Category: DEVOTION


THE TERROR OF GOD

Sometimes God really is “terrible”. In fact, in some ways He’s the ultimate terrorist…

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Don’t worry, fellow believer, I’m not about to intentionally engage in any kind of blasphemy. I’m sure it’s true that, God is light; in him there is no darkness at all (1 John 1:5 NIV).

However, in contrast the Bible warns us that:

It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Hebrews 10 : 31 KJV).

How can God be said in his own book to be all “light” and yet at the same time cause fear? We have in the Scriptures what is either a serious contradiction, or a strange paradox which we need to come to terms with. In the latter case, which I’ll demonstrate is the correct alternative, the fact that God is “light” doesn’t exclude the reality of his fearful attributes: the terrible, fearful side of God’s nature does not equate to “darkness”.

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I noted in a recent post* that Richard Dawkins stated in his book, “THE GOD DELUSION” a number of extremely derogatory and insulting terms to describe the God of the Bible. I commented that none of his assertions were valid. However, in some fairness to the God-hating professor, I must say that anyone who’s done any serious thinking about life, the universe and everything, and anyone who’s lived for any length of time, and anyone who’s honest, will have questioned the goodness of God at some point in their life. If there is a God (and I’m convinced there is) and if he’s good and loving as the Bible claims he is, then why do so many terrible things happen in our lives and in our world?

More than that, anyone who’s read a sizable portion of the Old Testament couldn’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…And all Israel who were around them fled at their cry, for they said, “Lest the earth swallow us up”. And fire came out from the Lord and consumed the 250 men offering the insense…” (Numbers 17:31-35 ESV).

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Now, that’s terrorism in its purest form. If we only had a very shallow knowledge of the God of the Bible, we might read that passage and conclude that God is a mean, terrifying ogre. But I’d like to here reiterate a regular theme of mine, which is that if God is God-our creator and our sustainer-he has every right to do what he wants with his creation just as surely as a potter has every right to remake a buckled vessel on his wheel. Were he really a mean ogre, he would have every right to be so. We in contrast and in comparison have no rights and no way of enforcing any claims to rights.

God in the Old Testament was aware of his potential to inflict terror even on his own people, and made a habit of passing out warnings in advance, against any behavior which would lead to his anger flaring up. Think of the warning He gave to the people of Israel at Mt. Sinai, telling them not to set foot on the mountain:

And the Lord said to Moses, “Go down and warn the people, lest they break through to the Lord to look and many of them perish…” (Exodus 19:21)

It’s as though God was telling the people, “Please don’t come too close to me, because I won’t be able to help myself, and I don’t want to make you suffer or to destroy you…”

Our problem in this age is that we’ve forgotten about the holiness of God. He is perfect, he is infinite, he is mighty, and he must be multi-dimensional-if dimensions can be applied at all to an eternal, omnipresent being. We in contrast are imperfect, flawed, weak and very limited in our capacities, particularly our spiritual capacity. We can no more stand next to God and chat with him-in our natural state-than we can stand next to the sun: it’s impossible. And we can no more ignore and neglect the characteristics of God than we can ignore the properties of the sun: travelling at night to land a space ship on the sun to avoid the heat would be a futile, foolish operation.

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We believers tend to metaphorically brush under the carpets of our minds the numerous “B.C.” events such as the crushing of Korah’s rebellion, choosing instead to focus on the God of the New Testament and his loving, merciful attributes. My own dad, an otherwise godly man in every way, could not accept much of what was written in the Old Testament, and made the decision that God had been misrepresented by its authors, because God clearly wouldn’t condone the killing of anyone let alone thousands of men, women and children. It was the New Testament, in his eyes and the eyes of many others, which is the inspired Word of God: not the Old.

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The problem with that approach is that by dismissing the OT 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 Testament as though he believed it were 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).

You can’t have one without the other, said Jesus: the Old Testament and his words go together.

The two disciples on the road to Emmaus who were talking to Jesus without knowing it were given a Bible study (Luke 24:13-35). He demonstrated from what we call the Old Testament-there was no written New Testament at that time- that the prophesied Christ had to suffer and be raised. Why would he have reasoned from the Old Testament if it’s not to be accepted or believed?

So what about my outrageous assertion-coming as it does from a believer-that God is terrible? Am I now attempting to insult the Lord Almighty in a similar vein to the renowned and exalted prof.? Am I sowing seeds of dissent and rebellion? No. I’m using the word “terrible” in the context of being “dreadful”, “unspeakable” and “awesome”. I’m simply facing up to the reality of God’s nature.

