The Problem With The “Santa Claus God”

 
I’ve been reading J.I. Packer’s book, "Knowing God", forever (it seems) and came across this description in the chapter about God’s "Goodness & Severity".  It’s a great take on how our view of God shakes out when trouble comes.  And trouble does come.  If you worship the "Santa Claus God" your hard times will be harder.:
 
"Yet the Santa Claus theology carries within itself the seeds of its own collapse, for it cannot cope with the fact of evil…. For it is not possible to see the good will of a heavenly Santa Claus in heartbreaking and destructive things like cruelty, or marital infidelity, or death on the road, or lung cancer.  The only way to save the liberal view of God is to dissociate him from these things and to deny that he has any direct relation to them or control over them; in other words, to deny his omnipotence and lordship over his world.  Liberal theologians took this course fifty years ago, and the man on the street takes it today.  Thus he is left with a kind God who means well but cannot always insulate his children from trouble and grief.  When trouble comes, therefore, there is nothing to do but grin and bear it."
 
Now for the correct perspective:
 
"He (God) is both your upholder and… your environment.  All things come of him, and you have tasted his goodness every day of your life.   Has this experience led you to repentance and faith in Christ?  If not, you are trifling with God and stand under the threat of his severity.  But if, now, he puts thorns in your bed, it is only to awaken you from the sleep of spiritual death – and to make you rise up to seek his mercy. 
 
Or if you are a true believer, and he still puts thorns in your bed, it is only to keep you from falling into the somnolence of complacency and to ensure that you "continue in his goodness" by letting your sense of need bring you back constantly in self-abasement and faith to seek his face.  This kindly discipline, in which God’s severity touches us for a moment in the context of his goodness, is meant to keep us from having to bear the full brunt of that severity apart from that context.  It is a discipline of ove, and it must be received accordingly…. "It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees." (Ps. 119:71)
 
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Healing.

 
God has been gracious to me in opening my eyes to how I have turned away from Him to find healing.  We are coming up on one of "those anniversaries" that I’d rather shoot myself in the head than celebrate.  At the end of March 2009, we moved out of our beloved house and became nomads.  I knew that with this "holiday" approaching that I’d probably be experiencing something, but wasn’t sure what.  Until now.
 
It appears that I’ve been using the sport that I love (basketball) as a way to feel good about myself and find some satisfaction in being good at it.  Last night, I played against some guys that I’d grown up with and played with in high school and God decided to use that night for me to play terribly.  At a time where I most wanted to "measure up" and wanted their respect, I fell short and left the game really feeling down.  Rather than forget about the game, I felt God pushing me to think deeper on what I was feeling. 
 
He opened my eyes to the fact that rather than dealing with the hurt, rejection and failure that has been looming under the surface of my life, I’ve replaced those feelings with false feelings of success and having others think highly of me because of my ability (that God has given me) to play basketball fairly well.  Rather than turning to God, who not only accepts me fully but is fully for me and loves me not for who I am or what I do, but for who He is – I chose to find parts of those feelings of acceptance in recreation.
 
This morning, after playing another terrible outing of basketball, God reminded me of Psalm 73 (I couldn’t remember which psalm it was as I was driving, but looked it up when I got home).  It fits me like a new pair of underwear – at first it’s restricting, but then – after awhile, it becomes a part of you (sorry, that’s from Wayne’s World and I couldn’t resist…)  Especially the ending (in italics)  – it is good for me to be near God.  He is where I find my greatest satisfaction, and he is most glorified in me when I am most satisfied in Him.
 
Psalm 73
 
Truly God is good to Israel,
to those who are pure in heart.
But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled,
my steps had nearly slipped.
For I was envious of the arrogant
when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.

 

For they have no pangs until death;
their bodies are fat and sleek.
They are not in trouble as others are;
they are not stricken like the rest of mankind.
Therefore pride is their necklace;
violence covers them as a garment.
Their eyes swell out through fatness;
their hearts overflow with follies.
They scoff and speak with malice;
loftily they threaten oppression.
They set their mouths against the heavens,
and their tongue struts through the earth.
Therefore his people turn back to them,
and find no fault in them. [1]
And they say, “How can God know?
Is there knowledge in the Most High?”
Behold, these are the wicked;
always at ease, they increase in riches.
All in vain have I kept my heart clean
and washed my hands in innocence.
For all the day long I have been stricken
and rebuked every morning.
If I had said, “I will speak thus,”
I would have betrayed the generation of your children.

But when I thought how to understand this,
it seemed to me a wearisome task,
until I went into the sanctuary of God;
then I discerned their end.

