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).

WHY DO I BELIEVE

Every now and then I come to a time that I review why I believe.  I just read the creation story in Genesis 1&2 and enjoyed the thought-provoking contemplation that it brings.  Can such an awesome being exist?  Is there really an entity that can speak the entire universe into being?  Then I travel through my memories reviewing why I believe this to be true.

I start with remembering when I was at my lowest point, and I called out to God.  Somewhere in my inner being, I knew he was there.  My life changed dramatically from that moment, and I have walked a blessed life since that day.  He has spoken to me in the most intimate ways on a number of occasions.  He has directed my life in ways I didn’t understand at the time, but His ways have always brought blessing.  We have a long term relationship that is ever growing.

So as hard as it is to imagine a being who could speak the entire universe into existence, I have a personal relationship with Him.  I communicate with him on a daily basis.  He answers me.   God loves me, and I love Him.  I see His beauty in all that He created.  I say yes!  There is a being who spoke the entire universe into existence.  I believe because I have experienced Him.

Controlling the Future

I like science fiction.  I don’t know what that says about me, but I do.  The idea of projecting where scientific discovery might take us fascinates me.  I like the adventure and the jolt to my imagination.  Fantasizing future worlds, even alien worlds, has occupies a fair portion of my personal time.

Yet the science fiction stories, where man goes back in time to reshape the future, point to the complexity of manipulating the intricate details of the progression of time.  Change one little occurrence and the entire future of man is impacted.  We can predict, but there are too many factors for us to have complete control over the outcome.

Now, imagine someone able to create a universe, create humans to live in this universe, and set the ball rolling toward a planned outcome.  To add to the complexity of the task, he gives the humans freedom of choice.  During the unfolding of his plan, he intervenes occasionally knowing exactly how this will affect the outcome.  Remember, his interventions usually involve humans who are continually deciding about their actions and reactions to their situation. 

The greatest intervention this creator makes is sending his son to live among humans with the plan to redeem them.  They need redemption because they have violated the prime directive to act in love and, within their freedom of choice, have chosen to injure their fellow humans. They have also turned their back to the creator and denied his very existence.  He accomplishes his redemption plan right on schedule and continues on to his planned outcome. 

The outcome he plans is for all those who receive his redemption to live forever in eternity with him.  Not all of his humans will accept the offer, but every one of them has the choice to receive redemption.  The only one who could put together such an elaborate and complex plan is the all-powerful, all-knowing, creator God.

Read: Genesis 1-3, Job 38 – 41, & Revelation 21 & 22

NOT AS I WILL

“My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me.  Yet not as I will, but as you will.”  (Matthew 26:39)

I have often thought that life as a believer is like a roller coaster ride.  It starts with the climb of anticipation, and then it begins.  You drop in and away you go.  It’s scary and faster than you thought, but you adjust.  You roll with the curves.  You’re living the life.  Then when the trilling part is over, you take the slow approach to the end.  I thought that I had reached the slow part.  I was winding down waiting to depart.  Alas, I was mistaken.  I’m still living on the ride.  Life is still happening at a fast pace, and I’m trying to keep up.  Perhaps this Christian life has a more abrupt end.

Once you accept salvation through Jesus, you’re on the ride with him; you have no control over where it is going, you have put your trust in him.  You can jump out, but that usually ends badly.  Jesus took the ride.  He surrendered control to the will of God.  Thus his prayer, “Yet not as I will, but as you will.”  He asked for a change of direction, yet he stayed the course. 

This morning, I’m not asking for a change of direction.  I’m just asking for help to stay the course.  I can’t do it without his help.  The roller coaster ride of the Christian life is impossible alone.  I need Jesus all the time.  Besides, life is always much nicer with a friend by your side.  We get an all-powerful, all-knowing friend for our ride.

UNDEFEATABLE POWER

There is an undefeatable power in the universe.  In fact he created the universe.  His power is wrought of love and is so far above man’s power that he can send his son as a helpless infant to the earth, and accomplish his plan.  Man and the demonic forces of evil could not stop him.  An earthly king could not kill him.  It goes like this, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  The Christmas Story is a story of the greatest love and the greatest power.  The baby in a manger, so gentle and mild, was a display of God’s wisdom and power that transcends our understanding.

