Wednesday, October 22, 2008

There is probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life?

That title is what will be appearing on the sides of London buses shortly. This advertising campaign is sponsored by the British Humanist Association.

'There is probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life!'

It is hardly suprising that they got a reasonable amount of money from supporters, including my 'favorite' atheist Richard Dawkins.

And Richard, bless him, has been spouting his usual nonsense about "thinking is anathema to religion". Which of course is plainly wrong and utter rubbish. I challenge anyone to prove otherwise! But Dawkins thinks anyone who disagrees with him has faulty thinking so hardly surprising.

I agree with this article where the writer believes this campaign will actually benefit 'religion'.

The 'probably' says it all. They cannot be sure about it or they are just trying to be a bit PC rather than stating 'there is no God'. Don't lay the message on too thick to start with. However if it gets people thinking and talking about it that can only be good. It gives Christians an opportunity they otherwise might not get to so easily raise the topic.

Also the advice in the advert just shows humanism for what it is. Entirely self centred! If all they can offer is 'enjoy life' in the midst of economic meltdown, job loss, hardship and death then their message is hollow, a shell with no substance. Which it is! Humanism can offer no word of comfort to the grieving, the hurting, the depressed, the abused and outcast.

Let them have their 5 minutes and watch what happens. Certainly not what they would like!!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Prayer for a Friend

I think the lyrics say it all. I won't say any more about who or why but once again Casting Crowns lyrics express what I want to say:

Lord, I lift my friend to You,
I've done all that I know to do I lift my friend to You
Complicated circumstances have clouded his view
Lord, I lift my friend up to You

I fear that I won't have the words that he needs to hear
I pray for Your wisdom, oh God, and a heart that's sincere
Lord, I lift my friend up to You

Lord, I lift my friend to You
My best friend in the world, I know he means much more to You
I want so much to help him, but this is something he has to do
And Lord, I lift my friend up to You

'cause there's a way that seems so right to him
But You know where that leads
He's becoming a puppet of the world,
too blind to see the strings
Lord, I lift my friend up to You
My friend up to You

Lord, I lift my friend to You, I've done all that I know to do
I lift my friend to You

( (c) Casting Crowns/The Altar and the Door)

Sunday, October 12, 2008

What is God Like?

Here is the second in a series we have been looking at in my Cell Group. Again taken from The Wayne Grudem book:

Christian Beliefs 'twenty basics every Christian should know':

All scripture quoted is NIV.


As Scripture is the highest source of information about itself so is God the highest source of information about Himself since any higher source would be above God and God wouldn’t be God. So what does God say about himself in scripture?

God Exists

Scripture simply assumes God exists. The first verse of the Bible – “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). Scripture also tells us that all persons have a deep sense that God exists, that they are his creatures and He is their creator. Romans 1:19 “since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them”. Although many today deny He exists because as Paul says in Romans 1:25 “They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised” therefore they actively and willingly reject the truth convincing themselves there is no God.

Romans 1:20 “For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse” shows the knowledge of God we all have. Creation gives evidence of God but we ‘created in the image of God’ give the most evidence. So belief in God is not blind faith.

God is Knowable

We can know things about God and come to know him personally. However we will never fully know God. He is infinite and we are finite.

Great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom (Psalm 145:3)
Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit (Psalm 147:5)
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain (Psalm 139:6)
How precious to [a] me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand (Psalm 139:17-18)

While we can never fully know God we can know Him personally. “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent” (John 17:3)

In addition to knowing Him we can know about him from what scripture tells us. God has many attributes, some easier to understand than others as some He shares with us and some he doesn’t. Also we can never understand fully about any one of God’s attributes.

God is Independent

God’s independence means He doesn’t actually need us or anything else in creation for anything. We weren’t created because He was lonely or needed fellowship with other people. God is perfectly and utterly happy and fulfilled in his own personal existence.

The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else (Acts 17:25-25)

God always was. He was not created or ever came into being.

Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. (Psalm 90:2)

God is not dependant on anyone or anything but his whole creation is dependent on Him.
However he also chooses to give us value and significance. He allows us to be important to him! All creation glorifies and brings him joy.

God is Unchangeable

God is unchangeable but not in every way we might think. He is unchangeable only in the ways scripture tells us he is. He is unchanging in his being, attributes, purposes and promises.

Our beings and attributes change, God stays the same forever.
Once he has determined he will bring something about, it will be achieved.
His promises are also unchanging

However there are places in scripture that at first seem to contradict God’s unchangeableness – especially in relation to his purposes and promises. Eg: God did not punish Nineveh as promised when the people repented (Jonah 3:4, 10 also Exodus 23:9-14 and Isa 38:1-6). But these should be seen in relation to God’s attitude and intention at the time in relation to the specific situation. As the situation changes so does God’s attitude and expression of an intention.

