Who Am I?

Thanks for asking.

The simplest answer is, “I am a unique creation of Yaweh.” And, I’d like to add, “So are you!

I hope that doesn’t offend you; but if it does, I’m afraid you’re going to have to live with it. You can choose to ignore it, …but you can’t change it. And ignoring it isn’t going to work to your advantage in the long run.

You see, Yaweh is the one true God of all creation—the God of the Jews and Christians. Yaweh is the creator of the universe—and, every thing in it. Most importantly for this discussion, He created every human as a unique individual.

Have you ever really thought about just how unique you are? On the molecular level, consider your DNA. That alone distinguishes you from the vast majority of all humans wandering the planet. Other distinguishing physical traits are your unique finger-prints and retinal-prints.

Then there is personality—a small percentage of which you inherited from your mother and father. If you grew-up with siblings, think about the common experiences you shared. Did they effect everyone in the exact same way? Do you remember the tiniest details the same way, or would you even agree on what was “tiny” and what was “major”? Then what lessons did you carry away from those “common” experiences? And, how have they affected your psyche and outlook on life?

What you inherited, and what you have learned by formal schooling, street smarts, relationships, how it was taught and by who, your personal observations, and even where you learned it—it all works toward assuring your uniqueness.

OK. We’re both unique. So what?

Well, hang onto that thought while I tell you a bit about your creator YHVH.

“YHVH” is the Hebrew word that translates as “LORD”. This name is found more often in the Old Testament than any other name for God (approximately 7,000 times). The title is also referred to as the “Tetragrammaton,” meaning the “The Four Letters”. YHVH comes from the Hebrew verb “to be” and is the name God revealed to Moses at the burning bush. “And God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM;’ and He said, ‘thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, I AM has sent me to you… this is My eternal name, and this is how I am to be recalled for all generations’”. [Exodus 3:13-14]. Therefore, YHVH declares God’s absolute being; and the source of everything—without beginning and without end.1

Now, let’s back-up for just a moment; and look at the very first name for God that we find in the Bible: “Elohim”. It is used about 2,300 times in the Old Testament and its first occurrence is in Genesis 1:1—the very first verse of the Bible. Elohim means, “all powerful”; and its form is, plural! Important? Oh, yeah! Originally a mystery, its meaning is slowly revealed throughout the rest of the Bible. While we worship the one true God, we (now) know our God is a triune God—God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. It’s a bit difficult to wrap your mind around. It helps me to think of God as the spirit He is, with three different personas. Each of which can operate separately yet stay unified with the whole.

OK. I’m sorry if your head is spinning. I know it’s a lot for some of you to take in. Here is a quick summary of the critical points:

Our God has many names and each name tells us more about Him. The two names we have just talked about, tell us a great deal about God; starting with—our God is not a created being. He is an absolute being. He truly exists. And more than that…

He is an eternal being, or Spirit—without beginning or end.

Our One God has three personas—Father, Son, and Holy Ghost (or Holy Spirit).

God is all powerful and the author of creation. The entire universe was set into existence by the spoken words of God. And that includes every living thing on planet Earth—including you and me. Mankind was created on the sixth day2 and created in the image of God.3

So just what is my point?

Well first, I have a question for you. Who are you?

Based on the above, you might reply that like me, you are a child of God.

And, while that would be a correct answer on one level, it may not be totally correct. You see, far… far… back in our lineage we have a set of grand-parents named Adam and Eve. That’s right. The first man and woman created by God. They knew God intimately. In fact, they physically walked and talked with God on their strolls through the Garden of Eden. They lived in a paradise with no rules—but one. They were instructed by God not to eat the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden. It was called the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. And God told them that if they did eat of it, they would surely die.

The short version of this story is that Satan, a fallen angel, deceived Eve by telling her if she ate the fruit, she wouldn’t die4. Rather, she would be like God, …knowing good from evil. Eve ate some of the fruit and then convinced Adam to also eat the fruit. And things changed—BIG TIME. Eve and Adam knew they should not go against the only rule God had given them, but they did it anyway, …and that is known as “sin”. Our grandparents, using their freewill intentionally disobeyed God and introduced sin into what had been a perfect environment. And their original sin has infected every man and woman born, or yet to be born, with a sinful nature5. It blocks our communication with God and condemns us to death and eternity in Hell. In fact, sin infected the whole physical planet; and caused God to withdraw to heaven.6

That’s It?

Oh, NO! Time passes. (And God had devised a great—an almost too incredible to believable, plan.) Out of God’s great love for His children, He devised a plan of grace7 that would blot out mankind’s sins for all time; provide for redemption, and restore us to God’s family for eternity. Many prophets (in the old testament) alluded to the plan. Some quite specifically, in retrospect.

Then, in about 5 BC, God implemented His plan. (If you get nothing else out of this post, read and consider the next two paragraphs. GET THIS!)

Out of Gods grace, He sends the Holy spirit to visit His children. The Holy Spirit looks into our hearts, and works to convict us of our sins and our inability to “fix ourselves”. Yes, we are all sinners, and we will be until we die, or are called home. No man or woman is perfect. It is impossible to live on this broken planet without sinning. Big sins, little sins, or both. (As we tend to think of them. Actually, to God there is no distinction. Sin is sin.) And, while God makes no distinction of sins, there is a distinction of sinners: Forgiven and Unforgiven.

