KNOWING GOD

Believers are usually pretty comfortable with revering God for his immortality, power, and perfection, and so we should be. He is the Creator, in whom we live and move and have our being. He is the Great I Am. But our connection with God will always be unfolding. If a person only focuses on the immensity of God, and on reverence for him, they will know little intimacy. If a person understands the great freedom we are promised in Christ but knows no reverence, they will be without foundation, To walk closely with God, we must be ever journeying, getting to know facet after facet of the divine nature. It is madness to think of him as less complex, less finely calibrated than ourselves.

God has sovereignly chosen to make himself vulnerable, in that he experiences difficult and negative emotions, along with great joy and delight, in response to earthly events.

The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.” Genesis 6:5-7

Divine regret is a difficult concept, as it challenges our understanding of infallibility. We relate regret to either poor choices, bad luck, or lack of knowledge – ‘If I knew then what I know now, I wouldn’t have done it.’ But God was fully cognizant of every one of his actions and choices, and still found himself regretting some of them. For God to feel regret, he must therefore be vulnerable to our choices. Free will must actually be free, and poor choices on our part can cause divine pain. The Lord gets upset and frustrated, just as He is pleased and delighted by us in turn. The only way I can make sense of this vulnerability is as a deliberate, sovereign choice. The Lord of All could have placed himself above such feelings, but instead, he chose a version of creation in which the choices of his children affect him.

We can see the breadth of God’s emotions at work in the life of Jesus. What do you make of the following passage?

‘O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!’ Matthew 23:37

Compassion, for example, drove him to acts of kindness and mercy, such as healing the sick.

‘And Jesus went forth, and saw a great multitude, and was moved with compassion toward them, and He healed their sick.’Matthew 14:14

Jesus knew ordinary, everyday emotions too, such as pleasure and friendship. There was a particular disciple he was closer to than any other, on a human level. John is referred to as ‘the disciple that Jesus loved’ on several occasions and was depicted leaning back on Jesus’ chest at the last supper to ask him a question. On the cross, Jesus charged this same disciple with looking after his mother, and his mother with looking after this disciple.

When Jesus, therefore, saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing by, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold your son!” Then He said to the disciple, “Behold your mother!” And from that hour that disciple took her to his own home.’John 19:26-27

How human! How relatable! On the day of his death, he was concerned about those he was leaving behind, providing for their emotional needs by calling them, mother and son. How dear, how important, this must have been to Jesus, at that moment.

There was no time when the emotions of God were stretched like they were in the Garden of Gethsemane.

‘And He was withdrawn from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.” Then an angel appeared to Him from heaven, strengthening Him. And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.’ Luke 22:41-44

At that moment Jesus was a man in torment, able to prevent his own suffering but choosing to embrace it anyway. He was desperate to escape the agony of the cross – not just the physical pain, but the spiritual horror of becoming all human brokenness, for our sake – and yet he bowed his head. This total mastery of self serves as a supreme example to us. If Jesus were not a deeply emotional person, mastery might have been easier, but being torn up inside and still submitting to God? That is staggering, to me, what about you?

Adapted from an article by Duncan Edward Pile, October 27th, 2021 “Hold Me Closer Cosmic Dancer” http://www.patheos.com

CHRISTIANS LIVING IN THE “LAST DAYS”

Christians in the “last days” will operate as Paul did, as described in the Book of Acts, with Holy Spirit-inspired perception and insight. Moreover, the church will also be like the church as described in the Book of Acts and in countries facing persecution now.

Perception and insight

Take the example of Paul’s actions during a physical storm. Paul was just one of the many prisoners on a prison ship headed for Rome. Before setting sail, Paul told the crew, “Men, I can see that our voyage is going to be disastrous and bring great loss to ship and cargo, and to our own lives also” (Acts 27:10). He spoke with clear foresight. Leaders that are sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s leading will learn how to face tough realities head-on without fear.

Courage and confidence

Paul addressed the terrified passengers. “I urge you to keep up your courage because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed. Last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside me and said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul… God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.” (Acts 27:22–24).

Paul’s confidence in the chaos came because a word from God infused him with courage and confidence. Chaos can rob us of confidence. Yet, when the wind threatens, we can receive a word from God and lead through the storm.

Clarity and decisiveness

After being blown completely off course, the crew of the prison ship finally neared land. Some planned to save their own lives and leave the prisoners to die. But Paul discerned this and said, “Unless these men stay with the ship, you cannot be saved” (Acts 27:31).

Paul acted with Spirit-inspired clarity and decisiveness. As he stepped forward with a voice demanding respect, even the captain and jailers who were supposed to be his authority listened to and obeyed his authority.

Future chaos will demand that “last days” Christians learn to speak with clarity and decisiveness as they are led by the Holy Spirit.

For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.Romans 8:14

Adapted from Generation Z: Born for the Storm by Dr. Billy Wilson.

HONOURING GOD’S WORD

Two well-known and often quoted verses are Romans 8:28 and Jeremiah 29:1. Sadly, they are often quoted out of context and looked at only in relation to how they can help us in the here and now. This is the case with so many other Scriptures as well. So, let us take a look at both of these Scriptures in context.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.Romans 8:28

What God considers good may not always align with what we consider good. In fact, we are told numerous times in the bible that Christians “will be hated” and that “all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (Matthew 10:22 and 2 Timothy 3:12). God uses tribulations for our eternal benefit, just look at God’s dealings with His own nation, Israel. The world’s hatred of us is ultimately working for our good. It’s growing us, changing us, sanctifying us, and making us more Christ-like. Our sufferings force us to let go of idols and seek God above all else. When everything else is taken away, all we have is the Lord.

