God Simply Is

We are here today and gone tomorrow. God simply is. God always is. God defines the rules.

“I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.” (Exodus 33:19)

13-6 Sugarloaf View 3


Did you ever stop and think, “If God is God, He can whatever He wants”? Somehow it seems politically incorrect to think like that. Should we not love all people? Should we not wish everyone well? Should we not be judgmental? Should not God be like that?

If you think about it without preconceived notions and with a little rational thought, is not God the one who decides those things? I can see why people would want to believe there is no God. “He is not a tame lion” as my favorite author has said. If God is God, we do not control Him. We have no say in the order of the universe or the laws that He put in place. There is no question of right or wrong when it comes to God; God simply IS!

As God instructed Moses when he sent Moses to bring the Israelites out of Egypt, tell them, “”I am who I  am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ”I am has sent me to you.”” (Exodus 3:14) God simply is.

We did not make God. He made us. We did not create the rules for the operation of the universe. God made those rules. We do not define how God must relate to us. God defines how we relate to Him.

God made us like Him. “God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:27) I suppose there should be no wonder that we would be like Him in wanting to control the universe and define it. The thing is, though, it is not our province to establish the rules or define how they work. We may want to control things, but we do not control them.

We are here today and gone tomorrow. God simply is. God always is. God defines the rules. God has mercy and compassion on whom He will.

I consider from time to time the possibility that things might be different. God might be a tyrant. God might be cruel and unmerciful. Some even think He is that way. If it were true, God would not be wrong. God is.

I am thankful God is not that way. God assures us that we will find Him if we seek Him with all of our hearts and souls. (Deuteronomy 4:29)

In the context of God is, however, we do evil when our hearts are not set on seeking God. (2 Chronicles 12:14) Still, even if we have followed after false gods, have worshiped idols and have sinned in the sight of God, if we humble ourselves, pray and seek God, He will hear; He will forgive the sin; He will heal. (2 Chronicles 7:14) I, for one, am very thankful that God is that way … because He does not need to be that way. God is, and He defines the way it is.

The ultimate evil is in not seeking God. We do not think of evil in that way, but it is not for us to define evil. In the context of God is, evil is not acknowledging Him, not recognizing Him for who He is, not seeking Him. Evil is ultimately being separated from the God who made us.

Calvin & Will

Lynn Johnson Calm Beach


Calvinism and Arminianism represent two diverging views of God’s relationship with man. The two views are summarized at the graceonline.com website and charted at the jesusfollowme.com website. In a nut shell, Calvinism represents the view that people are predestined to believe or not believe; and Arminianism represents the view that people have free will to believe or not to believe. I am oversimplifying the positions, of course.

As an aside, I am no theologian. I was one thesis short of a religion major in college (finished with an English Literature major). I became a believer in college in the midst of prevailing liberal thinking and unbelief. I say this only to acknowledge that I am not an expert, but I have a personal faith in Jesus Christ. I have no doubt that I was drawn by God and that salvation comes by grace through faith, not by anything I have done or will ever do.

The countervailing views get to the heart of the Christian faith. Does God choose man? Or does man choose God? Continue reading “Calvin & Will”

The DNA of Words

I am fascinated by the thought that God spoke the world into existence. In the Gospel of John, who was easily the most revelatory of the New Testament writers, I have always been intrigued by the statement: In the beginning was the Word, and the word was with God, and the Word was God. That explains why I was drawn to the following headline: Russian Scientists Reprogram Human DNA Using Words and Frequencies.

Apparently, Russian scientists have found that our DNA stores data like a computer and uses grammar and syntax rules like language. More incredible, they discovered that human DNA can be “changed and rearranged with spoken words and phrases!” These scientists have changed frog embryos to salamander embryos without physical contact by use of vibration and language.

Aside from the ethical quandaries the discovery might pose, the fact that human and other DNA, the building blocks of life, have language-like characteristics and respond to language is just another example of the wonder of God’s creation. It is another indication of the truth of the Bible, which claims to be the inspired Word of God. (2 Tim. 3:16) The statement God spoke the world into existence, words written well over 2500 years ago, at a minimum, and the statement that the Word was in the beginning of the creative process, written about 2000 years ago, make more sense in light of the apparent discovery that the building blocks of life, DNA, have language-like characteristics and respond to language.

The “Do’s” and the “Don’ts” Don’t Do It

One of the more common perceptions is that Christianity is all about “doing the right thing” and not committing sins. Being religious means being pious and observing a list of do’s and don’ts. But that is just plain wrong!

Consider what Paul says in Colossians (2:16, 20-21):

Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day….

Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules: “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”?

Those are liberating words we wish most churchgoers would take to heart. Right? It may be news to many non-churchgoers that Paul in the Bible rejects the notion of living by a list of rules. Indeed, many churchgoers have quite missed the point in that respect. But Paul is not saying that sin does not matter.