None of us know the exact time of our earthly death. And in the meantime, the Holy Spirit is whispering, sometimes shouting.8 Trying to get our attention, fighting our freewill, convicting us to believe that God is God. That He sent His Son, Jesus, to earth to be born of a virgin; to live a perfect life performing miracles and healing the wounds and hearts of broken people; and then to be sacrificed on a Roman cross—carrying the sins of every person who has, and ever will, repent of their sins, from a contrite heart, and ask for forgiveness while declaring Jesus as their Lord and savior. And then He arose from his grave three days later, thus fulfilling prophecies from both the old and new testaments; not only proving His Deity, but, also giving us the promise of a new (eternal) life as a Christian, following his plan for our unique gifts. And, it is free!

And, I actually have three points to make…

First: God offers us his plan at no cost. All of this, …for only believing and asking, …bestowed through the grace of God’s great love for His creation, …YOU and ME. But remember, God is not “only” a God of Love and Grace. He is also a “Just” God. He will never force you to do anything against your will. Your eternal destination is 100 percent your choice. And choosing not to make a decision, or saying “not yet” is the same as saying, “No.” God does not want to send anyone to hell.9 In fact He grieves over every lost soul that is sent there. Never-the-less, He will send you where you choose, and you MUST choose before you die.

My second point is: While it is a given that every one on earth is a sinner; there are those of us who have asked for, and received, salvation, redemption and restoration to God’s family. We are living new lives patterned after Christ’s example, and have a personal relationship with Him that assures we will spend eternity in Heaven with our triune God.

My Third point is: If you recognize that you are a sinner, and know that you cannot save yourself, the Holy Spirit is talking to you and leading you to take action and become a Christian by repenting (confessing) your sins to Jesus and asking his forgiveness. Tell Jesus that you want to become a follower (which is what a Christian is—a follower of Christ). Tell Jesus you love Him and are ready to begin the new life He has planned for you.

It is truly that simple. Yet, for many it is too difficult.

When you do establish this relationship something truly incredible will happen. The Holy Spirit will move into your heart to act as your guide and interpreter. Really! And never forget this scripture:

And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will. And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. [Romans 8:27-28. NLT]

My Prayer:

Yaweh (I AM),

Scientists tell us the universe was formed 13.8 billion years ago, when a tiny singularity (or vacuum fluctuation) containing (what we now call) the universe, and energy (known as a scalar field) suddenly appeared in space—out of nothing at all. The energy field in this singularity acted as “antigravity” inflating the bubble instantaneously to the size of a grapefruit. By this point the antigravity was converted to heat energy which kept expanding (at a more sedate speed) due to the push of the inflation. This is now referred to as the “Big Bang”.

I prefer the description of creation presented in the Bible. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” [Genesis 1:1] And I see no conflict with the science. Now we know where the singularity came from and what triggered it—while providing the design, rules, matter and energy for the creation. Thank you, God!

Scientists tell us the earth is 4.5 billion years old. And mankind may be 50,000 years old. The Bible tells us you created Adam and Eve; but again, doesn’t tell us when. I do believe you created them. And would, if for no other reason than they are the most unique part of all creation. You created them in your image, and you gave them life!

Neither do we know when Satan seduced Eve into doing what she knew to be wrong—and, the same for Adam. Nor, do we know exactly how long it was before you chose Moses to lead your people out of enslavement in Egypt. But we do know the first book of the Torah (also the first book of the Christian Bible) was written about 1450 BC, by Moses.

Your Words, recorded in the 66 books of the Bible over that next millennium and a half, give me all the knowledge and instruction I need to know about you, the One True God. I know you love your entire creation—most especially, mankind.

40 Years ago, you chose me a second time; when I was as undeserving as I could ever be. You picked me up, dusted me off and led me into a new life. The path you set me on led to the perfect wife and life partner. Together, we have been blessed beyond measure. And now, we look forward to what you still have in store for us as we move forward loving God, following Jesus, and striving to love others as we love ourselves.

I know I am not perfect in my walk; never-the-less, your love, grace, and guidance, endure. I thank you, and praise you for your never ending love.

Your loving servant,

Larry


1. Although some pronounce YHVH as “Jehovah” or “Yaweh,” scholars really don’t know the proper pronunciation because the ancient Hebrew alphabet had no vowels. For pronunciation purposes due to the absence of vowels in the Tetragrammaton, Bible scholars have chosen to spell it either Yaweh, or sometimes, Yahweh.

2.There is much debate about the Creation of the universe. Some say in a great explosion of a singularity formed the universe.. Some say God started the process and the universe evolved over billions of years. Still others say; six days. And while almost all religions have a story of the creation, only the Bible postulates that one supreme God created the earth out of his great love; and gave mankind a special place in it. How long it took is unknown. The Bible does not say how long it took. Some take the term “day” to be a literal 24 day period. Others say the word “day” represents an indefinite period of time (even millions or billions of years).

3. What does it mean when the bible says that man was created in God’s image? Obviously, this is another occasion when God was not being totally literal. God is a Spirit. God can assume the form of man. What God did was create men and women as unique beings capable of communicating with him. No other part of creation can claim that incredible capability.

4. Satan was doing what he does best, …lying. And, using God’s children as a tool to attack God.

5. Except for Jesus Christ.

6. God is Holy and cannot abide the presence of sin.

7. Grace: unmerited favor. i.e. We didn’t earn it, nor do we deserve it. It is free for believing and asking from a broken and contrite heart. God also gave mankind freewill and the ability to reflect his (God’s) character in our love, patience, forgiveness, kindness, and faithfulness.

8. You will not lose your freewill. God loves His creation and does not want robots who have no choice but to obey. At the same time it means you will never be perfect while on earth.

9. God created hell for Satan and his followers. While I cannot imagine exactly what hell is like, I can tell you that it is a place you DO Not want to be. I know it is totally devoid of God and any good thing. If you think life on earth can be difficult, try to imagine a place where there is no love, no kindness, no charity, no understanding, no truth, no mercy, no help of any kind, no music, no laughter. There will be constant pain and sorrow. And more filth.

