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“God is wrathful because God is love”

Tim Keller's writings have introduced me to Miroslav Volf, who insists that belief in divine wrath actually frees us to forgive. He learned it in the Bosnian war (emphasis added):

I used to think that wrath was unworthy of God. Isn’t God love? Shouldn’t divine love be beyond wrath? God is love, and God loves every person and every creature. That’s exactly why God is wrathful against some of them. My last resistance to the idea of God’s wrath was a casualty of the war in former Yugoslavia, the region from which I come. According to some estimates, 200,000 people were killed and over 3,000,000 were displaced. My villages and cities were destroyed, my people shelled day in and day out, some of them brutalized beyond imagination, and I could not imagine God not being angry. Or think of Rwanda in the last decade of the past century, where 800,000 people were hacked to death in one hundred days! How did God react to the carnage? By doting on the perpetrators in a grandparently fashion? By refusing to condemn the bloodbath but instead affirming the perpetrators basic goodness? Wasn’t God fiercely angry with them? Though I used to complain about the indecency of the idea of God’s wrath, I came to think that I would have to rebel against a God who wasn’t wrathful at the sight of the world’s evil. God isn’t wrathful in spite of being love. God is wrathful because God is love.

Miroslav Volf, Free of Charge: Giving and Forgiving in a Culture Stripped of Grace pp. 138-139

 




The Enduring Importance of C.S. Lewis

Jack

Today is the 50th anniversary of the death of C.S. Lewis. Michael Gerson in the Washington Post summarizes his importance. An excerpt:

What if all of the ancient, recurring myths of the human race, all the yearnings of prophets and sages for the touch of God, for a visit from God, were not just the lies of poets but the hints and rumors of another world? In this account, our deepest, unsatisfied desires for joy, meaning and homecoming are not cruel jokes of nature. They are meant for fulfillment. What we desire most, said Lewis, are “the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.”

Read the rest.




Don’t You Want to Thank Someone?

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Sometimes a spiritual search begins because life feels empty, but sometimes a spiritual search begins when life feels full and richly satisfying.

That’s what one young woman taught me in one of my Anchor classes. From the first chapter of The Anchor Course:

Whenever I lead small-group studies for seekers, as I talk about the need to find a way to fill the gap in life’s unfinished puzzle, most people nod in solemn agreement. For many in attendance, life has become frustrating without knowing what it’s all for. But I vividly remember one young woman in one of my study groups. As others shared their desire to find something that would give meaning to life, she said, “I have a different reason to be part of this study. I just had a baby and my life is filled with so much joy. I want to know who to thank.”

What a profound statement! This young woman recognized that much of the wonder and joy in her life could not be attributed to anything she had earned. Perhaps for the first time in her life, she felt an overwhelming sense of what could only be described as gratitude, and for her that implied a Giver. It led her on a search for someone to thank.

We can be like pigs that came upon apples on the ground: we can enjoy the sweet things of life without ever looking up to see where they came from. That is, too many of us react to the good things that happen to us with a sense of entitlement instead of a sense of wonder and humble gratitude.

It’s true that a lot of people experience unfair pain and disappointment, and later in the book we’ll look at how believers reconcile that with Jesus’ teaching that God is both good and great. But we are not looking at all the facts if we simply point to the undeserved heartbreaks of life and conclude that an attentive God doesn’t exist. We have to take into account the undeserved joys of life, too. When we do, like the young woman with her new baby, we will ask, “I want to know if there’s someone to thank for all this.”

David, the beloved poet-king of the Old Testament, had someone to thank. In one of his poems, overwhelmed with a sense of wonder and gratitude, he said to himself,

“Bless the Lord, O my soul,
And forget none of His benefits.”
(Psalms 103:2 NASB)

I thought of this young mom’s insight while listening to Andrew Peterson’s new song, “Don’t You Want to Thank Someone” (Light for the Lost Boy). At just shy of 10 minutes long, don’t expect to hear it on Christian radio. But what a moving song. I’ll post the video, but first take in the lyrics alone.

Notice how he begins by reminding us that in the midst of our hardships there are glimpses of grace and beauty that prompts gratitude (or should).

Then he moves from the world’s brokenness to our personal brokenness. Even here, though, there is the freshness of forgiveness that provokes gratitude (or should).

But then the mood shifts. You can catch it in the key change when you listen to the video. Because no matter how rich and good life can be here, there’s so much more to come. So much more good, so much more glory. And that’s the basis of the highest thankfulness.

