Sunday, February 26, 2017

Theology: Who is God? Comprehending an Infinite Creator

Audio Message:

Accompanying Video:  Who is God, really?

One of my favorite gospel preachers A.W. Tozer said, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.”

We were building a foundation in the previous messages. The foundation of the structure is truth, that we can know truth, and make use of knowledge and information to understand reality. Secondly, the next layer on top of truth was science. Given that we can know truth, we can certainly know science, and through science, reason that a God who made the universe is in fact logical, and given our universe’s harmony and the earth’s ability to sustain life in such a delicate balance, it is quite reasonable to believe. Next we talked about history, given that science supports the existence of God, we looked at the biblical documents and recorded history, seeing that we can in fact trust the Bible as the word of God, given manuscript authority, historical accuracy, and a demonstration of supernatural facts in the Bible, like the fulfilled prophecies of Christ’s coming.

So now today we’re talking about Theology, which literally means, the study of God. I think it’s important that we understand though that we’re not self-referencing the Bible to itself. The Bible is the word of God, because the Bible says it’s the word of God, is a fallacious argument. But, we can reasonably say that science supports the existence of God, the Bible is historically and archaeologically accurate, and the Bible has demonstrated a supernatural ability to predict future events. One can also reason from the growth of Christianity, the personal witness of 2.1 billion Christians who testify to the divinity of Jesus, and the eye witness accounts in the scriptures that say that they saw Jesus alive after his crucifixion. All of this makes a cumulative case that the Bible is the word of God, and Jesus Christ is a Living savior.

So we ask today: Who is God?  First, let’s look at what the Salvation Army doctrines say about God:

2. We believe that there is only one God, who is infinitely perfect, the Creator, Preserver, and Governor of all things, and who is the only proper object of religious worship.
3. We believe that there are three persons in the Godhead - the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, undivided in essence and co-equal in power and glory.  

God created all things. God preserves all things, meaning he literally holds reality together, and God is also the governor of all, he’s sovereignly in charge of reality. This infers our moral accountability to Him. And we also see that God’s nature is fundamentally triune. God is Father, God is Son, and God is Holy Spirit. Yet He is One God, not three. One God. And he is infinitely perfect, a statement indicating a transcendent perfection that goes beyond our natural understanding.

Next we’ll take a quick look at a section of a famous confession of faith made in 1646, called the Westminster Confession:

"There is but one only,[1] living, and true God,[2] who is infinite in being and perfection,[3] a most pure spirit,[4] invisible,[5] without body, parts,[6] or passions;[7] immutable,[8] immense,[9] eternal,[10] incomprehensible,[11] almighty,[12] most wise,[13] most holy,[14] most free,[15] most absolute;[16] working all things according to the counsel of His own immutable and most righteous will,[17] for His own glory;[18] most loving,[19] gracious, merciful, long-suffering, abundant in goodness and truth, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin;[20] the rewarder of them that diligently seek Him;[21] and withal, most just, and terrible in His judgments,[22] hating all sin,[23] and who will by no means clear the guilty."[24]

-excerpt from “Of God and the Holy Trinity.”

This is a classic reformed statement regarding who God is. Each of the numbers in the statement reference a different scripture verse. This is actually only 1/3 of their “Of God and the Holy Trinity” statement. But I thought it would be fun to read over some of it.

We are truly exploring a wonderful question, and what’s amazing and shocking about the search for God is that when we search after Him, He responds and comes close to us. It send shivers up my spine to think of it actually. I've studied many subjects, but to study God is to feel his presence in the room with you.

Often times what God says about himself is phrased as a question, not all the time, but many times. Just as in our scripture today the first verses were, “To whom will you compare me? Or who is my equal?” God gave those words to Isaiah, probably directly into his mind, and Isaiah wrote them down. What an elegant way to address the question!

"Who is God?"  Well, a good response is, "To whom could we compare God?"  And essentially that is the best we can do. God is infinite, eternal, and all powerful. Those are three realities we simply cannot understand. We are linear as humans, we exist at a single point in time, able to reflect backwards and forwards, but we can’t see eternity. We just can’t. We can hardly comprehend what the word means. Which is why many skeptics will ask, well if God created the universe, who created God? And its just like… what do you mean? If God could be created by something else, he wouldn’t be God. The thing that created Him would have to be God, which then becomes an infinite regression, a fallacy of logic. But that’s how many think; in human terms. But ultimately there has to be something at the very beginning, with no beginning and no end. Many thought maybe it was the universe, but scientists today know that the universe had a beginning. That leaves, God, who must be infinite. Which we can’t understand. Which is tough.

So the best way we have to at least glimpse some of who God is, is through comparisons. And we certainly have reasonable comparisons, after all, if God made all things, then everything offers at least some reflection of who He is. Just as if I paint a painting or write a story, certain things in those works will display who I am.

Let’s look at who God is from two perspectives, first, How God relates to us, in other words, How God connects to us. and secondly, what God says about himself in the holy scriptures.

You can open your Bible to Isaiah chapter 40 if you'd like, that’s where we’ll be looking at God’s relational aspects.

First of all God shows that he is Father. The way a son or daughter relates to dad, gives us some clues as to who God is. Like children to a dad, God our Father firmly insists that we are accountable to him. Yet he is so tender with us, that he invites us through the Spirit to call out “abba” which means “daddy.”

