Saturday, June 19, 2021

Where Did God Come From?


The question of the origin of God has caused many people to scratch their chins in wonderment. Whether by the curious Christian or the antagonistic atheist, this question has been asked for centuries. To quote atheist Sam Harris, “If God created the universe, who created God?” And what was God doing before creation?


Saint Augustine, as far as we can tell, was the first person to formulate a doctrinal position on this. His answer was that God created time itself while He was creating the universe. The phrase that opens the Bible, “in the beginning,” speaks of the beginning of time. God was not doing anything before He created, because the concept of before didn’t exist. That is a time word, and God operates outside of time.


Thomas Aquinas built on this supposition, writing that every effect must have a cause, and nothing in the universe came into existence on its own. A was caused by B, and B was caused by C, and C was caused by D, ad infinitum. But if we follow this all the way back to the very beginning, there had to be something that caused the fist effect. This is often referred to as an uncaused first cause. 


If there is no Higher Power then we have to answer that question of origin somehow. What caused the appearance of the earliest particles? They couldn’t “just so happen” to exist. They need a first cause. 


If you believe in a Higher Power then the answer becomes much easier. God is the uncaused first cause. He existed before there was anything, and when He decided to do so, He created the universe. Part of Aquinas’ logic was that everything in a series has a cause, but that God is in a category all by Himself. We do not need to trace anything back further than God. In God we have the origin and source of everything else.


Dinesh D’Souza compared God to the author of a book. If we were to read something like Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, we want to know about the character’s back stories. When we follow Pip, or when we meet Mrs. Haversham, we want to know where they came from. But no one reads the book and demands to know where Dickens came from. As the author of the book, the characters come about as a matter of Dickens’ own will, but we do not need to grapple with the author’s origins. 


In a similar way, God, as the author of the universe, has brought about everything we see as a matter of His own will. Which is easier to believe: that a powerful God intentionally and intelligently created the world through His will, or that some unexplained particles accidentally created the world through chaos? 


“You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power; for you created all things, and by your will they exist and were created.”

Revelation 4:11

Sunday, June 13, 2021

False Advertising



Helmut Thielicke was a German theologian and prolific author in the 1900s. He once told the story of a time when, as a college student, he was riding through town on his bicycle. Having skipped breakfast that morning, Thielicke was hungry as he pedaled his bike. When he saw a large sign in a store window that said “Hot Rolls for Sale,” he had to stop in. 


Thielicke said the sign made him realize how hungry he was, and as he parked and made his way to the store, his mouth was beginning to water in anticipation of filling his empty stomach. Once inside, it dawned on him that he was not in a bakery or diner at all, but had actually entered a print shop. The sign in the window was not advertising hot rolls; it was advertising the company’s ability to make signs.


Helmut was bitterly disappointed. He entered the store under false pretenses. The sign got his hopes up, but it did not deliver what he felt it promised. How many churches do that same thing every Sunday? There is a big sign out front that indicates it is a church, but once people go inside they discover it is anything but. The music is entertaining but it has nothing to do with the Lord. The message is well delivered but it isn’t based on the Bible. There might be great multimedia, interior decorating, and activities for the kids, but there is nothing of redemption or sanctification. 


To quote Erwin Lutzer in We Will not be Silenced, “Our churches may advertise the gospel, but once inside, you might find an extension of the culture around us…what you might not hear is a word from God. You might hear a lot about grace but nothing about sin; you might hear how to get blessed by God but nary a word about how to withstand the cultural pressures that are destroying our children and silencing our witness.”


Our churches must be churches, preaching the gospel and being the hands and feet of Jesus. But it starts with the individual church members being the people they are called to be. If you are expecting hot rolls, it is disappointing to wind up in a print shop. If you are expecting a New Testament church, it is disappointing to wind up in a shallow service. And when you meet someone who claims to be a Christian, it is disappointing to find out they are living like the world.


Proverbs 11:30 says, “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and he who wins souls is wise.” It is refreshing to meet a Christian who lives out his faith, and when we live right, we are a tree of life to those who need it. We might not produce hot rolls, but we do produce fruit. Because each person has a God-shaped void in their life, they are looking for something, and we can provide it for them. No false advertising; we must live up to our name. 


Saturday, June 5, 2021

El Shaddai



Many of us have heard messages on the names of God used in the Bible. One of the classic titles bestowed on God is El Shaddai, which is first seen in Genesis 17 where God introduces Himself to Abraham. Most English Bibles have translated El Shaddai as “God Almighty”— “When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, ‘I am Almighty God; walk before me and be blameless (Genesis 17:1).’”


Almighty is a great word. Unfortunately, this translation causes us to miss out on what God was really trying to say about Himself. We often use this verse to speak on God’s omnipotence, to portray Him as a commanding military general able to save the day. There is a better title for that. Yahweh Sabaoth is translated as Lord of hosts or Lord of heaven’s armies, as in Psalm 24:10– “Who is this King of glory? The LORD of hosts, He is the King of glory. Selah.” Shaddai definitely does have connotations of might and power (See Joel 1:15), but I don’t believe that is the main idea.


