Friday, January 30, 2015

Who is God?

"In the beginning God..." - Genesis 1:1

Tonight at CrossLife, we were taught on the Gospel. What it is, what it isn't, why we need it, and who it is who brings it. This is such a big topic that it's actually continuing with a Part 2 next week. But I'm not writing tonight to talk about the topic of the Gospel, no that will come soon enough. Instead, I'm here to talk about God, who He is, what He can do, and who He is not.

First off let me start by saying what God is NOT. God is not evil. In Matthew 19:17, Jesus, speaking to the rich young ruler, says, "No one is good but One, that is, God" (NKJV). Psalm 119:68 tells us that all God does is good. According to Genesis 1, EVERYTHING God created (before the Fall obviously) was good! Romans 8:28 tells us that all will work together FOR good (at least for those who love Him)! Too many people look at the Old Testament and believe that God is evil or cruel, saying that the God of the Old Testament is different than the God of the New Testament. This is not true. Hebrews 13:8 tells us that "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, to day, and forever." And we already know based on Scripture that Jesus and the Father are one-and-the-same (John 10:30).

On that note, God is NOT just love. God is certainly love and I'll talk about that in a bit, but it's not by any means all He is...

So, moving more towards what God IS, He is a JUST God (2 Thessalonians 1:6-7). This means that He is fair and He is true. God's justice however is not always something people would say is "loving", like for example, I don't know, sending people to Hell... However, Genesis and Romans both make it very clear that humanity has chosen a path away from God, away from our Creator, from our original purpose. Even when Israel had God leading them through prophets, judges, and even just through His own spoken word, they STILL rejected Him and wanted a king! Because that's what the world had. It's been made more than clear that God is just in sending those who choose life apart from Him to Hell, they clearly don't want to spend eternity with Him, so sending them to eternity without Him forever seems fair as that's what most people decide to choose.

God, in being just, also exacts vengeance on those who harm His people as Scripture proclaims, "Vengeance is mine; I will repay" says the Lord (Romans 12:19). He will not allow sin to rule and will eventually eradicate the forces of Hell from the Earth itself (Revelation 19:7-21).

However, God is not just wrath and vengeance, or even just justice, He is also LOVE. Most people know God as love, in fact most people believe God is ONLY love (this is incorrect and a dangerous thought to have), and throughout Scripture He does show His love on a constant basis. He promised Adam and Eve redemption through the Messiah (Genesis 3:15), He promised Abraham a son (Genesis 17:1-2), He freed His people from slavery in Egypt (Exodus 12:31-42), He gave them a king even though He was to be their king (1 Samuel 6:8-9), He sent Nathan to David to show Him of his wicked ways (2 Samuel 12), and He appeared to Saul on the Road to Damascus to save Him from eternal damnation (Acts 9) to name a few.

Obviously the single greatest act of love that God has shown to us is putting His own Son to death on a cross (the most brutal death known to man by the way) and having to pour all his wrath, vengeance, and justice on Him instead of us who have been covered by the blood of Christ that was shed on Calvary (John 3:16 anyone...). This is His greatest act of love, coming to Earth as a child to take on our curse and all our sin, to face death head-on, and then to over-come it. Only someone who truly loves someone else with every bit of his being would dare do anything like that, and yet Christ died, returned, and will return again for US! Not to mention, the Lord is with us now, always, in the form of the Comforter, the Holy Spirit which dwells inside of the believer. He is always here guiding, convicting, loving, comforting, supporting, and protecting us. This is His love for us!

But, and most importantly, God is not just good or justice, He doesn't just exact vengeance, He isn't just love, He is also HOLY. Our God is a HOLY God. This means He is pure, without blemish, perfect, and all-powerful. He is omnipotent, omnipresent, omnipotent, He is not bound by time but sees all possibilities and futures, He does not have to focus on any one thing or one person but His full attention is on everyone at once. He isn't someone we can just look upon, He is too holy for us to see (Habakkuk 1:13). In fact, He is so holy, He is light itself. We already know He is good, but He is also light and in the New Heaven and New Earth, the sun will no longer exist as He will be our pure light source (Revelation 22:5)!

