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Beliefs Matter: It Really Does Make A Difference What We Believe About the One Spirit Ephesians 4


One New Year’s Day, in the Tournament of Roses parade, one of the more beautiful floats suddenly sputtered and quit. It was out of gas. The whole parade was held up until someone was able to get some more gas for the float. Do you know which float it was? The one representing the Standard Oil Company. With its vast resources of oil, its truck sat there helpless.

We need to talk today about the One Spirit, which is our power supply? How has your power supply been working for you this past week?

It matters what we believe; it affects spiritual health.   Eph. 4:5 speaks on seven 1’s which serve to unite us. As we are One Body, we also possess One Spirit, which works in each of our lives.

 How do we begin? Obviously the Spirit is holy (divine) – God is Father, Son, & Spirit.

The Spirit is spirit. He is not flesh and blood, is not tangible. That makes for much of our difficulty in grasping a better understanding of him.

he Spirit is not the same as the word. The phrase “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Eph. 6:17) says that the word is the Spirit’s sword, so the word cannot be identical with the Spirit.

If we say “the weapon of the soldier is a rifle,” that does not mean the soldier is a rifle. Rather, the rifle is distinct from him, it is his weapon, an entirely different entity. So if the sword of the Spirit is the word of God, then the word of God is a separate entity from the Spirit, it is his weapon.

  • The Spirit is personal – a he, not an it
  • The Spirit lives inside every Christian: (Romans 8:9 NIV) You, however, are controlled not by the [flesh] but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.
  • (1 Corinthians 12:12-13 NIV) The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. {13} For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body–whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free–and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.
  • The Spirit is powerful: I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being,
  • The Spirit living in us is a down payment on our future inheritance: (2 Corinthians 1:21-22 NIV) Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, {22} set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.
  • The Spirit living in us indicates we are God’s children: (Romans 8:16-17 NIV) The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. {17} Now if we are children, then we are heirs–heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.
  • (Galatians 4:6-7 NIV) Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” {7} So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.
  • The Spirit is involved in transforming us. (2 Corinthians 3:17-18 NIV) Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. {18} And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
  • He also intercedes for us in prayer; convicts the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment; empowers us to speak boldly; and gives us gifts.

We can tell whether we really believe God’s truths by how we live our lives. Belief isn’t tested so much theoretically as practically. Again, the reason God wants us to believe his truths is not merely so we can pass a doctrinal test; rather, it is so that we will have healthy spiritual lives. If we examine our lives, that’s how we clarify what we really believe. So do you believe in the One Spirit?

One important way is to see whether we believe in One Spirit:

(Romans 7:6 NIV)  But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.

What does that mean? How can we tell which way we are in fact approaching it?

Some characteristics of the old way of the written code:

  • Law, rules, focus on externals (attendance, conformity, concern over that which is outward and appearances)
  • Pride and superiority or guilt and inferiority
  • There’s comparison and concentration on human effort
  • And it is exhausting (Galatians 3:3 NIV) Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?
  • If this is your pattern, Jesus wrote this: (Matthew 11:28-30 NIV) “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. {29} Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. {30} For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
  • Biting and devouring others (Galatians 5:15 NIV) If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.
  • Being a control freak, “It is our determination to be independent by being in control that makes us unavailable to God” Richard Neuhaus.
  • “Those who are filled with the Spirit have died to that determination, surrendered their right to be in control, and made themselves radically dependent on and available to the Holy Spirit.” Stephen Seamands

Some characteristics of the new way of Spirit

  • Belong to Jesus as if married (Romans 7:1-4 NIV)  Do you not know, brothers–for I am speaking to men who know the law–that the law has authority over a man only as long as he lives? {2} For example, by law a married woman is bound to her husband as long as he is alive, but if her husband dies, she is released from the law of marriage. {3} So then, if she marries another man while her husband is still alive, she is called an adulteress. But if her husband dies, she is released from that law and is not an adulteress, even though she marries another man. {4} So, my brothers, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God.
  • Is your relationship by marriage dominated by rules & regulations for your spouse???
  • Bear fruit to God (Galatians 5:22-26 NIV) But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, {23} gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. {24} Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. {25} Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. {26} Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.
  • “Ministry, if it is to be fruitful—not merely productive—must be through the Holy Spirit,” Stephen Seamands. Productive: means it likely comes from us…from our effort.
  • Changed being (2 Corinthians 3:17-18 NIV)  Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. {18} And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (whole lot easier to act compassionately if we are in fact compassionate)
  • You know the love of God (Romans 5:5 NIV) And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.
  • Choose to go along with the Spirit: (Galatians 5:25 NIV)  Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.

(Ephesians 4:30 NIV)  And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.

(1 Thessalonians 5:19 NIV)  Do not put out the Spirit’s fire;

How do you change to the “new way” of the Spirit

  • Deliberately stop thinking in terms of rules (cf. die to the law). Am I good enough? (of course not!). Is it a sin to…? God didn’t give us law, lists, etc. that was totally dominate our thinking…this isn’t the usual language of the new way in the Spirit.
  • It’s legalistic in its way of thinking
  • Instead, start thinking in terms of relationship, pleasing someone we love who is close to us.
  • Re-envision your Christianity in terms of being in a relationship with God. (remember, I will not leave you as orphans, children of God).
  • Talk to him respectfully but as in a real relationship, open yourself up to him, pour your heart out to him, greatest commandment is to love God w/ all our heart, soul, mind, & strength, what does that mean?
  • I’ve done this and that…”what else do you want me to do?”
  • What does it mean to love our spouses or our children or our friends? The idea of WWJD is pretty good, except that it has become pop religion and frequently doesn’t have much substance to it.
  • Can we really do WWJD or even know WWJD if we aren’t also doing what he did regularly in terms of spending time alone with God?
  • Give God opportunities to write his word on our hearts (pray, open, read, meditate)—this fits fruit-bearing. You must come to a personal understanding of what that means

 If we want the power of God to transform our lives, we need to do some work and also make ourselves available for God to do some work to transform us deep within by the power of his Spirit.