 

 

 

 

 

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Fear of God/Jesus?

Let’s start this post with two short definitions of the word, “fear”. We will be dealing with both:

    1. …to be afraid of something or someone.

    2. …profound, overwhelming awe and reverence.

Over the years I have had many opportunities to talk with non-believers about Christianity. Some have been “Seekers”. They know their life is off-track. But they don’t know what to do about it. These people are usually anxious to talk about religion, even though they often come out of those conversations more confused than they were going in. These people we can help.

The “Confused or Disillusioned”. Frequently the next stage after seeking, for those who don’t find true Christian help. They may think it’s too late for them because they believe they have done things God would never forgive. Or, they have such low self esteem they think God just doesn’t want them.

Others have tried living the Christian lifestyle (on their own) and failed miserably. Many of these are, or were followers of Christian denominations. Others are those who seriously do not understand God’s plan; but think they do. They may have grown-up in a home with Christian parents—faithfully attended Church, were baptized, and are now living a good and successful life, even helping others here and there. And then there are those who say, “…of course I believe in God. God doesn’t want anyone to go to hell. So, all religions, if followed faithfully, will lead to heaven.” And, some have seen people who claim to be Christians, quite obviously not following a Christian lifestyle. They may or may not be Christian. That is between them and God. I will point out that when you become a Christian, you do not automatically become perfect. The Christian walk is a process that you will work on for the remainder of your life on earth. So do not let someone else disillusion you.

We also have those who have heard the Holy Spirit’s murmuring but have taken no action—for one reason or another. Probably the most common reason is they are quite comfortable in their current lifestyle and do not know what to expect, “…if God gets a hold of them”. After all, they don’t want to end-up somewhere in Africa, or South America. They are afraid of the unknown.

And then there are those who have also heard the Spirit’s murmuring; and just flat-out said, “No”. They are Atheists or Agnostics.

If this describes you, OK. It is your choice to make; you have free will. But I encourage you, if you still hear those murmurings, open your mind enough to reconsider your position. e.g., Who, or what, triggered the Great Expansion resulting in the Big Bang? How did life come into existence? Why are more and more scientists accepting that there had to be a grand design/designer. You are in a particularly dangerous position. If you continue to deny God, the murmurings will cease, …and it will be too late. (Jn 12:39-41). God is Love. But, God is also, …Just. You can’t ‘flip God off’ forever. Please think about it.

You should NOT be “afraid” of God! Instead let the following seven characteristics of God show you why.

  1. God is the designer and creator of the universe. God is a spirit. He does not have a body. He is omnificent—meaning unlimited in creative power. He is omnipresent—He can be any place at any time; He is omnipotent—almighty with unlimited authority. He is omniscient—all knowing. (Gs 1:1-31; 2:7; 18-24). Please pause and consider each of those characteristics.

  2. God loves His creation, especially mankind, who He created in His image. (This does not mean that we are spirits, or omni-anything!) However, God did give us free-will. We can reason; we can communicate with one another—and, with God. (Jn 17:3). It didn’t take much time for Adam and Eve to “get the hang” of using their free-will. They committed the original sin by disobeying the only rule God had given them, and mankind has sinned ever since. But what is sin? Who has sinned? And what’s so bad about sin? These verses will answer those questions. (Jas 4:17; 1Jn 3:4) (Rom 3:23; 5:17) (Rom 6:23; Is 59:2).

  3. God created you—and, He wants to have a personal relationship with you. In order to have that relationship, God sent His son Jesus, to the earth to be the only possible sacrifice for forgiveness of our sins, restoration in God’s family, and eternal life with Him in Heaven. (Jn 3:16-21; 14:6).

  4. But, we must personally respond to The Spirit’s call by believing in and trusting in Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord. God will not force anyone to become a Christian. It is your choice. (Rom 10:9-10; Jn1:12).

Now that is a lot to take in—but, there is more.

  1. In number “1.” above, I said that God is a Spirit. And while that is true, God also has all the attributes of a person: He thinks, He speaks, He communicates, He loves, He becomes angry, He grieves, He is compassionate, and He experienced sorrow. He feels what we feel! (Mt 1:20-23).

  2. So, no matter what you have faced or will face, He understands! He even understands our temptations. And, He stands ready to forgive us once, and for all time! (Acts 2;21; Heb 5:9).

You say you can’t get your mind around all that? Yeah, well neither can I! What you are likely experiencing is FEAR! Profound awe and overwhelming reverence.

Summary:

Yes, a lot of people are afraid of God/Jesus. I was one—quite a few years ago. I always pictured God/Jesus standing up there in heaven; long white hair, long white beard, stern look on His face, looking down on me, and just waiting for me to make a mistake. I knew my “sin-list” had to be long. Maybe even, record setting. But, you know, when you actually develop that relationship with the entire God-head—meaning, God the Father, God the Son (Jesus), and God the Holy Spirit (who lives inside you after you accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior)—God is anything but scary. (Jn 14:16-20. It is empowering and, …liberating.

After reading Jn 14:6, some will say that Christianity is arrogant and intolerant. Consider this. Christ is God’s appointed means of salvation. Only Christ died for our sins. Only Christ rose from the dead. We are saved only by God’s grace—in no way do we deserve it. Yet God offers His free gifts of salvation, restoration, and eternal life to anyone and everyone on planet earth who chooses to believe in Christ, turns to Him and asks Him for salvation and a new life. Arrogant? Intolerant? …Really?

