves designed to fit?—your elbow? your ear? your foot? Gloves are made to fit hands and nothing else.

The Son of God is the image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:13-15). He is the “exact representation” of God’s nature (Hebrews 1:1-3). He did not become God’s image. The Son has always been the exact image of the Father. This is an eternal relationship.

Adam and Eve (and the rest of us) were made in God’s image, according to God’s likeness (Genesis 1:26). Notice the prepositions, in and according to. We are not little images of God. Rather, we are shaped to be like the Image of God, who is Christ. We are images of the Image.

As the glove is the right shape for the hand, so human nature was created to be the right shape for the Son of God to enter. He fit perfectly into the human body and soul growing in Mary’s womb. The shape was just right, and because the Son of God is eternal spirit, He was able to compress Himself into that tiny body without diminishing His presence throughout the vast regions of space.

Here is another thing. You and I were created in the right shape to be dwellings for the third Person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit. His task is to conform us to the image of Christ. We are gloves for the hand of God, but the gloves are misshapen and unclean.

Would you like to put your hand into a glove that had a couple of fingers chewed off by rats and that was occupied by a black widow spider (and the debris of her feastings)? Neither, because of our sin, are we fit for God to enter us. Nevertheless, Jesus died to provide cleansing blood and rose to send His cleansing Spirit into the hearts of His people.

At the present hour the Spirit is renewing God’s elect according to the image of our Maker (Colossians 3:10), but at the last hour “we will be like Him because we will see Him just as He is” (1 John 3:2). Then we will be fit to enter heaven, and the Lord of heaven will fit perfectly into us. We will be fitted for and filled with the Creator in the measure that is proper for us as redeemed creatures.

Sunday, November 24, 2013


The life of a perfectionist is hard. I speak from experience.

The perfectionist is frequently frustrated by other people. He winces when he hears a public school teacher say, “The gift is from Bob and I,” and he wonders why educators are not taught to speak English. If the perfectionist is of the confrontational type, he rapidly alienates the people he is constantly correcting. If he isn’t, he must resign himself to a sour stomach when co-workers do a sloppy job.

The perfectionist is also a nuisance to himself. He spends so long getting tiny details of a project just right that he doesn’t accomplish as much as he should. Granted, there is a place for that kind of attention to detail. As Michelangelo said, “Trifles make perfection, but perfection is no trifle.” However, most perfectionists are not creating masterpieces; they are just fiddling and fussing.

I think I am less neurotic than I used to be. I can be happy with some jobs that are well done, even if they aren’t perfect. I have also become more selective about which things deserve my best effort. Learning these lessons has been a matter of survival because no matter how hard I try, I don’t have time to do everything well, and I can do nothing perfectly. I am an imperfect perfectionist.

The more serious problems with perfectionism are not interpersonal or psychological. They are spiritual, and they come, roughly speaking, in three varieties. The first variety is represented by the Pharisees of Jesus’ day who thought they were so righteous that they needed no repentance. They thought that they kept the law of God perfectly, but they were only deceiving themselves.

The second (and opposite) problem with perfectionism is that it tends to crush the sensitive conscience. Unlike the Pharisee, the sensitive soul believes he must be perfect to earn God’s favor, but he knows that he can never measure up. He sees (correctly) that his best good deeds are tainted by sin, and he concludes (incorrectly) that there is no hope for him.

The third problem related to perfectionism is the placid acceptance of mediocrity: “It’s good enough for God. He should be happy with anything I do for Him. After all, I’m not a bad person.” God’s command, “You shall be holy, for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16), has become “You shall be nice most of the time.”

There isn’t much hope for the Pharisee or for the lover of mediocrity. They are pretty much headed straight for the pit. The gospel of Jesus Christ is specifically designed by God to reach down to those who are crushed by a sense of their sinfulness and unworthiness, as we see in this parable of Jesus.

‘‘Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’ I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 18:10-14).

Jesus gave His life as a sacrifice for sins; He rose from the grave to grant forgiveness and eternal life to all who repent of their evil deeds and who trust in Him to save them, “for whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:9-10, 13).

(Note: I published this post first in the Allentown Morning Call for Nov. 5, 2013).