 
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Posted by on October 1, 2018 in God

 

Where is God when we hurt?


“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” Psalm 46:1

“…who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” 2 Corinthians 1:4

1. WHEN YOUR REQUEST IS WRONG, GOD IS DENYING YOU

When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. James 4:3

Psalm 69:6 (43 kb)2. WHEN YOUR TIMING IS WRONG, GOD IS DELAYING YOU

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: Ecclesiastes 3:1

3. WHEN YOUR COURSE IS WRONG, GOD IS DIRECTING YOU

Then the sailors said to each other, “Come, let us cast lots to find out who is responsible for this calamity.” They cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah. Jonah 1:7

From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the LORD his God. Jonah 2:1

4. WHEN YOUR LIFE IS WRONG, GOD IS DISCIPLINING YOU

Hebrews 12:4-11 (NIV)
4  In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.
5  And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,
6  because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.”
7  Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father?
8  If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons.
9  Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live!
10  Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness.
11  No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

5. THROUGH IT ALL, GOD IS DEVELOPING YOU

“…being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6

Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5

 
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Posted by on May 21, 2018 in God

 

Get Your Priorities Straight – Exodus 20:1-3


Some suggest there’s not a lot to brag about when it comes to flying on Southwest Airlines. Southwest is all about no frills bargains. It’s the Wal-Mart of airlines. (I like the low cost, not paying fees for luggage, and no penalties if you need to make last minute changes!)

But Southwest Airlines has a way of making me feel great about flying on their planes. After the plane lands, a flight attendant grabs the mike and after announcing all the gates for connecting flights she will say, “We hope you enjoyed your flight today. We know that you have choices when you travel and we thank you for choosing Southwest Airlines.”

Southwest Airlines may not give me the greatest airline snacks, but they recognize that I have the power to choose and they respect that. They make me feel good for choosing them instead of Delta or American. Southwest knows that I am a customer and they are so thankful and appreciative of me.

In ancient times there were dozens of gods to choose from. Really neat gods and goddesses with cool names – they went on adventures and had magic powers.

God makes the following statement: Exodus 20:2-3 “I am the LORD your God, who rescued you from the land of Egypt, the place of your slavery. You must not have any other god but me.”

How on earth can God make such a statement? People do have choices, right? So why does God have to be so absolute?  There’s a relationship here when God says: I AM the one who delivered you.

The Israelites who first heard these words at the base of Mount Sinai, had been slaves for four generations in Egypt. God had delivered them from slavery. No other god. No other power. God was the one who had saved them, fed them, nurtured them, and protected them.

God is still delivering people from enslavement. People are enslaved to fear, worry, hatred, addiction, pride, poverty, loneliness, and despair.

People are dehumanized and demeaned by oppressive powers of sin. But God is more powerful than the powers. What other God died for us and redeemed us? What other God made us into a people with purpose. What other God brings us hope? Before we ever thought about choosing God – He chose us!

Because of that relationship, there are certain claims established. God is our God and we are his people. It’s like a marriage. You have a choice in who you marry, but once you marry that relationship is exclusive. So God is all-inclusively exclusive.

God knows that there are choices. I suppose you can choose another god, but once you choose God, it’s exclusive.

Anyone can come to God. God can deliver anyone. But once you enter into the relationship – it’s you and God. It’s us and God. The relationship is established.

Greatest Commandments: Love God with all you heart, soul, strength, and mind. Love your neighbor as yourself.

The first commandment given to God’s chosen people…then and now…asserts the claim of God to absolute sovereignty over the lives of his people. Without this fundamental declaration of divine authority over human lives, there would be no basis for any other of the commandments to follow. This is the first commandment, then, not only in order of their statement but in order of their internal coherence. It has to do with fixing priorities in human affairs.

The fundamental decision that each of us must make in life can be put into words this way: What is going to be the most important thing in my life?

The Other Gods We Are Tempted to Follow

1 John 2:15-17 refers to an unholy trinity of pleasure, possessions, and position. John summarized all this when he wrote: “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh [i.e., the Pleasure God] and the lust of the eyes [i.e., the Possession God] and the pride of life [i.e., the Position God], is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world passes away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides for ever” (I John 2:15-17).

These false gods are worshipped in many different forms, but everything that competes with the true God for first place in our lives comes under one of these three headings.

When pleasure becomes your god, work and duty become burdensome. Are we such a pleasure-mad people that we hate anything that smacks of work and duty? What starts as a legitimate diversion for an individual can enslave his time, money, and energy so as to become a sin for him. It may be fishing, hunting, playing tennis, playing or coaching baseball, or any number of things that are good within themselves. But when anyone of them becomes more important to you than your responsibilities as an adult, a provider, a human being, or a Christian, it has become a god to you.

When possessions become your god, money rules your thoughts and ambitions. You begin to neglect spiritual things and find yourself participating in things you would have never believed possible. You find yourself being devious and underhanded, and you begin to shade the truth in order to take unfair advantage in a business deal. What has happened? You have dethroned the Almighty God and put the Almighty Dollar in his place.

When position becomes your god, you begin taking yourself too seriously. You develop an over-inflated ego and think you are smarter and more important than you really are. Your “rights” become all-important to you, so the notion of humbling yourself to serve someone else or turning the other cheek when insulted becomes repulsive to you.

The man or woman who spends a lifetime in pursuit of these idols will lose both them and his or her own soul. The individual whose priorities are right gains and cannot lose. The false gods of human experience promise things they cannot deliver. Sensuality, wealth, and fame certainly don’t guarantee happiness.

The “unholy trinity” cannot get us out of trouble. Creature pleasures won’t chase away depression, money can’t buy love, and fame will not make a marriage happy. All these things together will not secure eternal life, fellowship with God, or heaven.

  • Live for pleasure and carnal satisfaction, and you will burn out and self-destruct! “For he who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption” (Galatians 6:8a).
  • Live for God, and your life will take on the special qualities of peace and fulfillment that can be experienced only by those close to deity. You will come to be able to “prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2).

