GOD, THE ETERNAL

Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen. 1 Timothy 1:17.

 “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” Revelation 1:8

For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations. Psalm 100:5.

In my last two posts, I established that God is Independent—He is in a class of all of His own, unique, incomparable, and He doesn’t need anyone or anything else to subsist. I also shared the humbling news that although He is all the things our finite minds can’t even fathom, He wants to be known. He makes himself available to us. Our relationship with Him holds a priority in His plan.

According to the Bible, His plan is to have a people and for Him to be their God.

Today, let’s take a brief look at another of his non communicable attributes. Just as a reminder, non communicable means it is a characteristic He alone has and does not share with his creatures or creation.

God is eternal.

I like dictionaries and decided to look it up in my favorite, http://www.merriam-webster.com,  but this time, it totally failed my expectation with a wimpy:  having infinite duration. On the chance it might be better, I navigated to http://www.dictionary.com, and to my surprise, this is what it said: without beginning or end; lasting forever; always existing. That’s what I’m talkin’ about!

God always was, is, and always will be. No one created him, therefore no one was before him.

According to what I could find, worldwide, the average life expectancy at birth was 71.0 years (68 years and 6 months for males and 73 years and 6 months for females) over the period 2010–2013 according to United Nations World Population Prospects 2012 Revision.

My mom just turned ninety, and she never thought she would make it to that age. I talked to my ex-pastor’s wife on Sunday, who is seventy-seven. She told me the same thing. And my friend Linda’s mother-in-law is ninety-three and is just tired of living.

So, eternal?

I have no way to embellish this truth. As much as I love words, they fail me. It just is. No one created God. He just always was. And nothing can ever be done to make him non-existent. And just like his other attributes, this only makes me want to trust and worship Him.

I confess that the more He is unlike me, the more magnificent I find Him.

Although we are created beings, therefore not eternal in the sense God is, we do participate in eternity. In fact, and this is my opinion, so you can agree or not, my eternity started the nanosecond after I was conceived.

We are formed in Mama’s womb, are born and live here on earth, we die, and after that, whether we want to accept it or not, only two possibilities exist:  continuing on in a different place after death forever with God or continuing on at a different place forever separated from God.

But what happens during the time between Mama’s womb and the grave can make all the difference in eternity.

Did you see Gladiator? If not, it is a film worth viewing. If you saw it, do you remember when Russell Crowe’s character shouted, “What we do here echoes in eternity!”? Chills careen up my back just thinking about it.

But I imagine that after that scene, people came up and slapped him on the back. “Awesome, scene, Russ. Good on you, Mate.” (He lived most of his life in Australia, after all.) I don’t think the actor had ever said anything truer in his whole life and career. But my guess is that he didn’t give it another thought.

Sometimes I live my life as if it stopped here.

I fret, I fume, I waste time, I get sidetracked. Today, while writing a note to a friend, it hit me once more just how important it is to remember what this life is all about.

First of all, to get to know God. The gift of heaven is awesome, but I don’t want to meet face-to-face with a stranger when I get there.

Second, to get my priorities straight. What am I truly accountable for and what do I take on that doesn’t correspond to me? How important is it really what consumes my mind, energy, and time?

Third, if Jesus promised an abundant life here (and he did to his children), I need to live it! Can I do something to change whatever is thwarting that? He did not give his life and promises in vain.

Do I take stock of what I do, think, and plan and determine its importance in the face of eternity?

When I have to make choices, how does it hold up after I am gone from this earth? Making decisions could be a whole lot easier if I would just remember this principle, don’t you think?

Isaiah 57:15:
For this is what the high and exalted One says—
he who lives forever, whose name is holy:
“I live in a high and holy place,
but also with the one who is contrite and lowly in spirit,
to revive the spirit of the lowly
and to revive the heart of the contrite.”

God is, has always been, and will be. But, how is what I do here going to echo in eternity?

 

 

 

 

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WHY DID GOD MAKE US ANYWAY?

 

In my last post, I discussed one of my favorite attributes of God: His Independence.

I shared the fact that God is independent in the sense that He doesn’t need anyone or anything else. Never has and never will. But God is also independent in the sense that no one else is like Him. He is unique and cannot be compared to anything or anyone in all of creation.So, it does ask the question:

If He is independent and doesn’t need anyone or anything, then why did He create man?

This is a question not easy to ask and even harder to answer. Only one thing makes sense, and it’s not particularly comfortable:

For His glory.

Because of this statement, many people consider God a narcissist. If he created man so that man would glorify Him, then He is full of Himself and must consider Himself the center of the universe.

