Events That Changed Everything

My church will begin a new adventure in September. It is called Events That Changed Everything. It is the story in the Bible; God and humanity, sin and salvation, loss and hope, joy and eternity.

We live in a society of sound bytes. And Christians have a tendency to study the Bible in a similar manner. Taking a verse, or a passage and missing the big picture. The Bible has context. It presents a story and history and each Bible study sound byte fits in and knowing how it fits helps with understanding and meaning and depth of meaning.

Here’s the goals we have for Events:

Events That Changed Everything will help the Bible unfold before you through the progression of Bible events and characters arranged chronologically.

Beginning with creation, everyone who participates will discover a new and deeper understanding and appreciation of the Bible with each sermon, each Bible lesson, and your own Bible reading.

You will:

  •  Understand the basic story line in the Bible
  •  Realize how you can be a part of God’s ongoing story
  •  Understand how God’s story has the power to change lives
  •  Increase Biblical understanding and knowledge and build an appetite for the Bible
  •  De-mystify Bible study
  •  And introduce Bible study resources and ongoing Bible study opportunities

Sunday, September 4th we will begin our journey in the Bible’s story with the Creation.

Share in our adventure as we experience the Bible as a whole and share these things with you here.

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Figuring Out What Romans 8:28 Means

A lot of people go through life with the philosophy, “keep a good thought.” If you have positive thinking and look for the good in everything, then you can handle anything.

Romans 8:28 is often perceived in about the same way as if it is the spiritual version of” keep a good thought.”

A simple examination of the immediate passage that these verses are a part of should correct a lot of the misconceptions people have about these Biblical statements.

So we come back to Romans 8:28 which says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

A lot of people think this means that since I love God he will fix everything just fine.

Like a football player, a little undersized and short on experience going up against a player who even has muscles in his ear lobes going into the game saying to himself, “I can do all things through Him who gives me strength.” Or the person who has been asked to do a job they have no clue about doing, “I can do all things through him who gives me strength.”

Most people apply this thought and the common interpretation when relationships break, jobs are lost, the house goes into foreclosure, and so many more situations. But is that what this passage means? Not really. There are problems with this particular interpretation.

The problems are:

  1. This is pretty naïve. The good thought – God will work it all together for my benefit. The rest of scripture doesn’t bear this out. That would mean that everything has a good and positive result in the end when it doesn’t. The Bible actually teaches us that we will have problems and many will come from our own decisions, some will come because we stand by our faith in Christ.
  2. Also, the context doesn’t imply it either. The section of verses Romans 8:28 is a part of is going to give us a different view of what God does. It is for our benefit but not exactly how a lot of people take it to mean.
  3. What do you do with it when God doesn’t work it together for your benefit, for your good? Because it doesn’t always happen this way.

Listen to Tim Geddert’s testimony about his misinterpretation of this verse:

“That is how I once memorized Romans 8:28 many years ago. It has often been a word of hope for me, assuring me that all things, even “bad” things, “work out” for people who love God. In fact there was a time when I interpreted this verse to mean that there really are no “bad things” that happen to believers. If things seem bad, but really serve to fulfill God’s good purposes, then even these things are ultimately good. I guess at the time it did not seem unjust to me that only those who love God are promised the benefit of “everything working out.” Nor was I troubled by the fact that I often did not see the “bad things” magically transformed into “good things.  I once thought Romans 8:28 was about “all things working out”. . . ”

Actually many have found the sweeping assertion, “all things work together for good,” difficult to believe. Faced with sufferings and catastrophic experiences of life, many believers and even Christian leaders have found it difficult to accept this assertion. In relation to the current War America is involved in, a prominent preacher designated Romans 8:28 as “the hardest verse to believe.” While willing to admit that the countless ravages that have occurred to the human race are the logical consequences of mankind’s sin and rebellion against God, many a devout believer, when some shattering experience has befallen him, has cried out in confusion, “Why does God allow this to happen to me?” How can this kind of experience be reconciled with Roman 8:28?