Any of you remember the game you played as kids, “my dad is the strongest?” With my cousins, Travis would say, “my dad is the strongest dad in the world.” And Ben would say,”My dad is even stronger than that.” And Then I’d say “Yeah well, my dads stronger than Chuck Norris.” When we’re young we look up at our dads in awe of their strength, and ability, and firmness and resolve. In the same way God calls us to reflect on his ability, wisdom, and majesty.

God’s wisdom is beyond measure, his greatness beyond all we can comprehend. Isaiah chapter 40 verse 10; “See, the Sovereign Lord comes with power, and he rules with a mighty arm.”

Secondly we have God as our savior. He is our hero. Much like we see heroes in popular media, who come along and do great deeds. We see the fullness of God as our savior in Jesus Christ.

Again from Isaiah chapter 40 verse 30 “Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles.” God is our great redeemer, the one who strengthens us, gives us hope, renews our strength and sets us to soar upon the heights.

Thirdly, God is indwelling presence. He is our leader. A good analogy I think is of Gandalf the wizard from the Lord of the Rings. We set out on a quest, and companions go along with us, our family, friends, and of course, God, the guide, the wizard, the supernatural presence with us on the journey of life. Whenever we’re in trouble, or we need help or guidance, or wisdom, we turn to the wizard, the supernatural presence with us, which is God who indwells us.

Isaiah 40:11 says “He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.” Truly, we have a God who is tender, gentle, and full of love. God is our shepherd, our guide through the world, as He lives within us.

These are three pictures of who God is to us, and how he connects to us. We accurately see him as our Father, and our savior, and our guiding spirit. All true. Yet I’d like to direct you to a 4th aspect of God.

For the rest of this mystery of God, we turn to the name of God. God’s name is Yahweh. Which means, “I am.” And God specifically told Moses, my name is “I am who I am.” Theologians have said that this phrase points us directly to the otherness of God.

This is a vital statement to understand: God is not like us. He is not human. This is the grand mystery, the enchanting, mystifying, glorious, unimaginable fact of God. He says “I am who I am.” He is saying, I am the self existent one. I made everything. I made the universe from nothing, and I am not like you. He is not ruled by petty passions, he is not limited by human concepts, he is not stationed in time or space he is beyond time, beyond space, beyond sun, moon, galaxies or parallel dimensions. He is so far beyond us. He is a grand, shocking, mystifying, and often terrifying mystery to us as humans. He is not like us. Our thoughts are not his thoughts.

Psalm 90 verse 2: ”Before the mountains were born, before you gave birth to the earth and the world, you were God. You are God from everlasting to everlasting.” Before there was a universe, an earth or a human race, there was God. Psalm 90 verse 4 says “A thousand years in your sight

are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night.” Which means, God exists outside time. He probably perceives time like we perceive looking at a painting. He sees it all at once.

These aspects of God, his otherness, his eternal nature, and his timeless perspective point us to the fact of God’s otherness. He actually designed our species. He designed everything we see around us, it all comes from God’s creativity and artistic personality. But not only did he design this reality we exist in, he designed the concepts that undergird our reality. Concepts like seasons, romance, work, art, birth, music, cities, and even creativity itself. He designed time in fact. We are made by God, because God creatively decided to craft billions of souls to inhabit bodies, all because it pleased Him. Though technically speaking, you came from your parents as a conjugation of their DNA, culminating in your birth. But don’t think for one minute that God didn’t give you the most important part of you: your soul; That which transcends your bodily form.

Have you ever had a dream that seemed so real? The truth is, you are the dream. You’re the dream in the mind of God. Humanity often affixes itself as ultimate reality, but we are not. God is ultimate reality, and we are the dreams he has made, to live and to be. Yet he has put a part of himself and his nature within us, we are special, and he has placed within us a slice of infinity; that we long after eternity, though we live in a temporal state.

This is a tough thing to accept. It’s a tough thing to accept that life is not about us, but is actually about God. And it’s tough to accept that God is beyond our full comprehension. But we must accept it. There are some things that will be beyond our comprehension and only a fool could refuse to admit such a thing, as Leonardo Da Vinci said.

We are creatures, beings, made by this mysterious God. We are his people, his creation. Which is why he loves us so much. Yet it’s not about us, or his love for us, ultimately everything is about Him. Specifically, everything is about Jesus. The more we consider the enormity and magnitude of who God is, the more it should draw us to center our lives on worshiping Him, glorifying Him, and bringing everything in ourselves under his dominion. For He made us, he owns us. We are his property, His people. Designed to worship Him. 

So we should seek to understand Him. And to Know Him. Thankfully, he has given us his word. And in His word, God speaks of Himself. God says about himself:

1st John 4:8 I am love. First of all, God is love. He does not just love us, but he IS love.

Leviticus 11:44 I am the LORD your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy. God is holy, he is perfect and thus his standard for us is holiness. He calls us to consecrate ourselves today by trusting in Jesus.

Psalm 7:11 I am a righteous judge. Rest assured, God will call us all to account. We will be face to face with Him and we will give an account of how we lived.

