Friday, May 30, 2014

God Is Mercy and Compassion

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (NLT)

The Lord God is the great Ruler over all nations. “Great is the Lord--even beyond the borders of Israel!” (Malachi 1:5, NIV). The Lord God, who is Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, is filled with mercy, compassion, and comfort (Exodus 34:6-7; Numbers 14:18; Psalm 86:15; Psalm 103:8). In fact, God is characterized by His abundant mercy and comfort (Psalm 86:5; Daniel 9:9; Micah 7:18) because He is the very source of all mercy and comfort (2 Corinthians 1:3; John 16:7). For the Lord God is good, His mercy is everlasting (Psalm 100:5; 1 Chronicles 16:34; 2 Chronicles 5:13). God graciously forgives and shows mercy to all genuine repentant people (Psalm 51:1-4; Isaiah 55:7; Lamentations 3:31-33; Daniel 9:9; Micah 7:19). The true and living God is forever merciful, gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness in reaching out to His people in need and distressed (see also Nehemiah 9:17; Joel 2:13; Jonah 4:2).

Where is another God like You, who pardons the sins of the survivors among His people? You cannot stay angry with Your people, for You love to be merciful. Once again You will have compassion on us. You will tread our sins beneath Your feet; You will throw them into the depths of the ocean! You will bless us as You promised . . . . You will set Your love upon us, as You promised our father Abraham! Micah 7:18-20 (TLB)

God delights giving His abundant mercy and comfort to people seeking His help (Psalm 145:18-19). In His grace, God gives us what we do not deserve, and in His everlasting mercy He does not give us what we do deserve (2 Samuel 24:14). “Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail” (Lamentations 3:22, NIV). Even more, “the Lord is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion” (Psalms 116:5, NIV). God's compassion and mercy is great (Psalm 25:6-7). The Holy Scriptures frequently speaks of the multitude of God's tender mercies (see e.g., Psalm 5:7; Psalm 51:1; Psalm 69:16; Psalm 106:7, 45; Lamentations 3:32). The same God who judges also restores according to unending love (Psalm 30:5; Isaiah 54:7-8). Great is God’s faithfulness (Lamentations 3:23) that sums up God’s unending mercies towards His people (Psalm 25:10; Psalm 26:3).

When we are in trouble and distress, we can draw near to God’s throne so that we might receive His mercy and compassion (Hebrews 4:16; James 5:11). God is faithful to hear and save us when help is needed because God delights to show mercy (Micah 7:18). As we draw near to God and turn from sin, God sends His Holy Spirit to come alongside to provide our support, help, and encouragement (John 14 – 16). He provides comfort and encouragement strength for our inner hearts and encouragement for the outer person (John 14:16–17) so we can face our trials and triumph over them. God is continually faithful to deliver us from all our troubles and hard times as we wholeheartedly trust and depend on Him (Psalm 116:5-6). He promises to wipe away every tear, protect us from our enemies, and prevent us from falling (Psalms 116:8; Jude 24-25).

In our sufferings and pain, we must continually take time to express praise or glory to God. Praise is good medicine for our hurting hearts (2 Corinthians 1:3, Ephesians 1:3, and 1 Peter 1:3). Even the Apostle Paul learned that praise is an important factor in achieving victory over depression, discouragement, and hopelessness (see Acts 16:25-34). As respected biblical scholar Warren W. Wiersbe noted:  “Praise changes things just as much as prayer changes things.” Always remember that God wants our exclusive faith and worship of Him from our whole hearts (Deuteronomy 6:4-6; Matthew 22:37).

And the word of the Lord came again to Zechariah: “This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor. In your hearts do not think evil of each other.’” Zechariah 7:8-10 (NIV)

Finally, we are to intimate God’s mercy and compassion in our daily conduct toward others. In fact, God requires His people to be just, merciful, and humble to others, especially towards the poor and needy (Micah 6:8; see also Proverbs 21:13; Zechariah 7:9-10). Justice, mercy, and faith are the acts of obedience God requires of all people (1 Samuel 15:22; Psalm 51:17; Isaiah 1:11-15; Jeremiah 22:16; Hosea 6:6; Amos 5:24 Micah 6:6-8; James 1:27). Jesus Christ said we are to “be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:36, NIV). God has required throughout the entire Holy Scriptures mercy. God does not delight the external religious but deeds of mercy to others (Matthew 9:13; Matthew 12:7; Matthew 23:23). God said “I desire mercy and not sacrifice, and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings” (Hosea 6:6, NKJV). In fact, mercy is a mark of discipleship (Matthew 5:7; see also Luke 10:36-37).

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. (Matthew 5:7)

In the Holy Scriptures, mercy is described as kindness, steadfast love, loving-kindness, loyalty, and faithfulness as they are all part of the same fabric. Mercy always involves helping those who are in need or distress as God has shown mercy to us (see Luke 10:25-37). The apostle Paul emphasized that our comfort from God is not just for our own good, but that we may be able to comfort those which are in any trouble (Philippians 2:1-2; Colossians 3:12). In other words, we are to share God’s comfort with others in troubled times and care for the needs of others (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). God freely gives us His mercy and compassion in all our troubles “so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God” (2 Corinthians 1:4, NIV).

