Thanksgiving… one week away

Traditions.  Family.  Football.  Turkey and dressing. Pumpkin Pie.

I’m always just a little edgy about this time every year.  When I was pastoring churches, this would be called the “busy” season.  Once Halloween was finally behind me, it was a fast sprint toward Christmas and a brand new year of ministry.  Of all the holidays that we celebrate, it just seems to me that Thanksgiving may be the most misunderstood.

Traditions.

We (my generation) were taught Thanksgiving came about in 1621, in a small town named Plymouth, instituted by Governor William Bradford, to celebrate the very first successful harvest.  The Pilgrims came together because they were grateful they survived their first savage winter in the New World. My elementary teachers told us that President George Washington proclaimed the first national day of “thanksgiving and prayer” in 1789.  But it wasn’t until 1863, when President Lincoln declared a day of Thanksgiving during the Civil War, that this tradition was celebrated annually across the nation.

Family.

We all want a Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving, where relationships are always perfect, and everyone loves each other unconditionally.  I’m not really sure I’ve experienced even one year that measures up to this image.  But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t keep trying, right?  Here’s a few topics from which to disengage this year:  politics, old arguments, having children, and table manners.  Does someone’s elbow on the table really constitute a crisis?  This year find a way to walk outside a take a couple of deep breaths, go help someone in the kitchen, or play a game.  Just remember, your words are the key to keeping the day positive, and the solution to family stress.

Football.

Since I’m the author of this blog, I feel somewhat free to talk about my favorite football team, the Dallas Cowboys.  Please don’t stop reading yet.  Another stress-related Thanksgiving activity can be the emphasis on whether your team wins or not.  Why would we do this?  Why is this day so wrapped up into sports, instead of gratitude for life?  I really enjoy watching football, especially when my team is winning.  I learned the hard way, that all the emotional energy I reserve for football, is much better spent investing in the relationships around me at Thanksgiving.

Turkey and dressing, and pumpkin pie.

Well, truth be told, I prefer pecan pie, but that’s beside the point. I really enjoy the actual Thanksgiving meal itself.  I’ve been privileged to eat many different kinds of Turkey preparations, a variety of dressing concoctions, green bean casseroles, and sweet potato (not my favorite) side dishes.  Then as though we forgot about them, out come the desserts to die for… pies and puddings galore.  And just like all the other topics above, I must ask, is the meal itself the essence of “Thanksgiving?”

Here’s the thing.

There are over 100 verses in the Bible about Thanksgiving.  Don’t worry I’m not going to list them all here, although at the end of this article I’ll give you a link to check them out on your own.  I leave you today with just these thoughts…

1 Thessalonians 5:18
Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

Philippians 4:6
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

Psalm 107:1
I will give to the Lord the thanks due to His righteousness, and I will sing praise to the name of the LORD, Most High.

Focus on thanksgiving, this Thanksgiving Day.

Link to Thanksgiving verses: https://www.openbible.info/topics/thanksgiving

 

Trust and Obey

Yes, this is the title of one of the all-time great hymns of worship I grew up singing.  What you may not know is the song was written by John H. Sammis in 1887.  It comes right out of two specific scriptures.

Psalm 84:11-12
For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD gives grace and glory; No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly.  O LORD of hosts, how blessed is the man who trusts in You!

Isaiah 50:10
Who is among you that fears the LORD, that obeys the voice of His servant, that walks in darkness and has no light?  Let him trust in the name of the LORD and rely on his God.

My heart still quickens when I read or hear the words to the first stanza of this song:

When we walk with the Lord in the light of His Word
What a glory He sheds on our way!
While we do His good will, He abides with us still,
And with all who will trust and obey.

The chorus just gets to me:

Trust and Obey! For there’s no other way,
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

How do we do this?

Today, the day after the “mid-terms” it may appear to some that this is just trite and meaningless dribble, when the world at large, and our nation specifically seems in such disarray.  You and I may or may not like who won a particular election.  You and I may not approve the choice for governor in Colorado, the senate selection from Tennessee, or New York’s 14th district congressional selection… but this is where the trust and obey part comes in.

Remember a couple of days ago I suggested that Paul said to the church in Rome that God puts people in places of governing authorities, and no one is there except that God established it? [Romans 13:1]  You might want to take a few moments here to look up Romans 13 and read the whole chapter… it’s only 14 verses, and it might take 3 minutes at the most.  Because if there is one passage of scripture that certainly applies to us today it is this one.

We have to trust in the Sovereignty of God.  We have to know without hesitation or  doubt that God is in control, has plans we don’t know, sees the outcome far beyond what we might hope or think, and has only the best in mind for those who know Him and call Him “Father.”

The only way we can call Him “Father” is through Jesus Christ.  We should then pray as Jesus taught us to pray…

Matthew 6:9-10
“Our Father who is in heaven, hallowed by Your name.  You kingdom come.  Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

It’s a new day.  The political lay of the land is different.  But God is in control.  For those who know and believe this is true, there is only one response must we have.

Trust and Obey.

If you could…

Kevin Costner played the role of Bud Johnson, a beer-guzzling dead-beat dad raising a clever and too-mature-for-her-age daughter named Molly, in the 2008 comedy “Swing Vote.”  On election day Bud’s daughter sets off a series of unforeseen events resulting in the nationwide presidential race being decided by just one vote:  Bud’s.

Now, personally I’m a sucker for flicks like this, so I thought it was funny and poignant, despite the 38% rating from Rotten Tomatoes.  So, I thought about this movie today, and for some reason it stirred up in me a few pointed questions of my own.

If tomorrow’s election came down to one vote, and it turned out to be yours, have you voted yet?  Do you plan to vote if you haven’t yet?  If not, why not?  If yes, do you have a clear path to why you would vote a particular way, or are you like Bud Johnson, waiting to be wooed by the candidates?

What’s at stake here?  Why should I be writing to you about voting in an election where you may have no interest at all?

First, let me just say that this will be my last article about voting, for a couple of years anyway.  I think I just heard an audible sigh of relief from all over the world… ha!  You think I’m making this up, but this blog is being read in 119 of the 193 recognized nations around the world.  So it’s not just you folks in the United States that are ready to move on. It’s also some folks in Canada, India, Australia, United Arab Emirates, Philippines, South Africa, Germany, Denmark, Ireland, Italy, Brazil… well, you get the picture.

Second, the founders of our nation wrote that “all men are created equal.” This didn’t mean they were ignoring we are in fact all different in terms of appearance, personality, skills, character, morals, etc.  In their minds we are all born with inherent, natural and unalienable rights, which include “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”  At it’s core this means no person is born with a natural right to rule over all the others without their consent.  It also means that governments are obligated to apply the law equally to everyone.

So… here’s the thing.  I’m encouraging you to cast your vote after doing a couple of basic activities.

First, pray for wisdom according James 1:5 (see my previous article here), because this is exactly what God wants us to do.

Second, re-read what the founders wrote above, and ask yourself, “which are the men or women whom I consider best qualified to uphold these ideals, and protect my freedoms?”

Third, do not abdicate your part in the responsibility of preserving freedom.  Your part is to go vote.  It is a right to be cherished for sure.  But not one just to be put on the mantle and looked at, but never touched or implemented.  This is a “messy” sort of right… it has to be handled… this right to vote must be exercised.

If it came down to it… if you could preserve freedom… and it took your one vote to do it…

Well, would you?

54 days ’till Christmas… 5 days until…

Yes, folks, it’s me again.  Mine is the voice of reason and logic for some, but the noise of insanity to others.  Of course the title of this article was just to grab your attention!  It’s what I try to do.  Now let’s be serious, just for a few minutes.

This is not that hard to understand.  The United States of America is approaching the precipice of perhaps the most monumental decision in our history.  On Tuesday, November 6th, our nation will be given once again the greatest privilege of any individual nation.  Each “citizen” of this great country is afforded the opportunity to cast your individual vote for who becomes a lawmaker for our state, and nation.  Given the controversy and divisiveness of mainstream media today, we owe it to ourselves, (not to them), to be informed and wise when we cast our votes.  So allow me just one more time, to give you some words of logic and reason.

Isaiah 1:18
Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.

This is simple right?  It’s right there from the Prophet Isaiah, none of us is perfect.  We are not voting perfect people into office, there are none on this planet.  We are not voting for who we think will make flawless choices which are right every time, that person doesn’t exist.  We are only trying hard to get it right, and allow for a scenario which gives America the chance to make less mistakes than in our past.  So how do we choose which way to cast our vote?

James 1:5
But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.

We can’t see five minutes ahead of right now.  I’m writing this and I don’t know how it ends yet.  God does.  You’re reading this sentence, but you don’t know how it ends yet.  I only do, because I wrote it, edited it, then posted it.  But only God knows who will be affected and how.  I don’t.

We can’t see Wednesday morning, November 7th either.  So how about we spend some time between now and Tuesday praying for wisdom.  How about if we ask God to move in the hearts of those who have not gone to early voting opportunities, and ask God to give them HIS wisdom on these matters.  I know I’m a pastor/teacher and some think I’m not even supposed to be writing articles like this, that somehow this violates the “separation of church and state.”

But here’s the thing.

I’m not a pundit, I’m not representing any particular partisan cause, and I’m not saying  who you are to vote for.  I’m saying our nation’s very core fibers are at risk in these mid-term elections.  I’m saying that you have not just a “right” to vote, but a mandate to vote and have your voice count for what happens on Tuesday.  You don’t have to march on the nation’s capital to have a voice.  You don’t have to be an “activist” to have a voice.  You don’t have to become violent to have a voice.  You already have a voice, it is called a “VOTE.”  So use it.

Take the weekend, spend some time just pursuing God and His wisdom on these matters, then do the responsible thing, if you haven’t already done so.

Stand in some line that moves at a snail’s pace, even if it seems meaningless and stupid to do so, and cast your vote.  Lift your voice, by pressing a button, or filling in a box, selecting the people who in your opinion are best suited for the job.

And one last thing.  When the results are in… rest assured that the one who is placed in office during this election process, will be the person God wants there.  I know this is the hard part for some of us.  But believing in the Sovereignty of God means believing this…

Romans 13:1
Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.