What is the book of Romans about? The core aspects of Romans is about your salvation, the grace of God in your life, and whether you are a Jew or a Gentile, God has provided salvation to both because all people have sinned and need salvation.  Paul explains:

  • Justification by faith, just like Abraham
  • Peace with God through justification
  • Death came through Adam and life came through Jesus
  • We are dead to sin and alive to Christ
  • That we have and live life in the Spirit

Romans 8:18 – 39

Let me ask you, what is in store for the believer? The answers are all related.

  • Heaven
  • Our glorification in Christ
  • Eternity with God

Our eternal glory that we like to read about in Revelation 21. God and his people together and every tear wiped away. Your back won’t hurt any more.  Your illnesses will never affect you longer. You won’t have another broken relationship again. Heaven where we love God in person, where his glory is experienced first-hand.

We are here, on this earth where sin has taken hold and brought about separation from God and even affected the existence we have here. Not only did sin introduce spiritual pain and death, it introduced problems to the physical universe; to our bodies, to our planet, and probably to the whole universe and maybe every universe.

Yet in this suffering, God plans to redeem not just the lost, he also intends to redeem the world and Paul notes how our world is “groaning” under the effects of sin, and the suffering we endure here is nothing in comparison to what will be revealed in us.

  • 1 Corinthians 15:35-56 tells about our resurrection bodies. Verse 49 states, “just as we have borne the like of the earthly man so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven.”
  • And John says in 1 John 3:2, “But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him.”

I get that when we get to heaven and receive the glorification God will give us, we shall be like Jesus.  Whatever Jesus is like, what he looks like we will too!  Peter, James, and John got a glimpse of this on the mountain when Jesus was transfigured.

You get to glow! That’s pretty cool in my book.

While we struggle through life now, we have the Holy Spirit who is the seal of our salvation.  But he does more than just seal the deal in each believer’s life he helps us in our weakness. He intercedes on our behalf to God. He does it according to God’s will but he brings our cares before God and pleads with him on our behalf in ways we can’t. He expresses what we cannot.  He displays our needs, our words, and emotions with words and feeling we can’t even hint at.

This is all while we wait for glory, for Jesus’ loving return to bring us our reward in our faith.

Because we know that God is getting the whole of what we are pleading with him about because the Spirit who knows our heart and minds and the heart and mind of God is presenting our plights to God, we can then know that God is working for our good.

  • What good?
  • How is God working?
  • What’s this really about?

What is the good that God wants to do in the world? He wants to save the world, to bring them into the likeness of his Son, Jesus Christ.

“God isn’t slow in keeping his promises as some count slowness, but patient toward you not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” 2 Peter 3:9. God wants to save people and we know that salvation is through faith in Jesus.

Look at 2 Corinthians 3:18-19.

Paul is revealing how much greater the glory is in the new covenant than was in the old covenant.  And that those who still live by the old covenant have veiled themselves to the glory God intends in the new covenant for them. And then he says that we are “being transformed into the likeness of Christ.”

This new covenant in Christ’s blood, the covenant of grace, the covenant which saves us is about our becoming like Christ, even now, while we live this life.

So, God is working together in our lives to bring about this transformation.

Romans 8:28-30

Long before God created the world, he fully intended that those who are in Christ, those who have accepted him as Lord and Savior will become like his son. He is the heir, but God makes the believer an heir, we become “children of God.” We get the inheritance we already talked about; we are glorified, we get to go to heaven, we get to spend the time with God in person.

Conforming to the image of Christ is the good that God is working together with us, in us, bringing it about.

As long as we hold strong to Christ, we remain in him, we continue to grow into and conform to his likeness we will continue to have our eternal hope.

That’s why Paul says, “If God is for us, who can be against us” in verse 30. That is why he says that we are More than conquerors through him (Christ) who loved us” in verse 37. That is why life and death, angels and demons, the present and the future, powers, even height and depth “nor anything in all of creation can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus” in verses 38 and 39.

