There was a day when one of my fashion accessories talked back. It told me to take a hike. I had said something about it on Facebook or Twitter or snapped a picture of it for Instagram and it was none too pleased. It said it to me nicely enough, but the point was clear: cut it out.

I’ve been learning social media as I go. We all have. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and all the rest have added something new, something original, to the human experience. We are adapting as we go, learning how to use these things well and learning how not to use them badly. We learn by success and by failure. But we do learn over time. At least I hope we do.

When my children were young and very young, I enjoyed telling people about them through these social media channels. I enjoyed sharing their quirks and foibles, their little triumphs and their little follies. Sometimes I wrote about them and sometimes I snapped pictures of them. It was harmless, I thought. And mostly it was.

But I see it now: Some of these photos weren’t for you or for them—they were for me. My kids were accessories to me, a way of making me look good in your eyes or making me feel good about myself. I would only share the details of their lives and times that helped me in some way. I was using my kids as a kind of fashion accessory, what the dictionary defines as “a thing that can be added to something else in order to make it more useful, versatile, or attractive.” That was it! I was using my kids to somehow make myself more attractive. It was all about me.

But then that day came when I said something about one of them—nothing terrible, nothing humiliating, but something that would have been better to keep quiet. Later that day we went to church and someone brought it up. “Hey, your dad said on Twitter that …” or “I saw that Instragram of you in the …” Embarrassment ensued. Awardness. And later, a plea to dad to cut it out, to not use social media in this way again.

And it was then that I realized I had been treating my children as just an extension of myself. When they were babies it was easy enough to tell people about them, knowing they would never know or care what I said or who knew. But then they got a little bit older, and then a lot older. They made a transition into maturity and independence. They didn’t want to be my accessory anymore, to have me publicize what they had said or what they had done. And it was no longer fair of me to treat them that way. It’s not that I can’t say anything about them or share a picture of them, but that at some point it is only fair to ask their permission, to let them in on it, to make them equals, not accessories.

Parents, have an exit plan. Make the transition before they need to beg you to. We love to see pictures of your baby when he is born. We love to see pictures of your daughter when she takes her first steps. We love to hear about the ridiculous things they say when learning to form words and thoughts and ideas. But at some time they will be their own people and those cute things will become private things. Those cute pictures will be family pictures. At some point your kids may no longer find it fun.

 

There is something to be said for evangelism strategies and discipleship programs. My guess is that most churches have some way to introduce unbelievers to the Christian faith and to mature those who are new to the faith. I would guess as well that most churches keep an eye on the various new offerings, looking for what is original, what is interesting, what promises results. But what if we’ve made it all too complicated? What if both evangelism and discipleship can be as simple as reading the Bible?

One To One Bible Reading
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One-to-One Bible Reading by David Helm offers the simplest solution of all. “Reading one-to-one is a variation on that most central Christian activity—reading the Bible—but done in the context of reading with someone. It is something a Christian does with another person, on a regular basis, for a mutually agreed upon length of time, with the intention of reading through and discussing a book or part of a book of the Bible.” In their book The Trellis and the Vine (a must-read for anyone involved in ministry), Colin Marshall and Tony Payne dream about just this kind of thing:

Imagine if all Christians, as a normal part of their discipleship, were caught up in a web of regular Bible reading—not only digging into the Word privately, but reading it with their children before bed, with their spouse over breakfast, with a non-Christian colleague at work once a week over lunch, with a new Christian for follow-up once a fortnight for mutual encouragement, with a mature Christian friend once a month for mutual encouragement.

It would be a chaotic web of personal relationships, prayer, and Bible reading—more of a movement than a program—but at another level it would be profoundly simple and within reach of all.

It’s an exciting thought!

It is, indeed. Can you imagine this in your church, in your neighborhood, in your home? It would be a beautiful thing to see.