It’s that last phrase I want you to focus on.  It means God is in charge now, just like He has been in charge since time began.  No authority exists that God hasn’t first established for His own purposes and plans.

We don’t know these plans, we don’t see these plans, but they exist, and we must trust.  So align yourself with God’s plans by seeking His wisdom when you cast your vote on Tuesday.

It really is that simple.

How God Sees Us

I’ve often wondered what would cause people to become so hate filled that they would form identity groups which vie for supremacy or dominance?  Many in the human race have adopted various titles or names for themselves, others have had descriptive labels thrust upon them.  The air of political correctness in this country is so thick you couldn’t cut it with a knife, it’s too dense and impermeable to believe.  And, it is so anti-biblical as to be laughable by those who are true people of faith today. It begs the question: “Is this what God intended us to become?”

skeletons

This is a great image of how God sees us (the skeletons).  God didn’t give us these names… we did. We’re all the same below the surface of our skin, and it is His design.  If the Bible is true, and we are indeed created in God’s image, then every single one of these labels is incorrect.  We are human beings.  We are knowable and known.  God has spoken in His word about how we are to relate to Him, how we are to relate to other humans, and how we are to relate to ourselves.  Isn’t it about time we figured out some of this stuff?  Maybe it’s time to get past all the labels and name calling, and just ask God for wisdom.

James 1:5-8
But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.  But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind.  For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

 

Be Careful What You Pray For…

I know many people who really love the comedic humor of The Big Bang Theory (hereafter called TBBT).  At the end of every episode Chuck Lorre Productions posts a text image containing what might be called “Final Thoughts.”  Some of these thoughts are very humorous, some are just trite, and some leave you shaking your head saying “What?”  This is the graphic image of the show that aired 10-25-2018.  Take just a couple of moments to read it, then scroll down to see why I believe you ought to be careful what you pray for…

IMG-2340

I was lucky enough to have recorded this episode of TBBT, so it was easy to stop the recording at just the right time to snap this shot with my mobile device.

So, here’s the thing.  This seemed awfully sacrilegious to me at first.  I’ve watched every episode of this sitcom, and laughed uproariously almost every time, since these writers truly capture the essence of human behavior and relationships.  Then I had to stop and think for a minute.

On first glance the whole thing looks contrived and sarcastic.  The parenthetic statement in the first line says it all. And, I’m pretty sure after reading $598, that the writer has no idea who God really is.  However, God’s word says that each human being past, present or future will be accountable for words like these.

Matthew 12:36
But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment.

I have a hard time believing that the author of this image is “humbly beseeching God” I also see him as more like Herod when Jesus stood before the king, where the king’s attitude is curious, and wants to be entertained.

Luke 23:8
Now Herod was very glad when he saw Jesus; for he had wanted to see Him for a long time, because he had been hearing about Him and was hoping to see some sign performed by Him.

No one reading Lorre’s statement could mistake his description in the third sentence as anything but a very caustic diatribe against the current President of the USA.  Simply adding the phrase, “… then, you know, thy will be done…” is not a magic mantra conjured up to get God to do man’s bidding.

Then I thought, “let’s view this from God’s perspective.”

God is omniscient (all-knowing), omnipresent (here even when we don’t see Him), and omnipotent (all-powerful).  Knowing these attributes of God, it’s possible when God heard, or saw these words being formed that He laughed out loud too.

Psalm 37:13
The Lord laughs at him, for He sees his day is coming.

What if this particular prayer (if we can really call it that), may actually be what God intends to do.  God put our President in place, so God must intend President Trump to be in that position until God replaces him, and not by men with an axe to grind.

Romans 13:1
Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.

Certainly in a very general sense, God wants to bless all of humanity with His goodness.

Matthew 5:45
…for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

Whether it’s Bob Mueller or some other bloke, God blesses all of us in a general sense by just allowing us to exist!

But my favorite part of #598 is the very last thought.  I wonder if Lorre understands that these “careless words” are being recorded in heaven, and the Old Testament wrath that he invokes is closer than ever before.  Maybe he could use a little reminder of God’s sovereignty, as much as any of those who took the time to read his prayer.

I’m just saying… be careful what you pray for… God might want the exact same things… just not like you said it, or expected it.

 

Mob Tactics: the oldest trick in the book.

When a group of people comes together with a common emotional/angry catalyst, it only takes a spark to get this flame burning where the fury is turned into violence.

History records event after event where this principle is true. As recent as 2011, a lot of research has focused on the mindset of a violent mob.

Just some of the findings include:

  • Being a member of the MOB lower’s the participant’s inhibitions, making them do things they would never do otherwise.
  • A member loses their individual values/principles replacing them with the MOB’s principles, which are usually to cause mayhem or destruction while avoiding detection.
  • What seems just and righteous causes to the MOB, based in what they perceive as inequality or unfairness, synergizes and empowers the group as a whole.
  • Being a member may be exciting and powerful, as well as making the individual mobster feel invisible, so they shouldn’t be detected or responsible for their actions.
  • As the riot moves forward it may be harder and harder for members to remember why they assembled in the first place.
  • When the riot turns violent, most of the victims actually did nothing to deserve their fate other than being in the wrong place, at the wrong time.

Just because we live in dangerous days, we should not think this is the first time events like the ones we see daily now have occurred. Let me show you what I mean. Things can turn ugly, and get a lot worse, if we don’t change the course soon.

Just consider the New Testament stories, from almost two thousand years ago…

John 11:53
So from that day on they planned together to kill Him.

Who is “they” and “Him?” They is the Sanhedrin (a mob of 71 Pharisees) and Him is Jesus Christ.

In John 12, Jesus goes to Bethany to stay with His friends, Mary, Martha, and Lazarus (their once dead brother Jesus had called back to life from the tomb). The next day a large crowd formed along the side of the road as Jesus made His way into Jerusalem 5 days before Passover.

This crowd was shouting praises and blessings for this wonderful teacher/healer as He entered the city of Jerusalem. But watch closely at what happens as the crowds turn ugly under the influence of the mob of Pharisees who planned to kill Him.

One of Jesus’s own followers, Judas Iscariot, sold his Master to the authorities for thirty pieces of silver. [John 18]

Over the following 20+ hours, Jesus would face Annas, Caiaphas, Pilate, and Herod, the current king of the Jews. Pilate tried to do the right thing by having Jesus flogged, and humiliated. In the end Pilate tried to release Jesus in a clever ploy to make the crowd (translation: MOB) choose between a known murderer and Jesus to be released to celebrate the feast of Passover.

The same crowd waving palm branches and shouting “Hosanna!” are the same people crowded around the front of the stage yelling “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” When Pilate washes his hands of the whole thing, the MOB replies, “His blood shall be on us and our children!” [Matthew 27]

Could this kind of MOB mentality continue? All 11 apostles (after Judas hung himself) died a martyrs death at the hands of an angry mob of people. Some were crucified like Jesus, other hung upside down, others from spears or arrows, sawn in two, or beaten to death.

The same angry mob of Pharisees that were responsible for the death of Jesus, railroaded Stephen out of the city and stoned him to death.

I suggest that what was seen in Jerusalem 2,000 years ago, has not only increased in activity, but is reaching epic proportions.

What are we to do to deflate the MOB mentality in our country today? Is this even possible when the people who are really inciting the riots are not part of the physical MOB itself, but simply fueling the activity from afar?

Well, yes, there is a way to change our course, and it has nothing to do with fighting fire with fire, or taking revenge on these poor deluded souls who cannot think for themselves.

I believe with all my heart, the words of God are true. I believe they apply across all of human history, and into our future, however long that might be. So, one particular scripture comes to mind.

2 Chronicles 7:14
If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

Do you see it?

If we:

  • will humble ourselves
  • pray
  • seek God’s face (and His will)
  • turn away from wickedness

God will:

  • hear our prayers
  • forgive our sin
  • and heal our land

It seems too simple, that’s why most people today ignore this solution.

If you don’t want the MOB to gain more power… you will do what is required in this verse.

And you can be proactive by going to the voting station and cast your ballot for sanity to return to our Nation.

Playing Hurt

I’ve been in sports one way or another most of my life.  In my younger days and through High School I played football, basketball, ran track, and worked out.  My college years were filled with basketball, tennis, and racquetball.  Since college I took up golf more seriously, and it has become at present my nemesis as well.  I love and hate the game of golf.  Just when you think one aspect of your game is coming together, two or three things begin to slip, then boom your scores and handicap explode again.  It’s almost a metaphor for real life.

There’s another think that stinks about this game.  Every now and then something in your body gets tweaked as you try to keep the right posture, maintain the correct grip, and swing smooth instead of lunging at the golf ball.  Right now I’m being challenged to even write this blog because I tweaked something in my right hand that is causing serious pain in the knuckle joint of the third finger, all the way from my palm to the tip.

Poor me, huh?

Do you know the phrase people like these days? “Oh, just rub some dirt on it, and get on with it.”  That’s basically what the orthopedist said on Tuesday (in my opinion).  It seems my x-ray was clear.  It seems my tendons and ligaments were all in the right places.  It seems like he was saying I was faking it.  Alas, my friends, I know I wasn’t because I am the one in pain.  Wouldn’t it be great if I could some how transfer my pain to his hand so he would know exactly what I was experiencing?

Here’s the thing.  I’m wearing the splint, and I’m taking the meds, and if it isn’t gone in three weeks I guess the next step is the MRI machine.  I’m hopeful it will clear up and return to normal in that time frame.  But it got me to thinking…

We don’t really know what someone else’s pain looks like or feels like.  In my case when the Dr. tried to manipulate my hand to determine what was going on, I winced in pain, because it really hurt.  He explained that he couldn’t really examine me sufficiently because I was “guarded.”  Well, yes, I was guarded, it hurt!

So, what happens to you when someone presses on something in your life that hurts?  How do you feel when things look bleak, dark or hopeless?  When someone dismisses your pain, and says “grow up already,” does that bring warm and fuzzy feelings all over?

Now, imagine how someone else might respond when you treat them in this same dismissive way.  How does anything in this world change if we don’t learn how to listen to each other, and try to respond with kindness instead of judgment, hate, or dismissive retorts?