Finally:

Look at those seven characteristics again. That’s exactly who I want on my side. You do begin a new life. And, yes, you are going to change in ways beyond what you could ever have dreamed. And, yes again, God has plans for you. Trust Him. He always wants what is best for you, and knows you better than you know yourself. And remember—no religion can save you.  Only Jesus can do that.  It’s truly just about you and your relationship with God.

Abba God,

Every time I think my awe and reverence for you can’t be stretched any further, you show me something in nature, or about myself, or a miraculous happening that often leaves me in tears.

Father, search me and you will see that I truly want as many of your creation as possible to come to a saving knowledge of you—and accept your free offer of eternal life. Yet, I have also read in Your Word about the world events that will usher in the end times—and, I believe I am now seeing them. And, while I look forward to our meeting in the sky, my heart is troubled for those who will not join us there.

So I ask Lord, that you use me to help all those who come under my sphere of influence.

In the name of Jesus, your son, my savior, I pray. Amen.

Avery Goodday

No God? Know about God. Or… Know God! [Part 2 of 3]

Know about God.

Would it surprise you to know there has never been a group of people (tribe, nation-state, civilization) found on planet Earth that has not worshiped a god or gods?

And why does man, sooner or later, ask… “Does God exist?”  Or, “Is there really a God?”

The answer is simple.  We were created by God.  And, God created us in such a way as to need Him.  But, we have to seek Him out.  The problem is in the seeking. 

Over the millenniums, different people groups have found different answers to fill that ‘God shaped hole’ within their hearts/souls.  Many have found their gods in nature and the elements:  sun, moon, stars, earth, fire, wind, rain, and water for example.  Others have found gods for activities and events such as seasons, floods, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, harvests, sickness, fertility, etc.  And religion has grown up around all of it.  So where does that leave us?

Good question.  My answer is, first, …we all believe in and worship something or someone.

Atheists will say they disagree; that they, “worship no god”.  But they do.  Most worship science and to some degree they all worship themselves.  Yet science doesn’t have all the answers – and many of the answers science does supply are only “partially right” or “temporarily right”; lasting only until proven wrong by a better theory or law.  Truly, in this day and age, it takes a lot of faith to be an atheist.

Please don’t get me wrong.  I love science (and science fiction).  I follow technological advances via printed media, broadcast media and the Internet.  Science is not the enemy of Christianity, regardless of what Richard Dawkins and others, have to say.  Science, true science, will never disprove Christianity.  (It may give some religions a very bad time, but man’s relationship with God will NEVER be destroyed by science.  It simply will not happen.

Early scientists, for the most part, were educated in/by their churches – think, Buddhist, Hindi, Islam, Christian (Catholic).  In the West many early scientists were monks.  Of course, the word ‘science’ and ‘scientist’ didn’t exist at the time.  They were educated and observant people, with inquiring minds.  What drove these early pioneers in astronomy, mathematics, chemistry, physics and other disciplines?  Interestingly enough, they most often attributed their work to, ‘…a search to discover the natural laws God set in motion to govern His Creation’.

Obviously, they had no trouble giving credit where credit was due.  And, of course not everyone was particularly happy about the advances  in science.  Galileo and his run-ins with the Church in Rome being a particularly well known example.  Yet, the pioneers in science persevered.  And modern science (and scientific method) is the result.

So what have we learned about God?

That is asking a lot!  Let me approach the answer this way.  Different religions will have different answers to that question.

For instance, it may surprise some of you to learn that Buddha is not a god.  The Great Buddha never referred to himself as god.  He sought only a path to enlightenment.  Buddhists do not believe in God (although offerings are made to him).  Buddhists don’t believe in sin, heaven, or hell.  The goal is to become enlightened and reach nirvana – which is a mental state of “non-existence” with no attachments to earthly belongings or desires.

Hinduism teaches that god is everything – including man and nature.  There are up to 330 million gods – all coming from the same god, Brahman. Since all gods are good, you can pick your own and make offerings to it.  Humans are trapped in a series of rebirths and reincarnations depending on how they live their lives.  Karma is the accumulation of a person’s good and bad deeds.  It will determine how you are reincarnated.  Bad karma can lead to being reincarnated as an animal. By living multiple good lives (moksha), one can be freed from the cycle of rebirth and reincarnation.

The supreme being of Islam is Allah.  Allah is not a personal god and can’t be truly known by men.  Allah asks his followers to fight against all who do not worship him as God (infidels).  Infidels are to be converted to Islam even if force is required.  You earn your salvation by following the Five Pillars of Faith and living a good life.  Good people go to paradise, bad people go to hell.  That decision is made by Allah. Your salvation can be guaranteed only by dying in battle while fighting in a holy war (jihad) for Allah.

In the Mormon faith each man has the potential to be a god on his own planet if he meets the requirements of Mormonism while on Earth. Women will live on the planet on which their husband is god.  Jesus, God (Judeo-Christian) and the Holy Spirit are three different gods. Mormons believe that God came to earth as a physical man.  Through his good conduct he became the God of earth.  (I have no clue who made/declared him God of earth. -AG) Jesus is the natural born son of God and Mary.  Satan is Jesus brother, conceived by God (I therefore, assume. -AG)

Jehovah’s Witnesses believe 144,000 people will go to heaven based on what they do; and, only church members can be saved.  They believe God is a single deity who doesn’t know all things and isn’t everywhere. Jesus is the human form of the archangel Michael – who was created by God; thus making Jesus inferior to God.  The Holy Spirit is God’s impersonal active force on earth.  They further believe, that (after death) if you are of the church, but not part of the “anointed class” (the 144,000), you will stay on the earth which will always exist.  All other people will die into nothingness (no afterlife for them).

