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.

 

 

 

 

 

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

Know God!

If you’re still with me, I’m going to assume you are either, A.) already a Christian, or B.) looking for more information about the Christian life – and, if you are in category B, this is written especially for you.

Note: I’m not going to call Christianity a religion.  Christianity, in it’s purest form, is simply a personal relationship with our Triune God.  That is: God the Father, God the Son (Jesus), and the Holy Spirit.  That may be difficult for you to grasp right now; but, trust me, it’s true.  Oh, fully comprehending God is impossible; but, having a personal relationship with Him is not. (Really – and, I’m going to tell you how.)  If you become a Christian it will be the most liberating, joyful, empowering, yet humbling, thing you can ever do.  It will change your life.

We (Christians) believe the Bible is “God Breathed”.  This tells us where the message originated – regardless of who actually wrote it down.  I tell you that, because the Bible is made up of 66 books written by about 40 authors over a period of approximately 2,000 years.  It contains History, Prophesy, Poetry and Instruction. The oldest book, Job (arguably), is believed to have been written perhaps as early as 2,000-1,800 BC.  The most recent (Revelation), about 95 AD. It is in the pages of the Bible that you will learn not only about the Christian God; but also, how to truly know Him.

I could start a list God’s characteristics; but, I’m not sure I could ever finish it.  So, I’m going to dwell on only a few. 

First, I’ve already said that God is supernatural.  (If He were mortal, how could He truly be God?)  He resides in His Kingdom (called Heaven).  It is invisible to us – likely in another dimension). 

Second, God is omnipotent (has unlimited authority and power) and omniscient (has universal and complete knowledge, including infinite awareness, understanding and insight).  When Moses (mid-1400 BC) asked God His name.  God told him it was “Yahweh” meaning “I Am Who I Am” or, “I Am”.i  

In the “No God” post, I said I believe God created the universe. (Note:  Within the Christian community there are two camps.  One believes in an “old earth” [at 4.5± billion years] the other believes in a “new earth” [at 10,000± years]).  The point I want to make about this discussion is simply this: it doesn’t make any difference if God created the universe billions of years ago or thousands of years ago.  The point we all agree on is… He did it.  He (Our Triune God, is the great architect, engineer and fabricator of the universe – period. When He did it, simply doesn’t matter to this core belief.

Third, as the Creator of everything, everything belongs to Him.  He is supreme and sovereign.  There is no other god.

Fourth, God loves His creation, most especially mankind.  Because He loves us, He created us in His image.  No, we are not miniature versions of God;  however, we do have many of His characteristics.  Not all of them; and certainly not to the same degree.  Most obviously: God is perfect, …we are not.  On the other hand, one way we are made in the image of God is that we have eternal souls.  We are eternal beings, living in temporary bodies, on planet Earth.

God could have created us as mindless slaves.  Instead He created us as intelligent beings with freewill.  When God created Adam and Eve, he gave them dominion over the earth.  He placed them in the Garden of Eden and gave them only one rule.  Do not eat the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden. For a period of time Adam and Eve lived in a paradise on earth.  Adam and Eve walked and talked together in the Garden.  They enjoyed the animals and all the plants.  God visited them and they all talked together.  But that would come to an end.

Fifth, God is Just

Sixth, and important, important, …important!  God’s justice is tempered and perfected by His unbounded grace and perfect love.  I mention it now, because it is critical to what happened in the Garden of Eden; …and, everything following.  But before going there, we need to talk about Satan.

The angels are also created beings, not in God’s image.  God created them to serve Him in Heaven, and occasionally on Earth. There are (evidently) thousands upon thousands of angels.  Satan, one of the angels, was known as the most beautiful of all the angels. And perhaps because of that, he had “issues” with pride.  He wanted to be the equal of God.  When God didn’t agree, Satan gathered approximately one-third of the angels and attempted a coup. Obviously it did not succeed; and Satan (now a sworn enemy of God) and all his followers, were banished from Heaven – to earth.  Satan became pure evil and is referred to as a liar and the father of lies. In fact, he is incapable of telling the truth; and if he seems to tell the truth, it is a twisted truth that will bring about evil. Satan ultimately destroys anything he touches.

Satan still wars with God.  But, since he cannot attack God directly he does it indirectly through mankind – God’s favorite creation. (That includes you and me). This explains what happened in the Garden of Eden.  Satan approached Eve and engaged her in conversation. Using lies and twisted truth, he convinced her to eat the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden.  She did, liked it, and then convinced Adam to also eat it.