We all have to play hurt sometime.  We stay in the game because we have to earn a paycheck.  We stay in the game because we don’t want the marriage to fail.  We stay in the game because we love our children and want the best for them, even when they walk away from us.  We play hurt, and we rub some dirt on it, and we go on.  Just typing these words hurts, but I’m still typing.

I’ll leave you with these words of wisdom, as both admonishment and encouragement to face whatever today brings…

1 Thessalonians 5:13-18
… Live in peace with one another. We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone. See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all people. Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

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Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) – Where’s the Evidence?

First let’s define DNA. It is fundamentally the distinctive qualities or character of someone or something regarded as unchangeable, and inherent to their identity.

Bertrand Russell is a noted atheist philosopher, who was once asked, “If you meet God after you die, what will you say to Him to justify your unbelief?” Russell immediately snapped at the question in reply, “I will tell Him that He did not give me enough evidence.”

Does someone believing in God define them in some way? Can you examine a person’s life as an outside observer and determine with any clarity that person’s moral and spiritual DNA? I think so, and I’ll give you a literal or physical example, as well as a spiritual reference point.

For me this whole Kavanaugh confirmation process reads like a Shakespearean farce. And DNA plays a huge role in the equation. It seems to me that many people across the country found the accuser to be “credible” even in the absence of any substantive evidence of the accusation. Somehow misplaced in all the rhetoric is the word “allegedly.” Look up this word… it is “used to convey that something is claimed to be the case or have taken place, although there is no proof.” All I heard for days from radio and talk show folks is how the accuser was “credible, and compelling.” I found myself astounded at the faith it takes to believe the accuser instead of the accused.

I have to admit, I worry more about those who seek no support for the things they believe, than about those who pursue hard fought evidence to support their statements of belief. “Feeling” as though someone is credible is not the same thing as evidentiary support of what they say being true. There are some folks right now across this land vehemently vowing to come up with another plan to delay or destroy due process and the rule of law. It is unfortunate that these folks, whether their reasons are justifiable or not, are hostile towards belief in God. They malign faith in God as the lure of emotion, clinging to an idea while the mind is disengaged. They do not believe faith will sustain the weight of both emotion and the mind.

It has been determined that there is no evidence supporting the accusations made against this Supreme Court nominee. But is there evidence that supports His qualifications to serve in such a high place of the judiciary in our country?

Perhaps, if we step back and test the claims of qualification by the same measure that was meant to discredit him, by legitimately substantiating the facts, we will find him and his DNA as trustworthy. The evidence is already there. So, just like in the Bible, with the opponents of Jesus and their own disbelief that He was the Son of God, it is not the absence of evidence, rather, the suppression of it that is the problem.

What about you and me, and being caught up in all this nonsense? Should we care? Does it matter? Of course we should care and it is definitely a very grave matter.

What is the evidence in our DNA (spiritually) that would be observable and quantifiable in a world that has gone so haywire? One verse from the Bible covers it well.

Galatians 5:22-23
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

Even in his impassioned opening statement the accused, speaking eloquently and vehemently, exhibited a great deal of self-control. Even toward his accuser he intended no ill will. He was faithful to his family and friends even at great personal cost to himself. He patiently listened to hours and hours of embittered men and women attacking him, who’s sole purpose and goal was to destroy him.

Over the next few weeks, months or years, each of us will perhaps be given the opportunity to stand accused of some wrong doing. I wonder if our actions and words will live up to the evidence of God’s Spirit living and alive inside of us?

 

About as much sense as…

This morning my wife decided to brighten my day by reading me an article from the newspaper.  Here’s the headline “Bronx Zoo’s Happy the elephant is unlawfully imprisoned, lawsuit claims.”  Now, the headline alone made me bark out a laugh.  As she read the article, I thought she was making this up.  Alas, when I googled “Happy the elephant” it took me right to the article. (read it for yourself here)

Think of the implications.  Here’s how Happy is described, “She doesn’t belong to a social group. Her autonomy is thwarted daily. This has got to stop,” according to Steven M. Wise, founder of the Nonhuman Rights Project, filing a lawsuit against the Bronx Zoo.  Wise says the Zoo is denying her “common law right to bodily liberty.”

Here’s the thing.

In a world where an elephant is treated by an activist group with more respect and dignity than how the United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary treated a well respected, acting judge nominated for a seat on the Supreme Court… it would be funny, if it were not so tragically sad.

Think about the elephant’s name.  Happy.  She is a 47-year-old elephant, captured in the wild, brought to the Zoo in 1977.  From everything I’ve read besides this one article, animals are animals, and humans are humans.  When we attribute “human” rights to animals, have we become nothing more than animals ourselves?

Genesis 1:26-27
Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.

Do you see what the authoritative word of God says?  Let “them” (mankind) rule over all the animals of the earth.  This fundamentally says, animals do not have human rights… they are not human, they are animals.  Does this mean we treat them inhumanely?  NO!  They are God’s creatures and we are accountable to God for how we treat them.

However, there’s more to scripture than just what God says about animals.  God gives instructions about how we treat each other as humans.  Listen to the simplicity in this statement.  Jesus commands it.  Jesus demands it.

Luke 6:31
Treat others the same way you want them to treat you.

Luke 6:37
Do not judge, and you will not be judged; and do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; pardon, and you will be pardoned.

It just seems to me our world at large, and our nation in general, and our government in particular, and the Democratic party specifically, has either forgotten these words, or never read them with any intention of obeying them.

How ridiculous that our country is caught up in such battle stances over this supreme court nominee.  How sad that so many can’t see the markers and signs of a well-orchestrated attack on one good man, while his attackers are simply seeking their own hold on power and influence.  How frightening to think of what our future holds if they are successful.

That an animal rights activist should have any airtime, or print space, in light of the supernatural and eternal battles going on right now in our government makes about as much sense as … the FBI doing yet another investigation on an already vetted and qualified candidate before being confirmed to the Supreme Court.  It’s just dumb.  It makes no sense at all.

Somebody ought to say something.  Oh wait. You can.  On Tuesday, November 6th, you can.  Get up off your backside, go to the voting booth, and cast your ballot for someone who stands for truth instead of charades.  You want something to change?  Then get out and do something.

Be Happy. Vote.

 

 

 

God reveals Himself in Persons

The third type of media God uses to come to us, besides events and words, is PERSONS. God Himself is a person so it doesn’t shock us that persons are a significant form of God revealing Himself to us.

Think of it this way… in general revelation God displays His Lordship attribute of control over all things in this universe. In special revelation God demonstrates His Lordship attribute of authority over all things, including His plan to save the world. In personal revelation God demonstrates His Lordship attribute of presence among us.

Theophany is one of those ten-dollar seminary words that pastors like to use. It just means: those times when God takes on a physical form to communicate with mankind. See these passages for examples: Genesis 16:7-14; Genesis 21:17-20; or Exodus 23:31. There are many more, but this is just a sample. The form God takes might be of a man, angel, or heavenly being surrounded by the host of heaven itself.

The most significant theophany is the incarnation of God in Jesus Christ. Jesus came to specifically, and in person, helps us all to see and know God personally. In Jesus God dwelt among us (John 1:14). All the apostles saw Him, including the apostle Paul. They touched Him, they handled Him (1 John 1:1-3). If you saw Jesus, He said you were seeing the Father (John 14:9).

At Pentecost, God also revealed Himself as the Holy Spirit. Each of those first receivers of God’s Spirit were empowered in specific ways to speak the truth of God in love to others who would also believe. And each of these new believers also received this same Holy Spirit of God inside themselves.

So here’s the thing.

The most important, the most significant, the most powerful revelation of God happens when a person formally an enemy of God, surrenders to God’s LORDSHIP, and finds new life, eternal life, in Jesus. At that very moment God begins to write His own word inside that persons heart.

Jeremiah 31:31-34
Behold, days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares the LORD. “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the LORD, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.“ They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the LORD, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”

This action on God’s part in theological terms is called “illumination.” It is like a light in your home on a dimmer switch. When you first turn the light on it’s low setting, while the bulb is shining, it isn’t that bright. But as you give it more electricity, the bulb gets brighter and brighter. The Holy Spirit inside of us is the first illumination. The more we turn to God’s Word, to God in person, the Holy Spirit’s power is released in our hearts and minds, making us more and more like Jesus.  We have all the Spirit we’re ever going to need.  What we must do is learn to yield to the Spirit’s leading, surrender to the Spirit’s power, and trust in God’s Lordship over us.

The more we turn to God’s Word, the more illuminated we become, the more we come to love it, and it becomes the central focus of our world.

This is what it means to serve God as Lord.

 

 

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Take a Breath…

This week the whole world was exposed to nothing less than shock and awe, as people all over the globe watched their televisions, computers, and mobile devices portraying the fulfilled prophecy of the words of Jesus Christ, the Sovereign God of the Universe.  What prophecy?

Matthew 24:9-12
“Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name.  At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another.  Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many.  Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold.”

Each one of you who read this article, and who have watched these events unfold before the United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary, you will have your own opinions and views of what happened.  But I’ll proclaim to you now, it is the most clear evidence I have ever seen of a prophecy fulfilled… most people’s love has grown ice cold.  It has become now not just a #metoo movement for women.  I watched as men and women betrayed one another, and hated one another… on national television, in the eyes of God and the whole country… and didn’t even blink.  Now that’s cold.

What are we to do?

I can offer only these two Bible verses, for now…

Matthew 24:42
Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming.

 

James 5:16
Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.

Watch and pray.

Take a breath… then Watch and Pray…

Media: Words of God

We’ve been talking about the Word of God as powerful, authoritative, and self-expression. We’ve looked at how God’s Word is at work in the world through His plans, His decrees, and His dwelling among us. And last time we introduced the “means” or MEDIA through which God reveals His Word in events, words, and people. I wrote about how God reveals Himself in nature and history, or general revelation. I introduced God’s revelation in redemptive history – the gospel story of salvation. And finished with the concept of how God reveals Himself in miracles.

Whew! That’s a lot of information. Now we look at Word media. In a general way the words of God come to us in two ways: written and spoken. However, this too limits our understanding of how God truly wants to reveal Himself to us. So we’ll look at four broader categories to see the importance and purpose of God speaking to humanity through His Words.

