Bell Creek Community Church

A non-denominational church in Livonia, Michigan with Biblical teaching, worship, and kid's ministries.

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David Murray blogs on ministry, leadership, preaching, counseling, technology, and theology.
Updated: 2 hours 45 min ago

Expedition One: A Beautiful World

Thu, 01/04/2018 - 5:15pm

As promised when I announced the launch of Exploring the Bible videos, here’s the first weekly video to go with Expedition One. I hope the kids will find it helpful to motivate and encourage them.

If you want to bookmark a page where all the videos will eventually appear, you can go to YouTube or the Facebook page for Exploring the Bible.

If you haven’t yet started your kids on the book yet, you can begin anytime and use it with any Bible version.

You can get it at RHB, Westminster Books, Crossway, or Amazon. Some of these retailers have good discounts for bulk purchases by churches and schools.

The Lawmaker Made Under the Law to Save Lawbreakers

Thu, 01/04/2018 - 2:00am

The Lawmaker was made under the law for the salvation of law-breakers.

“They think they’re above the law!” How many times have we said it of Washington and local politicians. “They make the law for others, but don’t keep it themselves.” “It’s one law for her and it’s another law for us!”

But we don’t need to go far from home to see the same tendency. We make laws for our children about media use or driving speed, but we don’t keep our own law and don’t sanction ourselves either. We all have a tendency to make laws for others that we put ourselves above.

But there is one Lawmaker, who, though he really was above the law, yet came under it far more than anyone else did (Galatians 4:4)

The Lawmaker made the law

Christ made the moral law which is summarized in the ten commandments. These were perfect permanent laws for personal morality.

He made the ceremonial laws for sacrifices, worship, cleanliness, diet, etc. These were perfect temporary laws for a certain phase of true religion.

He also made the civil or judicial law for the regulation and ordering of Israel. These were perfect temporary laws for the Old Testament nation of Israel 

Given that Christ’s mind and heart were behind the law, we can’t love the Lawmaker and hate the law

The Lawmaker administered the law

Christ did not just make the law and walk away, but presided over its implementation and administration. He saw law-breaking and punished it in individuals, families, tribes, nations. He also saw law-keeping and rewarded it. He sent prophets to call to obedience and announce warnings and judgments for disobedience.

This is not just a past tense administration. Christ is still administering the law, using it to convict of sin, restrain sin, and guide the expression of gratitude.

The Lawmaker submitted to the law

Amazingly, this Lawmaker who made the law and administered the law, also came under the law. This submission was:

With a head full of knowledge. Sometimes we can sign up for something without realizing all the small print and conditions. As its maker and administrator, Christ knew the law inside and out. He knew its extensive precepts and its excruciating penalties. He knew all that law was, all it entailed, all that had to be done, all that had to be suffered. No one was ever such a legal expert as Christ was. He knew more law that all the authors of the millions of books in Harvard’s Law library.

With a will full of freedom. When Paul says that Christ “was made” or “was born” under the law, we might be tempted to think that this was a passive experience, that this was something that happened to him rather than something he actively chose to do. Nothing could be further from the truth. We must understand this language as saying that Christ made himself or put himself under the law. Try to imagine voluntarily putting yourself under the laws that you make for your dog or your cat, and you just begin to grasp the incredible willingness of Christ in this act

With a heart full of love. He did this out of love for the law and out of love for the law-breakers. What a strange combination! He loved the law so much he wanted to magnify it and make it honorable. He loved law-breakers so much that he put himself in their place to keep the law they could not keep and suffer the penalties they could not suffer.

The Lawmaker suffered the law’s penalties

Theologians often distinguish between the active and passive obedience of Christ. The active obedience refers primarily to Christ’s actively obeying the law’s precepts and the passive obedience refers to his suffering the law’s penalties. There are some dangers with this distinction but as long as they are not separated and as long as they are viewed as present together throughout Christ’s life, then it is a useful distinction.

Christ’s passive obedience began as soon as he was conceived in Mary’s womb. As soon as he was made of a woman, he was made under the law and subject to its curses. Not that he deserved this penalty, but rather he took the penalty his people deserved. Their liability to punishment was transferred entirely and completely to Christ, for him to suffer in all its width, length, and depth. The Lawmaker and Lawkeeper was treated as the law-breaker to save the law-breakers.