If I was in charge of bringing Jesus to earth, I might amass a great army.  I’d post a 24 hour guard and develop a secure safe house with all the latest technology.  This is hilarious in comparison to the open manger.  God didn’t need my help.  He is all powerful.  He didn’t have to come with all guns blazing.  He came in love and tenderness.

The underlining truth is that God’s plan, for your life and mine, will be accomplished, and nothing can defeat his will.  Sometimes I feel as vulnerable as a babe in a manger, but I’m really as safe as the infant Jesus was.  I can trust God with everything.  The Christmas story fills me with great confidence.  It is a story of power displayed in love.  I worship God because he is higher than me, and his ways are higher than my ways.  I trust in his power; I trust in his love.  I pray that the love and power of the Christmas Story will bring you peace and comfort this season.

BE MERCIFUL

“Be merciful to those who doubt; save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear – hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.”

 Jude 22-23

 

The Church, the Body of Christ, has throughout the ages frequently missed the basic tenet of being merciful.    On the other hand the Church has been an instrument of mercy in society since its beginning.  It’s been a mixed bag.  In Luke 6:35-36 Jesus says,

“But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back.  Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.  Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”

God has shown us mercy, and he desires us to be merciful.  I believe our ability to be merciful depends on our ability to receive mercy.  Humility is the key.

 

To receive mercy, I must first recognize my need for mercy.  When I know that I have sinned against God, there is then the recognition of the debt I owe to God.  Secondly, I need to humble myself and become aware that there is nothing I can do to repay this debt.  God is willing and has made the way to grant me mercy by forgiving my debt.  I don’t have to work for it.  It’s free.  That is hard for me because in my pride I want to do something to earn forgiveness.  However, by holding on to this idea of earning forgiveness, I will never even understand mercy.

 

Now you can see why it’s a mixed bag for the Church.  Our pride often gets in the way.  In Matthew 9:13 Jesus says to the Pharisees, “But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’”  And again in 12:7, “If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent.”  The Pharisees were caught up in a ritual of sacrifice that fed their pride allowing them to condemn others rather than show them mercy.  They were trying to pay their debt to God on their own merit.  They were blinded by pride and did not understand mercy.   Therefore, they could not extend mercy.

 

Mercy proceeds from a humble, forgiving heart.  This is God’s nature and his heart toward us.  By surrendering my will to God and allowing myself to be forgiven, I take the first step in understanding mercy.  I feel the burden of gilt lifted and the exhilaration of being free.  But, I must remember that I’m free and not fall prey to the lie that I must do something for this freedom.  That lie feeds my pride.  I must remain humble. Then in humble gratitude, I live under God’s mercy.  A life that is continually bathed in mercy emanates mercy.

THE PURPOSE OF LIFE

When contemplating the meaning of life, I find that it is infinitely complex like the Author of Life.  Still, it can also be boiled down to something quite simple.  The questions: why am I here and what is my purpose can be easily answered.  We are here because God brought forth life in his creation, and He made beings like us in his image.  So we have life because God ordained it.  Our purpose is to have a close loving relationship with him.

Since we acquired, through disobedience, the knowledge of good and evil, that relationship has been complicated.  We now have to seek him, yet he has cleared the way for us to find him through the cross of Jesus.  We just have to accept the way he has provided.  Finding him is not difficult.  However, looking for him through other paths will not lead to him.  There is only one way; His way.

We exist at God’s good pleasure, and he has given us purpose.  As I stated above, our purpose is to have a close loving relationship with him.  Some are confused about our purpose and think that our purpose is to work.  It is important to note that the work I’m referring to is the work of the kingdom, good deeds, as opposed to working for a living.  These works are not our purpose; they are the result of our purpose.  In my loving relationship with God, he has taught me to love others.  Because I love him, and he has taught me to love others, I work to help those around me.  I give of myself.

