Continual Exercise – Providence

Growing up, I used to love winding a spinning top as tightly as I could and send it careening on to the pavement. The tighter I wound it and the harder spun it, the longer it would stay in motion. Slowly, but surely, the spinning top would begin to teeter and in the end it would fall and come to a complete stop. Everyday we interact in a subtle, imperceptible and stunning way with God. The universe functions and flourishes because of God’s continual exercise of power and love.

Everyday we encounter God’s Providence. In the same way that God is independent from creation, it is this very attribute of independence that shows His providence. He is ever sustaining, ever reigning. Providence teaches that God did not create the universe and then abandon it.

The word “providence” derives from the Latin providentia, the noun from the verb providere “take thought for,” “look ahead.” As a philosophical or religious concept, Providence denotes the care of God for his creatures. Providence means that God is the personal, sentient first principle. Providence assures us that all actions come from a loving, personal agent.

God the great Creator of all things does uphold, direct, dispose, and govern all creatures, actions, and things, from the greatest even to the least, by His most wise and holy providence, according to His infallible foreknowledge, and the free and immutable counsel of His own will, to the praise of the glory of His wisdom, power, justice, goodness, and mercy. – Westminster Confession V.i

Providence lets us know that we are ever loved and ever cared for. God does not just wind up creation and then take step back to watch the show. Take a step back and drink deeply of Providence today and see His hidden hand caring for you. Interact subtly, intimately, and imperceptibly as you enjoy his Providence.

Last Orders

John 13:34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.

Every year on the Thursday before Easter we reflect on Jesus last orders before his crucifixion. In some english speaking traditions it is referred to as Maundy Thursday from the latin words “mandatum novum do vobis” – a new commandment I give you. 

I distinctly remember the first time I was put on sentry duty at Beast Barracks. The upperclassmen asked me what my General Orders were. Promptly, I popped off with the response, “1.I will guard everything within the limits of my post and quit my post only when properly relieved. 2. I will obey my special orders and perform all my duties in a military manner. 3. I will report all violations of my special orders, emergencies, and anything not covered in my instructions to the commander of the relief.”

A sentry is supposed to follow their last orders and their intent until they are properly relieved or are given new instructions. Jesus gave us last orders that are still in full effect, “Love one another just as I have loved you.”

John’s gospel is the gospel where the word love is used more than any other gospel. Even within the gospel, the usage of the Greek root of “agape” we see a massive spike in its usage in the three chapters of John 13-15. These are Jesus’ conversations with his friends right before and during his last meal with us. John puts it this way:

John 13:1   Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.

The only power that was able to hold Jesus to the cross was Love. The only power that helps us keep our promises to another is Love Himself.

Let Love Himself transform the way we relate to everyone.

No Bully for a Father


Read Exodus 7:14-10:29

Every few months we hear of father’s acting unfatherly towards their children. Fathers should protect their kids not mistreat them. Fathers should be loving not bullies. These stories are heart wrenching.  When we read about the God of Moses we see a loving father issuing ten pleas to a stubborn son by the name of Pharaoh.

Many historians point to the “Ipuwer Papyrus” to suggest a possible cataclysmic event in the history of Egypt that might parallel some of the incidents described in the biblical account of the Plagues.

Lo, the river is blood, as one drinks of it one shrinks from people and thirsts for water …
Towns are ravaged, Upper Egypt became a wasteland …
     (“Admonitions of Ipuwer”, M. Lichtheim. 1971–80. Ancient Egyptian Literature. 3 vols. Berkeley)

God is the God who acts decisively in time and space to bring about repentance and redemption.

God gave Pharaoh 10 warnings.

It is possible to read the story of the 10 plagues and mistake them for something they are not. Each was designed not to punish, but to bring about repentance. Often times we hear of them referred to as ten plagues.  Some would prefer to skip over these verses as outmoded and archaic. The excerpt quoted above is a telling part of the whole plague narrative.  It is the seventh of the ten plagues. You can hear the tender entreating of a father to a runaway son.

“Do you not see that as the Almighty I could use my omnipotence and force you to change. But this is not what a Father does. I am entreating you. I am begging you to change.”