Here’s the reason why that’s okay:

He is the center of the universe.

And the sooner we can accept and embrace this, the better off we are. Seriously. He is the center of all, and He deserves all the glory and all our praise. But He also created us because He wanted to love us. He wants to pour out His love on his creatures. Creating us for this purpose is hard for us to handle. The reason is because we want a logical explanation for everything.

Love isn’t logical.

Why would God love us? Let’s go back further. Why would he create us at all when He knew (if He did know, you might say—fodder for another discussion) that man was going to sin or fall from grace, as many fondly refer to it?

If He knew that His perfect Adam was going to sin and that their relationship was going to be broken and that this sin would be passed on to every generation after him, why would God do it? Why would He go through the heartache of sending His son, Jesus, to earth to become a man, suffer the imperfection of the world, and then die on the cross? Just to save us?

The answer is love.

Is it logical? No. And for His glory? Didn’t He go through a lot of trouble for that to happen? Yes, He did. And well, let’s take another thing into consideration: History.

His story.

Let’s face it. It is all about Him. It is His story, and we are actors in it. It is all about Him. We can accept it or not. If we do, we will definitely be better off in life. If we don’t, we are smashing our heads against a wall and will eventually crack it. Our heads, not the wall.

God is an independent being. He needs no one. But He chooses to have a relationship with us.

It was a light bulb moment for me when I discovered what the whole thing is about. It isn’t new. You probably already know. It took me a while. The purpose for the whole thing, for God creating earth and then man and then establishing a relationship with him? This is it, simply put, but as complex as anything we can fathom:

God wants to have a people and for Him to be their God.

That’s it. I am so on board with that. What a privilege.

I welcome your comments.

Trying to figure out all the things to say about God is like diving into the ocean and trying to pick up all the grains of sand in the bottom. Of all the oceans, not just the Pacific or Atlantic. Impossible. That’s where the saying fathomless has to come from. Stay tuned while we continue on with God’s attributes.

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God–Pure and Simple: Independence

sky-lights-space-darkToday I start to share about God in the purest and simplest way I know how. It will be imperfect. I will make mistakes. I can’t do the theme justice. But my heart is really in this. And I am asking the Holy Spirit to guide along the way.

We are going to talk about God’s attributes, both the communicable and the incommunicable.

Let’s break that down.

Merriam-Webster defines attribute as: a quality, character, or characteristic ascribed to someone or something. For instance, “Nelson Mandela had leadership attributes.” He had what it took to lead his nation.

When it comes to God, theologians have divided His attributes into those that are communicable and incommunicable.

Simply put, communicable attributes are those that people can possess. Incommunicable ones belong only to God.

Having said that, let’s dive into one of God’s characteristics that had a huge impact on me when I discovered it. More than likely, most have not thought about it much. I know I hadn’t. I figure it is because it does not directly affect us.

Theologians refer to this particular attribute as incommunicable. Meaning, it belongs only to Him. He has not passed it on to us.

God is independent.

One day in Sunday school, not sure what age (please give me a break—I’ve lived a long time, and most of those years I’ve gone to Sunday school) somebody asked (I’m sure it wasn’t me, because I was too much of a fraidy cat), “Why did God make us?” Good question. But the answer is what stuck with me, and at some level I believed it. “Why, honey, God created us because He was lonely and needed company.”

Think about it for a moment. Was God all alone before the creation of man?

In the  Genesis account of creation, Scripture says His Spirit hovered over the space of the waters. John 1:1-3 confirms Jesus’s presence during the creation. So, God the Father had Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and at some point he created a host of angels.

God had plenty of company.

Independence infers that God doesn’t need anyone or anything. He came into being with no outside help. He is self-propelling and self-sustaining. We will talk later about other characteristics that back this up.

The point is He has always been and always will be, and no one can help Him be any more than He is and no one can force Him to be any less than He is, either.

Let’s face it, as hard as we may try, we cannot make it here without anyone else. Just not possible. We can be hermits or choose not to see anyone. But still, we are not self-sustaining.

God made us in his likeness, so one could come to the conclusion that since we get lonely and need other people, then surely He does too. Something important needs to be noted in reference to the whole “made in His likeness” concept. We were made in His likeness in the sense that we have a spirit, that we feel and we think like He does.

But in no case, and in no way, is He like us

God is independent in the sense that there is no one else like Him, either. He cannot be compared to anything or anyone in all of creation.

