Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Free Will

During our last meeting together the question of free will in light of God's omnipotence came up.  This particular topic does, I believe, come loaded with high levels of emotional attachment with differing view points.  Much of it, again in my opinion, comes as a result of semantics and people meaning different things by free will.  Example:  one person says that, "I can do whatever I want," as their definition of free will.  Another person says, "I can choose between the best options available," as their definition.  Before I go launching off into what I believe to be true, let me work on some definitions and the context within which I believe my will operates.

I want to start with two assumptions:  1.  "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." - 2 Tim 3:16.  "He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change His mind." - 1 Sam 15:29a.  Conclusion - His word is absolutely true and we don't have to be concerned about being deceived by a lie or that He's going to change His mind on the ground rules by which we play.  2.  "Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain?  The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against His Anointed One.  The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them." - Ps 2:1-2,4.  "As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is My word that goes out from My mouth:  It will not return to Me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it." - Isa 55:10,11. "Then Job replied to the Lord: 'I know that You can do all things; no plan of Yours can be thwarted.'" - Job 42:1.  Conclusion - it is His purpose that will be accomplished, not mine.

Why start here?  First of all I commit to you that I will do my best to stay away from opinion and stick with His word.  It is the final and only authority, period.  Secondly, the entire discussion of "free will" can only be had in the context that of the two wills, His and mine, if mine is at odds with His, He "wins."  His will trumps mine at all times.  There is not one example of a purpose at odds with Him that ever stood.  I guarantee you that you can find absolutely nothing in His word to the contrary.

Let me give an example in the physical world that may not be so emotionally charged.  Do you  have a choice about whether or not to operate outside the law of gravity?  You have free will, don't you?  You get to choose what you do, right?  Okay:  fly.  Go ahead, quit reading, and fly.  Some will say, "Okay, I'll got get in a plane and fly."  Yes, but you're still operating within the bounds of gravity.  There are four forces interacting on the aircraft:  thrust, drag, lift, and (you guessed it) the force of gravity acting on the mass of the plane.  Your choice does not supersede the context within which it is made.

Another example for those who don't like flying:  how about swimming?  Go swim like a fish.  Go underwater, open your eyes, then open your mouth and breathe.  My guess is that this will be a short lived trip as either your lungs fill with water or, due to a strong tendency towards self preservation, you simply come to the surface.  Again, your choice is superseded by the context within which it is made.

Okay, now lets go back to our "free will."  Back to the garden of Eden we go.  Adam and Eve chose to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  They wanted to eat because they thought they would be like God, at least that is what they had been told and what they chose to pursue.  Who won that one?  (Genesis 3)  I would argue that they had the "free-est" will of anyone in all humanity, and yet the exercise of their free will, when in opposition to Him, gave rise to consequences for their actions that were punitive in nature.  At the same time their decision to sin did not in anyway put the Lord off the path of His plan for me.  Their free will was only free within the framework of God's plan.

Another example:  Moses kills the Egyptian, flees Egypt and winds up in Midian for 40 years.  Did his decision to murder stop the Lord's plan for Israel?  Pharaoh exercises free will that set him and the nation of Egypt at odds with the Lord's will; 10 plagues later Israel is released.  Pharaoh decides that one more attempt at wiping out the Jews is the best choice and sends his army after Israel.  The Lord wipes out the army in the flood waters of the Dead Sea.  Did Pharaoh have free will, the freedom to choose?  Absolutely.  Did his will put the Lord out in the slightest as He executed His will?  Absolutely not. (Exodus 2:11 - 14:31)

Even before the exodus you'll recall the tower of Babel.  When man decided to make a name for himself the Lord opposed him and scattered us across "the face of the whole earth." (Gen 11:1-9)  In direct contrast to this use of free will we have Abraham who was willing to sacrifice Isaac because the Lord told him to do so.  What was the Lord's response to Abraham's obedience?  "I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore.  your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed Me." - Gen 22:17, 18.

