What God’s Omniscience Says About His Justice

As I read from the George MacDonald article Justice, I was struck by two things: a misunderstanding of who is offended by sin and a misunderstanding of the point of punishment.

First, MacDonald gives a word picture to make a case that punishment does not satisfy the offended and is therefore not actually just. His illustration involves the theft of a watch. The sinner is the thief, and the offended is the one who owned the watch.

In reality, though, sin’s offense is not first and foremost against another person but against God. David understood this, and in his Psalm of repentance after committing adultery and murder, he acknowledged this.

Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight;
so you are right in your verdict
and justified when you judge.
– Psalm 51:4

Consequently, justice is not about repayment, because our sin takes nothing from God. He doesn’t lose anything He needs nor is His character altered, His person diminished, His being belittled. When we sin, God doesn’t lose. We do. We, the perpetrators.

Which brings up the next point. Punishment here on earth serves two purposes. First, it is a means to bring people to God.

For some, the purpose was to bring that person or nation under punishment, back to God. Think of Miriam when she wanted to usurp Moses’s authority. God punished her by giving her leprosy. Further, from time to time God allowed another nation to have military success against Judah that they would learn to trust Him instead of the false gods of the nations around them.

In addition, God punishes as a warning to others. The man who cursed the name of God, for example, was stoned. Aaron’s two sons, Nadab and Abihu, were killed because they didn’t obey God in the performance of their priestly duties.

Again, David understood this. Here’s what he said to Goliath:

“This day the LORD will deliver you up into my hands, and I will strike you down and remove your head from you. And I will give the dead bodies of the army of the Philistines this day to the birds of the sky and the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel …”

Verses like this are troublesome to anyone divorced from an understanding of God’s omniscience. From the outside, this bloody action seems anti-God—opposed to His love and mercy—rather than the means by which all the earth will come to know Him.

Yet consider God’s omniscience, and the account takes on a different dimension. First, God knew the heart of Goliath and every other Philistine standing against Israel that day. He knew what they thought of Him and what they planned to do to His people.

In addition, God knew how a military victory would be perceived by the people in the surrounding nations, and by those of us centuries later who read about how He acted on behalf of His people. Here’s the rest of David’s speech to Goliath:

“… and that all this assembly may know that the LORD does not deliver by sword or by spear; for the battle is the LORD’S and He will give you into our hands.”

God knew what message the people needed at that moment, and He knew what it would take to deliver that message.

That He is omniscient means He didn’t make a mistake—in His assessment about the people who died that day on the battlefield, or about the accomplishment of His purpose through His action on behalf of Israel.

He also knew—though Scripture doesn’t spell it out for us so that we are left to guess—what would have happened to His people if Goliath and the Philistines had gone unchecked.

To summarize, God’s omniscience informs His justice. Consequently, if I trust God to be God, I don’t have to second guess His acts of justice. I know they come from perfect and complete knowledge and understanding.

Published in: on December 31, 2010 at 6:18 pm  Comments (5)  
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Mercy And Justice And George MacDonald

In one of the recent interchanges about God and His justice, one commenter left a link to a sermon George MacDonald is purported to have authored (I have yet to find mention of the source). I’m still working my way through the lengthy document, but so far, the only Biblical text I can find is that from which he seems to have wandered—Psalm 62:12, which states

And lovingkindness is Yours, O Lord, For You recompense a man according to his work.

In the King James, which the sermon quotes, lovingkindness is rendered mercy. The writer then makes a case for his interpretation of justice, leading into a denial of justice as punishment.

How odd this discussion seems to me, but perhaps that’s because I’ve had good Bible teaching all my life.

The cultures around Israel during King David’s time (Psalm 62 is one of his) did not practice justice. They practiced vengeance. Consequently, the declaration that God would recompense a man according to his work was a statement of mercy. He would not punish a man for something his father did or punish the brothers or the children. God’s mercy was demonstrated in His justice, set in opposition to their vengeance.

How simple and straightforward. How righteous.

We are accountable before a Holy God for what we do. He does not pile on more than we deserve.

