Posts Tagged God
Did you remember God today?
I mean, in the busyness and blur of daily life, has God somehow, albeit inadvertently, been sidelined?
I mean, did you begin today in prayer? In fact, I suppose we could ask, what were our first, waking thoughts this morning: did God cross our mind at all?
There’s a constant thread running through the scriptures that remind us of who God is, and for that matter, who we are — reminders, for those who will listen and take to heart, of what the covenant relationship we’ve been called into is all about.
The fourth commandment here comes to mind. God begins with, “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy…” (Exodus 20:8) — reminding us to take some much needed rest.
Now we could ask: Does God really have to remind us to rest, and perhaps more importantly, at His appointed times? It would seem so.
Jesus reminded His followers that they were to love God with all their heart, and all their mind, and all their soul and all their strength! How easy do you think this is? Do you remember when you first “fell in love”. You couldn’t stop thinking about the new love in your life! In fact, at the mere mention of your beloved’s name, your heart skipped a beat.
That’s the kind of ongoing commitment God has called and invited us into.
God says to a people who have all but forgotten: “But I have this against you, that you left your first love. Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent, and do the first works…” (Revelation 2:4-5)
There’s really no excuse. Saying “there is no God” is one thing; but to treat Him with indifference, or apathy, and then perhaps to finally dismiss or deny His Word, may well be a sin of omission that’s simply inexcusable.
So, where is the line of accountability in our relationship to God drawn? Did you know that God remembers us? We’ve often heard about the Book of Life in the Bible, but apparently there’s another book in heaven worth noting. It’s called the Book of Remembrance.
We read from Malachi: “So a book of remembrance was written before Him For those who fear the LORD And who meditate on His name.” (Malachi 3:16)
Does that mean that God has a specific book that remembers those who treat Him with awe and respect, and who constantly think on Him? It certainly sounds like it.
So, the question really is: What does God remember about us? You know, the answer isn’t all that much a surprise: we are largely the ones responsible for determining that record.
Everything we say and do that’s holy forms the “ink” (if you like) in God’s Book of Remembrance.
May God grant us all a heart that loves and a mind that truly remembers Him.
Who is the God of our imagination? I mean, how do we think of God? Who or what comes to mind?
It’s a question worth exploring.
You see, a lot of people say they believe in a sort of “higher intelligence”, a God who is said to have made everything, and yet when you ask them specifically about this God, you’re likely to get a whole range of answers.
Some people say they tend to see the God of the Old Testament as a bit too patriarchal and jealous at times. He seems, well, a bit mean, and ever ready with retribution.
On the extreme, a renowned atheist recently described God as: “a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.” (Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion, 2006)
Yet, many believers prefer what they seem to see as the gentler Jesus of the New Testament – someone who loved little children.
So, how do you see God?
Well, to begin with, what we have is the Bible as a testimony, the most printed and published book ever in history! It’s a witness; the only testimony we have that tells us about God – who He is and what He is doing. And, it is important to note what is called “the Christology” of this unique book. Simply put, the God “of the Old Testament” was none other than Jesus Christ Himself! Jesus was God who came from the Father to live among us, to reveal God the Father, and when His work was done, to then return.
The writings of Jesus’ friend John, and as found in the Book of Hebrews, plainly state that it was Jesus who made the world; it was Jesus who spoke everything into existence.
John described Jesus as: “God is love.” He went on to write that “in God there is no darkness at all”! (1 John 1:5)
The problem exists where some casual Bible readers argue that: wasn’t it God who sent a flood and drowned humanity in the days of Noah? Wasn’t it God who destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah with fire and brimstone?
Wasn’t it God who sent devastating plagues on ancient Egypt? And, wasn’t it God who told the ancient Israelites to utterly destroy the peoples in Canaan?
How could He be the same God in Jesus, they ask, who willingly suffered and paid for the sins of the world?
Well, to begin with, we must understand the depravation and wickedness of some of the ancient peoples, who allowed their children, for example, to pass through the fire to their god Molech.
Do you know what this was? This was nothing less than child sacrifice in the name of religion! It was this, among other abominable practices, that caused God to intervene at various times in history.