Jeremiah 32:27 I am the Lord, the God of all mankind, is anything too hard for me? God is sovereign over us, has rightful dominion over us, we are his property, and we owe our allegiance to him. He can do anything that is in keeping with his perfect nature.

Exodus 34:14 I am a jealous God. He wants us, and he will not tolerate our chasing after false gods or our own pleasures. This is a good jealousy, a jealousy that one has for those who are rightly his.

Isaiah 41:13 I am the Lord who takes hold of your right hand and helps you. God delights in reaching out to us and helping us. Amazing.

Malachi 3:6 I am the Lord, I do not change. Everything around us may be changing, including ourselves, God does not change.So we should seek to understand Him. And to Know Him. In ancient times God spoke through Moses and the prophets, but today he speaks to us through His son. In fact, anyone who has seen the son has seen the Father.

In ancient times God spoke through Moses and the prophets, but today he speaks to us through His son. In fact, anyone who has seen the son has seen the Father.  Again, we can look to the New Testament gospel of John to find of several things our God says about himself. Jesus Christ our God said about himself: 

1. I am the bread of life -John 6:35, 48, 51

2. I am the light of the world -John 8:12; 9:5

3. I am the door of the sheep -John 10:7, 9

4. I am the good shepherd -John 10:11, 14

5. I am the resurrection and the life -John 11:25

6. I am the way, the truth, and the life -John 14:6

7. I am the true vine -John 15:1

God has spoken. His word is the truth. He speaks to us. He speaks about himself. God is true. He is our God and he calls us to relationship with Him, to trust in His son Jesus Christ, and to surrender to the leading of the Lord Holy Spirit.

In conclusion, God says to us today, in response I believe, to our search for Him: 

“To whom will you compare me?
Or who is my equal?” says the Holy One.
Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens:
Who created all these?
He who brings out the starry host one by one
and calls forth each of them by name.
Because of his great power and mighty strength,
not one of them is missing.

Why do you complain, Jacob?
Why do you say, Israel,
“My way is hidden from the Lord;
my cause is disregarded by my God”?
Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.”

A Philosophical Transformation Series
4: Theology: Understanding God
Still coming...
5: Sociology: The Divine Image, the Family & The Social Order
6: Redemption of Man: The Cross (Paradise Regained)
7: Working to God’s Glory: Created to Create, Community & Charity, Giving & Building
8: Government & Law: The Unique American Experiment 
9:  The Future Destiny of Man: The New Heavens & New Earth
10: Everything is about Jesus: Closeness with Christ & Living Missionally

Related Posts:

  1. Christianity in the Public Square 
  2. Expert Testimony: the Demise of Evolution, Complexity in DNA
  3. Expert Testimony: Intelligent Design, Archaeology, and Historicity
  4. The Great American Culture War: Religious Liberty, Gay Rights, Naturalism and the Christian Faith
  5. What is the matrix?
  6. Logic, History, Statistics, & Astronomy: Interdisciplinary approaches to the Truth Claims of Christianity
  7. Does man need God in Western Civilization 
  8. Real Christianity: Clothing, Buildings, Money, & Extravagance
  9. Seven Objections to the Bible and Seven Reasonable Responses
  10. 10 Answers to Common Questions Raised by Skeptics 

Friday, February 17, 2017

The Eternal City: A Real Place? What will it be like?

Via Wikimedia Commons cc 2.0
Is there really life after death?  Or is this life all there is?  It's a question that we ignore, we toss aside, and eventually ponder.  It's a question that draws out fear and emotional outrage.  It's a question that affects how we live and what we live for.  

Could there really be an eternal city, coming out of heaven, where humanity will live in the next life?  I believe that there is just such a place.  

Our universe is a very interesting place.  Have you ever breezed through photos taken by the Hubble telescope?  Or looked at photos taken by molecular biologists of cells in the human body?  Have you looked up at the stars and the moon and wondered at the harmonious complexity of our world?  I know I have done those things.  

Have you watched the hummingbird meander effortlessly through the air buzzing at breakneck speeds from flower to flower injecting it's beak into the nectar simultaneously feeding itself and cross-pollinating plants?   

Have you contemplated the breadth of time from eternity to eternity?  Have you considered the factors necessary for the survival of a species?  Indeed, these things are spell-binding.  They cry out for an intelligence beyond our frame of physical reference with the ability to care for our souls past death.

The eternal city is indeed a real place.  And there are requirements we must meet to enter that place.  These requirements are most certainly moral in nature.  After all we as humans think and live in moral terms.  We look for justice, mercy, love, forgiveness, and judgment.  We know intuitively that abstract ideas, like good and evil, are rooted in fixed reality.  We know that good and evil are real.

All of these things led to my realization that God is in fact real.  And that there is an eternal city beyond our existence on Earth.  The very last book of the book tells us about it.  It's a book titled "Revelation."  Revelation means, "the revealing."  It is truly, a fascinating read.

This eternal city, which is the future of the human race, is discussed in good detail in Revelation.  And if in fact this city is a future reality, then the implications are indeed far-reaching.  It changes everything about everything, as far as considering the meaning of life.  If this eternal city is indeed an eternal city, in which humanity will reside not for a mere 75 to 100 years, but for millions of years, and billions of years, and trillions of years, then this life is nothing but a dim window, a mere 1% of the 99% reality that awaits us in the future.  