So the first rule of a good life is this: Get your priorities right. Put God first in everything. Let things of the kingdom of God have precedence over every other concern. “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon,” said the Lord Jesus (Matthew 6:24).

Paul took up this same theme of life priorities and put it this way: “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hid with Christ in God” (Colossians 3·1-3).

The Place of This Commandment for Us

If you understand now what God was asking of the Jews at Mt. Sinai, surely you see the relevance of this same command for us. If you are going to live by the rules, you will have to give God first place in your life and put the things of His kingdom first in your behavior.

Why are false doctrines ever taught among us? It is because somebody has not seen the Word of God alone as true and primary and has thought that his own superior knowledge and insight were as good as the commandments of God himself. Someone thought he could improve on the way God had ordered something done.

Why does sinful behavior ever get into your life or mine? It is because we get our priorities confused. We get our feeings hurt and decide we have the right to retaliate; we get depressed and decide it will be all right to reach for some forbidden pleasure as a palliative; we forget that God and his will are all that really matter in this world and begin to neglect the Bible, put off prayer, and place the work of Christ’s church on the back burner of life.

Whenever we put what we want above what we know is right, we have broken the first rule of right living.

Paul explained this under the analogy of a man in military service. “No soldier on service gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to satisfy the one who enlisted him” (2 Tim. 2:14).

When someone is serving in the army, military obligations have full claim on him. He cannot run two or three private businesses while on duty. He is on service to his country, and that service demands his full time and attention.

In the same way, those of us who wear the name of Christ are on service for him. Twenty-four hours per day and seven days per week, his concerns must occupy our attention. Someone on service for Christ cannot carry on two or three sideline flirtations with the world. Kingdom business has to come first.

How did the first century Christians do in those first weeks/months following Pentecost?

Acts 2:42-47 (NIV) Ac 42 (NIV)  They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43  Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. 44  All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45  Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. 46  Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47  praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

How did it change within those first 50+ years?

Hebrews 2:1-4 (NIV)  We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. 2  For if the message spoken by angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, 3  how shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation? This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. 4  God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.

Hebrews 3:7-12 (NIV) So, as the Holy Spirit says: “Today, if you hear his voice, 8  do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the desert, 9  where your fathers tested and tried me and for forty years saw what I did. 10  That is why I was angry with that generation, and I said, ‘Their hearts are always going astray, and they have not known my ways.’ 11  So I declared on oath in my anger, ‘They shall never enter my rest.'” 12  See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God.

Hebrews 5:11-14 (NIV) We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. (no thros: Hebrews 6:12: We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised. -lazy) 12 In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! 13  Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. 14  But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.

Hebrews 10:25-31 (NIV)  Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching. 26  If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, 27  but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. 28  Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29  How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? 30  For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge his people.” 31  It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

The pious Christian, imitating his Jewish counterpart of generations ago, would do well to repeat the words of the Shema frequently: “Hear, 0 Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might” (Deuteronomy 6:4-5).

Conclusion — The God of the Bible is a jealous God. His jealousy is a moral excellence rather than flaw, because it is the jealousy of a husband who justly desires his wife’s exclusive affection.

It is not the sort of suspicious and accusing jealousy some husbands display toward their wives but the sort of holy jealousy a man and woman have over each other from love. A good man would be horrified if anyone else were to get any part of the devotion and affection that he alone has the right to receive from his wife.

In the same way, God will have first place or no place in your life. He will not share your loyalties and affections. If you will not give him the best and purest of your love, he will not take the leftovers.

Enthrone the true God in your heart, and keep that priority fixed forever.

 

 
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Posted by on May 7, 2018 in God

 

God stronger than the devil….we are on the winning side


In the midst of a storm, a little bird was clinging to the limb of a tree, seemingly calm and unafraid. As the wind tore at the limbs of the tree, the bird continued to look the storm in the face, as if to say, “Shake me off; I still have wings.”

Hope prevents us from clinging to what we have and frees us to move away from the safe place and enter unknown and fearful territory. The only fight which is lost is that which we give up. We must be careful for nothing, prayerful for everything, thankful for anything.

We must have plenty of courage. God is stronger than the devil. We are on the winning side.

Success is never final; failure is never fatal; it is courage that counts. The great need for anyone in authority is courage. Courage is almost a contradiction in terms:  it means a strong desire to live taking the form of readiness to die.

Courage is not limited to the battlefield or the Indianapolis 500 or bravely catching a thief in your house. The real tests of courage are much deeper and much quieter. They are the inner tests, like remaining faithful when nobody’s looking, like enduring pain when the room is empty, like standing alone when you’re misunderstood

A sailor was given liberty to go ashore when his ship docked at a large southwestern American city.  He visited a park famous for its trees and tropical flowers. As he walked across an open grassy sunlit area, he noticed bees flying all around him.  Suddenly, all the bees began to settle upon him. They were all over his clothes, his hands, and his face. Panic gripped him, and though he wanted to run in fear, he forced himself to stand stock still. There were hundreds, maybe thousands, of bees all over him.  He hardly dared to breathe.

“Look at that sailor,” he heard a woman’s voice say. After what seemed an eternity to the sailor, slowly the bees departed one by one until they were all gone.  His uniform was soaked with perspiration, but he had not been stung once.

Sometimes it is better to stand stock still in the midst of danger than to run in panic and fear and possibly to bring about the very end one wishes to avoid.

