Monthly Archives: April 2016

What would you do if you were God (Part 4)

Rom 1133 - how unserachable“Oh, how great are God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge! How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his ways!” Romans 11:33 [NLT]

In the previous installments of this series on God’s ways, I discussed why He does things the way He does and whether we could do any better if we had supreme control of the universe.  Now I want to focus on something a little more personal.  Putting yourself in God’s place for a moment, think about what you would do if your creatures turned away from you to the point where your relationship with them seemed irreparable.

You had designed humans so that their most primal need was to have a deep personal relationship with you, but they had chosen to abandon and deny their need for that intimate relationship.  In human terms, this seems like an impossible situation.  One party (the human being) has gone against the wishes and desires of the other party (God) by disobeying His instructions, speaking against His perfect character, and hurting Him deeply.  The first party will not admit their wrongs and refuses to apologize (repent) for their sins against the second party.

If both of these parties were human, it would be difficult if not impossible to reconcile and restore their close relationship.  The first (wronged) party would have to unilaterally forgive the other one, which requires Godlike humility and unconditional love.  Considering the extreme nature of the sins of people against God, this forgiveness would be on the level of Corrie TenBoom’s forgiveness of the concentration camp guard who brutally and mercilessly beat her sister.  However, as we know, with God “all things are possible”.  From the Romans 11:33 Scripture above, we also know that it is “impossible for us to understand God’s decisions and ways”.

So how did God choose to reconcile us back to Himself from the depths of our sin and disobedience?  Did He shout down to us in His Earth-shattering voice, speaking anger and judgment on us and our sins?  Did He accuse us of turning against Him, shaming us into such a state of humiliation and disgrace that we felt compelled to seek His forgiveness?  Did He come down to Earth, seeking retribution and justice for every sin we had committed against Him and His children?

Or did Abba draw us back to Himself (and to Yeshua) by loving us unconditionally?  It is sometimes hard to even fathom the depth of Abba’s love for us.  Think of a particularly painful time in your life, when someone has hurt you so deeply you cannot even imagine forgiving them.  Then imagine sacrificing your own child for people who despised and cruelly hurt you.  Multiply this a million or billion times and you can start to feel what our Father in heaven feels when we turn away from Him and pierce His heart to the core with our sins.

Yeshua told us to love our enemies, bless those who curse us and do good to those who hate us.  He also told us that “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for your friends”. (John 15:13)  But what if God told you to lay down your life (or your child’s life) for your enemies?  Would you be angry and resentful that He would ask you to do something so unfair?  Well that is exactly what Yeshua did for us – His Father asked Him to lay down His life for those who hated, mocked and abused Him, and He willingly consented to His Father’s will.  If Yehovah could do this for us, can we not forgive those who hurt and abuse us?

Instead of criticizing Abba for the ways He deals with people’s disobedience, try praising Him for his love and forgiveness which are more infinite than all the universe!

 

Pursuing Righteousness

Righteousness2Yeshua took on our sinfulness so that we might have His righteousness (Rom 5:6, 10; 8:1). He became like us and put to death all that is wrong in us, so that we might become like Him and share in His glory. We have heard words similar to this many times, perhaps so many times that we no longer pay much attention to them.

How much have we taken on the righteousness that Yeshua offers us? Just how like Yeshua are you? I ask myself this question from time to time, especially in moments when I’ve caught myself being very much unlike Him. It is good to spend time in Scripture and in prayer searching for the righteousness of Yeshua.

What has Yeshua revealed to us about Himself? For one, He has a unique relationship with His Father (Matt 11:27, John 6:46). He came to reveal His Father to us, so that we might call His Father our Father (John 17:24-26). Are we growing in our relationship with our Father? When did we last introduce someone to our Father?

Yeshua loved others into the kingdom (Mark 2:17, Luke 15:2). He reached out to others whom many would go out of their way to avoid. He did not approve or encourage sinfulness or join in the wayward lifestyles of others, but He saw the person who needed love, forgiveness and encouragement. He saw the potential in sinners that was not obvious to others, just as He sees the potential in us. Are there categories of people that we avoid? Have we written them off as hopeless? How can we love them as Yeshua does?

Yeshua interceded for others and continues to intercede for all of us (Rom 8:34). Do we pray for others even when it is not comfortable or convenient? Do we pray for others even when it seems hopeless? Do we spend some of our nights in prayer with our Father as Yeshua did?

Yeshua taught others in large groups, but also in one-on-one encounters (Matt 5-7; John 3-4). We may or may not be called to address large crowds, but we all have opportunities with individuals. Are we tuned in to catch those “teachable moments” and act upon them as Yeshua did?

Yeshua was totally guided by the Holy Spirit, and therefore always did His Father’s will, not His own will (Matt 4). He saw what His Father was doing and He did the same (John 5:19-30). Are we so spiritually tuned in that we can see our Father at work? Are we doing the works our Father does?

