Who or What Created God?

In a recent online Internet discussion, an individual posed the question, “Who created God?”  Below is the entire question:

Let me start by saying I’m not actually a believer at this moment. When listening to the lectures, I hear a lot of talk about the complexity of things being a big proponent for creation or design because somebody created it. But at some point in the paradigm you’re at least admitting that, somewhere, something just existed that was at least as complex as, or more complex than, us….If we couldn’t have just existed, how could you say God just existed without something creating him. I’d like to hear your answer on that” (http://www.symposiachristi.com/qa-who-created-god/#comment-76390).

This question deserves a reply if we are to take to heart the Apostle Peter’s encouragement to us about being ready to give an answer to those who ask about the hope that is in us (1 Peter 3:15).  Below is my reply.  Please also read Dr. Hugh Ross’s response to the question.

The question concerning who created God, makes a number of assumptions:

1. If God were capable of being created, then He must be part of the created order
2. If God is then part of the created order, He would then fall under its physical rules: time, space, disorder, depletion, assuming that matter is not eternal. If so, how could He continue to exist?
3. That God has a cause, and He is simply an effect of a still bigger cause or greater being
4. If there is indeed a greater being, the real question is, “Should not this greater being be God?” Or should not the question address this greater being rather than a lesser being to which the question points? The question simply pushes back to an ultimate greatness of an ultimate cause.

As Dr. Ross noted, God is not part of the created order, and Christians insist on the truth of Creator/creature distinction according to Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning God created the heavens and earth.” The writer of this account understood this great truth. The beginning of the created order did not begin with God in it but the created order at the beginning. God was before that beginning, because He was before time itself (time assuming “beginning” since a beginning (start) point assumes movement – an onset).

If He was before it, then the question about the creation of God is moot and irrelevant. He is the greater Cause. As One who is not part of the created order, God caused it. We cannot fathom this, because we are part of the created order, and we cannot grasp that which is not part of this created order.

The question asked also omits so much more than the God who is if one stops to think through it. It also assumes God. Otherwise, the question could never be asked. If then one assumes God, then so many more questions must inevitably follow:

What kind of being is this God? Is this world and us in it His effect or result? If so how? And on and on. How do we then know this God who stands apart from the created order (or transcendent)? We must go deeper with even more question. One question will not do to get to the root of all existence.

For example, if all things resulted from God, then how then did we as personal beings arise? We have all the characteristics of personality: intellect, will, emotions, ethical senses, etc. An impersonal being (rocks) without these traits could not have brought us about. That which has no intellect or will could not have thought, acted, or spoken for creating. If then He created us, should we then not give Him gratitude through living according to the way He created us?

If then God created us, He then left some trace of Himself in that creation. The Bible says that trace can be found in all He created, including us. The Genesis account of creation states that God created humanity in His image, thereby making His trace (or image) inescapable to us. We know there is God from these reflections of Himself. We know Him still more through what the Bible describes as special revealed truth in Jesus Christ.

The question about God does not stop at just one.  Rather, the questions continue, on and on until…well until we reach their logical conclusions that lead to how we came about with the properties and characteristics we possess.  Why is the world like it is?  What will happen to us?  Is there any hope for making things right?  If so by what means?  These are questions of great weight and lead us down a trajectory of solutions to these questions only this great God can answer and give remedy.  They also lead us to the source for these remedies in His word – the Bible.  You can read the Bible at this link: https://bible.org/netbible/

Read more on this subject at this site:

Reasonable Faith, Dr. William Lane Craig, http://www.reasonablefaith.org/causation-and-spacetime

 

One Rule of Faith: The Word of God

Recently, two articles appeared on www.patheos.com, one about the demise of Progressive Christianity,[i] and a rejoinder to it with the claims that Progressive Christianity creates a spiritual environment “in new and exciting ways,” “nourishing the spirits and theological growth of longtime progressives, newcomers, and a whole new generation of Christians.”[ii]

Upon reading both articles, I find one major flaw in each of them. First, what Longenecker claims about the death of progressivism is really irrelevant. Why? We live in a temporal world destined to pass away with all that is in it. The demise (or not) of progressivism is really of no consequence compared to what lasts. The Bible claims that all things will pass away, but the Word of God will remain well past their existence. In eternity, no one will give thought to the temporal or for that matter Progressive “Christian” thinking or theology. It will die in the end. Outside of that of the death of progressivism [iii], I am in agreement with his thoughts on the historic faith and its theology.

As for Sandlin’s concluding chest thumping about the benefits of Progressive Christianity, he forgets one thing – authority. Since progressivism eschews the Bible as the complete word of God, he overlooks its authority as well as the authority of the One who stands as Lord of All – Christ the King. He concludes by using the 1st person plural pronoun – “we.” We are doing this and that. It is all about what we are doing. This “we” shoves Christ and the Holy Spirit aside. Sandlin mentions Jesus only once and the Holy Spirit zero times. In his mention of Jesus, there is nothing of His power and supremacy. Certainly, Jesus does love, but that is not the sum of His nature. Where is the righteousness He came to fulfill? Where is His throne? Where is His power? Silence.

Progressive Christianity pushes all of these to the curb, injects themselves in the center, and refers to genuine biblical faith (historic Christianity) as an “institution.” That historic faith is to what Jude referred as contending earnestly for the faith when he penned,

Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ” (Jude 3-4).