God’s unchangeableness does not mean he will not act nor feel differently in response to different situations. Nor does it mean he doesn’t feel emotions. One way God shows he is God and not man is to not execute his burning anger and destroy an entire people.

"How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, Israel? How can I treat you like Admah? How can I make you like Zeboiim? My heart is changed within me; all my compassion is aroused. I will not carry out my fierce anger, nor will I turn and devastate Ephraim. For I am God, and not man— the Holy One among you. I will not come in wrath”. (Hosea 11:8-9)

God is Eternal

God is Eternal, he has no beginning and end. “Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.” (Psalm 90:2). "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).

As he is eternal his view of time is radically different to ours. “For a thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by or like a watch in the night.” (Psalm 90:4). So all of past history to God is like it just happened.

“But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day” (2 Peter 3:8)

So with this perspective God views the whole of history as clearly as he would as if it were a brief event that just happened. And also a brief event as if it last forever. God sees and knows all events – past, present, future equally clearly. He does see the progression of events at different points in time and rules and uses time for his purposes.

God is Omnipresent

As he is unlimited in time he is also unlimited in space. He does not have size or occupy a specific point in space he is present in every point of space with his whole being. He is unlimited by material space since he created it. He fills heaven and earth “ Am I only a God nearby," declares the LORD, "and not a God far away? Can anyone hide in secret places so that I cannot see him?" declares the LORD. "Do not I fill heaven and earth?" declares the LORD.” (Jeremiah 23:23-24)

See also Psalm 139:7-10. God is present in every part of space but “But will God really dwell on earth? The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built!” (1 Kings 8:27)

God is Spirit

In John 4:24 Jesus affirmed that God is spirit. His being is not made of any matter. He has no size, parts or dimensions. He is like nothing else in all creation.

Yet we in our spiritual nature are somewhat like him in his spiritual nature. He has gifted us spirits in which we are to worship him as in John 24:4. We must become one with him in spirit as Paul sais in 1 Corinthians 6:17.

God is Invisible

As he is spirit he is also invisible. “No one has ever seen God” (John 1:18). Nor can anyone ever see Gods total essence or all his spiritual being. The bible does record people seeing the outward manifestations of God. Isaiah 6:1 sais “In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple” The Lord appeared to Abraham and Jacob (Genesis 18:1 and 32:30). These are instances of God taking on visible form to show himself. The greatest visible manifestation of God is seen in the person of Jesus Christ.

God is Omniscient

God “knows everything” (1 John 3:20). He fully knows himself and all actual and possible things. (Hebrews 4:13) “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” God’s knowledge never changes or grows and nothing surprises him or is hidden from him.

God is Wise

God is also all-wise. This means he always chooses the best possible goals and the best possible means to meet those goals. He is “the only wise God” (Romans 16:27). He is “wise in heart” (Job 9:4) and with him “are wisdom and might; he has counsel and understanding” (Job 12:13).

God gives his wisdom to his children. (James 1:5) “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.” Godly wisdom is discovered through reading and obeying God’s Word.

However we will never fully share his wisdom. At times he will allow us to understand the reasons things happen and at other times we will not be able to fully understand why things happened the way they did. So we must trust God with all our hearts and lean not on our own understanding as in Proverbs 3:5.

God is Truthful

All God’s knowledge and all his words are both true and the final standard of truth. Faith is taking God at his word and relying on him to do as he promised. We can imitate this truthfulness in part with knowledge of him and his Word.

God is Good

Luke 18:19 says "Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered. "No one is good—except God alone.” So God is the final standard of good and all he is and does is good. His character is the highest standard of good.

God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. (Genesis 1:31)

God is also the ultimate source of all goodness. James tells us “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights” (James 1:17). God does not withhold any good thing to the upright (Psalm 81:11). Even his discipline is a manifestation of his goodness and love. So all the goodness we seek is ultimately found in God himself.

His goodness is shown in his mercy and grace. Grace towards those who deserve only punishment and mercy towards those in distress and misery.

God is Love

1 John 4:8 says “God is Love” God gives himself for the good of others. This love finds its expression in God’s self giving love towards his children.

“This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (1 John 4:10)

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

Because God loved and will love us for all eternity we can freely give that love to others in self giving action.

Jesus replied: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbour as yourself’.” (Matthew 22:37-39)

God is Holy

This means he is separated from sin and devoted to seeking his own honour. God is called the “Holy One of Israel” in (Psalm 71:22).