The God of Judaism is revealed in the Old Testament of the Bible. There is no Trinity (God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit).  God is both loving and the judge of the earth.  Jews believe they are a people chosen by God.  To live as a Jew is to pray, to do good deeds, and to be humble before God.  The Jewish concept of the afterlife is kind of a mixed bag.  Some believe there is no afterlife.  Some believe all Jews go to heaven.  Some believe the wicked go to hell. Non-Jews can be granted afterlife if they are righteous.  The greater focus for Jews is on the Age to Come, when Jews will live on earth in resurrected bodies.

Christians believe there is one supernatural God in three Persons – God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  All three Persons have existed for all eternity.  Christians believe that God is revealed in both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible.  God is both loving and the judge of all the earth.  God is distinct from His creation; but is intimately involved with it – as it’s Creator, Sustainer and Redeemer.  God created mankind to do His work on earth, and to have a personal relationship with Him.  God gave man free-will; and, through original sin (willful disobedience to God), man and the earth have fallen from the “very good” state in which they were created. Because God is perfection and without sin, mankind cannot enter into His presence without being redeemed.  By ourselves, and through our own works, we cannot erase our sins or earn redemption.  Because God loves His creation, He has made redemption available to all people through the sacrifice and resurrection of His Son, Jesus. Those who died (or die) without knowledge of Jesus will be judged as either righteous or unrighteous based on how they lived their lives, based on what they did know.

OK. That was a very quick overview of a subject that fills entire libraries.  But, I think it will allow us to make some quick comparisons.  What I think are the key points are these:

  1. Most religions fail to address where their gods came from, where the earth came from, where plants and animals came from, how societies/cultures and moral codes developed, etc.  (If they do, the parts about where the earth, plants and animals came from don’t match up very well to what we know from the scientific record.)  And some religions are quite vague about the afterlife.
  2. Most gods are impersonal and unapproachable.  They don’t want an intimate relationship with their followers.
  3. Many gods have limited scope and powers.
  4. Most religions rely on “works” to determine your destination after death (if there is an afterlife).  Since “works” are not (to my knowledge) given individual values, it is virtually impossible to be assured of your status with your god.  For instance, how many average goodies are wiped out by a big baddie?

In part 1 of this post, I said that I believe we seek God because God made us with an “empty spot” within us that can only be filled by Him.  I don’t know if you subscribe to that, but I have never heard a better reason.  And, you might want to ask yourself, “If it’s not true, why would I ask about God?  In fact, how could I even frame the question?“

One final thought.  When I said that we can make a god out of pretty much anything?  And that it’s purely a matter of what we choose to worship?  That is true.  Also true is the fact that “…man is destined to die once…”[Heb 9:27. NLT] (OK, that is from the New Testament, but even if you don’t “buy into” the New Testament, are you really going to try to convince me that statement  isn’t true?)  We are ‘terminal’ the day we are born. So, do you really think that’s all there is to it?  We live.  We die. The end.

Or, is there more to our story?  I believe there is, …a lot more. 

And, for that, you’ll have to read part 3, coming soon.

Avery Goodday

Seeing With Kingdom Eyes

First, a clarification:  In last weeks post I stated, “Jesus encourages us to speak directly to Him.”  And, that is true; however, there is another intimately involved in our conversations — and that’s the Holy Spirit.  Jesus referred to Him by several different titles.  Two that I particularly like are “counselor” and “advocate”.

When I’m so confused I don’t even know what to pray for, I know my “advocate” is doing His thing.  He takes my confused words and logic, parses it, boils it down, and communicates my needs to Jesus. Some times when I’m wrestling with an issue and seeking help by reading scripture, I will read a passage I’ve previously read many times; and, …BAM, just like someone flipped a switch, I see that scripture in an entirely new light.  One that speaks to me exactly what I need to resolve my issue.  Accident? Coincidence?  No, that’s my counselor, the Holy Spirit, interpreting scripture for me; and, leading  me to the meaning I had previously missed.

And that brings me to the subject I originally wanted to talk about in this post.  What I call… Seeing With Kingdom Eyes.

There is an interesting example of seeing with Kingdom Eyes in 2Kings6:8-23.  Israel and Aram are at war.  Elisha, the prophet of God, continuously warns the King of Israel of the the plans of the King of Aram.  Finally the King of Aram has had enough.  He sends an army to capture Elisha.  The army surrounds the town where Elisha and his servant are staying.  Elisha’s servant goes outside the next morning and sees the army, with horses and chariots, surrounding them.  He panics, and goes back inside to warn Elisha.  Elisha tells his servant not to worry, “…for there are more with us than there are with them”.  He then prays, asking the Lord to, “…open his (servant’s) eyes so he may see”.

I’m not going to tell you what he saw or how it turned out.  You can read it for yourself… and you want to, because it has a very cool ending.  I will tell you that God opened the eyes of Elisha’s servant; and allowed him to see into the spiritual dimension.  And, that is one form of what I call, “Kingdom Eyes”.  But, it is not the form I want to talk about, today.

I don’t know who said it first, but he was correct when he said, “I do not know who first discovered water; but, you can be certain it wasn’t a fish.”  Simple – and, profound.  As humans, we are not, normally, aware of the air around us – but, it’s there.  And, there is something else around us that shapes us, influences what we value, what we do with our time – and money; what we say and what we laugh at; what we wear, and yes, even what we think.  Yet, a great number of us seldom think about it, let alone consider it’s power to mold us to it’s whim.  Sounds a bit scarey, doesn’t it?  Well, it should.