All of this is true when we are in Christ.

I am finding a promise here in Romans 8:28 that tells me what God is doing together with my soul, making me Christ-like. I am involved. I know that God works in circumstances and even guides us through those difficult and troubling circumstances, but he didn’t promise to make them good, not in the physical-material sense.

  • He didn’t say I’ll turn your job loss into a better job yet to come.
  • He didn’t say I’ll make your body whole so you won’t have to suffer sickness or injury.
  • He didn’t say I’ll heal your broken heart by bringing someone new to love that is better than you’ve known before.
  • He didn’t promise anything like that.  Though he could do stuff like.

What God has promised is according to what salvation is about. He intends to bring us into Christ’s likeness.

Verse 32 has become a very happy verse for me.

“He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?”

Is your identity in Christ? If so, God is working in you to make you into the likeness of Christ and specifically heirs, subjects of eternal life.

I’m longing for heaven.

At the same time, your trust in God and his word are the tools to help you spiritually, emotionally, and practically through whatever struggle you have. Though Romans 8:28 isn’t the cure-all scripture many take it to be, faith does rely upon God to strengthen and support in good and bad times, when hope is blinded and when life is good. Always trust God, rely on his Spirit, and seek guidance from the Bible, God will see you through it though things may not turn how you wish them too.

God is good and faithful and through your faith in Christ he is your life.

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Misusing Scripture

The Bible. Gotta love it. It’s God’s full and revealed message to us. Some even call it God’s love letter. The history of creation, the history of God’s plan and work, the hope of the nations and each individual is presented in the Bible.

The Christian church has been the guardian and protector (by God’s will) and promoter of God’s Word. The Bible is loved and feared. It is read and studied and even ignored.

The most influential book, the largest selling book, the book with the most important and essential message in the history and the lives of humanity is still the most misused and misunderstood writing in the history of mankind. And Christians, followers of Christ who love and adhere to the Bible can misuse Scripture.

I am not trying to be condemning, but we are to “rightly divide the scriptures” (2 Timothy 2:15). It is important to understand the difference and divide between the Old Testament and the New Testament. There are different dispensations of time and many misinterpret scripture because they don’t know or don’t recognized the division (like the situation with the thief on the cross, to be discussed later). They don’t understand context. We were always taught in Bible college “context is king.” It is important to understand Scripture in its context, even the cultural and social contexts of the time when it was written. Understanding the AIM, the Author’s Intended Meaning is critical. What did Paul have in mind when he wrote the book of Romans, or when he wrote 1 Corinthians 5, or John when he described the spiritual battle of the church with the Roman Empire, or Peter, or Isaiah, or Moses and the rest?

Many times we will interpret things in light of our own understandings of things. Why are woman to be silent in the assembly? Why are men the only ones that God says must lead the church as elders and ministers? Why should women submit to their husbands? These things may be cultural or they may be comprehensive to every age and time and culture.

Our understanding of God and truth, of Christ and religion, of relationships with God and with people are critical. Our understanding of eternity and life is crucial. Misunderstanding and misinterpreting God’s word, the Bible can get us into trouble so we had better be careful. Prayer, study, rational thinking, humility, hope, and even guidance by godly people will help us move into the realm of true understanding of Scripture.

Here is one resource from College Press Publishing (http://www.collegepress.com/storefront/node/134) which can help. It’s called  “A Newcomer’s Guide to the Bible.” It can be a starting point for people to begin to understand how the Bible is set up and what it is about. There is also the “Old Testament Books Made Simple” and  “the New Testament Books Made Simple,” and “Bible History Made Simple,” by College Press which take things a step further.

In our discussion in Romans on grace, we are coming to one of those misapplied texts (8:31). Before we continue with Romans we will look at the misuse and hopefully the correct understanding or Romans 8:31 then we will move into other misunderstood and misapplied Scriptures so that we can accurately handle the Word of God.

We love God’s word and we want to be accurate and correct and faithful to God. So care is applied and passion is supplied and understanding is gained and we live by truth and faith.