That willful disobedience of the only rule God had given them, ushered in death, pain, and every other evil on Earth – to this day.  By listening to Satan and following his words (rather than God’s one rule), Adam and Eve gave Satan control of Earth.  Even more importantly, mankind was instantly separated from God. Today, we call Adam’s and Eve’s sin, ‘Original Sin’.  Since we are all sons and daughters of Adam and Eve, their sin has passed down through the ages to each and every one of us.  We are all born, sinful by nature.  Satan thought he had won a great victory over God because God cannot abide to even be in the presence of sin; and, the only payment for sin is death. 

But there is still more to the story, ….

Remember those two words omnipotent and omniscient, well now you will see an example of them in action.  Even at creation, God knew what would happen in Eden; so, He had a plan in mind for the redemptionii of mankind.  No way was God going to forsake His most loved creation.iii

All of the above is found in the Old Testament.  Most of it in Genesis, the first book.  The Old Testament also contains a ton of history; a lot of “law” (that applied in the Old Testament – but not the New Testament); prophesy (much of which would come to pass in the New Testament); and, wonderful instruction from the lives of many great men and women.  Satan runs rampant through the Old Testament, with much of his mayhem designed to find and kill the “son of Eve” who will ultimately kill him (Satan).iv Additionally,  throughout the Old Testament there are wonderful “hints” and “sneak previews” of God’s plan that will give mankind a path to redemption.

Approximately 400 years separate the Old Testament From the New.  During this time God was silent.  But His plan was progressing.

The New Testament begins with four books called the “Gospels”.  The word  means: Good News.  It is these four books that spell out God’s plan for redemption.  Why four books on the exact same subject? Easy.  There were four different authors, each writing from his own perspective.  Together they provide a well rounded picture of Jesus. Jesus is God’s only son.  He came to earth as a baby.  His mother, a virgin named Mary, was impregnated by the Holy Spirit and gave birth to Jesus nine month later.  Jesus lived a sin-free life; and is the crux of God’s plan to redeem mankind.

OK. Remember the important words Grace and Love? This is where they intersects with us.  As noted, the only payment for sin is death.  So, we ALL deserve to die.  After all, no one is without sin.  Because of God’s Grace and Love, He sent Jesus, to earth to become the payment for our sin.  And, when this perfect man – who had committed no sin – died on the cross, He became the blood sacrifice, carrying the weight of sin for all mankind – for all time.

Jesus was put into a tomb.  And, on the third day He arose from the dead. Why?  That was the final proof that Jesus was truly God’s Son.  He had been beaten, lashed, crucified, suffocated, and had a spear thrust into His side to penetrate the membrane around His heart. He was pronounced dead by absolute experts in crucifixion.  He was sealed in a tomb from Friday to Sunday.  He was dead.  Yet on Sunday the tomb was found empty.  Over the next 40 days, he was seen by hundreds of people (over 500 in just one instance).  Then He ascended to Heaven, where He sits at the right Hand of His Father (once again in His supernatural form).  It is from there that He will return in the final scene of God’s Great Plan.  Christians believe in a living God.

Jesus will return as the Messiah.  The expected king and deliverer of the Jews.  And, on this visit to earth, Jesus will be on a very different mission.   All Christians (living and dead) will be gathered to Him and given new bodies.  Satan, all of the fallen angels, demons, devils, and all of his followers, will be judged and thrown into Hell.  The Earth will be cleansed of all evil by fire, and then re-created.  Heaven and the New Earth will merge – with a new capital called “The New Jerusalem”.  God and all of His People will live together on the recreated Earth.

So, if Jesus died for everyone, it’s a done deal.  What does one have to worry about…, you ask?  Well, Gods plan is simple, but not quite that simple.  I repeat, everyone is free to accept Jesus’ sacrifice and gain eternity in Heaven.  The cold, hard fact is, not everyone will.  (It’s that freewill thing).

Thus, not everyone will be in Heaven.  Only those who answer the Holy Spirit’s urging and choose belief in Jesus, have a repentant heart, and ask Him for redemption, will receive it.  They will become the adopted sons and daughters of God.  They will also receive the Holy Spirit to live within them (establishing that personal relationship with God).  It is these who are assured of entering into Heaven after death. 

