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Tag Archives: God
When we talk about trust, do we have the same understanding of the word that God does when He says to trust Him? I think not. When we place some level of trust in another person, we believe that they have our best interests at heart. That’s good as far as it goes. That can certainly be said of God. People will break that trust, sometimes with evil intent. At other times it is just the result of imperfection. Since God can neither be dishonest nor imperfect, what can we conclude when it seems that He has broken our trust?
We can trust God completely, but we need an understanding of what that means. I think a more accurate definition of trust might be that the one in whom we are trusting is both able to and committed to do what he says he will do. We cannot trust that God will do what we believe to be in our best interests. We can trust Him to be true to His word and His nature.
My heart is heavy today for reasons I cannot share freely. lest anyone be alarmed Linda and I are fine. These are the thoughts going through my mind right now. This I do know. The Bible shows us over and over again that when God’s people turn to Him and call on His name, he rescues them. I cannot say what God will do specifically, but I can pray. I have seen His grace and mercy in my own life and in those of many i know. I have also seen Him take bad things and make good things from them. Whatever happens, I will trust Him. I am convinced that all may do the same.
However, I must make a point of the truth that this isn’t good news for everyone. Just as we can trust in His love, we must trust in His justice. We have all fallen short of the holiness that is required to live in the presence of God. We all must answer for all of the ways in which we have done so. The only hope for any of us is the sacrifice that Jesus made at the cross. His perfection paid for our sins. If we refuse to believe this; if we refuse to receive Him as lord of our lives, we can still expect that He will keep His word. It is my prayer that anyone reading this who has not yet believed will make the choice now. He does work everything together for the good of those who love him, who are called according to His purpose (Rom 8:28.) It may be that whatever trial you are facing was meant to draw you to Him. There is hope while you live.
What then is to be said to those of us who have believed and yet face evils from which we might have thought ourselves protected? Only that God will keep His word. Whatever this life brings it is only temporary. We may not know what God is doing, but we can anticipate the glorious end which awaits. We can rejoice in His goodness and thus draw others to wonder what gives us such strength. We can cling to our faith and the One who gave it to us. We can talk to Him in prayer and learn from the written word and His Holy Spirit. We can surround ourselves with others who strengthen us when we become discouraged. We can take the love that God has given to us and give it to others. His joy heals the pain.
Those are easy words to say, but to those who are hurting they are little more than words. It is my prayer that God will show me how to put action to them. I cannot imagine the pain that some of my friends have experienced. Though the truth remains the truth, the ways in which we speak and apply it can make all the difference in its effective communication. let love be first.
Today: A world without Jesus, Ray Comfort answers common objections to God’s plan of salvation, the affect of illegal immigrants on elections, rising expectations and revolutions, more on net neutrality, the one thing government does best
“It’s a wonder I haven’t abandoned all my ideals, they seem so absurd and impractical. Yet I cling to them because I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart.” from the Diary of Anne Frank (last entry). Your God damns her to hell after the hell she lived through. Your suggestion that she deserved eternity in hell because your God is so just is revolting.” MollyKnits
Now for a totally different subject. I suppose i should have realized this, but it came as a surprise to me this morning. We need to fix this. If we won’t send them home or keep them out the least we should do is stop counting them and adjusting voting districts based on that count.
Census data released Tuesday reflects how illegal immigration could shape the makeup of Congress, with border states and other immigration magnets registering big gains over the past decade.
A few years ago, I was in China and, through the help of a friend, had the chance to spend a few hours with a senior editor of the People’s Daily — the Communist Party’s voice, and the most influential journal in China.
The highly intelligent editor — himself, of course, a senior party man — was cool and dispassionate until we came to a discussion of the causes of revolutions. On that topic, he displayed an almost scholarly knowledge and focused in — with great passion and concern — on the dominant role that rising expectations of the people plays in starting a revolution.
When bureaucrats talk about increasing our “access” to x, y or z, what they’re really talking about is increasing exponentially their control over our lives. As it is with the government health care takeover, so it is with the newly approved government plan to “increase” Internet “access.” Call it Webcare.