God’s voice

There are times in the Bible, both the Old and New Testaments, where people hear God’s voice and words directly spoken to them. In the Garden, Adam and Eve knew the tragic nature of their choice when they heard God call out, “Where are you?”[Genesis 3:9] All the people of Israel gathered around the foot of Mount Sinai in the desert and heard God’s voice giving instructions to Moses for their benefit. [Deuteronomy 5:22-33]. Whoever was present at the time John the baptizer baptized Jesus, heard the voice from heaven “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.” [Matthew 3:17] And the apostles who accompanied Jesus up the mountain heard the same statement. But this time it also came with a decree! “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him!” [Matthew 17:5] In just these four examples of God’s audible voice speaking to people on earth, we can see clearly they carry the control, authority, and presence of God as LORD. What becomes obvious in even a cursory reading of these passages is the Diving voice of God is to be obeyed without doubt, exception, or debate.

God’s voice spoken through Prophets and Apostles

Men of God, chosen by God Himself, were appointed to pass on these words to us. This sometimes can become a sticky wicket, when many claim that these writer’s words are a little bit less authoritative because of the human element involved. They suggest these a slight imperfection in the process of God speaking to the prophet and their own communication with humanity. But if you really want to know how God feels about this false teaching, read Deuteronomy 18:15-19; Jeremiah 1:16-19; Ezekiel 13:2-3,17. Here’s what you will discover. The prophet is a substitute for God’s voice. The people of Israel are so full of fear that ask Moses to bring God’s word to them. In the Deuteronomy passage [18:18] God’s give the definition of a true prophet: “I will raise up a prophet from among their countrymen like you, and I will put My words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him.” What’s really scary about this is verse 19:

“It shall come about that whoever will not listen to My words which he shall speak in My name, I Myself will require it of him.”

Without the divine voice of God, spoken through the Prophets and Apostles we are sadly lost. Peter made his own declaration when he said to Jesus [John 6:68], “Lord to who shall we go? You have the words of eternal life!” Paul the apostle had his own encounter with Jesus, became an apostle, and wrote that what he preached came directly from Jesus.

Galatian 1:11-12
Dear brothers and sisters, I want you to understand that the gospel message I preach is not based on mere human reasoning. I received my message from no human source, and no one taught me. Instead, I received it by direct revelation from Jesus Christ

God’s voice as the written Word

So is God’s voice in written form, or spoken form through the Prophets and Apostles, something less than divine? Does the media of the Word somehow remove the dynamic power and grace of theVoice of God when written or spoken by the Prophets and Apostles? Why should there be some distinction between what people heard Paul preach, and the letters that he wrote to those same churches? I suggest the Deuteronomy 18 passage above crosses the lines of time and space and applies equally to all of Scripture.

God’s voice through Preaching and Teaching

Here’s the thing. What about teachers and preachers today? Do their words have the same authority as the divine voice of God? Make no mistake here, the answer is NO.

There is no promise in Scripture that declares future pastors/teachers/elders or even seminary professors will carry with them the same authority reserved for the apostles of the Bible. This is so evident, that only a very few would be found worldwide who would claim this for themselves.

But maybe you’ve heard this saying before:

“The preaching of the Word of God is the Word of God.”

Huh?

This means that while the preacher speaking the words is fatally flawed, imperfect, and maybe full of errors himself… when this human person communicates God’s Words truthfully, the words spoken lose none of their original authority.

The preacher who utters spiritual truth from the Bible carries the same authority on his/her lips that were on the lips of the Apostle Paul.

God’s word will always have ultimate authority, regardless the medium … even if that medium is a sinful human being.

You need to trust me here, I speak from experience. As a pastor/teacher my job is not to utter opinion, or just make vague observations, but to speak the truth according to God’s Word. In doing so I find Him to be LORD. And as Lord, God is in control, has absolute authority, and is present now among us.

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God’s Media

What do … Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr, Flickr, Reddit, Snapchat, WhatApp, Quaroa, Vine, Periscope, BizSugar, StumbleUpon, Delicious, Digg, and Viber, all have in common? These are the most popular social media sites on which people of all ages communicate today. If you’re over a certain age, you may only know two or three of these names. If you’re younger, or more tech-savvy you may know and use all these sites.

When I was growing up, and someone used the term “media”, my mind went to TV, radio, newspapers, magazines, films, or recordings. These were the primary means of getting information for me. With the onset of the internet, and data moving at lightning speeds to a plethora of mobile devices, “media” becomes something like a quagmire of indecipherable voices and messages.

God also uses a wide variety of media (means) to communicate with humanity. There are times when God might speak directly, His voice booming from Mount Sinai in Exodus 20. You could say God used sound waves, carried on the wind, to reach the eardrums of His people. Every single time God desires to communicate with humans He finds some means in His own creation to do so.

For simplicity I’ve broken all these means down into three categories: events, words, and persons. We’ll begin with events first.

Events

Psalm 19:1 says,
The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship.

Romans 1:18-32 also gives a great rendition of how God proclaims Himself in nature and in general history. You might want to spend some time with this passage of Scripture.

These kinds of “events”or  revelations from God are called “natural” or “general” revelation, because they are meant for every single person who has lived, is living, or will ever live upon the earth.

Simply by looking at creation, every person has the created capacity within themselves to see God clearly, and nobody can claim that God hasn’t revealed Himself with clarity.

Even in this simplistic revelation of nature/history we are able to not just know about Him, but to know Him personally. These natural revelations teach us about God’s nature (control, authority, and presence), but not the specifics of redemption. We see these and come to know who God is, that He exists, but this general revelation doesn’t tell us how to be saved.

It is God’s Word (Scripture) that tells the story of salvation through Christ, beginning all the way back in the Garden at creation (Genesis 3:15). This is followed by a long recitation of different covenants God makes with man [Noah, Abraham, Moses, David… then Jesus Christ]. All of these events (stories) from the Bible, in contrast with General Revelation, tell us about God’s saving purposes for mankind.

This revelation was made known in the history of man, and we know it now only when we read about these events (found in the Bible) as they happened in the past.

One of the main media (means) of Events where God reveals Himself is in God’s miracles. Miracles are signs/events which demonstrate God’s Lordship. For a quick review of miracles, click here.

Next time we’ll look at another media (means):     WORDS.

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God’s Word at work in our world

The previous three articles provide a simple look at what God’s word is: powerful, authoritative, and self-expression. Today we’ll see these three ideas in what God does.

God’s Word makes plans.

We talked about this in the context of God’s Lordship attribute of control. God determines what will happen according to His own plans, then decrees it to be done. In His Lordship, God has the power to bring these plans to pass, controlling all that happens.

God’s Word speaks.

God not only plans and controls the earth and all its creatures, but also speaks to them as one person speaks to another person. I don’t just mean metaphorically. God’s Word speaks to angels and men, but also to the sun, moon, stars, wind, rain, and every part of nature. When God speaks, His words carry absolute authority, demonstrating that God is Lord of all.

Where God’s Word is… that is God’s dwelling place.

While Jesus was physically on the planet, housed in human flesh, He was limited to be in one place at one time. This is why the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead is so significant. If Jesus wanted to be present with Mary and Martha before Lazarus died, Jesus would have to leave where He was and travel to Bethany.

We know that Jesus could have healed Lazarus from a distance by the POWER of His spoken Word. But that was not in God’s PLANS. So Jesus was in CONTROL by staying where He was, in order to demonstrate His ultimate control, authority, and presence when He did raise Lazarus from that tomb. [John 11:1-46]   Jesus told Mary, (11:25-26)

“I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?”

John wrote of Jesus in John 1:1, describing Jesus as the Word, and the Word was God. This means Jesus was God housed in human flesh, and bound in some ways because of it. This explains what Paul meant in Philippians 2:5-7. One of the things Jesus emptied out to become human was His omnipresence, He couldn’t be everywhere at one time. But in His resurrected body, Jesus could now be omnipresent again, as God, fulfilling this wonderful promise:

Matthew 18:20
For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.

So, God’s Word is His dwelling place on earth, demonstrating His Lordship attribute of abiding presence, among His people of faith.

Next time we’ll begin looking at the “how” or the “means” God uses to communicate His Word to us.

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God’s Word is Self-Expression

So far we’ve seen how powerful God’s word is, and established the authority of God’s word. Now we’ll look at how God expresses Himself through His word.

If the question is, “What KIND of god is God?”, then you have to dig into Scripture. It is the Word of God that reveals God’s heart, mind and will. When you search the Scripture you find God actions are the spoken Word of God revealed in an event of God’s power (like creation or judgment). God also differentiates Himself from all other God’s because He speaks. All the idols man can create are just “dumb” (mute), yet God by nature is The Word.

Elijah confronted the prophets of Baal and said, 1 Kings 18:24

“Then call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the LORD. The god who answers by setting fire to the wood is the true God!” And all the people agreed.

Go ahead and read the rest of that chapter and see how powerful God’s word is!

When God speaks He demonstrates different attributes, which are unique to Himself:

  • Righteous (Psalm 119:7)
  • Faithful (Psalm 119:86)
  • Wonderful (Psalm 119:129)
  • Holy (2 Timothy 3:15)
  • Eternal (Psalm 119:89)
  • Omnipotent (Genesis 18:14; Isaiah 55:11)
  • Perfect (Psalm 19:7)

Scripture teaches that God alone is to be worshiped and praised. However, the psalmist writes

“In God, whose word I praise, in God I have put my trust; I shall not be afraid.  What can mere man do to me?” [Psalm 56:4]

So the Word which David praised (worshiped) is God. He was worshiping the being described in John 1:1

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

We are going to look further at this truth, where the Word is talking about Jesus, in a future study. The point I’m making here is that the Word identifies God’s speech with God because it takes us all the way back to creation. In Genesis God’s spoken word “let there be…” made it all. It ties directly to John 1:3

“All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.”

Let me be as simple and practical as I can. When we meet God’s speech, we meet God face to face. We should be more like David and receive God’s word with praise and worship.

Just one more thing…

Don’t try to know God apart from His Word, and don’t try to read the Word without realizing you are indeed in the presence of God. Don’t look at the Bible as an assignment. Instead, open your heart and mind to the word like Samuel, and say, “speak Lord, your servant hears.”

