Posted tagged ‘Love of God’

The Sun Shines

April 12, 2018

Depositphotos Image ID: 39362765 Copyright: elenathewise

The sun shines on both the evil and the good; the he rain falls on the just and the unjust. (Matthew 5:45) People often ask, “Why bad things happen to good people?” Maybe a better question is why do we live in a world that is so beautifully sustaining for life.

Why do we live in a world that is filled with beauty and blessing and good things? Yes bad things happen, but there is much good.

I think about this in the context of the revelation of Scripture. The thrust of scripture is the story of God creating us to have fellowship with us and a reciprocating loving relationship.

God made us in his own image, having a will – the ability to choose. This will God gave to us was displayed in the story of the garden of Eden and is a central theme to the story. Having the ability to choose is essential to a reciprocal, loving relationship.

How do we know that God loves us? Look at the fine tuning of the universe. The universe sits atop a razor edge of cosmic factors that are all finely tuned down to the smallest of parameters, right from the first nanosecond of the Big Bang, so that a planet like the Earth exists to support life like us.

We find nowhere else in the universe a place in which life like ours is able to flourish. (This is doesn’t man that we will never find such life, but it is safe to say that life such as what we experience on Earth is exceedingly rare in the universe, and the whole cosmos seems to be designed just so this one small planet hurtling around a small sun in a smallish solar system can sustain us.)

God created a habitation for us, a place in which we can play out our Eternal choices. A place where we can choose to love Him and, so, to enter into the purpose that was planned for us from the beginning.

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No Greater Evil. No Greater Love.

April 8, 2018

Depositphotos Image ID: 71058433 Copyright: photographee.eu

Has there ever been a greater evil in the world then this?

God humbled himself to become a man, divesting himself of all of his greatness and glory, and became obedient to his own tune. The light came into the world, but the world loved darkness instead. God became a man, and men who God created rejected him. God presented himself to us, and we crucified him, publicly humiliating him, cruelly beating and torturing him, mocking him as he died on the cross.

Is there no greater love than this?

God, the creator of the universe became one of us. He laid aside all of his greatness that sets Him above everything that He created and become part of His creation. That he would do that for us, experiencing the same sorrows, the same humiliation, the same awful pain, the, the same rejection, the same fatigue and need for sleep and hunger and thirst as we experience. That God would stoop to become one of us and to die on a cross as a sacrifice for us to redeem us from our own sinful ways that include rejecting the very God who created us.

That God would do these things reveals to us that he works in and through a sinful, fallen, and evil world, and He uses the very darkness of the world to display His light and His love for us. God stands above and beyond time, surveying all that is, all that ever was, and all that ever will be. He knew the time of His coming before the initial burst of the creation of the cosmos that spawned the earth and eventual life it would contain, including us. He knew the time of His dying at the hands of His very creation. He knew the time of His rising from the dead, and He knows the end He has planned out for all those who receive Him.

Just as God’s light shone in the darkness of the world in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, we can take comfort in the hope of salvation God wrought for us and the promises that await us.

Where Do You Stand in Relation to God?

March 9, 2018

Depositphotos Image ID: 100613226 Copyright: tokkete

We live in a world that defies God. That is the point of the Adam and Eve story. The temptation to go our own way is great. In fact, like sheep wandering without guidance, ignorant of the dangers that lurk around us, we have all gone astray. That is our lot.

From Adam and Eve, throughout all of the Old Testament, this is the story of the world. This is the world into which God came, having reduced himself from the greatness of being our creator[1], to become one of us, in the form of the man Jesus[2].

That God loves us could not be more intimately or completely demonstrated for us than in the life of Jesus. Though he was God[3], he did not hold on to His privilege and power over us. He emptied himself for us. He came humbly and obedient to his own purpose, which was to lay down his own life for us[4] in a demonstration of love and compassion the world had never seen before and has never seen since.

God came into the world, and the world did not recognize him or receive Him[5]. Yet God was faithful to his purpose. He was faithful in his love for us. He was faithful to fulfill what he came to accomplish, which was to redeem us.