We have a common salvation. It was “ONCE for all delivered to the saints.” Jude then takes a turn to speak about those who “have crept in unnoticed.” They have upset this common salvation and this “once for all” message of the unchanging gospel. The “we” shove it aside and trump its claims with their own. This “we” corrupts this “once for all” gospel and turns it “into lewdness [showmanship and corruption] and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Therefore, it does not matter who wins the glory on earth in their chest thumping self-glory. The ultimate winner will be the Lord of all who will accomplish redemption His way not by “creating spiritual community” or “nourishing the spirits” or promoting “theological growth.” Rather the time will come when all God’s family will rejoice and be filled and content while no longer needing nourishment. The time will come when all will see the one true God and have no need for “theological growth.” For they will be like Him, for they will see Him as He is. The things of earth will fade away and be no more. There will be one rule of faith – the eternal word of God.

Those who reject this word will find themselves at odds with and separated from God in a community of death, because they rejected the Savior and His word. Therefore, it does not matter who wins on earth. Winning is for the temporal. Rather those who claim Jesus will fall down, worship Him eternally, and do away with all chest thumping.

[i] Dwight Longenecker, “12 Reasons Why Progressive Christianity Will Die Out,” http://bit.ly/1WEsrj8.

[ii] Mark Sandlin, “A Letter to Progressive Christians: “On the Death of Progressive Christianity,” http://bit.ly/1ONYR5x.

Taking Advice, Giving Consent, Embracing

Three steps in decision making lead toward adopting a philosophy of life.  We adopt a philosophy piece by piece, segment by segment, thought by thought, and action by action.  As we engage these steps, our intents and commitments become more pronounced toward a direction for our life.  There are numerous advice givers for information in making a decision.  Each of these advice givers may or may not have taken the same advice they give.  For example, some will give advice on a diet plan but never use it themselves.  The adage, “Take my advice, I am not using it,” becomes true for them.  Just watch television, read newspapers, or flip through magazines and you will find articles and advertisements advising you on every aspect of living.  Each has a philosophy about how one should look, smell, see, talk, hear, dress, present oneself, vote, worship, argue a point, or even think about issues.  They want you to embrace their viewpoint and philosophy and shame you if you do not embrace it.

Generally speaking, a lot of people become influenced by their own advice and follow it.  When giving such advice they deem important, they consider it valuable.  The more valuable they find it, the more they consent to it and embrace it.  Even if they half-heartedly believe in their own advice, they follow it because they do not want to be exposed as being inconsistent when giving advice.  Eventually, they adopt a philosophy of life and advise people from that philosophy after taking it themselves and giving consent to it through action.

There are two ways to take or give advice, consenting to it, and embracing it: a positive way and a negative way.  Parents tell a child, “Don’t touch the stove top because it is hot!”  A financial advisor recommends that his clients engage in budgeting.  The child consents to parental advice by staying away from the stove top.  As time passes and the child grows into adulthood, he embraces the lifestyle that hot stoves should not be touched with a bare hand.  The same applies to those who listen to a financial advisor’s advice.  They consent and eventually join the group of people who exercise budgeting as a lifestyle.  Wisdom grows for those who take sound advice.  However, those who take unsound advise suffer its consequences.

Psalm 1 announces the above three step process of adopting a philosophy of life and a sound lifestyle.  It dispenses this process in negative form preceded by a positive outcome,

How happy is the man who does not follow the advice of the wicked or take the path of sinners or join a group of mockers!” (v. 1, The Apologetics Study Bible.

The psalm tells its readers not to take the advice of the wicked, assent (consent) to sinners or join (embrace) a “group of mockers.”  In other words, there are certain types of people we should avoid and with whom we should not keep company (embrace): the wicked, sinners, and mockers.  They will make us unhappy.  Avoiding them and embracing God’s instruction will make us happy.  Other Bible versions use the word “blessed.”  Being blessed means favorable (not necessarily an emotional response).  Within the context of this psalm, we understand that this favor comes from God.

The psalm expands on this favorable outcome with the illustration of a sturdy tree.  Prior to this illustration, it expands on the meaning of happiness or blessing: delight.  That is, the person delights “in the LORD’s instruction.  This delight compels him to give continuous thought (meditation) to the results of the LORD’s instruction: sturdiness as a tree, fruitfulness in life, and prosperity.  Spiritual thinking through the word of God results in these outcomes.  These outcomes are not necessarily material well-being and external success.  They could be, but God does not promise them.  Prosperity does not mean material riches but reaching specific successes God designs for our lives.

The other side of this favorable outcome are results of opposite decisions, decisions that avoid the advice and result in embracing that which the psalm warned: chaff and disappearance of all that is good.  These decisions ultimately lead to the rejection of the source of all blessings, God Himself.  This psalm gives stark images that heighten the urgency of following sound advice, consenting to it, and embracing it.  Unhappiness is not the ultimate result to avoid.  Rather, it is God’s judgment and destruction.  Those who delight in the LORD and commit their ways to Him find security in Him and not judgment just as a sturdy tree that rises confidently to the heavens.

Advice can be warnings.  This psalm gives warnings about giving consent to certain life characteristics and embracing those who follow them.  Warnings are like street signs.  We see them all the time.  Not following them could lead to disaster.  Consenting to them and embracing them leads us to a favorable destination, God’s destiny for our lives.

