THE BEAUTY OF GOD

I’m sitting here in my kitchen, looking out to my backyard, and enjoying the beauty of the fall foliage.  I realize that I love God because of the beauty in his creation.  I’m always pointing out to my driving students (to help them relax) the delightful colors of the sunset.  I tell them that God paints us a new picture every evening.

Seeing the fall colors always reminds me of the September Bonnie and I spent in New England.  We were slightly in advance of the leaf peekers.  This is the maybe not so affectionate name the New Englanders call people coming to see the fall colors.  I was thinking of the leaf peekers and wondering how many of them understand that what they are driving to see is the beauty of God.

Romans 1:20 says, “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.”

When we allow our attention to be drawn to nature, and feel that contentment it brings to our souls, we are experiencing God himself.  Our western minds always want to deal with facts, but we should not ignore the aesthetics of life.  We could be in the very midst of God and fail to recognize his beauty.

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GOOD AND EVIL

I love to revisit the story of creation in Genesis chapters 1 and 2.  Envisioning God’s fresh creation delights my heart.  Genesis 1:31 reads, God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.  The creator stepped back, looked over what he had made, and concluded, “It was very good.”

Today as I continue to be awed by what God created, I see elements that were not there at the beginning.  Death and decay are at work in the creation.  What God created that was “very good” has now deteriorated.  Good now has a counterpart, evil.  How did evil get into God’s creation?

When the first man and woman walked the earth only good existed.  They had no special awareness of good because it was the default of their world.  There was no contrast to good.  In the garden, where God put them, was a tree with the knowledge of good and its contrast evil.  God warned them not to indulge in this knowledge for it brought with it death.  They chose not to heed God’s warning.

Why is our world filled with death and decay?  The answer is obvious.  We had to know about good and evil.  Well, now we know.  I think we could have gone without knowing.  So in hindsight, when God says not to do something, we probably shouldn’t.

FAITH AND DOUBT

Are you convinced that Christianity is true?  Do you ever doubt your belief?  Does God really exist?  Is my belief in vain?  Do these questions of doubt haunt you at times?  They do me.  During these times of doubt I have two processes that I follow, reason and experience.  Reason alone cannot restore faith, but it can help.    Walking back through my life and remembering my experiences with God seals the breach in my faith, and I am restored.

These nagging questions that challenge my faith cause me to return to the process of reasoning. I start with the basic question of where did I and all I know come from.  There are only two possible answers.  It all came about by some accidental occurrence of events over millions and billions of years, or an intelligent force designed it.  The complexity of the universe and the existence of life itself lead me to believe that an intelligent force designed it.  And if this is so, what do I know about this intelligent force.  I have concluded that the Bible is the most reliable source of information about this intelligent force.  This process, to remind myself of the logic of my belief, gets me started.  But the most interesting truth about this reasoning process is that it all came about after I believed.  My belief in God is therefore founded in something other than reason.

I next reminisce on my experiences with God.  God has spoken to me at key moments in my life, and he drew me to himself.  He answered prayers and provided miracles all to build a relationship of trust.   My faith is rooted in a relationship with God that he has built over many years.  Then I remember, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.”  Ah, my faith is based not on my ability to reason, but on my relationship with God.  Experience trumps reason.  The questioning of my faith is entrenched in my reasoning skills.  My reasoning is faulty, but my experience is sound.  There is no argument against what I have experienced.

I feel that faith is even more deeply based on a spiritual foundation.  When I first believed reason played a small part, experience barely existed, yet I was drawn to God.  Jesus said, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him …” (John 6:44).   My reason and my experience came because God drew me.  I simply said yes to him.  I believe because I was predestined to believe.  God is sovereign over all his creation, even me.

Repost from July 2015

WHO IS GOD?

When reading Psalm 19 the other day it struck me that David had a special awareness of who God is.  He writes, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands” (Psalm 19:1).  David looked at creation, and he saw God. 

Astronomers have discovered that space goes on forever, with millions of galaxies and an incalculable number of stars.  Our modern understanding of the universe should cause us to declare with greater exaltation God’s glory.    

It is my nature to always ask why.  In this case why did God need to create such a vast universe?  David makes the answer quite clear, to show us his glory.  Again I ask why?  I answer myself, so we have plain evidence of the awesomeness of God, and so we can understand that his ability is beyond our comprehension. 

I can build a table and figure out how to fix some things.  God created a vast universe that works to precise laws that our best minds over thousands of years have partially figured out.  Those “best minds” were also created by him.  How glorious is our God!