Does this mean then that if there is disobedience His purpose can be thwarted?  Uh, no.  You'll recall that prior to Israel crossing into the promised land the Lord, Moses and Joshua had a meeting.  During that meeting the Lord said the following to them:
"Now write down for yourselves this song and teach it to the Israelites and have them sing it, so that it may be a witness for Me against them.  When I have brought them into the land flowing with milk and honey, the land I promised on oath to their forefathers, and when they eat their fill and thrive, they will turn to other gods and worship them, rejecting Me and breaking my covenant.  And when many disasters and difficulties come upon them, this song will testify against them, because it will not be forgotten by their descendants.  I know what they are disposed to do, even before I bring them into the land I promised them on oath." - Dt 31:19-21
It is reassuring to me that in spite of His knowledge of my sin, past, present and future, He follows through with His promises to me.  "See now that I am He!  There is no god besides Me.  I put to death and I bring to life, I have wounded and I will heal, an no one can deliver out of My hand." - Dt 32:39.  Friend, feel free to choose all day long, to set yourself in opposition to Him if you so choose, but I beg you to think twice before doing so.  "This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses.  Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to His voice, and hold fast to Him.  For the Lord is your life, and He will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob."  - Dt 30:19-20

I think that the effects of Satan's temptation of Adam and Eve are rather insidious around the whole issue of free will.  You'll recall that Satan tried to tell Adam and Eve that God was holding out on them.  Satan says you can choose for yourself outside of the will of God and it will be better for you.  Only when you exercise your free will can you be like God! that it?  Is that why this is so hard for you, for me?  Bear with me here for a second:  I can be like God if I choose.  Isn't that what Satan said would happen?  He attacked us at the very core of our being, the fact that we were made in the image of God.  HEY GET THIS...WHAT IS GOD'S CHIEF END???  TO BRING GLORY TO HIM!!!!!  So when we used our free will to bring glory to ourselves we broke with our design which was to bring glory to Him.

My dad told me about "departing" an aircraft, how you can intentionally make it quit flying.  Do you remember the flat spin that Tom Cruise got himself into in "Top Gun"?  He had one engine flame out which caused the aircraft to spin; not how the F-14 was designed to create lift and fly.  As a result the plane tumbled out of the sky.  I think much the same thing happened in the garden and continues to happen today.  Our will is most free when we choose to glorify Him by virtue of the fact that we act most like Him when we do so.  We "depart" from our "performance envelope" when we choose that which is in opposition to Him.

One last example of how we can choose to oppose Him, yet even then His will is not thwarted.  You remember my Savior, Jesus.  Was there ever anyone so confident, so assured of His standing with the Lord and with man?  I love His interactions with Pilate, especially when Pilate asks Him if He realizes that he has the power to "free You or to crucify You?"  Read Jesus' response - "You would have no power over Me if it were not given to you from above.  Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin." - John 19:11.  When He was arrested He said, "Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and He will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?  But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?" - Matt 26:53, 54.  He exercised His free will to execute His Father's will, not His own.

Let me ask you this question?  Did we crucify Him or did He decide that He would lay His life down for us?  Asked another way, was it the will of the Jews and Pilate that put Jesus on the cross or His Father's will?  I believe the answer to this is found in John 10 verse 18.  "No one takes [My life] from Me, but I lay it down of My own accord.  I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again.  This command I received from My Father."  Jesus chose the cross.  In doing so He freed our wills, wills that were slaved to sin and an inability to glorify Him.  We are closer to the garden today because He chose to execute God's will.  Can I do any less?

Father, please forgive me if I've in any way misrepresented You or Your word.  Our "free will" is only free as we use it to glorify You.  Please, by the Holy Spirit, speak to us and either confirm what was written today is in fact true based on Your word, or if I have missed the mark that You will point out in Your word where the truth lies.  Thank You for loving us and meeting with us to reveal more of who You are.  In Jesus' name, amen.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

More on Omnipotence

We've spent time discussing the fact that God is omnipotent, however I want to discuss how different He is than we in the utilization of power.   I remember in elementary school when the teacher would leave the room she would leave one of us "in charge."  Basically we were to use our "power" to tell on those that we didn't like, whether they were being loud or not.  There was power I didn't want either.  I hated when I was chosen to advance the film role when the cassette tape beeped at me.  I inevitably turned the film the wrong direction to the moans and laughs of my classmates.  When I was junior class president in high school I really enjoyed telling others what to do for the homecoming float, or setting my foot down on where we were going to have prom.  Basically, I either used power for my own ends or I didn't like the responsibility that came with the power bestowed on me.  Even typing this I realize that the power I had was ceded to me, not something I inherently possessed.