Monday, August 12, 2013

The Silence of God

Over thirty years ago, I sat with a woman who had lost her husband and her only daughter. Both of them were hospitalized for about four months before they died. She said, “I can pray for other people, but I can’t pray for myself. My prayers seem to go no higher than the ceiling.”
She felt as if God had deserted her. She could not sense His presence. God did not seem to be listening to her.
I assured her that her feelings were not abnormal. She was not a bad Christian. Some of God’s choicest servants have felt the same way, as we see in the Psalms.
David, a man after God’s own heart, cried out, “To You, O Lord, I call; my rock, do not be deaf to me, for if You are silent to me, I will become like those who go down to the pit” (Psalm 28:1). “I stretch out my hands to You; my soul longs for You, as a parched land. Answer me quickly, O Lord, my spirit fails; do not hide Your face from me, or I will become like those who go down to the pit” (Psalm 143:6-7). Another psalmist complained, “I will say to God my rock, ‘Why have You forgotten me?’” (Psalm 42:9).
Such feelings of abandonment come most often in times of great distress or sorrow. The suffering believer prays, but his circumstances do not change, and the medicine bottle of divine comfort seems empty.

The thing that surprises me about the ancient Hebrew poets is how often their psalms of lament close on a note of confidence, even before their situation improves. For example, “Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God” (Psalm 42:11).
In the apparent silence of God, they discovered that the Lord was speaking more loudly than when life was sweet. He was calling out to them, “Trust Me when you can neither hear nor see Me,” and they answered, “Yes, I will.”
We see this trust pre-eminently in the Lord Jesus Christ. From the cross, He cried out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” followed a short time later by, “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit” (Mark 15:34; Luke 23:46). Jesus was truly forsaken by God for a time as He bore the wrath of God for our sins. As a result, no believer in Jesus will ever be truly forsaken. Jesus took our forsakenness on Himself that we might have the continual presence of God through the Holy Spirit.
The night before His crucifixion, Jesus said, "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 see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you” (John 14:16-17).
One of the ministries of the Spirit is to help us pray when we are so distressed that we cannot pray for ourselves. “In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God” (Romans 8:26-27).
To the dear lady I mentioned earlier I said, “I know you feel deserted, as many of God’s beloved children have felt, but the Holy Spirit is in you, and He is turning your groans into a more beautiful prayer than you have ever uttered with your lips.” And she was comforted.

(This essay first appeared in the Allentown Morning Call on June 22, 2013.)

Monday, August 5, 2013

Jesus' Death Was Not a Defeat

Several years ago, a Muslim man told me that according to his religion, Jesus did not die on the cross. He said that Jesus was a righteous prophet, and that God would never allow such a good man to suffer so horribly.

That is a natural way of looking at the world. We instinctively think that nice things should happen to good people, and unpleasant things should happen to bad people. Of course, this sin-damaged world does not work that way. I deal with the larger problem of evil in my book, The Beauty of God for a Broken World. In this column, I want to address the more limited question implied by the challenge above: Was the death of Jesus compatible with God’s moral government of the world?

1) God didn’t allow Jesus to be captured and killed. God planned it. The apostle Peter said that Jesus, who was “delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death” (Acts 2:23).

2) The greatest suffering of Jesus was not His physical agony, but the wrath of God poured out on Him for our sins. “He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed.... The Lord was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief” (Isaiah 53:5, 10).

3) Jesus was not captured and killed against His will. He said, “I lay down My life for the sheep.... I lay down my life so that I may take it again. No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again” (John 10:15, 17-18).

4) Jesus was not just a man picked by God for this fate. He was God who took on our human nature in order to save us. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.... And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:1, 14).

5) By His death and resurrection, Jesus accomplished two great works: First, He paid the debt of sin for all who trust in Him. Second, He trounced the devil and all his demons. “He cancelled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them” (Colossians 2:14-15). Jesus’ death was not a defeat. It was the first move in a grand victory.

6) Therefore, the crucifixion of Jesus was not an example of God deserting a good man to a horrible fate. It was God’s way of taking on Himself the punishment we deserve so that He was able to uphold His own moral law and yet save those who deserved to die. The cross demonstrated God’s “righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Romans 6:26).

The death of Christ on the cross was not a failure of God’s moral government. Praise God! It was the upholding of that government along with incredible mercy and love. As we approach Good Friday and Easter, I urge you to enter by faith into a saving relationship with the crucified, risen Lord Jesus.

[This post first appeared with one minor difference in the Allentown Morning Call on March 9th, 2013 In that post I did not identify the religion of the man who objected to the death of Christ.]