But here’s the thing. We are required by law to stop at stop signs. If I run a stop sign and get pulled over by a cop, I am guilty of breaking that law. No matter that I’ve not run a stop sign the prior 2000 times, or 200 million times before that. Stopping at the stop sign is what I am required by law to do. Fulfilling my obligation does not earn me points against a future time when I might slip up and run the stop sign.

In other words, there is nothing I can do to make up for my situation. I can only recognize my condition—I am a lawbreaker deserving of the just (and merciful) penalty for my actions.

What great news, then, that Jesus, who was not a lawbreaker, and therefore, faced no penalty, stepped in.

The amazing love of God is beyond comprehension here, because God did not wave His hand and dismiss my sin. He bore it Himself. He transferred my sin in the same way that the sins of Israel were transferred to scapegoats. It’s a mystical process, if you will, something that sounds too incredible, too hard to fathom. The Holy God, unstained in His being, complete in His purity, piled my sin on His shoulders. He bore my sin and carried my sorrow.

He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.
– I Peter 2:24

And in more detail from Isaiah

But the LORD was pleased
To crush Him, putting Him to grief;
If He would render Himself as a guilt offering,
He will see His offspring,
He will prolong His days,
And the good pleasure of the LORD will prosper in His hand.
As a result of the anguish of His soul,
He will see it and be satisfied;
By His knowledge the Righteous One,
My Servant, will justify the many,
As He will bear their iniquities.
Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great,
And He will divide the booty with the strong;
Because He poured out Himself to death,
And was numbered with the transgressors;
Yet He Himself bore the sin of many,
And interceded for the transgressors.
– Isa 53:10-12 [emphasis mine]

Paid in full. The blood of Jesus Christ blots out my sin. I receive God’s mercy when I understand that my work is insufficient to pay what I owe, that Christ alone could afford to bear my sin because He bore none of His own. The angel of death passes over me as surely as he once passed over the Jewish homes that bore the blood of the spotless Passover lamb slain on their behalf.

What a clear picture of God’s redemptive work—the marriage of His Justice and Mercy—prompted by His infinite Love.

Published in: on December 30, 2010 at 1:59 pm  Comments (11)  
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Who Are The Pharisees?

I heard it again this past week, this time from an established Bible teacher, which shows how the Christian community has been swayed to think the way our culture does rather than as the Bible teaches.

As you could guess from the title of this post, I’m referring to what people believe about the Pharisees, that Jewish sect of the first century often in conflict with Jesus. The common idea is that Jesus opposed them because they were oh, so religious.

This is simply not the case. In reality, Jesus Himself could easily be thought of as an example of a religious person. He could tick off a list of things similar to the one Paul recited in Philippians 3.

Jesus was circumcised the eighth day, of the tribe of Judah, a Hebrew of Hebrews. In fact, He was in the temple discussing the Scriptures with the priests and Levites at the age of twelve. As an adult, He was regularly in the synagogue on the Sabbath, often reading from Scripture and explaining its meaning.

He participated in religious activities, attending Passover, insisting John baptize Him, and instituting communion.

No, Jesus’s problems with the Pharisees didn’t stem from the fact that they were religious. Rather, He objected to their selfish, hypocritical use of religion. They were, in fact, prideful cheats.

The Pharisees had learned to make a show of their religion. Apparently since the restoration from the Babylonian exile, the Jews had learned their lesson and put aside their idols. You might say, it became the popular thing to be a worshiper of Yahweh. Consequently, to hold a powerful position in the nation, a person had to be better than the rest when it came to obeying God.

However, the Pharisees figured out ways they could “obey,” or at least appear to do so, and still make a buck. For example, they created a law that said if they dedicated their property to God, then they didn’t need to sell it to help their parents in a time of need. As Jesus pointed out, they created a tradition that superseded God’s command to honor their parents.

They also out-and-out cheated genuine worshipers by selling animals for sacrifice in the temple, often at a price that was unfair and sometimes using unfit animals—the law required an unblemished lamb.

Then there was their redefining of the term “work” since no one was to do any work on the Sabbath. They didn’t want Jesus to heal on the Sabbath because that would be considered “work.” They didn’t want His disciples to pick and eat grain when they were hungry on the Sabbath because that would be considered “work.”

