Playing God

My mother was a perfectionist. I remember taking my coloring book to her to show her my latest work. She said, “Oh, honey, that’s very good! I like the colors you used. And, if you had stayed inside line right there,” (pointing) “it would have been just perfect.”.

The funny part was, I was never disappointed. After all, she really liked what I had done. So I’d go color another picture – being very careful to make it, …“perfect”.

I became a Scout. Three years a Cub Scout. Three more as a Boy Scout. And, three more as an Explorer Scout. By the way, the Boy Scout motto is, “Be Prepared”. That was 9-years of “preparation”!

Later in life, I became an Air Force pilot. An occupation that left little room for mistakes and/or failures to plan. (A significant number of military aircraft are very unforgiving of mistakes!)

I became an Emergency War Order Planning Officer. We wrote the plans to implement the missions our Wing was assigned to fly if we went to (nuclear) war. We also wrote plans for deployments and emergency movements. After writing the plans, we would pour over our work doing “what-ifs”. Every sortie had a mission – and, a priority. “What if, sortie 3 doesn’t get started? Which sortie do we divert to take it’s place? What’s the ripple effect from that decision?” On, and on, and, …on.

I tell you this so you can see how I became something of a perfectionist, and a person who is always looking for the “potential point of failure, etc)”. I also want to share with you that this will affect your personal life; and more importantly, your walk with Christ

I can drive my wife to distraction with questions and what-ifs. She sometimes accuses me of negativity. I take umbrage, and tell her I just, “…want to be ready in case things go cross-wise”. She informs me our marriage is going to go cross-wise if I don’t let up. (But, she smiles when she says it.)

So here I am, constantly looking for potential problems or flaws in my plans: and the plans of others – when they involve my family or me . When I find flaws (or even just potential flaws) I start working to assure that I have the answers, solutions, explanations or whatever else may be required, instantly ready to be applied, when/if needed.

And that kind of thinking, folks, is bogus and sinful on many levels. It is also dangerous thinking. It gives Satan a foothold in my life – which I want to avoid like the plague. It’s a source of stress – which I don’t need. Sometimes it builds ego – which I don’t need. It causes friction within my marriage, and in relationships with family and friends – which, I certainly don’t need, or intend. But, most importantly, it is damaging to my relationship with Christ.

Have you ever thought about this? From the beginning of our life here on earth, (this applies to everyone), God knows our entire story. Everything! Nothing is hidden! Why is this important? Because regardless of everything else, God already has, or is going to offer you both adoption and eternal life. “God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.” [Eph 1:5, NLT]

I must tell you that it is not an open ended offer. It is good only until Christ returns to earth – or, we reach our departure date and time. Whichever happens, we will be “sifted”. Christians will join the family in Heaven. Non Christians won’t.*

So God, who is omniscient – meaning: having infinite awareness, understanding and insight; and, omnipotent – meaning: having unlimited power, force and authority, …actually made a considered choice to include me if I would subjugate my freewill, and trust in Jesus. I did!

In all honesty I’m telling you, I have a problem – of sorts. I find myself trying to play god! Not only that, I’m trying to play god while God knows, and, I should know, all that talk about trying to be perfect and having all the correct answers is so much, …fertilizer. Yet I turn my back on him to pursue my own plans. Now, …How. Dumb. Is. That?!

Then why did I say, “a problem – of sorts”? Because, I really do know exactly how to fix this Problem.

My planning for solutions to the unexpected – in an unknown future, is a oxymoron. It is also worry, arrogance, and foolishness! It is also Satan using me to take a jab at God. And, it’s time to repent; and, ask Jesus for forgiveness. It’s not that I’ve lost my salvation. I haven’t. But, I am sinning, and I need to stop. And to stop I need help. Supernatural help. And I need to apologize to my best friend.

Might there be consequences from the plans I’ve already set in motion? Absolutely! I’ll get what I’ve earned. And, both the good (if any) and bad consequences (much more likely) will be “good”. Good, like when even a blind pig occasionally finds an acorn. And, the “unfavorable consequences” will be the lessons I need to internalize so that I don’t keep repeating my stupidity. I know God will help me. He chose me; and adopted me. He not only has a plan for my life; but, tells me time and again that He will never forget nor forsake me; that He has my back; and, wants only the best outcomes for me. He is slowly but surely perfecting me. But, because I live on planet earth, total perfection won’t occur during my lifetime. There is nothing perfect on earth, …yet.

Prayer:

Father, (Abba),

I can’t even begin to fathom your love for me. But, I do understand it well enough to know that when I come to you, broken and contrite, you never fail to set with me, brush away my tears, listen to my pleadings, and hug me close. Oh, how I thank you for those times.