In the next chapter of Colossians, he writes: (Col. 3:5-9)

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming…. you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other….

And shortly thereafter, he states: (Col. 3: 12-14)

…. clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Is not this just another list of do’s and don’ts? He says one thing, and then he contradicts himself in the very next chapter of the same letter. Right? Well…, no. He is saying something quite different.

I left out verse 17 of Chapter 2 on purpose because I wanted to compare the two statements first in order to focus on the difference. Verse 17 gives us a clue to the difference between the two statements. Paul says that the rules regarding eating, drinking, the Sabbath, etc. (i.e; the “Law”) are “a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.”

Paul goes on to describe the type of person who focuses on the do’s and don’ts:

Such a person also goes into great detail about what they have seen; they are puffed up with idle notions by their unspiritual mind. They have lost connection with the head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow. (Col. 2:17-19)

Paul calls such people “unspiritual.” Ironic, is it not, that many non-churchgoers think of the self-righteous, pious person when they conjure up a picture of a “Christian”; and, of course, they want nothing to do with that! Such a “puffed up” and self-righteous person is only a shadow; he is not the real thing. The reality is Christ, not a list of rules. The reality is a person in a relationship with Christ!

The list of rules lacks any value, ultimately:

These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence. (Col. 2:22-23)

It is the reality that we need! Paul tells us the reality is in Christ (Col. 3:1-2):

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.

We are flawed by sin. (Rom. 3:10) Sin is in our nature, and we separated from God by that sin. (See Is. 59:2). Though we are separated from God, God has offered us redemption from the very thing that separates us. (Rom. 6:23) They way we access that redemption is simply to receive it, and to let go of our own striving and pride, to die to that sinful self and to live for God.

For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. (Col. 3:3-4)

Salvation requires the surrender of self to God.

Now, we come back to the passage that I compared to the list of rules above (Col. 3:5-17)

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

We do not follow a list of rules; we follow after Christ who is our savior! We put sin to death because we do not want to be separated from Christ; we are being renewed in His image! We have set our minds on Christ, to be like Him, to know Him, to be conformed to His image, to let Him rule in our hearts! We do not want the shadow; we want the reality! We do not live a religious life self-imposed; we live a changed life that flows out of our relationship with God who saves us and calls us to Himself!

It is Not so Hard to Imagine

I have been learning how to use HootSuite this weekend. The HootSuite technology allows a person to leverage one’s finite time in a way that one can communicate in almost real time with a vast number of people. It is a website for tracking and posting to an almost unlimited number of social media sites and groupings within sites at one time. In one stroke of the keyboard, a person can tweet, post on Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, MySpace, Foursquare, WordPress, Mixi and within those social media sites on specific groups and pages, potentially reaching thousands and even hundreds of thousands of people simultaneously. At the same time a person can almost simultaneously follow and respond to dozens and even hundreds of other people posting things in the same social media sites and groups. It is pretty remarkable.

Technology brings to us what was only dreamed about a few years ago and what might never have been imagined just a couple of generations ago. As we become more self-sufficient than ever as beings, the tendency is to become less reliant on faith and God. One thing technology has not changed is the certainty of death. We are also still beings. This world is bigger than us, and we do not ultimately control our own fate…. but that is another topic for another day.

It occurred to me as I learned my way around HootSuite this weekend, that God’s ability to have an individual relationship with each and every person is not such a farfetched concept. If one finite person can simultaneously communicate with hundreds and thousands of people, it is not hard to imagine that God, who is infinite, can communicate with each one of us on an intimate, personal level.

It is written that God knows every hair on your head. (Luke 12:7) Even more than that, the Psalmist says that God knows your comings and goings and the very thoughts in your head! (Psalm 139) God knows when you get up and lie down. There is nowhere a person can go that God is not there and is not aware of what a person does. It really is not so hard to imagine that God can do that in light of the ability that we have at our fingertips. God knows you

Good News

Lobster fisherman

As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him.

And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples.  And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” Matt. (9:10-13)

A Modern Parable

 

The Bad and the Good News

All people have a sense of ethics, a sense of right and fairness, regardless of the place a person was born on earth, regardless of access to books.

The Stoics valued virtue, virtue hammered out with self-control and achieved through self-will. The Epicureans valued happiness, and they determined that happiness was found in virtue. Others have championed virtue couched in different terms. Aboriginal people also have codes of conduct. By their philosophies and their conduct, people demonstrated knowledge of the nature of God, which is knowable and, indeed, known by people everywhere. God’s invisible attributes are known and understood. Jews or Christians do not have a corner on the trusth. When people do what is right, they demonstrate that the law is known to them; it is in their conscience. (Rom. 2:14-15)

Do we not clamor for justice when a wrong is committed? We are even  more concerned about justice when a wrong is committed against us! The fact that we have such a sense of justice is a testament to God’s justice that is evident to each one of us, whether we believe or not. That sense of right and wrong is written on our hearts; it is in our consciences.  (Rom. 2:14) God is just.