Scripture says,  “”Whoever flees from the terror will fall into a pit, whoever climbs out of the pit will be caught in a snare; for I will bring upon Moab the year of her punishment,” declares the LORD.” (Jeremiah 48:44)

COURAGE

’Tis nothing for a man to hold up his head in a calm; but to maintain his post when all others have quitted their ground and there to stand upright when other men are beaten down is divine. Lucius Annaeus Seneca (c. 4 b.c.–a.d. 65)

A great deal of talent is lost in this world for want of a little courage. Sydney Smith (1771–1845)

A man without courage is a knife without an edge. Benjamin Franklin (1706–1790)

Do not ask the Lord for a life free from grief, instead ask for courage that endures. Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat. Theodore Roosevelt (1858–1919)

Fear can keep a man out of danger; but courage can support him in it. Sir Thomas Fuller (1608–1661)

I am only one, but I am one. I can’t do everything, but I can do something. And what I can do, I ought to do. And what I ought to do, by the Grace of God, I shall do. Edward Everett Hale (1822–1909)

I do not ask to walk smooth paths nor bear an easy load, I pray for strength and fortitude to climb the rock-strewn road. Give me such courage I can scale the hardest peaks alone, and transform every stumbling block into a stepping-stone. Gail Brook Burket

It takes guts to leave the ruts. Robert Harold Schuller (1926– )

The test of courage comes when we are in the minority; the test of tolerance when we are in the majority. Ralph Washington Sockman (1889–1970)

 
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Posted by on January 15, 2018 in God

 

Does God Exist?


discouragemnetMost will agree that the most basic, fundamental question concerning existence is not that nothing is here, but rather that something is here. I am a part of some kind of reality.

I possess a consciousness, an awareness that something is transpiring, unfolding, happening. And you and I are part of it. The reality borne out of our personal observation and experience is that we are participants in a space-time universe which is characterized by a series of events. The mind naturally asks the question, “What is it?” Where did it come from?” Did the cosmos, what we see, simply come into being from nothing, or has this material universe of which we are a part always been here? Or is something or someone which transcends this material universe responsible for bringing it into existence and us with it?

All of these questions relate to the philosophical concept of metaphysics. Webster defines it: “That division of philosophy which includes ontology, or the science of being and cosmology, or the science of fundamental causes and processes in things.”1 When we seek to answer these basic questions, then, we are thinking “metaphysically” about the origin and the causes of the present reality. And at this basic, fundamental level of consideration we really are left with few options, or possible answers, to account for or explain the universe. The three potential candidates are:

(1) Something came from nothing. Most reject this view, since the very idea defies rationality. This explanation to account for the universe is not widely held. Kenny remarks: “According to the big bang theory, the whole matter of the universe began to exist at a particular time in the remote past. A proponent of such a theory, . . . if he is an atheist, must believe that the matter of the universe came from nothing and by nothing.”2 Since nothing cannot produce something by rules of logic (observation, causality), something is eternal and necessary. Since any series of events is not eternal (thus a contradiction), there is, therefore, an eternal, necessary something not identical to the space-time universe.

(2) Matter is eternal and capable of producing the present reality through blind chance. Carl Sagan stated this view clearly when he said, “All that ever was, all that is, and all that ever shall be is the Cosmos.”3 This second view has spawned two basic worldviews-Materialism (or Naturalism) and Pantheism. Both hold the premise that nothing exists beyond matter. Materialism therefore is atheistic by definition. Pantheism is similar but insists that since God does not exist, nature is imbued with “god” in all its parts.

(3) God created the universe. This view, Theism, holds forth the assertion that Someone both transcends, and did create the material universe of which we are a part. There are no other logical alternatives to explain the cosmos. Christians, of course, embrace this third view, along with all other theists, as the most reasonable explanation for what we find to be true of ourselves and of the world. Holding this view is not simply a statement of blind faith. There are sound and rational reasons for preferring this view over the other two. Theism is therefore a reasonable idea. In fact it is more reasonable to believe that God exists than not to believe He exists. Theologians have posed several lines of “proof” to argue for God’s existence. These arguments, while not proving the existence of God, do nevertheless provide insights that may be used to show evidence of His existence.

The Cosmological Argument

Every event has a cause, and that includes the universe. It had a beginning. There was a time when it was not, and a time when it was: An infinite number of real parts of time, passing in succession and exhausted one after another, appears so evident a contradiction that no man, one should think, whose judgment is not corrupted, instead of being improved, by the sciences, would ever be able to admit it.” (emphasis mine)4

Hume is here arguing that time and space are not infinite, not eternal. If this is true, the universe, which is an “effect,” had a cause. Robert Jastrow comments, “The most complete study made thus far has been carried out . . .by Allan Sandage. He compiled information on 42 galaxies, ranging out in space as far as six billion light years from us. His measurements indicate that the universe was expanding more rapidly in the past than it is today. This result lends further support to the belief that the universe exploded into being.”5

He goes on to say: “No explanation other than the big bang has been found for the fireball radiation. The clincher, which has convinced almost the last doubting Thomas, is that the radiation discovered by Penzias and Wilson has exactly the pattern of wavelengths expected for the light and heat produces in a great explosion.”6

Jastrow also concludes the universe is dying: “Once hydrogen has been burned within that star and converted to heavier elements, it can never be restored to its original state. Minute by minute and year by year, as hydrogen is used up in stars, the supply of this element in the universe grows smaller.”7 “Astronomers now find they have painted themselves into a corner because they have proven, by their own methods, that the world began abruptly in an act of creation to which you can trace the seeds of every star, every planet, every thing in this cosmos and on the earth. And they have found that all this happened as a product of forces they cannot hope to discover.”8

Some have argued that an infinite regress of causes may not be logically possible. They say the universe is not a “whole” that needs a single cause, but rather that it is “mutually dependent” upon itself! Mutual dependence misses the point. The real issue is why there is an existing universe rather than a non-existing one. Reality and rationality suggest that every event has a cause. Whole series of events must have a cause as well (since the whole is the sum of the parts). If all the parts were taken away, would there be anything left? If we say yes, then God exists (i.e. an eternal necessary being that is more than the world. If we say no, then the whole is contingent too, and needs a cause beyond it (God).

We will conclude this section with an examination of perhaps the most often-asked question concerning the cosmological argument, “Where did God come from?” While it is both reasonable and legitimate to ask this question of the universe which we have just examined, it is irrational and nonsensical to ask that same question of God, since it implies to Him characteristics found only in the finite universe: space and time. By definition, something eternal must exist outside this space/time continuum. The very question posed reveals the inquirer’s fallacy of reasoning from within his own space/time context! By definition, something eternal must exist outside both time and space. God has no beginning; He IS! (Exodus 3:14).