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No Room for Sin (Romans Pt 3)

There wasn’t room for sin in heaven and there still isn’t room. To be truthful, that’s what took place.

Lucifer was an angel of God who wanted the glory that belonged to the Christ. His self-seeking, self-gratifying way was contrary to God and God wouldn’t have anything to do with that rebellion and unseated Lucifer.

One of the beautiful things about the ancient world recorded in the Bible is that names mean something. By this I don’t mean that each name simply has a definition, but that each name’s definition related to the person who had the name. Lucifer means “bringing light” ( http://www.behindthename.com/name/lucifer ).

When we read about a name change in the Bible, there is something significant at work. E.G. Abram who we meet at the end of Genesis 11 and the beginning of Genesis 12, his name means “exalted father,” but God changed his name to Abraham, “father of a multitude” designating the characteristic of the nation of people who would be his descendants, both by family lineage and by faith.

Lucifer is no longer his name, he does not bring light anymore (though he can appear as an angel of light to deceive; 2 Corinthians 11:14; John 8:44). Therefore his name is Devil (deceiver) and Satan (slanderer). Both are opposite to God’s character and ways and so sin was removed from God’s presence. Cast down to the earth where the he works his wiles, deceiving and tricking people in order to keep them from or draw them away from God.

Sin does not have a seat in the presence of God. But sin sits easily in the lives of people. We are easily deceived. We are taken captive by selfish desires. We are held in bondage and slavery because the devil’s temptations are anywhere from just askew to totally opposite from the truth and right.

You are a sinner. I’m sorry to be so blunt, but the truth is hard to swallow. We are all sinners because we have fallen into the devil’s trap and sinned. Whether it was a little white lie or disobeying our parents, embezzlement or lust, or any number of minor or serious wrongs, sin is sin when it comes to guilt.

Read Romans 3 and see  where your standing is with God.

With Christmas 3 days away, God came into this world because of sin. The relationship that we should have with God was injured and severed because sin has no welcome in God’s house (IE, heaven, where God is). Two things always touch my heart about the Christmas account. That Jesus’s birth was so he could save people from their sins and the God entered the world, God is with us, one of Jesus’ other names, “Emmanuel, God with us,” Matthew 1:21-22.

The pure for the impure. The righteous for the unrighteous. The holy for the unholy. The just for the unjust. The Truth instead of the lie. Life to replace death for sin. Jesus came that sin would be conquered, overcome and destroyed in our lives so that we could sit in God’s presence.

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American Church, the Church of I Don’t Know!

I love the church.  It is God’s work on earth.  It is the kingdom of God, the Israel as God intended through Christ’s death. As much as I love the church, there are several issues too.

The church is divided. A majority of churches do not accept the Bible as the full and final authority for faith and life. Doctrine is interpreted and humanly developed and often inconsistent with the Bible. Read Christianity Today’s report on the Lutheran Church  http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2010/septemberweb-only/46-31.0.html).

Let’s consider further the disunity and disgrace that comes with the American church. Almost countless denominations, variations within denominations, differences of opinion within individual churches and splits and divisions running rampant. For instance, in the area I minister in, there are at least 6 churches that have split off of the local Baptist church. I believe there are more and there are a few that have split off the splits in recent years.

Then, there are the varieties of churches with varying beliefs and all claim Biblical, Holy Spirit, or Apostolic authority as the basis for what they accept and teach.

Look at some of the beliefs. Some teach that Jesus is not the only way to salvation. Some don’t even teach Jesus, or doubt his death and resurrection. Some question whether Jesus even came in the flesh (new forms of ancient Gnosticism). And sin is not exempt from the variations.

What is this? It’s a church in Santa Monica

Here’s the new spin on sin:

  • Lying is acceptable. Once a student told their Home Ec teacher that they couldn’t trust anyone who doesn’t lie.
  • Homosexuality is not condemned in the Bible therefore it is not sin and is accepted and may be endorsed by God.
  • Sex before marriage is expected. Googling statistics on premarital sex, it appears that now 82-95% of people have had sex before marriage.