Helm sees at least four potential benefits in something so simple as one-to-one (or two-to-one or three-to-one) Bible reading:

  • Salvation. The Bible alone, when read and understood, is sufficient to turn a heart from darkness to light. In this way it is an effective means of evangelism.
  • Sanctification. Christians are told to encourage one another and to build up one another. What better way to do this than to learn together from God’s Word—to allow the Bible to be the training manual.
  • Training. Simply reading the Bible together is a great way to train new leaders and future leaders toward greater ministry responsibility.
  • Relationship. Many people, and perhaps most people, are hungry for more and deeper relationships. Reading the Bible together is an ideal means of growing deeper in relationship together.

This short book not only explains the why of one-to-one reading, but also the how. In fact, at least two-thirds of the book offers gentle counsel on how to actually go about such a relationship—who to look for, how many times to meet, what books to read in specific circumstances, and so on. There are even short guides to some of the books of the Bible to help those who are uncertain about leading another person through Scripture.

What I love about one-to-one Bible reading is that it extends the expository ministry from the pulpit to the pew. It is not only the preacher who is going to God’s Word week-by-week and day-by-day to teach, to train, to call to faith, but the entire church. It is not longer simply expository preaching, but an expository church where every person is leading others to and through the Word of God.

One-to-One Bible Reading is a short and inexpensive book, but one that accomplishes its purpose well. It’s just the kind of book you can buy in bulk and distribute within your church. Buy it, read it, and implement it!

by Frank Turk

From 2006 to 2012, PyroManiacs turned out almost-daily updates from the Post-Evangelical wasteland — usually to the fear and loathing of more-polite and more-irenic bloggers and readers. The results lurk in the archives of this blog in spite of the hope of many that Google will “accidentally” swallow these words and pictures whole.

This feature enters the murky depths of the archives to fish out the classic hits from the golden age of internet drubbings.


The following except was written by Frank back in January 2010. Frank explained how and why a concrete love of neighbor (as in the Parable of the Good Samaritan) glorifies God.

As usual, the comments are closed.

There’s a way in which God is glorified which, I think, we overlook pretty regularly. And I have a passage of Scripture about that which I’d like to present and discuss:

And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”

Think about that: for Jesus, it was enough to say that loving God greatly (with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind) and loving men particularly (that is, the same way you love yourself) to warrant the inheritance of eternal life. There’s no mention there of resurrection or repentance, is there? Yet Christ says, “You have answered correctly; do this and you will live.”

Was Jesus preaching “sloppy agape”? Where’s the Glory of God? Where’s the law, and man’s inability? Doesn't this conversation intimate a synergistic view? How could the lawyer who was testing Him be “correct” to say that the Law demands love — in the right way, and two different kinds of love to be sure – and that this is enough to gain eternal life?

Now, think on this: the matter of loving God as it is manifest in loving people is what is at stake here. The lawyer asked the question “who is my neighbor” to “justify” himself – that is, either to demonstrate that his first question was not a trap, or to demonstrate that he is not himself a fool for asking a ridiculously simple question.

So the matter of “who is my neighbor” is about how we keep the commandment to love God and love our neighbor. And in that, Christ [as Luke tells it] gives us 3 examples of men who have some relationship with God and with an actual person.

You've heard this sermon before, I am sure: the priest avoided the man; the Levite avoided the man. But the Samaritan did not avoid the man. It seems like a kindergarten Sunday school lesson, I am sure, but let’s think about this for a minute. In John 4, the woman [a Samaritan] at the well said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans, John makes clear) That is, the Samaritans worship God apart from the Jews, and the Jews think that because of this, there is enmity between them – the Samaritans are rather less than lovers of God.

But it is the Samaritan who, as Jesus says, “proved to be a neighbor”.