I often bash government. I say it can’t do anything better than people in a free market.
But the government is unequalled in producing one thing: negative unintended consequences. Show me a government activity, and I will show you bad results that even the program’s advocates probably don’t like. Here’s one example.
When the Obama administration first went to the Supreme Court in March 2009 to explain its understanding of the First Amendment, Deputy Solicitor General Malcolm Stewart said the administration believed the government could prohibit a corporation from bouncing a book off a satellite into someone’s Kindle if that communication took place within 30 days of a primary or 60 days of a general election and if the book included words advocating the election or defeat of a candidate for federal office.
We’ve all heard that, or something like it. It probably came from your mom as she watched you swinging from that tree or flying down the street on your bike with your hands proudly waving in the air. Maybe she demanded that you stop immediately. Sometimes parents can be a little too protective, but we grow to understand the motivation. When you got older, the messages may have become more complex, but the underlying meaning was still the same. “Don’t eat too much candy.” “Don’t forget your homework.” “Be home before midnight.” “Stay away from that boy/girl.” Our parents did what they could to help us grow up to be whole and well-adjusted adults and to keep us from the many perils of life in this world until we made it there. Despite their best efforts, some of us don’t quite make it.
I suspect that only one child in the history of humanity accepted His parents’ rules without complaint. We don’t like rules. We don’t like anything that keeps us from having what we want when we want it. Often we rebel and do as we please anyway. When we were children, our parents responded to this rebellion with some form of punishment. In this case the consequence of our action is contrived, but with good reason. If we do not learn that our actions have consequences as children, we will learn it as adults and they will be much more severe. Examine our prison population if you need proof. A majority of the offenders there lacked strong discipline at home.
Why did our parents treat us this way? In most cases, they were not exercising power for its own sake. They did not take pleasure in causing us pain. They did what they did because they loved us. All of the rules, admonishments, lectures, and punishments were intended to shape and protect us. They were saying, “I love you. I want the best for you. Don’t hurt yourself.” Most of us figure that out at some point in our lives. We come to understand that love doesn’t require unrestrained indulgence.
This letter is written to all of us, but in particular to you who for whatever reason may have kept your distance from God or “religion.” Or, maybe you just aren’t comfortable with everything that’s in the Bible. For the purposes of this post I’m going to assume at least an acknowledgement that God exists and has a part in human affairs.
It is no mere accident of language that God defines Himself as our Father. He gives us (though regrettably not including me) children so that we can understand that aspect of His love for us. He sets boundaries for us and gives us instruction to protect and nurture us because He loves us. If you’ve ever read the first few books of the Bible, you saw a whole lot of rules. They are there to help us understand our relationship to a holy God and our abject need for His redemption, but many of them also served to protect His people. In an era when no one could have known about the unseen pathogens that spread sickness and disease, God provided detailed instructions regarding clean and unclean that kept the people as safe as possible. All of the rules were motivated by love.
Though Jesus has made a new and better way (Rom 5:8-9) and we know that salvation cannot be earned (Eph. 28,) He has given us instructions that are for our own good. The ultimate tragedy is to refuse the gift that Jesus offers in Himself. Miss that and nothing else really matters. Yet it remains true that following the principles of living that He laid out for us in the Bible will keep us from much harm. This is the ache that is in my heart when I see people making poor choices. When we share the Gospel message, one of the verses commonly referenced is Romans 6:23, which says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” We speak of the final damnation in Hell, but one need not look so far to see the truth in this passage. Most of us will experience the consequences of our sin while we yet live on this earth. This is often true even after we have repented and been forgiven. We may be spared the ultimate consequence, but some things are going to happen just that’s because the way things work. Unless God in his mercy intervenes, we will not be spared earthly repercussions.