Throughout my life, I have worked to provide for my family.  This is a requirement in this fallen world.  During this time of sorting out eternity, we have to work for a living.  It is the curse for disobedience (Genesis 3:17-19).  In the midst of our work, we often have the opportunity to do the work of the Kingdom.  However, no matter what type of work we are doing, the only work that has eternal merit is that which is driven by love.  In our relationship with God, he nurtures us with love. From this love, he generates in us the strength to provide for our family and do the work of the kingdom.  Work flows out of the fruit of relationship.  Relationship with God is our purpose.

AWESOME POWER – GREAT BEAUTY

One of my favorite places on God’s earth is at Monterey Bay here on the California Coast.  At the southern tip of the bay where it meets the open ocean, large waves crash on building size rock formations creating a scene of awesome power.  Near the beach is a smaller formation that receives the partially spent waves but still with a powerful display of water crashing upon rocks. At low tide you can climb onto this smaller formation, and when you reach the top you find there a seat smoothed by the crashing waves.  I love to sit there feeling the waves crash around me.  It’s like being in the midst of great power but protected from the danger.

When I visit this place, I feel very close to God.  The awesome power of these waves reminds me of how God is ultimately powerful.  The peace and security I feel reminds me that I am protected by his love for me.  I feel as if I’m in the shadow of his wings. (see Psalm 17).  I usually don’t want to leave.  I know I have to because high tide is coming, and I must return to the world and its trials.  It seems amazing that a place so filled with chaotic noise and danger would be a place of peace and comfort, but I assure you it is.

Just a few hundred yards north along the beach, the rocks are gone and the waves brake into a rolling foam and crash into the beach.  Facing what promised to be a tough day at work, I left home early to walk along the beach in my favorite place. I needed the Lord to strengthen me.  As I looked out over the ocean, the sun began to rise from behind me.  The hill behind me was covered in a thick mist.  The rays of the sun were refracted by the mist producing a unique phenomenon.  The foam on the rolling waves began to take on the colors of the rainbow.  It was a most beautiful display.  As the sun continued to rise, the colors eventually faded, but I remained until it was finished.

This event reminded me of the great beauty of God.  Throughout God’s creation, there is great beauty.  We see his beauty in the sunrise and sunset, the flowers and trees, and in the mountains and the animals that he created.  Every once in a while, we get a special glimpse as I did that morning.  The day went much better than I had anticipated.  Who could have a bad day after that?

Our creator is awesomely powerful and greatly beautiful.  I have learned to look for his attributes each day.  I find abundant comfort in remembering who he is as I walk in the midst of what he has made.

THE HOPE IS STILL ALIVE

A while back I wrote in my diary, “Today I’m 60, but I’m going to live forever so I’m just a kid.”  I haven’t felt much like a kid since I wrote this, but the hope is still alive.  One of my old flippant sayings when confronted by a health conscious (health food nut) person was, “I don’t get my new body till I wear this one out.”  I want you to know I’m doing well with the wearing this one out part.  However it’s not as fun as it once was.  The wearing out is now quite painful, but the new body hope is still alive.

Sunday morning I found myself doing what I used to think was a strange activity that old people did.  I was reading the obituaries in the newspaper.  Not only was I reading them, but I was emotionally involved in reading them.  The short assessment of a person’s life was somehow hauntingly relevant.  As I sense the nearing of life’s end, I think, “What might be written about me?” What in my years was good and what was bad?  Fortunately, most obituaries focus on the good.  The family usually keeps the bad to themselves.  Woo, I say as I contemplate this.

I could get lost in these thoughts, but what I wrote on my 60th birthday is the real truth.  I have the promise of eternal life in Christ Jesus.  I’m going to live forever.  The assessment of this short beginning time is recorded by the eternal God.  He makes the final evaluation.  Praise be to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  The bad is forgiven and forgotten because the most significant act of my years was receiving the great gift Jesus purchased for me on the cross.  The worth of my other acts is in his hands.

Life has seemed long, but when I look back the part that has passed went by rather quickly.  There is still more to come.  I relish what remains.  And, the hope is still alive!