Who is God? Part 3

Those who worship the God of the Bible in spirit and in truth need to be careful not to reduce the Most High to nature, being, evolution, process, humanity, or even religious experiences…No church can long serve the God of truth with an untrue and diminished view of who He is.”

– Gordon R. Lewis & Bruce A. Demarest, “Integrative Theology”

If you conducted an on-the-street survey with the question “Who is God?” how many different answers do you think you would receive?  Given the number of gods that inhabit the minds of individuals, countless gods could outnumber a single nation.  The survey could not offer a list.  The New Age borrows from the old age of ancient Greece and Rome.  The Pantheons would be a meager bunch compared to the number one could count today.

Many gods have arisen because people have sought to imagine God according to the elements of creation. They then depart from the path of knowing the one true God onto another dark, dangerous, and destructive road of idolatry. The study and knowledge of God is a thoughtful lifelong process requiring dependence on Him and what He reveals to us in the Bible.

No one can know God rightly without God first revealing Himself to that person. A corollary to this truth is that no one can then seek after Him unless God first not only reveals Himself but also draws the heart to Him (Romans 3:10). For unless God takes the initiative with each act, everyone in his or her human condition will seek another path.  Many have claimed that people across the world cry out for God and seek after Him.  If we are to believe Paul the Apostle in his statement in Romans 3:10, these many cry out for that which is greater than themselves but one like them.  They want a savior much like Israel wanted a king like the other nations.  Corruption brings about such perverted desires.  Albert Mohler refers to these perverted religious desires as making God into a “therapeutic category” (The Eclipse of God at Century’s End: Evangelicals Attempt Theology with Theism).  Paul quotes from the Psalms of the Old Testament:

The LORD looks down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there are any who understand, who seek God. They have all turned aside…” (Psalm 14:2-3)

When the real God shows up, people exclaim,

“That’s not God, not the god I desire, one I can see, feel, and hear, one who pats me on my back and consoles me in my predicaments, one who gives me wealth, health, lots of toys, recognition, and popularity (instead of ridicule).”

C. S. Lewis wrote,

A subjective God of beauty, truth and goodness, inside our own heads— better still. A formless life-force surging through us, a vast power which we can tap— best of all. But God Himself, alive, pulling at the other end of the cord, perhaps approaching at an infinite speed, the hunter, king, husband— that is quite another matter. There comes a moment when the children who have been playing at burglars hush suddenly: was that a real footstep in the hall? There comes a moment when people who have been dabbling in religion (‘Man’s search for God!’) suddenly draw back. Supposing we really found Him? We never meant it to come to that! Worse still, supposing He had found us?

– Lewis, C. S., A Year with C. S. Lewis (p. 3). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

As people reject the true biblical God, they create Him according to their imagination, raising in their minds what they want Him to be according to their own desires and their alienation from God. They then design an entire worldview around this god or these gods, projecting on these deities an authority that actually shifts this authority away from God to themselves. Note, it is not to another god to which they shift authority but to themselves. Once they have established their own authority, they can then project on themselves their present condition and include it into their worldview (“I’m OK, you’re OK, but others outside of our circle are downright nasty.”). As a remedy, they offer their own solutions from human-centered philosophy, religion, and psychology.

Seeking?  Yes.  Spiritual?  Yes.  Religious zeal?  Yes.  Seeking after God?  No, that is until He finds us and gives us a willing heart and mind.  All the rest of our seeking, according to Lewis, is dabbling in religion.  God is not at all what we make Him to be.  However, He is everything we need Him to be given our current state of affairs in this destructive, unenviable, hopeless, and violent environment in which we find ourselves.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3:16-17)

God loved.  He gave.  He sent.  He saved (delivered from destruction).  In His matchless initiative, He reached out to us in our religious dabbling, philosophizing, and therapeutic machinations.  No initiative on our part comes infinitely close to His strong hand of mercy and grace.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Who is God? Part 2

In the previous article, “Who is God? Part 1,” we examined approaches to God and how the biblical God offers the only true choice for a real and personal God with whom humanity can relate.  However, humanity has decided to pursue its own set of gods deriving from the created order, one who is limited and impersonal.  These are imitations and straw man perversions of the one true God.

This article focuses on the question,

“Why is God as a personal God an important and strategic truth?”

The personal biblical God is indisputable and unanswerable from the view of unbelieving evolution, atheism, and all other idolatrous religions. None of them can explain how humanity can possess the nature of personality (being a person) apart from a personal God. All that other religions and philosophies can do is offer speculation about how impersonal and inanimate matter can ultimately become a person. Speculation is no substitute for truth. This speculation fails because other religions and philosophies cannot identify a clearly defined trajectory from the impersonal to the personal.

God as Personal

While God transcends the created order and our experiences in it, He has a personal nature and is immanent with us.  We do not project on God a personal nature because we are personal beings.  Such a projection is merely speculation and cannot define a clear trajectory from the impersonal to the personal.  In other words, there is no clear and definite answer for explaining the personal nature of human beings except through a personal God.  Rather, He shares this nature of person-hood with humanity because He created us in His image.  The personal God created us in His image with person-hood being a major part of that image.  This creation alone explains how we are persons.