At the same time, we tend to excuse our shortcomings, usually by comparing themselves to others. Who has not thought, “At least I am not like s/he is!” No doubt, some people are more virtuous than others. God, however, can not be anything other than what He is: just and right. Justice and righteousness (rightness) is the nature of God. While we seek to justify ourselves in comparison to other people, God’s nature is utterly just and virtuous. He can not and will not be anything other than what He is.

All people, on the other hand, are imperfect. Who has not lied, been selfish, been lazy, etc? Every single person on the face of this earth has fallen short of the standard of virtue, regardless how it is measured. After all, “to err is human”. (Alexander Pope)

If God is utterly virtuous, His nature is nothing but virtuous, how can a person remain in His presence? Like one pole of a magnet repels the other pole, how can we stand in God’s presence with our sinful selves?

It is written that all have sinned and all have fallen short of the glory of God. (Rom. 3:23) All people are sinful; not one person is righteous as God is righteous. (Rom. 3:8-9)

If heaven were the distance of Japan from California, and we had to swim the ocean to reach it, the distance would not be greater than the distance between a righteous and holy God and ourselves. Thinking that any one of us could swim the ocean is foolishness. Some people are better swimmers than others, to be sure; but none of us, not the very best of us, could make the swim to the other shore. So it is with God and ourselves. We would be repelled like the wrong end of a magnet in the presence of an utterly virtuous, righteous, holy God.

We who have sinned, and sinned against God, are deserving of that justice. That means all of us. Who among us in perfect? We are, therefore, alienated from God, repelled from Him.

The Good News, the Gospel, is that God made a way for us! He provided a remedy for the problem of our sin. Through Jesus, and his sacrificial death on the cross, we are reconciled to God. (Col. 1:20)

“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Cor. 5:21) Jesus paid the price that justice demands! We are utterly unable to stand before God in our own flesh because of sin; but God the Son, who became man, and who was blameless, stood in our place to fulfill the requirement of justice.

We accept that sacrifice and the mercy of God shown to us in that act by simple faith. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation [atoning sacrifice] by his blood, to be received by faith.” (Rom. 3:23-25 ) “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Eph. 2:8-9)

Now is the time for repentance. There is no excuse. Right and wrong is known to all of us. (Rom. 1:20). If we confess our sinfulness, he is faithful to forgive us! (John 1:9) He forgives us not because we deserve it, but because He desires it. God became man, fulfilling the prophesies given to the Jews; He proclaimed the message, performed miracles, healed the sick; and commanded the attention of the World. Then He died for our sins; and He was raised from the dead to reconcile us to Himself.

Jesus is/was the “image of the invisible God….” (Col. 1:15) He is the “firstborn from among the dead.” (Col. 1:18) As sin came into the world through the first man, Adam, and along with it, death, so that all became sinners; so righteousness has been introduced through Christ, and along with it life, so that all who believe shall be deemed righteous and shall have eternal life. (Rom. 5:12-19) “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God who through Christ reconciled us to himself.” (2 Cor. 5:17-18)

The bad news is that we are imperfect beings separated from a perfect God by the very fact of our imperfection, like the opposite poles of a magnet. The good news is that God has provided a way for us to be reconciled, to flip our magnetic pole. And once we have been reconciled, nothing can separate us from God! (Rom. 8:38-39)

Post script

(John 5:24-29):

’Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.’

“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:7-9) The time has come, and the time is now for us to turn from sin and turn to God. We have all sinned. We have all fallen short. His mercy is great towards us nevertheless! Even while we are sinners, and dead in our sin, Jesus died for us. We certainly did not and do not deserve such mercy, but He is faithful to forgive our sins. Indeed, that is God’s intention. He created us in His image and desires for us to have fellowship with and partake in God. In order to accomplish that, we had to have a choice, a real choice, to choose harmony with God or to choose our own selfish way. Sin, death, all of it is a necessary consequence of God creating us in His image. If we could not choose to sin, we could not really choose to love Him. We could not choose God and his righteous without knowing unrighteousness. In the end, we cannot accomplish any of God’s plan without God giving us what we need, accept for the faith and heart to accept it. We can not make ourselves right; we can only receive the salvation that God freely provides to us to bring us in right relationship with God; but we must choose to receive it. To receive it we must come to the end of ourselves, and there, utterly helpless, reach out to God like a child reaching out to its parent. In that moment, God’s perfect plan is accomplished. We are welcomed into His kingdom as sons of God, having freely chosen God, and we become partakers of His nature! We are born again, not of this world, which is sinful and dead, but of the spirit. We become partakers of His eternal life with the assurance that, just as Jesus was raised from the dead, so shall we be raised to eternal life with Christ who was the firstborn from among the dead.