Consider it: the Levite and the priest have the temple, and its sacrifices – but what do those things cause them to do? The Lawyer can cite the Sh’ma, and connect the admonition of the Sh’ma to obey God and His law to the broad command of Lev 19 which says, frankly, that you shall love your neighbor as yourself in a concrete way. Don’t lie; don’t steal; don’t cheat; care for the poor from your own portion; do not take vengeance, and do not do injustice in court. But Christ tells him that loving God requires you to love people. You can't be doing the former unless you are doing the latter.

See: God is glorified when we love. That may seem somewhat uncontroversial to some people, but there’s a reason God is glorified when we love: it is because God loves. The fact – the indisputable fact of the Bible – is that God loves men, and that love is glorifying to God.


The False Teachers

A couple of weeks ago I set out on a new series of articles through which I intend to scan the history of the church—from its earliest days all the way to the present time—to examine some of Christianity’s most notorious false teachers. Along the way we will visit such figures as Arius, Servetus, Fosdick, and even a few you might find on television today. We continue this morning with a false teacher whose teaching is known in almost every part of the world. His name is Muhammad.

Muhammad

Muhammad was born around 570 in Mecca in what is now the nation of Saudi Arabia. This was an area where there were significant populations of both Christians and Jews, so there was access to the Scriptures and the teachings of both the Old Testament and the New Testament. Muslims claim that Muhammad was a direct descendent of Ishmael, and thus of Abraham, though the only evidence to support this comes through oral tradition. Muhammad’s father died before he was born and his mother sent him as an infant to live in the desert with Bedouins in order to become acquainted with Arab traditions. While in the desert he is said to have encountered two angels who opened his chest and cleansed his heart with snow, symbolic of Islam’s teaching that he was purified and protected from all sin.

Muhammad returned to Mecca sometime soon after. His mother passed away when he was 6 and he came under the immediate care of his grandfather and then his uncle. At 25 he married a wealthy Meccan woman who was 15 years his senior.

By the age of 35, Muhammed had become highly respected in Mecca, largely for his piety. He would often go into the desert to meditate and pray, and on one of these retreats, at the age of 40, he is said to have been visited by the angel Gabriel. It was here that he received the beginnings of revelation that would become the Qur’an. This process of revelation, which was sometimes mediated through Gabriel and other times came directly to his heart, lasted approximately 23 years, and ended shortly before his death.

Around the age of 50 Muhammad had his most significant spiritual experience. One night he was taken by Gabriel to Jerusalem, and from there he ascended to the very presence of God. On the way to the throne he met earlier prophets, such as Moses and Jesus. According to Britannica, “Muhammad is said to have received the supreme treasury of knowledge while he stood and then prostrated himself before the divine throne. God also revealed to him the final form and number of the Islamic daily prayers.”

Muhammad’s religion was not joyfully received by all those around him. He experienced opposition in Mecca, and some of his adherents even faced persecution for following him. In 621 the city of Yathrib approached Muhammad about becoming their leader, hoping he might end a long-standing battle for power between the city’s tribes. On September 25, 622, Muhammad arrived in the city, renamed it Medina, and ensured that Islam became the established religious and social rule with himself as supreme judge and interpreter. It was also in this year that Islam was explicitly defined as purely monotheistic and Abrahamic.

Before long, those who had opposed Muhammad in Mecca became determined to crush the rise of Islam in Medina. What followed was many years of battles of both self-defense and conquest as he attempted to unite all of Arabia under the banner of Islam. His ambition to spread Islam led him to many great successes.” By 631 Muhammad had brought to a close ‘the age of ignorance,’ as Muslims called the pre-Islamic epoch in Arabia. He united the Arabs for the first time in history under the banner of Islam and broke the hold of tribal bonds as the ultimate links between an Arab and the society around him. Although tribal relations were not fully destroyed, they were now transcended by a more powerful bond based on religion” (Britannica).

In 632 Muhammad fell ill and three days later passed away on June 8th. He was buried in his house in Medina.