Importance of a Personal God

The personal God provides the only reasonable explanation for the personal nature of humanity.  Humanity’s personal nature is unanswerable from evolution, atheism, impersonal theism, polytheism, and all other idolatrous religions or philosophies. People are unable to relate with the impersonal god(s) of these religions.  None of these provides an adequate religious or philosophical model for explaining how we came to be persons.  Furthermore, the sciences has no means of explaining how we assumed personality. They simply discover the observable and offer an interpretive best guess.  Even then, clashing and competitive interpretations exist among scientists, the social sciences, and philosophies.  We could never know or comprehend love, mercy, forgiveness, justice, patience, gentleness, or other personal qualities apart from God as a person. Individuals defines such qualities in so many conflicting ways.  Without God, these qualities are simply open to interpretation from clashing philosophies.

FOCUS ON THE IMPORTANCE OF THE PERSONAL TRIUNE GOD

It is easy to overlook the importance of the Triune God. Many people do, and end up concluding God to be other than who He is, one arising from the created order or from a myriad imaginations.  One of the most crucial and fundamental characteristics of the image of God in which He created us is the capacity for personal relationship. This characteristic exists as fundamental to the being of the Triune God.  When God created us in His image, that image implanted in us the capacity for relationships.

There is another extremely important reason for understanding why we relate to and worship a personal God. God is a Triune God.  To know the living God is to know the personal Triune God. It is impossible to relate with something impersonal. You cannot have a relationship with a rock, but you can sell them. There is no reciprocation and no capacity to relate. Additionally, humans as personal beings cannot arise from an impersonal state or an impersonal god. The speculation and conjecture of evolution proposes that humans as personal beings can arise from an impersonal source by chance. However, such speculation fails to explain how our person-hood came into existence and how chance alone brought us about.

Let us return to statements from the previous article:

  • When there is a rejection of a personal God and the desire to know Him, this leads to a breach between God and humanity as the historical account of the Fall demonstrated
  • When a breach between the personal God and humanity occurs, worldviews with impersonal gods arise (pantheism, polytheism, animism, agnosticism, atheism).  Atheism and agnosticism assumes the impersonal.  Atheism stands for no god or gods.  There is then no source for relationship resembling the personal and no explanation for the person-hood in humanity.
  • Such worldviews turn men and women inward toward self (isolationism) rather than outward toward God (relational)
  • When other worldviews minimize a personal God, they also tend to minimize the person-hood of humanity. This minimization shows up in the devaluation of individuals in treating them like numbers, statistics, or sources of profit
  • Minimizing the person-hood of humanity leads to devaluing life altogether or valuing life in terms of monetary gain: abortion, human trafficking, and slavery serve as examples of individual devaluation

These statements show why it important to trust a personal God.  Such trust is a personal attribute and demonstrates how the rejection of the true biblical God leads to the devaluation of humanity in various forms: abortion, human trafficking, and slavery.  Some may claim, “Well now, here is a Christian who speaks of value but ignores what Christianity has done in the past.”  This statement raises a straw man “Christianity,” one that is man-centered and not God-centered and biblically centered.  It is easy to point fingers when one pointing them is guilty of the same thing.  The one thing that does away with finger pointing and criticism is humility and faith in the one and only God of which the Bible speak, because He alone informs us of Himself and exposes us for what we really are – those separated from Him, living in darkness from the truth, and in need of Him.

 

Who is God? Part 1

“In this world, the god many believe still has certain characteristics parallel to the God of the Bible…[but] a god without teeth, without majesty. This god fills people with warm fuzzies, but is never feared… dispenses a benevolent love… has little moral bearing…this god may be personal or pantheistic, but is never sovereign and rarely a judge… he or she or it cannot even be called a “god” anymore, but simply “Reality,” since in some religions…there is no place for “god” in any personal sense at all. And underlying all these gods is the great god Pluralism.”

– D. A. Carson, PhD, Professor, Trinity Divinity School, “The SBJT Forum: Is There a Battle to Define God?,” Southern Baptist Journal of Theology, 1997.

“The very concept of God is among the most contested issues in contemporary thought and culture…the concept of God is merely a matter of emotivism and sentiment…Modern culture commonly denies God as God, as well as the very notion of God as an objective referent.

“In many circles[Evangelical], God is merely a therapeutic category. Many evangelicals are now mostly concerned about what good this God will do for us, how well this God may make us feel, and how much self-esteem this God may give us as His gift.”

(R. Albert Mohler, Jr., The Eclipse of God at Century’s End: Evangelicals Attempt Theology with Theism, Southern Baptist Journal of Theology, Spring 1997)

When we approach the study of God, we step out on to very holy and mysterious ground, ground on which we tread carefully and prayerfully. Unless we have the Holy Spirit as our Teacher, Counselor, and Guide, we will tend toward error as history from the very beginning illustrates.

Many errors and heresies have arisen because people have sought to The God Many Wantimagine God according to the elements of creation. They then depart from the path of knowing Him onto another dark, dangerous, and destructive road of idolatry. The study and knowledge of God is a thoughtful lifelong process requiring dependence on Him and what He reveals to us in the Bible.

No one can know God rightly without God first revealing Himself to that person. A corollary to this truth is that no one can then seek after Him unless God first not only reveals Himself but also draws the heart to Him (Romans 3:10). For unless God takes the initiative with each act, everyone in his or her human condition will seek another path.