Get out of the habit of taking God’s word for granted, so God can bless you with clear understanding. And get ready, because when you meet God’s word in these ways… you will never be the same again.

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God’s Word is Authoritative

Last time we looked at the power of God’s word, in creating the world and controlling the world through God’s spoken word. Today I’ll explore how God’s word is authoritative. Unfortunately for too long some teachers/preachers/scholars have understood and thought of God’s word as only power. However, God’s word is also language. Why is this important? If God’s word is only power but not language, then it cannot speak authoritatively to us on a personal level. Which is exactly what liberal theology is about today, a word without authority.

Look again at the creation story and you’ll see God’s word had meaning and authority, not just power. God didn’t just bring all things into being, God also named them… light God called “day”, darkness God called “night.” On five separate events of creation, God calls created things by the names He gave them. When God controls the course of nature it is not only powerful, but also wise (Psalm 104:24).

So, here’s the thing.

God’s spoken word, (meaningful speech), is authoritative over all His creatures. Remember, because God is LORD, His speech is authoritative, and His creatures are obligated to obey Him. We can really only do this correctly when we believe Him. The entirety of Scripture is the story of how God speaks, and how man responds to what God says… either in obedience, or rebellion.

The Fall… demonstrates the first humans disobeying God’s word, and the consequences which result. Yet, over and over and over, time and again, God continues to send His word into the world to communicate with mankind.   Sometimes people do hear, believe, and obey: Noah built an ark, Abram left his home country to become the father of many nations. And other times people disobey God’s authoritative word and suffer extreme consequences. So the main question is whether people will hear, comprehend, believe God’s word at authoritative, and be obedient.

Let’s not leave out the New Testament version of this truth.

Matthew 7:26
Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.

For those living in the world today the words of Jesus must be our foundation. We are to hear them, read them for ourselves, understand them, believe them, and act obediently to what they convey. Here’s a short list of the authoritative words of Jesus to live by:

Matthew 7:21-29
Mark 8:38
Luke 8:21; 9:26
John 5:24; 6:63, 68; 8:31, 37, 43, 47; 12:47-50; 14:10, 15, 21, 23-24; 15:3, 7, 10, 14; 17:6, 14, 17 1 Timothy 6:3-4
1 John 2:3-5; 3:22; 5:2-3;
2 John 6; and
Revelation 12:17; 14:12

Simply put, to be a true Christ-follower, to be a genuine person of faith, means that we come under the meaningful, authoritative word of God the Father, Jesus the Son, and all those prophets and apostles who recorded that word through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Surrendering to the authoritative word of God means we believe it, and act in obedience to it.

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Define: Word of God

Having laid our foundational tenets that God is Lord, and the attributes of His lordship are control, authority, and presence among us, we’ve also established that God reveals Himself. And when God reveals Himself it is as LORD.

Now we’ll look at how God speaks to us. It is only when we grasp His Lordship, that we can understand how God speaks to us, then discern what He is saying.  A natural question that arises is: “What does the phrase ‘Word of God’ actually mean?”

In these articles I desire that you see what I mean as I write about the word of God. Now yes, the Bible is God’s Word, but the Word of God is more than just the Bible.  Because God doesn’t just speak to us in the Bible, He also speaks to us through creation [Psalm 19:1; Romans 1]. At times God speaks to people from heaven, or in a burning bush, or in a dream. We cannot believe that Jesus only spoke the red-letter words in the gospels, for surely there was more to His comments and teachings than are recorded in the gospels. In fact John the Apostle says so… Jesus also did many other things. If they were all written down, I suppose the whole world could not contain the books that would be written.” [John 21:25]

So, here’s the thing. We need a much larger definition of “word of God” than just the Bible. And, this definition should show there is a relationship between God’s word and His Lordship. I read one definition a few years back and think it captures the concept I’m trying to teach.

God’s word is His powerful, authoritative self-expression.

You can easily see how this definition fits with the tenets of God’s Lordship. Look how His power reveals He is in control, authoritative reveals His authority, and self-expression reveals His presence here and now.  Over the next few articles we’ll look at each of these three points of interest in more detail.

First, God’s word is powerful.

The Word of God reveals, communicates, illuminates, and illustrates all that God would have us know about Him. For example Scripture teaches that God created the world by speaking (His word).

Psalm 33:6-9
The LORD merely spoke, and the heavens were created.
He breathed the word, and all the stars were born.
He assigned the sea its boundaries and locked the oceans in vast reservoirs.
Let the whole world fear the LORD, and let everyone stand in awe of him.
For when he spoke, the world began! It appeared at his command.

When we talked about God’s providence, it was in the context that God controls the world comprehensively for both the evil people and the good people of humanity. So, for instance how does God control the weather and the seasons on earth? Yes, you guessed it, by speaking His word.

Psalm 147:15-18
He sends his orders to the world—how swiftly his word flies!
He sends the snow like white wool; he scatters frost upon the ground like ashes.
He hurls the hail like stones. Who can stand against his freezing cold?
Then, at his command, it all melts. He sends his winds, and the ice thaws.

So God, by His word, created the world, and by His word, He controls the world. In the New Testament it says that when God’s word in the Gospel is preached, it is not just communication, but it is also POWER.

Romans 1:16
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

 

1 Thessalonians 1:5
… because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction.

Here are a few other resource scriptures to see God’s word is powerful: Jeremiah 23:29; Ephesians 6:17; Isaiah 49:2. But maybe my all-time favorite regarding the Word of God and it’s power, is Isaiah 55:11.

So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; it will not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.

We should never take the Word of God for granted by treating it like just another abstract textbook of instructional do’s and don’ts. When a person ignores it, or just listens to it being read but they are disobedient in their hearts, just like Israel, they will become hardened against God’s word.

On the other hand, if we could respond like the young prophet named Samuel, when He heard God’s voice, Samuel simply said, “Speak, Lord, for your servant hears.” When a person reads/hears this Word and receives and applies this Word, God’s power will be in your life, and on your behalf, and will do in you and around you exactly what God intends (Isaiah 55:11 above).

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God is One; God is Three; the Three are One

It’s been a few days since my last article where we looked at different Models which illustrate some aspect of the Trinity. Rather than overwhelm you, I took a couple of extra days to let these ideas sink in. Someone might say, “Why are you spending so much time on this difficult topic?” The simplest answer is: to establish the link that LORDSHIP applies equally to all three of the “three in One.”

When we lay the foundation that God is in Control, God is Authoritative for all of life, and God is present with us in real time, each of these foundational thoughts apply equally to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit… because the Three are One.

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is One.” (Deuteronomy 6:4)

God is One

The tendency is to think of God as three persons, but the concept of “Triune” is the Three are One. The Israelites knew there was only one being worthy of worship, as opposed to the thoughts of the ancient Greeks, Egyptians, Babylonians and Canaanites who all worshipped many different gods. Hebrew thought was that only one person can be fully in control of the world, speak with absolute authority, and yet, still be intimately involved in the life of His people whom He called by name. Since there can only be one Lord, there can only be one Savior… Jonah says, “For my salvation comes from the LORD alone.” [2:9]

God is Three

The Bible teaches that the LORD is three persons. Look at this image through David’s eyes.

Psalm 33:6
The LORD merely spoke, and the heavens were created. He breathed the word, and all the stars were born.

God the Father spoke, the God the Holy Spirit (breathed) the word (God the Son – John 1:1), and all the stars were born.

In this one verse we see the One true God, in three separate images, all taking part in the creation story.

WOW! That is exciting to me! Do you want to see another one… a little less detailed, but where the same principle applies?

Genesis 1:26
Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us.”

Do you see it? “Let US… to be LIKE Us.” Don’t confuse “like us” to mean “little gods.” We’ll discuss this more in a later article, but for now just see the Triune God active as ONE in all of creation: Father, Son, and Spirit – One LORD of all.

The Three are One

There are many different scriptures through which we can see the three-ness of God, or the Triune God. But one of my absolute favorites is Matthew 28:18-20, where Jesus says:

I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.

The attribute of AUTHORITY is absolutely God’s, so Jesus is saying out loud for all to hear, that He is God. Then Jesus lists the other two persons of the Trinity in His command for baptizing new believers. And finally, I AM translates all the way back to God revealing Himself (Three in ONE) to Moses:

Exodus 3:14
God replied to Moses, “I Am Who I Am. Say this to the people of Israel: I Am has sent me to you.”

Here’s another good reference from the New Testament:

2 Corinthians 13:14
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

Grace, love, and fellowship… Son, Father, Spirit… One LORD.

The conclusion of the early church patriarchs, the men and women of faith who planted the first churches in and around Jerusalem, all believed the Father, the Son and the Spirit are each one fully God… one LORD

Each of the three persons have the attributes of God as Lord equally:  control, authority, presence.

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3 in 1 – Models

Before you read this article, I need to warn you.  The challenge I have taken on is to discuss complicated theological thoughts in a way that the person sitting in a Bible study can understand it while never having been trained at Seminaries like most pastors.  In tackling this challenge, I still have to provide a basis for the information.  Theology is the study of God.  When we study God, we find the concept of the “Trinity,” Father, Son, and Spirit, all throughout Scripture.  Seeing God in three persons acting in the Bible is not the difficult part.  Seeing them as all being God, and all being ONE God… well, that’s a horse of another color.

Today I’m asking you just stay with me.  If something confuses you, or if you have a question, please feel free to email me and I’ll do my best to provide an answer.

I heard once the Irish shamrock was the best illustration of the trinity:  One plant, Three leaves.  In the most simplistic way possible this really isn’t a bad image, but there’s a problem with every Trinitarian model, and it is seen in the shamrock too.  You can tear the shamrock into three pieces, but not the Trinity.  You may have seen the egg image [yolk/egg white/shell = Father/Son/Spirit], or the apple explanation [core/flesh/skin] as images for the Trinity.  Each of these illustrations are good to a point, but could never comprehensively help us understand the complicated relationship of the Trinity.

This is the problem not just with visual images, but more sophisticated models of the Trinity as well.  There are two primary theological models used today to explain the Trinity to the human mind, the “psychological model” and the “social model.”