These “work” laws were not from God. They were things the Pharisees concocted to establish and hold onto their power.

They were greatly concerned about power, as the gospels reveal, to the point that they wouldn’t give Jesus a straight answer to His questions for fear they would turn the people against them. They were also afraid the Romans would come in and take their power away if the people continued to carry on about Jesus being the Messiah.

And that was the bottom line. They rejected Jesus as the Christ. They above all others should have known what the Scriptures said about the Messiah, but they had learned to pick and choose the passages they wanted. A suffering servant? Not the messiah they were looking for. They wanted a glorious, triumphant King, if they still really wanted a messiah at all. Could be that they saw the messiah as a threat to their position too.

To sum it up, the Pharisees were interested in themselves. They made a show of religious activity because it benefited them, but it was nothing more than an outward display that belied what was going on in their hearts. They cheated people and bullied them, all in the name of doing God’s work. They freely ignored Scripture, added to it, and changed it to fit their purposes.

In other words, the Pharisees were those who used religious language to do what they wanted, not what God had said. They put themselves as the authority to determine what was right, not God’s Word.

Just like false teachers do today.

Published in: on December 29, 2010 at 7:02 pm  Comments (2)  
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Starfire – A Review

I bought Starfire by Stuart Stockton (Marcher Lord Press) up at Mount Hermon back in March. I’ll admit, for the most part, I wanted to support Jeff Gerke’s efforts to establish his independent press, but I also knew that Stuart Stockton, one of the founders of Speculative Faith, was a good writer. Different, but good.

Different in the way that Richard Adams, author of Watership Down, is different. You see, Stuart envisioned a world “peopled” by dinosaurs. In fact, the world is technologically advanced and the saurians are highly intelligent, so it’s different from Adams in that Stuart was not trying to recreate a world “as we know it” in which dinosaurs roam.

The Story. Rathe, a 5-5 saurian (fifth hatchling of his sire’s fifth brood) wants to rise above his station. When a chance encounter with one of the feared Jerkrenak—wounded and dying—allows him to claim its fang and rescue a hatchling, he is elevated to a position in the warrior class of the Karn Empire.

When he completes his training and earns a spot in a prestigious Klaw, he and the rest of his Spur encounter an insurgent enemy patrol on their first mission—a simple escort assignment to bring back a group of engineers. During the battle, Rathe follows one of those in their party who runs away. The little Spika stumbles on a hidden cavern filled with ancient—and advanced—technology. She triggers some procedure that superimposes technology on her body. As Rathe tries to extricate her, she claims him as her protector.

Upon returning to the others in the Spur, they learn that the little Spika is connected to a rumored super-weapon known as the Starfire. Her goal is to reach her maximum capacity, then launch the Starfire.

However, Rathe encounters another Jerkrenak, members of a group known as Wayfarers who worship a God they call VorTolKo, and a prophet-like person all warning him to destroy the Spika before she can activate Starfire.

With his beloved empire in greater and greater danger from the enemy, and his affection for the little Spika growing, should Rathe help launch Starfire on their enemies or listen to those who warn that the temporary peace Starfire will bring will be followed by greater destruction than can be imagined?

Strengths. The world. First and foremost, Stuart has created a consistent and believable world populated by Saurians, not humans. He gives his characters Saurian mannerisms, creates a hierarchy based on their differing qualities, skillfully deals with problems such as how the smaller Saurians co-exist with the larger, and so on. The details are included as necessary, and therefore never seem overbearing, nor do they bog the story down.

The characters are also wonderfully drawn. Certainly Rathe, who is the point-of-view character, is the one the reader is most attached to. But because of his role as Karey Or’s Protector, it’s easy to feel for her as Rathe does.

Stuart did a good job imbuing his characters with believable motivations. He also sets up internal conflict to go along with the external.

The plot is filled with external conflict that sends the story racing along at a good clip. There is action, intrigue, suspense, danger, surprises, twists, and turns.

The theme is clear but not because the author is trying to drill it into the reader. Rather, as a natural part of who each character is, the story themes surface.