As people reject the true biblical God, they create Him according to their imagination, raising in their minds what they want Him to be according to their own desires and their alienation from God. They then design an entire worldview around this god or these gods, projecting on these deities an authority that actually shifts this authority away from God to themselves. Note, it is not to another god to which they shift authority but to themselves. Once they have established their own authority, they can then project on themselves their present condition and include it into their worldview (“I’m OK, you’re OK, but others outside of our circle are downright nasty.”). As a remedy, they offer their own solutions from human-centered philosophy, religion, and psychology.

There are all sorts of imitations and perversions of God arising from the created order, and we must be aware of them due to the subtle ways they imitate God. The Apostle Paul in Romans informs us of these imitations,

“For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things” (Romans 1:20-23)

Idolatry is people seeking to know and worship that which is greater than themselves while rejecting the true biblical God. Idolatry relies on fiction (false knowledge) and myth-telling (speculative story) and has no historical basis.  Idolatry does away with a personal God.  Consider the following possibilities of God:

  • Atheism, Naturalism, Humanism – No god, not even a personal one
  • Agnosticism – Who knows if there is any kind of god let alone a personal one
  • Deism – A distant Providence; An unknowable god with whom no one can relate because he or it is impersonal
  • Polytheism – fictitious and impersonal gods of the created order, that is, no God at all because they do not exist
  • Eastern Religions – Impersonal beings of the created order; unknowable; no God

Only one worldview offers a truly personal God – the biblical worldview:

  • Biblical Theism – God relates to us a Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, three persons, one God. He alone is the personal God who relates to us through His Son. It took a person (Jesus Christ) who came in the flesh to draw us to the one personal God that we may relate with Him and know Him as Father.

It has been said a number of times that we live in a secular world with secular societies.  That is not exactly accurate.  We actually live in a pluralistic religious and spiritual world with people holding on to their own gods, whether they are atheistic, agnostic, deistic, polytheistic, or any number of other gods created from the material universe.  Which type of god do you worship?  In the next post, we will explore this subject in more depth.

Timely Teaching for Troubled Times

As we look around and see a world seemingly out of control with threats of extinction everywhere, it is easy to succumb to fear. We wonder if the world will last another decade or even another year with the incursion of crazies shooting up neighborhoods and “extremism” seeping through our borders. A friend once said that Islamic radicalism has a timeline for conquest. We can also make a long list of opposing forces that seem to overwhelm us and seek to topple our liberties, especially our own faith, both within and outside our nation. I once read a poll that claimed the Christian faith has declined substantially in light of the alleged rise of atheism, agnosticism, and other religious claims. However, is this really true? Did someone take a specific count? Even if true, how does such a claim fit into the span of history in terms of the rise and fall of ideologies and belief systems?  Has it really impacted the decline of the Christian faith?

After mulling over my friend’s comment about Islamic radicalism’s conquest timeline, a thought came to mind based on what Jesus said. God is not on man’s timetable; rather man is on God’s timetable. God does not do man’s bidding, but man does God’s bidding. During the first through third centuries, the Eurasian world witnessed one of the greatest rise of terrorism in history. The forces of General Titus ripped Jerusalem apart in 70 AD so that the entire city laid in ruins. All Jews and Christians were scattered throughout the Middle East and Europe. A line of Roman emperors terrified Jews and Christians throughout the Roman Empire and a massive number of Christians lost all they had, bore the stripes for their faith, and became martyrs. This happened for almost two centuries. Can you imagine two centuries of the reign of terror? Such a reign of terror makes the Civil War look like a small skirmish. However, many remembered the echo of Jesus’ words, “Let not your hearts be troubled (John 14:1)…I will come again (14:3)…You will be my witnesses” (Acts 1:8).

Guess what? Jesus predicted it. He said that not one stone of the Temple in Jerusalem would remain on top of another (Matthew 24:2). He also told His disciples that they would be His witnesses (martyrs and good news bearers) in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to “the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). After the destruction of Jerusalem, its remaining population escaped across the Middle East. Jesus’ disciples had already scattered throughout the known world to spread the gospel because of the persecution they encountered. He sent them His way, and His word took root in the nations and flourished. Man is on God’s timetable; God is not on man’s timetable.

Finally, in the 4th century Constantine brought calm to the Roman Empire after a line of emperors instilled terror and tragedy. In 325 AD, a large group of maimed and physically broken Christians from past persecutions gathered together to hammer out the Nicene Creed for affirming the God we worship, fulfilling Jesus’ command once again. They gave witness to the truth about God just as Jesus commanded them. They remained faithful to Jesus in spite of persecutions, heresies, and the renunciation of faith in Jesus from others.

That calm did not last. The 7th century saw the rise of Islam. It began to spread over the next several centuries as the Christian Church began to succumb to the enemies of corruption, heresies, complacency, and superstition. It lost sight of its focus and mission – the gospel. It also lost sight of its security: “I will come again.” The Church split into two parts: Western and Eastern over a few doctrinal beliefs. It retreated into monasticism. Islam marched across the lands with terrorism for the next millennium as the Dark Ages covered Europe, bringing with it more heresies, superstition, and corruption. Yet, a faithful few remained and continued to bear witness to Christ and obedience to Him.

The crusades arose to beat back Islam from Europe. This took centuries, as Islam grew and receded during this period. The last caliphate of the Ottoman Empire fell during World War I. Jesus predicted wars and rumors of wars but that these would be the beginning of sorrows (Matthew 24:6-8). If He predicted it, then it would come to pass, because He is the Lord of history and the future. Man is on God’s timetable; God is not on man’s timetable.