Oh loved ones, I wish I could call you by name, but that would not be appropriate here. Choose life! Enough suffering comes to us just because we live in a fallen world. Please do not add to your misery by choosing short term pleasures that will bring you long term pain. Study God’s word and live by it. He makes no promise of freedom from suffering in this life. In fact if you are truly devoted you may find that too brings you grief, but the reward is eternal! Do not turn away from the One who loves you with everything He has. I would see you truly live and not die. In my own poor way I love you, but His love will never fail.
Unfortunately, there is likely still a cassette recording in someone’s possession that proves this was one of my favorite questions as a kid. I don’t have a lot of experience with children, but I understand I was not unique in this. It’s something we all want to know about everything. That questioning never really stops. As we grow up, sometimes we learn the answer. Other times we conclude that we cannot or do not want to know it.
We are always searching for reason. We want to know the purpose behind everything that happens and everything that is. When we are young, most of the time the answers are easy. Someone else has already learned them and all we need to do is ask, but soon we learn some questions are harder to answer. The scientists, the theologian, and the philosopher all seek to answer the question of why. Some decide we don’t need to know, but are then compelled to tell us why we don’t need to know why..
It is a question that when asked about things that really matter defines what life is about. Why are we here? Why do we choose? Why is there evil in the world? This is a new line of thought for me, and I claim none of the aforementioned titles; but it seems to me the world we live in can be explained by answering these three root questions, all leading back to the one, “why?”
Maybe the best answer for such an all encompassing question is also one word, “God.” I would prefer Yahweh, since that is the name of the one true God and ultimately descriptive in itself. It means “I Am” and that He is explains everything else. He does not need a reason because He is the reason. For many this is not a good enough answer. It claims to explain everything while seeming to explain nothing. We’re looking for proof. It is in fact hidden in plain sight. New discoveries are made all the time that show for anyone willing to see that what God said through Paul is true.
For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. (Rom 1:20 NASU)
Here we have THE ANSWER, but we want more specific answers. I believe they are contained within the nature of Yahweh. The first question, “why are we here,” also has a single word answer, love. Odd as it may sound, love also answers the third question and on one level the second also. Evil must exist so that we can choose good. To understand why I’m saying these things, take a look at a post I wrote last year entitled God, Man, and Love.
We live out our lives on that second question. More pointedly, why do we do what we do? I’ve written before of my wife’s favorite pair of questions, “what are we doing and why are we doing it?” I think the latter is most critical. I have known people who do good things for evil or selfish reasons. (I would consider evil and selfish redundant terms.) We see it in our personal lives, and we see it in governments. Much of the supposed good our own country has done over the past century has in fact been evil in disguise. That’s another topic for another time.
Let’s make it personal. Have you ever had something done for you or given to you out of impure motive? How does it feel? Wouldn’t you have rather gone without? If we are honest with ourselves we will see that we have done likewise. Motivation is always the key, particularly among those with whom we claim to share love. You expect restaurant staff to serve you out of duty. You pay them to do it. You expect your spouse to serve you out of love, and you do the same. If either of you loses the motivation of love, the relationship begins to break down.
It is the same with God. He is not as concerned with what you do as with why you do it. I’m going to stop here because the week is about to begin and I may not get a chance to finish. Brevity does not seem to be in my nature. I guess it’s the preacher gene passed down from my father. I’ll just leave you with this one passage from the Bible confirming what I’ve just written.
1 If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing. (1 Cor 13:1-3 NASU)
If I could have only one thing out of life, it would be to know love. There are many reasons why I say that. I don’t know that all of them are good, but as I prepare to once again speak on the subject tomorrow I would like to share one of them here. I’m not sure I know myself well enough to say which is truly the strongest motivation for me, but I know what it should be. To know love is to know God.
I know a statement like that will bother some Christians. They rightly decry movements in the modern church that emphasize God’s love to the exclusion of His wrath and judgment and our need for repentance. These things are not at odds. In fact they require each other to exist. God is holy and just because He is love, not in spite of it. John 4:8 says that God is love. Does that mean He can be nothing else? We are all many things at the same time. However, there is an important distinction where love is concerned in the case of God.