My Father is different though.  By His very nature He is all powerful such that no act of His in any way depletes the power He possesses.  Because of His character He is neither tempted to corruption nor corruptible in His purposes. He "does not lie or change His mind; for He is not a man, that He should change His mind." - I Sam 15:29.  "Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails." - Pr 19:21.  I want to spend a few minutes on His purpose and what He has chosen to do with His infinite power.  Please take a minute to read the following excerpt:

A covenant is a compact or agreement made between two parties binding them mutually to some agreed upon obligations and benefits. Much of the history of salvation can be traced by noting both the presence and the contents of biblical covenants. Covenants may be either bilateral (“two-sided”), where both parties are obligated, or unilateral (“one-sided”), where only one party is bound by the agreement.
Genesis 15:9–21 offers the best illustration of the unilateral type of covenant. The verb “to make” a covenant is literally “to cut” a covenant. Thus when one made a covenant, several animals were brought, cut in half, and arranged opposite each other. The person or parties making the covenant would then walk through the aisle formed by the carcasses and say in effect, “May it happen to me as it has happened to these slain animals if I do not keep all the provisions of this covenant.” (Compare Jer. 34:18–20.)
In a bilateral covenant both parties would take the oath. If one defaulted, the other was released from any further obligations. But in the case of Genesis 15:9–21, the “smoking fire pot with a blazing torch” pictures God as the only One who walked between the pieces and thus obligated Himself alone to bring all the blessings and benefits of the Abrahamic covenant. God’s blessings were apart from any works of obedience on the part of Abraham or any of the patriarchs who followed him who also enjoyed the benefits of this covenant.
Dockery, D. S. (1998). Holman concise Bible commentary: Simple, straightforward commentary on every book of the Bible (14). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

I want to point out a couple of stark realities from the description of the Abrahamic covenant:  1.  My Father knew that I was not going to be able to live up to my end of the covenant and 2.  My Father slew His Son to pay for my half of the covenant.

I'm a banker by profession and I spend a lot of my time trying to manage risk.  A business needs cash for expansion, I sit down with them to look at their financials and their expansion plans.  We discuss things like balance sheet leverage, cash flow leverage, or fixed charge coverage:  different measurements I have for the health of a company and its ability to pay me back after I make the loan.  We enter into a contract that obligates me to give them the money and which obligates them to give it back.  Within the language of the loan agreement I put in "loan covenants."  These are performance benchmarks which, if broken, put the borrower in default on their loan.  I have the option to call the note and demand immediate payment since they have not lived up to their end of the "covenant."

I can tell you that I have not knowingly entered into any loan agreement with a company not assessed as capable of paying me back.  Why would I put my money at risk if I know I will not get it back?  My Father, even when the stakes were immeasurably higher, decided to originate a covenant to which He knew I couldn't hope to contribute.  He looked at my balance sheet, the comparison between my assets and liabilities.  He looked at my income statement, my generation of good works to reduce liabilities and build equity.  He compared my generation of good works to the shear weight of my liabilities and saw that I would never be able to generate enough obedience to offset the depth of my depravity.

Then He made the deal, signed it for the both of us, and paid the price so that I could benefit from the blessings of the covenant.  "Paid the price" isn't but three words, but I want you to think of what that price entailed.  His body was rent by nails and a spear; and that wasn't the worst part of it.  All of the wrath stored up since the beginning of time, all the wrath to come as more and more sin is committed, it was all pored out on Jesus.  My Father sacrificed my Brother so I could live.  My sin killed Him, and yet our Father looks at me through the blood of His sacrifice, loves me, and calls me His own.

That's omnipotence.

Father, please forgive me if I've in any way misrepresented You or Your word this morning.  By Your Spirit please speak to us and confirm within us your awesome love and power that prompted you to enter into a covenant for which You had to pay.  Thank You for loving us.  In Jesus' name, amen.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

His omnipotence

You would be amazed at some of they silly arguments I've read about over the past couple of weeks regarding "omnipotence" or "infinite power".  One of them posits the following question:  "Can God create a rock He can't lift?"  What?  Are you kidding me?  The question gets asked as if logic has nothing to do with anything; that God could be an irrational being somehow.  I remember sitting at my grandfather's table in Matthews, NC a long time ago.  Pop (my grandfather) was telling a joke about a group of ladies taking a bus tour in Alaska.  He got to the punch line and I thought, "I bet I can tell a joke too."  I proceeded to make up some joke with a horrific, unintelligible punch line (I of course got pity laughs from my parents as they are very loving), but in my mind it was one of the funniest statements I'd ever heard.  I get the feeling that whoever came up with the "rock too heavy to lift" must feel the same way while anyone with even a modicum of logic is sitting there scratching their head saying, "Huh?"