Weakness. The only thing I can think is that perhaps more could be done on the back cover to sell the story to those of us not inclined to pick up a book staring dinosaurs. Again, I am reminded of Watership Down, one of my favorite books. To say it’s a story about rabbits is to do it an incredible injustice, and yet, it is just such a story. How can this be? Only by the skill of the writer who makes rabbits feel believably, humanly sentient. Stuart accomplished the same feat, I think. But I think it takes some selling to convince readers they will care about these Saurians. Maybe I’m wrong.

Recommendation. I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves to read. For those who love science fantasy or perhaps even science fiction, this is a must read.

Published in: on December 28, 2010 at 1:28 pm  Comments (6)  
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If God Were Not Just

Most of the regular visitors here at A Christian Worldview of Fiction are likely unaware that a discussion cropped up a couple weeks ago on an unrelated post, centered on God’s justice. I’ve retitled the original post, “Why I Love Fantasy,” so that it now reads “God – A God Of Judgment?” The heart of the discussion, as I see it, lies in this comment I made to sometime-visitor and emergent-church conversationalist Mike Morrell:

You have stripped [God] of His right to judge, of His sovereignty over those who take a stand against Him, of His righteousness in doing so.

To clarify: some in the emerging church, as do atheists like Christopher Hitchens, regard God as He revealed Himself in the Old Testament as a tyrant, a genocidal maniac, a murderer. Therefore, they try to “explain” him in a number of ways. One is to reduce the Old Testament to the status of myth. Another is to suggest that God is evolving—becoming “nicer,” as Jesus demonstrated.

Seemingly the one thing these professing Christians cannot abide is that God is a just Judge, that He actually has the right to mete out punishment to those opposed to Him.

But this brings me to today’s topic. What would the world be like if God were not just? What if we had no sovereign judge?

First, I think it would be fair to say that a god who is not just would consequently also not have one of two other attributes: either omnipotence or goodness.

Here’s my line of thinking. If God were not just, then evil would be without recompense. If he were not just but still good, then it seems the only reason he would not act on behalf of good against evil would be because he lacked the power to do so. But if he retained all power, then his refusal to act against evil could only be understood as a lack of goodness which would necessitate him to redress wrong.

Secondly, if God were not just, then he also would not be righteous. A moral, principled, ethical individual could not look on the atrocities of man against man and take no stand.

Atheists know this. One of their accusations against God is that He takes no stand against the Hitlers and Stalins and Idi Amins and Osama bin Ladens of the world. Little do they understand that His action was and will be. He sent His Son and He will judge righteously.

The enclave of emergent thinkers accusing God of “genocide” in the Old Testament when He brought judgment to bear on nations, apparently think evil requires no action. Or else they believe evil does not exist in the heart of man, in which case, some other evil—society or Satan—is running around unchecked by an uncaring god devoid of righteousness.

Third, God’s love would not be magnified. If Man’s sin did not require payment, if Man was not destined to die, if sin would be solved simply by overlooking it, where then is the love of God? What love does it take to reward a good person, someone deserving of praise and adoration? Love shows best when it stoops to the unlovely, to the one who has nothing to give in return.

God’s love shines most brightly because He came and died to cancel the insurmountable indebtedness for each of us—not after we’d cleaned up a bit and earned a nod from our Creator. He made the supreme magnanimous sacrifice while we were yet sinners. He didn’t simply wave off our debt, though. He paid for it.

If we owed nothing, if there were no reckoning day when all accounts would be squared, then God’s sacrifice might be seen as a really nice gesture, but so unnecessary. People might actually cluck their tongues and say, What a waste, that he went through so much so unnecessarily.

How small God’s love looks if He is not also just.

Thankfully, thankfully, that notion is far from the truth.

Published in: on December 27, 2010 at 6:48 pm  Comments (19)  
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Christmas—The Beginning of Easter

As a matter of accuracy, Easter actually “started” before the beginning of time when Jesus committed to saving sinners. In addition Jesus, the coming Messiah, is the focal point throughout the Old Testament—God’s record of His dealings with Man.

Nevertheless, the actual act and fact of God’s Son coming to save begins with the first Christmas. Yet His coming was never an end in and of itself.