False teaching

Muhammad’s teaching is embodied in the Qur’an. Because Muhammad is the sole source of the Qur’an, and because he is said to have known, believed and obeyed it better than anyone, we have little difficulty knowing exactly what he taught. Among many heterodox teachings in the Qur’an, the most significant may be its misrepresentation of Jesus.

Muhammad and the Qur’an taught many true things about Jesus, such as his virgin birth and miracles, and for this reason Muslims claim to honor Jesus. But they actually deny the deepest and truest realities about him, and in that way diminish and dishonor him. Instead of holding him as the Son of God, they demote him to the position of mere prophet, no greater than Moses or Noah or Abraham … or Muhammad himself. “Christ, the son of Mary, was no more than a messenger; many were the messengers that passed away before him. His mother was a woman of truth.” (Surah 5:75; cf. 5:116-120)

In addition, the Qur’an claims that Jesus was not in fact crucified. Instead, according to most interpretations, another person who was made to look like him was killed in his place, while Jesus escaped and was taken up into heaven without dying. “And they said we have killed the Messiah Jesus son of Mary, the Messenger of God. They did not kill him, nor did they crucify him, though it was made to appear like that to them; those that disagreed about him are full of doubt, with no knowledge to follow, only supposition: they certainly did not kill him. On the contrary, God raised him unto himself. God is almighty and wise.” (Surah 4:157-158)

Followers and modern adherents

All Qur’an-believing Muslims of the past and present hold to these very same false teachings about Jesus. What Muhammad taught, they still believe. In this way, there are some 1.6 billion of his followers in the world today and together they comprise 23% of the world’s population.

What the Bible says

The Bible is clear that Jesus was indeed a prophet (Matthew 13:57; Deut 18:15), but he was much more than that. He is and was the very Son of God, the second person of the Trinity, co-equal and co-divine with the Father (Hebrews 1:1-4; Colossians 1:15-20; 2:9). It was only if Jesus was both divine and human that he would be able to stand as mediator between holy God and sinful man.

The Bible also makes it clear that Jesus was not spared from the cross. God the Father willed for him to be crucified, and Jesus, in history’s greatest demonstration of love and obedience, accepted and drank that cup of God’s bitter wrath (Isaiah 53:9-10; Philippians 2:8-11). He did ascend into heaven, but only after he really and actually died and only after he really and actually rose from the dead (Acts 1:1-3, 9).

We All Feel Like Frauds

Sometimes we all feel like frauds. At times we feel like everyone else is experiencing something so wonderful while we are just putting on a show. Their relationships are so deep, their friendships are so real, their faith is so strong, their worship is so heartfelt, their marriage is so satisfying. But our relationships are so shallow, our friendships are so fake, our faith is so weak, our worship is so distracted, our marriage is so difficult.

That’s life under this sun. It’s a life of inadequacy, a life where we are never as fulfilled and satisfied as we want to be. For all the genuine joys this life brings, there is still and always the lingering sorrow of all that life is not and will never be.

Sometimes I like to sit and think about the books that push their way onto the lists of bestsellers. Almost by definition, each of the books that sells a half million or a million copies is addressing some kind of deep felt need. After all, why else would you buy it and why else would you recommend it to a friend except that it meets you where you’re at—it promises help in an area in which you feel incomplete or inadequate.

  • The Purpose Driven Life promised to answer the ultimate question of life by helping us find our purpose. And who hasn’t felt unmoored, adrift, and purposeless in this world?
  • Jesus Calling promised us more than hearing from God through the Bible. It held out the promise, or the possibility, that Jesus might speak to us in a new and fresh way and, perhaps even better, in a personal way.
  • The Five Love Languages promised that it would give us better and longer-lasting relationships as we figured out how to relate in healthier ways.
  • The Shack promised a new way to understand God and a much more personal way to relate to him than any we have known this side of Eden.
  • 90 Minutes in Heaven and Heaven Is For Real—and all the other entries in the “I Went to Heaven” genre—promised answers to what we can only take by faith: that there is hope and life beyond the grave.
  • Radical promised to help us shake off the unfulfilling dullness of the American Dream and to pursue something so much bigger and nobler than the accumulation of possessions and a savings account.
  • Your Best Life Now promised that our lives could be better and happier, more fulfilling and more positive.