The Lawmaker obeyed the law’s precepts

“Great, that’s my disobedience dealt with!” Wait, not so fast. What about the requirement of perfect obedience? You still owe that. You’re out of the hole, but how do you climb the mountain? Christ’s passive obedience paid your debt, but you still have no assets. You’ve gone from overdrawn to zero balance, but you need to offer God a righteousness. “For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:20).

That’s where Christ’s active obedience saves the day and your soul. His perfect obedience was no less necessary than his perfect suffering. So much so, that we can say that Christ’s suffering was not enough for our salvation. Christ died for our sins and lived for our righteousness. If it’s sometimes hard to believe that Christ died for our sins, it’s sometimes even harder to believe that he lived a perfect life in such an imperfect world. Not one sin committed and, even more amazing, no duty omitted.

This Changes Everything

This changes the way we view the law. It is no longer a threat, a terror, a cause for fear, or an awful impossibility. When we look to Sinai, we don’t hear thunder, see lightning, or feel trembling. We see a sunny scene of tranquility and peace because we see no penalty to suffer and no obligation left to obey (as a means of salvation).

This changes how we view Christ. Believer, he didn’t only die for you but lived for you. We not only see our salvation in the last few chapters of the Gospels but from his conception onwards. Every chapter that records his perfect words and deeds records the righteousness he transfers to us.

This changes the way we view death. Even if we managed to live without ever doing what we shouldn’t do, it still leaves so many things we should do not done. How can we lie on our deathbeds with any peace if we don’t have a righteousness that exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees? Gresham Machen’s deathbed provides the answer. In his last telegram to his Westminster colleague, John Murray, he wrote: “I’m so thankful for the active obedience of Christ. No hope without it.”

Check out

Thu, 01/04/2018 - 1:00am
Blogs

Spiritual Fitness
I didn’t enjoy being reminded of my Dad’s aging body. Thankfully his mind is still sharp and active as this article demonstrates.

What Pastors Need to Know About Mental Health, Ministry, and Liability
Extremely important and super-helpful article:

As churches become increasingly aware of the widespread and serious nature of mental illness, church leaders may wonder how they should engage mental health ministry in the church—and what legal risks they may face in doing so.

The Doctor is In
In connection with the above, this podcast interview is well worth listEning to.

This week we bring the doctor in! Dr. Mike Emlet recently wrote Descriptions and Prescriptions – A Biblical Perspective on Psychiatric Diagnosis and Medications. He’s trained as a medical doctor, as a pastor, an active counselor, and he teaches counseling. Dr. Emlet seriously cares for people’s body and soul, taking both a biblical and scientific approach to that care.

The 100 Most Influential Evangelicals in America
Tim Challies doing what he does best:

Newsmax recently released their picks for the 100 Most Influential Evangelicals in America. I’m sure it was no small project to sift through the thousands of possibilities among the millions of Evangelicals to arrive at a mere 100. Their top-ten are Billy Graham, Franklin Graham, Joel Osteen, Mike Huckabee, Pat Robertson, Rick Warren, Jerry Falwell Jr., Joyce Meyer, Mike Pence, and the combination of Mark Burnett and Roma Downey. It’s quite a list and has generated no small amount of response. I spent some time pondering it over the holidays and thought I’d share a few thoughts on it.”

The Staggering Consequences of Neglecting Your Bible
Think you know Psalm 1 back-to-front? Think again.

To see the full force of the plight of those who ignore the Scriptures, consider it from the perspective of the opposite of the description of the righteous.

My Favorite Social Media Warning Book
“The book is about the importance of down time, spacing out, day dreaming, and mind wandering to create, to think afresh, to make deeper connections. This is an important book, my favorite when it comes to social media stuff. Especially when it comes to the constant warnings about social media.”

Here’s To a Judgment-Free Year?
Trevin Wax takes on one of our culture’s shibboleths:

A New Year’s declaration cannot free us from judgment. What we need is the declaration of God that we are righteous because of the life and death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. God has shown us favor – not by overlooking our sinfulness and selfishness, but by issuing the right judgment against all that is wrong with us when Jesus was crucified.

Kindle Books

For your non-Kindle book buying needs please consider using Reformation Heritage Books in the USA and Reformed Book Services in Canada. Good value prices and shipping.