For the God who names himself in the scriptures as "I am who I am" such a future is not too hard.  What in fact would be too hard for a God with no beginning or end?  I AM WHO I AM is a statement of God's otherness in fact.  God is not like us in most respects.  He is beyond our full comprehension.  This is a terribly difficult thing to accept.  But as Da Vinci said, only a fool would not be willing to admit that there are some realities beyond his comprehension.  That is why the fallacy of "Who created God?" is so amusing.  By definition, if God could be created, then He wouldn't be God.  He'd be man.  We think in these finite terms: Who created God?  God answers this question in his title: I am who I am.  I am not like you.  I am beyond the past, and beyond the future.  In fact, God created time itself.  We must allow for our finite ability to comprehend eternity.  Given that, we can however still consider many aspects of this reality of the eternal city. 

Revelation chapter twenty, from the most hated book in history, banned in approximately 60 countries, the Bible, which simple means "The Book" we get a glimpse of our future as a species.  The mind repels against it, preferring a future of human glory, yet something within us tells us it's true.

"I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key to the Abyss and holding in his hand a great chain. He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years. He threw him into the Abyss, and locked and sealed it over him, to keep him from deceiving the nations anymore until the thousand years were ended. After that, he must be set free for a short time.

I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony about Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy are those who share in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years." (Revelation 20:1-6)

At a future date in time, that which we are unaware of, things will get very troubled on Earth.  They are in fact rather troubled right now, but nothing compared to what it will be in the end.  At the consummation of these dark events, evil will be defeated, and Jesus Christ will reign on Earth for 1,000 years. And so will his people. 

Fascinating stuff.  We don't really know what will occur during this 1,000 year period, but it's clear that the eternal city hasn't been established yet.  The new heavens and the new Earth haven't come yet.  There seems to be a period of Christ reigning on Earth with his tribulation saints, and at the end of the 1,000 years there is a final rebellion against Christ and his people when Satan is released a second time.  During this engagement, armies surround the holy city, which is most likely referring to Jerusalem in present day Israel.  And the city is surrounded by enemy armies, probably involving nations deceived by the return of Satan.  The enemy army is destroyed by God, and Christ's final victory is completed.

Then we have an event called the great white throne judgment.  This is where God's people are crowned with glory and given their inheritance, and also, where God's enemies are judged according to how they lived, and sentenced to disconnection from God for eternity.  

Revelation 21 and 22 is what we want to focus on today.  That's where we see the creation of the new heavens and the new Earth.  

A lot of people are deathly afraid of touching this part of the Bible.  And I think it's because there are so many wacko birds out there.  They go absolutely nutty about the end times, and scare people out of their minds with dates, times, predictions, locations, and of course the ever-increasing list of those who must be "the anti-christ."  Who have made that list?  Names like Saddam Hussein, Osama Bin Laden, Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and of course the last few Popes. I recall one pastor indicated in one of his sermons that he'd met 39 people who had claimed to be one of the "two witnesses" in Revelation chapter 11.  (On a side note some have suggested that the two witnesses could be Moses and Elijah.  It's a fair speculation, has some evidence to back it up, but it's just theory.)

Many church organizations and leaders, like the Seventh Day Adventists and the Jehovah Witnesses have claimed to "know the date" of when Christ will return, and time and again, they were proven wrong.  That really has to be an awkward day after, don't you think?  Well, we've got the date, here it comes... oh.  Well, anyway...  I guess we miscalculated there. Awkward! 

But I think if we set aside all the wacky predictions and money-making "end times" extravaganzas and just look at what the text says, we can find a true blessing from God in the last few chapters of Revelation.  It is a book of the Bible, so we shouldn't avoid it, we should study it, and accept it as true events.  But as always, I will add that you should check the word for yourself, if anything I write does not jive with the word of God, then you should disregard what I've said, and trust the word of God.  It has been preserved through history, and will not lead you astray.

"Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them.They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”"
-Revelation 21:1-5 

If I may translate for you, I believe what it's saying here is that the old universe, the universe we exist in right now, the milky way, and all the surrounding galaxies will be removed by God, and remade into a perfected form.  Remember the universe we exist in right now is in a "fallen" state.  It's messed up by sin, fragmented and unsustainable.  What this new universe will be like?  It's hard to say.  I doubt we could fully comprehend it.  But I'm sure it will be beautiful, and awe inspiring.  I've studied numerous artistic depictions of what the new heavens and new earth might be like, they all utterly fail to project anything near what it will actually be like.  And I understand why.  It's just so far beyond us to consider a perfect reality.  Perfection is so far removed from what we see around us and within ourselves, don't you think?  

Within this new universe, there will also be a new Earth.  That's right, a physical Earth.  We will not be floating like spirits in the cloud of heaven.  We are not destined to live in heaven.  We are destined to live on the new Earth, specifically in a city called the New Jerusalem.  So remember that, no clouds, no harps, no halos, that doesn't sound particularly appealing or logical after all, clouds can't be stood upon.  So no, the Bible says a city called the New Jerusalem.

Now allow me to blow your mind completely regarding this city.  Remember the Bible says this, so we must believe it.  I've told people and they say "well I don't know, I've been taught other things."  Well, I'm just telling you what the Bible says, and I'm gonna stick with the word.  You do what you like.  Anyway.