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.Jeremiah 29:11

This text needs to be read in context, it has nothing to do with God prospering your plans for your life. In fact, it is everything to do with a disobedient nation God sent into exile.

Starting in verse 1 of chapter 29, we learn that the prophet Jeremiah is writing a letter to “all the people, whom Nebuchadnezzar had taken into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon.”  So already, we have a categorical and contextual problem

Jeremiah 29:11 coffee cup

It’s somewhat absurd when we take a verse meant to offer hope to an enslaved race of people and put it on a coffee cup or T-shirt. It’s just simply wrong to say this verse is about me and proclaim it over your life. Having said that, it’s important to mention that while Jeremiah 29:11 may not be about you, that doesn’t mean it’s not for you. By way of being grafted into the people of God, we can identify with this verse and remember that those in Christ are within the perfect plan of God.

Both verses, Romans 8:28 and Jeremiah 29:11 hold up a wonderful truth that God’s people can rest within, knowing God is for us. Still, a temptation remains to promote shallow applications and ignore some of the profound realities that surround these verses. We all need to dig deeper about what it means for God to promise good for His people and how He uses suffering for His glory.

Can I suggest you consider “living eternal now”.

THE VALUE OF KNOWING YOUR CREATOR

When you do, you can live life to the full and be joyful. In this wide-ranging video, the 51-year-old “Growing Pains” star, Kirk Cameron explains how.

Kirk Cameron, who began acting at just 14 years old — referenced a quote he learned from one of his now-grown daughters. Scrawled on a piece of paper, she wrote: “It’s the same boiling water that softens potatoes that hardens eggs. It just depends on what you’re made of.

“So the same difficult challenges and influences of Hollywood that turns some people sour and makes them narcissistic and bitter and joyless and afraid to not fit in,” Cameron said, “is the same pressure that actually softened my heart and caused me to embrace gratitude and be thankful for the life that I have and want to use a platform and this Hollywood industry to advance the good.”

“I really think it’s what you’re made of,” he continued. “And if you don’t know what you’re made of, don’t look to your environment or your industry or other people to give you an identity.

There is somebody who made you — ask Him. And you can be sure that the ending of the story is gonna be fantastic.”

For Cameron, it wasn’t until he was in the entertainment business that he became a Christian, revealing he actually defined himself as an atheist until he was around 17 years old.

Sitting in his sports car after dropping a girl off at an acting class, Cameron recalled pondering the afterlife, wondering if there really was a heaven and a hell and a creator and a plan for eternity.

“I knew that if there was a heaven, I wouldn’t be going there,” he said, noting he had lived life with a “self-centered, conceited, ‘I’m all that,’ ‘I’m the G.O.A.T.,’(Greatest of All Time) celebrity Mike Seaver guy” mentality, never pausing to consider something outside himself.

It was at that point he decided to pray for the first time, asking God: “If you’re there, would you please show me. … Would you forgive me for all the wrong things I’ve done and make me the person that You want me to be.”

While certainly the most important, coming to Christ wasn’t the only way Cameron changed thanks, at least in part, to Hollywood. He was also introduced to his now-wife on the set of “Growing Pains.”

Cameron said one of his nephews frequently asks him if he “took advantage” and “didn’t waste” the opportunities he had to go out with so many different girls at the height of his sitcom fame.

The actor said he has reminded his nephew he “found something so much better” instead.

“I found a girl,” Cameron said. “She’s beautiful on the inside; she’s beautiful on the outside. I married her and we’ve been married for 30 years. You have no idea how much more valuable that is. I’ve got six grown children who love God and still ask me my opinions about things, who still love to come home and be with me and my wife, and I’m on PragerU’s ‘Stories of Us.’ I mean, the story doesn’t really end much better than this.”

AWARD WINNING RAPPER TEACHES THE NEED TO FEAR GOD

Kendrick Lamar performs a medley of songs at the 58th Grammy Awards in Los Angeles, California on Feb. 15, 2016.

Churches aren’t preaching it, so God has raised up the most unlikely person to do the job of preaching a message that the world needs to hear – Proverbs 9:10 “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” and Kendrick is the person best placed to get the message to those that need to hear it.

Lamar, the 29-year-old rapper whose fourth studio album Damn is sitting atop Billboard charts, believes the churches that only focus on the idea of hope are one-sided.
He wants to showcase a side of God that he hasn’t seen in church, one that focuses less on the blessings of God and more on God’s wrath. The rapper said he discovered a “simple truth” that while God is loving and merciful, He is also a jealous God of “discipline and obedience.”
“As a community, we are taught to pray for our mishaps, and God will forgive you. Yes, this is true. But He will also reprimand us as well. As a child, I can’t recall hearing this in service. Maybe leaders of the church knew it will run off churchgoers?” he said.
“We want to hear about hope, salvation, and redemption. Though His son died for our sins, our free will to make whatever choice we want, still allows Him to judge us. So in conclusion, I feel it’s my calling to share the joy of God, but with exclamation, more so, the FEAR OF GOD… Knowing the power in what He can build, and also what He can destroy.”
While the rapper said he loves when people sing about what makes God happy, the FEAR OF GOD made Lamar take his relationship with God more seriously.
“Personally, once that idea of real fear registered in my mind, it made me try harder at choosing my battles wisely which will forever be tough, because I’m still of flesh,” he wrote. “I wanna spread this truth to my listeners. It’s a journey, but it will be my key to the Kingdom and theirs as well.”

I got a greater purpose,” Lamar said. “God put something in my heart to get across and that’s what I’m going to focus on, using my voice as an instrument and doing what needs to be done.”