Reduced prices on a number of commentaries in the Christ-centered Exposition series.

From Weakness to Strength: 8 Vulnerabilities That Can Bring Out the Best in Your Leadership by Scott Sauls $2.99.

Accidental Pharisees: Avoiding Pride, Exclusivity, and the Other Dangers of Overzealous Faith by Larry Osborne $2.99.

Long Story Short: Ten-Minute Devotions to Draw Your Family to God by Marty Machowski $2.99.

New Book

Departing in Peace: Biblical Decision-Making at the End of Life by Bill Davis ($15 at RHB).

Finding and Enjoying the Riches in Christ

Wed, 01/03/2018 - 2:00am

Christ is the greatest treasure that anyone can find in this world, and all who seek him find him, and all who find him find far more than they ever imagined.

One of the saddest headlines of 2017 was Man hunting treasure found dead in New MexicoIt was made all the sadder by the fact that the dead man was a pastor from Colorado who died in search of hidden treasure worth $2m that had been hidden in the Rocky Mountains by millionaire Forrest Fenn. Fenn hid the chest in 2010 and wrote a poem he claimed led to the treasure. Since then, over 65,000 people have searched the area in New Mexico for the 22lb bronze chest containing gold and jewels with many suffering injury as they traversed the dangerous topography. And still no treasure has been found.

Join me on a treasure hunt that results in life not death, and that will produce true riches for every treasure hunter. In Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Col. 2:3).

The Map

To help us find this treasure, God has provided a map called the Bible which is:

Accurate: Because God is the ultimate author of the Bible, it is 100% accurate both in its Old and New Testament versions.

Accessible: God has made it available in hundreds of different languages.

Varied: Some parts are history, some poetry. Some parts are songs, some laws. Some parts look forward, some parts look backwards. Some parts are close ups, some are birds-eye view. There’s something for everyone here.

If you haven’t found the treasure yet, don’t blame the map.

The Treasure Hunter

So, if the map is so good, why haven’t more people found the treasure? Because the treasure hunters have many problems:

Disabilities: They are spiritually blind, deaf, and lame.

Confused: They don’t really know what they are looking for.

Distracted: They are easily diverted by the cares of this world and other minor matters.

Dying: The treasure hunters are dying but don’t usually appreciate how limited their time is and how urgent the hunt is

The Dangers

As the Colorado pastor found out, treasure hunting comes with many dangers. In this case, the dangers include:

False maps: False religions, false science, false philosophies, false psychologies, and many other falsehoods attack God’s map and substitute their own.

False promises: Many pleasures promise happiness and satisfaction if we dig into them. Gamblers put a big “X marks the spot” over casinos. Other X’s can be found on alcohol, sex, money, popularity, and so on. But all who have tried to dig in these places have only come up with dust no matter how deep they’ve dug.

A prowling lion: The devil goes about as a roaring lion whose full-time job is to divert you or kill you before you find the treasure (1 Pet. 5:8).

Given the dangers, is this treasure hunt worth even trying?

The Clues

Thankfully, God offers many helps and clues to overcome the dangers, such as:

His promises: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5)

His people: Most treasure hunters want the treasure for themselves and don’t want anyone else to find it or get any of it. But Christians who have found the treasure of Christ desperately want to help others find it and enjoy it too. Sharing this treasure actually multiplies it.

His treasure seminars: He offers weekly seminars where expert treasure hunters explain the map and offer direction and guidance to motivate and guide.

There are so many valuable helps that if you haven’t yet found the treasure it’s only because you haven’t really looked for it yet. “Seek and you shall find” (Matt. 7:7).

The Treasure

So, what is the treasure? It is knowledge and wisdom about:

God: Christ is the image of God, so much so that he who has seen Christ has seen God (John 14:9)

Yourself: Christ reveals your sinful heart and your spiritual need.

The Cross: Christ makes sense of the cross and shows how although some call it weakness and foolishness, it is actually the power and wisdom of God (1 Cor. 1:18)

Life: Christ sets before us a wise life, the best way to live.

The World: Christ gives a new worldview, a new way of looking at the world’s history, people, ways, and purpose.

The Future: Christ gives knowledge of what happens after death and how to prepare for the judgment in such a way that we go to heaven rather than hell.