The church is lost in…

The American church is the church of “I don’t know.” When one looks at the church, one may not know what to think or believe because of the variations and differences. There is one truth and variation is not allowed.

If Jesus or the Apostles appeared in your church’s meeting next Sunday, would they recognize the church of Jesus Christ, that he had the Apostles establish? I have my doubts that they would recognize the Church of Christ because sin and compromise have been the trend of the church in America.

What is the solution? Repent and follow the Scriptures alone. The Scriptures are the Bible, exclusively. Jesus is the only way to salvation. The Bible is the only and final rule of faith. And the only revelation God will give is Jesus’ second coming which we do not know when it is.

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The Beatitudes & the Fruit of the Spirit

Matthew 5:3-12

3“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
5Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
6Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
7Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
8Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
9Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.
10Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

The Sermon on the Mount is one of the most significant sermons ever given.  While Jesus addresses a person’s relationship to the law

Scripture Quotations are from the New International Version of the Bible

He gives the character of his disciples.  Jesus’ disciples will live in the ways he describes in Matthew 5, 6 & 7.

The first part of the sermon is called the “beatitudes.”  I used to believe that word meant, these sweet little quips in Matthew 5:3-12. Looking in a dictionary I learned that the word means “supreme blessedness, exalted happiness.”  The dictionary adds, “any of the declarations of blessedness pronounced by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount” (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/beatitude).

A beatitude is a declaration of blessedness.  That’s cool.  “Blessed are…” is the beginning of each of Jesus declarations.  It has been translated as “happy are,” “joyful are” and I’m sure in a number of different ways. These are good things.

There are 9 beatitudes.  The first 4 have to do with one’s relationship to God and the next 4 have to do with one’s relationship with people and #9 expounds on #8.

But have you ever considered that there 9 aspects to the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23.

22″But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”

Galatians 5:22-23

Surely this in no coincidence.  9 beatitudes and 9 parts to the fruit of the Spirit.

We will in future posts note the exact connections.  For now, note that this is about the righteousness that God attributes into the life of the Christian.

The character of Jesus’ followers is righteousness.  They are made righteous by God according to their faith in Christ.  They are to live in the ways of righteousness.  To do that, we need to know how.  Jesus is giving us the how and encouraging us to live in the way that God now views us in Christ Jesus.

Compare the 9 beatitudes to the 9 parts of the fruit of the Spirit and we’ll compare notes here real soon.

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Conditions

Do a search. You'll find 16 things that the NT says saves you.

I learned from Robin Sigers that the New Testament tells us that there are 16 things that saves us.  Four of those things you do.  Actually, you have help in doing them, help from God himself, he is involved in these four things with you.  These are not steps of salvation. These are conditions which place us in the very hand of God because of the heart of God who has chosen to save us by grace through faith.

The first condition is FAITH. “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen,” Heb. 11:1.  “Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and rewards those who earnestly seek him” Heb. 11:6. What do

You gotta have faith!

you think.  Faith is essential.  Now God works in our lives so that faith can be instilled in us, faith in God, faith in Jesus the Son of God.  Faith that Jesus is the Son of God and that God has raised him from the dead.  Faith that holds onto truth, reality, and fact.

Faith is foundational. If we are building a house, faith is the foundation.  Everything else it built on it.  You got to have faith!

Another condition of salvation, one of those things you are involved in deciding and doing, is REPENTANCE.  Jesus told us, “But unless you repent, you too will perish,” and “But unless you repent, you too will perish,” Luke 13:3 & 5.

Repent means to turn, to hate sin and turn away from sin.  It’s really that simple.  Though understanding and realizing that is simple, a lot of times, it’s not that simple to do. It implies a trust in God because there is going to be a major change in my life.

Since faith is the foundation, repentance is the framing, the 2×4’s and 2×6’s and such.  The structure of the house.

