Category: DEVOTION


I just had an uncanny experience, relating to a book my son sent me. A few days ago I wrote down a little revelation I had: something of an epiphany…

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I recalled a book ( a very good book) written by Robert McGee, called “Search for Significance”. McGee’s thesis was that we all crave significance and search for it in different ways-money, power, sex, promotion, popularity, etc. We need, he said, to rather find our significance in Jesus Christ and his total acceptance of us. I agree with that.
However, my little revelation took McGee’s argument in a slightly different direction. I summarized my epiphany thus:
“It’s not significance I’m looking for, it’s LIFE. I want LIFE, vibrancy, exuberance, excitement. Perhaps people searching for significance are really seeking life”.
Daily I see many people with stern faces, living in small worlds, and seemingly having no hope in their lives. I’m sure you see them too.
The uncanny experience came this evening while reading a book called “Psycho Cybernetics”, by Maxwell Maltz. His following statement confirmed, as though sent from above, my own observation:
“Today, I am more convinced than ever that what each of us really wants, deep down, is more LIFE. Happiness, success, peace of mind, or whatever your own conception of supreme good may be, is experienced in its essence as-more life”. 
I don’t think it’s wrong to seek a meaningful, significant life in human, physical terms, so long as we have things in the right perspective, with God on top and our desires below. But I cannot fail to share the following, a quote from Jesus Christ. The words of Jesus refer not merely to excitement and such things as we can brighten up our daily mortal existence with: these things are temporary and limited. Instead he referred to the ultimate meaning and expression of life, which is Jesus Christ in us:
I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly (John 10:10 KJV).
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God doesn’t see things our way, and there’s nothing we can do about it. In fact, it seems sometimes to us that God has a huge, mean, dark side to his nature…

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Yet we read in the Book of books, the Bible, that “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all”. So how do we reconcile the hard realities of life with what we read?

What we’ve discussed in this little series can be boiled down to the fact that God-and reality-is something other than what we are and what we expect him or even want him to be. God is in no way controllable, tamable, measurable or understandable.

We cannot get a grip on God. And if you think about it, that’s how a God should be. Why should we expect the creator of the universe to be understood or controlled by limited, finite, mortal man? Since this is the case, how do we deal with a God who is apparently unapproachable, who has standards far above what we are able to live out, and who transcends all of time and space? There’s only one answer: God has to provide the way himself, and that’s exactly what he’s done.

God is infinite and perfectly holy, and yet perfectly merciful. The perfect God didn’t create the world and mankind in order to provide himself people to pick on. In fact, when he created the world in its original perfect condition along with mankind, as only a perfect God can do, we’re told that:

“…God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good” (Genesis 2:31).

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What could a perfect God do when his created beings began to be imperfect and to rebel against him and to betray each other? He didn’t want to wipe out his own creation, so he provided for himself ways of  reaching out to weak, fallible mankind, and forgiving that imperfection and rebellion. Such provision is seen repeatedly throughout the Bible in many characters.

An early and clear example found in the Old Testament is Moses. Moses was chosen by God to deliver his people from slavery. But it wasn’t just physical deliverance from Egypt that God had in mind for Moses, it was deliverance for the people from his own perfect standards and from his wrath against those who would break them. God’s desire and in fact his natural, perfect compulsion was to punish and destroy those who were rebellious. But there were times when Moses stepped in:

I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stiff-necked people. Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them, in order that I may make a great nation of you

But Moses implored the Lord his God and said, “O Lord, why does your wrath burn hot against your people…?  Turn from your burning anger and relent from this disaster against your people… And the Lord relented from the disaster… (Exodus 32:9-14).

God provided Moses to protect the Israelites from himself.

Many examples of people who stood between God’s wrath and man can be found in the Bible, but the greatest, and the most important one, is Jesus Christ. The gospel, or the “good news” about Jesus Christ is that he, being the only son of God, was sent by the Father to pay the price of our sin, rebellion and imperfection, which is God’s wrath:

Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed…and the Lord has laid upon him the iniquity of us all…(Isaiah 53:4-6).