He came while we were yet sinners[6]. He didn’t wait until we became holy, righteous and good. He would have still been waiting. He came to heal us from all that makes us broken, which is our innate inclination to separate ourselves from God and to go our own ways.

This is the world and the reality in which we live. The world sets itself in opposition to its creator. Many people pay lip service to God, but their hearts are far from Him[7]. They deny Him in the way they live their daily lives. Though they honor Him with their lips, their actions belie them.

The good news, which is what Gospel means, is that God loves us anyway. He came for us while we were in this very condition, knowing the worst of us. God became man and lived among us knowing how corrupt we were, that we would reject him and knowing that we would attempt to put him to death. He came anyway. This is the extent of God’s love for us.

Our choice of how we will live in this world has consequences because of God’s love and the fact that He made us in His own image, to love him back. We are not compelled to love Him, but we are given the freedom to love Him. We are not robots or automatons who have no choice. But our choice is eternally significant.

(more…)

Looking Back and Looking Forward, From the Beginning to the End

August 12, 2016

“To Him who loves us”

God loves us. Love is the beginning and the ending of the story. And love is everything in between. God created us in the beginning for love.

He gave us choice, because love does not coerce. All the misery in the world, all the pain and suffering, is because God gave us freedom of will and allowed us to go our own way. He released us to our own choices in hope that we would choose Him because we want to, because we love Him.

God sustains the world on a delicate edge, finely-tuned from the moment of creation to sustain life, and He holds it in balance to give humanity the opportunity to enter into relationship with God our creator. His handiwork is obvious if we want to see it, not so obvious if we don’t, because love does not coerce. (more…)

The Wrath of God and Eternity

February 7, 2016

This is part 3 in the series of Putting God’s Wrath in Perspective. We started by considering the fact that God is God. We are not God and really have no say in who God is or what He does. He could be nothing but wrathful, but we discover that God is, ultimately, love.

From there we discover that God’s wrath in history is employed to achieve the ends God purposes to accomplish, beginning with meting out justice, but more importantly to accomplish His ultimate purposes. His ultimate purpose is to bless the entire world and to reconcile the world to God and to mete out justice as justice is due.

This can only make sense, really, in the context of eternity. If this world is all there is, a just God would have to accomplish justice within the parameters of time. He would have to accomplish justice for each person during the life span of each person. That would be impossible to accomplish in a world in which individuals have real choice.

We tend to think of justice in terms of our own experiences. We think of justice at first instance in terms of our own lives; then we look out to the world that we know in the time in which we live. Justice is lacking in our experience – both in our own lives and in the world in which we live. In fact, if we are honest, injustice seems to be the norm.

Yet, we have this insatiable ideal and longing for a just world.

Where exactly does that come from? If justice seems so elusive in this world, why are we not simply accepting of the “way it is”? This is all we know. Why do we long for – actually insist on – something different from the injustice that is our experience?

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What If God Is Cruel

April 25, 2015

Barry Glaudel - Shelf Storm Cloud over Stillman2


Take a moment with me and consider: what if God was cruel? What if God was completely unpredictable and wholly uncaring towards us? What if God was arbitrary, uninterested and unkind?

Some might say that God seems to be that way… if there is a God… pointing to passages in the Old Testament that portray God as angry, wrathful, retributive and seemingly callous about human life and suffering. Some say that they cannot believe in a God like that.

But, hold on a second. Why should God be the way we think He should be? Why should God be the way we want Him to be?

If God is God, and there is no higher authority, who are we to demand God be anything other than whoever He is and wants to be?

Indulge me a little here. (more…)

How Can a Loving God….?

December 8, 2014

Sunscreen

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In 1 Samuel 15, God told King Saul to wipe out the Amalekites, every last one of them, and leave no survivors. The story is about Saul failing to follow God’s directions while claiming to have done so. He kept King Agab alive and allowed his men to save the best of the sheep and other animals. When Samuel, the prophet, asked, “What is this bleating of sheep I hear?” Saul blamed the men for his failure to obey God, but Saul was the one who did not obey God. That is how the story goes….