I’m no English teacher, so forgive me if I fail to use proper grammatical terminology. When we use a noun to describe a person, we usually affix a singular article to it. We would say that john is a man. We would not say that Jon is man. The latter implies that Jon is the standard by which We can judge whether anyone is a man or not. If we want another way to describe John in more general terms as belonging to the class of men, we would say that he is male, using an adjective rather than a noun.
The Bible tells us that God is love. To say that he is a love would not make much sense. We don’t use the word that way, though we might, since there are four words translated as love from the Greek. He is associated with the root word “agapé”, which is by far the most used. To say that He is loving is true, but He means to communicate something more powerful here. God defines love. He is the standard by which love is proven. John writes: “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” (1 John 4:7-8 NASU) This is why I say that to know love is to know God.
This may still be hard to swallow unless we have some understanding of what love really is. I don’t think it’s an accident that the word has fallen into vulgar usage. We apply the same word to everything from the height of ecstasy to a preference for popcorn. I too am guilty, though no longer without regret, of using the word lightly. When God uses the word, it’s definitely not shallow. Just look at what He did for love.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Rom 5:7-8)
When Jesus talks about the kind of love we should have for each other (John 13:34-35) and even about the kind of love we should have for our enemies (Matt 5:43-48,) the writers use the same Greek word that is used in the passages above. It is a love willing to sacrifice itself even for those who pay it back with hate. I have to ask myself, is this really the kind of love I want to know? It is freely given, but it is not free. You can have it for nothing, but it will cost you everything. My flesh cringes, but my heart says “YES!”
Ever since reading I John out of my Braille New Testament at seventeen, I have longed to understand and know this kind of love. For all of that, I can’t say that I do. I’m looking back over tomorrow’s sermon, and not for the first time I am seeing a very academic presentation, full of facts and lacking feeling. The truth is still the truth and God may use it to bring life, but where is the life in me? I feel like a hypocrite explaining to you something that I do not understand myself. Yet I believe in it. Love puts everything else in context. That is why Satan has worked so hard to corrupt and destroy it. I will continue to pursue it, and I will keep calling for you to join me. The One who loves us best will be found, and He will show us what it means.
Finally, no explanation of love is complete without at least making reference to a couple of other key passages from the Bible. One that you may not associate with the topic is Galatians 5:22-23:
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
Speaking of grammar, look at the structure of this sentence. Often we see somewhat cumbersome structure due to the fact that we are translating from another language with different syntax rules, so consider that the word “fruit” is singular then reread the sentence with a semicolon after the word “love.” Love is the fruit of the Spirit. The adjectives that follow describe love. I’ll leave you to read I Corinthians 13 for yourself. Join me on the journey, and if you’d like come to Bartimaeus Baptist Temple at 2:30 tomorrow and hear the rest.
I was unaware that this has been in question. As Randy Alcorn points out in his blog at the link below, the Bible is full of references to God’s emotions. I’ve published my thoughts before on emotions, so this caught my attention. If I think about it too much it puts me into a logical tailspin. Trying to fathom an infinite and omniscient being on any subject probably leads to the same problem. He’s just too much for us.
Generally we think of emotions as having external triggers. If we can’t determine a reason for how we are feeling, we still assume there is one. Even if we presume to have control over our emotions, can we stop one before we have it? Isn’t there a lack of control that is part of the very process that brings on emotion? How then does the One who is in control of everything have emotion? Accepting that the Bible is completely true, I cannot dispute that He does, but it is part of His mystery that he can both know everything before it happens and still respond to it with feeling.