Psychological model of the Trinity

This model was developed by Saint Augustine of Hippo (354-430 A.D.).  He believed the Trinity was like a great mind.  Our human minds consist of: intellect, memory, and will.  Yet, we only have one mind.  So, when we know ourselves… we are the “knower, the known, and the knowledge” all at the same time.  Augustine argued that God has a mind too, and when God knows Himself, God’s thoughts of Himself are so perfect that the thought itself is God.  His argument then is that the three persons of the Trinity are: God-the knower, known, and knowledge.  Sounds good but there’s a problem.  What about relationships?  We contend God is three PERSONS, so the model here speaks to God’s one-ness but not to His three-ness… His substance as three persons.

Social model of the Trinity

You can Google “Cappadocian fathers” and discover Basil the Great (330-379 A.D.) Gregory of Nyssa (335-395 A.D., and Basil’s younger brother), and Gregory of Nazianzus (329-389 A.D.) who represent some of the patriarchs of Christian thought.  In the fourth century these men developed what is now called the “social model” explaining the Trinity.  Simply put, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three persons, and they relate to one another in love.  It is an interpersonal model.  It is also often used as a model for human society, where my dad, me, and my son in relationship represent an image of God’s three-ness.  But it doesn’t help us understand God’s one-ness.  The Cappadocians began with three separate images of God, but found it difficult to explain how God is one.

Over the centuries different theologians from Protestant and Roman Catholic schools would argue the merits of both these models to explain the Trinity, and never come to any consensus on either.  I’ve tried over the years to find a good image to use as a simple way to understand the Trinity.   In closing today, I offer this as the most simple, but most factual view of the Trinity.

TrinityOn the outside of the triangle, God is three separate persons.
On the inside of the triangle, each person is equally God, all having LORDSHIP attributes: the control, authority and presence we’ve been discussing so far.

Next time we will look more at this triangle, and dive deeper into this mystery.

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The Trinity and Lordship

Up to now we’ve been looking at how God reveals Himself in the Bible through His actions, and His own nature and character revealed in descriptions of His attributes.  All of this corresponds to our tenets that: God is in control, God speaks authoritatively to all mankind, and His promise to be present with us always.  Now we’ll spend a few days to approach the concept of how God reveals Himself in three separate means, or persons, we call the Trinity.  God’s promise to be with us always is seen best in this doctrinal thought: God is three in One.

Deuteronomy 6:4
Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.

This topic is mysterious indeed, and I would never presume I understand better than other theologians who have written on this topic.  I just want to make it easier to understand, without getting bogged down in technical terms or theological protocols often driven by different denominational instruction.

Here are the basic declarations we can find in Scripture:

  • God is one
  • God is three
  • The three persons are each one fully God
  • Each of the three persons is distinct from the others
  • The three persons are eternally related as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit

At the end of this topical search for truth in the Bible, I hope that you will be confident in your understanding of the Trinity.  Well, as confident as any one person could possibly be regarding a mysterious truth that only God alone can know fully.

Over the next several posts we’ll look at models and illustrations explaining the Trinity.  And we’ll look at least briefly at each one of the declarations above.

After my years of study on this topic I agree mostly with Athanasius (296-373 a.d.), bishop of Alexandria, a great hero of the faith.  Athanasius was a defender of the concepts of the Trinity given voice in the Nicene Creed which was written 2 years after his death.  He suffered horrible acts of persecution by Arian heretics for his views about the Trinity.  Why would he do this?  Who would suffer hardship and persecution for philosophical terminology?  For Athanasius the important issues of the Trinity were pretty basic and simple.  In his mind this belief (the Trinity) is the firm foundation of worship and salvation.

Worship…

If Jesus, as Son of God, is only a creature… then we are guilty of idolatry.  At the time of his death Christians had already worshiped Jesus as God for 400 years.  Athanasius said Jesus is worthy of worship ONLY if He is equal to the Father.

Salvation…

If the Arians were right, he said, then we are placing our hope of salvation in the life and hands of a mere creature.  ONLY if Jesus is equal to the Father, is He capable of saving us from sin.

Next time we’ll talk about models and illustrations of the Trinity.

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God’s Attributes of Power

God is LORD of all.  The basic tenets of this faith statement include: God is in control, has authority over all things, and is ever present with us.  We’ve examined God’s attributes of Love, and Knowledge, and finish this section with a look at God’s attributes of Power.

God’s power is so dominate and extensive trained theologians describe it with the word “Omnipotence.”  Why can’t they just say “God can do anything”?  Well, because you might find it difficult to believe, but there are some things God CANNOT do.

  • Titus 1:1-2 Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ to further the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness–in the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time,
  • Numbers 23:19  God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?

God cannot lie.  In fact, God is Holy, Good, and Love so God cannot do anything evil.  God cannot do something logically contradictory [like making round squares] since He is always consistent in His words and actions.  God cannot do anything contrary to His nature as God [see Numbers 23:19 above] like buy a suite or celebrate His birthday.  God had no birthday, He was, is, and always will be God.

So it seems our dilemma in knowing God better, and understanding the enormity of His power, is to arrive in general terms that help us see Him as He wants us to see Him.  That God is omnipotent is a clear teaching of Scripture [Psalm 115:3, Isaiah 55:11; Jeremiah 32:17].  These verses also imply God has a will… the ability to choose.  After choosing whatever He “wills” to do, God has the power to do it.

God reveals Himself in the Bible by helping us see His “will” in three basic ways.  First God makes DECREES which declare His will in unmistakable ways.  [See what Joseph says to his brothers about their actions toward him – Genesis 50:20].  The decrees of God’s will in the Bible will always come to pass. Listen to how Paul says it to the Roman church:  “What if God, although choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction? What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory…” [Romans 9:22-23] .

Second, God has a Preceptive will.  We refer to this when we say God has PRECEPTS.  Precepts are revealed as God’s values, which often take the place of commandments to us and for us.  Whatever God has decreed will happen whether we agree with it, or believe it or not.  However, God’s precepts are those things that we can choose to line up with, or not.  When we violate God’s precepts, this is called “sin.”  As an example look at 1 Timothy 2:3-4, This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.    See, God wants all people to be saved… but not all will choose this precept for themselves.  The sin that condemns them is their own unbelief of this simple truth.

Third, there is Divine Vocation (theological term) which means basically “God’s will for our lives.”  So how do we find God’s will for us?  Look no further than the verse we just examined, 1 Timothy 2:3-4.  If you want to see another one, re-read John 3:16.  God’s grace and forgiveness, direction, mercy and power are available to every person who submits to God as Lord (Jesus as LORD).

God is Lord of time and space, He is Lord of everything everywhere.  This power is on display in all the realms of scripture: eternity past, the present on earth, and the infinite realm of eternity future.

Ok, here’s the thing.  while the Bible says that God is unchangeable in some ways [Numbers 23:19; 1 Samuel 15:29; Psalm 102:25-27; Malachi 3:6; James 1:17]… Scripture also presents God as changeable in other ways.  God spared Nineveh (just as He said He would), when the city repented and turned to Him for deliverance.   We can see these two separate thoughts better if we say “it is God’s unchanging will to relent in this way.”  God placed a condition on Nineveh, “repent or be destroyed.”  They repented, God did not destroy them.

Not only is God unchanging, omnipotent, and ever-present with us… God has no needs according to Paul addressing the people of Athens in Acts 17:24-30.

Just a reminder, again, when we examine all these attributes of God, we are also defining the attributes of Jesus Christ the LORD.

Next time we’ll begin looking at the topic of the “Trinity,”  God as Three in ONE.

 

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God’s Attributes … of Knowledge

The ATTRIBUTES of God which demonstrate His control, authority, and presence are:  LOVEKNOWLEDGE, and POWER.  Last time, we looked at God’s attribute of love, seen in His allegiance, affection and action.

Today we dive into God’s attribute of KNOWLEDGE, which from a purely Biblical view must include: SPEECH, TRUTH and WISDOM.

When we think of SPEECH as a divine attribute we must make an important distinction here.  The Supreme Being of the Bible (God) is the only divine being that communicates truth about Himself to His creatures.  In polytheistic religions (many gods) the gods do speak, but none is the supreme being.  In Hinduism while there is a supreme being, he is silent.  Speech happens between two persons and that’s what makes this attribute of God such a blessing to us.  God speaks to us.  God desires to help us know Him, and His knowledge, in our own minds and in our hearts.

TRUTH in scripture is found in three contexts.  First, God is the truth.  In other words He is the true God and not a false god [Jeremiah 10:9-10; 1 John 5:20].  In the Bible God always speaks the truth.  God never lies, never makes a mistake in His speech [Titus 1:2].  And finally, God does the truth (action) representing Himself as the God of all goodness and love  – Deuteronomy 7:9 says “Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments.

Regarding God’s attribute of knowledge (generally) the Bible clearly represents God as omniscient (all-knowing).  Here’s just a few verses as a reference point:

  • Psalm 147:4
  • John 21:17
  • Hebrews 4:12-13
  • 1 John 5:20

In addition to knowing all things, God also understands all things, even to discerning (knowing) the thoughts and intentions of our hearts. (all of us!)  The deduction we make from this knowledge is that everything happens by His wise plans, since He knows all.

There is a group of people today called “open theists” who say God does NOT know the future completely and exhaustively as I suggest here.  Some go on to say that God makes mistakes all the time in saying what will happen.  In Deuteronomy 18:21-22 there is a prophet’s test.  Simply put, if a prophet’s words prove false… they can’t come from God, since God is never wrong about the future or anything else.  We might simply extend this test then to God.  In Isaiah 41:21-23, this great prophet speaks God’s words challenging the ancient false gods of the surrounding peoples to predict the future, all the while, knowing they cannot do it.  Only God knows what is going to happen.

Open theists say God is ignorant, using scripture itself to assign this charge.  As a proof-text, they use Genesis 18:20-21 which says “Then the Lord said, ‘The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know.’

“See,” they say, “if God is all-knowing, why is He suggesting here He needs to find out for Himself?”  Is God ignorant in this passage?