Yes, we may read about the gentle Jesus who blessed the little children who came to Him. But let’s think carefully then how this same Jesus might feel about the killing of innocent, little children?
Could a just God have remained silent on, for example, the horrific time of ethnic killing of all baby boys – thrown into the Nile to be eaten by crocodiles – by the Egyptians? There are other records in the Bible and in history, too, where the killing of children occurred.
Certainly such acts, in individual cases or widespread throughout society, are an indicator of just how depraved and wicked people can become.
Now, God is a God of justice. Nothing escapes His attention. He is a passionate God; a God with feeling.
Listen to what He says as recorded in the Book of Jeremiah, “Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you.” (Jeremiah 31:3)
That term “loving kindness”: There’s really no singular English word that can convey the Hebrew “khesed” (a word that is used some 240 times in the Old Testament) – the nearest we have in English that describes God is “loving kindness” or even translated elsewhere in the Bible as “mercy”.
So, the question remains, how does God deal with the “wicked”?
Did you know that God gave Noah 120 years to preach a message of repentance before the flood came?
Did you know that God visited Abraham to discuss the outcome of the “exceedingly wicked” citizens of Sodom and Gomorrah?
Of course, we may ask: How is all this relevant to us in our times?
Naturally, we want “God” to be good and gentle and kind, but we don’t really want Him meddling in our private affairs, do we? By that I mean, haven’t our own sins in this world piled high to heaven?
May I ask: What is abortion but the condoned killing of baby children?
Millions of children are being killed each year in our world. The ancients at least claimed some sort of religious overlay, but are not ours killings of convenience? Sadly, we don’t even call them babies anymore – that would be too personal. We instead label them as embryos or fetuses.
How do you think God feels about those we kill – those who are being formed “in His image and His likeness”? Now, of course, if we don’t believe in God (and therefore our accountability to Him), then the “survival of the fittest” mode means nothing less than a dark and deadly world.
There are few of us, however, believe it or not, whose work is to witness that there is a God, an awesome, powerful, righteous, loving God – a God, however, Who may not necessarily fit “the God of our imagination”.
This God is real, and personal, and He tells those of us willing to listen that He’s coming “quickly”.
If we turn to the last book of the Bible, Revelation, where we’re given a glimpse of the world at a time of economic upheaval, war and suffering, we would do well to also note the condition of this society:
“For her sins [the sins of this society] have reached to heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities.” (Revelation 18:5)
God doesn’t hide from us what He’s going to do. He is a God of Justice, as much as He a God of mercy and compassion, and the pages of scripture testify to: Who He is; what He has done in the past; what He’s doing now, and, what His plans are for the future.
You know, we really have only one recourse: we need to genuinely turn and seek God, and come to know Him. Can we turn from our sinful ways? Are we able to ask His forgiveness? Do we doubt the extent of His grace?
For the MessageWeek team, I’m John Klassek.
One thing is certain: an encounter with the real God is bound to change us forever; but, persisting with “the God of our imagination” is a convenient risk too great to contemplate.
What does it take to come to know God – the God who created everything there is and who knows you personally?
There’s more to this question than we may at first think. Are there things and circumstances that can prevent or dissuade us from finding God?
Let me explain: the western world has enjoyed some 50 or so years of relative peace with unprecedented prosperity. Never before have so many people been so well off. Yes, I know property prices today are inflated, but it seems that we have more of everything available to us now than ever before.
The “resources boom” where I live in Western Australia has made the past decade one of the most prosperous ever. Gold, copper, iron, nickel, gas and oil are in abundant supply. Unemployment is virtually non-existent. An increasing turnover in our annual Christmas shopping sprees reflects this ever growing wealth. Our social security services have afforded the poorest among us a reasonable, if not enviable, standard of living.
And, in case you haven’t noticed, our country’s outlook has shifted. No longer do our school assemblies feature the Lord’s Prayer; in contrast, our high schools now no longer teach the “theory of evolution” – it is taught as fact. In this equation, there is no room for God.