You see, God isn't some cosmic entity, "The Force" or "The 'Verse", He is God. He is Spirit, He is the perfect man, He is the Creator. Some of the names of God include, Alpha (beginning), Omega (end), Savior, Messiah, Redeemer, King of kings, Lord of lords, Comforter, Christ, Almighty, the Most High, Lord, Master, Father, Son, Holy Spirit, Adonai, I AM, Immanuel, YHWH, Jehovah, Elohim, The Rock, Strong Tower, Light of the World, Great Shepard, Deliverer, Everlasting Father, Potter, the Bride Groom, the Word, the Vine, Wonderful Counselor, Passover Lamb, Lion of the Tribe of Judah, Prince of Peace, Faithful & True, Abba Father, the Author of Life, and many many more.

Honestly, there's a lot more to be said about WHO God is, I know for a fact that I would never know everything about Him, I won't even pretend like I do (Job 11:7), but I do hope that this is helpful for those who are not sure about why the Old Testament God and New Testament God (who remember, are the same God) are "different" or were under the impression that God is only love. Please continue to study the Scriptures for yourself and have Him reveal Himself to you in different, and probably more exciting, ways.


Friday, January 23, 2015

Trials & Tribulations

"And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you." - 1 Peter 5:10 (ESV)

We all go through trials and tribulations in our lives. Maybe you're having a mid-life crisis, maybe you just got out of or are in a bad relationship, maybe you don't know where your life is heading, or maybe you're not sure you believe in God's promises at all. I'm not going to tell you that I have a straight-up answer for you, because I don't, but I am going to tell you what GOD says about trials and tribulations, but before I do, let's talk about what the difference between a trial and a tribulation is...

A trial is a test, usually of performance. In context of Scripture, it can be said to be a test of your faith (the entire story of the Book of Job could be considered a trial be definition) or maybe your trust (take Moses and the water and the rock from Numbers 20). Either way, a trial is something you have to go through, something you have to complete, often in order to achieve something.

A tribulation on the other hand is a "cause of great trouble or suffering". As said above, parts of the Book of Job could also relate to this as Job did loose everything he had except his nagging wife. Tribulations usually come when least expected and hit you like a semi-truck. They come with no warning and usually with no mercy. The news that a family member has died, a friend who's committed suicide, someone you know getting cancer. Tribulations, like trials, are used by God to restore or reaffirm your trust and commitment to Him.

But what does God actually have to say about trials and tribulations? Where is the hope in them?

Well, according to James 1:12, He blesses the man who has remained steadfast under the trial, because once completed he will receive a Crown of Life. Earlier in this chapter, James tells us to "count it all as joy" that we experience temptation because this is considered a trial of faith.

In 1 Corinthians 10:13, He reassures us that NO temptation that is put before us is too great as He will ALWAYS provide a way out.

Romans 12:12 says, "Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer." (ESV)

Psalms 23:4 asks us to remember that though we walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, we should fear no evil because He comforts us.

Jesus tells us in John 16:33 that although we WILL have tribulation that we should be in "good cheer" as He has "overcome the world".

And of course He so subtly points out in Matthew 19:26, "With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." Now, the actual context of this verse is Jesus responding to His disciples when they asked who could be saved, but I think that it, like Philippians 4:13 often does, can be applied here as obviously ALL things are possible with the Lord in ANY circumstance. Duh.

These are just a few of many verses in the Bible that give insight into how to deal with trials and tribulations, there are many stories in Scripture that are about these things as well. I often think of the trials that Daniel and his three friends went through in Babylon where they were to be burned alive or eaten alive by lions, yet they stood strong for their Lord. How many of us would have the strength to do that today? Or how about David standing up to Goliath, a literal 9-13 foot giant who could eat him whole, would we do that today?

Through Scripture we know that God is with us at all times, through our trials and tribulations He is always listening and will NEVER leave us or forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:8). I myself have gone through a few trials over the course of the past 6-7 months, which I believe was always one trial developing as time went on, and to be honest with you I'm not sure if it's over yet. My trial has had to do mostly with my eternal destiny, Heaven or Hell? Philippians 2:12-13 reminded me that working through my salvation with fear and trembling is a good thing as it means the Spirit is working within us. Tonight I was reminded of what the Gospel truly means and it has encouraged and empowered me.

I am deeply sorry that I haven't written on this blog in a while, and I pray that I won't have this long of a hiatus again. I also pray that this will help those going through trials and tribulations right now if not to just encourage and empower them, reminding them that trials and tribulations do end and by the time they do, the Lord has worked in and through you in ways you could not have imagined. Take care, love you all!