Even though it seems weird, this particular attribute has become a linchpin that holds the rest of His attributes together for me. And it makes me trust Him more. He didn’t need to create us. But He did.

So, the question begs for an answer: if He is independent and doesn’t need anyone or anything, then…why did He create man?

Stay tuned. I welcome your comments.

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GOD–PURE AND SIMPLE INTRO

spiral-hallwayThe idea of this new series has been rolling around in my head for so long, I can’t even put a date on its birth. And anyone who knows me fairly well is aware of the fact that I am passionate about the subject matter.

So many good books have been written about following Christ, living a purposeful, Spirit-filled life, what the church should look like, how to pray, the importance of daily devotionals, etc. I have several of these on my shelf. Some I have read numerous times.

This series is not about any of that.

On more than one occasion, I have entertained the following thought, and when I do, it shakes me to the core: What if I lived my whole life, trying to do all the right things and yet, when I reach heaven and see Jesus face-to-face, He feels like a stranger?

For one thing, that would be on me, not Him.

He wants to be known. He has made that clear in Scripture, and creation shouts intelligent design.  I want to know Him, as much as is humanly possible. And to do that, I need to take a good long look at who He is, who He really is , even when it is uncomfortable, even when it scares me, even when it doesn’t make sense to my finite mind.

So, this series is not five steps to get to know him more, although as I stated, I long to.  And I hope we all will. It’s also not ten ways to live a better life or what heaven is like. Not how to pray more or to read the Bible in a year. It’s not a defense of my faith, either. I just want to cut through the academia of theology and philosophy and get to the heart of the matter: God—Pure and Simple. His person, His essence, His attributes, His character.

A little voice in my head, says, “Who do you think you are to try this?”

Uh, nobody special. Except that God put it on my heart. It’s no easy task to write about the Almighty. I’m such a flawed pot of clay. That’s what the Bible says I am—a bunch of mud molded into a cracked and fragile container. I’m definitely fragile, and anyone who knows me also knows I am way beyond cracked.

But the Bible also says I hold a treasure. Him.That blows my mind.

As a foundation for these posts, I’d like to clarify the ground rules. First off, I will be talking about God with a capital G. He is Creator and Sustainer of the universe, and the only Absolute Truth. God is the only prism through which we can look and form a world view that makes sense, hold water, and is true.

So, who might this series be for? Any person who needs oxygen to survive!

Maybe you’ve been in the church your whole life, pray, read the Bible, work diligently, teach, preach, are involved in a whole gambit of church activities, and yet. . . your gut makes you wonder if you’re missing something vital. Perhaps you’re interested in God, but don’t appreciate institutionalized religion. Or you’re mad at Him. Or you think He’s not fair. Or you just don’t get it. You might even claim not to care one way or another, but a question niggles at the back of your brain making you wonder if there might be some truth to the whole God thing. Maybe you’d enjoy a basic refresher course.

Whatever your case, I hope you come back and share in this adventure.

 

 

 

 

 

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PROCESSING PROVERBS–FINAL

toward-con-con

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Viña del Mar on a hazy day, looking toward Con-Con, Chile)

Reading through Proverbs proved to be more of an adventure than I had anticipated. Scripture always comes alive when we ask the Holy Spirit to illuminate us, but I confess that I don’t always intentionally ask for His help. When that happens, He takes pity on me and does it anyway.

At the outset, Solomon tells us why these Proverbs were written:

  • To gain wisdom and instruction
  • For understanding and insight
  • Instruction in prudent behavior
  • Doing what is right and fair
  • To give prudence to the simple
  • To give knowledge and discretion to the young

Who doesn’t need that in life? Hey’s straightforward, my kind of writer. I also figured out that just reading through Proverbs every once in a while wasn’t going to make the principles happen in my life

I already shared in Processing Proverbs Part One, which you can read here, that one of the principles that struck me right off and has continued to stick with me through the book is the theme of the fear of the Lord.

And it keeps rattling around in my head.

Sincerely, I get concerned that we tend to be flippant in regards to God. The whole “Jesus is my friend” wave that started back in the 60s and 70s and continues to wash over us,  could easily lull us into such a casual relationship with God  that we forget or ignore  the attributes that don’t fall into the soft and cuddly category of His attributes. Like wrath and justice, both of which are so necessary to understand and embrace the gospel.

God is immutable—He doesn’t change.

So, the God I read about today who struck down ten of the 12 spies who went into Canaan and then came back and instilled fear and grumbling in the Israelites? He is the very same. The New Covenant has not somehow nullified some of His characteristics.  I want the whole package of God. That’s the one I trust to be Almighty.