The New Jerusalem, is a giant city in the same shape as the OT tabernacle from the time of Moses.  The city is in fact in the shape of a giant cube (Revelation 21:16-17.) Just like the Borg from Star Trek.  Just kidding.  Honestly though, why did I have to discover this for myself in the text?  It's right there in Revelation 21.  Yet I had never heard this before, until I actually read it myself.  It just goes to show you folks, read the word for yourself, but don't just read it, study it slowly verse by verse and don't rely on what you've been told, rely on what's actually in there.  

Absolutely fascinating stuff!  It says the city shines with the glory of God.  I don't know exactly what that means, but from time to time I've had tiny glimpses of the glory of God in my own life, and let me tell you, I wish I could live in those moments.  They are just wonderful.  They come too abruptly and end too quickly. 

The massiveness of this city in quite revealing.  It's about 1,400 miles.  About the distance from Seattle, WA to Minneapolis, MI.  The New Jerusalem is that wide AND long in a square shape.  So about the size of 3/4 of the United States just as the base.  But remember it's also 1,400 miles tall.  Absolutely amazing.  

There are three gates on each side of the city, with a total of twelve gates.  Each gate entrance is carved out of one massive pearl.  There are twelve foundations to the city, each made of a different kind of rare jewel.  (Revelation 21:19-21.)   God is an artist.  An artist not only of the materials provided, but of the materials themselves.  Remember he designed each of these jewels from scratch.  Or as the story is told, an atheist came to God and said,"Making things isn't so hard. I bet I could take dirt and make life."  And God replied,"Well alright, go ahead and try."  So the atheist went down into the sand and began to fuddle around.  And God quickly replied,"Hold on now, get your own sand."

Running through the center of the city is a "great street" made of transparent gold (v.21) There is no temple in the city, no tabernacle, in fact from the shape of the city we can see that the city itself is the tabernacle; in other words, the very throne of God is the city itself (v.22)  The 'holy of holies' where the true presence of God resides is the city itself.  

"Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.3 No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. 4 They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5 There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever." -Revelation 22:1-5

So from the throne of God which must reside within the city flows this river of the water life down the middle of the streets of the city.  So we see a great street of gold, it must be a very wide street, and down the middle of the street is this river of the water of life.  This giant tree, the tree of life is at the end of the street apparently, or perhaps at the center, bearing twelve crops of fruit.  Fascinating.  There is a lot of metaphor here.  Christ is the river that leads us to the holy city.  Christ, given by God, leads us to the tree of life, where we eat of the gift of eternal life, that which Adam lost for us in the garden long ago.  This is done a great deal in the scriptures.  Real events, and real places carry additional meaning.  It's quite an elegant way for God to describe reality.  He uses real events to depict things, and through these real events he also describes spiritual truths.  

"Then he told me, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this scroll, because the time is near. Let the one who does wrong continue to do wrong; let the vile person continue to be vile; let the one who does right continue to do right; and let the holy person continue to be holy.” -Revelation 22:10-11

God instructed John not to hide what was written in Revelation, and in the same way today I believe we are called to share with others the words of the Revelation of Jesus Christ.  I truly believe and know that these events will come to pass.  All of this will happen just as God has described it.

“Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.

“Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.

“I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.”

The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life."
-Revelation 22:12-17 

It's a lot to take in.  It really is.  But it's an amazing look at a beautiful future.  The implications are far reaching.  I think the most practical application of these truths is this: How we live today matters.  It matters in light of eternity.  It matters in light of the future destiny of the human race.  Blessed are those who wash their robes.  How does one wash their robe? By coming to Jesus Christ, the one whom God has given to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.  Christ gives us the right to the eternal life found at the tree of life, the holy grail of life everlasting.  Christ is the cure to death itself.  So like the Spirit, Christ, and the bride say, I also say to you: Come!  Let the one who is thirsty come.  I am so thirsty. I'm so thirsty for righteousness in those broken world, I'm so thirsty for justice in this troubled world, and I'm so thirsty for peace in my own troubled soul.  If your like me, thirsty like me, I am telling you the truth, you are thirsty for Jesus Christ.  I am thirsty for this great, glorious future where all things are made new, including me. Are you thirsty?

Close up of Nebula Via Wikimedia Commons cc 2.0
God's Glory of Creation Via Wikimedia Commons cc 2.0
Additional Articles:
  1. The Return of Jesus Christ & the New Jerusalem
  2. What will the New Universe be like?
  3. Origin, Meaning, Morality, & Destiny: An atheist and a Christian on discuss Worldview
  4. Seven Objections to the Bible and Seven Reasonable Responses
  5. Quick Fact Sheet: Four Points to Consider
  6. 10 Answers to Common Questions Raised by Skeptics
  7. Believing in the Miraculous: The Work of Jesus Christ on the Cross
  8. Can you see through the illusion?
  9. Philosophy, Science, Logic, and History: Presentations on the Truth of Christianity from Multiple Disciplines
  10. No Evidence for God?