I’ve got a friend who is greatly disturbed that the church has moved away from preaching God’s judgment in favor of His love. I do understand the concern. Our entire society is moving away from the idea that any action must have consequences. This denial does not negate the fact. I think that most judgment comes in the form of cause and effect. When we act contrary to God’s design, He need not actively intervene in most cases in order to bring about punishment. His judgment is built into His creation. Admittedly this may be considered just word play. It is through His active creative energy that we exist at all. In that sense it cannot be said that anything happens without His doing it. This used to make me uncomfortable, and I know that for many in the tradition I come from it amounts to heresy. It seems to make God the source of evil. The same logic that leads us to His existence inevitably leads to this conclusion. If He created everything, then He created the potential for evil, if not evil itself. Or, perhaps evil exists in the basic structure of reality. Anything that is contrary to Him is by definition evil, since He is good. That still leaves us with God creating beings with the potential to do evil, thus being an indirect cause of the evil we suffer. Why?
I’ve addressed this in prior posts if you would like more perspective on that question, but I believe the answer is love. In order to love Him, we must be able to choose. We cannot choose if there is no choice. That doesn’t compromise His sovereignty. Since He already knows the end from the beginning, all of us have been predestined by the fact of our creation. That he knows our choice before we make it does not absolve us from making the choice. In fact that choice is crucial.
That is why I can say that judgment is part of love. I would agree with my friend that we do a disservice to those we would reach with the good news of God’s love when we do not expose the consequences of spurning it. I only suggest that we need not deemphasize love in the process. Just like a good father who teaches his children through discipline, Yahweh teaches us. Would anyone who has studied the Bible thoroughly doubt that He loves His people Israel? What then can we make of His many pronouncements of judgment except that He means to redeem them? That is exactly what He did, and the entirety of the Bible shows how He used even the evil to bring about ultimate good. He has completed it in Jesus, and this generation may well be the one to see the final evidence thereof.
When we share the good news, we don’t need to try to strike some sort of balance between judgment and love. We do need to speak of judgment with love. If you saw a child running into oncoming traffic, would you not try to get him out of harm’s way? If you saw a blind man walking toward the edge of a precipice, would you not warn him to turn around? Would you spend any time wondering if these people might reject your attempts to save them? Most of us would not, yet there are people all around us who are heading for their own eternal destruction. We just stand by and watch, fearing some minor bit of unpleasantness if we should intervene. Thank God that you do not live in a country where your life truly would be on the line if you speak the truth. Use what you have been given. I am writing to myself as well. Whether Jesus comes back tomorrow or centuries from now, our own time is short, and every day we remain silent someone loses life forever. What kind of judgment awaits us for our lack of love for the dying around us? Maybe it will be that we find ourselves living in one of those countries I made reference to. We could be closer than you think. Maybe this would be God’s love in action for us. It would force us to choose between love of our comfort and love of our God.
How can I share with you what I think God has given me this week? It is a personal experience, but I think it has given me insight into how we can all come closer to Him. So many things are running through my head. I don’t know that there is any direct prompting from the Holy Spirit for me to write this, but if I have chosen to express my thoughts and feelings in this way before how can I not share this? If ever this has been a platform for sharing the message of truth then how can I omit one so powerful? So I pray for Yahweh’s wisdom as I attempt to share something with you that should be new to no one who has had sound Biblical teaching. What makes it new is the personal revelation of what it really means. I pray that I can say it in a way that will make it as real to you as it is becoming to me. I have known the words most of my life. I have believed them with my mind. It has taken longer for them to work their way into my heart. I do not suppose what follows to be complete, though I pray there will be no error in it. I just want you to see what I am seeing and be set free thereby.
Have you ever thought about who God must be? If you are willing to acknowledge that He is, what do you think He is like? How did all of what we see around us come to be? Though I will not spend much effort here arguing for His existence, I think it is important to lay just a little foundation on that point. It is not possible to bring something from nothing. The problem with any theory on how the universe began that does not acknowledge intelligent design is that it must generate substance where there is none. No matter how far removed one imagines that instant of beginning, ultimately it must be faced. Nature and logic demand a creator.
If there is a creator, consider what sort of being He must be. He must be outside of space and time. He has the power to create all that we have ever known or seen. To say that He is big is a poor description at best, because He must exist beyond the physical realm where size has any meaning. He is so much greater than us and so much different than us it is a wonder that we can relate to Him at all. I’m using mail terminology because that is the way He has chosen to reveal himself to us, but the creator of procreation who has no equal cannot be said to have gender in any way that we would understand it.