I’m talking about our culture.  Have you ever thought about how much of your life is controlled by other people?  People who tell you what’s cool, what’s acceptable, what you should do, what you deserve, and what you, “…owe to yourself?  And that’s just the media and marketing.  What about the writers of the sitcoms and dramas we watch on TV and the big screen?  How have these people changed our culture over the last 20 years?  (Now I’m thinking about family values and morality).  Even our music has undergone a huge transformation.  J.S. Bach dedicated every piece of music he wrote, “…to the glory of God”.  OK, it was over 250 years ago. So what?  What percentage of today’s music could bear the same dedication.

Culture is the byproduct of many forces and institutions.  But here is what it boils down to.  Culture comes from people.  The ideas that flow from the minds of writers (media, marketing and entertainment), artists, politicians, educators, and many others, all impact our culture.  Obviously, not all these people view life from the same perspective.  They have different world views, beliefs and different motivations.  Thus, we end up with a myriad of ideas and beliefs being thrown at us – all promising popularity, power, wealth, possessions, beauty, sex appeal, happiness and true love in the form of uncommitted sex. 

And, these lies are supposed to fulfill our desires for contentment, satisfaction, intimacy, joy and peace.  The sad thing is they do – for a time.  But eventually we begin to feel discontent, used and empty.  Why?  Because what our culture provides is temporary, and a lie.  Our needs were designed by God.  Only God can truly satisfy them.  But, unless (or until) we realize this, we simply go back to the culture, with the belief, “It will be different this time”.

So what’s driving this dysfunctional system?  That’s a key question; and, the answer goes far deeper than most people care to look.  Would it surprise you to know that Paul spoke to this very issue nearly 2,000 years ago?  “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.” (Ro12:2 NLT).  So, Paul was telling people, ‘Don’t blindly follow culture and societal norms.  Let God change your thinking!’ 

And, why was Paul concerned?  Two reasons.  First, Scripture tells us that Satan is “…the god of this age… (2Co4:4).”  Somehow (one more thing I don’t understand) Satan still has authority on earth; and, (a very BIG AND) Satan’s agenda is to lead everyone he possibly can, away from God.  Which is the second reason Paul was concerned.  

Satan hates God.  God loves us. So, Satan, who can’t directly attack God, attacks us… God’s creation.  Satan uses culture to lead us away from God, and into destruction.  The apostle John put it this way, “Stop loving this evil world and all that it offers you, for when you love the world, you show that you do not have the love of the Father in you.  For the world offers only the lust for physical pleasure, the lust for everything we see, and pride in out possessions.  These are not from the Father.  These are from this evil world.  And this world is fading away, along with everything it craves. But if you do the will of God, you will live forever.” (1Jn2:15-17 NLT)

Paul knew that if we just float along with the ideas from our culture without even being aware of what’s happening and where it’s taking us, it will lead us away from God – and to destruction.

So, what are we to do?  After all, we do live on earth.  We do live in a society with a constantly changing culture.  How do we ‘navigate’ this culture?  Well first, you don’t have to move to a mountain-top, and live in a cave.  There are some very good things within our culture.  Things that align to God’s heart.  They are good, true, and beautiful.  They are things God provides, and he wants us to enjoy them to the max.  These are things such as love, joy, intimacy within our marriages, peace, justice… the things that deeply fulfill us. There are movies that inspire, and challenge us to live moral upright lives, there is art that reflects God’s values.  There are also good foods, good friends, sights, and sounds.  The world is full of things God has created or inspired that we can explore and enjoy.  Not every aspect of our culture conflicts with God.

But, quite a bit of it does.  How do we know the difference?     

Remember Paul said we need to ‘…let God change the way we think’?  Well, we do that by knowing Jesus.  Jesus said, “If you had known who I am, then you would have known who my Father is.  From now on you know him and have seen him!”  (Jn14:7 NLT)”  We begin our renewal process when we accept Christ as the Son of God, and our Redeemer; and then establish a personal relationship with Him.  We build on that relationship by reading the Bible, having frequent talks with Him, and opening ourselves to the counsel  of the Holy Spirit.  “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. (Jn16:13 NLT)  It just doesn’t get much plainer than that. 

Now a couple of personal thoughts/observations.  As new Christians, we have a lot to learn.  And, as mature Christians, we can still learn a lot.  This relationship we have with Christ, truly is a process.  We will make mistakes.  Then when we ask for forgiveness and experience the consequences of sin, we learn.  Sometimes quickly, sometimes not so quickly.  And, we don’t get to “perfect” while on earth.

Anyway, in the hundreds (thousands) of choices we make every day – most without much (if any) thought, we need to develop an ability to “sense” when we are in God’s plan and when we are getting outside of His will for us.  That “sense” is, in reality, our sensitivity to the Holy Spirit.  He is trying to show us God’s truth, and convicting us when we are off track.  However, we have to cooperate.  I ask for Kingdom Eyes so that I can “see” or discern that which is of God’s Kingdom, and that which is not.  Then I ask for the courage  to make the right choice and stand my ground for Jesus.  You might try it.  It helps me.

Avery

Thoughts About The Last Supper (Pt-2)

Picking up where I left off last week, I did spend some time trying to wrap my mind around our God, His plans and His love.  Couldn’t begin to get it done.  And then, in my mind I heard, “Stop trying to wrap your mind around Me.  Just open up your heart; and let– it– soak– in.”  Probably the best advice I’ll ever get.

——————————-

Now, to Jesus’ words at the Last Supper.  I’ve often heard people say that in chapters 13 through 17 of John, Jesus is teaching about love – and He is.  But, to me, it seems Jesus had a considerably more complex agenda in mind.  That agenda was to prepare the disciples for the events of the next 54 days, and beyond: His arrest, trial, crucifixion, burial, resurrection, ascension and the coming of the Holy Spirit.  All that to be followed by their ministries and the writing of their books.  Jesus knew that even after this nights teaching His disciples would still not have true and complete understanding; but, He knew it would be enough – until the Holy Spirit would complete the job.