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Remember the prayer of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane, when he knew what was about to happen to him but surrendered to the will of the Father:

My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless , not as I will, but as you will… (Matthew 26:39).

Jesus Christ suffered God’s wrath in our place when he was crucified and left to die. This was the Father’s, and the Son’s, ultimate expression of love and mercy to his creation:

In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only son into the world, so that we might live through him…he loved us and sent his son to be the propitiation for our sins… (1 John 4:9-10).

Jesus Christ is our answer to God’s perfection and justice. Our escape from what we may perceive as “the dark side” of God is his own son Jesus Christ. But we have to accept that way of escape. There is no escape from the perfection of God without Jesus Christ:

Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him (John 5:23);

Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die… (John 11: 26).

 

 

 

 

What do you do when you’re down and troubled? Do you cuddle the dog? Do you put the TV on? Do you pop a pill or light a joint?

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We’ve probably all had someone tell us when we’re down that there are people worse off than us. That’s supposed to cheer us up. But as a 20th century British comedian, Peter Cook, observed, that just makes us feel bad about the other people as well.

One thing that’s helped me in recent times of feeling down is facing up to the fact that I’m feeling down. And with it I’ve also found comfort in the fact, after all, that others are suffering. I’m not saying that it’s a good thing to suffer, and I’m not saying that we should wallow in our trouble, or that we should not cuddle the dog or do something to “shake out of it”. But there’s a very real sense in which knowing that humanity is born into trouble and suffering, and that just being alive exposes us all to the consequences of being in a fallen world of nature and people…is half of the cure. It’s normal. It’s not an aberration to be down and troubled: it’s natural. It’s part of who we are. It’s life. It’s reality. It’s what humans do.

The other half of the cure (the subject of the third part of my “dark side” series, still to come) is stated clearly in this New Testament quote from Jesus Christ:

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 NIV).

By facing up to the reality of our human plight, we can also find the answer to it, in Jesus Christ.

If there is a God, why do so many bad things happen? Is God really everything we want to think he is…or is he something altogether different? More specifically, is there a “dark side” to the God of the Bible?
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The concept of the “dark side” of George Lucas’ “Force” in Star Wars is compelling in many ways, and fits in with the beliefs of certain world religions. Is there a “dark side” in the real universe, responsible for all the suffering we experience in life?

Suffering is cited as the biggest reason people reject the idea of the existence of God, or at least, the idea of a caring, personal God. To my mind the earth and life on it is obviously designed, and not cobbled together by time plus chance plus countless trillions of fortuitous and impossible events and circumstances. But I can understand why people do turn away from faith in the face of suffering, because we humans sometimes suffer unspeakable things, and it’s difficult even for those of us who believe in his infinite power not to sometimes question his motives or his methods.

THE DARK SIDE OF GOD?

Anyone who reads a sizable portion of the Old Testament can’t fail to notice some very heavy-handed dealings by God with his people and those around them. As an example, consider the punishment of Korah, his family and all who rebelled against Moses with him:

“…the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, with their households and all who belonged to Korah…and the earth closed over them…” (Numbers 17:31-35 ESV).

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In fact, the Old Testament is strewn with plain statements from God about himself which demonstrate a side of him that most of us choose to ignore:

“I form the light and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things” (Isaiah 45:7 KJV).

By “create evil” I assume not that he’s a “Yin-Yang” type of God who is both good and evil, but that some of those terrible things we hear of in our world, and which we ourselves suffer, are without doubt sent by Him, or allowed within his plan.

Who hasn’t read the account of Job’s testing without a chill running down his back or without asking some very serious questions about God, and who hasn’t wondered why God put that tree…that baaad tree, in the perfect Garden, along with the serpent?

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Here are two more examples:

Then the LORD said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the LORD? (Exodus 4:11 ESV);

When ye be come into the land of Canaan, which I give to you for a possession, and I put the plague of leprosy in a house of the land of your possession… (Leviticus 14:34 KJV).