Sunday, February 12, 2017

A Philosophical Transformation Series: God's Overarching History: The Big Picture

Photo from "The Fountain"
Accompanying Video: "The Spread of the Gospel"

Message Audio:

How do you see history? How does your mind frame the world around you? Are you seeing it from a Godly perspective, or from a secular perspective? Today we’re going to talk about God’s Overarching History: The Big Picture. Today we’re going to go from Genesis to John to Revelation and frame within our minds how God accurately portrays history.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the Earth. Amazing. Over 6 days God makes the universe, Earth, nature, animals, and humanity. It was perfect, from the beginning. God is this self existent being, existing forever, in a timeless state, and he chooses to create a universe, laws, physics, and he creates life. You’re here right now because God decided to sovereignly create a human species. He wanted there to be us.

He creates the first two human beings, and designs a garden for them to live in on the surface of the pre-historic earth. God lives in direct contact with his creation, genesis 3:8 says that God himself walked in the garden. 

The Garden of Eden, via Wikimedia Commons
 It’s assumed that previously, before God made man, he had also made the angels, these spiritual beings who serve him. One of these beings named Lucifer, the most beautiful of all the angels, by some act of the will, manifests pride in his own heart. Isaiah 14:13 says “You said in your heart,‘I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God I will set my throne on high.” And perhaps it had something to do with God’s creation of man.

So Lucifer, also known as Satan, goes to the first two humans, and tempts them. God has created a perfect reality for his people to live in, but he also offers one option, one tree that they must not eat from, to allow for a sacred choice: to obey or disobey. It’s much easier to obey in this world, because there is only one tree that must be avoided. Yet as we know, scandalously, amazingly, shockingly, the first humans accepted the temptation, and decided to play god for themselves. They disobeyed god, and opened up a nightmare that would unfold throughout human history.

The perfect universe, and the perfect earth became fallen. This one decision changed everything, opening a door for Lucifer to become Satan, the fallen one. By successfully tempting Adam and Eve, Satan gained control over them, the earth, and everything on it. Humanity had given up their dominion over the earth, and ceded it to Satan. As 1st John 5:19 says “We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.”

Yet God promised, though man had fallen and would now face mortal death, through the human race would come one who would defeat Satan, and restore humanity to it’s place of fellowship with God.

Isaiah 46 verse 9 says “Remember the things I have done in the past.”

History is so very important. What do they say about history? Those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it. So we must remember what God has done and what he will do.

Historical revisionism is a very real threat. In fact the truth is, many of us probably don’t know much about Christian history. I didn’t know anything about Christian history until I attended a Christian college. You see in public education, any mention of Christianity is edited out. Did you know that the first settlers coming to America did so for quote “the glory of God and advancements of the Christian faith?” Unfortunately that part of the mayflower compact is often edited out. I had never heard of the great awakenings in the United States, or how Christians founded the first universities, orphanages, and hospitals. They didn’t change anything, they just kind of didn’t mention it.

History is so vital. So we must be certain as Christians that we are seeing history as it truly is, and not as the world has taught us it is. The modern view is fairly simple: Everything is getting better all the time. Humanity is “evolving” and doesn’t need that drab old religious stuff anymore. Through science and technology man will ascend the heights! In fact if you were to watch television, or television programs for many hours you would probably never hear mention of Christianity, churches or faith. It’s excluded. They edit it out of our daily lives.

We must fight the false narrative, to claim a Christian concept of history. So let’s continue. As we discussed, humanity fell away from God, and were expelled from the garden in an event we call the fall of man.

Soon the world has become so corrupted, that there is only one man and his family who must safeguard the future. At one point in human history the entire hope of the planet, the species, and the various animals of the earth resided on an ark, while the entire surface of the earth was covered in flood waters.

Screenshot from the Noah movie (2014)
Absolutely astonishing!

As we all know, God eventually raised up a nation called Israel to be a beacon to the nations. God planned to bring about a great revolution upon the Earth by raising up this nation. He gave Israel the law, which became a covenant, an agreement between God and the Israelites. If they would follow his laws, and live by faith, upholding justice and mercy, then He would be their God and they would be his people. Many of the greats we know of today all lived under this “old covenant” people like Moses, Aaron, Joseph, Isaac, Daniel, and others.

But ultimately all of these events were leading up to a moment when God himself would enter human history as a man, to save his people personally. This we know of today as the coming of Jesus Christ. All of the books of the Old Testament, hundreds of prophecies all pointed to the future hope of the coming of Christ.

Jesus Christ came, the God man, and lived a sinless life. He perfectly obeyed the old testament laws, all of them. Having lived a sinless life, he fulfilled the old testament laws, and established the new covenant through his crucifixion. This is why we call the last 27 books of the the Bible the “new testament.” It’s a new deal, a new arrangement. 

Ancient depiction of crucifixion
So you have human history coming to this point of culmination, to the point that the calendar was formed around this crucifixion of Christ, B.C. and A.D. Though recently they changed it to B.C.E. and C.E. Big shocker there, that they don’t want history to revolve around Christ, right? Revisionist history. They change history to suite their narrative, the secular one. The evolution narrative, the goo man, rising up, improving himself through self effort to bring about a bright future of human triumph. That’s the man-made narrative, but it isn’t Gods. And it isn’t the truth.

Do you see how we can fail to perceive history accurately? The world can really influence us to assume that we’re here to live a prosperous American life, and it affects our priorities. It affects how we live. It affects how we view ourselves and the people around us.