Many (most) will harden their hearts to the call, and turn from God.  God will allow them to do this.  God, while not approving all our choices, will honor them.  Again, no one will be forced to become a follower of Christ.  But remember this: God is just.  He will not, literally cannot,  abide willful disobedience (sin).  Those judged sinful, will spend eternity in Hell – completely separated from God.  That means there is, literally, nothing “good” in hell.  Only, complete, black, never ending evil.  And, no hope – period.

Where are we now in God’s plan?  Well, we know that Christ died on the cross for us.  We know that after dying on the cross Jesus regained dominion over the earth – from Satan.  We know that Christ will return to earth at a future date; which is unknown (and unpredictable).  While He delays, Satan – who knows he has lost – never-the-less, continues to make as much trouble, for us and God, as possible.  Satan continues his war, and tries to use us a pawns. It’s as if he doesn’t know he can’t change our destiny if we stand our ground.  He (Satan) can, and does, do tremendous harm.  But he cannot change the final outcome.  He is beaten.  The Bible says that God is waiting to give as many people as possible the opportunity to accept His offer of Salvation.  But there will always be people who won’t accept that offer.  And, at some point, it will suddenly be too late.  In the meantime, those of us who have accepted Gods Grace must continue to do the work He has for us, …while we can.  God will bring us through, and grow our faith in the process.

So, establishing your personal relationship with the one true God is as simple as saying and meaning, the following words… 

God, I accept you as the one true God, the Maker of Heaven and Earth.  I know I have sinned and cannot do anything to save myself.  I believe you sacrificed your son, Jesus, to be my redeemer; and, I accept your grace.  I wish to turn away from my sinful life and live for you. Thank you Jesus, for saving me.  Amen.

If you have taken that step, you will, likely, soon have some questions. In my next post, “For New Christians” I will give you some pointers and references I think will help you.  And, congratulations!

If you have not taken that step, know that many Christians are praying for you.  God grieves over every soul that is lost.  It hurts Him, but it doesn’t change Him.  Someday we all must stand in Judgment.  Christians have a free and exclusive pass.  For everyone else it will be too late.  I write this not to scare anyone.  Just to make you aware of what this world is really about.

In Christian Love…

Avery Goodday

i ‘Yahweh’ is derived from the Hebrew word for “I Am”.  (The problem for us today, is that Hebrew doesn’t use vowels (YHWH).  And, since the Jews never pronounced the name of God out-loud, the correct pronunciation is “lost” and we can only make an educated guess at the correct pronunciation and spelling.

ii Redemption: To redeem.  To buy back; to release from blame or debt.

iii As Adam and Eve were banished from the Garden of Eve, God cursed Satan and told him that a son of Eve’s would destroy him.

iv ibid.

Love: The Key To Unlocking Faith

The last two posts have gotten me thinking about love … a lot.  There are so many facets to this particular subject, that I could write multiple posts about it.  And, quite frankly, I know not to what pathways this will lead; but, I hope we all get something out of the journey.

First, I know love is important (aside from the fact that we wouldn’t be here if not for God’s love).  But it’s not so much God’s love that I’ve been thinking about.  It’s my love for others.  In 1Cor 13: 2,3 God says we can have faith to move mountains but without love it’s all worthless.  Whoa!  First, I don’t know that I have enough faith to move a mountain.  I’ve never been tested to that point; but, it makes me wonder.*  But, even if I do have such faith, it’s love that really counts.  It’s love that’s going to “get me home”

In my last post I quoted from the New Living Translation (NLT), the characteristics of love found in 1Cor 13:4-8.  Now I’d like to list those characteristics as they are given in the New International Version (NIV).  (The NLT is a ‘thought for thought’ translation; and the NIV is a ‘word for word’ translation.

Love is: Patient… Kind… Not Boastful… Not Proud… Not Rude… Not Self-seeking… Not Easily Angered… Keeps No Record of Wrongs… Does Not Delight in Evil… Rejoices With the Truth… Always Protects… Always Trusts… Always Hopes… Always Perseveres… and, Never Fails.

Well, that’s only fifteen items.  Should be doable, right?

Last Sunday my minister made a statement I really like.  “There are only two kinds of Christians.  Those who are not perfect… and admit it. And, those who aren’t perfect, but won’t admit it.  (Instead they try to hide it.)”