Yeshua paid a heavy price so that we could share in His righteousness. What price are we willing to pay to pursue that righteousness?

What would You do if You were God (Part 3)?

free will_2“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28 [NKJV]

In the last segment of this series (Part 2), I discussed the reasons why God created us with a free will.  Please go back and read that episode: What would you do if you were God (Part 2), to get the background for this teaching. In today’s blog, we will dig deeper into God’s purpose for giving us free will. YHVH works all things together for good no matter how far we stray from His perfect plan for our lives.

We are born into the earthly realm where hasatan rules and reigns (ever since Adam and Eve gave back their dominion to him in the fall.  So you might ask: why would God have allowed our great adversary to take dominion of the Earth from us?  Well, being our all-knowing Creator, and having given us free will, He knew that we would eventually disobey Him and fall into sin.  So He created us with a conscience that steers us towards what is right and away from what is wrong.

Even young children can be influenced by other forces and willfully choose to disobey their consciences.  Parents may have taught their child right from wrong, but that child can be wrongly influenced by seeing another child doing something they know is wrong (taking something that doesn’t belong to them, or telling a fib, for instance).  If the child is caught in the act and reprimanded, but desires to please their parents, then they will resist the temptation to disobey the next time.  It is the same with our heavenly parent, Abba.  Even at a young age, children start developing a sense of what is right and wrong. They learn that their lives will be happier and less stressful if they take the “right” path in their choices.

When we come into the age of moral accountability, we generally know that we are to keep God’s commandments, but there are many forces tempting us to go astray of those commandments.  We are tempted by the snares of the world, such as the lust of the eyes and flesh around us that appear so desirable on the surface.  We are also tempted by others to stray.  At times, we can be lured by the seductive wiles of HaSatan or his evil forces to commit sinful acts.

How is God working for good through these sinful lapses on our part?  Yehovah has blessed us with intelligent minds that are able to reason through the physical consequences of sin – and a spirit ideally in tune with His Holy Spirit to help us recognize the spiritual consequences of sin, which leads to separation from God.  YHVH desires that all of His children be born again and filled with His Holy Spirit.  This means that when we fall into sin, He uses His rod and staff to correct us and pull us back into His fold.  Sometimes, we fall so far and for so long that we suffer severe consequences. These can take the form of physical or mental ailments.

As many born-again believers’ testimonies confirm, these times of falling away were the low-points in their sinful lives.  Yet God was working to bring them back and restore them to fellowship with Him.  He can work in many ways – through other believers or His angels who rescue us in dire times of great distress or danger, through Yeshua Himself who appears to people in the depths of despair, and even directly by shining His glory light into a fallen person’s heart and thoughts, giving them hope for a joyful future with Him.

There are many examples in Scripture of YHVH pulling people out of the depths of their despair.  In David’s case, he often experienced times of discouragement, desperation and even hopelessness.  Some of these times were brought about because of unjust hostility from others, such as King Sha’ul, Abimelech, etc. (1 Sam 23, Ps 22:1-8, Ps 69:1-4, Ps 56, Ps 34).  But in other cases it was his own sin that brought God’s judgment down on him (Ps 51).  In both cases, he cried out to YHVH, because he knew that God would rescue him out of his dire circumstances even when his sin had temporarily separated him from God’s presence.  At all these times, though, David was learning to trust in God’s protection and deliverance instead of trusting in people and nations to deliver him.

Similarly with Paul (Sha’ul) in the New Testament, he realized that God was his only stronghold and that was sufficient for him no matter how dire the circumstances were.  Sha’ul had sinned greatly by persecuting believers in Yeshua (Acts 7:58), before Yeshua appeared to him and saved him by grace on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:3-18).  He then came under great persecution himself and had to depend on YHVH to save him from his enemies, learning that YHVH was his strength when he was weak (2 Cor 12:8-10).

Think about the darkest times in your life, when someone has abused or hurt you deeply, or when you have fallen into the darkness of sin and depression.  If you are a believer, you know that those times were when God was working the most fervently in your life – to raise you back up to joy and glory in His kingdom, or to convict you of the destructive effects of your sin and the critical need to turn from your sinful ways and follow Him.  When I think about the freedom He has given us and the power of His love and grace to save us when we fall, I cannot imagine Him doing it any other way!

Our Darkest Hours

Light

Life is full of challenges and often we are able to rise to the occasion and overcome our trials.  However, there are times when we feel overwhelmed by our circumstances.  During these times, we realize that we are weak and vulnerable.  What causes these dark times to happen?  What can we do?  Scripture provides some insights for us.

Sometimes our suffering is a direct result of our own poor choices, such as when David succumbed to temptation and slept with another man’s wife.  He continued to yield to temptation by attempting to cover up his sin with various schemes.  At last, David confessed and repented of his sins, but there was the consequence of losing a child.  It was only after David confessed his sin and repented that he was set free from his guilt and was able to finally move forward (2 Sam 11-12) .

