What I Have Learned – So Far…
You never get a do over in life. You can start over but you can never do over.
God never promised us an easy life. He never promised we’d be free of pain, sadness, loss, or persecution. He did promise He’d be with us to the very end of the age.
God never said He would take away all the consequences of our sin or of those whose sin harmed us. He did say He would wash our sins away as white as snow.
Sometimes God’s greatest work is accomplished in our pain and suffering. How we handle suffering is sometimes our greatest witness to a world that suffers but sees suffering as something to be avoided.
We will not find justice in this life but before the throne of God justice will be handed out and by the grace of God so will mercy.
Happiness is not a feeling when all is well or we are having fun. Happiness is a by-product of a right relationship with God. It is learning to be content and give thanks no matter what our circumstances.
Trials are a part of live as a believer. God is preparing us for eternity and to make us more Christ like.
Nothing on this earth will satisfy the longing of our soul. Only God can fill that vacuum in our hearts. The only true soulmate we will ever have is Jesus Christ.
If we do find happiness and joy, friends and family, good health and good living we owe it all to God and His good grace and good pleasure.
The greatest words we can ever hope to hear are “Well done good and faithful servant. Come and enter into the rest I have prepared for you.”
The greatest act we will ever perform will be to take the Crown of Glory off our heads and cast it to the feet of Jesus on His throne.
What we have cannot be bought with all the money in the world and the richest man or woman will never have as much as us. Our treasure is in our hearts and bought with the precious blood of Jesus Christ.
Therefore rejoice and give thanks to God Almighty. He loves you, cherishes you, died for you, and calls you His child.
There is no greater love and this truly is the greatest story ever told.
Look to Jesus and you will never lack for anything again.
Loving the Darkness
I think the #1 reason people refuse to follow Christ is a failure to grasp the holiness of God and by contrast their sinfulness. We compare ourselves to an arbitrary standard, pick out the worst in society or history, and judge ourselves to be “pretty good.” Therefore, if there is a God (not that they need one), then surely he would not reject a “good person.” Yet our righteousness is like a dark cave compared to God’s which is like the blinding sun at noonday. Stare at the sun too long and you will blind yourself. Our eyes simply cannot handle that much pure light.
Imagine a man who lived his entire life from birth in a dark cave with seemingly no way out. A stream trickles through with some fish and the climate is warm enough that he does not die from exposure. His eyes have grown accustomed to the darkness of the cave. He can’t really see much but his eyes, accustomed to the extreme darkness, can make out a little. Then one day some cave explorers find a way into his cave and discover him. They have bright lights on their heads that blind him. He has to look away as he’s never seen such brightness. He can’t understand their language but they seem trusting and he allows them to lead him. Realizing his eyes aren’t ready for the full light they put a bag over his head as they approach the exit. At first he is frightened why they would do such a thing but suddenly he senses he is in more light than he thought possible even with a dark bag over his head. It takes months of gradual exposure to the light for him to get to where he can open his eyes fully outdoors. Finally he can see and a new world all around him. A world he could never have imagined. Yet compared to the brightness of the pure sun he is still limited in what he can see as are all the others there who never knew the darkness he did. He can though see more than he could have imagined.
We are spiritually born into utter darkness like the man in the cave. All we know is darkness yet are convinced we can see as our eyes have adjusted to the darkness and we can dimly make out a few things. We have no idea that such brightness as the sun exists! Indeed it is so foreign to all we’ve even known that we cannot even imagine such a thing. We have no idea what we are missing outside of that cave. We don’t even realize a world exists outside that cave. We don’t know we’re in a cave. The cave is our world, our universe. We have no idea how we got there or what awaits us.
One day someone comes into our cave and through sign language communicates the idea that there is a whole wide world outside the cave and that there is light in that world. We have to choose though if we are willing to leave the safety and comfort of the cave (at least it feels safe and comfortable to us) or venture outside into the light. Scarcely believing such a world exists and feeling we already have all we need we decline to follow. Why go we reason? There is nothing more to life than what we have. This person is deluded. Logically they are either a liar, a lunatic, or highly unlikely are correct. We don’t trust them. Even if they are correct how do we know what the outside is like? What if they make us a prisoner or make us live a miserable life? Why risk so much for the unknown that really doesn’t make sense to us? So we stay (John 3:19).
Jesus Christ is the man coming into the cave to lead us out into the light. Yet we love the darkness more than the light. God the Father is the sun. His holiness is SO bright our eyes cannot look upon it. We will need new eyes if we ever hope to gaze upon such light. If we follow Christ out of the cave our eyes begin to adjust to the light slowly over time. We begin to see our sin but also the greatness and grace of God and the beauty of all He has created. No longer hidden away in darkness we now marvel in the light. Such beauty! So much to marvel at! We are aware though that compared to the brightness of the sun we are still in relative darkness but for the first time in our lives we understand that there is more than the pure darkness. There is a marvelous light. We cannot fully gaze upon it yet but we look forward to the day we can.
Praise God that He sends His Son (John 9:4) to us in the darkness of our sin and leads us into the light and into a life we never knew possible! Those in the darkness think they are the ones having all the fun with absolutely no idea how much they are missing out on. Non-Christians think Christians lead boring lives not allowed to have any fun. How little do they realize that true fun is not in license to do whatever we want (which in their case is controlled by their blindness) but in the freedom to be whom God created us to be. We are not slaves or handcuffed. We are living the life God designed us to live.
If you are wealthy enough you can buy a sports cars capable of hitting speeds of 260 mph. Yet if all you do is drive it around town in 25-45 mph zones you have no idea what the car is capable of and the feeling of opening it up wide and feeling the hum of the engine as the car rockets to its maximum speed. You will never know the thrill or riding a bike until you take the training wheels off. Those in Christ are living life to the full. Their engines are running full throttle. Those who reject Christ are driving that expensive sports car at 35 mph having no idea what more that car could do.
Too many are born, live, and die in the cave never knowing the light. When their eyes are finally opened it is on Judgement Day and it is too late. The passed up on their opportunity to leave the cave preferring the darkness. Given their choice God rightfully sentences them to eternal darkness. That is after all what they wanted. They had a chance to step out into the light and see but they preferred the darkness. Their lifetime passed without ever choosing to leave the cave so now they will dwell in eternal darkness. Yet now, for a time of judgment, their eyes are open and they are startled by what they see. Yet all too quickly they are taken back to the darkness from which they will never leave. The greatest suffering they will experience is having glimpsed the light and now with understanding realize their doom. Oh they will curse God and hate Him for not allowing them into His light! Yet for a lifetime they refused Him. He sent many to their cave to rescue them but they refused to leave. They were told about the marvels that awaited them outside the cave yet still would not leave. The rejected everyone who ever came to them. So now God has given them an eternity to live out their choice. They got what they spent a lifetime wanting. Yet somehow God is at fault!
No God is not at fault. We must take responsibility for our choices. Faith is when we do take responsibility for our sin and acknowledge it to God and ask for His forgiveness, His grace, and ask Him to lead us to the light promising to follow Him. The choice is ours. Do we stay in the cave of eternal darkness or do we step out in faith and embrace the light? Do we believe we are already living life to the full or do we trust God to show us how to really live life to the full? Do we accept our car can only do 55 mph or trust that it really can do 260 mph and even more?
That is the question. That is the choice. How will you choose?
Another Example of “Your God is Too Big”
It is fashionable these days, at least here in America, to claim belief in “God.” America is still largely a Judea-Christian country at least in terms of our culture. A large percentage of Americans still attend church and profess a faith. Even among those who do not regularly attend church believe in “God” is still high. Some speak of a “higher power” that helps them overcome alcoholism or disease. Some scientists claim we have a “faith gene” that predisposes us to believe in something outside ourselves or perhaps within ourselves but something divine or more powerful than ourselves. Such belief, it is claimed, can create a positive state of mind that empowers us. So it is fashionable to believe in some kind of higher power unless you are a hardcore atheist.
America is full of spirituality but feathers get ruffled when one tries to define that spirituality particularly in definite terms. When your “higher power” becomes Jesus Christ and not just any “Jesus Christ” but the Jesus of the New Testament then well you are simply going too far. Now you are being exclusive and definitely not tolerant. You see in modern society “tolerance is next to godliness.” So we want a “higher power” but we want that “higher power” to be a bit ill-defined and there when we need it but otherwise respecting the boundaries of our lives and the beliefs of others. Sort of a god who is like a genie in a bottle. Rub the bottle when you need him but otherwise he stays in the bottle and does not interfere with your life.
Christians get into trouble because we know things about our “higher power.” See our “higher power” revealed Himself to mankind through the prophets in the Old Testament and principally through the person of Jesus Christ in the New Testament. He also sent His Holy Spirit to inspire men to further His revelation. Thus we have the Bible – Old and New Testaments. We believe not just in a concept but in a real, personal God who has revealed Himself to us. We don’t call him “higher power” but rather we call Him God, Lord, Jesus Christ. Since He has revealed Himself to us we know many things about Him and about what He expects of us. Now there is a particularly distasteful subject. God expects things from us. We like our higher powers much more benign. They are supposed to grant us our wishes but expect nothing in return. The thought of a God who holds us accountable just takes the fun out of the whole spirituality game! Spirituality is fun when it has no rules or we get to make up the rules. As soon as we say God made up the rules then we have crossed that line in the sand and stepped on a whole lot of toes…
Now let’s go back to the days not long after Jesus ascended into heaven. Fifty days to be exact on the Day of Pentecost which was a Jewish feast day. The Book of Acts of the New Testament in chapter two describes for us an amazing event that took place on that day.
1 When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
5 Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. 6 When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. 7 Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? 9 Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome 11 (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” 12 Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?”
13 Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.” (from the NIV translation)
Much could be written, and has, about this passage so I am not going to try and deal with all of it. What I want to focus on is verse 13. What has happened is that a group of uneducated hicks suddenly were able to speak in foreign languages and dialects such that people from all over the known world were able to hear and understand them in their native languages. This was a miracle. Men who were not even eloquent in their own native tongues were suddenly speaking such that men from all over the world could understand them in their native tongues. God was pretty BIG that day. Most were amazed and in awe but predictably there we some who, unable to explain the clear miraculous event and unwilling to consider the implications of this being a miracle, mocked the Apostles and accused them of being drunk. Now that’s a sensible explanation! If you don’t have an answer just make fun of them!
Have you ever known anyone to get smarter when drunk? Ever seen a drunk in a bar suddenly speak fluent Arabic despite never having studied the language? Doesn’t happen does it? No in fact most drunks have difficulty speaking clearly in their own native language much less speaking a language they know nothing of. To suggest these men were speaking fluently in foreign languages due to excessive drinking was probably something a drunk would say! It made no sense. Yet that is what happens when God is too big. Rather than marvel and accept some mock and come up with ridiculous explanations that strain credulity. God was getting too big for their comfort so let’s just side step the whole issue and accuse the Apostles of being drunk. There. Problem solved.
I’ve seen TV shows that have tried to come up with natural explanations for miracles like the parting of the Red Sea. Turns out it was a sand bar that blocked the water with just the right wind conditions. Sorry but that doesn’t even explain the “walls of water” described in the Biblical account. See we just can’t have a Big God who can miraculously part water so we have to find another explanation. Oh we’ll throw God a bone and say he was smart enough to know about that sand bar and the wind requirements such that he made it all happen at precisely the correct time. Sure God can and has used natural causes to accomplish His will but He is far bigger than that. He spoke the universe into existence out of nothing. You don’t get any bigger than that! Still we have scientists like Stephen Hawking postulating multiple parallel universes (see the matter for our universe came from the collapse of a parallel universe) so no need for a God to create matter thank you. Well Stephen where did the matter for the very first of all these parallel universes come from? Oh well it just spontaneously appeared. Well why didn’t you say that in the beginning? Yes who needs God now that we have spontaneously self-creating matter! No need for a Big God who is self-existent and eternal. The funny thing is that in this silly attempt to explain away the need for God the atheist almost ends up with a “Small God.” See his God is matter. That matter had to be intelligent did it not? I mean how did it know how to form and create stars and planets? How did it figure out the speed of light and the power of gravity? Seems that matter had to have rules encoded into it’s very essence. How? I thought matter was just well matter. Kind of dumb on it’s own but when used properly can do amazing things. Take clay for example. Clay is pretty dumb but put it on a potter’s wheel and let some expert hands shape it and you can create some amazingly beautiful (and useful) things out of clay. The clay is still dumb but in the hands of a master that dumb clay ends up looking pretty good. Somehow though Stephen Hawkin’s matter had to be Smart Matter since we can’t have a Master (i.e. God) directing it. Ok so really what we have is self-intelligent matter. Maybe not as well defined as the God of the Bible but that’s how we tend to like our “higher powers.” Stephen Hawking’s “higher power” is matter. Whatever works for you Stephen. I mean isn’t that the point? If that “higher power” helps you feel better about yourself then who cares what it is right? At least intelligent matter doesn’t tell you how to live your life!
All the evidence for God aside, to me in comes down to a choice. Either you believe like Stephen Hawking that matter just somehow self-created and had intelligence and the rest followed or there is a self-existent, eternal God who is intelligent and created matter, the laws of physics, and created this one and only universe and put us in it. So intelligent matter or intelligent God? I’ll go with God. Last I checked matter didn’t give us any revelations, enable simple Galilean men to speak foreign languages, or raise people from the dead. So I’m going to go with the God who has done all those things and more. Yes a Big God.