I was in that second group for a long time.  (Religion had a lot to do with it.)  Now, I try to live in the first group.  I do try to get my life “right”; but I can’t always make it happen.  Not even when I’m thinking about it and really working at it.  When I’m not thinking about what I’m doing, saying, or thinking (operating solo and on auto pilot), well let’s just say it a real short trip to disaster.  Yes, I do manage to crash and burn with regularity.

So, I’m thinking this love thing holds promise for me.  And, as noted above, I only have to master those fifteen facets of love!  It shouldn’t be too hard.  After all, I’m already pretty good at some of them.

Let’s take “ Love is Patient“ for example.  I’m often complimented on my patience.  On customer support helplines, I wait patiently.  When I get the first level of help, I’m patient – even when I know it will take 2nd or 3rd level support to solve my problem.  I understand that they have a process.  I understand they have to ask me to do certain things I’ve already done.  I do them again.  Eventually, I get to the guy who can fix it, and he does. Hey, they’ve all got a job to do.  They are trying to help, and I can be patient enough to “go through their system”.  In checkout lines, a new cashier, or the person holding things up while they get the exact change… no problem.  I’ve been on new jobs myself and I appreciated people who understood and were patient with me.  And, as for that exact change thing… well, I wait patiently because I know that, sometimes, I do the same thing.  So, I guess I’m pretty good in the “patience” department.

Well, … yes, there was that time last week.  My wife had asked me a question and I was trying to answer.  She was saying, “…OK, but…” and telling we why my answer was not going to work.  After, about the second or third “yes, but…” I lost it.  My voice got several decibels louder and a whole lot sarcastic.  And, the argument was “on”.  We eventually worked through it.  But, looking back, I have to tell you it took no time at all for me to get afoul of at least five ‘facets of Love’.  By my reckoning I failed miserably at: Patient; Kind; Not Rude; Not Easily Angered; and Always Protects. And this, to my wife of 35 years!  She cried; and I think maybe, Jesus did too.  So yes, I have work to do.

Here’s a couple more I’ve had a great deal of trouble with.  (But, I – with God’s help – have made real progress on ’em).  It’s those, “Keeps No Record of Wrongs”; and the often related, “Does not delight in evil”.  A hypothetical example:  your manager, who – because you wouldn’t mislead a prospect in order to get a huge sale (that you both needed) – soon after, had you demoted.  And then, that person was slammed with health issues.  Isn’t it at least a little OK to say, or at least think, “…well, they had it coming”?

Obviously, from God, the answer is, “NO”.

Think about it this way, that HUGE pile of sin I laid-off onto Jesus as He hung on the cross…  what about that?  Instantly, it was taken, and … what?  It was disappeared. It was forgiven.  I was forgiven.  I did not get what I deserved.  Through God’s Love, I received God’s Grace.  Never again do I have to think about it.  It’s as if it never happened.  (Other than the consequences I earned; and had to deal with. But then, Jesus was with me through that.)  The result?  True freedom. 

That’s what I learned about “keeping that record of wrongs” and “delighting in evil” – it hurts ME. It punishes ME.  On a lot of levels.  My solution:  I’ve learned to ask forgiveness for those who wrong me.  I also ask Jesus to help me with my feelings of hurt, betrayal, abandonment, bitterness, (sometimes, vindictiveness), etc.  But mostly I pray for the person(s) who “injured” me.  After I’ve done that for awhile, I find I can just… let… it… GO.  I can say, “I forgive them” – and absolutely mean it.  It’s liberating.  It restores my joy, my self-image, my integrity, and a whole lot more.

As I’ve worked on this post, I’ve come up with (what to me are) three critical observations.

  1. What is the source of Love?  God!  Without Jesus, we don’t have it – not the right kind and not enough of any kind (1John 4:7,8 and Eph 3:17-19).  It is God’s love for us, that empowers us to love others.  It’s not, “…my love for others.” (paragraph 2, above).  It’s how I redistribute God’s love for me… to others. However, even after we are “saved” we will still have issues with this; because…
  2. Only God’s Love, never fails (Rom 8:38,39).  We, on the other hand, are broken people.  We live on a broken planet, in a broken society and a broken culture.  Every single one of us will screw-up from time to time.  It is inevitable.  It doesn’t make you a hypocrite – unless you try to hide it and don’t acknowledge it. When your “reservoir” of love runs low, there is only one place you can get it refilled.  Which leads to…
  3. As Christians, we do not fly solo.  We should never act as if we do. God has given us a great gift in the form of the Holy Spirit.  He is always with us (John 14:15-17 and Rom 8:11).  Get comfortable with that concept.  Talk to Him – you’re talking with God.  Learn His “voice” and how He communicates to you. Pay attention to what He “says”.  Learn to rely on Him.  Hmmm….  Is it ever correct to refer to ourselves in 1st person singular, (“I”); or should it be, 1st person plural, “we”?