And on it goes. Every time a book hits the list of bestsellers, it is worth asking why it is there and what need it promises to address. There is the occasional exception, the occasional book that sells a million copies based on the popularity of the author (see anything related to Duck Dynasty) or because of brilliant marketing, but most books make the list because we put them there as we try to find answers to our deepest needs. Some of the most popular authors are adept at writing to our needs, even if they don’t answer them in a compelling and satisfying way.

A year ago I wrote about this very topic and suggested that the solution is found in Ecclesiastes and the single word Vapor. This was the refuge of Solomon in his book of Ecclesiastes. He begins his book and he ends it with the same cry of discontent: “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity.” All of the pursuits of this life are vanity, all of them are vapor, all of them are chasing after the wind, an impossible pursuit that never ends and never brings deep and lasting satisfaction.

Has anyone in all of literary history written words that are more poignant, more unflinchingly realistic, than these?

All things are full of weariness;
a man cannot utter it;
the eye is not satisfied with seeing,
nor the ear filled with hearing.
What has been is what will be,
and what has been done is what will be done,
and there is nothing new under the sun.

Has anyone ever written words than ring truer? We are dissatisfied because we must be dissatisfied. God has put eternity in our hearts (Ecc. 3:11) but we locked ourselves in a temporal world. God created us to find our highest joy and delight in him, but we chose to seek delight in the things he made. We worship the creation rather than the Creator. Even those of us who have been drawn back to the Creator still turn to this side and that, to this idol and that.

We can cry out that we were made for more, that we were meant for more, from now until eternity. We will cry out from now until eternity. We will simply be expressing what Solomon told us so much more pointedly so many years ago. “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity.” This world cannot deliver all we want from it. This life cannot deliver all the satisfaction we long for.

This dissatisfaction is ugly when it paralyzes us with guilt or when it motivates us to act rashly out of guilt. It is unhelpful when it traps us in complacency and despair. Solomon did not advocate guilt, he did not cry out in complacency and hopelessness. Far from it.

I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man.

This dissatisfaction is a gift when it motivates us to pursue the best and purest source of delight. God’s gift to us is that we find all the pleasure we can, all the pleasure there is, in the good things of this life. God’s gift is that we can pause and enjoy the rich scent of a rose in full bloom. We can linger in lovemaking and enjoy the pleasure of every sensation. We can watch the sunset until darkness has taken the sun’s last ray from the sky. These are pleasures to enjoy to the full and with God’s richest blessing.

Even two thousand years ago Solomon could say, “Of making many books there is no end.” There is no end of books that expose our dissatisfaction and propose solutions. None of the solutions last. None of the solutions deliver all we want and all we long for. You could follow every application in every one of those books and you would still be discontent. We will all die dissatisfied, still longing for more. But. But those who die in Christ have the great promise that we will awake to all the pleasures, all the satisfaction we have ever longed for, and so much more besides.

by Frank Turk

From 2006 to 2012, PyroManiacs turned out almost-daily updates from the Post-Evangelical wasteland — usually to the fear and loathing of more-polite and more-irenic bloggers and readers. The results lurk in the archives of this blog in spite of the hope of many that Google will “accidentally” swallow these words and pictures whole.

This feature enters the murky depths of the archives to fish out the classic hits from the golden age of internet drubbings.


The following except was written by Frank back in February 2007. Frank pointed out the necessity of the right kind of hermeneutic.

As usual, the comments are closed.

Can the Bible be figured out? If Deu 6 is one explanation of what Scripture is and does, how does it turn out that so many people disagree about what Scripture says, and how do I make sure that I don’t fumble the football?