A few years ago, when discussing the high school course outlines for one of my daughters at an orientation meeting, I explained to the interviewing teacher that because we’re followers of Jesus, [ie. Christians,] the underlying premises for her biology classes, being evolution, would not apply – and politely asked how we might best negotiate around it. The teacher responded rather abruptly, and made what I felt a somewhat scornful remark to one of her peers – all within earshot.
I had expected an empathetic hearing, thinking that our national multiculturalism and expanding tolerance for ethnic and multi-faiths would have been incorporated into the state education system. Instead, I learned quite differently – and that the decades of change on so many fronts bring with it results we don’t always anticipate.
No one can deny that our society is changing. Have you noticed, for example, that the rated content on our televisions has, over time, changed? Nudity, explicit crime scenes and other “simulated” scenes feature daily as the centrepiece of our prime time lounge room viewing. It seems that our accepted levels of tolerance have, over time, imperceptibly changed. Even more surreptitious, however, has been the influence media has had on us. Our references to wisdom no longer emanate from Christian terms of reference [as they used to]; have you noticed how many popular movies nowadays feature wise Buddhist sayings?
Then there’s the issue of infanticide. The altar of abortion as acceptable to our society today would horrify our forefathers. A few generations ago, families placing greater value on human life would have stilled any notion that abortion may even be touted as acceptable in some circumstances. But, every year, for whatever reason, we sacrifice 42 million humans worldwide.
The moral compass that used to guide our lawmakers, politicians and religious leaders, such as “You shall not kill,” isn’t so relevant nowadays. Even Christian theologians tout that the Ten Commandments were “nailed to the cross” – that is, their relevance only applying to an ancient people and not to us.
So, the issue we’re really getting at, is God, or a faith in God, really all that relevant to us any more? Do we need God in today’s society? Or, have we slowly weaned ourselves “off that crutch”; are we sufficiently enlightened for the better?
When I say “God”, I’m referring to the God in the Bible, revealed through the life and teachings of Jesus Christ.
Because, far from being dead, religion and superstition is well and truly alive. In the past few years you may have noticed new shops offering products never seen before in Australia. We’re not talking about new and amazing technological innovations. Rather, I’m referring to the gods and deities that originate from neighbouring Asian countries. Last month I came across two new shops in prime suburban locations offering hundreds of Buddhas, Hindu gods and other eastern statues of varying sizes and shapes. I remarked to my friends that it’s a wonder those businesses are able to make a living selling those things, and they responded saying, “You’d be surprised at how many people buy them!”
So who in Australia buys Buddha statues? Are they mere decorations, items of exquisite artwork, or do they convey some of the intrigue, power and mystery they possess in Asian homelands?
I think our problem with the God of the Bible is that He tells us things we don’t want to hear. He tells us how to live; and warns us of the consequences if we don’t listen to Him. God asks us for all our attention. He tells us that He made us, and that we’re prosperous because He has blessed us.
The gods we have substituted, however, whether a statue of Buddha or the sports car we shine every weekend, remain pleasingly silent on those issues.
God also frequently warns us about the danger of riches. Jesus said that it was impossible for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Wealth it seems obscures our understanding of how needful we really are; it gives us a false sense of security.
A wise man once prayed, “Don’t let me be so poor that I would steal for food, or let me become so rich that I would forget you.” (Proverb 30:8-9)
There’s something in that prayer that we have neglected. In becoming affluent, we have forgotten the very core values that set us on this journey.
Think about it. We have failed to be thankful for all that we have, and what I mean by this is that we have neglected to “join the dots” between our prosperity and our successes to the providence of God. (Instead, we boast that it’s technological innovation that has made us better off).
A few years ago, the Australian Government endorsed and promoted National Thanksgiving Day, with the motto on their website reflecting the words: Say thanks to God and say thanks to each other.
I was particularly touched by the frankness of including God in our national Thanksgiving statement. Because Australians don’t necessarily see themselves as a Christian-based society any longer, a direct attribution to “God” seemed almost “out of touch” with mainstream thinking.