That preparation had two different, but related, themes.  (Note:  Reading these four chapters of John reminds me of looking at an intricately woven tapestry.  Each element of Jesus’ message is interwoven and supported with, and by, the other elements.  Trying to study each element separately is difficult; and requires that I skip around in the chapters to organize the material into these otherwise tightly inter-connected themes.)

The two themes are: (1) Teaching about Jesus, His role on earth and what it meant to the world; and, (2) teaching about love’s role in forming unity among the disciples and ultimately, all believers. 

First, let’s look at Jesus’ teaching about Himself and why He came to earth. Jesus was giving the disciples a more complete understanding that He is the Son of God; that He and the Father are one and the same; and further,  the only path to God is through belief in Jesus. 

In Jn 14:6-7 Jesus says, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.  If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well.  From now on you do know him and have seen him.”  Then in verses 10-11 Jesus says, “Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? …Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves.” And then, in verse 12,  some instruction, “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing”.

At the same time, He gives them more complete information about the Holy Spirit (or Counselor) who will come to them.  In chapter 14:16,17 Jesus tells His disciples, “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever– the Spirit of Truth”.  Then, picking up in verse 26, (the Counselor, the Holy Spirit) “…will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”  Jesus also tells the disciples that the Holy Spirit will convict the world of their guilt (sin) and bring complete understanding of Him (Jesus) to the disciples.

Later in chapter 15 Jesus tells the disciples that the world will hate them for the message they deliver.  That they will be persecuted, put out of the synagogue, scattered and killed.  (Of the twelve original disciples only John died a natural death.  Judas hung himself, all the others were killed).

Throughout the meal and the teaching/discussions, Jesus predicted and explained upcoming events.  Even then the disciples only partially understood what was going to happen and what it would mean.  Only after they received the Holy Spirit did they fully understand the significance of the events that had happened between the Last Supper and Pentecost.*

Now, let’s turn to love and unity.  After gathering in an upstairs room of a house (for the Passover meal) Jesus starts to wash the feet of His 12  disciples.  He wished to demonstrate that while they considered Him their lord and teacher, He was in reality a servant of God, His Father.  Further, that they should adopt a servant’s attitude toward one another, helping and supporting each other and those they would come into contact with.  In this way they would support one another while maintaining the unity of the message.

In Jn 13:34 Jesus tells them to, “Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”  (Our need to love others wasn’t a new commandment per se; but, Jesus expanded the commandment when He said to love others as much as God loves us). Such love would bring others to a saving knowledge of Jesus; and, would also build and protect unity in the body of believers.  The commandment is repeated in chapter 15: 12,17; The last verse being very direct, “This is my command:  Love each other.”

Jesus wraps-up His teaching with these words, “I have told you these things, so that you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world. (Jn 16:33) What a positive and powerful way to end His instruction.

There is more.  Jesus then began a three-part prayer.  (Jn 17:1-26).  He prays for Himself, that He may serve and glorify His Father; and, asks that He (Jesus) be restored to His former glory when He returns to His Father.  [I found that very cool.]

Next, He prays for His disciples and asks His Father’s protection over them while they complete their work in the world.  He also, asks God’s blessing on them and their work.

Then starting in verse 20, Jesus prays for everyone who will come to believe in Him through the work of the disciples!  You realize, of course, that includes you and me.  Wow, that hit me right between the eyes.  Jesus, while on earth, actually prayed, to His Father, for me.

In verse 23 Jesus prays, “…May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”  So, we are in the process of being brought into complete unity with God. 

This entire prayer is something you absolutely need to read carefully, for yourself.  Then we all need to re-read it from time to time.  Unity with Jesus, unity with the Father and unity with the Holy Spirit.  It is this unity with our great triune God that unites us with one another!  Can we, as God’s Church,  please work on that?!

Avery

* Pentecost is also called the Feast of Weeks.  This would have happened 50 days after the resurrection and 10 days after the ascension.

Holy Spirit

Let me admit that for a long time I didn’t think all that much about the Holy Spirit (which by-the-way is only one of several names He is known by).  For starters, I think one reason is, I didn’t want to. At first it kinda’ creep-ed me out.  (Maybe that’s because, in the church I grew up in, He was called the Holy Ghost).  Plus, having a part of God inside me was just …a difficult concept to understand – and accept.  I mean you can’t get away from someone who is inside you, for cryin’-out -loud.  So, just don’t think about it. 

Now, in an attempt to give this topic some structure (and thinking it may be too long for a single post), I’m going to divide this into four segments:  ‘Purpose’; ‘Where He lives’; ‘How He speaks to Us’; and, ‘What a Spirit-filled Life Looks Like’.  And I’m going to try to keep it to a single post – or, two at the most.  (Yeah, good luck with that!)

OK, I’ve got to tell you what just happened.  I’d written the above; and been researching, and writing notes for about 45-minutes.  My wife came into the closet – literally, a large closet where I work – handed me my cell phone and said it was my grandson.  After buying a magazine (school fund-raiser), I told him I was writing and that it was turning into a much bigger project than I expected.  He told me about a problem his class was given at school and what a simple answer it had – that no one (except him) had gotten… because, they made it too difficult.  Well, the Spirit doesn’t have to hit me over the head.  I get it.  This will be one post – although any one of the above sub-topics could be a book.