We are to imitate this pattern of holiness. (Leviticus 19:2) says “Be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy”

Through the power of the Holy Spirit we are to strive for holiness. Gods discipline comes so that we may share his holiness “but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness” (Hebrews 12:10)

God is Righteous and Just

Moses said about God in (Deut 32:4) “He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he”. God always acts according to what it right as he is the final standard on what is right.

As God is righteous and just he must treat people as they deserve. He must punish anything against him, ie: sin. However sometimes he forgives people and does not punish them. How can he do that and remain just?

It is because Christ died to take God’s punishment for sin upon himself. “God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished. He did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus” (Romans 3:25-26)

We should always seek to do what is right and bring about justice on behalf of those who do not experience it.

God is Jealous

When explaining the first of the Ten Commandments, God says “You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God” (Exodus 20:5). In his jealousy, God continually seeks to protect his own honour. He desires that worship is given only to himself. It is not wrong for God to seek his own honour as it is an honour only he, as God, deserves.

God is Wrathful towards Sin

God intensely hates all sin. God’s wrath burns hot against sin and it is this wrath that will eventually consume those who reject Jesus and continue in sin. (John 3:36) says “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him”.

If God delighted in sin or was not troubled by it he would hardly be worthy of our worship. Sin is worthy of our hatred and we are encouraged to hate sin (Hebrews 1:9). Though we must not glory or rejoice in the demise of others instead pray for their repentance, it is also right to rejoice when evil actions are punished.

Since at the cross God’s wrath was satisfied a believer in Jesus need not fear it. But those who reject Jesus it is something to fear as it remains fully on them John 3:36)

God Wills What He Will

God continually “works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will” (Ephesians 1:11). God’s will is the ultimate reason everything happens and how he chooses to do what he does and doesn’t do.

All things were created by God’s will (Rev 4:11). Governments have their power by God’s will (Romans 13:1) and sometimes even it is God’s will that his children suffer (1 Peter 3:17).

The death of Christ and all its events came about according to God’s will.

Sometimes God’s will is clearly revealed as in scripture that tells us what we should do or what God has commanded. Other times we may not have clear direction as to what to do and how to act. We then need to rely on God and his sovereign control over the events in our life.

We must however be careful not to say with certainty what God’s will is if it isn’t clear from scripture. Especially when talking about evil events as happening according to the will of God, even when the bible sometimes speaks this way. We must be careful not to imply that God is to be blamed for evil and sin. Human beings and demons are always blamed for evil in scripture, never God.

The exact relationship between his will and evil is not something God has chosen to completely reveal to us. It is one of those secret things referred to Deuteronomy 29:29.

God Has Freedom

Nothing can hinder God from doing his will. There is nothing outside of himself that can constrain him and he is free to do whatever he wants to do.

Although we can imitate God in his freedom by exercising our will and make choices all those choices are ultimately subject to God’s will.

“In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps” (Proverbs 16:9)

God is Omnipotent

God is all powerful. There are no limits on what he decides to do. His power is infinite! However there are some things God cannot do. He cannot do anything that denies his own character. He cannot lie (Titus 1:2), he cannot be tempted with evil (James 1:13) and he cannot deny himself (2 Timothy 2:13). So his infinite power is qualified by his other attributes.

God is Perfect

In Matthew 5:48 Jesus says “Your heavenly Father is perfect”. So there is no quality missing in God that would be desirable for him to have. We again can strive to “be perfect” as Jesus commanded in (Matthew 5:48). Though we won’t and can’t attain it on earth we can make progress towards it through our life.

God is Blessed

This means he fully delights in himself and in everything that reflects his character. He is the focus of all happiness and he finds complete fullness of joy in himself.

However, God also chooses to delight in his creation. Seeing what he made as “very good” and rejoicing over his children.

As we find delight and happiness in what is pleasing to God, for instance the work of others, aspects of our own lives or things in creation we show how God has blessed us and in doing so honour him. Our ultimate happiness and blessedness is found in the source of all goodness - God

God is Beautiful

In Psalm 27:4 we are told David has a great longing to dwell in the house of God for his entire life. A reason given is to “gaze upon the beauty of the Lord”. So all our longings and desires can find their ultimate fulfilment in God, the only one who is truly beautiful.

God is a Unity

Although some attributes may seem to be emphasized more than others God is in fact unified in all his attributes. He is not more of one than another. He is not divided into parts and he is not one attribute at one point in time and another at a different point in time. He is fully and completely every attribute at every time.

Each attribute provides us with a perspective on who he is and give us some perspective on who we are made to be.

Q: Which of God’s attributes seems most amazing to you and why?