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“But…” you may protest…”God is different in the New Testament!”

Is he really? I agree that Jesus Christ was and is “meek and mild”, and merciful, though a time is coming when the other side of his nature will be seen. Leaving that aside for the moment, I want to stress that God is “the same yesterday, today and forever…” Consider the words of New Testament writers, who spoke not only of God’s mercy but of his fearful side:

…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)

Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off (Romans 11:22 ESV)

If this were not enough evidence of the disciples’ awareness of the terrible nature of God we can read in the Revelation and the words of Jesus himself about how the entire world is going to be judged-by his holy standards and not ours-the same kind of holy standards that we see in the Old Testament. Paul wrote:

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). 

The terror of God will fall on imperfect mankind. But there is hope. Part two of my article will offer you the good news: the way of escape from the terror of God.

Thanks for reading this far!

This post in both its parts serves as an introduction to my forthcoming series on the subject of suffering as it relates to the God of the Bible, titled “Why Do We Suffer?”

* https://nickyfisher.com/2017/04/29/wrath-and-mercy/

Who are you? What are you made of? Have you been in touch with yourself lately? I don’t want to contribute to the “me” mentality raging all around us and in us, but staying in touch seems like an important thing to do…

I’ve been realizing how relevant staying in touch with my roots is to living a meaningful life. For many years I failed to pay attention to the benefits or even the concepts of roots and beginnings. The results of my attitude can be seen in the multitude of broken relationships and hurt people strewn along the path of my life; the missed opportunities, the blunders, and the consequential festering pool of regrets swilling around in my brain.

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As they say though (whoever “they” are) better late than never. I’ve been in touch with a few good friends I once had and lost, and attempted to right a few wrongs. Except for one, they all give the honorable reply that there were no wrongs: it was all good. I’ve given time to thinking about people who were important to me when I didn’t realize it, and places, and events I never appreciated or reflected upon until now. And I’ve been taking another look at some of the things I enjoyed about the culture I once lived in, in another country and another time. Yes, there is some of my old, “B.C.” life which needs to and will remain buried in that baptism I experienced as a new believer, but others are of great worth.

For example, I’ve always had a very progressive taste in music. I could never tolerate sameness or cliches: I wanted to hear something new and experimental. But in the last couple of years I’ve been listening to some of the music I enjoyed in my teens, and hey- some of it was pretty amazing. I don’t think I’ll ever get into an “older guy” habit of saying that nothing new is worth listening to-that’s just silly. And after all, even nostalgia isn’t what it use to be (joke). Similarly in the world of art I’ve been rediscovering some tremendous works and styles I once found stimulating.

The value I’ve discovered lately in those things and others is that they’re what I’m made of. They all contributed to my character, my view of life and the world, and my part in it. They’re inextricably related to some of the events of my past-my childhood, my teens, my life. They remind me of friends, family, loves, dreams, laughs, styles and a thousand other things which make up my personality and my experience on this earth.

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The Bible speaks of the importance of being in touch with our roots, particularly as they relate to family, traditions, commitments, values, society, and most importantly our faith. A failure to stay in touch with those things will lead to catastrophe just as surely as pulling out the foundation of a house will collapse the whole building:

If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do? (Psalm 11:3 KJV).

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But I’m speaking here more about an understanding of ourselves. We can’t have a clear view of our future and our direction in life without being aware of the people and the things which made us. Knowledge of our self, and of what makes for a good and meaningful world, produces what was once called “wisdom”. Wisdom guides us into a better life-one without regrets.

In short, I’m saying that by being in touch with all points of my past, including the ugly, painful ones, I am in fact staying in touch with…me. Not in any narcissistic, obsessive, selfish way-I hope, but in a way which will lead to a better life, a fuller appreciation of life, a better testimony, and fewer regrets.

WRATH AND MERCY

Sometimes God gets some pretty bad press. Sometimes God is accused of some pretty bad things. In fact, it may be true to say that God has probably taken just about every criticism that could be made about anyone, not to mention the slander, mockery and blasphemy…

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If you’re a follower of the Biblical God, have you ever found yourself questioning God, getting upset with God because you think he’s failed his obligations, or even accusing God of something? I wrote an article once titled, “How to Shout at God and Get Away with it”, in which I confessed to having done all of the above, and suggested that God is big enough to take it.

I predict that if you haven’t done the same, once you’ve been a believer for some time a situation will arrive in which you will find yourself doing one or all of the same. I’m not saying that I hope this will happen to you, but that while life is full of trials in which our faith is tested and honed, such situations are bound-even-designed to test our faith. Don’t believe me? Try reading the book of Job.