And so, with that said, rather than enter into a philosophical argument about omnipotence I'd like to get to His word and see what He has to say about it.  I took another trip through Strong's Concordance to give me a brief outline and came up with the omnipotence of God expressed by His names, creative word, control of nature, nations and all things, His power and "unweariness."

In Genesis 17:1 the Lord says, "I am the God Almighty; walk before me and be blameless.  I will confirm My covenant between Me and you and will greatly increase your numbers," to Abram.  The title "God Almighty" is the translation of the Hebrew name of God, El Shaddai.  This masculine noun comes from the root "shadad", a verb meaning to be strong or powerful, to be burly.  This title is used of Him 57 times in both the Old and New Testaments.  A question my wife asked when we read this verse was, "I wonder why God used that particular title when speaking with Abram in this particular situation?"  Just a few verses before God is named El Roi (God who sees me) by Hagar, yet God chooses El Shaddai for Abram.  I would offer that God was getting ready to confirm with Abram that his wife Sarai would still have a child.  Abram's response was to chuckle and say something to the effect of, "That's a good one."  The Lord subsequently changes Abram's name to Abraham (from "exalted father" to "father of many") and appears to Abraham one chapter later to confirm His promise.  In Genesis 18 Sarah gets the chance to laugh about the promise to while His response is, "Why did Sarah laugh and say, 'Will I really have a child, now that I am old?'  Is anything too hard for the Lord?  I will return to you at the appointed time next year and Sarah will have a son." - Gen 18:13, 14.  My point?  Even His name speaks of His immeasurable power.

His power is displayed by His creative word.  Genesis 1:3 reads, "And God said, 'Let there be light,' and there was light."  Get this, He hadn't created the stars yet; that's not until verse 14.  What was the source of the light?  I wasn't there, so I don't know.  That said, I wonder if it was the same light that we will experience after the new heavens and new earth arrive and "there will be no more night.  They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light.  And they will reign forever." - Revelation 22:5.  Pure speculation on my part, but I bet you that's how it will be.

Having created the world, the universe in fact, it should come as no surprise that He has control over nature.  Amos 4:13 reads, "He who forms the mountains, creates the wind, and reveals His thoughts to man, He who turns dawn to darkness, and treads the high places of the earth - the Lord God Almighty is His name."  Often times I look around me and don't have much problem saying, "Lord, this is beautiful" however I don't spend much time quantifying His shear power.  Hurricanes can be considered as God's version of air conditioning.  Warm, humid air is the fuel for the engine to the tune of 6e14 watts PER DAY!  To put this in perspective that is approximately 200 times the total electrical generation capacity of the ENTIRE WORLD.  That's one hurricane for one day.  He doesn't merely have more power than the hurricane, He created not only it but the entire universe; power untold.

Another example:  our sun is only one of about 100 billion in our galaxy.  Estimates of the number of galaxies in the universe have included the number 170 billion.  So just how many stars did He create?  Huge assumptions here, I know, but 100B x 170B = 17 sextillion or 17e21.  That's a lot of zeros folks.  To give us a feeling for how many that is consider the following:  if you took a regular sheet of paper and stacked it on top of another, and another, and so on creating a tower of paper, you could reach our sun and back 4.6 MILLION times!!  Insane numbers that boggle the mind, but that which should give me a good feeling for just how rich and deep are the depths of the God I serve.

Examples and discussion of His power could, I think, go on forever.  As much as I enjoy the quantitative part to it the discussion, and the philosophical discussion as well, I want to point out the difference between His use of power and how we use our power.
"Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.  Great men are almost always bad men." - Lord Acton (1834-1902)
 The operative word in the above quotation is "men."  As we will see He uses His power to execute His will to the point where He takes responsibility for our part as well.

Father, thank You for Your time and Your Spirit.  I again ask that if I've in any way misrepresented You or Your word that You'll forgive me.  Please continue to speak and display Your power in our lives.  I love You, Father.  In Jesus' name, amen.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Respond in worship

Psalm 139 shows David worshiping the Lord because of how His omniscience impacts David's relationship with Him.  As we were talking about it tonight I realized that as my focus was on Him I felt the stirring within me of the awe that I hoped to feel in His presence.  He knows me.  He knows me!  What's better, He knows me and has still called me to be His.  All the time I spend post-salvation with feelings of unworthiness, although serving a right purpose at times, cannot overcome His love for me.  He killed His Son to pay the price of the sins He knew I would commit.  His knowing me did not give Him cause to stop His plan.  The idea that I've committed a sin too large?  Perish the thought!  I want to tell Him that the price He paid was not big enough to cover me?  Father, forgive me.