They have lifted this verse “out of context” because the point of the story where it is found, is about Abraham praying for God to spare these cities.  Abraham bargains with God, “will you save the cities if only 50 righteous men can be found?  How about 40?  20? 10?” And God’s reply is always, “yes.”  “If I find fifty righteous people in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake.”… ““For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it.”  It was never about God being ignorant, it was about God KNOWING there were not 10 righteous men to be found in all of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Being truth, and having all-knowledge then leads to God’s KNOWLEDGE attribute of WISDOM.  Wisdom is that enhanced form of knowledge that takes all the strands of information, understands the significance of each one, and relates them into a practical relevance or application.  We might label this as it is in my Bible: the Doxology.

Romans 11:33-36

Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!
Who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has been his counselor?
Who has ever given to God, that God should repay them?
For from him and through him and for him are all things.
To him be the glory forever!
Amen.

One last reminder for today…

Everything the Bible reveals about God, remains true about JESUS!  He is God.

As God is love, knowledge and wisdom… so is Jesus.

Next time we’ll examine God’s attribute of POWER.

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God’s Attributes

Our foundational theme is: God is in control, God has absolute authority, and He has promised His Presence with us forever [see: A Simple View of God].  These three tenets form our belief that God is LORD of all, including us.  In order to know Him better, God acts through miracles, providence, creation, and His authoritative decrees.  This may all be a little abstract for you, but hang in there with me.  Because God doesn’t want us to just study theology, He actually wants us to KNOW Him personally.  He has also revealed His attributes through this whole process.  Each of these attributes correspond to the three tenets discussed already.  The ATTRIBUTES which demonstrate control, authority, and presence are:  LOVE, KNOWLEDGE, and POWER.

Today we’ll focus on LOVE.

John the apostle wants there to be no mistake…

1 John 4:8
Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.

1 John 4:16
And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.

John is emphatic:  God is LOVE!!! [He wrote it twice in 8 verses]

The Old Testament uses many different terms to describe God’s ethical characteristics including: goodness, grace, covenant faithfulness (Hebrew: hesed), righteousness, justice, and finally, yes, LOVE!  All these terms have nuance within the passages where we find them.

When we find God’s love, we see: allegiance, affection, and ACTION!  Isn’t it fun that these reflect our basic tenets about God as LORD [control, authority, presence].  Allegiance demonstrates God’s loyalty to HIS OWN WORDS of promise.  Affection is simply God’s emotional fondness for His creation [think John 3:16].  And action is God demonstrating His own love towards in that while we were still sinners Jesus died for us on the cross.  [Romans 5:8]

Here’s the thing…

God loves all His creation, and His creatures, even those who hate Him (His enemies).  Have you ever noticed the point of these verses:

  • Matthew 5:43-48
  • Genesis 18:25
  • John 3:16
  • 1 John 4:8-10

What each of these verses make very clear is that while we deserve death, that is not what God offers us.  In His death, Jesus got what we deserve, and when we trust Him as Savior and LORD, we get what we DO NOT deserve… HIS forgiveness, and life everlasting!  This is God’s love, goodness, grace, and righteousness in ACTION bringing us to salvation and redemption.

That said, it is also clear in the Bible that God is a wrathful God… a God of judgment.  You may not believe this but it actually says that God hates some people (the wicked: Leviticus 20:23; Deuteronomy 25:16].  In fact until we trusted in Jesus, this would describe us as well [the wicked].  Paul says, [Ephesians 2:3]

All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath.

About now you might be thinking… “How can God hate people if He is love? That makes no sense!”  Look at it through the lens of what we’ve already believed as basic tenets of faith.

Because God is LORD of ALL, He has the RIGHT to expect us to be faithful to Him, to do as He instructs, to keep His commands, and to receive His grace in Christ.  When we do not do this, we invoke God’s wrath.  And while God IS LOVE, don’t mistake that to mean that He is obligated in some way to distribute this love equally to all.

While God gives everyone sunshine and rain [Matthew 5:43-48], God has the authority to reserve His best blessings (forgiveness and grace) only for those who believe in His Son, sent to save mankind from their sin.  It is only when we receive Jesus that He calls us His own family, His children, with the rights and privileges of grace and redemption.

John 1:12
Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God–

God is love.  This love commands, and demands, that we believe in His name… the person, Jesus!

 

Next time, the attributes of Knowledge.

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Descriptions of God define Him as LORD.

We’ve been looking at the topic “Who is God?” and we started by examining how God reveals Himself by ACTING through miracles, providence, creation and decrees. [4 separate posts see them by clicking here.]  Today I want to launch into the next major topic: How God DESCRIBES Himself through names, images, and attributes in the Bible.

Here’s the thing.  God does indeed want us to know what He is like.  The word “God” itself is a more generic term, and is often used to describe false gods as well as the One True God.  However, the NAME YAHWEH (the LORD) can only be used of the ONE True God.  There are also compound NAMES found in the Bible like:  God Almighty (El Shaddai), Lord of Hosts (Jehovah Tsabaoth – emphasizing God is Lord of all the angelic army of heaven), the Lord Who Provides (Jehovah Jireh), and so forth.  The name Jesus, is a really significant name for God, which Paul says is so worthy of praise, that every knee shall bow at the name of Jesus. (Philipians 2:10)

Now IMAGES are verbal pictures of God which compare Him to people or things in human experience.  The Bible shows God to be King, Father, Shepherd, Light, Rock, and Shield.  In fact the image of King is synonymous with LORD in thousands of verses in the Bible.  Father is maybe the most significant image of God in the Bible, and the prominent image of God in the New Testament.  Jesus taught His disciples (and us) to call God “Father” when we pray [Matthew 6:9].  Paul teaches that God adopts us into His own family when we accept Jesus as our Savior, and we then can cry out, “Abba! Father!” (Daddy!) [Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:6].  Jesus did this too… in Mark 14:36.

Sometimes people ask me if it would be ok to call God our Mother.  Well, let’s be candid, since God has no body (He is invisible), God is neither male or female.  So really it is a question of imagery… should we speak of God using mainly male or female images?  Well, guess what… there are feminine descriptions of God in Scripture!

The Bible says God gave birth to Israel, so in that sense God is Israel’s mother [Deuteronomy 32:17; Isaiah 42:14-15].  In fact Paul uses similar descriptions of himself suggesting he anguishes in childbirth until we accept Christ as Savior [Galatians 4:19].  Figuratively, this makes Paul the mother of the church… but it doesn’t really raise doubts for us about Paul’s sexual orientation as male.

In Scripture God is mostly described in male terminology, and this is not an accident or coincidence.  During ancient times the pagan religions described in the Bible often worshiped female deities, mainly through sexual acts.  The Biblical authors therefore stridently avoided suggesting that YAHWEH was female.  Scripture also emphasizes male leadership in the family and in the New Testament church.  Most of these writers then would have wanted to avoid confusing their readers as to God’s authority, therefore He is presented in male terminology.  Think about how this is reflected in the image of Jesus as the Bridegroom who redeems His church as a glorious bride.  [Revelation 19:7]

These NAMES and IMAGES are meant to introduce us to God as HE wants us to know and see Him.  Once we know these names, and see these images, we enhance our understanding of Him by studying His ATTRIBUTES.

So… next time we’ll examine God’s Attributes of LOVE.

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God Acts in His Decrees

We’ve made a good start at discovering how God acts in this world through miracles, providence, and creation.  His Lordship is demonstrated in real time now, through the beginning of time in creation, and all the way back to eternity past.  The Lordship of God in eternity past is best seen through His eternal decrees.

I mentioned the Westminster Shorter Catechism before.  Listen to what it says about God’s decrees:  (they are) “…His eternal purpose, according to the counsel of his will, whereby, for His own glory, He hath fore-ordained whatever comes to pass.”

This supports our earlier discovery, that God controls everything.  Stated this way though, we see that this control is the evidence of a plan, and the Bible calls it “his counsel, or the thoughts of His own heart.”  It seems even on a cursory reading of scripture that God has already thought this thing through.  Knows every possible nuance of every possible decision of every person who has lived, is living or will live.  And because He has a PLAN (reason, goal, and purpose for everything)… God is able to make “all things work together for good.” [Romans 8:28; Ephesians 1:11]

Let’s read how God’s plan goes back before time into eternity past…

Psalm 33:11
The counsel of the LORD stands forever, The plans of His heart from generation to generation.

Psalm 104:24
O LORD, how many are Your works! In wisdom You have made them all; The earth is full of Your possessions.

Isaiah 37:26
Have you not heard? Long ago I ordained it. In days of old I planned it; now I have brought it to pass, that you have turned fortified cities into piles of stone.

Matthew 25:34
Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.

1 Corinthians 2:7
No, we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began.

Ephesians 1:4
…just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. 

Ephesians 3:11
…also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will…

 

Please don’t miss the most significant and wonderful truth of Ephesians 1:4.  Jesus Christ the LORD chose me… chose YOU… before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before Him!!!  It was the PLAN.  It was the PURPOSE.  It was the GOAL.  It was the RESULT of all He decreed from eternity past!

So, in all the ways that God acts, [miracles, providence, creation, and decrees] He is LORD of ALL, and LORD throughout time.

Another way the Bible teaches us about God, and pretty clear and directly, is by describing what God is like.   The Bible’s many descriptions of God are intended to help us get past all the theoretical (theological mumbo jumbo) evidence, to see and know Him personally.

Next time, we’ll dig into the names, images, and attributes of God revealed to us through the Bible.

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God Acts … in Creation

Our foundational beliefs are based in the fact that God acts.  We’ve briefly examined how God acts in miracles and providence.  Now let’s see how God acts in the doctrine of Creation.

Genesis chapter one is the documentation of God bringing everything into being “that has come into being” (1 John 1:3).   So while miracles and providence display God’s extraordinary involvement in history and the world today, and His Lordship in this temporary place, “creation” demonstrates God’s Lordship before the beginning of time.

Another foundational belief of the church is how God made everything we see now out of nothing, or “ex nihilo” [latin].  This belief is hard to grasp since humans naturally have a difficult time comprehending eternity past or future, we are so focused on the now.  So think of it this way.  In “the beginning” when God created the heavens and earth (Genesis 1:1), there was nothing but God Himself, and the hosts of heaven.

Two important issues arise with the belief of God’s creative power.  First, God did not create the world out of an uncreated substance or “stuff.”