I want to see the world through God’s eyes. I want to see the world as a culmination of God’s history, not the triumph of man. There is no such thing, only to God be the glory.

So Jesus Christ, God with us, is crucified offering himself as a replacement for us. He takes our punishment for sin upon himself. Not only that, but Christ resurrects from the dead, and shows himself to hundreds of witnesses over a 40 day period. And Christ ascends to heaven, promising to return at the end of the age.

So from about 30 A.D. to 2017 A.D. we see a period of the rapid expansion of the church on Earth. It begins with a smattering of a few hundred followers, the twelve apostles, and Paul. From that little group, flying into the Roman empire after the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem… Christianity today is the single largest faith on Earth with approximately 2.1 billion people indicating they are followers of Christ.

As we saw in the video, Christianity grew rapidly, and has been confronted by various contrary worldviews, first the paganism of the roman empire, then the barbarian tribes, then Islam, later on communism, and today the primary foe of Christianity must certainly be secularism, and naturalism, which began in 1859, when Darwin’s origin of species was first published.

We are part of this period in human history, when the Holy Spirit lives on Earth with us, and He is at work building the church on Earth, fulfilling Christ’s great command to go to all the nations and baptize them in the name of the father, and the son, and the holy spirit. The Salvation Army is part of the mission, founded in 1865, and enduring today along with many other fine traditions spreading the gospel far and wide.

So rejoice. You are part of a proud line of missionaries and evangelists who have fought under the banner of Christ, as his hands and feet, delivering the gospel to the world.

God asks us to remember. He says to us, Isaiah 46:11b “I have said what I would do, and I will do it.” And verse 10b “Everything I plan will come to pass, for I will do all that I please.”

God in the shadows, is the orchestrator of this grand theatrical sequence, one moment to the next, allowing for the free choices of man on a continuum of time and space, as His plan unfolds before our eyes. We see it in everything, even when we don’t realize it, his saga plays out before our very eyes.

Now this may be the point when many a skeptic would say “Why? Why should I believe God’s story? Because the Bible says so? Why should I believe that the Bible is God’s word?“

Well that’s talk about the Bible and History for a moment. Did you know the Bible is historically reliable? It’s true. Biblical data can in fact be tested, tested against history. If the Bible says that Jesus was crucified under a Roman governor named Pontius Pilate, we can look into history and see that there was indeed an ancient Roman empire, and it did control Israel at that time in history. Archaeology also shows that the Bible is historically accurate.

As an academic matter, we generally look into the past, and are able to understand ancient documents and respect them as authentic history by how many ancient copies of the document exist and how well they match one another. 

Via the Truth Project
Additionally, historians respect manuscripts based on how recently they are dated from the original events they depict. 

via The Truth Project
So it’s very interesting that so many people question the reliability of the Bible, when as far as historical tests, it passes with flying colors, not only passes, but is the single most incredible document ever to grace recorded history. Could the skepticism be rooted in emotion and resistance to the fact of a God who asks us to account for our actions? Very interesting.

Finally, one of several ways to indicate that the Bible is not only history, but also the word of God, are the over 300 prophecies predicting the coming of Christ and all he would do, that were all fulfilled by Jesus Christ when he came. A document can be considered to be the word of God in that it predicts accurately future events. Given the cumulative evidence, it becomes increasingly reasonable to conclude that the Bible is in fact God’s word.

God is sovereign over all this history, and the development of his creation, his people, and the spread of the church. Ultimately all of these events are culminating to a point when dark times will come, the church will undergo times of great persecution, the enemy’s kingdom will fully come about on Earth, all concluding with the return of Jesus Christ. He will rule and reign on Earth, establishing his millennial kingdom. And finally at the conclusion of all things in the old world, the final defeat of evil will occur, and the new heavens and the new Earth will be created. And the old will pass away.

That is our future destiny. Thousands of years ago God created man, and man chose to disobey God. The law came into effect, and Israel was formed. Then God came into human history, as Jesus Christ the son of God, to personally atone for the sins of the people. His church grows today. And Christ is coming again to establish his kingdom, and eventually create the news heavens and the new Earth.

Via The Truth Project
Our destiny as a species, as a people, is to live in the direct presence of God almighty, to worship him, to love him and be loved by him. To experience for eternity, millions and billions of years and more, the mysteries of his kingdom, and the work he has for us to do there. There will be great adventures, great joy, and wonder in this new kingdom he will establish. There will be no, no death, no curse, and no tears. It will not be boring. But every day will be an amazing, awe inspiring adventure, a constant experience of what we were always meant to be as people. What we are now is not what we were originally designed for. Our original design, which has been re-established in Christ is to be constantly in the presence and love of God, to enjoy Him forever, and to experience the wonders and mysteries of life in communion with him and with all other humans in a perfect state of existence. That is what we have to look forward to.

Today in your life, God is sovereign. When you live in the world out there, don’t forget who you are. You a prince, a princess, a king and queen, under Christ, destined to reign with Christ, destined to live in harmony with Him. This fallen world is a struggle. But we look forward to a great inheritance.

History is God’s story. And the world’s narrative fails to stand up to scrutiny. So believe the Bible. And Believe in Christ. Our faith in Him will yield a vast ocean of abundance and glory in eternal life, which is our destiny.