But, wait a minute! …. God told Saul to kill them… all of them. That sounds incredibly harsh. It sounds worse than harsh. Is God not supposed to be a loving God?

This is a pretty common question (a rhetorical one) posed by people who oppose Christianity and reject the Bible. “A loving God would not kill people,” they say. Since the Old Testament, in particular, depicts God in this way, the Bible cannot be true, the Christian God is fiction and the whole thing is bunk.

The unspoken sentiment behind that line of thinking is that “we” (humankind) have come a long way since primitive times. We have evolved past the Enlightenment into a modern scientific age in which we have superior moral and intellectual stature. We are the gods of our own world. We have thrown off superstitious belief in a tyrant God that stifles human potential in this post-enlightenment age.

Of course, since the Enlightenment, Stalin killed some 20 million citizens (International Business News). Not to be outdone, Hitler also killed about 20 million citizens at about the same time. (DEMOCIDE: NAZI GENOCIDE AND MASS MURDER by R.J. Rummel). Regardless, of who was responsible for a greater genocide, (or how accurate those numbers are) these things happened in a post-enlightenment, scientific age. Humanism was budding as these mass atrocities were being perpetrated.

With numbers so large, there are bound to be some discrepancies. One site keeping a tally reports the following mass killings in the 20th Century in this order: 1) Mao Ze-Dong – China (up to 78 million); 2) Hitler – Germany (15,000); 3) Leopold of Belgium – Congo (8 million); 4) Stalin – Soviet Union (7 million); 5) Hideki Tojo – Japan (5 million); 6) Ismael Enver – Turkey (2.5 million); 7) Pol Pot – Cambodia (1.7 million); 8) Kim Il Sung – Korea (1.6 million); 9) Menghistu – Ethiopia (1.5 million); 10 Yakubu Gowon – Biafra (1 million) (Worst Genocides of the 20th and 21st Centuries) Those are just the genocides that are measured in the millions.

The Soviets wiped out about 900,000 Afghans in the late ’70’s and early ’80’s. About 800,000 people were killed in Rwanda in 1994. Saddam Hussein accounts for about 600,000 Kurds and Iranians. About 570,000 were killed in Yugoslavia after WWII through as late as 1980. Add to that 500,000 Indonesians in the 1960’s, 500,000 Chinese civilians in Japan in the 1930’s, 400,000 people in Angola in the last quarter of the 21st Century, 400,000 by the Taliban in Afghanistan; 300,000 Ugandans at Idi Amin’s hands in the 1970’s; 300,000 Bengalis in Pakistan in 1970-71; 359,000 Jews, Gypsies and Serbs in Croatia during WWII; and 300,000 at the hands of Mussolini in the 1930’s.

There were also genocides in Zaire (1965-67), Liberia (1989-1996), Sierra Leone (1991-2000), New Guinea (1975-1998), Vietnam (1953-1956); Burundi (1972), Yugoslavia (1992-1999), and Sudan (1989-1999); and those just round out the genocides that number into the hundreds of thousands.

If we are going to count genocides that “merely” number in the tens of thousands, the list is considerably longer. It includes the USA (100,000 in Vietnam – 70,000 under Nixon from 1969-1974 and 30,000 under Johnson from 1963-1968), South Korea (80,000 from 1948-1950), Syria (75,000, including 50,000 under Assad from 2012-2013 and 25,000 under Al-Assad from 1980-2000), Guatemala (70,000 from 1982-1983), Haiti (60,000 from 1957-1961), Dominican Republic (50,000 from 1930-1961), Equatorial Guinea (50,000 from 1969-1979), Chad (40,000 from 1982-1990), Taiwan (30,000 in 1947), Spain (30,000 after the civil war), Cuba (30,000 from 1959-1999), El Salvador (30,000 in 1932), Iran (20,000 from 1979-1989), Zimbabwe (20,000 from 1982-1987), and Argentina (13,000 from 1967-1983). Those numbers only round out the genocides that number in the tens of thousands.