And I need Almighty, don’t you?

So, my biggest takeaway on this round in Proverbs continues to be the theme of the fear of God and how it is an important stone in the foundation of our relationship with Him and the set of values that constitute our worldview.

This is not a list of rules, but I wanted to summarize by mentioning  the concept and the passage.

The fear of the Lord:

  • Is the beginning of knowledge (1:7)
  • Without it, we have no guarantee God will answer us or let Himself be found (1:29)
  • It is to be discerned and searched after (2:3-5)
  • Is to hate evil (8:13
  • Is the beginning of wisdom (9:10)
  • Adds length to life (10:27)
  • Is a secure fortress and refuge (14:26
  • Is a fountain of life and turns a person from the snares of death (14:27)
  • Is better than great wealth with turmoil (15:16)
  • Is wisdom’s instruction (15:33)
  • Through it, evil is avoided (16:6)
  • Leads to life, contentment, protection from trouble (19:23)
  • Is humility (22:4)
  • Requires our zeal (23:17)

If I take seriously just this one aspect of what I gleaned from Proverbs, it will keep my busy for a long time. Not to mention keep me out of a bundle of trouble.

I intend to do that.

Every day I thank God that Chile is still a free enough country for me to read my Bible wherever I choose, pray in public if I want to, attend worship services without physical threat, talk openly about Jesus, and live my life according to my convictions. That is huge. I do not take that for granted. And I never want to.

Next post, I intend to start a new series I fondly call God–Pure and Simple. Basically, I am going to share my discoveries regarding the attributes and the character of God. I am so excited/scared!!! Please meet me here.

Dear Father God, thank you so much for Your word and the incredible privilege to be able to read it. Please instill in my heart what is true, teach me to fear you and what that truly means, and give me the courage to live accordingly. 

I welcome your commetnts.

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HONORING MAMA ON HER 90th BIRTHDAY

mama-young

My mama turns ninety today, and I want to honor her for it. She is an amazing woman. And not just because she is my mother. Although, that would be enough. I mean, she had to raise me, for crying out loud.

Out of respect for her privacy, I can’t tell a lot of stories about her. But oh, how I would love to. One of the things that always impressed me about her is how fast she got through high school (just downright smart) and after working as a bookkeeper at Grandpa’s gas station (I think it was Standard Oil), Sears Roebuck & Company hired her. I don’t want to make stuff up, but according to my understanding, she was the first woman the company had brought in as a bookkeeper. This would have been around 1944. She was quite a looker. Hubba hubba!

Fast forward 17 years. When our dad got a job at Mercury, Nevada we moved from Santa Cruz, California to live in Las Vegas. Yeah, Mercury, Nevada. Think Area 52. So cool. I can’t talk about that, either. Rats!

Anyway…Mom was not one to stay home and keep house and raise children. She got fidgety and depressed, so Dad told her to do what she needed to do to cheer up. She decided to open a Christian bookstore—the first one ever in the State of Nevada.

I have to tell one story about that. She opened her first store on Fremont Street. If you know Las Vegas, you will also know that street is an enigma. Part of it is where some of the first hotels and casinos are situated. Other parts can be kinda sleazy. Methinks that is the part where she was. This is 1962.

One day, a robber walks in. Packing heat, I might add. “Gimme all your cash, lady!” Well, I don’t know if those were his exact words, but he did come in to take everything she had in the register. The business was just getting off the ground, so that didn’t amount to much. But still.

So, Mom, smart cookie that she is, knew it wouldn’t do any good to fight the guy. It wasn’t like she could’ve wrestled him to the ground and wrenched the gun from him. She had to comply. But she had a request. “Okay, but would you let me count what’s in the register before you take it so I can record it and balance the books?”

Imagine the scene. The guy cocking an eyebrow, maybe scratching his head with the barrel of his gun and thinking (in a Jimmy Cagney voice), what’s the deal with this dame? I want her cash and to smoke outta here. And she’s worried about her books? Why ain’t she worried about her life, for Pete’s sake?

What he said aloud was, “Fine. Count it and then hand it over.”

While she was doing this, he told her he wasn’t a thief by trade, that he was out of work and desperate to feed his family. She never told me this part, but it wouldn’t surprise me if she got into her pocketbook and gave him what she had there, too.

I could tell so many stories.

Like being honored as the first woman on the committee for the Billy Graham crusades in Las Vegas. I don’t want to give false information. I am not sure if that is in general, or in Nevada. But the honor still stands. She was a first in so many things, and I know she would be appalled if she got wind of the fact I am sharing this stuff.