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Perhaps you’ve pointed a finger at God even if you aren’t a follower. It’s amazing how much time and effort some people go to to mock and berate a God they don’t even believe exists. Take Richard Dawkins, for example, who said:

“The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”

(Richard Dawkins: The God Delusion)

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I could go into a lengthy answer to disprove every single one of Dawkins’ accusations: our God is none of the above, and anyone who can suggest that he is doesn’t know him at all, and is clearly manifesting a deep hatred for him. By the way, how can you know that God does not exist, unless you yourself know everything there is to know about the universe, both seen and unseen? And if you did, you yourself would be God.

There’s no doubt that the Biblical God is indeed “a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:28). He is a terror to his enemies who will have no chance of resisting him or of changing his mind. But let’s give the great professor a little slack, and just pretend that God is one of those things that Dawkins accuses him of being: let’s pretend that God is genocidal. The important thing to consider is that God would have every right to be genocidal, if that’s his wish, because he is God. God is God, and we are not. God made all things, and sustains all things. He can do whatever he wants, and we have no right at all to question him. Neither do we have any ability to stop him. He does what he wants, when he wants, for his own reasons.

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Our only reasonable response, therefore, is not to attack and malign our Creator, or to become hateful of him, or to reject him and put him out of our minds. Because if he is all he claims to be, and one look into the night sky tells us that he is, it is an inescapable fact that we will one day have to face up to who he is in all his power and glory. We will have to give an account for how we’ve treated him, how we’ve spoken about him, and what we’ve thought about him.

The miracle of the gospel is that despite the fact that God is that “consuming fire”, as seen in the Old Testament, he has provided a way for us to escape his perfect, terrible justice. By associating ourselves with his son Jesus Christ we pass from being objects of God’s wrath to being objects of his love and mercy:

“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life” (John 5:24 ESV).

 

  

HOW TO BE OFFENSIVE

Ask anyone who knows me and they’ll tell you I’m not quite like other people. And I know from experience that when people don’t fit easily into a stereotype, others attempt to either squash them into one or just write them off as being “weird”.

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Some claim to approve of weird and unusual types, until they come across one whose weirdness doesn’t fit their understanding of what weird should be.

From an early age, having realized and been told that I was “not normal”, I made a point of not fitting any molds, even though I didn’t really need to try. And having perplexed many before being a Christian, I increased my powers of perplexation once I became one (I’m developing a habit of creating my own words-how do you like that one?)

Being human, Christians also put other Christians into boxes or stereotypes, upset or offended when they don’t fit the available boxes. Consequently I detect a considerable amount of recoiling going on when I meet people. Not that I’m trying to offend or repulse-it just happens, even when I’m trying to be friendly…

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The herd mentality is prevalent in human nature because nobody wants to be rejected or spurned, and this is why political correctness almost succeeded in getting a stranglehold on all of us. Even though it’s fashionable today to be individual and unique, people tend to be individual and unique in all the same ways, though I don’t want to name some of those ways for fear of treading on toes. I think I’m long past any compulsion to follow the herd, and I’m really determined not to shape my personality, my tastes and my habits just to fit into acceptable boxes.

I have no desire to be offensive, and we believers are supposed to do all we can to be at peace with all men. However, if I’m offensive to someone simply because of who I am, then so be it. Churchill said, “You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.” 

The one good way to be offensive is in what we profess, and in adherence to the cross of Jesus Christ. Paul referred to the “offense of the cross” (Galatians 5:11), and explained that the message of the cross is “a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles” (1 Corinthians 1:22). It was that very message which Paul was intentionally preaching, and which we are also called to preach.

So let’s be offensive for God. I don’t mean get in someone’s face and be an intentionally irritating and self-righteous embarrassment: I mean let’s believe and profess the good news without shame or reservation. Let’s winsomely stand up for the one thing which is most worth standing up for. If that’s offensive to someone…so be it.

 

 

THE UNTAMEABLE GOD

Upon conversion the believer begins his or her walk of faith in the self-assurance that God’s operation in his life will be predictable, safe, and subject to certain human standards. The opposite is true…

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Before someone out there burns me at the stake for making such a heretical statement, I want to declare that after decades of living under my own profession of faith, I still believe that God is always faithful, that he is always good, and that he is always right.