You might have noticed the USA on that list, arguably the most advanced country in the world. Consider the fact that over twice as many people were killed in the City of Chicago since 2001 (over 5000) than soldiers who were killed in Afghanistan (over 2000) (Huffington Post as of 2012), and that is only one American city. The murder rate in Chicago is 18.5 to every 100,000 people! (PEW Research) But, Chicago hardly has the highest murder rate per capita in the US. Topping out the list are Flint, MI (62), Detroit, MI (54.6), New Orleans, LA (53.2) and Jackson, MI (35.8).

How far have we really come?

Going back to God’s direction to King Saul to wipe out the Amalekites, the fact that modern genocides are numerous does not “let God off the hook” (as if we are in any position to judge God); but it does create some perspective. We most definitely have not grown in moral stature. We only think we have.

But what about God; how could a loving God order Saul to kill all the Amalekites?

Before going further, I note that there is no inherent reason that the Creator of the Universe should even be a loving Creator, theoretically speaking. Why must he/she/it love? What is it about the kind of creative power or force necessary to create the Universe that requires the author or source of that power to be loving? Yet, even non-believers assume, if there is such a power or force, that it must be loving. At least some skeptics use that standard (loving) to measure the claims of believers that God exists, asserting that there is no God from the fact that evil exists in the world. That is a topic for another day, but it is somewhat ironic (and not particularly logical) for atheists to hold out love as a measure for whether God really exists. Why should love be the measure?

Of course, the Bible does portray God has a loving God. Agnostics have a better argument than atheists here, as they question whether the God of the Bible is really “the” God. The God of the Bible, at least God as He is portrayed in the Old Testament, seems harsh, arbitrary and quick to wipe people out en masse. 1 Samuel 15 is only one example. The Flood and Sodom and Gomorrah are examples of God wiping people out directly, and there are other examples of God directing His people to wipe out other people in similar fashion.

In fact, when God promised Moses and then Joshua the Promised Land, they had to go in and take the land by force, displacing the inhabitants and wiping them out. As with Saul, the instruction was to eradicate the land completely, but the Israelites did not follow that instruction. They left pockets of Canaanites (Philistines, and other groups) and that became a problem for the fledgling kingdom as it grew. (Biblestudytools.com)

The people groups left to live among the Israelites worshipped idols (Asherah, Ashteroth, Baal, Chemosh, Dargon, Hadad, Marduk, Milcom, Molech) (Biblestudytools.com). A primary practice of these people was child and human sacrifice. (GotQuestions.org) “The Ugaritic literature has helped reveal the depth of depravity which characterized Canaanite religion. Being a polytheism of an extremely debased type, Canaanite cultic practice was barbarous and thoroughly licentious.” (Quartz Hill Theology) (See Phoenicia.org for a rundown of the gods of the people groups in the Mediterranean).

We see God in the Old Testament instruct the nation of Israel not to engage in child sacrifice, though child sacrifice was practiced as a primary religious ritual by the people around them (the people God told the Israelites to drive out of the Promised Land). In Leviticus 18:21, Lev. 20:20-25, Deuteronomy 12:31 and Deut. 18:10 Moses is given clear instructions against child sacrifice. (For an exposition on an alleged claim that the bible is contradictory on the issue, see this Apologetics Press article.)

The people God called to be His own were continually turning to the idol worship and unsavory practices of the people they allowed to remain in their midst. In this way, those indigenous people became stumbling blocks and distractions from God. God’s people may have even succumbed to the barbaric practice of child sacrifice that was practiced by the people they allowed to remain in the land. (Patheos)

(I note that, to the extent that we allow sinful behaviors, attitudes and our own idols to remain a part of our lives, we are experiencing individually what the nation of Israel experienced as a people. God calls us to root those things out completely (to die to sin) and not hold on to them or allow them to remain because they draw us back to the sin and away from God. We, too, have many influences around us that tempt us to follow them instead of God.)

Interestingly (and tragically), the practice of living child sacrifice is not really much different than modern abortion. (Forerunner.com) Again, are we really any more advanced in our morals today than people many centuries ago? Not really!