How can such a being relate to us? Why would he? What would motivate Him to create in the first place? Even scientists who still refuse to acknowledge Him note that everything about the universe is fine tuned for life right here on earth. Though I doubt not the power of God to have created the conditions for life anywhere of His choosing and not necessarily discernable to us, what we have learned seems to show that we are the focus of all His creation. Can we suppose that He did all of that because he was bored? Can we imagine that he takes no interest in the life He designed the universe to support?
If I may resort again to the inadequate metaphor of size, we must be to God less than the sub-atomic particles observed by scientists only with the most sophisticated technology are to us. The difference is impossible to describe. What could His interest in us be? Certainly it is more than the scientist’s for said particle, which is at best an object of rewarding study and perhaps a living.
There is an answer that bridges the incomprehensible gap between man and his creator. That answer is love. I do not speak of the perversions we label as love, but that which is patient, kind, humble, respectful, unselfish, forgiving, truthful, and everlasting (1 Co 13.) Some of these may seem strange words to describe the love of the almighty creator. I did do some considerable paraphrasing, but when you understand what He did for us, they don’t seem quite so strange. Amazing, yes! The passage referenced above concerns the kind of love we ought to have for each other, but it uses the same Greek word we find associated with God’s love (1 John 4:7-8.)
I’m trying to keep the apologetics to a minimum, only using enough to illustrate who God is versus who we are, but as I hope to speak also to those who have not yet decided what they believe or who may be convinced of the truth, I will touch briefly on the written source of that truth. That is the collection of historical documents, poetry, prophecy, and letters of instruction that we call the Bible. There are those who say that it contradicts itself, but if the supposed contradictions are understood in context they disappear. I suppose one may say that about any religious writing, but what cannot be said about any other book is that the more we discover the more evidence we find of its accuracy. The cohesion of the disparate material written over thousands of years that comprises the Bible is unmatched. It is the revelation of God’s nature, purpose and relationship to man. It tells a story of love that has no equal. This is why you will see references to its text as substantiation for what I share with you.
The Bible also tells us who we are without Him, and that is not a pretty story. We rebelled from the very beginning (Gen 3.) We’ve been doing it ever since. Most of us are ok with the obvious stuff. We agree that it’s wrong to lie, cheat, steal, or murder. Even adultery remains on the bad list for the majority of people. Now consider what Adam and Eve did. Most of us wouldn’t think that was so bad. So God said not to eat off of this one tree and they did it anyway. Surely this is worth a slap on the wrist at worst, right? Oh how tragically wrong!
Why did God create this tree in the first place? Why would he even give them the opportunity to disobey? It is because love is not evident until it is tested. Without this test, we could neither know the depth of our love for Him nor the depth of His love for us. It is this love that He desires. He knew what would come of this tree and of His commandment not to eat from it. Yet he created it anyway, knowing what He would have to do to make things right again.
God does not give us rules for the sake of rules. He is not a controlling despot with a sadistic streak waiting to catch us breaking a rule so that he can punish us. This is the nature of Satan, not of Yahweh. Though it must have broken His heart to do so, he gave them the opportunity to love something else more than they loved Him, so that one day His creation could love Him fully as He loves His creation. Even in this He showed His loving nature. He gave them the commandment to spare them from harm. That is the motivation behind God’s laws. They are meant to show us the way that leads to real life. When we do things that are contrary to his design for our lives, we bring upon ourselves all manner of evil. God does actively bring judgment on those who have spurned His love, but mostly He may be said to have done so only in that things worked as He designed them to. Beyond the fact that He is the one who sustains all of creation, most of what happens to us is a consequence of exercising natural laws, just as stepping off a cliff will result in a plummet to the bottom whether done so with intent or not.
In this first story we see his exacting standard. It was not the act itself which condemned them. It was the intent of their hearts. Jesus illustrates the same concept when he expands on the commandment not to commit adultery.