That would be like Santa showing up, just to show up. What child would anticipate for weeks the arrival of a red-suited rolly-polly, white-bearded stranger who would come in the middle of the night to eat cookies and drink milk? No, the story of Santa Claus only makes children wide-eyed and hopeful because of what he supposedly comes to bring.

Jesus, of course, has the advantage of being real, but would His story have any more impact than Santa’s if it was simply about a baby—even God’s Son—showing up one night long ago? Sure, the events were miraculous. A pregnant virgin, an angelic announcement—well, actually three, over the nine months, capped by the grand showing of a host of heavenly beings saying, Glory to God in the highest.

Glory to God, indeed!

Not because He’d pulled off the birth—His fullness wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger. But because the baby would grow up and become the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. In Him, peace with God would be possible, and love, one with another, a reality.

This was the good news—the very gospel—those shepherds heard that night. No, I don’t think they “got it” any more than Mary and Joseph did. Nevertheless, the events of Easter were underway.

One man got it. A week after Jesus was born—on the eighth day, to be precise—his parents took Him to the temple, as prescribed by Jewish law, and they encountered Simeon:

And there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel; and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.

And he came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to carry out for Him the custom of the Law, then he took Him into his arms, and blessed God, and said, “Now Lord, You are releasing Your bond-servant to depart in peace,

According to Your word;
For my eyes have seen Your salvation,
Which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
And the glory of Your people Israel.”

And His father and mother were amazed at the things which were being said about Him.

And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary His mother, “Behold, this Child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed—and a sword will pierce even your own soul—to the end that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”
– Luke 2:25-35 (New American Standard Bible)

May we, like Simeon, have a clear understanding of the significance of this day we commemorate.

Merry Christmas

Published in: on December 24, 2010 at 6:17 pm  Comments (2)  
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If Jesus Came To Your House

When I was teaching—English to seventh and eighth graders—we did a speech unit. Students selected poems or prose pieces (and later, puppet scripts), memorized them, and recited them in front of the class.

One of the poems provided was “If Jesus Came To Your House.” It was a little shorter than some, with an easy rhythm and a clear rhyme, so over the years, I heard that one quite often. It was all about what you might do if Jesus came as a guest. Would you have to hide some magazines and put the Bible where they’d been, for example.

Of course, today magazines wouldn’t be as much an issue as your computer’s online history. “Would you have to hide the sites you’ve searched” might be a line from the revised version of the poem.

The basic question actually is a good one.

What if Jesus came to my house for His birthday celebration? Would we feel a little awkward, the way you do with that aunt you only see once a year or the great-uncle who starts most of his sentences, “I remember the time …”

Would we want to listen to Jesus’s stories, or would we tell Him to wait until after the game?

Would we ask Him what He got us for Christmas, or would we have a gift for Him waiting under the tree?

If Jesus came to my house on Christmas day, would I have to check my grumbling and complaining because no one is out in the kitchen helping with the dishes? Would we have to finish the argument later about why we didn’t invite the in-laws this year?

Would we find it hard to relax, thinking we had to be on our best behavior for the King, or would we tell Him to make Himself comfortable, then go about our business? Maybe we’d cluster around Him and ask Him to lead us in Christmas carols or ask Him what it was like to be both God and Man at the same time.

Would any of us think to ask Him what it was like to leave Heaven for … here? Or would we think to ask Him what the earth He created was like before sin took effect?

I wonder if we’d scurry around and try to make Him comfortable. You know, give Him the best chair, ask Him what His favorite foods are, and make a last minute grocery store run if need be. I wonder if we’d turn up the heat if we thought He looked cold or ask Him questions to be sure He’s included in the conversation.

I wonder if we’d go beyond trying to make Him comfortable and become concerned about making Him feel special. After all, it is His birthday we’re celebrating. So, do we know what would make Him feel special? It’s an important question.

Would He want us to read the Bible all morning or hold a prayer meeting? Or can we make Him feel special by making the other people we’re with feel special?

I wonder, will Christmas this year look anything like it might if Jesus came to my house?

Published in: on December 23, 2010 at 6:08 pm  Comments (4)  
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Who Is Jesus?