Truly you set them in slippery places;
you make them fall to ruin.
How they are destroyed in a moment,
swept away utterly by terrors!
Like a dream when one awakes,
O Lord, when you rouse yourself, you despise them as phantoms.
When my soul was embittered,
when I was pricked in heart,
I was brutish and ignorant;
I was like a beast toward you.

Nevertheless, I am continually with you;
you hold my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will receive me to glory.
Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength [2] of my heart and my portion forever.

For behold, those who are far from you shall perish;
you put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you.
But for me it is good to be near God;
I have made the Lord God my refuge,
that I may tell of all your works.

 

Happy Birthday, Micah!!

 
For everyone else, today is the first day of spring.  For our family, it’s a much cooler than that.   Today, our little baby turns FOUR!!
 
His Birth Day was quite the surprise.   We went to our regularly scheduled appointment that was supposed to take 10 minutes, and were told by the midwife that we should have a baby that day instead.  By that evening, he was here, and our family was complete.  In this picture, he’s wearing the exact same outfit that every one of his brothers wore on their way home.  It was the outfit that Dawn used to tell me that she was finally pregnant with Austin after 2 long years of being told we might not be able to have kids…
 

From the start, Micah has been silly and doing whatever he can to make people laugh.  He’s such a little sweetheart.

 

For his second birthday, we got the wild idea to move his party to the beach at the last minute.  Rare is the day that it’s an enjoyable temperature on his birthday, but we had a great time.   This is Micah "blowing out the candles" on a cupcake that was never lit (we forgot to grab the lighter!!).  When we finished singing to him he instinctively blew out the candles.  What a goof-ball.

Last year, he got his first "big boy" birthday party at Jungle Playland.  He was so excited, and when he got this sword he quickly jumped down and began his patented "slow-mo ninja" moves, where he slowly re-inacts a fight scene complete with sound effects and death.  It’s quite the sight.

It’s hard to believe that he’s already 4.  That’s how old Austin was when Micah was born.  That’s … amazing….

Happy birthday, Micah.  Daddy, Mommy and your brothers love you very, very, very much.

 

 

SURPRISE!!

 
Yesterday, I FINALLY was able to let the cat out of the bag.  I’ve managed to surprise the ENTIRE family (wife and all) with a vacation to the ocean for the next few days.  It’s probably my greatest moment.  In the words of my wife after the "Great Valentine’s Day Surprise of 2010", "Danny’s never pulled off a surprise in the 17 years we’ve been together."  Little did she know that I’d already had this trip planned, and I’m glad it worked out – not just for my pride’s sake, but also to hopefully add proof to her of just how much I love her.
 
We leave today.  It’s going to be great.
 

Good Stuff.

 
This is from the 9marks blog.  If you’re unfamiliar with Wayne Grudem, he’s quite the theologian of our day, and the accountability group that I’m in (B.O.B.) had gone through his "Systematic Theology" book awhile back and it’s worth the read to say the least.

 

Salvation is Not God’s Primary Concern

by Michael Mckinley

What is the ultimate goal and motivation for cross-cultural missions, the salvation of as many humans as possible or the glory of God?

Grudem, discussing the debate between Calvinists and Arminians in his Bible Doctrine, points out that both sides believe that God values something more than the salvation of everyone.  God surely could save everyone, but chooses not to. 

The Reformed person explains that God is primarily motivated by his own glory.  He is glorified in the fact that some are destined for eternal justice, and so he chooses not to save all. 

The Arminian explains that God is primarily concerned not to violate man’s free will.  That’s what prevents all people from being saved.

Both Reformed folks and Arminians can agree that the salvation of people cannot be God’s highest priority.  Otherwise, he would save everyone.  So it would seem that it can’t be our highest motive for missions, either. 

Missions for the glory of God is extremely freeing, because we can glorify God even when our work isn’t "successful".  This perspective allows us to work in difficult places even if there’s little evident fruit.  It strengthens the resolve of those who go and lay down their lives on the mission field.  It makes us bold to preach the whole gospel without compromising it to please men and gain their favor.

 

Thoughts?…  Arguments?…  Agreements?…

 

Not Good. Pray All You Saints.

 
Two days ago, from Reuters.  The "Western aid agency" was apparently World Vision.
 
 

Gunmen kill 6 in Western aid agency raid in Pakistan

OGHI, Pakistan
Wed Mar 10, 2010 10:17am EST

OGHI, Pakistan (Reuters) – Suspected Islamist militants stormed an office of a U.S.-based, Christian aid agency in Pakistan on Wednesday, killing six Pakistani aid workers after singling them out and then blowing up the building.