As Europe emerged from the Dark Ages, the Church surged as the Reformation broke the chains of corruption, heresies, and superstitions with Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Knox, and others taking the lead. The Church rediscovered its focus, mission, and message as it battled the enemies of Christ. Migrations continued across Europe and ultimately to the New World, where Christians sought to practice their faith in peace and calm. A Christian revolution named the Great Awakening surged as men like Jonathan Edwards, John and Charles Wesley, George Whitfield and others proclaimed the gospel to this new land. The light of the gospel informed the Declaration of Independence and US Constitution. Man is on God’s timetable through the Holy Spirit as He moves across the world.

However, corruption, heresies, and superstitions continued to emerge and taint the truth. People strayed. Wars arose. The nation divided over slavery as men and women mixed their own messages with the gospel and corrupted its proclamation. We witnessed more world wars with brief interludes between. Churches and denominations populated the landscape and spread their messages throughout the world. Revivals happened. Then came the 1960’s and more wars. Another revolution broke out and made its way into the culture and churches. Churches became enculturated. They lost sight of their Savior and His mission and message.

A myriad of humanistic agendas erupted from our institutions of higher learning as professors dumped their philosophical brands of living on their students.  These students in turn spread these philosophies into more schools, churches, and whole denominations. Humanistic theologians pronounced, “God is dead.” These churches and denominations succumbed to culture and humanistic agendas while embracing lifestyles foreign to the Church and the truth in Jesus. Other gospels emerged. A host of idolatries ran rampant and out shouted Jesus’ words, “Let not your hearts be troubled…I will come again…you are my witnesses.” The end of the 20th century saw the rise of Islam again as corruption, heresies, and superstitions abounded. Many lost sight of the Savior and His words of comfort and confidence.

Today, all the turmoil, terror, and the inroads of propaganda and lies make their way throughout the world and bring about instability, insecurity, and fear. They trouble us as believers, and often doubt arises as this doubt clouds over Jesus’ words, “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me…I will come again…you are my witnesses” (John 14:1-3, Acts 1:8). The pendulum swings throughout history from calm to turmoil, threats, and terror. It always will. However, God is not on man’s timetable. Man is on God’s timetable. What did Jesus say? “I will come again.” If He said it, then that means He controls the pendulum swing of history for making His statement a fulfillment. We can be confident in His words. In one of his letters, Paul drew a similar conclusion as Jesus after informing his readers of Jesus’ return, “Comfort one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:18).

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Why the Rush to Get Past Gratitude? Some Words on Thanksgiving

Action Faith Books Press

Finally, Thanksgiving has come, and in a flash is disappears into the past.  Most spend their time cooking, eating, shopping, watching football, parades, and other shows of interest.  Family and friends make their way into our homes, consume turkey, chicken, or other similar dishes.  We catch up on things in our lives, laugh, and perhaps play games while gazing at the television.  Meanwhile, as we watch football or other programs, big Christmas sales advertisements flash between plays, timeouts, quarters, and halftime.

Black Friday begins Thanksgiving afternoon and for many even earlier.  Christmas pushes it way backwards and swallows Thanksgiving and even the day before and perhaps the week before.  The mails clog our mail boxes with ads as thick as a Sunday newspaper.  They beckon us to open wide our wallets and push our way through malls and their stores competing for the same toy, tool, or electronics item.  The…

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Jesus: Life in Himself

The life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us—” (1 John 1:3).

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John takes us to his next thought after introducing us to his eyewitness account of Jesus. This next thought is the revelation of God’s Son come in the flesh or the incarnation. This revelation is the life of all things. John speaks of life in a special way – eternal life. In His gospel, John informed his readers and us that Jesus is unique in the possession of life. He has life in Himself (John 5:26). Nothing in all creation possesses this attribute. All that exists in creation dies or decays. Plants and animals die. Humans have a lifespan. All other things deteriorate. They do not possess life in themselves. Rather, they depend on that which is external to them to give them life and to sustain them. God gives to them.

One exception exists – God. In the same place where John points to Jesus as having life in Himself, he also says that the Father also has life in Himself. He states, “For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself” (John 5:26). John expands his claim to the Father, affirming the divinity of the Father and the Son. Now, since the Bible (and John) claims there is one God, we come to understand from him that the Father and Son share in that divinity (John 1:1). They are two of the three persons of the divine essence, that is, God.

Jesus manifested His divinity to His disciples when he lived with them and also when He rose from the dead. His resurrection demonstrated that He has life in Himself. All others who lived also died, even those whom Jesus called back from death to life, such as Lazarus. Lazarus finally died permanently. Jesus rose from the dead and lives today in the presence of His Father.

John declared the eternal life of the Son of God, Jesus. He also announced that Jesus was with the Father prior to His incarnation. In stating this, John informed us that Jesus existed before His birth as the baby of Joseph and Mary. He took on human flesh at a point in time and became like one of us so that He might bridge the gap between God and humanity. He became “God with us.” The Creator of all things took on the form of the created to bring those who believe Him back to the Father. This is the good news and the hope all have who placing their faith in Him.

Faith’s Joy Depends on the Historical Incarnation of Jesus

1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life—

2 the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us—

3 that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.