Where else does this knowing lead me?  Worship and praise of You.  You have given me the Comforter, part of You and yet all of You at the same time.  According to You and Your word I've received the mind of Christ.  You have given me the opportunity to discern Your will by working within me to renew my mind and conform me to Yourself.  Father, turn my spirit in to Yours.  Please do not let my reticence to "hear the Spirit" hinder Your work in any way.  Give me the wisdom to discern between my effort to "make an apple" and the good work You've already started and have promised to complete within me.  You already know everything about me, everything I've done/thought, everything I'm doing/thinking, and everything I will do/think.  What I seek to hide, shine the light of your grace, mercy and power over it.  The dark is as light to you and nothing is hidden.

Father, I love You, worship You, and praise You for who You are.  Thank You for Your love and goodness to me.  In Jesus' name, amen.

If God is good....

I've received a number of responses regarding His plan, His omniscience, and the apparent disconnect between those and the circumstances in which we find ourselves.  I can only imagine what it must be like to have someone trying to convince you that God is good when you have a mother or father who's not yet saved.  God is good and your child has cancer.  God is good and your wife was killed in an automobile accident last week.  The answer?  I can't wordsmith an answer that will take away your pain, confusion, anger, hurt.  My mom used to tell me that she wished she had a magic wand she could wave to take away my pain after I'd skinned my knee.  I used to think that was just a sweet notion until I had children of my own.  The longer I live on this earth and see the pain of others I find myself wishing for that wand too.

It hit me this morning, I'm not supposed to wordsmith, reconcile circumstances with God's character and provide an emotionally satisfying answer to the questions.  Bottom line, it would be very arrogant of me to try and interject myself as the one who can make it better.  That's Him and Him alone.  He is the one who will grant peace that passes all understanding.  And so instead of engaging in a philosophical argument for the compatibility of pain and the existence of a good God, I want to talk more about His character and where we can go for that peace.

"Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." - John 14:27

"I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world." - John 16:33

"And the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things.  Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me - put it into practice.  And the God of peace will be with you." - Phil 4:7-9

"When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.  'Where have you laid him?' he asked.  'Come and see, Lord,' they replied.  Jesus wept.  Then the Jews said, 'See how He loved him!'  But some of them said, 'Could not He who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?'  Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb.  It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance.  'Take away the stone,' He said.  'But, Lord,' said Martha, the sister of the dead man, 'by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.'  Then Jesus said, 'Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?'  So they took away the stone.  The Jesus looked up and said, 'Father, I thank You that You have heard Me.  I knew that You always hear Me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that You sent Me." - John 11:33-41

"'Lord, if its You,' Peter replied, 'tell me to come to You on the water.'  'Come,' He said.  Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.  But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, 'Lord, save me!'  Immediately Jesus reached out His hand and caught him.  'You of little faith,' He said, 'why did you doubt?'" - Matt 14:28-31

The battle being waged is intended to keep your eyes off of Him and on the circumstance.  It is as we stay focused on Him, His character, and take our pained and wounded hearts to Him that the peace we're seeking (that peace promised to Adam and Eve if they would just take the apple and become like God, that lie that if we can just put ourselves in God's place all will be well) will be ours.  He's promised to us, He's just waiting for us to cry out, "Lord, save us!"  It's not His character that we need to fight and struggle against, its the lie that we know better and if He'd just do it like we think He ought all would be well.  I can promise you with all assurance that as we focus on Him He will "immediately reach out His hand" and rescue us from our persecution of His character.  Bottom line, He loves you.  He is love.  My friends, renew your minds through meditating on all those things in Philippians, ask Him for peace which He will give, and cling to the truth of who He is.

Father, please forgive me if I've misrepresented You in any way this morning.  My aim is to glorify You, Your Name, Your character.  Father, you know the pain and confusion that sin has brought to us and we ask for the peace that only You can give.  You are good, period, and we know that.  Please give us hearts that believe it too.  I love You, Father.  In Jesus' name, amen.

Monday, March 8, 2010

His amazing love

How many times have I asked myself, "Why, Lord? Why me? Why now? Why this?" When I give in to the enemy's attack and question my Father's heart I get this persecution complex where the Lord lets bad things happen to me and then gets to pawn it off as a "test" to see how I'll cling to Him or some such nonsense.