Purpose:

The Holy Spirit does not make His first appearance in the New Testament. He is present throughout the Old Testament, as well.  In the Old Testament (and the New, prior to Pentecost*) God would pick out an individual for whom He had a task.  It could have been a short-term assignment, or one that would last many years.  Then God would send the Spirit to (or “upon”) this individual to give them strength, knowledge, wisdom, whatever was needed to accomplish their God-given mission.  After Pentecost, it changed.  God sends the Holy Spirit to all believers to be a counselor, interpreter, advocate, coach, motivator and a lot of other things.  Everything, in fact, that we need to live a Christ-filled life.

And, even before we become Christians, it is the Holy Spirit that God uses to convict us of our need for redemption and righteousness.  (I guess He can check-in, and -out).

Where does the Holy Spirit live?

The simple answer is, He lives in all Christians.  However, there is more to it than that.  Have you ever wondered why some who claim be be Christian don’t seem very Christian in the way they actually live? Well, for starters, not everyone who claims to be a Christian is truly a Christian.  (A note of caution: remember, only God can judge a persons heart).  But, for those who are Christians; well, we weren’t perfect before we accepted Jesus, and we aren’t perfect now. But, we are forgiven.  And, unfortunately, some “use” that fact to justify not taking the next step of working to pattern their lives after the one they call “Lord”.  So, what does this have to do with the Holy Spirit?  A lot. 

Some Christians welcome the Holy Spirit, and make Him an integral part of their walk.  Others say, in effect, “…Sorry, there’s no room in the inn; but you can have the stable.”  Remember, God gives us free will; and, that does not change after we accept Christ.  Neither God, nor Jesus or the Holy Spirit will force Their will on us.  So, if we push the Holy Spirit into the “stable”… He retreat’s into the “stable”.

I believe that to be saved we must believe that Christ is the Son of God, surrender to Him, confess our sins to Him, and ask Him for forgiveness.  At that point, you are a Christian. 

Now, consider this.  Satan knows about Jesus, knows Him to be the Son of God.  But, that doesn’t make Satan a Christian. Unfortunately, I  think many people learn about Jesus, and they “want” Heaven, so they adopt the title “Christian” for themselves. 

That is not the same as willfully placing your pride, your free-will, and your sins on the cross with Jesus.  When you do that, and you truly accept God’s plan for your life; then you are welcoming the Holy Spirit into your body.  You will get to know God personally; and you will grow to be more like Him.  Your life will change.

How does the Holy Spirit speak to us?

From what I’ve read, people I’ve talked to, and personal experience, the Spirit can “speak” to us in many ways.  Some report that they feel “led by the Spirit” through reading the Bible.  Some through “insight” gained while praying, or in conversation with others, or just “out of the blue”.  I think the Spirit also uses coincidence – to the point that I’m not sure I even believe in coincidence any more.  Anyway, the answer is “…lots of ways”.

I hear the Spirit in many ways.  When thinking or writing, I will sometimes receive a very strong insight – the Spirit leads my thoughts in a direction I hadn’t considered.  And, He has also told me I’m. “…off track”.  Before starting to read the Bible, I ask the Holy Spirit to interpret scripture for me and to show me anything He has for me in what I’m about to read.  (That evidently works, because sometimes, a passage I’ve read many times, will suddenly take on new meaning for me).  The same concept also works for me at church.  Before I enter the auditorium, I ask that if there’s anything specific in the service for me, that I “…get it”.  It could be in the music, it could be in scripture, and it could be in the pastor’s message.   I’ve also heard from the Spirit during prayer.  And, then, there’s the coincidence situation, like when my Grandson calls me just when I’m struggling with a post!

Two points I’d like to make:  First, I seldom heard from the Spirit until I was brought-up short (read “convicted”) by that idea about relegating the Spirit to the stable.  I immediately went to prayer and apologized for my willfulness, and stupidity.  I then asked for forgiveness and specifically welcomed the Spirit into my heart; and, asked that He build His temple there …just as big as He wanted it.  And, finally, I rededicated my life to God’s will – right then and there.  Believe me, it made a difference.

Second, when I hear from the Spirit, I often stop to ask if that’s really Him – even when I’m pretty certain it is.  Satan can be very deceiving and I don’t want to make a mistake.  If I err, I want to err on the side of caution – and God.  One simple test for me is that I know the Spirit will never ask me to do something that contradicts God’s Word or does not further God’s Kingdom.

What does a Spirit-filled life look like?

It seems to me that all those who have done the most for God in the Bible were said to have been “Spirit-filled,” or something very similar.  And, much the same with men and women of God ever since John penned the last verse of Revelation.   

In Gal 5:22-23, Paul lists the “…fruit of the Spirit” as: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  The “…gifts of the Spirit” are listed (1Cor 12:8-11) as: wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miraculous power, prophecy, discernment, speaking in tongues and interpretation of tongues.  It is also noted that one receives a single gift; and we are instructed that in doing our work, we are to use our gift in concert with those of our brothers and sisters in Christ.  (Do you think this might be one reason we are encouraged to go to church?)

The Holy Spirit does many more things for us, but one really important job is He convicts us.  So, when you find yourself outside God’s Will (and we all do) …that little voice nagging at you?  Well, say “hello” to the Holy Spirit.  Give Him the chance and He will lead you to the truth.  As noted above, you will change.  People will notice.

What it all boils down to is this:  The Holy Spirit is vital to our lives as  Christians.  So, get up-close and personal with the Holy Spirit.  And, did you notice?  There is no limit on the fruit of the Spirit.  Those are all things I want “to the max”.  How about you?   

Avery

* In the Christian church Pentecost is observed as the day on which the gift of the Holy Spirit was given to all Christians.