This and so much more demonstrates why in Christ are hidden all the riches of wisdom and knowledge. All that is valuable, precious, useful, is found in him. He is an unsearchable, inexhaustible, unfathomable treasure chest.

The Digging

“Hidden in Christ” does not mean that God wants to make it hard to unearth this golden wisdom. So what does it mean?

You have to dig: You have to go out of your way to seek it and get it. It’s not going to just land on your lap. Faith in Christ is the spade with which we dig and by which we discover more and more spiritual knowledge and wisdom.

You don’t get the wisdom and knowledge without Christ. You don’t get the treasure without the treasure chest.

You will be surprised: There’s so much more in him than we can ever imagine. No matter how long we have been digging, there will be more to discover. Ahead lie years of unpacking and discovering new jewels of knowledge, and gold of grace in unlimited supply.

No one has ever truly hunted for this treasure and failed to find it. And all who have found it have exclaimed: “I did not believe the words until I came and saw with my own eyes; and indeed the half was not told me. Your wisdom and prosperity exceed the fame of which I heard” ( 1 Kings 10:7).

Check out

Wed, 01/03/2018 - 1:00am
Blogs

Finding Our Place: Our Family’s Long Quest for Calling and Home
This is a longer post but contains a testimony to God’s faithfulness that’s well worth reading:

“We’ve been home for almost six years now. We’ve passed out of the honeymoon phase into a state of faithfulness and commitment. One of the side effects of our frequent relocation was that we never stayed in one place long enough to build the kind of relationships necessary for a mature life. We never reached a point in relationships that would test and grow us. We have here, and at times, it’s been excruciating. Someone asked me recently why we stay. Our church is small and, like so many other congregations in rural communities, struggling. The answer is a simple, albeit difficult, one. We stay because there are people here, and we believe we’ve been placed here. We stay because this is our community, this is our home.”

A Simple Plan for Congregational Scripture Memory
Barry York shares a congregational memorization plan that’s impacted many lives. What a difference this would make to the church if implemented widely.

Feeding on Christ The Genesis of Theology
And if you’re about to start reading the Bible from Genesis 1 again “here are a few theological themes that emerge when we meditate on the opening two chapters of the Bible in light of the fullness of biblical revelation.”

How To Be Happy This Year (Hint: It’s Not Complicated)
Lots of excellent counsel in this one:

Even though God allows me to struggle with depression and anxiety, I do believe that God wants me to have happiness in my life (which can be hard). And I think we tend to overcomplicate and over-spiritualize this whole happiness business. It’s relatively straightforward.”

62 Gospel-Centered Books on Marriage, Marriage Counseling, and Pre-Marital Counseling
Yes, you read that right. 62!

“I love her more”
What would you do if the women you hoped to marry revealed she was born without a womb?

“I found myself wrestling with a trade-off that in no way seemed fair to me: would I give up my dream of fathering my own biological children to be with the woman I love with all my heart?”

Does Jeremiah 29:11 Apply to You?
Russell Moore replies: “Does Jeremiah 29:11 apply to you? If you are in Christ, you can count on it. The passage doesn’t promise you the kind of future American culture prizes, and maybe even promises a future you would tremble at it if you saw it in a crystal ball. Short-term, you may suffer. But long-term, your future is co-signed with Christ. That’s a future for your welfare, and not for evil; a future of hope, not of despair.”

Kindle Books

Three quality books today.

What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done by Matt Perman $3.99.

The Gospel at Work: How Working for King Jesus Gives Purpose and Meaning to Our Jobs by Sebastian Traeger and Greg D. Gilbert $2.99.

Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions by Gregory Koukl $3.99.

Video

DNA 101: How It Works and Why It’s Astounding

DNA 101: How It Works and Why It’s Astounding from Crossway on Vimeo.

Christ’s Dependence on the Holy Spirit

Tue, 01/02/2018 - 2:00am

Christ needed the Holy Spirit at his birth, in his growth, in his ministry, in his suffering, and in his exaltation.

What was the role of the Holy Spirit in Christ’s life on earth?

1. The Holy Spirit in Old Testament predictions

There are three ways in which the Old Testament indicated that the Messiah would be filled with the Holy Spirit while on earth:

Old Testament offices: The typical Old Testament offices of prophet, priest, and king were anointed with oil. This signified their need and God’s supply of the Holy Spirit’s gifting and empowering (Isa. 61:1)

Old Testament vocabulary: The future Savior was called the Messiah, meaning the Anointed One.