I have to turn to God, away from sin, I have to pronounce that I hate sin, I have to tell people that I am a sinner and my heart is conditioned than to receive God’s grace in Jesus Christ.

And I must CONFESS.  What must I confess?  Usually in church, when someone presents themselves for baptism, we ask them to

Confess Jesus is Lord and Christ

confess their faith in Jesus.  Often, mostly, we will say the Good Confession, Peter’s confession of Matthew 16:16, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” This is true, but we should be making the Great Confession.  Thomas, doubting Thomas made this confession.  when Jesus appeared to the disciples a second time, Thomas was with them than and he saw Jesus and said, “My Lord and My God,” John 20:28.

Our confession is commitment.  Are we committing to let Christ take control of our lives.  With the Great Commission we will.

Faith is the foundation, and repentance is the framing, confession is the outside, the brick, the siding, the stucco of the walls that people see, seeing the beauty of our life in Christ.

The other condition for salvation is BAPTISM.  Baptism is immersion, not sprinkling or pouring, or some spiritual symbol, it is literally being immersed under the water.

One of the Biblical uses of Baptism/Immersion is when they would have the cloth and it was grungy looking, they would dip it in a solution and it would come out white as could be.  That is the picture we need of baptism.  Jesus told his disciples to make disciples and “to baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,” Matt. 28:19. Peter told the people on the day of Pentecost to “repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of your sins,”

Jesus says you must be immersed.

Acts 2:38. Peter again tells us that “baptism now saves us, not the washing away of dirt from the body, but an appeal toward God for a clear conscience,” 1 Peter 3:21. Baptism is where, due to the activity of faith, we come into contact with the blood of Jesus and God washes our sins away.  It is when salvation begins in my life.

Faith is the foundation, repentance the framing, and confession the outside of the house. Than Baptism is moving into that house.  Let’s get a new address and move into heaven not hell.

I want to be saved.  These four conditions are what I am involved in as a thinking and choosing person.  Choosing faith in Jesus and choosing to obey the God of creation, so that I will come into a personal and loving relationship with a loving and caring Father who wants to live with me.  There are other things that save me, God’s grace, standing firm, and more, but there are four things that I am involved in with God whereby I must be saved.

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Identification Badge

Often one of the first things that we examine when we try to understand who God is, is the many names of God.  There are many, Adonai, Elohim, Yahweh, El Roi, El Shaddai and many others.  Each name has to do with what God has done or with attributes of his character.  But one of those names basically includes what all of his names mean and more.  That name is the I AM.

Popeye the Sailor Man says “I am what I am and that’s all that I am.”  He was saying, I am who I am.  Maybe another way to say it is what you see is who I am.  French philosopher Rene Descartes (1596-1650) said this; “I think therefore I am.”  He is often quoted or his quote is altered for given situations; “I eat therefore I am,” etc.  He was saying because I have consciousness, I must be alive, I apparently exist.

On a tall mountain one hot day in the desert, about 3500 years ago or so, Moses saw a bush on fire but not burning up and went up on that mountain to see what in the world was going on.  It was a curious thing, and got even more bizarre because of what he encountered, or rather, who he encountered and how when he got to where the bush was (Exodus 3 & 4).

In 3:6 God introduced himself to Moses this way, I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Issac, and the God of Jacob” At this Moses hid his face.  He knew he was in the very presence of God, YHWH.  A ways into their conversation, after God told Moses that he was sending him to lead the Children of Israel out of slavery to the Egyptians, Moses, trying to offer objections, said, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask, ‘What is his name?’  Then what shall I tell them?” (3:13). Here’s what God said;“I AM WHO I AM.  This is what you are to say to the Israelites,: I AM has sent me to you.’  God also said to Moses, ‘Say to the Israelites,’ ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers-the God of Abraham, the God of Issac, and the God of Jacob-has sent me to you.  This is my name forever the name by which I am to be remembered from generation to generation'” (3:14-15).

The I AM.  That’s who God is.  The meaning goes something like this, “I Am the Being.”  “I Am the self-sufficient, self-existing One.”