As I read through the rest of Psalm 19, I realized that David understood God’s glory very well.  He speaks of the laws God made for us, and how these laws are good for our souls.  From a vast universe that runs to perfection, to laws that help us walk through our daily life, David understood that God has provided for us, and he has shown himself to us. 

David ends his Psalm with a humble and worshipful declaration, “May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.”

THE GREATEST FORCE

Love is the greatest force in the universe.  The Bible tells us that God, the creator, is love (1 John 4:16).   The world and all that is in it was created in love.  It was love demonstrated by Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross that brought us salvation.  The redemption of mankind was accomplished by His great act of love.  In love then there is sacrifice.  As Jesus exhibited, love requires the laying down of personal wants and desires for others, or maybe just redirecting our personal wants and desires to others.  Jesus told us in Matthew 22:37-39, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.”

We obviously have the right to use love, and we are commanded to use it.  First we are to love our God, and second to love our neighbor.  Our neighbor being anyone we encounter.

We have access to the greatest power in the universe!  How amazing is that?  Why aren’t we using this great power?  Oh, it requires sacrificing our own wants and desires.  Bingo!  The whole world could be changed by this great force that we have access to, but it requires sacrifice.

Taking a broader look, I find that there is little use of this greatest force in our world.   I’m not seeing a wide use of love.  Knowing that God is love, we can say there’s a lot of ungodliness being exhibited.  For those who like to blame this on God, perhaps a look in the mirror might clear their perspective.  I’m looking in the mirror, and I find much room for improvement.

GOD’S SOLUTION

Humans are at war all over the earth.  There is no peace on earth.  They kill each other and rob from each other.  Evil abounds!  The author of Psalm 82 laments the injustice on the earth.  He calls for God to intervene. We often hear cries for God to do something.  Why does he allow all this evil?

On the other hand there many acts of love and caring on the earth.  People sacrifice for the benefit of others.  They give their money and time to the needy.  Some have even given their lives for others.  Kindness and compassion do exist in the midst of daily life.

I recall that in the beginning we were created in the image of God himself.  Therefore, we are like God, beings of love.  I also remember that we chose to rebel against God and bring sin into the world.  Thus we have the by-polar existence of great goodness and great evil.  What can be done?

God in his infinite wisdom chose not to fix the symptoms but the cause.  His solution began with an infant born in a stable.  From this humble beginning, He brought about redemption from sin for all humans.  Yet, as in the beginning, He didn’t take away our right to choose.  He did give us the opportunity to be a part of the solution rather than part of the problem.  We can choose to repent of our sinful life and accept Jesus as our savior or continue in the pursuit of evil. 

 Yes, peace on earth is a possibility, but it is held in the hands of each person who lives on the earth.  We can elect to return to God or remain in our sins.  Evil or good, we get to choose.  God has heard our cries, and He has intervened for us.

FATHER, SON, AND HOLY SPIRIT

The Bible tells us why we are here and how we came about.  God created us.  God is presented to us in the scriptures as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, one God with three aspects or parts.  God created the entire physical realm in which we exist.  He is all powerful, all knowing, and omnipresent.  We are the crown of His creation, given charge to take care of the earth.  Yet, how do we relate to this amazing being.  

As Father, God takes on the position of authority.  He is the head.  He is our provider and protector.  God the Father is who we look to for help in our time of need.  With love and mercy, He corrects us and turns us to the right path.  Sometimes, He allows the consequences of our choices to teach us.  He is the perfect father.  The scriptures point out that God is slow to anger and abounding in love.  I’m glad that my Father has these two attributes. 

God the son came to earth and became one of us.  He walked through this life as we do.  He taught us many lessons to show us how we should live.  He lived as we live and suffered as we suffer.  The Son was given the name Jesus meaning God saves, and He did just that.  He gave his life to redeem us.  Through his death and resurrection, he purchased for us eternal life.  Jesus is our oldest brother, and He loves us. He is now in heaven interceding for us.

The Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit, indwells those of us who have believed in Jesus and accepted his redemption.  The Holy Spirit lives within us and counsels us, teaches us, and leads us in righteousness.  The fact that the Holy Spirit lives in us amazes me.  No other relationship is more personal.

I believe God has shown us exactly how He wants us to relate to Him Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I think God is more complex than the three aspects he shares with us, but these aspects present the most personal interaction we can understand.  He takes care of us as our Father, loves us as our Brother, and through the Holy Spirit connects with us on a deep spiritual level.  God created us to love us.   His underlying characteristic is love (1 John 4:16).