The Teleological Argument

This second argument for the existence of God addresses the order, complexity, and diversity of the cosmos. “Teleological” comes from the Greek word “telos,” which means “end” or “goal.” The idea behind the argument is that the observable order in the universe demonstrates that it functions according to an intelligent design, something undeniable to an open-minded, intelligent being. The classic expression of this argument is William Paley’s analogy of the watchmaker in his book Evidences. If we were walking on the beach and found a watch in the sand, we would not assume that it washed up on the shore having been formed through the natural processes and motions of the sea. We would rather naturally assume that it had been lost by its owner and that somewhere there was a watchmaker who originally designed and built it with a specific purpose in mind. Intelligence cannot be produced by non-intelligence any more than nothing can produce something. There is, therefore, an eternal, necessary intelligence present and reflected in the space-time universe.

The earth itself is evidence of design. “If it were much smaller an atmosphere would be impossible (e.g. Mercury and the moon); if much larger the atmosphere would contain free hydrogen (e.g. Jupiter and Saturn). Its distance from the sun is correct—even a small change would make it too hot or too cold. Our moon, probably responsible for the continents and ocean basins, is unique in our solar system and seems to have originated in a way quite different from the other relatively much smaller moons. The tilt of the [earth’s] axis insures the seasons, and so on.”[1]

Until about five hundred years ago, humanity had no difficulty in acknowledging God as the Creator of the natural order. The best explanation saw Him as the divine Designer who created it with a purpose and maintained all things by the word of His power (Hebrews 1:3; Colossians 1:17). But the rise of modern science initiated a process we could call the “demythologizing of nature,” the material world. Superstition and ignorance had ascribed spirit life even to forest, brook, and mountain. Things not understood scientifically were routinely accepted to be unexplained, supernatural forces at work.

Slowly, the mysterious, spiritual factor was drained away as scholars and scientists replaced it with natural explanations and theories of how and why things actually worked. After Copernicus, human significance diminished in the vastness of the cosmos, and it was felt only time and research, not God, would be needed to finally explain with accuracy the totality of the natural order. The idea of a transcendent One came to be deemed unnecessary, having been invalidated by the new theory of natural selection.

Ironically, the same science which took God away then, is bringing back the possibility of His existence today. Physics and quantum mechanics have now brought us to the edge of physicality, to a place where sub-atomic particle structures are described by some as spirit, ghost-like in quality. Neurophysiologists grapple with enigmatic observations suggesting that the mind transcends the brain! Psychology has developed an entirely new branch of study (parapsychology) which asserts that psycho-spiritual forces (ESP, biofeedback, etc.) actually function beyond the physical realm.

Molecular biologists and geneticists, faced with the highly-ordered and complex structures of DNA, ascribe a word implying “intelligence” to the chaining sequences: the genetic “code.” And we have already concluded that astrophysicists have settled on the “big bang” which seems to contradict the idea that matter is eternal, and, huge as it is, the universe appears to be finite. Whether we look through the microscope or the telescope it becomes more difficult in the light of experimental science to hold to the old premise that such order and complexity are the products of blind chance. The old naturalistic assumptions are being critically reexamined, challenged, and found to be unconvincing by many of today’s scientists.

r. Walter Bradley, Professor Emeritus of Mechanical Engineering at Texas A & M University states the case: “Discoveries of the last half of the 20th century have brought the scientific community to the realization that our universe and our planet in the universe are so remarkably unique that it is almost impossible to imagine how this could have happened accidentally, causing may agnostic scientists to concede that indeed some intelligent creative force may be required to account for it.”9

The Ontological Argument (The idea of a supreme being)

Man not only has an idea of a God, but he pictures that God is a supreme being, one who is perfect, independent, and infinite. Where does this idea come from if there is no such being?

This argument is generally considered the most profound and Keyser in his book, A System of Christian Evidences, has an excellent statement:

We can not think of the relative without also thinking of an absolute. We can not think of the derived without also thinking of the underived. We can not think of the dependent without also thinking of the independent. We can not think of the imperfect without also thinking of the perfect. We can not think of the finite without also thinking of the in­finite.

Now, if these concepts are not true, and there is no perfect, absolute, infinite Being, then man’s thinking, in its deepest constitution is null and void. If that were true, all our thinking would be insane and futile. Can we believe that?[1] (Little, p. 11, quoting R.E.D. Clark, Creation, London: Tyndale Press, p. 10.)

 

Sometimes this argument is called, The Religious or General Argument with the argument going something like this: Since the belief in God and super­natural beings is universal even among the most backward tribes, it must therefore come from within man, it is something innate. The question is, could it have come from civilization or even from education when people all over the world possess it whether they are civilized and educated or not? The logical answer is no.

Then, where could such an idea come from if there is no God? There is always something to satisfy the desires which are common to the whole human race. There is food for the hungry, water for the thirsty, and a God for the thirsty soul. Stated in the form of a syllogism the argument is as follows:

  • Major Premise: An intuitive and universal belief among men must be true.
  • Minor Premise: The belief that there is a God is universal and intuitive among men.
  • Therefore: The belief that there is a God is true.

There are some very interesting facts regarding the universal belief in God.

(1) More than 90 percent of the religions of the world acknowledge the existence of one supreme being and some even anticipate God’s redeeming concern.

(2) In every case, this monotheistic belief predated other forms of worship or beliefs and heathenistic practices. This is true the world over on every continent.