I wrote a post a few years ago titled “What Is God’s Will for your life-Really?”* It was in answer to a claim I’d heard many times in the first few years of my Christian life, usually made by Christian ministers, to the effect that God does indeed have that “wonderful plan” for each and every believer, and it’s just up to us to discover what it is and then get to work on it.

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GOD’S WILL FOR YOUR  LIFE

I spent I don’t know how many years attempting to find out what that divine plan for my life was. After all, if you’re not careful, you miss out on the whole deal-right? I learned the hard way that God’s will for us is to walk in faith and obedience, and to do what’s on our heart to do, what he’s gifted us with, and what we are best at-so long as it doesn’t conflict with his word. He will then steer our lives, whether we know what’s supposed to happen or not. And even when we get things wrong, somehow God is still at work.

God’s will for your life, most fundamentally, is that you be conformed to the likeness of His son Jesus Christ (Romans 8:29). Though he may have a specific plan, it’s not necessarily going to be anything like what you expected or wanted, and it may not always seem all that wonderful. Just think of all those poor Christians recently martyred or driven from their homes in Iraq and neighboring countries.

The worst thing to do, the worst way to think, is that God must or will arrange the parts of your life just as you think he will or should. You may be heading for paralyzing disappointment if you wait for that to happen. When he doesn’t make life happen the way we want it to, we’re prone to being frustrated with him, to losing faith in his goodness or his love for us, or even to lose faith and hope altogether.

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Perhaps the most striking Biblical example of this, shall we call it, “difference of opinion”, between His will and ours is seen in the account of the life of Job. Job’s life was going smoothly and very successfully, until Satan requested to test his faith. God granted that request (Job 1:12). We could discuss the possible reasons for God’s permission some other time: the interesting fact for our subject is that God did allow Satan to test Job-and that very severely. Not only so, but we might wonder if God actually instigated the test in the first place, since Satan wasn’t interested in harassing Job until God said to him:

“Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” (Job 1:8).

An interesting New Testament parallel is Jesus’ observation that Satan had “asked” to sift Peter like wheat (Luke 22:31 NIV. The word is translated “demanded” in the ESV; “desired” in the KJV). In other words, Satan wanted to cut Peter down to size and to see if his professed faith really had any substance. It’s not clear whether Satan was granted his request concerning Peter, though Peter certainly went through plenty of trials in the rest of his life. Notice that in both cases Satan had to make the request-he isn’t a loose cannon doing whatever he wants to do.

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In the events following Satan’s request to test Job Job’s life was turned upside down, and before long he’d convinced himself that God didn’t care for him, and worse, that God himself had thrown Job’s life into turmoil out of spite.

However, there was one thing that Job was right about, as God himself later pointed out: God had his own mind and he did his own thing without any reference to Job’s will or plan. Finally he acknowledged that God knew what was best for him and for the entire world. He recognized that God knew far more than he could hope to understand, and that essentially he knew nothing.

GOD IS GOD AND WE ARE NOT

For the first few years of my Christian life I looked to the Bible to try to understand God. More recently, while I still read my Bible knowing that it’s His message to us, I’ve also been attempting to see how God acts by looking at how he’s been at work in my life and in others’ lives. Most of you will know that we can only understand God to a limited extent. Attempting to understand all that God allows and all he does is as futile as trying to walk to the sun: it’s impossible. And why would it not be? He’s eternal, omniscient, omnipotent and uncontainable, and we are most ephemeral, and extremely limited in knowledge and power. Earth

Scripture gives us the clearest view of God’s nature and character that we can have in this limited existence. I can see from scripture, as played out in my own life that God is indeed Love. He is faithful, he’s merciful and he’s all-knowing. He’s patient and kind. On top of that, scripture gives a powerful explanation for the problems and suffering that all humanity faces. It tells us why we’re here, what the meaning of life is and why we die. It tells us a little of God’s plan for the future, and how we can be a part of it.

But sometimes, as poor Job found out, and as we all find out sooner or later, our questions go unanswered. While Job suffered perhaps as much as any human has ever suffered, we all get a taste of that very same bewilderment and sense of complete impotence that he suffered. It’s at such times that we have only two alternatives: we can either stop walking with our Creator, or we have to let God be God. In those moments, days or years we learn, as I believe God wants each one of us to learn, that He is God, and we are not. God does what he wants, when he wants. He has every right to be who he is, and there’s nothing we can do about it.

God is The eternal being. In stark contrast we are mortal dust, created by Him and for Him, totally fallible, and totally dependent on him. Any other attitude is a sinful attitude, and stops us from discovering the truth about our existence.

 

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