El Shaddai is not so much about God’s might and power as it is His power to supply our needs. Shaddai comes from the Hebrew root shad, which means breast (we see it so translated in Genesis 49:25, for example). Dr. Charles Parkhurst has written that Shaddai could be thought of as “The Breasted One,” and Dr. Herbert Lockyer agrees, saying that El Shaddai “supplies us with a delicate yet precious metaphor, seeing it presents God as the One who nourishes, supplies, and satisfies.” 


Continuing this thought, Dr. G. Campbell Morgan points out that the idea behind the use of Almighty to translate Shaddai was intended to highlight God as “the mighty One of resource and sufficiency.” He went on to say that Shaddai suggests “perfect supply and perfect comfort. We should reach the idea better by rendering [it] ‘God All Bountiful’ or ‘God All-Sufficient’…To gather sustenance and consolation from the bosom of God is to be made strong for all the pilgrimage.” Parkhurst has also translated Shaddai as the pourer forth of blessings. 


This makes sense in light of Naomi’s statement in Ruth 1:20-21. Her name meant “pleasant,” but she told everyone instead to call her “bitter” because, “The Almighty (Shaddai) has dealt bitterly with me.” In calling God Shaddai, she was emphasizing the fact that God was supposed to pour forth blessings, but in her estimation He had failed to do so. Just as she made a play on her own name, she made a play on God’s name. The supplier stopped supplying, so pleasant became bitter. 


El Shaddai, God Almighty, is a God of blessings. That is why Isaac invoked that name when blessing Jacob— “May God Almighty bless you, and make you fruitful and multiply you, that you may be an assembly of peoples (Genesis 28:3).” Just as a child is dependent upon his mother to nurse him, children of God must never fail to reach up to heaven and ask our Father for His blessings, that He may nourish us for the pilgrimage that is this life. 






Sunday, May 30, 2021

Water in the Ship


The famous preacher D.L. Moody once said, “The place for the ship is in the sea, but God help the ship if the sea gets into it.” That succinct quote is easy to understand. Ships are made for the very purpose of being in the water. A boat that isn’t afloat is not fulfilling its reason to exist. We also understand the problem when water starts to find its way into the ship. While ships were made to be in the water, they were not made to retain it. A ship that takes in water will eventually sink. 


But Moody’s point was not to make us think about ships, but Christians. We are the ships in his illustration, and the world is the sea. We were made by God and put into this world for a purpose. According to the famous catechism, that purpose is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. According to Scripture, “You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power; for you created all things, and by your will they exist and were created (Revelation 4:11),” and “For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him (Colossians 1:16).” We were created by God and for God.


We live in this world, but we are not to be of this world. When interceding for the disciples, Jesus said, “I do not pray that you should take them out of the world, but that you should keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. (John 17:15-16).” Christians, like a ship in the sea, are meant to be in the world. But just as the sea is not supposed to get into the ship, the world is not supposed to get into us. What does that look like? 


The world getting into Christians means the world influences us in such a way that our thinking, beliefs, and actions begin to bend towards the world’s system. Rather than being molded by God’s Word, we let the world shape our worldview. Once we begin to take in water, it is only a matter of time until we sink. At first it is only a little water—a small compromise or two that we justify and excuse as “no big deal.” But one compromise eventually gives way to another, and then another. Before we know it, there is standing water in the ship, and we are a little closer to the waterline. Many lives that have been ruined by sin were tragedies over time, not sudden catastrophes. 


If your ship is taking in water, you need to repent right away. Don’t let it take you down. 





Sunday, May 23, 2021

How Do You Explain Religion?



As long as there have been people, there has been religion. As far back as we can trace, people have been religious from Day 1. While religions differ across continents and centuries, the common denominator is that people believe in a higher power, and they do something to pay homage to that deity. The fact that the world is still very religious in 2021 is a big problem for those who believe in Darwinian evolution.


We are supposedly evolving towards perfection. Darwinists have no problem with their caricatures of dumb cavemen believing in God; those barely human, dumb-as-bricks mongrels were too stupid to know any better. But by now there should not be any more religious people. Evolutionists teach that religion is an illusion, and it requires that one believes what is false to be true, and what is true to be false. The very idea of survival of the fittest means that humans should reject what is false because we should only do that which contributes to our own survival. Don’t take my word for it. Famed atheist Richard Dawkins said the existence of religion presents “a major puzzle for anyone who thinks in a Darwinian way.” Evolutionists know that religion hurts their theory. 


Religion does not contribute to our survival, humanly speaking. People give up things because of religion. Consider Christianity: most of us give away our money as an offering, wake up early on Sundays and spend our time at services; we abstain from things the world says we need; we deny ourselves and submit to a person we cannot even see. Our ancestors brought their best produce, even their best heads of cattle as sacrifices to the Lord. According to evolution, these things should have been weeded out to guarantee our survival. Contrary to what Darwinists say, religion isn’t going away any time soon.