A Philosophical Transformation Series
3. God's Overarching History: The Big Picture
(Coming up...)
4: Theology: Understanding God
5: Anthropology: Who are we? Human Origins (The Fall)
6: Sociology: The Divine Image, the Family & The Social Order
7: Redemption of Man: The Cross (Paradise Regained)
8: Morality: How should we live?
9: Working to God’s Glory: Created to Create, Community & Charity, Giving & Building
10: Government & Law: The Unique American Experiment 
11:  The Future Destiny of Man: The New Heavens & New Earth
12: Everything is about Jesus: Closeness with Christ & Living Missionally

Friday, February 10, 2017

20 Quotations for Your Pondering

Here are some quotations from great thinkers. Enjoy.

"Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness."
- Martin Luther King Jr.

"The most dangerous criminal now is the entirely lawless modern philosopher. Compared to him, burglars and bigamists are essentially moral men." -Gilbert K. Chesterton

“Truth is so obscured nowadays and lies [are] so well established that unless we love the truth we shall never recognize it.” 
-Blaise Pascal

"I am sure there never was a people, who had more reason to acknowledge a divine interposition in their affairs, than those of the United States; and I should be pained to believe, that they have forgotten that agency, which was so often manifested during our revolution, or that they failed to consider the omnipotence of that God, who is alone able to protect them."
-George Washington, Letter to John Armstrong, 11 March 1782, in Ford's Writings of George Washington (1891), vol. XII, p. 111.

“The Bible- banned, burned, beloved. More widely read, more frequently attacked than any other book in history. Generations of intellectuals have attempted to discredit it; dictators of every age have outlawed it and executed those who read it. Yet soldiers carry it into battle believing it is more powerful than their weapons. Fragments of it smuggled into solitary prison cells have transformed ruthless killers into gentle saints. Pieced together scraps of Scripture have converted whole whole villages of pagan Indians.” -Charles W. Colson

“The unexamined life is not worth living by insisting that the unexamined faith is not worth believing.”
-Norman L. Geisler 

“Christians believe in the virgin birth of Jesus. Materialists believe in the virgin birth of the cosmos. Choose your miracle.” –Glen Scrivener

“I can see how it might be possible for a man to look down upon earth and be an atheist, but I cannot conceive how he could look up into the heavens and say that there is no God.”
-Abraham Lincoln

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”
― C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

“For many in our high-paced world, despair is not a moment; it is a way of life.”
― Ravi Zacharias, Can Man Live Without God

"Relativism poses as freedom but it is just another form of tyranny: You must believe that all religions are equal because we say they are. You must agree with us that everything is relative, or we will punish you." –Jeffrey Burton Russell, Exposing Myths About Christianity, 144.

"Donald Page of Princeton’s Institute for Advanced Science calculated the odds against our universe randomly taking a form suitable for life as one in: 10,000,000,000124. One in ten billion to the 124th power! This is a number so large, it is safe to say that the universe did not come together randomly. It was created by an incredibly intelligent and powerful designer." –Charlie H. Campbell

"The world of temptation is around you, to trip you up. It'll assault your imagination in every possible way until half of your life you will be spending in a rescue operation trying to salvage what it is you've lost. And so I say to you: Draw the lines in the right places soon and don't cross them. As tough as it is, pleasure always comes at a cost." -Ravi Zacharias, "Unlimited? The Challenge of Human Freedom", Georgia Tech, June 2015

"Science in the modern world has many uses; its chief use, however, is to provide long words to cover the errors of the rich." -Gilbert K. Chesterton

“I believe that the damned are, in one sense, successful rebels to the end; that the doors of Hell are locked on the inside.” –C. S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain, p. 27.

“God maintains a delicate balance between keeping his existence sufficiently evident so people will know he's there and yet hiding his presence enough so that people who want to choose to ignore him can do it. This way, their choice of destiny is really free.” –J.P. Moreland

"We do not want merely to see beauty . . . We want something else which can hardly be put into words - to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it." -C.S. Lewis
Source:“Transposition and Other Addresses” (1949) 

"Some things in this universe are absolute. The God of the universe has made it so. And so long as we adopt this relative attitude toward right and wrong, we’re revolting against the very laws of God himself." -Martin Luther King Jr. 28 Feb 1954, Rediscovering Lost Values

“If there is a God who can act, then there can be acts of God. The only way to show that miracles are impossible is to disprove the existence of God.” –Norman Geisler

"The future of this nation depends on the Christian training of our youth." –George Washington, Quoted by Alison Thomas in Ravi Zacharias, Gen. Ed, Beyond Opinion, p. 58

Related Posts:
  1. Media Bias, Saul Alinsky, & the War on America's Character
  2. An Essay on the Fall of Man in Today's America
  3. Five Political Presentations that will Change your Worldview
  4. An Appeal to Heaven: The Movement
  5. The Supreme Court, Same Sex Marriage, Religious Liberty
  6. Thoughts on Public Schooling: Should Christians homeschool their Children?
  7. Kim Davis is only the Beginning: Prepare your Ministry for Persecution
  8. A Cause Worth Dying For: Materialism, Millennials, & the Authentic Mission
  9. What is the Truth about Abortion? Fact, Fiction, Christianity & Humanism
  10. Christian Activism: Can Christianity survive the new cultural attitudes?