I think at Christmas time it’s appropriate to ask who Jesus is since the day set aside to commemorate His birth has become such a big deal.

Some undoubtedly don’t think past the manger scene. To them Jesus was, is, and always will be that infant wrapped up and lying amid a bunch of animals.

Others have re-imaged him to be the good teacher a certain rich ruler addressed. Sort of a Hebrew Gandhi, I think, the guru who gave us quotables and an example to follow.

But interestingly, in the exchange Jesus had with that young rich guy, He identified the thing about Himself that separates Him from all other teachers or examples. He said, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone.”

And you know, the next time the young ruler addressed Jesus, he dropped the “good.”

Quite apparently he did not think Jesus was God. Otherwise he might have answered something like, “I understand completely that no one is good except God alone. Good teacher, what must I do to be saved?”

Instead he said, “Teacher, I have kept all these things [the Law] from my youth up.” In other words, he first did not acknowledge Jesus as God, and secondly he did not acknowledge his need. I’m not sure what he expected … an “atta boy,” maybe a “keep on keeping on.” I don’t know.

But this post is about Jesus, so back to the subject. Those who have re-imaged him describe all the things he did and said that fit in with 21st century sensibilities of love and brotherhood and tolerance.

What they do not look at or acknowledge are the “God things” Jesus did and said. And here I’m not referring to the many kind and seemingly miraculous interventions Christians experience today. A good number of people have come to call such an occurrence, a “God thing.”

I’m actually thinking of something a little different. I’m thinking of the things Jesus said that ticked the Jewish establishment off. The things He did that made then ask, Who does he think he is?

Things like healing a man with a withered hand on the Sabbath, or telling the paralytic He healed to pick up his bed and walk—also on the Sabbath. Or how about the time when His disciples picked grain on the Sabbath because they were hungry. When the Pharisees confronted Jesus, He gave them a Bible lesson, ending with this:

“Or have you not read in the Law, that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple break the Sabbath and are innocent? But I say to you that something greater than the temple is here. But if you had known what this means, ‘I DESIRE COMPASSION, AND NOT A SACRIFICE,’ you would not have condemned the innocent. For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”
– Matt 12:5-8 (emphasis is mine)

The big one that got the Jews worked up, of course, was His God claims. John records one of these:

“I and the Father are one.” The Jews picked up stones again to stone Him. Jesus answered them, “I showed you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you stoning Me?” The Jews answered Him, “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy; and because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God.”
– John 10:30-33

Of course, they didn’t like it much when He told them that they were of their father the devil, either. In that conversation, Jesus ended with another statement identifying Himself as God, and sure enough, they tried to kill Him then, too.

Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am.” Therefore they picked up stones to throw at Him, but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple.
– John 8:58-59

I don’t know how people today who imagine this metro-sexual Jesus with the cool sandals and trendy long hair have missed the controversy the real Jesus brought. To His family. To the Jewish people. To the world.

He said there will be a day of sorting—sheep on one side, goats on the other. He said there is a narrow road leading to life and a wide road heading to destruction. He said guests at the bridegroom’s feast will be turned away if they’re not wearing the proper wedding garments.

And in the end, He said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” That’s who Jesus is.

Published in: on December 22, 2010 at 7:56 pm  Comments (2)  
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Then God Said . . .

Happy winter. This, the shortest day of the year, marks the “official” start of the winter season. And for once, it feels like it here in SoCal.

December is often the interlude between our short and long rainy seasons, the first being a few weeks in November and the latter taking up most of February and sometimes part of January or March.

This year things are different.

For one, the climatologists were predicting we would be in a drought. Last year we had a surprising year of “normal” rainfall (most years either give us a shortfall or an abundance), but that, the experts said, would be followed up this year with more drought—the pattern we’d fallen into previously.

Instead of drought, we’re looking at perhaps the wettest December in recorded history here in the LA basin. My local paper quotes one expert as saying, “This is a very unusual event. Nobody really saw it coming.”