It really doesn’t help our fear of God’s “darker” side to dismiss the Old Testament and only follow the New, because by dismissing the Old you are also bringing into question the entire New Testament. You can’t read any one of the gospels without finding numerous examples of Jesus Christ quoting the Old as though he believed it were totally true, and the letters are similarly packed with references to it. In fact, putting the Pharisees on the spot as he loved to do, Jesus said:

For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote about Me (John 5:46 NASB).

The two disciples on the road to Emmaus were given a Bible study from what we call the Old Testament (Luke 24:13-35). Jesus was showing the validity and importance of Old Testament scripture, and how it gave the background to his own ministry and person. The genealogy and history of Jesus’ human side is recorded there, and then confirmed in Matthew’s gospel. The two testaments are inextricably linked. You can’t have one without the other.

In the New Testament there’s no escaping God’s “other” side, because statements throughout it apparently echo what we saw in the Old Testament:

…let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. For our God is a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:28 KJV).

It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God… (Hebrews 10:31 NIV)

This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might (2 Thessalonians 1:6-9 NIV).

And here is one I often refer to in my own daily life:

For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it (Romans 8:20 NIV).

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We seem to be stuck with the fact that the God who sent plagues upon the Egyptians, and who ordered the cleansing of Canaanites from the land, and who said “I make peace and create evil”, is the same God who sent his son Jesus into the world for us to find life, forgiveness and hope. The same Bible that tells us about the love of God also tells us that many of the things which go wrong in our lives and in our world are directly from the hand of the one who created it, or they are allowed to occur by him. God does, then, have what appears to be a “dark side” to his nature.

However, as any Bible student will have been itching to inform me up to this point, John the apostle wrote that:

 

God is light; in him there is no darkness at all (1 John 1:5 NIV).

No darkness at all! How can God be said in his own book to be all “light” and yet at the same time to cause or allow frustration, trouble, testing and suffering? We obviously have in the Scriptures what is either a serious contradiction, or a strange paradox which we need to come to terms with. So in part two of this post-in a few days-I’ll discuss why the fact that God’s “other”, darker side does not have to exclude the reality that God is all “Light”, and I’ll discuss God’s provision for our deliverance.

I’ve published an entire series on the causes of suffering as revealed in the Bible. While I don’t pretend to have all the answers, some of them are there for your consideration. I’m not trying to sell them to you in “my latest insightful book”-they’re free. Start here: https://nickyfisher.com/2017/05/31/why-do-we-suffer-part-1/

 

 

GETTING FAITH

A member of my distant family recently commented that he had not been given the gift of faith. This to him is the end of the matter-he clearly expects to live the rest of his life without it.

gift-wrapping-paperSome Christians think that faith is only given to a select few. God chooses some while the rest get left out. That flies in the face of the words of Jesus Christ himself, who said:

And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself (John 12:32 ESV)

and:

God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16 NIV).

Faith is elusive for someone who thinks it’s a blind conviction or a feeling. It’s difficult for people to find where they’re kept in the dark: where mention of the Christian faith is shunned or forbidden, or even put down with violence. Many voices in the West are working to silence the faith of their fathers, and instead to welcome a faith which will enslave them and the nations they live in.

Jesus said “whoever believes…” The Christian gospel offers salvation as a free gift to anyone who will respond. We have to turn from our un-Godly ways, and accept the sacrifice of God’s only Son, and his resurrection. I’ve written before about this*

I explained to my family member that getting faith isn’t a difficult thing. We don’t have to first deny reality, or strain to convince ourselves of everything in the Bible, or work up a feeling or an emotion. Instead, I said, having faith is a little like getting on a plane. The pilot and his airline guarantee that they can get us to our destination. All we have to do is trust them to do it, and get on board.

God built the “plane” of salvation, and Jesus Christ is the pilot: just get on board.

* https://nickyfisher.com/2013/08/13/what-is-the-gospel-of-jesus-christ-2/

 

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