At other times we need to adjust our focus.  A good example is found in the book of Job.  Job was living in fear and focusing on the negative.   His fear became his focus and performance became his “god”.  “What I feared has come upon me; what I dreaded has happened to me” (Job 3:25 NIV). Only when he experienced the loss of family, health, goods, and reputation did his focus change. He met YHVH personally and YHVH became his focus.   And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.  Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you (Phil 4:8-9 NLT)

Another source of adversity is when we build false strongholds.  We rely on something or someone else besides YHVH to protect us.  When we are threatened or injured, we tend to develop strategies and attitudes to keep from further injury.  The strategies become our “god” and the attitudes, instead of insulating us from further hurt, only trap us and make a dark place for the enemy to reside.  We know from Yeshua that “[t]he thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full (John 10:10 NIV).  Through deliverance and inner healing, we can remove the darkness and step into the light.

 Yeshua promised us that we would endure persecution for following Him (Matt 10:16-23).  The apostles suffered much persecution and many of our brothers and sisters today are suffering severely.  We must be ready to endure whatever is required of us (1 Pet 3:13-17).  Yeshua endured tremendous persecution during his time on earth, yet He kept His focus on His Father and Abba’s promises to Him.  As a result of His faithfulness, He is exceedingly glorified and we are tremendously blessed (1 Pet 3:18-22).

Whatever the cause of our darkness, the solution is always to turn to YHVH and put our trust in Him.  YHVH will take what is meant for evil and produce glorious good for us (Gen 50:20; Rom 8:28).

What would you do if you were God? (Part 2)

free will      So God created man in his own image, in the image of God [Elohim] he created him; male and female he created them.Genesis 1:27 [ESV]

In the first part of this series a couple of weeks ago, I dealt with the frequent questions about why God was supposedly such an angry, vengeful God in the Old Testament but now is a merciful and gracious God who declares all of His people righteous and holy through the blood of the Lamb, Yeshua HaMashiach.  Please go back and read that episode (What would you do if you were God) to get the full context if you have not done so. In today’s blog, I wanted to delve into the motives and intents of God’s heart in creating human beings, the crowning work of His creation.

When God [Elohim] first created mankind, He said, “Let us make human beings in Our image, to be like Us” (Gen 1:26 – NLT).  The first thing I noticed when I read this passage is that God spoke of Himself as a plural being.  As we have taught before, God [Elohim] is a name for a triune God representing all three persons of the Godhead (Father, Son and Holy Spirit).  So when God says He created us to be like Him, He meant all three persons of Himself.  You could loosely relate the whole essence of our being to these three persons – we certainly have a spirit (relating to God’s Holy Spirit and even able to be filled with the Holy Spirit), and we have a fleshly body, which relates to Yeshua when He came to Earth in the flesh.

But what about our soul – our mind, heart, will and emotions?  The Scriptures speak clearly about the mind of God (Num 23:13, Rom 8:27, Job 12:13, Isa 40:28, I Cor 2:16).  We know from stories like the prodigal son about the loving heart of God the Father (Luke 15:11-32).  We also know that God created us to have emotions like Himself: love, compassion, joy, anger, etc. (see Job 20:23, Ps 74:1; 86:15, Jer 7:20, Isa 62:5, Zeph 3:17).  Finally, God’s will is supreme in the universe, and He wants us to follow His will to the best of our abilities, with the help of the Holy Spirit – in Romans 12:2, Sha’ul says: “…you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect”.

God not only created us with a will as part of our souls; He created us with a free will to make our own life choices.  Because God is all-knowing, He knew that many of His children would make bad decisions in their lives and damage or destroy their lives.  We see people every day making bad choices that cause them physical and emotional pain either for themselves or others, falling into addictions, committing crimes against others or treating others unfairly.  So why did God give us free will, and “what would you have done if you were the Creator God”?

The Scriptures say that “God is love” and that He is the source of all love.  He created us in His image, to love Him and our fellow brothers and sisters.  Many people choose not to love God or follow His will, but rather they follow their own selfish will.  Because of their bad choices, they cause great pain and suffering to themselves and others.  So what if God had “programmed” our minds and hearts to love Him, so that we had no choice but to love Him.  Everyone would love Him unconditionally, but would God be pleased and rejoice over us?  If I were Him, I would be sad and depressed, knowing that my creation loved me, but they had no choice in the matter, so it wasn’t fulfilling and their love didn’t mean anything to me.

God is a God of relationships, and He created us to be in relationship with Him.  When we love and trust Him as our best friend, Lord and ruler of our lives, we have the greatest joy and fulfillment possible, and God smiles and rejoices over us because we have chosen the best path and because another one of His children loves Him of their own free will and has a personal relationship with Him.