That is because religion does contribute to our survival. Prayer is a wonderful gift, and faith, hope, and love make the world a better place. Atheists say they can be “good without God,” but God is the one who defines what is good. This is the biggest reason why religion is a problem for evolution: deep down we all know there is a God.


In Romans 2:14-15 Paul wrote, “For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them.”

Even the Gentiles, according to the apostle, have God’s law written on their hearts. The law was written on tablets for Jews, but in reality, all people know God’s law. We know stealing, lying, and hurting others is wrong, and we know this without having to read the Ten Commandments. In the same way, even without reading a Bible, we know there is a Higher Power, an Intelligent Designer. Evolutionists say religion is an illusion, but the only illusion is evolution.


Sunday, May 16, 2021

Relying on God



George Muller is one of the most remarkable people I have ever read about. As a young pastor he felt burdened to do more than just preach in the church. He started what he called the Scriptural Knowledge Institute to train people in theology, as well as multiple orphanages. It isn’t just what he accomplished that makes him so fascinating, but how he funded these works. Muller committed to never talk about money with anyone outside of his wife or co-laborers in the ministry. He never held any fundraisers, or even asked for money. He never asked people for money because he asked the Lord for it. He believed it was the Lord’s work, so God would provide the money. Muller prayed for God to impress the needs upon people’s hearts, and that is what happened. 


In his autobiography, Muller detailed dozens of examples of how they were down to their last few cents when somehow the needs would be met. One day the rent for the orphanage might be due, and the next day they might have needed coal to warm the buildings; no matter the need, it was always met at the last second by someone showing up, saying they felt like the Lord was leading them to bring money. 


Muller wrote, “I have never had greater awareness of the Lord’s presence than when after breakfast nothing was left for dinner, and then the Lord provided the dinner for more than a hundred people; or when, after dinner there was nothing for the tea, and yet the Lord provided the tea—all this without one single human being having been informed about our need.” 


Muller trusted that God, who owns cattle on a thousand hills, would always provide the necessary funds to keep the ministries going. It seems like a stressful strategy, but Muller said his way of living made the Lord feel “remarkably near.” He relied on his Father in heaven the way that any child relies on his earthly father. God is not a genie in a bottle, so this philosophy does not work for all of our wants or wishes, but the Lord does promise to provide for all of our needs. In Philippians 4:19 Paul wrote, “And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” 


Like children, we should also develop a dependency on our Father instead of trying to be independent and self-made. If God feels far away, maybe you aren’t depending on Him enough, so He is letting you try to manage on your own. Also, if the Lord lays it on your heart to do something for someone, do it; that person might be depending on God, and you might be the means God is using to make it happen.  

Sunday, May 9, 2021

Choose Your Words Wisely


President Calvin Coolidge was known for being a man of few words. His preference for not speaking earned him the nickname “Silent Cal.” His wife Grace told a story about a White House dinner party in which a young lady was seated beside the President. She told Coolidge that she made a bet with her friend that she could get him to say at least three words during dinner. 


“You lose,” Coolidge said, without even looking up from his plate, and he didn’t speak another word during the course of the meal. Talk about choosing your words wisely! Coolidge didn’t say much, but when he did, he tried to make his words count. 


Some speak more than others, but on average people say about 7,000 words a day. Whether you are on the top end of that number, or whether you are closer to Silent Cal, you should still choose your words wisely. That is what David wanted to do. He once wrote, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer (Psalm 19:14).” 


A great question to ask is, “Are my words acceptable in God’s sight?” Sometimes we deem things as unacceptable. A parent tells their child their behavior is unacceptable, or a teacher tells a student the assignment they turned in is unacceptable. I would hate to know that God found my words to be unacceptable. That assessment is probably true of all of us from time to time, but for some their overall speech patterns are unacceptable. 


Crude words are unacceptable, and Paul said, “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification…(Ephesians 4:29).” Dishonest words are unacceptable, and Solomon said, “These six things the Lord hates…a proud look, a lying tongue (Proverbs 6:16-17).” Blasphemous words are unacceptable, and Moses wrote, “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain (Exodus 20:7).” 


Some might wonder what the big deal is. How can words uttered into the air really be a problem? For starters, our words reveal a heart issue; if we are losing our temper and saying angry things, those words are just symptoms of a worse problem. But another reason to choose our words carefully is that they are a reflection of the God we serve. If we are liars, the world will not trust us when we tell them they need Jesus. When we are crude, they will not think they need Jesus if Jesus hasn’t cleaned us up. When we blaspheme, they won’t think Jesus is special to us. 


The words we say matter to God because they can turn people off to Him. You don’t have to be Silent Cal, but please choose your words wisely.