(3) These other forms of heathenistic and polytheistic practices were invariably the result of failing to pursue the knowledge of God. Failure to pursue belief in the one Supreme Being created a vacuum into which false and demonic beliefs quickly rushed. As an illustration, ancient Chinese and Koreans had believed in a Supreme God who created all things. In China his name was Shang Ti and in Korea it was Hananim, The Great One. This belief predated Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism. It goes back 2600 years before Christ and worshippers throughout China and Korea seem to have understood from the beginning that Shang Ti/Hananim must never be represented by idols.[2]

Little writes: It is very significant that recent anthropological research has indicated that among the farthest and most remote primitive peoples, today, there is a universal belief in God. And in the earliest histories and legends of peoples all around the world the original concept was of one God, who was the Creator. An original high God seems once to have been in their consciousness even in those societies which are today polytheistic. This research, in the last fifty years, has challenged the evolutionary concept of the development of religion, which had suggested that monotheism—the concept of one God—was the apex of a gradual development that began with polytheistic concepts. It is increasingly clear that the oldest traditions everywhere were of one supreme God.[3]

[1] Keyser, A System of Christian Evidences,  pp. 196-197.

[2] Richardson, Eternity In Their Hearts, Regal Books, pp. 63f.

[3] Little, p. 8, citing Samuel Zwemer, The Origin of Religion, New York, Loizeaux Brothers as the source of this information.

The Moral Argument

This argument for God’s existence is based on the recognition of humankind’s universal and inherent sense of right and wrong. (cf. Romans 2:14,15). No culture is without standards of behavior. All groups recognize honesty as a virtue along with wisdom, courage, and justice. And even in the most remote jungle tribes, murder, rape, lying, and theft are recognized as being wrong, in all places and at all times. The question arises, “Where does this sense of morality come from?”

Man has an intellectual and moral nature which demands God as his Creator. Man’s conscience, which is a law to man, necessitates a Law-Giver. Man’s free will implies a Great Will. Without God as the basis for right and wrong, no government would be possible except on the principle, “might makes right.”

Though it becomes defiled and seared by sin (1 Tim. 4:2; Tit. 1:15), to some degree all men have that faculty called conscience with its constant impulse to choose the right and leave the wrong. Society and government are based on this recognition of virtue and truth, but where does that come from? The only logical explanation is the existence of a God whose ways are holy, just, and good. A material universe without God as Supreme Governor would of necessity lack moral values and distinctions.

C. S. Lewis speaks of this early on in his classic work Mere Christianity. He calls this moral law “The Rule of Right and Wrong”–“a thing that is really there, not made up by ourselves.”10 For years Lewis struggled against God because the universe to him seemed unjust and cruel. But he began to analyze his outrage. Where did he get the very ideas of just and unjust? He said, “A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line.”11

He goes on to suggest that there are three parts to morality. Using the analogy of a fleet of ships on a voyage, he points out that three things can go wrong. The first is that ships may either drift apart or collide with and do damage to one another (alienation, isolation: people abusing, cheating, bullying one another). The second is that individual ships must be seaworthy and avoid internal, mechanical breakdown (moral deterioration within an individual).

Lewis goes on to point out that if the ships keep having collisions they will not remain seaworthy very long, and of course, it their steering parts are out of order, they will not be able to avoid collisions! But there is a third factor not yet taken into account, and that is, “Where is the fleet of ships headed?” The voyage would be a failure if it were meant to reach New York but actually arrived in Buenos Aires (the general purpose of human life as a whole, what man was made for)!12

The human conscience to which Paul refers in Romans 2 is not found in any other animal–only man. The utter uniqueness of this moral compass within humans, along with other exclusively human qualities (rationality, language, worship and aesthetic inclinations) strongly suggest that man not only has a relationship downward to animals, plants and earth, but also a relationship upward to the God in Whose image he is. As we saw God’s great power and intelligence expressed in the first two arguments, we also see here that this sense of morality, not known in the world of nature, comes from the Great Law Giver Who is Himself in character the “straight line” (righteous, just, holy) against which all human actions are measured.

In closing: “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so they are without excuse.” (Saint Paul, Romans 1:20).

“Only the fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ ” (King David, Psalm 14:1).

Notes

  1. Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary (Springfield, Mass.: G. & C. Merriam Co., Publishers, 1953), s.v. “metaphysics”, 528.
  2. Anthony Kenny, Five Ways (London: Routledge Kegan Paul, 1969), 66.
  3. Carl Sagan, Cosmos (New York: Random House, 1980), 4.
  4. David Hume, An Enquiry: Concerning Human Understanding, Great Books of the Western World, vol. 35 (Chicago: William Benton, 1952), 506.
  5. Robert Jastrow, God and the Astronomers (New York: W.W. Norton,, 1978), 94-95.
  6. Ibid., p. 15.
  7. Ibid., 15-16.
  8. Robert Jastrow, “A Scientist Caught Betwen Two Faiths,” interviewed by Bill Durbin, Christianity Today, 26 (6 August 1982):14-18.
  9. Walter L. Bradley, “Is There Scientific Evidence for an Intelligent Creator of the Universe?” (lecture given at High Ground Men’s Conference, Beaver Creek, Colo., Lecture given at High Ground Men’s Conference, 2 March, 2001).
  10. C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: MacMillan, 1943), 18.
  11. Ibid., 45.
  12. Ibid., 70-71.
  13. Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary, s.v. “agnosticism.”
  14. Leith Samuel, Impossibility of Agnosticism (Downers Grove, Ill: InterVarsity, n.d.).
 
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Posted by on January 4, 2018 in God

 

Lamentation – An acceptable response to life’s difficulties?


grief-927099_640Dictionary.com defines lament as “an expression of grief or sorrow. A formal expression of sorrow or mourning, especially in verse or song; an elegy or dirge.”

Lament is a Biblical concept often ignored by Christians…and looked upon as a negative in our spiritual walk. I wonder why? 

Is it because some of us are just too comfortable that we run away from cries of anguish. Is it because we have forgotten the Biblical injunction to mourn with those who mourn and weep with those who weep?

Mostly we avoid it, given a choice. At best we might sometimes pluck out of its context Lamentations 2: 22- 23: “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”

Are we shocked by the way Biblical laments point the finger of blame towards God? Is that why we find the topic of lamenting uncomfortable? 

Jesus: Hebrews 5:7-9 (NIV) During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. 8 Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered 9  and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him

He quoted from Psalm 22, showing His aloneness from God: Psalm 22:1-2(NIV)  My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning? 2  O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, and am not silent.