Even in this seventh plague of hail and fire. God is giving pharaoh ample warning. The LORD is actually asking Pharaoh to tell the Egyptian people to put their livestock under cover. He desires every human being to protected from the natural consequences of their disobedience.

The LORD would have his world cling to him and take shelter from the storm. Take shelter under the pierced side of the Savior.  Hear this compassionate plea from the God who loves you and redeems you.

Ezek. 33:11 Say to them, As I live, declares the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel?

Pause and reflect on the God of unlimited grace and countless chances for repentance.

Slippery Slopes

Psalm 94

Have you ever sung that song where the line goes, “When the world’s “all as it should be, Blessed be Your name.” This is definitely not one of those songs.

For the salmist the world is not running the way it should be. In fact it is running diametrically opposed to the way many of us think the world should run. Here the psalmist is honest enough to pray his emotions. He feels angry about his situation. Even in the midst of his anguish the Psalmist appeals to dual concepts of a Just Judge and God of Vengeance (seen in Deut. 32:35; Gen. 18:25).

Psa. 94:1 O LORD, God of vengeance,
O God of vengeance, shine forth!
Psa. 94:2 Rise up, O judge of the earth;
repay to the proud what they deserve!

Often when we hear the terms vengeance and wrath we feel that this cannot reconcile with the way we think the world should run, let alone how God should operate.

God’s love and his wrath are intrinsically linked; any de-coupling of these two concepts makes him less than loving and less than just.  If we simply look at the human analogy of a loving relationship between a father and an alcoholic son.  The more a father loves a son, the more this said father will be opposed to the drink and the lying that is destroying his son.  In fact we would think the father to be unloving if he were not diametrically opposed and even upset at that which was destroying his son.

The Psalm then ends showing us how God often allows his divine displeasure to come forth. It is actually one of the most loving things he can do. Ultimately he will not force a people to love him who choose to hate. The Psalmist describes this divine displeasure as “passive wrath.” The Lord chooses to allow the proud and the unloving to fall into the very pits they have dug for themselves(v13). Even the Psalmist saw his own heart headed in this same slippery direction (v.18). But God intervened and rescued him and prevented his foot from slipping.

CS Lewis put it brilliantly when he said, “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, in the end, “Thy will be done.” All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. Those who knock it is opened. ”

One Thing Remains

One thing remains

Higher than the mountains that I face

Stronger than the power of the grave

Constant in the trial and the change,

One thing… remains


On and on and on and on it goes

It overwhelms and satisfies my soul

And I never, ever, have to be afraid

this one thing.. remains (2x)


Your love never fails,

never gives up

never runs out on me (3x)


In death, In life, I’m confident and

Covered by, the power of Your great love

My debt is paid, there’s nothing that

Can separate my heart from Your great love

By: Brian Johnson, Jeremy Riddle, Christa Black-Gifford
© 2010 Bethel Music Publishing

This song is a relatively new song and yet it’s theme is ancient. In less than three years of its composition, as a minister I have sung it at more gravesides than I care to remember. Sometimes I have sung it without wavering in tone or pitch. Other times I have been powerless to utter these words of timeless through the tears.

It is a song that is as poignant as it is powerful. We cannot sing these words without hearing Hosea and Paul through the centuries thundering, “Death where is your victory? Death where is your sting?”(1 Cor 15:55; Hos 13:14)

The song strikes a chord at the centre of the human heart. We are frail, we are weak, and our time on this earth is but a breath. “For He knows our frame; [The Lord] remembers that we are but dust.”(Psa. 103:14) Yet we acknowledge that there must be more to life. Death is not the ultimate end or outcome.

Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.” (John 8:51). His words have always struck me. Note Our Lord did not say, “Falsely, falsely.” His promise is sure, “Truly, Truly [you] will never see death.”

There is a bond between Christ and His Church that not even death can break. Paul reminds us of this in Romans 8:38-39 “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. ”

It is this invincible love that gives us courage to face each day, (“And I never, ever, have to be afraid”). It is this surety that overwhelms us as breakers in the ocean of His love.

“The world desperately needs the courage and the Christ of fearless Christians who know they will never taste death. Be one.” – John Piper