4 And these things we write to you that your joy may be full.

Nelson, Thomas (2009-02-18). Holy Bible, New King James Version (NKJV) (p. 1178). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

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John wanted to assure his readers that the historical incarnation of Jesus was historical truth. Historicity is the bulwark of faith. In history, real knowledge exists. Someone lived, accomplished certain things, and then died. It is knowledge that can be verified. There were eye witnesses, and they spoke of what they saw. Faith draws upon knowledge, for there cannot be faith in non-existence. Genuine faith could not be placed in that which does not exists, because that which does not exists could not be brought to mind toward which one would claim, “I believe.”

From the outset, John established that faith pointed to what he saw, heard, and handled. He heard Jesus speak. He saw Jesus move among the people, healing some and speaking to others. John touched Jesus and knew He was real. He was witness not only to Jesus’ life but also to His death and resurrection. His writing showed that he trusted what he saw and heard. One might argue, “Isn’t faith that which is in the unseen.” Yes, but it is also in evidence of what one sees. The writer of the Hebrews letter writes,

“By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of the things which are visible” (Hebrews 11:3). The world around us stands out visible to our eyes. Why then do we need faith? Observation is one thing, but understanding is quite a different matter. Both lend to faith. However, the understanding receives enlightenment through faith. That which one observes supplies evidence just as much as that which one does not see. We do not see words, and a deaf person does not hear them, nor can a blind person read them. However, their lack of hearing, reading, or touching does not at all discount their existence. How then does one know such words exists? Another brings the evidence of the reality of those words. It is valid for one to introduce evidence to another.

The hope, joy, and faith of John’s audience of his letter depended on the historical fact of Jesus and His death and resurrection. All that Jesus did and spoke was as true as the most recent events of the past. It was just as certain the accounts of the US presidential lines, the various wars in which the US fought, and yesterday’s news.

John gave witness that they [the apostles and others who knew and followed Jesus] heard, saw, and touched the living Jesus. Jesus, the Son of God, came in the flesh, lived among fallen humanity, suffered persecution and opposition, was executed, and rose again from the dead. John had earlier written of these events in his gospel.  Now he sets this very truth out as foundational when he writes to his audience. Since Jesus was who he said he was, that claim and historical fact makes all the difference for all who believe Him. That belief acts as an anchor of allegiance to Him as Lord of all.

There are different types and levels of allegiances. Many pledge allegiance to a political party, and that causes them to rally for that party through time and money regardless sometimes of the candidate. For many, the platform for that party are simply benchmarks for society as a whole and are the drawing card for allegiance. Nothing calls individuals to absolute obedience to them. They simply hold them as what the party stands for and can be changed for the next election cycle. They may not be burned into the minds and hearts of all who pledge allegiance to the party. It is allegiance to a non-personal. People can hold differing opinions and interpretations of the elements of this non-personal platform and still give allegiance to it.

Many pledge allegiance to a nation and the flag that represents that nation. The Constitution also stands as a standard for that nation. Yet, the Constitution’s interpreters can read into or skew the meaning of this Constitution to mean other than what the original writer meant until this document becomes meaningless. The pledge to the Constitution becomes a pledge to a generalized form in which the content becomes lost or changed over time as people go about living their lives as though it does not exist until the rights the Constitution bestows are removed. Then people get up in arms that a group or person stands in their way between them and that form. Their complaint is about the form and not so much their commitment to its contents.

The interesting thing about giving allegiance to a nation or a document as the Constitution is that a ruthless dictator can rule the nation while spewing out propaganda for gaining allegiance of the people. Germany was a good example during World War II. The document could also contain lies lacking any attachment to reality. Giving allegiance to such a national leader or document is giving allegiance to that which is false. Yes, people can give allegiance to something false or false knowledge, something not grounded in truth or evidence. Such an allegiance has occurred numerous times in history. Consider the false Greek and Roman gods without history or reality. Deceit undergirds this allegiance. The proprietors of the temple of Diana in Ephesus is a stellar example of profitable deceit. People deceive without giving evidence or verification of their claims.

However, John carries allegiance well beyond a party or document. Rather, he points to a living person and not some impersonal entity like a political party or document. Since an allegiance is to a person, it takes on a far different dimension. It is true that people give allegiance to other people. However, such an allegiance frequently takes on an external commitment. They give up their material goods and time to become involved in some sort of membership or group the person to whom they give allegiance represents. Jesus calls for an allegiance that is greater and deeper than the external. It is one that involves internal motives, thoughts and intents, feeling and desire, and behaviors untouched by a mere man. Following Jesus calls for an allegiance that renders internal change of all we are for expressing a new way of life.

Let us return to the Hebrews passage a moment. Observations of the world about us gives evidence that it came about some time in the past. How one understands what one observes depends on one’s interpretation of what one observes and how that interpretation agrees with reality. Since we are far removed from the origins of existence, all we can do is attempt to propose hypotheses and try our best to test them with the best tools available, which are better than those 200 years ago but probably inferior to those in 200 years from now. Nobody saw existence come about. That eliminates observation. Even then, much about origins is speculation and requires some sort of faith that whatever first thrust the elements of what exists also existed. Many scientists simply claim they do not know the origins of existence. The writer of Hebrews offers a starting point. All that we see did not come about from that which is visible. That is, all that began to exist did not give rise to that which began to exist. Rather, that invisible God created all that began to exist. Faith is required for both views of how things began to exist. However, the Hebrew writer claims that the invisible God as Creator is far more credible than the starting point of the visible giving rise to the visible or eternal matter.