We have to use Scripture the way Christ used Scripture. We have to use it the way John the Baptist used it. We have to use it the way Paul and Peter used it – and Stephen, and James, and John and Matthew and Mark and Luke.

You know: the hermeneutic of the men who delivered the word of God to people as prophets and apostles is not actually a very complicated hermeneutic. It is a rigorous hermeneutic, to be sure. And it is hardly an “objective” hermeneutic in the sense that it calls for the reader to be sort of a flavorless paste. And it requires something from us, to be sure. The position these men all put Scripture in was one which is above human reasoning in such a way as to guide and form human reasoning.

But the problem with people today is that we prefer a more-complicated hermeneutic. We have things we like just the way they are, and sometimes we want to find a way to justify that. We can do extraordinary linguistic studies to find out if God saved anyone eternally in the Old Testament in order to justify our truncating of the New Testament expression of salvation; we can do the same thing to make a sin out of wine-drinking, and out of married love, and to tone down the problem of excessive riches because we live in an excessively-rich society. We can use Scripture to buttress our beliefs in the church to make it more than it ought to be, and also less than it ought to be.

What we ought to do with Scripture is come to it in complete poverty and desperation, knowing that it is the wisdom of God which makes the wisdom of men look like foolishness. Our hermeneutic ought to be one where we frame ourselves not as peers to the writer but as abject beggars before the writer. Our hermeneutic ought to be the sinner who will die without God’s intervention.

That’s what Deu 6 says, isn’t it? The word God has commanded is there for us to remember who God is when we think we have enough that we can live without Him. The word of God ought to be taking us down a notch from satisfied to grateful, from safe to seeking refuge, from comfortable to poor in spirit. You can know your conclusion about the word of God is sound when what you have brought out of the text something you could have never put in there. When you are a student of the text, drawn there by God’s wisdom in the face of your own foolishness, you will be getting it right.


There is a lot to look forward to when the Lord returns and when we begin life anew in the new heaven and new earth. I guess you could say that infinite pleasures await there—pleasures that will know no end, because time will know no end. The greatest of all these pleasures will undoubtedly be the ability to be face-to-face with God at last, free from all traces of sin and evil. Of all heaven’s treasures, none offers more than this.

But heaven’s greatest pleasure is not it’s only pleasure. Lately I have been thinking about another joy that awaits—the joy of a very different relationship with time. When we are mortal, time is a finite resource. But when ten thousand years is as a day, and a day as ten thousand years, time will be infinite and we will be immortal. That will change everything.

I thought about this last week when I traveled to Grace College in Indiana to speak at a few of their chapel services. I had chosen to accept their invitation and was grateful for the opportunity—I enjoyed speaking to the students and I enjoyed getting to know a few of them. There are few things I like more than spending time with Christian college students. Yet in choosing to accept the invitation, I had to choose not to do other good things for those two days.

One of the most exasperating parts of life in this world is that I must constantly choose the good things not to do. So much of life is not the choice between good and bad, but between good and good. Even in the joy of doing one good thing, there is the sorrow of not being able to do another good thing. Three days spent in Indiana, is three days spent apart from my wife and my children. It is three days away from the people I love; I will never get those days back. I have been given perhaps 7,000 or 8,000 days with my children before they move out to begin life on their own, and in going away, I permanently traded away three of those precious days.

This is an inevitable result of being mortal. Each of us has a finite amount of time allotted to us in this world. We do not know how much time we have, but we do know that our time will come to an end. No matter how many years we have, one thing remains true: we will not do all the things we would like to do. Each of us will die with a million things left undone, a million dreams left unaccomplished, a million tasks still ongoing, a million things we could have done better. Each of us will die with some regrets about the way we used our time and the way we prioritized our opportunities and responsibilities. And all of this is true because we are sinful, we are mortal, and our time is finite.

But when we no longer sin, and when we no longer have to worry about the final heartbeat or the final ticking of the clock, and when we no longer have to grapple with the reality of our mortality, we will no longer need to be concerned with regrets—not in the same way we are here and now.