Was God’s instruction to wipe the people out of the Promised Land arbitrary and harsh? Is it an indication that the God of the Bible is not loving in spite of the statements that He is? How can God forbid human sacrifice in one instance and instruct His people to wipe out their neighbors in another instance?

If we say killing any person at any time is unloving and wrong, then we would say that God is unloving and wrong. But who are we to make that judgment? We are not really any more morally advanced than the people of the Old Testament if we consider the genocides in modern times and abortion, including live birth “abortions”. Who are we to judge God?

The Bible says God is not just loving, He is love. (1 John 4:8) Jesus does not give us the option to disassociate God as depicted in the Old Testament from God portrayed in human form by Jesus. Jesus and God the Father are one ((John 10:30)

We really are not in a position to judge God. The Canaanite and Phoenician people groups that God ordered to be driven out of the land were were a barbaric, licentious, child-sacrificing group of people. He identified that place for the nurturing of a nation devoted to the God of love; would it now make sense to eradicate that place of the bad influences first? If they were allowed to remain, the influence would hinder the development of this people devoted to God. In fact, that is what happened because they did not do as God instructed.

The Creator of the world is not judged by His creation. We do not sit in moral judgment of God. But there is more.

Consider that God found in Abraham a man of faith, someone who was attuned and responsive to the voice of God. When God asked Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, his only son, Abraham would have been familiar with the practice of child-sacrifice practiced by all his neighbors around him. It would have been “acceptable”. But this was different.

God had promised Abraham that his seed would populate the earth like the stars in the sky. Though Abraham was old, his faith was steadfast. A son was finally born to him in his old age about fifteen years after that promise was made. In that context, the sacrifice of that son would have been a supreme step of faith. As “acceptable” as that sacrifice might have been in that day, it would have strained Abraham’s faith and grieved him. With all of the gods around and child sacrifice being a demonstration of allegiance to them, this was an important “test” of Abraham in following the One who claimed to be the only God. But this was different.

Abraham believed God would fulfill His promise, in spite of the instruction, and God did. He provided an alternative, and, in so doing, God also declared the end of child sacrifice for Abraham and all of his progeny.

From this one man in the middle of a primitive, licentious child-sacrificing people, God would attempt to grow a new group of people, a new nation that would lead the world in a different direction. Out of this nation, a Messiah would be born and summarize all that God in the Old Testament attempted to reveal to His people: that all of the Law and the prophets can be summed up in two main principals: 1) love God above all things; and 2) love other people as yourself.

God’s dealing with Abraham’s progeny was like the kindling of a fire. A fire requires the right material for a spark to ignite, and it requires care to keep it going. It must be protected from the elements of wind and rain. The wrong fuel (like wet wood), not enough fuel or even too much will fail to keep the fire going or smother the fire and threaten to put it out.

The world in which Abraham lived was full of darkness. God had to make room in that darkness for the light from the fire ignited by a spark that found the right material in Abraham’s faith. Even with God’s continual oversight provided through men who were able and willing to listen to Him, many things threatened to smother the fire. The biggest threat to this relatively insignificant group of former captives of the Pharaohs of Egypt were the depraved, barbarous, licentious people living among them and around them. These were the same people God told them to displace completely…. But they did not do it.

I need to admit that I approach the question (whether God is a loving God) from a biased position. I know God to be kind and loving. He has been better to me than I am to myself. But having experienced the love of God, and therefore having some confidence in God’s loving nature, I have a different view than someone who has not had that experience. I am not sure how I would convince someone that God is loving if they have not experienced the love of God.

At the beginning of the movie, the Ragamuffin, it begins with this proposition: “When you die God will ask you only one question: ‘Did you believe that I loved you?'”

This piece is not likely going to answer the question for someone who is not convinced, but I know that we (people) are not loving and good, in spite of all of our enlightenment. We are in no position to judge. Yes, God is jealous for the people He loves, and His love for His people is fierce. I will cast my lot with God.

“A Ragamuffin only knows that he is a beggar at the door to God’s mercy.”


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