27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY’; 28 but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matt 5:27-28 NASU)
Most of us think that we are good people. We may acknowledge a little sin, but we think it’s not so bad. We imagine that if the weight on the good side of the scale is heavier than that on the bad side, God will let us in. We forget with whom we are dealing. Our creator defines and demands perfection. He is only interested in our deeds in so far as they reflect our hearts. He is looking for perfect love. Because he is God, we cannot hide our true nature from Him. He says of us through Paul quoting David in Romans 3:10-18:
10 as it is written,”
THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NOT EVEN ONE;
11 THERE IS NONE WHO UNDERSTANDS,
THERE IS NONE WHO SEEKS FOR GOD;
12 ALL HAVE TURNED ASIDE, TOGETHER THEY HAVE BECOME USELESS;
THERE IS NONE WHO DOES GOOD,
THERE IS NOT EVEN ONE.”
13 “THEIR THROAT IS AN OPEN GRAVE,
WITH THEIR TONGUES THEY KEEP DECEIVING,”
“THE POISON OF ASPS IS UNDER THEIR LIPS”;
14 “WHOSE MOUTH IS FULL OF CURSING AND BITTERNESS”;
15 “THEIR FEET ARE SWIFT TO SHED BLOOD,
16 DESTRUCTION AND MISERY ARE IN THEIR PATHS,
17 AND THE PATH OF PEACE THEY HAVE NOT KNOWN.”
18 “THERE IS NO FEAR OF GOD BEFORE THEIR EYES.”
How is it that our creator who knows us all intimately can say this of us and yet still love us? This is a mystery we may never fully comprehend. Yet He does love us. It is this amazing pair of facts that is finally beginning to sink in to me. It is only at the point when we realize how depraved we really are that we begin to appreciate the mercy and grace of God. Raised in a pastor’s home and staying mostly out of trouble, I have lived what most would consider a good life, but I have seen the standard by which I must be judged, and I have been found greatly lacking. I look back over that so-called good life and see a series of terrible mistakes. I also see something else. I see God’s mercy. I see how just as he did throughout the Bible He has taken even my error and woven it into a pattern that will result in good. That does not mean He condoned the evil. He saw it coming and planned for it. That’s just what he did for all of us. Before we could know or love Him and while some of us even hated Him, He came as one of us to die for all of us (Rom 5:8-9.)
This is an amazing truth. We have already explored just how indescribably awesome God is. Would you become an ant to rescue all ants from extinction dying in the process? That doesn’t’ begin to illustrate the difference between us and God. We don’t have much love for ants, but what about dogs? Would you do it for dogs? Most of us regard our own lives more highly than that. The truly astounding fact is that even though we are so much less than God, He loves us with everything He has. He created us in His image to love and to be loved. In the physical realm there is no comparison between us, but in the spiritual realm we have been made like Him and are destined to be with Him forever.
Jesus said, “you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free (John 8:32).” It has certainly happened for me. I can’t earn the love He freely gave to me (Eph 2:8.) That means that when I pray, it is not because I must but because I can! When I read the Bible, it is because I want to know and love my creator, not because he expects it of me. When I sin it is not the fear of punishment that drives me to my knees, it is the knowledge that I have grieved the One I love who first loved me. I am learning to trust that he knows my failures past, present and future and will not abandon me. I can come to him not in the fear of my flaws, but in the assurance of His grace and mercy. I can do the things that He wants me to do in the assurance of that love.
I do not want to speak of judgment. I do not want to contemplate the end of His mercy. I have been well aware that his patience does have an end and have always feared that I have surely reached it. However, I cannot leave off that part of the message. God will not force you to love Him, but you cannot be in His presence unless He through the sacrifice of his Perfect son has cleansed you from your sin. He is just as well as loving, and he cannot be so if he suspends justice for ever. I believe that all of us who take an honest look at our hearts know that we do not meet His standard of righteousness. The worst thing about Hell is not the fire and torment that the Bible describes. The worst thing about Hell is eternal separation from the best lover you could ever have. Hell is the end of all hope for that which God created you to know.