Another way to realize who God is is to look at a couple of verses in Revelation.  “‘I Am the Alpha and Omega,’ says the Lord God, ‘who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty'” (Rev. 1:8) and the worship of the four living creatures who, Revelation says never stop saying, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come” (Rev. 4:8).

He who exists outside of time and space, who lives according to his own life, is involved with us.  He was involved with the Patriarchs, Adam, Enoch, Noah, Abraham.  He was involved with Israel.  He is involved currently with the church.  These all honored and worshiped him, but he is involved in all of creation.  He created the world and everything in it (Gen. 1, 2 & 3).  He sustains this world, keeping it functioning and living (Heb. 1:3).   He reaches into our lives to bring us into relationship with him through Jesus (Hebrews 1:1-4).

Names have meaning.  Names have significance.  Learn the meaning of names in the Bible and you’ll gain understanding into that person or about the event or meaning of what is being revealed.  Abram meant “great father.”  God changed his name to Abraham with means, “father of a multitude.”  My first name means “God’s Peace” or “Peace of God,” and my last name means “descending one.”   Therefore, my name means “The Peace of God Descending.”  I like that.  In fact, that’s what seems to happen to people around me, they experience God’s peace through my faith, my hope, my joy, my encouragement, etc.

God’s name tells us he is the God of Wonders.  Wonderful in love and compassion, wonderful in care and help, wonderful in hope and provision, wonderful to forgive and save.  Wonderful you are O Lord.

He is identified by his name and his name reveals who he is.

All Scripture passages from the New International Version of the Bible.

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ID-ing God

“There is a God shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus”  Blaise Pascal, 1623-1662, French Mathematician, Philosopher & Physicist.

I’m sure that a lot of people when they try to picture God see in their minds the picture Michael Angelo painted on the roof of the Sistine Chapel in Rome, Italy.  God looks like what we think Abraham or Moses might have looked like.  Older, long gray hair and beard, with a firm, determined or an angry look on his face.

Pascal, who I know very little about and I’m not even sure what the context of the above quote is from, noted our need for God.  He described us as having a God-shaped vacuum or a hole in us that only God can fill.  There is this spiritual longing and an emotional search to fill this void.

The search has involved for a lot of different people, forays into a variety of religions, beliefs, philosophies, drug experimentation and alcohol.  Many have attempted to fulfill this “need” with sexual addictions; food issues, work, and anything that is possible.

Honestly, there is a severe need to find out who God is.  Many miss him because they are looking in the wrong places and those systems and addictions capture them and keep them in a bondage that makes it almost impossible to discover God, but he can be found.

…. what may be known about God is plain to humanity, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities-his eternal power and divine nature-have been clearly seen, being understood from has been made….” Romans 1:19-20

If we were simply left to our own search and discovery, than all we might learn about God is that there is some force, spirit, power, or something like that out there.  We wouldn’t know anything about this being.  God has chosen for us to be able to discover that he is there, and he is now often called by those who are trying to determine the earth’s origins an intelligent designer.

Science as it delves deeper into the molecules and atoms and the make-up of our world, continues to discover more and more, without end, and are struggling to believe it is chance.  So much for evolution.  Telescopes and space probes keep learning more and searching farther as if there is no end.  What we learn is that none of this is chance or accident but there was purpose and intelligent thought behind it all.  What or who is that intelligent designer?

It is God!  How do we know it is God?  Because he didn’t just leave it up to our interpreting creation to figure it out.  He chose to reveal himself beyond the world of natural science.  He chose to tell himself about us.  He chose to show himself to us.

Finding God is more than realizing and believing that he is.  That is a key element.  “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those  who earnestly seek him” Hebrews 11:6

If you search for God he will find you.  It won’t matter if you are in the heart of NYC or a desert island in the South Pacific all alone.  He will find you because it is obvious that you want to believe.