Here are the lyrics, and then the video:

Can’t you feel it in your bones
Something isn’t right here
Something that you’ve always known
But you don’t know why

‘Cause every time the sun goes down
We face another night here
Waiting for the world to spin around
Just to survive

But when you see the morning sun
Burning through a silver mist
Don’t you want to thank someone?
Don’t you want to thank someone for this?

Don’t you ever wonder why
In spite of all that’s wrong here
There’s still so much that goes so right
And beauty abounds?

‘Cause sometimes when you walk outside
The air is full of song here
The thunder rolls and the baby sighs
And the rain comes down

And when you see the spring has come
And it warms you like a mother’s kiss
Don’t you want to thank someone?
Don’t you want to thank someone for this?

I used to be a little boy
As golden as a sunrise
Breaking over Illinois
When the corn was tall

Yeah, but every little boy grows up
And he’s haunted by the heart that died
Longing for the world that was
Before the Fall

Oh, but then forgiveness comes
A grace that I cannot resist
And I just want to thank someone
I just want to thank someone for this

Now I can see the world is charged
It’s glimmering with promises
Written in a script of stars
Dripping from prophets’ lips

But still, my thirst is never slaked
I am hounded by a restlessness
Eaten by this endless ache
But still I will give thanks for this

‘Cause I can see it in the seas of wheat
I can feel it when the horses run
It’s howling in the snowy peaks
It’s blazing in the midnight sun

Just behind a veil of wind
A million angels waiting in the wings
A swirling storm of cherubim
Making ready for the Reckoning

Oh, how long, how long?
Oh, sing on, sing on

And when the world is new again
And the children of the King
Are ancient in their youth again
Maybe it’s a better thing
A better thing

To be more than merely innocent
But to be broken then redeemed by love
Maybe this old world is bent
But it’s waking up
And I’m waking up

‘Cause I can hear the voice of one
He’s crying in the wilderness
“Make ready for the Kingdom Come”
Don’t you want to thank someone for this?

Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
Hallalujah! Hallelujah!
Come back soon
Come back soon




Why You Exist

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(cross-posted at Get Anchored)

Does life have any purpose? If so, what is it?

That’s the first of Seven Big Questions we’ll start with this Sunday. It’s part of our citywide “Explore God” campaign. Bring somebody at 10 for my talk, and then encourage them to stay at 11 to discuss it with your small group.

The reigning worldview is that life has no purpose. It’s a bleak claim, but anyone who questions it loses cultural cache. Just ask acclaimed philosopher Thomas Nagel. He suggested in his 2012 book, Mind and Cosmos, that natural observation should lead anyone to see that there is intention to the world. He’s still an atheist who won’t attribute that evidence of design to a personal God. But just his suggestion that there is some sort of unfolding plan to the universe led to vicious attacks by many fellow academics.

But you don’t have to read elite scholars to run into the question of life’s purpose. The issue arises for most people simply through the weariness and dissatisfaction of daily living. In his award-winning entry, “Repetition,” spoken-word poet Phil Kaye said:

My mother taught me this trick, If you repeat something over and over again, it loses its meaning….Our existence, she said, is the same way. You watch the sunset too often, and it just becomes 6pm. You make the same mistake over and over, you’ll stop calling it a mistake. If you just wake up, wake up, wake up, wake up, wake up, wake up one day you’ll forget why.

Have you forgotten why?

I suggest a single word for the purpose of life.

Love.

To discover you are loved by the Creator. To trust that everything you experience is filtered through his loving intentions. To gladly respond to his commands knowing that they are for your good. To enjoy his creation in accordance with his instructions. To relate to men and women around you as those God also cherishes.

Love is the reason there is something and not nothing.

Live out of this truth at the center, and it changes everything. Let’s talk more about it this Sunday @ 10. Send this to a friend with an invitation to join you for the worship service and your small group!

(For an excellent review of Nagel’s book, check out Alvin Plantinga’s article in the New Republic.)




So True

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About Tom

ANCHOR COURSE LOGO Tom Goodman is a graduate of Baylor University and Southwestern Seminary in Fort Worth, and he holds a doctorate from New Orleans Seminary. He has served as pastor in Louisiana, north Texas, and overseas in Grand Cayman before becoming the pastor of Hillcrest Church in Austin, Texas. Diane and Tom have been married since their days at Baylor University, and they have two sons, Michael and Stephen. Tom enjoys scuba diving, watching the latest Netflix DVD with Diane, and chasing mis-hit golf balls.
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