I’m sure there is a lot more to be said on the topic of Love.  But, that may be for a future post(s).  Now I’ve got to work on putting what I already know, into action .  It ought to keep me busy for, oh … the rest of my life!

Avery Goodday

* My wife pointed out that I have faced a mountain.  With God’s help, I came out of it totally changed; and with my faith renewed.  God showed me the way to remove that mountain.  I should point out that this particular mountain was self-made.  It took about 15 years for me to get it built; and quite a few more years of hard work to remove it.  You can read about it in my post of April 25, 2012.

 

Christian! (part 2)

I’m glad you’re back.  I did promise a possible solution to this apparent “hypocrisy” dilemma; so let’s get right to it.

First, let me point out that we will always be somewhat susceptible to the Hypocrite label.  Why.  Because we are not perfect … nor will we ever be – this side of heaven.  But, (and this is a very big “BUT”) we cannot hide behind the, “…I’m not perfect, just forgiven” mentality.  While it may be true on one level, it is a “cop-out” on another.  And believe me – God, who sees into your heart, will know the difference. 

Second, we must not let Satan sucker us into playing his games (often under the guise of religion).  We simply must not play by Satan’s rules. Christianity is not about never breaking a moral law or committing a sin; let alone breaking the rules or laws of a particular church or denomination.  It certainly isn’t about projecting the false image of living a perfect life – or, having a “holier than thou” attitude.  Nor is it about your “goodie vs baddie” ratio.  In fact those are all ways that Satan keeps you in bondage – and miserable! 

We must get our answers from God’s Word.  Let’s review the homework. John 14:6-7:  “…I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one can come to the Father except through me.  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!” (NLT)

The first two sentences tell us that there is only one way to God; and that’s through Jesus.  It sounds restrictive when you first hear it. (It’s another frequent excuse non-believers use in their argument against Christianity.)  But, think about it.  First, if God is truly God – the creator of time and the universe – and He is; then He is the only one who can determine what is right and wrong, i.e. what is true.

Jesus is the Son of God, and to know Him is to Know God.  And to know God is to know the truth.  About that “restrictive” concern; it is our choice as to belief in Jesus Christ as the Son of God.  And this is very important…. Everyone who genuinely believes the above and asks Jesus to forgive their sins, repents of their sins, and allows Jesus to become the Lord of their life, will receive not only forgiveness, but also eternal life in the presence of God.  Everyone, anyone! Those who don’t … won’t.  Like I said, “choice”.  Yes or no. Take it or leave it.  And, don’t blame God!

If you could live a perfect life (which you cannot, thanks in part to Adam and Eve) there would have been no reason for God to have sent His son Jesus, to earth to die a horrendous death on the cross.  But we can’t live a perfect life and so He did send Jesus to die in our stead.  A God who loves us, His creation, this much is certainly worthy of our love in return.  (Note the sneaky lead-in to the second part of the homework.)

Mark 12:29-31:  “…The most important commandment is this: ‘Hear, O Israel!  The Lord our God is the one and only Lord.  And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’  The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.” (NLT)

O.K. That’s about as straight forward as it gets.  The two most important things we are commanded to do.  Love God, Love others.  Did you notice?  You did not see anything there about sin or works, per se. But, where do these two commandments fall on our “To Do” lists? And, how do we (those of us calling ourselves, Christian) follow these commandments? 

Let’s start with loving God.  How much time do we spend worshiping God and praising Him simply for who He is and what He has done – and is doing?  For some, that’s maybe, about an hour a week at church.  And even then, part of the time (usually during the sermon) we end up thinking about something else entirely.  Do you wake up in the morning, thinking about your work, your schedule, your problems, lunch, golf game, etc; and dreading another day of the “same old, same old”?  Oh yes, I’ve done that! And, shame on me!  God truly deserves our best, and we give Him … what?