Old Testament prophecies: The Old Testament predicted that the Christ would be filled with the Holy Spirit (Isa. 11:2; 42:1; 61:1).

The Old Testament offices, vocabulary, and prophecies indicate the indispensable necessity of the Holy Spirit in the future Messiah’s person and work.

2. The Holy Spirit in Christ’s Birth (Luke 1:35)

The Holy Spirit was involved in Christ’s birth in two ways:

Christ’s Conception: The Holy Spirit framed, formed, and conceived the body of Christ in the womb of the virgin Mary and using part of Mary’s body.

Christ’s Sanctification: Christ’s human nature was sanctified at moment of his conception. His humanity never existed for one second without perfect holiness. As soon as he was human, he was holy.

How much do we trace our physical and spiritual life to the Holy Spirit, the giver of life?

3. The Holy Spirit in Christ’s Growth (Luke 2:40)

As Christ grew, he depended on the Holy Spirit in these ways:

His Communications: The divine nature did not communicate directly with his human nature but only via the Holy Spirit.

His Education: The Holy Spirit was responsible for all Christ’s mental development in his human nature (Isa. 50:4-9). This involved not just accumulating facts but an ability to use them.

His Communion: He communed with his Father in his human nature by the Holy Spirit and received the comforts and joy of that communion via the Holy Spirit.

His Graces: The Holy Spirit enabled Christ to exercise trust, love, and all other necessary holy affections and graces. His personality was heavy with the fruits of the Spirit.

His Work: Christ needed the Holy Spirit for every act that took place in his life. In his human nature, he was entirely dependent upon the Holy Spirit.

How much do we depend upon the Holy Spirit for our growth in knowledge, communion, grace, and work?

4. The Holy Spirit in Christ’s Ministry (Luke 3:22)

If Christ needed the Holy Spirit in his early life, he needed him even more through his three years of ministry.

Equipping: The Holy Spirit was incessantly active in conferring every conceivable gift upon him and in increasing them as needed.

Assuring: The Holy Spirit gave Christ an assuring sense of his Sonship and divine calling to his work (Luke 3:21-22)

Overcoming: The Holy Spirit enabled Christ to overcome temptation (Luke 4:1-13).

Guiding: Christ was led by the Spirit in his daily life and everyday decisions (Luke 4:14-15)

Empowering: It was by the power of the Holy Spirit that Christ worked miracles, raised the dead, healed the sick, and saved the lost (Matt. 12:28; Luke 11:20; Acts 10:38)

Teaching: The Holy Spirit gave Christ what to say, how to say it, when to say it, and who to say it to. Nothing was said or done without Spirit’s prompting (Luke 4:18).

How much do we seek the Spirit in ministry—to equip, assure, overcome, guide, and empower?

5. The Holy Spirit in Christ’s Sufferings (Heb. 9:14)

If Christ needed the Holy Spirit for his entire ministry, he needed him most for his work of suffering.

Submission: It was the Holy Spirit that enabled Christ to submit to God’s will, even though it was so painful and hard.

Motivation:  The Holy Spirit motivated Christ for his suffering by filling him with love for God and people

Suffering and offering: It was through the Holy Spirit that Christ suffered and offered himself a perfect sacrifice to God (Heb. 9:14)

Preservation: The Holy Spirit preserved Christ’s body in the grave (Acts 2:27).

How much do we ask for the Spirit’s help to submit to our sufferings and motivate us to persevere through them?

6. The Holy Spirit in Christ’s Exaltation

The Holy Spirit’s work in Christ did not end with his perfect offering and his body being perfectly preserved in the tomb.

Resurrection: The Holy Spirit raised him from the dead (Rom. 1:4; 8:11; 1 Tim. 3:16)

Glorification: The Holy Spirit glorified the human nature of Christ and made it ready for eternal residence with God (Acts1:2-3).

Donation: He gives the Spirit to others (John 14:17-18). The Lord Jesus is the cause, source, and pattern of the Spirit’s ministry in the believer (John 16:7).

Question: If Christ needed so much of the Spirit’s presence and work throughout his earthly life, how much more do we?

Check out

Tue, 01/02/2018 - 1:00am

I’ve been in Florida with my family the last week or so, but as I resume the usual daily blog service, let me take this opportunity to thank you for visiting this blog in the past year and also to wish you all a blessed 2018.

Blogs

What Expository Preaching Is Not
Here are fifteen myths about expository preaching that should be exposed to help the preacher rightly understand and faithfully practice expository preaching.

Are You Having Trouble Focusing? These Simple Strategies Will Help
“We’ve surveyed and assessed more than 35,000 leaders from thousands of companies across more than 100 countries, and found that 73% of leaders feel distracted from their current task either “some” or “most” of the time.”

Tips to Mitigate the Effects of Performance and Sleep Decline Associated with Shift Work
This from an ex-SEAl and now MD:

Regardless of what you are hoping 2018 will bring, I promise you that everything that I have learned in my life has led me to this statement: Nothing will improve your 2018 more than making sleep one of your highest priorities. I wish you all the best.

Break the Cycle of Stress and Distraction by Using Your Emotional Intelligence
Stress is toxic for the brain both in short-term cognitive tasks and in its long-term contribution to Alzheimers and other forms of dementia.

What if cancer is a gift? | ERLC
“Four months ago I found a lump in my breast. And the Spirit clearly prompted, “This lump is a gift.”"

6 Tactics Narcissists Will Use To Silence You
“How do you avoid this type of manipulation? For starters, if you feel like someone is treating you badly, pay attention to that feeling, and to the ways someone may be orchestrating your breakdown. That’s easier if you know the tactics that manipulative people use on their friends, family, and colleagues.”

Spurgeon’s 15 Tips for a Deep and Effective Prayer Life
All prayer tips gratefully received.

Kindle Books

For your non-Kindle book buying needs please consider using Reformation Heritage Books in the USA and Reformed Book Services in Canada. Good value prices and shipping.

The Practice of Godliness by Jerry Bridges $3.99.

Wednesdays were Pretty Normal: A Boy, Cancer, And God  by Michael Kelley $0.99.

Apologetics Study Bible for Students by Sean McDowell $2.99.

New Book

Theistic Evolution: A Scientific, Philosophical, and Theological Critique by J. P. Moreland and others .

Video

2 Ways the Church Can Help Women who are Burned Out

How Great (and Gentle) is our God!

Mon, 01/01/2018 - 8:26am

Enter 2018 beholding the awesome greatness and awesome gentleness of our God. Then feel the strength and courage returning to your weary and fearful soul.

As we enter 2018, news headlines warn us about North Korean nuclear missiles, terrorists using drones to launch chemical and biological attacks, artificial intelligence taking over the human race, another housing bubble bursting and the stock-market crashing, and on and on it goes. The dangers are great and our defenses are weak.

So let’s turn from media headlines to biblical headlines in order to correct our worldview and enter 2018 in a more peaceful and trusting spirit. The prophet Isaiah knew that tough times lay ahead for God’s people. He spent 39 chapters warning them about it. But, in chapter 40 of his prophecy, he turned from earth to heaven and called God’s people to “Behold your God!” (v. 9). And what a reassuring sight that is.

Behold God’s Hand
How much water can you hold in the hollow of your hand? Turn the tap on and try it. It’s pitifully small isn’t it. What about God’s hand? Isaiah says God can hold all the water in the world in the hollow of his hand (12). That’s 332,519,000 cubic miles of water. How great is our God!

Behold God’s Ruler
What’s the longest measuring tape in your home? Perhaps 100 feet? Maybe 500 feet at the most. It can’t measure very far before running out. But God measures the heavens with only the span of his hand (12). The distance to the nearest star is 4.5 light years. That means that if light were to leave it now, it would take 4.5 years to reach the earth traveling at 186,000 miles per second. That’s a total of 26 trillion miles….and God can measure it easily with only his hand-span. How great is our God!

Behold God’s Cup
Your kitchen cupboard probably has different cups for measuring out ingredients. The biggest might be two or three cups. Again, even if we fill them to the top, they can’t hold very much. Now look at God’s cup; it can hold all the sand in the world. Go around all the beaches of the world, pour them into God’s cup, and there’s still space (12). How great is our God!

