Thursday, December 31, 2015

The God Who is Up Close and Personal

Thursday, December 31, 2015

For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.”  John 4:24(NLT)
In speaking to the Samaritan woman at the well, Jesus revealed the great truth that our God is not impressed with outward displays of righteousness.  He exists in a realm that provides Him with access to the inner being of any man or woman. 

Jesus saw the deep spiritual need of the woman, and he knows our needs also.  It is possible to please God only when the inner person – that spirit within each of us – is in harmony with the heart of a spiritual God.  Jesus told us in His earthly ministry that the only way to come to the Father was through Him.  And so that tells us that it is only possible to worship God by accepting Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.

The personality of God is seen in the personal way God has dealt with mankind.  From a bush that burned, and was not consumed, God said to Moses, I Am.  Reality and cognizant existence are personal qualities.  God weeps, loves, hates, cares, creates and feels loss. 

There is one concept of God called pantheism which says that God is in everything, literally.  He is in trees, grass, oceans, a component part.  This robs God of personality, making him merely substance, or part of the creation. 

God is personal, and He takes a personal interest in His creation. 

There are those who may still subscribe to the idea of a "hands-off" type of God.  This was popular in the 1950's and early 60's.  This pictures God as a creator who made the world like a craftsman makes a grandfather clock, winds it up, and lets it run by itself; God never interferes, man can take care of himself. 

How different is the biblical view of God!

The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.  Psalm 145:18(NLT)

In one episode of "The X-Files," agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully are discussing a prison chaplain who claims that God speaks directly to him. When Mulder expresses skepticism that such a thing could ever happen, Scully asks:   Don't you think God can talk with people?

Mulder replies:  God is just a spectator. He only reads the box scores.[2]

But that's not the way it was when the children of Israel cried-out to God from bondage in Egypt.  God rocked the kingdom of Pharaoh until he drove them out.  God didn't apply hands off when they were boxed-in with mountains on two sides, Pharaoh's army behind, and the Great Red Sea in front.  God's personal breath blew every last drop out of the way, and His personal family walked over on dry land. 

Humankind numbers in the billions, and with all His creation, Yahweh is a personal God who loves us consciously. 

How Up Close and Personal is our God?  The world was lost in sin and degradation, and the personal God who loved us came to our rescue…as one of us. 

For You Today

The question (for those humans who choose to honestly face reality) never centers on whether or not God knows everything about us, or wants to be personally involved with us.  It’s more a question as to whether we will respond to His invitation, and begin to know Him personally and up close.

You chew on that out on that Rocky Road today…and have a joy-filled and blessed day!

[1] Title image:  Henryk Siemiradzki [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
[2] Stephen Nordbye, Charlton, Massachusetts

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Islam and Christianity; Same God?

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Devotion VIDEO here

“You must not have any other god but me.”  Exodus 20:3(NLT)
Islam, the faith of the Muslim community, and Christianity have some core beliefs in common; the question which is disturbing and often missed entirely by both groups is:  do Muslims and Christians worship the same God?

Two weeks ago Professor Larycia Hawkins at Wheaton College (a Christian university) was put on administrative leave to reconsider her statements that the college considers inconsistent with Christian doctrine:

[She] “…had stated on Facebook, I stand in religious solidarity with Muslims because they, like me, a Christian, are people of the book.  And as Pope Francis stated last week, we worship the same God.” [2]

Responding in an article, former Muslim, Nabeel Qureshi wrote:

…the Christian God, both in terms of what he is (Triune) and who he is (Father, Son, and Spirit) is not just different from the Muslim God; He is fundamentally incompatible.  According to Islam, worshiping the Christian God is not just wrong; it sends you to Hell.  They are not the same God.[3]

Qureshi states three reasons he makes this assertion:

1.     Christians believe Jesus is God, but the Quran is so opposed to this belief that it condemns Jesus worshipers to Hell (5.72)

2.     According to Jesus, God is our Father, yet the Quran very specifically denies that Allah is a father (112.1-4). In fact, in 5.18, the Quran tells Muslims to rebuke Jews and Christians for calling God their loving Father because humans are just things that God has created.

3.     Islam roundly condemns worship of the Trinity (5.73), establishing in contrast its own core principle: Tawhid, the absolute oneness of God. Tawhid specifically denies the Trinity, so much so that it is safe to say the doctrine of God in Christianity is antithetical to the doctrine of God in Islam. Not just different but completely opposed to one another.

Qureshi makes the important point that because people hold different ideas about God, we ought not demonize them.  This only creates more hostility – and that’s one thing our culture does not need.

On the other hand, serious Christians should have these differences held in clear distinction in order to help others who blindly state that we all serve the same God.   Nothing could be further from the truth.

How you “view” God and the doctrines you hold about how God treats people, thinks about people and wants us to treat people, will create your worldview, and color all your decisions. 

I personally think we can stand in solidarity with Muslims on the issues of peace, justice and treating others with kindness…in short, anything that does not deny our faith.  But to hold that we serve the same God is to try to do something that neither religion embraces. 