I have found freedom in this: Freedom to know that even though this life isn’t the way things were meant to be, it is the way things will inevitably be. I am to faithfully steward my time, to glorify God in the days he gives me. But all the while I have to keep in mind that I am finite and time is short and there must be difficult decisions and inevitable regrets. God has given me all the time I need to do what he has called me to.

And all the while heaven promises that there will always be another moment. And it promises that we will always use both this moment and that moment well, and without regrets. That will be a joy indeed.

From 2006 to 2012, PyroManiacs turned out almost-daily updates from the Post-Evangelical wasteland — usually to the fear and loathing of more-polite and more-irenic bloggers and readers. The results lurk in the archives of this blog in spite of the hope of many that Google will “accidentally” swallow these words and pictures whole.

This feature enters the murky depths of the archives to fish out the classic hits from the golden age of internet drubbings.


The following except was written by Frank back in August 2012. The topic was the importance of knowing God's Goodness in a concrete rather than theoretical way.

As usual, the comments are closed. 

Louis Berkhof says that the Goodness of God is one of three primary moral attributes of God – the other two being God’s Holiness, and God’s Righteousness.

We speak of something as good when it answers in all parts to the ideal. Hence in our ascription of goodness to God the fundamental idea is that He is in every way all that He as God should be, and therefore answers perfectly to the ideal expressed in the word “God.” He is good in the metaphysical sense of the word, absolute perfection and perfect bliss in Himself. …

But since God is good in Himself, He is also good for His creatures, and may therefore be called the fountain of all good, and is so represented in a variety of ways throughout the Bible. …

All the good things which the creatures enjoy in the present and expect in the future, flow to them out of this inexhaustible fountain. And not only that, but God is also the highest good for all His creatures, though in different degrees and according to the measure in which they answer to the purpose of their existence. (Systematic Theology, 70)

That’s quite a mouthful…the Psalmist takes a different approach. The Psalmist here tells us where our hope lies. And let’s be clear: the Psalmist, in Psalm 34, is hopeful.

TASTE AND SEE THAT THE LORD IS GOOD, he proclaims. He is actually a little more emphatic than that, because the Psalmist doesn’t just say “the Lord” here in proper reverence: he says instead, “TASTE AND SEE THAT JEHOVAH IS GOOD!” “TASTE AND SEE THAT YAHWEH IS GOOD!” That is: this is not God-in-Theory. This is not a system of understanding an ineffable and incomprehensible God. This is the God of Joshua, the God of Moses, and Joseph, and Jacob, and Isaac, and Abraham, and Noah. This is God who called Samuel by name and gave him explicit instruction to anoint David the King of Israel. This is God in Person, God in Fact, The God who has a living history of making promises, and keeping them.

And that’s the Psalmist’s trope here: Somehow, we have a God who is as real as a delicious meal. Somehow, we have to get our mouth ready to receive him. That’s actually what John Calvin says about this Psalm: “the Psalmist indirectly reproves men for their dullness in not perceiving the goodness of God, which ought to be to them more than a matter of simple knowledge. By the word taste he at once shows that they are without taste; … He, therefore, calls upon them to stir up their senses, and to bring a palate endued with some capacity of tasting, that God’s goodness may become known to them.”

Without overstating it, the Psalmist is saying that God is REAL – and that the primary way we know God is REAL is that He is knowably Good.

This is actually our problem, isn’t it? This is actually the problem that we as people face all the time. We have lousy taste. I’m not talking about the way we dress, or the colors we paint our homes or the way we decorate them, or even the kinds of jokes we tell. I’m talking about keeping our sensibilities on what God intends for this world. And when bad things happen – things which are inexplicably bad, things which, let’s face it, one Sunday school lesson cannot possibly explain – our bad taste tends to take over.

We forget the broad ways in which the fact that God is Good must anchor us.