An artist in the world today must have materials such as clay, paint or canvas on an easel.  Yet, God used no material.  For the artist to do what God did, it would mean the human artist made not only the statue itself, but the rock from which it was carved.

Since the Bible clearly teaches God made everything (in the heavens, the earth, and the sea), there was no uncreated substance out of which God created the world.

Second, God did not make the world out of Himself.  This world is not God, not divine.  According to the Bible, God is the Creator, and the world is His creation.  This is why we worship God alone, and worship nothing in this world.  Some forms of Eastern religions, as well as much current Western New Age teachings, suggest we ourselves are God… but this is false teaching.

Now here’s the thing.

Ex Nihilo, (out of nothing) is critically important, not just because it demonstrates God’s power in action, but also as an analogy of Salvation.  The redemption of humanity and God’s creation is the ultimate long-term goal. [see 2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 2:10]

In the same way God created the world out of nothing, brought light out of darkness, God brought His people from sin into righteousness and from hopelessness into the assurance of His great love.

2 Corinthians 4:6
For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.

Today a typical controversy continues… how long it actually took God to create this world.  Many believe God created everything in a literal six, twenty-four hour, days.  Others hold that the “days” of Genesis were longer periods of time like geologic ages.  This is called the “day-age” theory.  And yet some people believe Genesis 1 as a whole is figurative or just a general idea of God’s creative power with no chronology at all.

The simple truth is, we’ll miss the point of studying creation if we get bogged down in the “how long it took” debate.

God acts.  He is LORD in real time now, because He has always been LORD, demonstrated in His power to create this world we live in today.  He created us, and all we see.

He deserves to be called LORD, and worshiped as LORD of ALL.

So, if God did not use an unknown “substance or stuff” to create, how are we even here?

Good question!

Next time we will introduce God’s eternal DECREES.

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God Acts … in Providence

If the definition of “miracle” is defined as God working in extraordinary ways, then “providence” is God working in ordinary ways.  However, the line between these two distinctions is not always that clear.  Miracles seem magnificent to us, but providence can also be amazing.  The Westminster Shorter Catechism defines providence like this:

“His most holy, wise, and powerful preserving and governing of all His creatures and all their actions.”

In short, this means God either allows or designs everything that happens.  Where do I get this idea?  Focus here on the word “ALL” in this definition of providence, because God’s control of His world is comprehensive and all-inclusive.

Providence carries with it these three concepts:  preserving, revelation, and concurrence.

God’s PRESERVING can mean a variety of things but according to scripture must include:

  • that this earth could not continue to exist without God’s permission
  • that Jesus holds everything together [Colossians 1:17]
  • that God is holding off His final judgment until all He knows will be saved, are saved [2 Peter 3:5-9]
  • that God preserves His people from death or destruction at many points during this earthly life [Genesis 45:5]
  • even though death will come to us eventually, in death God continues to preserve us [Psalm 16:10]
  • ALL this happens as God directs the course of nature and history to a preordained goal [Ephesian 1:9-11]

God’s REVELATION is not mentioned in the Catechism above, but is important for us to note, because:

  • everything that happens reflects (reveals) God’s wisdom (Psalm 104:24; Proverbs 8:22-36]
  • God’s Word directs (reveals) all things [Psalm 147:15-20; 148:5-8]
  • the heavens themselves declare (reveal) God’s glory
  • in all this God’s invisible nature is clearly in view (revealed) {Romans 1] as He makes Himself known to us.

CONCURRENCE then refers to God’s working in even the smallest events of nature and history to bring about (according to the Catechism) ” the cooperation of the divine power with all subordinate powers, according to the pre-established laws of their operation, causing them to act and to act precisely as they do.

Huh?

Think of it this way.  When plants germinate, they are carrying out the natural law God designed for them.  This is true.  However, the doctrine of concurrence demonstrates that God is also working in, with, and through these laws to achieve His own ultimate preordained goal [Ephesians 1:9-11].  This means that even when a sparrow falls to the ground [Matthew 10:29], this event will never occur unless it fulfills God’s preordained goal.  It also means that God knows the numbers of hairs on each of our heads [Matthew 10:30].

God is working both in heaven and in everything that happens in nature and history.

So here’s the thing.

Providence (in the same way we looked at miracles, fits the original threefold picture of: control, authority, and presence.

In providence God controls everything, reveals Himself authoritatively, and is present and active in the world He made.

Next time we will look at how God acts in Creation.

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God Acts – an outline

If you have been one of those people who made it their goal to read the Bible all the way through … cover to cover, including the maps and concordance… what you quickly notice is how difficult it is to understand the timeline of this work.  The Bible is not linear.  The books overlap and many cover the same time period but from different authors perspective.  But one thing is clear from the very beginning, God is actively involved with the world He created.

When we ask the question “Who is God” the Bible becomes the definitive work for not just discovering the answer, but also for understanding how the information found there applies to us individually.  In Scripture we find God acting in many ways to reveal Himself to mankind.  Here is a brief outline of what we’ll examine in this section of God ACTS.

God acts:

  • Activity in and with the natural world through miracles, providence, and creation
  • Making heavenly proclamations including His Lordship in eternity past, controlling everything in the present, and a plan for eternity future
  • All these activities and proclamations are done in accordance with the plan to redeem His creation from sin and death.

Why would God go to such lengthy extremes to reveal Himself in this way?

Let’s start with God acting in this world through miracles.

So, what constitutes a miracle?

Many people today define “miracle” as anything occurring outside the laws of nature.  However, Scripture doesn’t say all that much about natural law, because the Bible authors didn’t know enough to identify miracles as exceptions to the laws of nature.  Even when Jesus calmed the storms of the sea, the emphasis from those who witnessed this is interesting.  “Where is your faith?” he asked his disciples. In fear and amazement they asked one another, “Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him.” (Luke 8:25)

God has always been busy in and through His Sovereign control of nature. The authors of the Bible speak of miracles as an extraordinary demonstration of God’s LORDSHIP.  One great example is the deliverance of the Hebrew people as they left Egypt.  God made the waters separate so His people could cross on dry land, but they had no concept of natural law being suspended.  Moses wrote that the event happened through a “strong east wind.” [Exodus 14:21]

So here’s the thing.

The wording used in Scripture for “miracle” whether expressed in the Hebrew language of the Old Testament, or the Greek terminology of the New Testament, seems to focus on three general ideas:  powers, signs, and wonders.

Powers… are miracles where God acts in extraordinary ways controlling His creation. [Luke 8:25; or Exodus 14:21 above]

Signs… correspond to the idea of an authentic communication from God about His intentions.  [Luke 2:12]

Wonders… circumstances of events intended to wake us up and realize God really is here, right now, just like Peter did in Luke 5:1-10.

Well… do miracles still happen today?

To answer this question, maybe we should recognize that while there are many miracles demonstrated in the Bible, even in this historical record miracles didn’t happen every day.  Miracles were the exception, not the rule, and they were usually to validate the words of a prophet (OT) or an apostle (NT), but especially to authenticate God the Father’s witness that Jesus Christ is the Son.  In fact, there is a 400-year time span between the last book of the Old Testament, and the first book of the New Testament, where God didn’t act, or speak in any way at all.  Because of this truth, we shouldn’t expect miracles to be a regular part of the Christian life either.

God never promised this.

That said, there is nothing to indicate God doesn’t or won’t work in a miraculous way today.  The term “wonder” usually applies in Scripture to floating axe heads [2 Kings 6:1-7], turning water into wine [John2:1-10], or miraculous feedings [Mark 8:1-13],

But Psalm 134:3-4 says, “Give thanks to the Lord of lords: His love endures forever, to him who alone does great wonders…” then verse 25 says, “He gives food to every creature.”  We don’t pay enough attention sometimes to realize God feeds us all, through His Sovereign control to keep this world in order, producing the food we eat.

In this sense God is working in extraordinary ways (miracles) all the time, all around us.

Next time… God acts in Providence.

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God is…

To answer the question: Who is God?… we must state the obvious.  He is LORD.  In the first two installments I introduced three basic tenets as a foundation for spiritual understanding.  God as Lord is… in control of all things, speaks with absolute authority, and is present with us, His creatures, all the time.

But the question, “who is God?” really is asking for more than this simple view, right?  So over the coming weeks, my articles will be like taking a leisurely stroll through some Bible passages that help us see, know, and understand God better.

This will be a glance into the nature and character of God, as His word reveals it.  The vast expanse of Bible material to cover would overwhelm us both, if we tried to cover it too quickly.  So little bits of tasty morsels is all I will give in any one article.

Psalm 34:8
Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!

Where to begin?

One of the mysteries of scripture is how God reveals Himself as Father, Son, and Spirit. We call this the Trinity, although this word is not found anywhere in the Bible.  Three in One we say, and the Bible implies it is so.

Deuteronomy 6:4
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.

You will notice right away that I will also use this threefold pattern to help bring clarity to the topics discussed.

The Bible reveals God to us by

  • showing us his ACTS,
  • by giving us authoritative DESCRIPTIONS of Himself,
  • and by revealing just a glimpse of the relationship between Father, Son, and Spirit.

The ACTS of God are all about demonstrating how God the LORD is in control of everything.

The DESCRIPTIONS of God the LORD help us understand the demand on His creatures to yield to His authority and will for our lives.

And the glimpse of the TRINITY tells us that even before God made the world, He was in personal relationship – committed to one another in love, and perfectly PRESENT to one another.

Now, here’s the thing…

Some of the work you’ll have to do on your own.  If you don’t own a Bible, you need to borrow one, or buy one, or link to an online website that makes the Word of God available to you.  I simply will not be able to give the text of every reference, every time, but will give you the source to look up for yourself.  It will have great benefit for you, if you look it up and read it for yourself, trust me on this.

In all of God’s acts, descriptions, and glimpses of His inner life (Trinity) He puts Himself on display as LORD.  Everything He does, everything He says, every glimpse is so that you and I will be like those first chosen ones.

Exodus 29:46
They will know that I am the LORD their God, who brought them out of Egypt so that I might dwell among them. I am the LORD their God.

Are you ready?

We begin tomorrow with “How God Acts”


 

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