Behold God’s Scales
Staying in the kitchen, take out God’s scales and see if you can break them. He puts all the mountains and hills on his scales and they still don’t break (12). The Rockies are there, so are the Alps, the Himalayas, the Pyrenees, the Andes, and many more. Yet God’s scales aren’t even straining. How great is our God!

Behold God’s Teacher
Eh…he doesn’t have one (13-14). So different to the Babylonian gods that God’s people were about to be surrounded by in exile, all of whom needed outside counsel and help to overcome hostile forces. But our God has never learned anything or taken advice from anyone. He’s never sat down and asked someone, “Well, what do you think?” “Can you help me?” How great is our God!

Behold God’s Bucket
Over the past few weeks we’ve seen lots of activity at the United Nations. Lots of self-important people making self-important speeches. Each nation flexing its muscles and puffing out its chest. But God looks down and sees all the nations of the world as a drop in (or from) a bucket, and as dust on the scales (15). It’s as if he’s carrying a bucket when a little drop spills out. Look closely enough and you’ll see 195 nations in that tiny drop. He sees some dust on his scales and blows it off. Oh, there goes Russia, and there goes North Korea, and that speck is the USA floating to the floor. How great is our God!

Behold God’s Sacrifice
In verse sixteen, Isaiah envisages the biggest sacrifice in the world. There’s a pile of wood reaching to the sky. It’s made up of all the beautiful and valuable cedars of Lebanon. On top of this mountain of wood are all the animals of the world. Everyone looking at this altar says, “It’s too much!” But Isaiah looks at it and says, “It’s too little!” Anyone who knows how great God is, knows how insufficient this sacrifice is (16). How great is our God!

Behold God’s Calculator
Nations love to compare their GDP (Gross Domestic Product) to show how successful they are. If we were to add up all the GDP’s in the world, most of our calculators would run out of digits. But on God’s calculator it all comes to zero; in fact less than zero. Just emptiness (17). How great is our God!

Behold God’s Mirror
Soon, Isaiah’s compatriots were going to be surrounded by Babylonian gods all claiming superiority to the God of Israel. But God says, “Don’t even try! Don’t even begin to compare other gods with me. These man-made gods don’t belong in the same frame as the God who made man. I am the incomparable God.” How great is our God!

Behold God’s Seat
It’s far grander than the most impressive royal throne. He sits on the entire horizon (22). Go to the shore or to the desert and look as far east as you can, then look as far west as you can. You’ve only seen a small part of God’s seat. How great is our God!

Behold God’s Grasshoppers
The world’s Presidents, Prime Ministers, Kings, Queens, and Dictators look so big and powerful to us. So do the business tycoons and media moguls. But God looks down on them all and says, “Oh, there’s little grasshopper Trump, and there’s little grasshopper Clinton. Over there is grasshopper Kim Jong Il. And was that grasshopper Weinstein that just fell of his perch? Grasshopper Zuckerburg and Gates and my playthings (22-25). How great is our God!

Behold God’s Sky
Isaiah then lifts our eyes from earth to the heavens and says, Behold your God in the planets, stars, and galaxies. He created them all, numbers them all, names them all, and supports them all. And do you know how many of them are there? Latest estimates are that the universe contains 10 trillion galaxies each one containing 100 billion stars. How great is our God!

Do we really have any cause to fear and tremble? Do we lack reasons for peace and trust? Behold the awesome greatness of our God. As Isaiah asks us in his challenging summary: “Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, neither faints nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable” (28)

Behold God’s Gentleness
But Isaiah also wants us to think of the awesome gentleness of our God. He frames this survey of God’s awesome greatness (12-28) with two bookends of God’s awesome gentleness (10-11, 29-31). Our great God is also our gentle God who feeds his sheep like a shepherd, gathers his lambs into his arms, carries the weak, and gently leads the vulnerable.

He gives power to the weak,
And to those who have no might He increases strength.
Even the youths shall faint and be weary,
And the young men shall utterly fall,
But those who wait on the Lord
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint.

Enter 2018 beholding the awesome greatness and awesome gentleness of our God. Then feel the strength and courage returning to your weary and fearful soul.

Further Reading

The three books on God that have revived me most through the years have been:

The Pleasures of God: Meditations on God’s Delight in Being God by John Piper.

The Holiness of God by R C Sproul (RHB)

The Sovereignty of God by A W Pink (RHB).

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