Lord, you have blessed me greatly — far beyond my dreams. Yet I some- times get impatient or discouraged when dreams, plans, or prayers, seem to have gone astray. At these times, will you please remind me of all the times you have answered, …and all the times I have not even noticed or acknowledged your provision, …and it’s perfection.

Lord, please continue teaching me to rely on your love and grace. Forgive my egotism and conceit. Please help me to restore the relationships my pride and conceit have damaged. Show me the truth of your words; and make my testimony effective when talking with others in their times of need.

Lord I know you are still on the job and in control. Your provision has never failed me. I will praise your name forever. Amen.

Larry

* The straight truth is: 1. God loves his creation of man (and woman) more than any other. 2. When Adam and Eve sinned (by doing the only thing God told them not to do), they (not only) brought sin, separation from God and eventual death, into their own selves (body and soul), they also introduced it to the entire planet and all future generations. 3. God is Holy and cannot abide sin—in any form or amount. 4. But God is also love, …and grace. And so, from his great love and grace, God came up with a plan that could save mankind from eternal death. 5. For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. [Jn. 3:16, NLT]

All we need do is: accept Jesus Christ as the Son of God. The only one who can forgive and cleanse our sins when we repent of them and ask for forgiveness. When we do that, we become Christians. The Holy Spirit moves into us; and will reside in us while we live our lives on earth. And then, let’s not forget that we will have a perfected body and soul while living an eternal life in the presence of God.

If you don’t take that simple step; or, you intend to – but just don’t get it done; or, you go through the motions thinking you can “fake it” and continue living your previous “good times” life; …PEASE believe me! You are doomed to eternity in Hell. Period!** A place were there is NO good thing. Not one!

Christ is offering you a new life. A “do over” of immense proportion. Jesus will be your guide. You won’t become magically perfect. But you will change. And God promises you will change far beyond your expectations; if, you give him the reins.

** God is Just. Children, too young to understand God’s plan, will not go to Hell. There will be children in heaven.

The bible tells us that we are born with the ability to know and search for God. As we find new cultures on earth, we have never found even one that did not have a god or gods; and, codes of “right” and “wrong”. The Bible also tells us in the Old Testament – before God sent Jesus to earth (as the only possible sacrifice for our sins) many people “found favor” with God.

So, I believe those who have never had the “Good News” of the New Testament explained to them will still be judged by God. And, those in whom He “finds favor” will go to heaven. But only God knows those “requirements”. I believe the great “I AM” will make “perfectly correct decisions”.

 

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Omniscient

All-knowing.  It’s one of God’s traits.* And, thank-you God, for not giving it to us. When something happens that we don’t (or can’t) understand, we say something like, “Only God knows why it happened.” So, let me ask you, would you like to be omniscient? I literally cannot imagine what life would be like.  Well that’s not exactly true. I can imagine a bit of what it would be like. Why bother with competitive sports?  The Olympics? You already know the exact scores, winning times (all the times), etc. In fact, why would we even compete in anything, when we already know the outcome — and we can’t change it. We would lose the ability to be awed. There would be nothing we did not understand.  No challenges. No mysteries. No surprises.  Boring….

And considering only those few repercussions — I want no part of it.  Am I thankful that God is omniscient? Oh yeah! Knowing that is a great boon to my faith and trust.  It is one of those things that leave me standing in awe of my triune God.  Which raises this question. Do  I understand the Trinity? Not really: but, I accept it.  And, it’s one of those things I wish I did understand.  However, that would probably explode my head, so I’ll be content with the level of understanding I have — and fill in the blanks with faith and trust.

Lord, thank-you for the life I have lived. I have been blessed in many ways and accomplished many things. I know that everything positive that I have done, and all I have learned is through your love and provision. And, I feel  you have still more for me to discover, learn and do, I ask that you lead me through this life, preparing me for my walk with you. All the rest of life on earth is electives; and, I’ll try to leave that in your hands as well.

Larry


*  The word omniscient is not used in the Bible.  The assignment of this trait to God is based on His many names that show Him to be all-knowing.  Elohim, (Gen. 1:1): God created the universe. Given the knowledge that would have required, I could stop right there. Instead, here are a few more: Elohay Mishpat, (Isa. 30:18) God of Justice. El De’ot, (1Sam. 2:3): God of Knowledge. (El is the shortened form of Elohim).  El Emet, (Psa. 31:6): God of Truth.  Yaweh Yireh, (Gen. 22;14): the God who Sees/Provides. There are hundreds of references to God’s knowledge throughout both the Old and the New Testaments.


Note: I will not be able to post for the next two weeks.  Posts will resume on Nov. 6. Hope to see you then.

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.