He knew when He created the world that he would bring grief to Himself (Gen 6:6), yet He did it anyway. It only took man three chapters for Him to commit His Son to the defeat of Satan and sin, yet He did it anyway. He knew all of this before day one of creation. The day He said, "Let there be light," He started the countdown to Calvary. If you knew that you that an action you took would end up with one of your children hanging on cross would you follow through with the act? I sit here and think of my son and I answer a resounding, "No!"

A couple of things come to mind: 1. He must have had a good reason to carry through with His plan, and 2. I can stop blaming Him and start clinging to Him. Let's look at #1. I've asked the question myself, "If He knows everything and He can do anything, couldn't He have created man in such a way that He brought glory to Himself without sin entering the world?" I guess the answer to that is "yes" yet that is not how it played out. Can I safely assume then that if there was a better way for His plan to play out He would have amended His plan accordingly? If I am to say, "He knows everything," then I must also conclude He knows not only what is but what could be. As I don't know everything, when I make decisions I must weigh one option against the other and go for the best option available based on finite knowledge and an inability to see anything in the future. His infinite knowledge, from before creation, saw everything play out to the very end, and He proceeded. Conclusion: there was no amendment needed because the plan He put in place was and is perfect.

The answer to number two can be conclusively answered using Job 38-41.  The Lord didn't spend much time on the receiving end of blame for what happened to Job.  I particularly like it when the Lord tells Job to "cowboy up" if you're going to stand before Me and point an accusing finger.  The passage opens up with "Then the Lord answered Job out of the storm."  Can you imagine it?  It makes me think of swirling clouds with thunder and lightning and this booming voice over it all.  He even gives Job another shot in chapter 40 to say anything else.  Job is confronted with his unworthiness and puts his hand over his mouth.  The Lord tells him to cowboy up again and continues with His reply.  At the end of four chapters answering Job our Father concludes His rebuttal.  Job then answers with the following:
"I know that You can do all things; no plan of Yours can be thwarted.  You asked, 'Who is this that obscures My counsel without knowledge?'  Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.  You said, 'Listen now, and I will speak; I will question you, and you shall answer Me.'  My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you.  Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes." - Job 42:1-6
I think its interesting that when Job received his reply from the Lord his response was to despise himself and repent of his adversarial stance, his assumption that the Lord was in the wrong and that Job stood justified before Him.  I don't say this to keep me from asking my Father "why" but to remind myself that when I do see Him, when He does reveal His answer and Himself, my response will be that of Job and repent.  When I get my focus off of Him, when my focus is on the trial itself and its impact on me I question His knowledge and whether or not He really knows what He's doing.  Conclusion:  clinging to Him makes a lot more sense than blaming Him.  (I find that Job's story is different from mine in that often my "persecution" is a result of poor decisions on my part as opposed to Satan asking the Lord if he could test me.)

Father, I realize that a lot of what I said this morning has the ring of opinion to it as I didn't reference much of Your word, yet I've drawn conclusions about You, Your plan, and the way its unfolded.  Please forgive me if I've misrepresented You or made any conclusion that does not line up with Your revealed truth in Your word.  Please take us continually to Your word to guard against knowledge that is foolishness compared to Yours.  I love You, Father.  In Jesus' name, amen.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Further musings on His omniscience

There has to be more to omniscience than just knowing that He knows everything. I know there is more applicability to my life than mere knowledge of one of His attributes. So what? Why is it so important that He knows everything? For one, I don't have to worry about how I approach Him from the standpoint of trying to manipulate Him. When I think of the one thing that will make everything better I always come up with money. It's money that makes the world go around; its what gets me into the restaurants I want to visit; it pays for that bottle of fine wine; it gives me a sense of control and safety. That said, I know that to ask Him for money beyond my daily bread is a misuse of my relationship with Him. Instead I ask Him for wisdom because I can in turn use that wisdom to do well at work and get the money that my flesh wants. I will still do this even after reading that Jesus “knew what they were thinking.” How dumb do I have to be to try and manipulate Him and how much time am I going to waste trying to find ways to outsmart Him to get what I really want?

He knows my thoughts: on the one hand that's reassuring as to the greatness of my God, on the other hand it scares me to death because I know the kind of thoughts that travel through my mind. I have often taken a time out from reality and spent time in my mind imagining things as they could be, or more darkly, things as they not ought be but which in my flesh seem appealing. If then my Savior knows my thoughts is there not to be more attention paid to what I originate, and subsequently meditate, in my mind? I know that I entertain thoughts and fantasies much longer than the temptation stage. I've heard it said like this, “The first look is on God, the second look is on me.” I don't sin outside of His knowledge of what I'm doing. This propositional truth does not always hinder my sinful nature as I believe it ought.