Jesus set the bar that separates Christianity from every other religion:

Anyone who isn’t with me opposes me, and anyone who isn’t working with me is actually working against me.   Matthew 12:30(NLT)

For You Today

Shoot the messenger here if you must, but Muslim Islamic faith does not worship the same God as those who are baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

You chew on that out on that Rocky Road today…and have a joy-filled and blessed day!

[1] Title image:  By Carlos Latuff ( [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
[3] Ibid.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

In the Beginning

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.   

Genesis 1:1(NLT)

Devotion VIDEO here

In the same way that a novel-writer will not attempt to prove that he exists, the Bible does not attempt to prove the existence of God.  The first four words of Genesis tell the story – In the beginning God....  With that the Bible assumes what addle-brained atheists, and so-called intellectual evolutionists have been wrong about for centuries...God IS

Protagoras, a philosopher who lived 2500 years ago, said:  Man is the measure of all things: of things which are, that they are so, and of things which are not, that they are not.[2]  

That's like saying that the genius in automatic transmissions is the intricate gears, or that the beauty of the Mona Lisa is in paint and canvas.  Man (according to Scripture) may be the crown of all creation, but he is still the object of creation, and not the Creator; for that you need God! 

A car’s transmission would never have existed without the excellence of a human engineer putting it together; the Mona Lisa’s beauty never could have shown from the canvas, except it first existed in the mind of a master artist.  In just that way, the center of every original thought and deed of all time and eternity is the One we call God.  As Psalms 14:1 tells us, it is only the fool who has said in his heart, there is no God.

For those of us who believe in God, we want to do our best to persuade those who do not.  A man asked another man on the street about God; why do people say God is everywhere?  I don't see him anywhere.  With that the other man picked up a rock and clobbered him with it. 

Why did you do that, asked the complainer, man that hurts! 

The rock-wielder replied, you say you have pain in your head; I don't SEE any pain.  Show me your pain and I'll believe it exists!  The man made his point.

But it is largely unnecessary to convince ANYONE, because the Bible says the reality of God is apparent to all people even as they behold the things of nature.[3]  

Anyone who can look at the wonder and complexity of the creation in which we exist and still proclaim God doesn’t exist is either not being honest, or he’s a fruitcake and therefore dangerous.

The fact is that knowledge of God is inherent in created beings.  We KNOW He's real!  And any nonsense about Him being dead, asleep, or never was, is just THAT....NONSENSE! 

For You Today

You were never asked to prove God to anyone; just show them the reality of God in you as you live the God-journey every day.

You chew on that out on that Rocky Road today…and have a joy-filled and blessed day!

[1] Title image:  Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
[2] Wikipedia
[3] Romans 1:19-20

Monday, December 28, 2015

No More!

Monday, December 28, 2015
He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”  Revelation 21:4(NLT)  
It’s most difficult to approach a new year without some looking back.  Perhaps that’s why this text is part of today’s readings – it leaves looking back in the rear view mirror!  At this point in Revelation’s prophecy everything points forward to a time when all the memories of sorrow, pain and death are just that – memories. 

There is going to come a time when what we generally picture when we use the phrase “eternal life” will be a reality – no more death, sorrow, crying or pain.

He said no more.

Frankly, I find it hard to imagine, especially at this stage of life, nearing the threshold of my eighth decade.  Yet, I think about it more, and have faith that it is true.

A question that comes on the heels of every sermon on this topic of heaven and God wiping away all tears is:  Will we remember?  And it’s a fair question as to IF we will recall every tear, heartache and loss.  Of course the answer becomes conjecture at best, and an argument from silence at worst, because Scripture, as far as I can tell, is not specific at this point.  And what God has not told us, we can only speculate.

My speculative answer is that I believe we will recall everything, which is based on John’s wipe every tear from their eyes proclamation.  After all, if you’re going to have tears, you have to remember what made you cry in the first place.

Arriving at that deduction is based on one of John’s other statements:

Dear friends, we are already God’s children, but he has not yet shown us what we will be like when Christ appears. But we do know that we will be like him, for we will see him as he really is.   1 John 3:2(NLT)

Now since we will be like him then, we will also remember, think and reason perfectly.  Therefore we will also understand how the perfect will of God has been fulfilled.  This is the reason for drying of eyes – we will have been introduced at that point to all the answers to all our “why’s”.  All our speculation and doubt over this life’s pain, sorrow, crying and death will melt into crystal clear understanding, and we will know as God knows.

Knowing as God knows is like finally being able to look at the tapestry from the right side.  If you have ever looked at the back side of a tapestry hanging on a wall, you only see there are threads going everywhere; not much pattern.  Flip it over, and you understand – you see the big picture, and begin to understand the artist’s heart.

Our life on earth is somewhat like that because of sin.  While we have the stamp of the Artist’s image on our hearts, it is blurred, distorted and fading.  The Apostle Paul reminds us that it won’t always be that way:

All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.  1 Corinthians 13:12(NLT)  

For You Today

This past year may have been a tough one; 2016 may be tougher or easier, filled with pain and heartache, or a pause in the crying and tears department. 

We never know what lies around the next corner.

But HE knows, and for those who trust in Christ, we trust that someday those tears and everything that caused them will cease; He will say NO MORE!

You chew on that out on that Rocky Road today…and have a joy-filled and blessed day!

[1] Title image:  Walter Langley [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons