Saturday, December 18, 2010

The God We Want

A lot of people have rejected God, for a variety of reasons.  However, I believe that many of these reasons fall into one category - unfulfilled expectations.  They look at what God claims he can do, and then when he doesn't do it, they conclude either that he is a liar not worthy of following, or, more frequently, that he does not exist.  They do not find God the way they want him.  What kind of god do they expect to find?

First and foremost, he should prevent calamity and disease.  Who has not agonized over the death of an innocent child, or a baby born with a debilitating handicap and wondered how God could allow such a thing? Something strikes at our very being to see anyone suffer, of course. With adults it is easy to think that they might have done something to deserve the situation in which they find themselves. With children, on the other hand, we prefer to think that God should step in and act. When he doesn't, faith takes a hit.

What else should God do to prove he exists?  Certainly the prevention of violence would be high on the list.  Can't God step between a mugger and the bullet he fired at his victim?  Would it be too much to expect a rapist to have a heart attack before seeking out a victim?

Another aspect would be judge of the wicked.  Obviously wickedness abounds in the world today.  Terrorism, slavery, drugs, human trafficking, corruption, and exploitation is a very short list of very serious actions that mankind is currently involved in, and appears to be getting away with it all the time.  Where is God, if he exists?

These do not even take into account the times that we needed money at certain times, or the car broke down, or we lost a job, or the business went bankrupt - all instances where God could have intervened, but did not.

So then, someone might read where God says, "Call unto me and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things that thow knowest not," and think that it is not true.  One could read "The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold" and come to the conclusion that God is just toying with us when we don't get what we think we need.  In fact, probably many Christians have abandoned the faith, because they could not wrap their minds and hearts around the apparent contradiction that God talks a big game, but at crunch time, he fails to deliver.

God, however, is not a vending machine, where we put money on, pull a lever, and grab the candy bar that comes out.  He is not a butler, waiting at our every beck and call.  He is not a child who must do our bidding, when and where we want it.  On the contrary - he is the father, leading and directing, warning and disciplining when necessary, providing the basic necessities, not the luxuries we so desperately desire.

Most importantly, he is the father to his children.  What does a father desire most from his children?  Requests?  Demands?  Pouting?  No. He desires a relationship with them.  Jesus also said "Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill.  Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.  For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval."  (John 6.26-7)

A person who wants to see what God can do must first accept God as he is, not as he "should" be.  Then, he must strive to develop a relationship with him, being more interested in who he is than in what he can do.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The People in Your Church

This is a promotional video done by Ambassador Baptist Church, about some of the stories that form the membership there.  It reminds us that everyone has a history, nobody is perfect, and behind the smiles are problems that can crush the life out of a person.  The grace of God helps us through these difficult times and gives us a purpose, a reason to continue, as we remember that this world is not the end of all things.

Monday, November 8, 2010

What the Church Needs

I came across this today.  I have had the feeling, no doubt others have as well, that the Church has lost its compass.  It needs to come back to its roots, to its foundation.  As it was said in the Letter to the Church of Ephesus, in Revelation 2.4, "I hold this against you, you have forsaken the love you had at first."  The church is not obsolete - it remains God's plan for this age.  However, may He help us find our footing again, and set us on the right path.

95 Modern Theses for the Church

Monday, May 17, 2010

Christians and Politics

Have you ever wondered why most conservative Christians subscribe to capitalism, and liberal unbelievers ascribe to socialism?  It seems a bit backwards, when you consider that capitalism is based on selfishness and greed, and socialism is based on looking out for your neighbour.  Shouldn't it be the other way around? Why do we support the systems that we do? 

Most people want to live better than they already do.  That might be hard for some people to understand, especially looking at "rich" people.  Why do they need all that stuff?  Isn't there a point where they can reasonably say "I have enough"?  A $50,000 car serves their purpose, so why do they need one that costs $75,000?  Put the shoe on another foot.  Can't we just as easily say the same for a person who has a $10,000 car that is five years old?  It works, so why does he want a newer vehicle?  There are people who have no car at all.  They get around just fine, but they would still like to have their own wheels.  Ask nearly everyone who is not "rich" how much is enough?  Chances are they will say something that indicates "A little bit more than I have now."   Everyone is, in one sense or another, what we could consider "greedy."  So which system is better?

What does capitalism espouse? It is based on the survival instinct.  At its core, the idea is that a person will look out for himself before anyone else. It is the survival instinct.  Capitalism takes advantage of the impulse to seek a better life.  That impulse might compel someone to start a business.  In doing so, he might need to hire some people.  People who need a job - a better position than they are in at that moment - come to apply for the job.  If they are accepted, they will be able to improve their lot in life.  They could then make an improvement on their house, for example, and so in turn they will have to hire a carpenter.  The carpenter now has more work, and more money at his disposal.  And so it goes.  This is what Reagan meant by his much-maligned "trickle down economics."  By allowing the (undeniably) rich to keep more of their own money, they would feel free to build up their businesses and start others, hiring people who would then spend their money on other things that would have to be supplied by different people.  The system is by no means perfect.  People will use and abuse it to maximize their return-on-investment, often by under-paying their employees or forcing them to work over-time.  The system also lends itself to control by a select few.

What is the basis of socialism?  It seems, at first glance, a decent proposal.  We are all in this together.  To answer Cain's question to God, Yes, we are, in fact, our brother's keeper.  Therefore, we should make sure we look out for one another.  When one is "out of luck," society should make sure he can keep body and soul together long enough to find a job and start up again.  From this comes food stamps, unemployment benefits, health-care, and welfare to make sure that children have the basic necessities.  It surely seems as though this is what God had in mind when He said, "Love thy neighbor," doesn't it?

Is it true, then, that Christianity should espouse socialism, and leave the capitalism to the atheists?  Why isn't it that way?  I believe there are a few reasons why this is not the case.

First, Jesus did tell us to care for one another, as the socialists claim.  However, I think it instructive to note who He was talking to.  In His sermons, when He gave instruction on how to live, He always spoke to the common people, never to the governing class.  He never told the Pharisees and Sadducees, Herod, Pilate or any other governor that it was the responsibility of the government to take care of the underprivileged.  In the parable of the Good Samaritan, He made it clear that taking care of one's neighbour was a personal responsibility.

Second, Christians have a better understanding of human nature, because they read and understand the Bible and what God says about His creation.  It IS true that, under normal circumstances, a person will normally look out for himself before others.  This does NOT mean that they will ignore the needs of those around him.  On the contrary, many conservative Christians, rich or poor, are very generous with their time and money, trying to improve the lot of life of their "neighbours."  It is a frustrating process, since in general they can help only one person or a small group at a time.  This is one reason why everyone should participate - to maximize the ability of society to help those in need.

Socialists, by contrast, try to improve the lot of a large group - society in general - by direct fiat.  They believe that people are not generous enough, which is why there are needy people.  Therefore, taxes are levied, to fill the coffers so that help is available.  This, in itself, is not necessarily a bad thing.  Curiously, however, it fails to take into consideration the "greed" factor.  There are some people who will take advantage of such a system.  Many times, they will actually have to settle for less money if they get a job, compared to what they receive from the government, with the added benefit of having to get up early and not being able to watch television or play video games all day.  Who could say "No" to such a great system?  Of course, socialists and capitalists decry the abuse of both of these systems, as they should. 

Socialists do not recognize man as he is; they see him as they want him to be, and try to manipulate him to be that way.  Capitalists - not all of whom are Christians, by the way - see man as he is, and use the system to take advantage of his natural tendencies. 

Capitalism is better able to meet the needs of large numbers of people, because it utilizes the innate driving force of the group.  Socialism fails to recognize this basic tendency, and is therefore susceptible to abuse by large numbers of people, often rewarding them for not working, in direct violation of II Thessalonians 3.10, "If any would not work, neither should he eat."

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Sixth Day of Creation, Part 1

Well, it had been a busy week, comparatively speaking.  First, there was nothing, then water, light, dry land plants, sun, moon, and most recently sea life and birds. However, God was not finished yet.  The land needed some inhabitants.  "Let the land produce living creatures;  livestock, creatures that move along the ground, and wild animals, each according to its kind.  And it was so."  

Many people tend to mix two biblical stories at this point - the Creation account, and the account of Noah and the Ark.  Since everyone "knows" that Noah took two of every kind of  animal with him on the Ark (which is not true), it is easy to conclude that God made two of every kind of land-dwelling animal.  It is beyond doubt that He created only two humans in the beginning. While merely alluded to in Chapter 1 ("male and female He created them," without clarifying a quantity), it is clearly stated in the events of Chapter 2.  It is reasonable to think that God brought the animals to Adam in pairs, because it says that "no suitable helper was found."  It was as if Adam was naming animals, thinking, "There's two of these, two of those, over there is another pair of something...hmm, I wonder where the other one of me is?" Whether this is true or not, it is NOT automatic that God created only two of each kind of land animal, or sea animal, or bird, for that matter.  

Consider that there was a LOT of land.  Probably, as I mentioned, there was more land than water at this stage.  What would prevent God from making a herd of animals of one type, instead of only two?  Obviously, I cannot prove this hypothesis, but it certainly seems reasonable to me.  On the other hand, if God did create only two, there would have been enough genetic information for natural selection to develop all of the species we see today, including all of the extinct ones that have been discovered as fossils.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Fifth Day of Creation

When all of the base material was in place, God began to fill  it.  And fill it.  And fill it.  "Let the water teem," He said.  Now, 6,000 years later, we STILL don't know what is hiding in the deep parts of the sea.  It has been said that we know more about the surface of Mars than we do about our own oceans.  There are microscopic plants, plants that can barely be seen with the naked eye, small ones, medium sized ones and large ones.  There are also microscopic animals, animals that can barely be seen with the naked eye, small, medium, large and extra large ones, and the famous and beautiful whales, giant octopus and squid.  Who is not captivated by underwater documentaries?  Hollywood is scarcely able to invent stranger things than what already lurks beneath the surface of the deep.

But God was not finished there.  He filled the sky as well.  These also vary enormously in size, from the frenetic buzzing of the diminutive hummingbird, to the majestic soaring eagle of modern times, and included the gigantic Quetzalcoatlus, sort of a Pterodactyl on steroids.  It had a wingspan of 10 meters - more than 30 feet!  What a breathtaking sight it must have been to see the sky filled with these types of creatures.

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Fourth Day of Creation

Day Four is one of my favourites.  It has a phrase that just blows me away.  We will get there, but first, let us consider what was created.

In contrast to Day One, when God said, "Let there be light," the Bible says, "And God said, 'Let there be lights . . .'"  I find it interesting that until Day Four, the light that was created before had no real source.  It was not emanating from anything, unless, as I mentioned, it came from God himself, but it seems as though the light is separate from him. Here God gives a source to the light.  The two principle ones, of course, being the Sun (the "greater light") and the Moon (the "lesser light").

So what is the phrase that knocks me off my feet?  It is only five words, which indicate the other things that God made on this particular day. The Bible says simply, "He also made the stars."

Have you ever considered the amount of material that is included in those five words?  For about 5,600 years, man thought that all those lights were mostly the same - glowing specks of luminosity helping him find his way around at night.  Galileo was one of the first to be able to differentiate between stars, planets and moons, which he did shortly after the invention of the telescope.  It has been only within the last few decades, however, that we have been able to get a good look at what was created on Day Four.  When we look up and see a "star", it could be a planet, star, galaxy or even a cluster of galaxies, each with billions of stars.  Furthermore, advanced telescopes such as the Hubble have sent back incredible images of deep space, and some of the wonders of the magnitude of the creation of God.

What surprises me is the understatement.  You would think that such an impressive display of creative majesty might deserve more than five words, but that is all that it gets.  It is as if Adam was writing down the events as God had explained before the Fall.  He got the part about "moving on the face of the waters," and "everything after its kind," followed by the greater and lesser lights.  Perhaps at that point he had writer's block, and could not remember what came next.  So he yells to the kitchen, where Eve is washing the dishes, "Honey, what else did God say He created on day 4?"  Eve replies, "Did you mentioned the stars?" Adam slaps his forehead, "Oh, yeah, thanks," and writes, "He also made the stars."

Perhaps the explanation has something to do with the way God relates to us.  I am not sure that he ever boasts about his works for the sake of boasting.  Obviously, he does tell us many times of the things he has done, but with a purpose - to let us know that he is with us, that he cares, that he is able to deal with whatever problem we might be facing. Based on what he has done before, we can trust him with the issues we are facing now, as well as the ones to come.

Describing this truth is truly beyond my ability.  Loui Giglio has done a much better job at trying to put the majesty of God into words.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Third Day of Creation

The first creative act of Day 3 was dry land.  Verse 9 of Genesis 1 says, "Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear."  While true that God created dry land, let us not overlook a key phrase - "Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place."  What implication does that have?

If you look at a map of the world today, you will see that 2/3 of the globe is covered by water.  We believe, of course, that most of that came from the Noahic Flood.  So what did the Earth look like before that?  The phrase "to one place" implies to me that there was more land than water - just the opposite of what we find today.  Together with the water canopy that many think was over the earth, it could be that the entire planet was one big tropical jungle, once everything was in place.

I think this is borne out in the amount of coal that we find in the earth's crust.  Coal, as you may know, is nothing more than plants that have been buried and subjected to intense pressure.  Wikipedia tells us,  "The main mineral resource known on the continent is coal."  Which continent?  That would be Antarctica.  How did such a frozen wasteland get to be covered with vegetation, buried with water and changed to coal?  Well, if the whole earth used to be a tropical jungle, when the flood came, there would be sufficient amounts of available plant life to be buried wherever it landed - in this case, Antarctica.  Furthermore, coal is mined in more than 100 countries in all of the other continents.  Another interesting tidbit is that the worldwide coal reserves amount to approximately 900 gigatons - that is, 900 billion (with a "B") tons, or almost 2 quadrillion pounds.  That is a lot of former plant life!

So, let's talk about the plant life.  Once the dry land was in place, God continued with the next item on His list - vegetation.  "Let the land produce vegetation. . . And it was so."  In "Star Trek II:  The Wrath of Khan," there is a scene that deals with the creation of a planet.  As the camera flies across the landscape, you can see land appear, followed by plants that grow at an astonishing rate.  The whole planet is ready to go in about 20 seconds.  This is probably not how Day 3 developed.  Remember, we are dealing with 24-hour days.  If God had created a tree, for example, that grew to 24 feet that first day, it would grow at a rate of one foot per hour, or 1 inch every 5 minutes.  An observer would not really have been able to see any development - it would be like watching the movement of a minute hand of a clock.  The rate would have been even slower with smaller plants, and the development of grass would be next to nothing.  This obviously does not take away from the miracle of Creation - it merely serves to remind us that things are not necessarily like what we see in the movies.

Here is first time that we read the phrase "after its kind."  Young Earth Creationists, like me, take this to mean that whatever offspring comes from something that God created will be similar to what the original life form was.  "What?"  Let me explain.  Let us say that God created an original apple tree.  Down through the centuries and millenia, those apple trees produced seeds, which became other apple trees.  Due to various environmental factors, different varieties of apple trees have developed.  This is called Natural Selection.  It is NOT evolution.  Evolution dictates that living things change into other living things - single-celled organisms become multi-celled, then fish, amphibians, all the way to the famous monkeys to man.  Natural selection causes different genetic characteristics to become dominant, leading to speciation.  All the species we have on the Earth at present came from an original "prototype."  Apple trees, then, came from other apple trees - they did not descend from banana trees, and banana trees did not come from apple trees.  God created every living thing to produce something more or less like itself.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Second Day of Creation

     When one considers the quantity of work that was done on the various days of Creation, Day 2 seems almost like Casual Friday in some respects.  Remember, on Day 1, God created an enormous expanse that, for all we know, has no physical limit.  No small feat, at least from a finite being's point of view.  Other days appear to be full of more than one activity.  Day 2, however, covers exactly one event - the separation of the waters.

     According to v.  2, "the spirit of God moved on the face of the waters" and v. 3 tells us "the earth was without form and void."  It could be that God created the "earth" as a large vapor cloud, which was confined to a specific area, thereby allowing the concept of a "surface."  We could imagine that this cloud covered a large area as large as the Solar System (which did not technically exist yet).  It could have been bigger or smaller, of course.  There is no way to discover from the text.

     Then, on Day 2, perhaps God condensed what we could consider the inner part of the cloud until it became liquid. But what of the "separation"?  The outer section of the original cloud could have been formed as some sort of vapour shield suspended high in the atmosphere, giving the Earth a global tropical environment.  This condition will be important for future considerations on other days of Creation.  There is lot to say here.  These are just ideas that have been bouncing around my head.  For more articles on Creation, see the Answers In Genesis website:

Saturday, January 23, 2010

The First Day of Creation

Some years ago, it was my responsibility to teach the young people of our church in Sunday School.  The material one day was about Creation, Genesis 1.1 and all that.  So we read the first few verses, and then I asked them, "What was the first thing God created?"  The answer, of course, I thought, was Light, because it was the first thing recorded that God said.  Even though I thought this was obvious, the teens gave the "wrong" answer - the heavens and the earth.  No, I explained, that was just an overview, the background.  Then they pointed out that there was water first, because it says in v. 2, "the spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters."  It is humbling when my students point out something I have not thought through, but it provides an opportunity for growth, and foolish indeed is the teacher who does not learn from his students.

So I started thinking about that and the implications, and I came to some conclusions.  First and foremost, even though we say the universe is infinite, it is not.  Remember, "infinite" can mean "has no physical limitations" or "has no chronological beginning or end."  Perhaps, therefore, it is true that the universe does go on for trillions of light years and there is no end.  However, it is not true that it has always been there.

Sometimes I think we have the idea that, "in the beginning," God was floating around the universe, which was empty until He decided to create objects to put inside it.  However, there is only one item that is truly infinite, and that is God.  So my idea is that Genesis 1.1 refers to the fact that God created the expanse we refer to as the universe, and somewhere in that huge expanse, He put some water vapor, indicated by the "formless and empty" of v. 2.  After this was done, God said, "Let there be light."  This light also had to be a bit formless, because it was not attached to any particular source, such as the sun, which did not appear until Day 4.  It could have radiated from God Himself, of course, but there is no indication of that.

This was the first day.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Brown Wins in Massachusetts

     One might ask what an election in Massechusetts has to do with where we came from or where we are going.  A fuller discussion of the topic will be forth-coming, but it is important to remember what the Bible teaches us about God.  Proverbs 21.1 says, "The king's heart is in the hand of the LORD; he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases."

     In December of 2009, in the campaign prior to the special election to replace the late Senator Edward Kennedy, Scott Brown was running against an opponent who had a 30-point lead in the polls.  No one gave him any chance at all of winning the election.  Meanwhile, President Obama and the Democrats were trying to reform the nation's health care system.  The bill they were proposing was not gaining any favour among voters, but they seemed destined to be able to pass it.

     Most conservative pundits, Christians among them, believed that the health-care bill would further bankrupt the American economy, but there seemed to be no way to stop it.  However, as the verse above indicates, God can change circumstances in a relatively short time.  The secret deals that the Democrats made just prior to the new year gave rise to intense voter disatisfaction, and in a matter of weeks, the 30-point lead became a 5-point deficit in the only poll that really mattered - the election.  Brown became the 41st Republican in the Senate, cutting off the 60-vote supermajority of the Democrats.  The "king" - President Obama - discovered that his heart had indeed been turned, and called for the delay of any votes until Brown could be seated.  In one fell swoop, the health-care disaster went from a sure thing, to a shelved thing.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Divine Judgement

Once again, a disaster has occurred.  Once again, an evangelical leader has referred to it as "the judgement of God."  Once again, there has been a misunderstanding.

The Bible clearly states that "all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God."  It also clearly states that "the wages of sin is death."  When you work, you expect wages, or payment.  God tells us that our "work" here in earth does in fact deserves wages, which are handed out in the form of physical death.  Every single one of those people in Haiti was a sinner, and therefore deserved to die.  "Egad!  How heartless you are."  No, it's the simple truth.  But there is more to the story.

In Luke 13.4, Jesus says, "Those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them - do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem?"  Perhaps there was a construction accident, which killed 18 workers.  It was the big story of the moment, something everyone knew about.  There really is nothing new under the sun, so surely someone, somewhere opined that it was the judgement of God.  The answer that Jesus gave indicates that they were right.  He did say they were "guilty."  However, the point of his statement is that they were not MORE guilty than anybody else.  His listeners should have drawn the conclusion that THEY were deserving of death, just like those eighteen.

It's funny how no one ever says, when a great Christian leader dies, "Well, at last he received the judgement of God."  Why do we think in terms of judgement only when there is a disaster?  That a great Christian leader dies is a sign that he was, in fact, a sinner, just like anyone else who dies, be it in an earthquake, terrorist attack, or tsunami.

One day, YOU will physically die.  So will I.  It will be the result of the judgement of God upon sinners everywhere.  The Good News is that God has provided the way to escape spiritual death, or separation from God.  "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved."

Help for Haiti

A wise man once said, "The only justification we need to help other people is that we are Christians."  The recent earthquake is a good place to start.  The link below is one place where you can send help.  There are others available, of course, but please do whatever you can.