One last thing about her work.

When we moved to Las Vegas, we helped establish what is now Central Christian Church in Henderson, Nevada. We started with seventeen, and now thousands attend. Today, it is a solid, Bible-teaching congregation.

When it was necessary to start keeping track of the funds, guess who was called upon? Yep. Mom held office as church treasurer and then financial secretary through many, many pastors. Her heyday was during Gene Appel’s ministry (now at Eastside Christian Church–amazing pastor), but she continued on staff through Jud Wilhite (present pastor and awesome guy) and then as a volunteer until Dad died and she  relocated to Montana.  I wish I had the picture to show you her in a hard hat while during their big building program.

Mom still lives with my sister in Montana. She continues to be independent (which can sometimes be a trial!). She drives, volunteers at the Lutheran library, does Seniorcize, and…last but not least….is the church treasurer. Oh, yeah, Mom’s part of the brain where numbers flow will be the last to go, if ever.

It does seem apropos that today is the day I read Proverbs 31, where we all know we can find the passage of the Woman of Noble Character. No, Mom didn’t knit for us, or sew much (although she did some), but she did make sure we had coats on our backs and did her best to instill in us what she thought were traits of good, Christian character. She was tough. And even kinda scary at times. But she did what she thought best.

mamaToday? Still of strong, noble character, but sweeter and kinder than ever.

She must be the most surprised of anyone she is turning ninety. And it must be kind of painful to have outlived her parents, her siblings, and her husband. She always told me that she thought Jesus would return before she died. I always kind of pooh-poohed that because I figured she didn’t want to die at all. But now, I am wondering…I mean, ninety years is a lot. And Jesus is going to come in the twinkling of the eye, when we least expect it, so….. who knows? Happy Ninetieth Birthday, Mama! You’re the best!

 

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Processing Proverbs–Part Four

view-of-quilpue1(One view of my town, Quilpué, Chile)

Regardless, and maybe because, of what is going on in the world (no small amount of calamity and clamor, for sure) I appreciate the book of Proverbs even more. And what fascinates me is the fact that it is not time sensitive—it is ad hoc, no matter the era we live in.

Continuing threads in the book are evident:

  • If you’re lazy, it’s not going to go well with you.
  • If you’re evil, you can expect the payback.
  • If God isn’t part of the equation in your planning, failure is imminent.
  • If you’re righteous, you will have God’s favor and direction.
  • Not to fear God is the most foolish decision of all.

As noted in Part One of Processing Proverbs, the writer goes on to say what fearing God looks like. The book is full of examples. I’ll probably make a list when I write the last post.

I’ve been thinking about something since yesterday. The more years I live (and I’ve lived a lot, believe me), the more I have discovered that the gospel and the life of faith is so much simpler than we make it out to be. It’s not complicated or a bunch of rules or rituals. It just makes sense:

  • Love God with all (emphasis mine) your heart, soul, mind, and strength.
  • Love your neighbor as yourself.
  • Fear God
  • Give the kingdom of God priority

Something that has always rolled around in my mind is a paraphrased quote from Saint Augustine’s sermon on 1 John 4:4-12 back in the Fourth Century: Love God and do whatever you please: for the soul trained in love to God will do nothing to offend the One who is Beloved. Often the last part is left off.

But isn’t it true that if we truly do love God with all we have then our goal would be to make sure we don’t offend Him?

I have learned (the hard way) to pray differently for those who choose not to follow God and offend Him with their lives. In the past, I had the gall to pray that they would stop the bad stuff they were doing, stop living in sin, repent, and then I’d give God ideas as to how He could do that. *Me shaking my head in disbelief* Who did I think I was?

God has taught me in the last few months to pray a different way: “Please, Father, lead them to love you with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength.” That just about encapsulates the whole thing. If the person I pray for, if any of us, if I truly did that, wouldn’t it pretty much take care of the rest as far as how we live our lives?

I know that if I truly fear the Lord, if I truly love him and make His kingdom a priority, it encompasses every area of my life. It doesn’t give me room to take a look at the guy next to me and have an opinion about how he or she behaves or the decisions they make. Especially when what I am supposed to do is to love them. Does love sometimes involve tough stuff like confrontation? Yes. But the love part always has to be the motive, not the being right part. Or the judging thing.

Reading Proverbs has been an eye opener. It has been painful, revealing, and humbling.

Father, may we truly love you with all that is within us. Every. Single. Moment.

How about you? Do you struggle with loving God with your whole being or putting Him first?

 

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