Well, “nobody,” of course, leaves out God. But we’ve gotten pretty good at doing that here in America, I think. Sure, we bring Him up during “the spiritual season” as the USA Weekend magazine article “How Americans Imagine God” called it. But not one person they quoted—and the article was primarily a composite of what people said in answer to the title question—said God is sovereign or Creator or intimately involved in the affairs of men.

“God is love” came out as the “one gleaming, common thread” weaving throughout the answers. “Christians, Hindus, Jews and Buddhists alike describe a loving presence who offers a pathway to goodness, peace and brotherhood.”

So god, the consensus seems to be, is all about the feel-good stuff. The rest?

Apparently nature, at least, has a mind of her own. From a public works spokesman quoted in today’s weather article: “[Slow, steady precipitation] doesn’t cause as much problems as when the weather decides to drop a lot of rain in a short amount of time.” (Emphasis mine.) Of course, this man may have been speaking euphemistically, but I’ve heard many similar references regarding nature, as if the elements create a collective conscience that dictates things like hurricanes, tornadoes, blizzards, and yes, rainstorms.

The Bible makes it clear that God is in fact in control of nature. He brought the flood Noah and his family lived through. He withheld rain for seven years in Egypt and later did the same for three years in Israel. He made the sun stand still and a shadow reverse direction. Jesus Himself calmed a storm with just a word.

None of this should be surprising because God laid the foundations of the earth, after all. He counts the stars and knows them by name, feeds the sparrows and clothes the lilies.

And an impossible thing like a virgin giving birth? No problem for God because He rules what He created.

If He spoke the world into being, can He not speak a little rain—unexpected as it was to all the students of His work—into being as well?

How topsy-turvy our world has become when we assign god (however you understand him or her to be) to that little brotherly-kindness corner over there; nature, that little weather corner over there; and Man, pretty much the rest of the room.

Apparently we have forgotten, “Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light.”

Published in: on December 21, 2010 at 6:28 pm  Comments (3)  
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God Come Down

On Sunday, the USA Weekend magazine that comes with my newspaper (yes, I still take one – 😮 ) splashed the word GOD across the front cover. The lead article was “How Americans Imagine God.”

I have a problem right there. God is not formed by our imagination. Consequently, what person A “imagines” about God has no relevance whatsoever as a means of actually knowing Him.

I could say that I imagine the core of the earth is stuffed with daisies, but that would not make it so.

Oh, but someone may say, scientists know about the core of the earth. They’ve done science to prove that it’s most certainly not filled with daisies. However, no one can know about God, so we have to imagine him.

Actually, we can know about God more certainly than we can about the core of the earth. That’s where Christmas comes in. Yes, this actually is a Christmas post.

The whole point and purpose of the first Christmas was God coming to us, like us, so we can know Him.

“For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; … And His name will be called … Mighty God” (Isaiah 9:6).

Paul explained in Philippians 2 that Jesus, who existed in the form of God, “emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant and being made in the likeness of men.”

Then in 2 Corinthians 4:4 he said “the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (emphasis mine).

Not your typical Christmas verses, I realize (except perhaps Isaiah 9:6). But here’s the point. Jesus—God Himself—came to earth that we might know Him.

He walked the roads that other men and women walked, debated Scripture with scholars, touched and healed beggars and blind men, preached to crowds of thousands and counseled a single woman. He shared Passover with His followers and blessed a number of little children.

In other words, He didn’t live His life incognito. He rubbed shoulders with people of all economic and social strata and was open about Who He was.

So there were eye witnesses who talked with God, face to face, because they talked with Christ. Some of these eye witnesses, then turned around and wrote down what they had experienced, so the rest of us have their eye witness accounts of some of the more memorable words and acts of God Incarnate.

Let me ask you. Of late have you talked to anyone who has visited the core of the earth?

Me either.

Yet we Americans are so sure of what’s at the core of the earth but we can only imagine God. I find that ironic and sad.

In reality, we can know God through Christ. Not all there is to know about Him, certainly. But we can know Him.

Someone who says they imagine God is this, that, or the other, is missing out on a real relationship with a real person. We can’t change Him by what we wish Him to be. He is who He is, and He hasn’t kept His identity a secret.

Published in: on December 20, 2010 at 7:49 pm  Comments (2)  
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