I don't know if you've ever experienced this, but I can remember a number of times watching movies with my parents and either the language was a bit off or there was one of “those scenes” that I really didn't want to be watching with my folks. I can remember that embarrassed discomfort that made me want to disappear from view; much like the Southwest Airlines advertisement, “Want to get away?” My point is when I am aware of another who can hold me accountable for my thoughts and what I'm doing, I am more apt to have a heightened awareness of my actions. You've seen signs for “Speed Zone Ahead” which make us look at the speedometer more closely. You're playing solitaire at work and the boss walks through...okay, enough beating of the dead horse.

Do we have that same kind of appreciation for His knowledge of what we do and think about? I cannot escape from Him knowing everything I say and do. He knows when I'm short with my children, when I use the “fer” word (ask one of my children what that means), when I take the 2nd look, when I covet others' possessions and denigrate His grace and mercy to me. The list goes on and on, and still I don't act as if He's sitting right here with me. There is plenty of “deeper theological” truth to His knowledge, namely propositional, experiential, or procedural knowledge. We've already touched on His propositional knowledge, His all encompassing, nothing that is known is not known to Him. We've touched on His experiential knowledge through the incarnation of His Son. By virtue of the first two types of knowledge, there is little debate about His knowledge of how to do anything (procedural). And as deep and thought provoking as that discussion could be, the idea that He knows me in the midst of all knowledge is humbling, awe inspiring, scary, and wonderful all at the same time.

That brings me to you. He knows you. He knows what you think about, what you do, what you're going to do and what you're going to think about. That part of you which thinks its acting or behaving in secret is laid bare before Him. The scary part is that the Lord of the universe who made you has the opportunity to not be very thrilled with what you're doing. Like His question to Adam after he fall, “Where are you?” He asks the same of you and me. His knowledge of what you're doing, what you're thinking, does not immediately give rise to His anger but instead the love of the shepherd who left the 99 to find the one. He knows the hurt, pain, and effect of the fall that drives you to think and act like you do. He made you and designed You for Him, not for those other false gods that cannot deliver like He can. For everything you're trying to fix, salve, or improve through your thoughts and actions which are not in line with His will, just know that because He does know all He knows what will give you the solace you need. You'll find its “just” Him.

Dear Lord, thank you for this morning. I again ask that if I have in anyway not faithfully represented Your word that You would convict our hearts by Your Spirit and take us to Your word for correction. I love you Father. In Jesus' name, amen.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Yeah, He knows that too

Having established that He's trustworthy I asked my wife which attribute to study next.  She came up with His omniscience.  I don't know about you, but the idea of an all-knowing God is a bit overwhelming to me.  Read the following excerpt:

"1. God is omniscient. Omniscience means that God knows everything, and this includes the knowledge not only of things that actually happen but also of things which might happen. This kind of knowledge God had by nature and without the effort of learning. Jesus claimed omniscience when He said, “If the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes” (Mt 11:21). Here is a display of the knowledge of things that might have happened. God “telleth the number of the stars; he calleth them all by their names” (Ps 147:4), and “known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world” (Ac 15:18).
The practical ramifications of the omniscience of God are many. Think, for instance, what this means in relation to the eternal security of the believer. If God knows all, then obviously nothing can come to light subsequent to our salvation which He did not know when He saved us. There were no skeletons in the closet which He did not know about when He offered to give us eternal salvation. Think again what omniscience means when something tragic occurs in our lives. God knows and has known all about it from the beginning and is working all things out for His glory and our ultimate good. Consider what omniscience ought to mean in relation to living the Christian life. Here is Someone who knows all the pitfalls as well as the ways to be happy and who has offered to give us this wisdom. If we would heed what He says then we could avoid a lot of trouble and experience a lot of happiness." - Ryrie, C.C. (1995). A survey of Bible doctrine. Chicago: Moody Press.

It seems to me that the knowledge spoken of in the excerpt is a factual "knowing."  Said another way, God knows all the details.  In my mind, as amazing as that is, I believe there is another aspect of His omniscience that I want to address, namely that knowledge, that knowing, that comes from experience.  Let me better explain what I mean:  when one lady speaks to a man about labor pains he understands and "knows" that giving birth causes serious discomfort, however, never having given birth himself, the man is in no position to know the pain.  Let one mother talk to another and the "knowing" they share about the experienced pain is a deeper form of knowing.  Does that make sense?