David in Psalm 13:1-6 (NIV) How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? 2  How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me? 3  Look on me and answer, O LORD my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death; 4  my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,” and my does will rejoice when I fall. 5  But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. 6  I will sing to the LORD, for he has been good to me.

Wess Daniels has a helpful reflection on Psalm 13: “The important thing about Lament is that our suffering, our darkness, and disorientation is “brought to speech” in relationship with God. There is nothing you experience, no pain too deep, no sense of loss so tragic that you ought not to just take it to God but to make it God’s business to transform the situation.”

Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:8 (NIV) Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10 (NIV) But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong

So even if we think the problem is God’s fault we should take it to God. And if we think the problem is an enemy’s fault we should take it to God. And if we think it’s our corporate or personal fault we should take that too to God and cry for restoration.
Let’s go to the book of JOB and see what we can learn there: What are we told about Job?

Job’s Prosperity: Job 1:1-5 (NIV) 1  In the land of Uz there lived a man whose name was Job. This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil. 2  He had seven sons and three daughters, 3  and he owned seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen and five hundred donkeys, and had a large number of servants. He was the greatest man among all the people of the East. 4  His sons used to take turns holding feasts in their homes, and they would invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. 5  When a period of feasting had run its course, Job would send and have them purified. Early in the morning he would sacrifice a burnt offering for each of them, thinking, “Perhaps my children have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.” This was Job’s regular custom.

The heavenly ‘discussion:’ Job 1:6-12 (NIV) One day the angels came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came with them. 7  The LORD said thto Satan, “Where have you come from?” Satan answered the LORD, “From roaming through the earth and going back and forth in it.” 8  Then the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.” 9  “Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied. 10  “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. 11  But stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.” 12  The LORD said to Satan, “Very well, then, everything he has is in your hands, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.” Then Satan went out from the presence of the LORD.

Job’s first adversity: 1: Job 1:13-19 (NIV) One day when Job’s sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother’s house, 14  a messenger came to Job and said, “The oxen were plowing and the donkeys were grazing nearby, 15  and the Sabeans attacked and carried them off. They put the servants to the sword, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!” 16  While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, “The fire of God fell from the sky and burned up the sheep and the servants, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!” 17  While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, “The Chaldeans formed three raiding parties and swept down on your camels and carried them off. They put the servants to the sword, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!” 18  While he was still speaking, yet another messenger came and said, “Your sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother’s house, 19  when suddenly a mighty wind swept in from the desert and struck the four corners of the house. It collapsed on them and they are dead, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”

Job’s response: Job 1:20-21 (NIV) 20  At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship 21  and said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.”

Notice what he did: first, he looked back to his birth. Then he looked ahead to his death.

Finally, Job looked up and uttered a magnificent statement of faith “The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.“ (vs. 21).

“In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.” (vs. 22).

We see a good explanation of God’s sovereignty: He gives and He takes away. God either causes or allows all events in our life. I believe much of it falls into the category of “allows.” He allows nature to reign. He allows natural law to reign..explaining hurricanes, floods, sickness and disease.

Job’s second adversity: The voice of the accuser: Job 2:1-8 (NIV) On another day the angels came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came with them to present himself before him. 2  And the LORD said to Satan, “Where have you come from?” Satan answered the LORD, “From roaming through the earth and going back and forth in it.” 3  Then the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil. And he still maintains his integrity, though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason.” 4  “Skin for skin!” Satan replied. “A man will give all he has for his own life. 5  But stretch out your hand and strike his flesh and bones, and he will surely curse you to your face.” 6  The LORD said to Satan, “Very well, then, he is in your hands; but you must spare his life.” 7  So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD and afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the top of his head. 8  Then Job took a piece of broken pottery and scraped himself with it as he sat among the ashes.

The voice of the quitter (2:9).  His wife said to him, “Are you still holding on to your integrity? Curse God and die!”

This was exactly what Satan wanted Job to do, and Job’s wife put the temptation before her husband.

Job 2:10 (NIV) “He replied, “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?”

In all this, Job did not sin in what he said. “

With God’s permission, Satan afflicted Job with a disease we cannot identify. Whatever it was, the symptoms were terrible: severe itching (Job 2:8), insomnia (v. 4), running sores and scabs (v. 5), nightmares (vv. 13-14), bad breath (19:17), weight loss (v. 20), chills and fever (21:6), diarrhea (30:27), and blackened skin (v. 30).

When his three friends first saw Job, they did not recognize him! Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar come to offer comfort and they spend most of their time telling Job that he is a terrible sinner due to this pain he is going through. Elihu, the younger of the four, grows impatient near the end of the book because they do not do a very good Job convicting Job.

In this marvelous book, we see Job in a variety of postures with very specific words being said:

Job 3:1-3 (NIV) After this, Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth. 2  He said: 3  “May the day of my birth perish, and the night it was said, ‘A boy is born!’

 

Job 3:11 (NIV) “Why did I not perish at birth, and die as I came from the womb?

Job 3:16 (NIV) Or why was I not hidden in the ground like a stillborn child, like an infant who never saw the light of day?

Job 23:1-5 (NIV)  Then Job replied: 2  “Even today my complaint is bitter; his hand is heavy in spite of my groaning. 3  If only I knew where to find him; if only I could go to his dwelling! 4  I would state my case before him and fill my mouth with arguments. 5  I would find out what he would answer me, and consider what he would say.

Job 23:10 (NIV) But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold.

God speaks: Job 38:1-3 (NIV) Then the LORD answered Job out of the storm. He said: 2  “Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge? 3  Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me.

jobheadingJob 40:1-2 (NIV) The LORD said to Job: 2  “Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him? Let him who accuses God answer him!”

Job 40:8 (NIV) “Would you discredit my justice? Would you condemn me to justify yourself?

Job 42:1-17 (NIV) Then Job replied to the LORD: 2  “I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted. 3  You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my counsel without knowledge?’ Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. 4  “You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak; I will question you, and you shall answer me.’ 5  My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. 6  Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.”