We need to address that.  Try starting your Day off with God.  Even if it’s only a few minutes at first.  Five minutes praising God, and talking to Jesus about what’s on your mind is likely to work wonders for you over time.  Think of Him as your adviser and consultant. Then, be open to increasing you personal time with God.  You’ll want to, when you see how it works.

You are likely to also become more aware of situations in which you will have the opportunity to ‘stand your ground’ for your belief.  Do it! And, thank God every time it happens.  You will be making a difference and people will be noticing.  That’s a good thing.

Now, the part you knew was coming.  What about that “love your neighbor” thing?  Well, apparently for most of us, we’re not doing very well in that area, either.

Maybe it would help if we asked God to give us Kingdom Eyes.  What does that mean?  Simply this: we need to fully recognize that we are all God’s creation – and as such, we are all equally valuable to God. Additionally, we are all – every last one of us, from Adam to ? – created in God’s image.  Yet we all have differences.  We are unique, all 6 billion +/- of us, on the planet right now.  No one else has your exact genetic make-up.  There is no one else with your personality and psychological profile. Your exact talents and interests, to the same degree.  Nope, … all unique.

And, boy, have we ever gotten good at identifying those differences; and then classifying others according to some set of measures we – not God – have come up with.  (Would you care to guess how our measures will align with God’s?)  We need to think about that, whenever we find ourselves devaluing or running someone down – even if it is “only” in our mind.  To God, every life is precious beyond measure.  Every one has value.  It is our job as Christians to recognize that, reinforce that, and treat them the way we want to be treated.

Love God. Love your neighbors.  The operative word is “LOVE”.  But again, it is our choice.  In 1 Cor 13:1-3, it tells us that love is critical to our faith, and thus, all that we do as Christians. Understand also, if you choose love, it will come at a cost – effort, time, and yes, money.  So, just what is God worth to you?

Here’s something that wasn’t in your homework – but, it is something we can all work on – for the rest of our days here on planet Earth. Think of it as a blueprint or road map. 

Love is patient and kind.  Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude.  Love does not demand its own way. Love is not irritable and it keeps no record of when it has been wronged.  It is never glad about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out.  Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.  Love will last forever….” 1Cor 13:4-8 (NLT)

Ultimately, we must make love the focus of our life.  Jesus has unequivocally told us it is the thing on which we should focus.  If we do, the rest should pretty well take care of itself.

Finally, we will all fail at some levels, some times.  That is NOT an excuse for not trying.  So, here are a couple of things I’ve learned over more years than I care to think about.  I hope they help.

After spending 14 years in the military, I had this “little” problem of swearing and using profane language.  I wanted to break the habit, and no matter how hard I tried, I was very lucky to make a day, let alone two, without a “slip-up”.  Somewhere I read, or heard, what turned out to be excellent advice.  When you use inappropriate language (and, swearing and profanity are never appropriate) you need to immediately stop, and apologize, before saying another word. Example:  “Excuse me.  I apologize for (swearing” or “using that language).  It was inappropriate, rude, and it doesn’t represent my values.”

Each time, I also apologized to God, asked his forgiveness, and renewed my promise to keep working on the problem … with His help.  Doing that a “few” times, gets your attention, and focuses your efforts. What it never did was get me ridiculed or “made light of”.  In fact I, had several positive comments, some were in private, which gave me a small opening to say that I was, “…in the process of developing my relationship with God,” and let it go at that.  If they had other questions or comments, the conversation continued.

Whenever you “screw-up” do not cover-up, make excuses, or try to lay-off the blame.  Be transparent.  Again remember, we are not perfect. Admit the misdeed, error, whatever.  Remember there are usually consequences to our actions.  You earned ’em, accept ’em; and, with God’s help, make every effort to assure you learn from the situation.

Finally, when you mess-up, always take it to Jesus.  Yes, He already knows all about it.  But you really need to talk to Him.  Admit your mistake, ask for forgiveness, and then ask for help in turning your back on that behavior.  (That’s what the word “repent” means, “…to turn your back on….)” You will grow in Christ.  God will grow your love and change you in ways you can’t change yourself.  And, because God knows you far better than you know yourself, and loves you beyond your wildest dreams, you will gain faith, peace and joy beyond your imagination. 

It’s just how our God works.

Avery Goodday

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.