He made it so simple. He gave you all of creation to testify to who He is. He gave you the Bible to explain it. He gave you His son to redeem you from the curse of your sin. He allowed the misery in your life not to destroy you but to show you that the end of your way is death. Just as he presented Adam with the choice in the garden, he presents you with a choice now. Turn from that which destroys to Him to gives life. He has loved you with everything that He has. Why would you choose to break His heart by turning away? There is no pleasure on this earth that is worth the cost of that decision.
9 that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved 10 for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. 11 For the Scripture says, “WHOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; 13 for “WHOEVER WILL CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED.” (Rom 10:9-13 NASU)
If you don’t know Him yet, don’t wait. Give yourself to the one who gave Himself for you and learn what real love is.
It amazes me that intelligent people embrace the idea that truth is a subjective concept. If you are one of those people, I would like to engage you directly. The modern trend is to compartmentalize religious belief, reducing its relevance to the realities of life. Yet most of us acknowledge God in some form. I’m not going to try to address atheism here. That requires a different treatment as a staunch atheist believes he knows the truth. I would speak to you who consider faith a personal matter with no absolutes. I freely admit that I hope to convince you that there is only one source of truth and ultimately that is the God described by the Christian Bible. However, that isn’t the main thrust of this entry. For now, I just want you to think about your beliefs logically.
When we speak of faith in religious terms it somehow becomes less substantial, yet even the Bible uses words such as substance and evidence to describe what faith is. It is no less real for being intangible. We put our faith in things and in people every day. Why should our faith in God be any different? In fact it should be the strongest faith we have, because He will never fail us. That’s not to say that He won’t disappoint us from time to time because being God he doesn’t always do what we think He should, but He has in mind the best for us that we usually cannot see. Yes, I’m now speaking out of my own faith. I wish I could say it does not waiver, but it often does. However, my certainty that truth remains is not shaken. It is faith in my ability to understand it that is really in question.
We have faith because we believe something to be true. It may be as simple as the certainty that the chair upon which you are about to sit will hold you up or as abstract as the trust you put in a person you believe to be of good character. It is when what we believe to be true turns out to be false that our faith is shaken.
How then can truth be relative? How can what is true and what is false vary from person to person? Would we apply this idea to any other area of our lives? If I may borrow a somewhat clichéd example, let’s say I believe the earth is flat. That works for me. It gives me comfort because if it’s flat and I stay away from the edge I can never fall off. It makes me happy to believe that. Is it true? What if I lack the means to prove that the earth is in fact round? Is it flat because I can’t prove it is round with the tools at my disposal?
Some things are admittedly a bit harder to prove, but let’s start by establishing that truth exists whether or not we know what it is. Without that basis, all other argument is worthless. If something is so just because I believe it and it doesn’t have to be so for anyone else, what is the point of discussion? In fact the very idea of relative truth is unsupportable because the idea itself cannot be deemed true. It’s a comforting illusion because it frees us from responsibility, but try that in a court of law.
Being an avid consumer of science fiction, this has been one of my favorite questions. The more I read about the amazing precision it took to get just one liveable planet, the less likely it seems that there are others. On the other hand, what would limit the creator of the universe from doing that? I’m certainly not the first to tackle these questions, but I find them interesting. Certainly Jesus would not have had to die more than once, and He is called the only begotten of the father. So, if there are others and they also sinned, how would they get the message? We have enough trouble believeng in Him when He lived and died among us. How many of us would buy the story if Jesus were an alien? But is that really so much harder to believe?
What if they did not fall? Then there is no need for redemption. We were not intended to live in our current corrupted state. Would God permit fallen man to interact with such a civilization? Before I knew of C.S. Lewis’s work, I began to imagine the stories that could be written from these questions. If I thought I had the skill to generate anything better than a nursery book when it comes to fiction I might try my hand at it.