The same thing holds true with John’s message. He wrote his opening statement based on living testimony (evidence), “That which was from the beginning” (1:1). If Jesus was from the beginning, as John claims from the mouth of Jesus Himself, would such first-hand evidence be more credible than drawing conclusions from lack of observation?

If all Jesus said was true, and John recorded what He said, would it not make sense to give allegiance to such personal first-hand knowledge, especially when Jesus supported this knowledge through His resurrection from the dead? The opening paragraph of John lays the foundation for this new way of life by setting forth the person to whom all allegiances are rendered. With this foundation established on a person, John can then set forth the argument that true allegiance assumes the same depth of personal allegiance as Jesus had with His Father, which John illustrates specifically as he works out throughout his entire letter of 1 John the substance of this allegiance to Jesus.

A Word From Our Sponsor: One Who Encounters God

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple” (Isaiah 6:1)

Encounters with God differ for everyone.  Some engage Him in prayer, some through the Scriptures, while others do so through praises and singing.  Revelations and visions were rare occurrences.  God appeared unexpectedly to certain people to give them a special message for those whom He sought out.  Most of the time, these revelations and vision were about God’s redemption, that is, saving people from their troubles or delivering them from their enemies or destructive circumstances.

God engaged Isaiah in such an occasion.  One day, he entered God’s temple to worship the LORD.  Suddenly, the LORD appeared to him.  Isaiah saw the LORD sitting on His throne above him in a robe that filled the entire temple.  He also saw certain heavenly creatures called seraphim, crying out to another,

Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; The whole earth is full of His glory!” (6:3)

Just as God’s glory filled the temple, these creatures proclaimed that this same glory filled the entire earth.  The power of this vision and the voice crying out caused the temple to shake.  Stunned as he was, Isaiah could do nothing but cry out,

Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, The LORD of hosts” (6:5).

One of he seraphim comes to Isaiah and touched his lips with a piece of coal, and pronounced him clean.

Immediately after the seraphim did this, the LORD Himself asked,

Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” (6:8)

Isaiah replied,

“Here am I! Send me” (6:8).

The LORD then gave Isaiah a commission and with it a message to give to the Jewish people,

“Go, and tell this people: ‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand; Keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’ Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; Lest they see with their eyes, And hear with their ears, And understand with their heart, And return and be healed” (6:9-10)

Isaiah and the LORD continued in their conversation.

Many strange things exist in this incident between Isaiah and the LORD.  Additionally, the message the LORD gave to Isaiah is highly enigmatic.  Without delving deep into the passage, we can make a number of observations about Isaiah’s encounter with God.  First, God is the LORD (Yahweh), the God of all and everyone.  He is the sovereign and only God in all existence.  He recognizes those who do not accept His position and pronouncements of Himself and His declarations.  Second, He does not leave rebellious people without witness and revelation of Himself.  During Isaiah’s time as well as during the eras of the other prophets, He revealed Himself to Israel and others through His declared word.  Third, God’s word has immense power.  When He speaks, His word can shake the entire earth and the hearts of individuals.  We learn of such power elsewhere in the New Testament letter of Hebrews where the author declares,

For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account” (Hebrews 4:12-13).

This power engaged Isaiah’s heart to the point that he recognized his own sinful state before a holy God.  Here he was in the temple of God preparing to worship God.  Yet he recognized that his standing in the presence of the holy God who speaks holy words yielded a confession of his own destitute position.  He declared himself “unclean” and one who lived among a rebellious people.  He saw himself not in the position to be before this God.

Fourth, God’s word changes hearts.  After Isaiah heard the words of the seraphim, he immediately confessed his sinful predicament and the predicament of his fellow countrymen.

Fifth, God’s word not only changes hearts, but it also motivates one to do God’s will.  After the seraph touched Isaiah’s lips with a piece of burning coal, the LORD spoke to him in the form of a question.  The LORD basically asked Isaiah who will accomplish His mission.  Isaiah did not allow a moment to pass without a swift reply, “Me!  I will!”  God’s word so changed Isaiah that it redirected his focus to others.

The message the LORD gave to Isaiah seems rather strange, because it was a negative one.  Close their ears and understanding so they will not turn to Him.  Why did the LORD want Isaiah to give Israel a negative message so they reject Him?  God had His purpose,

But yet a tenth will be in it, And will return and be for consuming, As a terebinth tree or as an oak, Whose stump remains when it is cut down. So the holy seed shall be its stump” (Isaiah 6:13).

The LORD speaks about a “holy seed.”  The word the LORD gave to Israel would come to a people who resists His will until the time of the “holy seed.”  This “holy seed” is the promised Messiah who will save His people from their sins (Matthew 1:21).  Much like the message Isaiah received from the LORD, the message of Messiah will also turn people away.  However, like God’s word to Isaiah, its power will turn the hearts of people everywhere to Him, causing them to confess their sins and to seek His redemption.  Isaiah is an example of the power of God’s word.  It not only saves but it motivates toward a mission.  This passage gives great encouragement for every Christian in every nation that God’s word will accomplish His purpose in and through those He saves so that the whole earth will eventually realize the glory of God and become His temple in which all will do His will.