 7  After the LORD had said these things to Job, he said to Eliphaz the Temanite, “I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has. 8  So now take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and sacrifice a burnt offering for yourselves.

My servant Job will pray for you, and I will accept his prayer and not deal with you according to your folly. You have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.”

9  So Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite did what the LORD told them; and the LORD accepted Job’s prayer. 10  After Job had prayed for his friends, the LORD made him prosperous again and gave him twice as much as he had before. 11  All his brothers and sisters and everyone who had known him before came and ate with him in his house. They comforted and consoled him over all the trouble the LORD had brought [allowed] upon him, and each one gave him a piece of silver and a gold ring.

12  The LORD blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the first.

Some closing thoughts: have we in our relative comfort concentrated our worship too much on the language of praise and thanksgiving? Is that because we are influenced by the language of success and the cultural pursuit of happiness?

Therefore, we equate unhappiness with failure or lack of faith? And in individual and corporate prayer, when we happen to feel OK, we avoid the language of sorrow, confusion and anger? 

Laments use pain, anguish, anger and confusion in a passionate search for some answering comfort or sense of hope. We have to learn to lament and to do it in community, whether that is on our own behalf or as a way of speaking for others in much worse situations.

It isn’t about how things ought to be. It’s about how things are. It’s about people shot by terrorists in Paris. It’s about people living in fear. It’s about situations so dreadful that only God can change things and people and bring hope.

Lament yells deep from an anguished heart – a raw wail that in itself is a prayer (story of family that had a stillborn child just weeks before its birth…it hurt…I told them to stop on an empty road as they drove home…yells at God…express whatever emotion they were feeling at the time…and then trust in God to be with them every second of their life from that moment forward as they would deal with the hurt, pain, sorrow the rest of their life.)

If we care at all about the depths of other people’s suffering around the world, what other language can we use except that of lament? Do we really think that it’s not OK to yell out at God with feelings like that? That God somehow isn’t strong enough to cope with our anger?

Let’s allow Lamentations 3: 31-33 to have the last word: “For the Lord will not reject forever. Although he causes [allows] grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love; for he does not willingly afflict or grieve anyone.”

 

 
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Posted by on December 14, 2017 in counsel, Encouragement, God

 

What is God like?


cropped-god-is-love.jpgWhat is God like? Answers don’t come easy, because of the immensity of the subject. God is huge, filling the universe. Also people might know the right words, but they seem to become hollow shells because they can’t comprehend them.

We say that God is holy, righteous, loving, gracious, Father-Son-Spirit, but we don’t know what all this means. How do we know the words are empty? We can tell by the way many Christians behave!

Our behavior exposes our failure to understand the words coming out of our mouths. We can talk about God, but we do not know Him! God is not like us — He’s one of a kind! God is different from men. Anyone trying to know God and learn to relate to Him must begin with this fundamental truth.

God is not optional! Unlike everything else, God is absolutely necessary, like water for fish. We can’t just “take God or leave Him” — He is inescapable, even more so than death and taxes. We must not be too “familiar” with God, or regard Him as optional…we must learn to let God be God.

W. Tozer wrote concerning the desperate need for the church to revise its concept of God due to a very distorted conception of Him: It is my opinion that the Christian conception of God current in these middle years of the twentieth century is so decadent as to be utterly beneath the dignity of the Most High God and actually to constitute for professed believers something amounting to a moral calamity.[1]

Tozer goes on to say, The heaviest obligation lying upon the Christian Church today is to purify and elevate her concept of God until it is once more worthy of Him—and of her.[2]

W. Pink is of the same opinion: The god of this century no more resembles the Sovereign of Holy Writ than does the dim flickering of a candle the glory of the midday sun. The god who is talked about in the average pulpit, spoken of in the ordinary Sunday school, mentioned in much of the religious literature of the day, and preached in most of the so-called Bible conferences, is a figment of human imagination, an invention of maudlin sentimentality. The heathen outside the pale of Christendom form gods of wood and stone, while millions of heathen inside Christendom manufacture a god out of their carnal minds.[3]

One day it occurred to me that God is the most fascinating person alive and that getting to know Him could well be the most helpful thing that ever happened to me. The more I probed His nature the more convinced I became that knowing Him is the solution to most of my problems. I became convinced that knowing God better was the answer to many of their problems as well. I decided that I want to get to know God intimately, and that I want to help others get to know Him as well, if I possibly can.

God is knowable, and He does want to be known. As a matter of fact, He tells us that our eternal state depends upon knowing Him. Jesus said, “And this is eternal life, that they may know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent” (John 17:3). Knowing God and His Son Jesus is the heart of the whole matter of eternal life. The word know in this verse does not refer to a casual acquaintance either. It is the kind of knowledge that comes through living contact and personal relationship. If knowing God is that important, maybe we ought to talk about how we can get to know Him.

A mother was approached by her young son, who asked, “Mommy, did God make Himself?”  Realizing that such questions by children are very important and must be answered, she dropped what she was doing and sat down with her youngster for a little talk.  Pointing to her wedding band, she said, “This is a ‘love ring,’ which your daddy gave me when we were married.  Look at it closely and tell me where it begins and where it ends.”

The youngster examined it carefully and then said, “There’s no starting place and stopping place to a ring.”  The mother replied, “That’s the way it is with God.  He had no beginning and has no end, yet He encircles our lives with His presence. He is too wonderful, too great, for our minds to understand. Nobody ever made God — He always was!”  Somehow the boy realized that for God to be God, He could not have been created. He had to be without beginning and without end.

Martin Luther once was so depressed over a prolonged period that one day his wife came downstairs wearing all black.  Martin Luther said, “Who died?”  She said, “God has.”  He said, “God hasn’t died.” And she said, “Well, live like it and act like it.”

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[1] A. W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy (New York: Harper and Row, Publish­ers, 1961), p. 10.

[2] Ibid., p. 12.

[3] Arthur W. Pink, Gleanings in the Godhead, pp. 28-29.

 
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Posted by on December 11, 2017 in God

 
 
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