One Sunday in late summer of 2008, I shared with around 30 teens about the problem of evil.  The previous two times I was there I shared with them that God loves them and no matter what the trouble may be that they go through and that ultimately, all bad stuff comes from sin, even sickness and disease.

This particular Sunday, I took them to the book of Job.  After explaining the benefits of pain and suffering, we wouldn’t know there was a problem without pain, physical and emotional, and stuff like that, I shared with them about how Job had questioned God about it all.  And showed them how God answered Job.  Job didn’t know the ins and outs of creation, of exactly how great and powerful it is.  He didn’t understand just how God controlled and maintained this world, even caring for Job in the trouble he was going through.

God showed Job that simple faith and trust in him was all that Job had to worry about.  God had control.

One young lady, originally from Russia, had been seeking God.  She asked me a few questions and said, “I don’t know if I believe in God, but I want to.” Over the next 3 or 4 months until she left the program, we worked on developing her faith in God.

She was asking and searching and God sent a messenger to show her the way to him.  In this case the one sent was me.

So, what is God like?  We’re going to find out.

bloggingthechurch

Let’s Take on Faith, Reason, and Nonsense

These discussions are hard, not because they’re rational but because they’re emotional.  It’s hard not to let hurt, disgust, anger, fear, and a number of other possible emotions get involved in the discussion.  It injures me deep in my soul when people attack what I have found and believe to be true.  They feel the same when I say Jesus is the only way.

Well, let’s go back in time 35 or 40 years.  I grew up in central Indiana, in a conservative environment.   A mostly working class community with about 60,000 people, several GM plants, a steel mill, a Dodge transmission factory and the like.   Two large high schools with 1500-2000 students each and a hand full of county high schools of a few hundred each.

I was born into a family of believers.  My parents were part of a church whose fellowship primarily was with  Restoration Churches (http://www.therestorationmovement.com/ and http://www.gotquestions.org/Restoration-movement.html, should help explain the movement).  We were taught the Bible, not a form of theology and doctrine, just what the Bible presents as a whole, you know, Biblio-theology.

I attended Ozark Bible College (now Ozark Christian College, http://www.occ.edu/) a conservative Bible-believing and teaching college and have read and studied over the years what I first believed beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Jesus is the only way to God, salvation, and heaven.  I learned it from those I respected and they shared it with me from the Bible and through reason.  People like Paul Jordan, PT Butler, Knofel Staten, Harvey Bacus, Don Dewelt, Seth Wilson, Wilbur Fields and more and they referred to many apologists such as CS Lewis in Mere Christianity, Josh McDowell with Evidence that Demands a Verdict, and others documenting facts and truth about Jesus.

So . . . for me, it’s pretty simple, Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, my Lord and God (I thank Peter, Mark 8:29 and Thomas, John 20:28 for faithfully confessing these truths for me to learn, believe and confess).  Jesus said “I am the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father but through me” John 14:6 & 9 (cf., Acts 4:12 & 1 Timothy 2:5).  In doing so, I also believe that there is only one way to God and salvation and that is through Jesus.

The problem now lies not in whether I believe it or not, I do, the problem lies in that many don’t or they don’t like that God chose to be so exclusive about access to him.  And when we begin discussing these things, though reason may be present, often emotions are stronger than reason and people go all bongo about what they feel.

Let us look at the identity of Jesus Christ, of who God is and what they have said taking into consideration the claims of many other religions because as one theologian I recently heard on the video The Case for Faith by Lee Strobel (bought it at Wal-Mart for $7.50 last week), all religions could be wrong, but not all of them can be right.

I had (maybe I still do) a lesson book for teens called Don’t Check Your Brains at the Door, let me borrow from and alter the title for use here.  We will use our brains because Christianity is a thinking religion that is filled with faith, hope, and feeling, but as we find the way to salvation, let’s Check Our Emotions at the Door.

What is right and what is true?  Let’s find that out and then put our heart and soul into it.

bloggingthechurch

PS: Check Lee Strobel’s books The Case for Faith and the The Case for Christ for detailed information about this.