When the Government recently awarded pensioners a once-off large sum payment, the first response we heard from the media, pensioners and others was to criticise it. Some complained it was a waste of tax payer funds. Others felt it would hurt the economy. Still others said it wasn’t enough to really help.
Are we becoming more ungrateful the richer we become?
Now, if you were privy to what God’s thoughts might be on our emerging national ethos, how would you respond? I mean, what are God’s thoughts and intentions to a people like us?
Thankfully, history speaks for itself of a people not so dissimilar to ourselves. Throughout the experience of the prophets of old, as recorded in the Bible, was the warning that if people moved away from the one and only God to “worship things made with hands” the consequences would be dire.
From prosperity to poverty, freedom to captivity, health to diseases, was the warning the prophets echoed again and again. And, in due course, those people of old learned some painful lessons over and over; no wonder so many of the prophets were killed or imprisoned.
Despite our failings, however, there is a silver lining running concurrent to the trends of emerging affluence.
No matter how decadent a society becomes, it seems that historically, there has always been a God-loving and faithful remnant; a percentage of people who have not traded their faith for, for example, the lie of evolution or superstition in other eastern gods. People who genuinely seek God, and live changed lives; in Jesus’ words, who are “in the world but not of the world” – people who “keep the commandments of God and the testimony of Jesus”.
Their lives of faith are all the more accentuated in an “educated” society that at best says, “We evolved. There is no God.”
So if faith is preserved and nurtured in the righteous in the midst of a wicked and perverse generation, and that God is the centre of their life compass, what are the odds of anyone finding this God?
It’s a good question. The good news message proclaiming the heritage and promises of God have been there for us in a book called the Bible, and it is to those who “hear” it that it applies.
“He that has an ear, let him hear,” said Jesus on numerous occasions.
Jesus also explained the miracle of someone coming to genuine faith; it is something that can’t be achieved by reasoning or intellect alone.
Jesus explained it this way, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who has sent Me draw him, and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:44)
It comes down to calling, a specific calling by God, coupled then with the willingness to listen. The good message has always been proclaimed and taught; today the Bible holds the position as the world’s most printed and published book! No other text compares.
Yet, despite its Divine authorship, riches and wealth make it so much harder to hear and understand the message. We become distracted and comfortable, and simply fail to perceive just how needy we are.
To a people of old, God said, “Because you say, I am rich and increased with goods and have need of nothing, and do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked…” (Revelation 3:17)
Has anything changed today? Affluence takes its toll, unfortunately, in ways that are more harmful than beneficial. The signature of human nature is exactly the same as it has been from old; greed and ingratitude.
That is, however, as history confirms, until calamity strikes. Some insurance policies include the somewhat ironic “act of God” clause, referring to events beyond human control, such as hurricanes, earthquakes or volcanic eruptions.
It is often in times of calamity, or war, or profound suffering that people in desperation “turn to God”. It’s happened in the past, and if history is any precedence, it will happen again.
When stripped of those material things that give us a false sense of security and power, we only somehow then perceive our own inadequacies.
Jesus Christ gave John a vision of the future, where he saw “an innumerable multitude” from every nation and language, singing songs to God. In learning their identity, the angel told John, “These are the ones who came out of the great tribulation…” (Revelation 17:14)
The Great Tribulation is a term that encapsulates a time yet future, just prior to Jesus’ return, when the world is at war. Suffering is so vast and incomprehensible, and global warming so intense, that it seems many [more than what is humanly possible to enumerate] will finally “turn to God”.
And as tragic as is the reality that only through suffering will human hearts turn to God, the silver lining is that they do turn!
You see, God doesn’t force His will and way on us. He simply asks us to choose, and in doing so, we also choose the consequences.
To an ancient people, not unlike ourselves [in the western world], God spoke:
“I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing. Therefore, choose life, so that both you and your children may live, so that you may love Jehovah your God…” (Deuteronomy 30:19-20)
The choice is ours. Will we hear, today? Can we recognise that the abundance we have isn’t ours because we’re smarter; but because God is, that He loves us and has blessed us – not because we deserve it, but because He is faithful?
By John Klassek