I would offer that the Lord not only knows you, He knows you.  Psalm 139 is a beautiful description of the kind of knowing His omniscience brings.  His is the knowledge of the creator, the deepest knowing available as you are here because of His creativity, His design, His Holy will.  Take that to its logical conclusion:  is there anything about you that He does not know both factually and experientially?  Your character, your thoughts, your ideas, your habits, your words, your wishes, your deepest darkest secrets...all of it.

A great example of being known by the Father is how the Lord took care of Hagar even after she was treated so poorly by both Sarai and Abram.  Basically Sarai gives Hagar to Abram (Genesis 16) so they can have a son, Hagar gets pregnant and begins to despise Sarai, Hagar gets sent away, and finds herself in the desert on her own.  The angel of the Lord meets her, tells her to go back to Sarai and submit to her.  The angel doesn't stop there.  He promises that Hagar will bear a son, that the boy will grow up to be a "donkey of a man" and be at odds with all his brothers.  Hagar actually names God as "El-Roi" or "The God Who Sees me."  How would you like to be the servant who was handed to the master to be his bed partner then shunned and banished after accomplishing the duty for which you were designated?  How would you like to be alone in the desert with no provision for you?  Would you cry out to the Lord, "Father, why me?  Where are you?  Have you forgotten me?"  He not only knew about the events, He came along side and gave Hagar a promise because he also knew her heart.

Let me take you for a minute to Mark 2.  You'll recall the paralytic who was carried by his four friends to see Jesus.  The home was so crowded they had to make a hole in the roof and lower their friend down to the center of the room.  Do you remember the need that Jesus first addressed?  Take a look at Mark 2 and you'll see that the first thing Jesus does is forgive the man's sins.  Jesus sees the faith of the four friends (who I have to assume were there wanting a physical healing) and says to the man, "Son, your sins are forgiven."  How many times have you thought you needed one thing, i.e. a trip to the bookstore or a DQ Blizzard, only to realize that you've met the wrong need?  Jesus saw past what He saw with His eyes and met the true need.  So, 1, Jesus sees the need of the paralytic.  Next, what does Jesus see without a word ever leaving the lips of the Pharisees?  Exactly!  He knows what they're thinking!!  Does that not blow you away?  So, 2, Jesus knows what others are thinking without the need for them to voice their thoughts.  You'll catch Jesus knowing the thoughts of the Pharisees in Matthew 12:25 as well.

Here's another example of Jesus knowing everything.  Look in John 1:47,48 and read about Jesus' interaction with Nathanael.  How about how He dealt with Thomas?  He knew what Thomas told the other disciples about his lack of belief.  Jesus knew who would betray Him.  Jesus knew that Peter was going to disown Him.  The Bible is absolutely full of examples of His omniscience.  I encourage you to take a look.

I'm going to move away now from the textual support of His omniscience and try to apply that in my life for a minute.  He knew I would be born on the 15th of September; He planned for my birth that day; He gave me my parents, brother and sister; He knew I would marry my wife.  He knows what will happen five minutes from now.  He knew I would not fly for the navy; He knew my youngest brother would die; He knew that I would go "to a distant land" and act in ways which would provide no evidence of my salvation.  He knew when He created this world that we would fall, that sin and death would taint His creation, that His Son would have to die to pay the price of redemption.  I often think if I could see the future I would use that power to avoid pain, suffering and difficulty.  He used that power to carry through with His plan anyway knowing that it would give His grace, mercy and love center stage and bring glory to Himself though the life, death, and resurrection of His Son.

I serve a Father who knew I would put nails in His Son's hands, in His feet, yet He sent Jesus anyway.  I serve a Father who knows me, who sees me, who knows my needs even before I do, who recognizes the real need and moves to meet it.  I serve a Father who not only factually knows what the effects of sin are on creation and on me personally, but One who experientially knows those effects.  I serve a Father who intentionally sent His Son to be tempted like we are, to hunger like I do, who thirsts like a do; a Father not content to empathize, but a Father who can sympathize.  Omniscience is more than a lot of "knowing"; it means I'm seen by my Father.

Lord, if there is anything in here that does not line up with your word, please forgive the injection of opinion.  Stir our hearts to verify everything we see or read with your Holy Spirit and Your Word.  Thank You for loving us, thank You for seeing us, thank You for Your willingness to experience the humanity You created so that there is no room for us to argue that You somehow just don't understand.  I love you, Father.  In Jesus' name, amen.