What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens, but you ignore the more important aspects of the law—justice, mercy, and faith. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things. Matthew 23:23 (NLT)

King James Version Study Bible. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1988.
KJV Bible Commentary. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1994.
Life Application Study Bible. Carol Streams, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2005.
NLT Study Bible. Carol Streams, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2008.
Zondervan NIV Study Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008.
Grudem, Wayne. Systematic Theology. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994.
Butler, Trent. Holman Bible Dictionary. Broadman & Holman Pub., 1991.
Wiersbe, Warren W. Bible Exposition Commentary. Victor Books, 1989.
Wiersbe, Warren. With the Word Bible Commentary. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1991.

Friday, May 23, 2014

The Lord God Is . . .

The Lord is a jealous God, filled with vengeance and wrath. He takes revenge on all who oppose Him and continues to rage against His enemies! The Lord is slow to get angry, but His power is great, and He never lets the guilty go unpunished. He displays His power in the whirlwind and the storm. The billowing clouds are the dust beneath His feet. At His command the oceans dry up, and the rivers disappear. The lush pastures of Bashan and Carmel fade, and the green forests of Lebanon wither. In His presence the mountains quake, and the hills melt away; the earth trembles, and its people are destroyed. Who can stand before His fierce anger? Who can survive His burning fury? His rage blazes forth like fire, and the mountains crumble to dust in His presence. The Lord is good, a strong refuge when trouble comes. He is close to those who trust in Him. But He will sweep away His enemies in an overwhelming flood. He will pursue His foes into the darkness of night. Nahum 1:2-8 (NLT)

In this brief Old Testament book, Nahum makes five testimonies about God’s character. God is described as jealous (Nahum 1:2), patient and slow to anger (Nahum 1:3), powerful and sovereign (Nahum 1:3-5), good (Nahum 1:7), and a strong refuge (Nahum 1:7). These testimonies of God’s character are also revealed throughout the Holy Scriptures.

First of all, God is described as jealous . . . avenging . . . and vengeance (Nahum 1:2). In the first and second commandments, God said “I am the Lord your God . . . You must not have any other god but Me. You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind . . . You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods. I lay the sins of the parents upon their children; the entire family is affected—even children in the third and fourth generations of those who reject Me. But I lavish unfailing love for a thousand generations on those who love Me and obey My commands” (Exodus 20:2-6, NLT). These first two commandments clearly state that God wants our wholehearted love, absolute loyalty and exclusive devotion to Him above all else (see also Deuteronomy 6:4-6; Matthew 22:37; Mark 12:33).

The true and living God created everything and owns everything (Genesis 1-2; see also Psalm 100:3). Since He is Creator, God is jealous over His creation, His glory, and the worship that are due to Him alone (Exodus 34:14; see Deuteronomy 6:15; Deuteronomy 32:16, 21; 1 Kings 14:22). In fact, the true and living God wants our first and foremost affections, allegiance, and love for Him (see Deuteronomy 6:4-6; Matthew 6:33; Luke 10:27). In other words, God wants us to worship “no other gods, for the Lord, whose very name is Jealous, is a God who is jealous about His relationship” with humanity (Exodus 34:14, NLT).God wants a genuine and devoted relationship with us, not mere ritual. He wants to be at the center of our daily lives with exclusive devotion to Him first. God’s jealousy is like that of a husband over his wife or the mother over her child. He wants our complete devotion to Him first and will not permit any rivals (see Deuteronomy 5:9; Joshua 24:19). As Jesus Christ taught, we cannot serve money, work, or fame (Luke 16:13). “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind” (Matthew 22:37, NLT). “For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God” (Deuteronomy 4:24, NKJV).

Nevertheless, only God alone has the right to be jealous and to take vengeance not people (Psalm 94:1). God has called everyone to love one another and overcome evil with good (Romans 12:9-21). The Holy Scriptures state we are to love our enemies and not “get even” (Matthew 5:38-48). When people are jealous and take vengeance, they are usually acting in a spirit of selfishness and pride. Besides, both Jesus Christ and the apostle Paul warned about humans taking vengeance into their own hands (Matthews 5:38-48; Romans 12:17-21). God said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay.... I will take vengeance on My adversaries and repay those who hate Me” (Deuteronomy 32:35, 41, NIV). God takes vengeance because He is a holy and righteous. He is angry at sin (Nahum 1:2). His jealousy and vengeance are purposed to remove sin and restore peace to the world (Deuteronomy 4:24; Deuteronomy 5:9). God’s holiness, righteous and justice will ultimately triumph against all wickedness, cruelty, pride, and idolatry.

Also, God is all-powerful and sovereign (Nahum 1:3-5). Awesome natural phenomena display God’s majesty and power (Job 38:1; Psalm 18:7-15; Psalm 104:3-4). God controls the forces of nature (Nahum 1:3), including opening the Red Sea for the people of Israel (Exodus 14:1-15:12; Joshua 3:1-4:24) and turning off the rain and make the most fruitful areas of the land waste away as a desert (Nahum 1:4; see also Isaiah 50:2). At Sinai, God made the mountain shake (Exodus 19:18), and He can cause the world to tremble (Hebrews 12:18-21). No human can defy God – the all-powerful the Creator of the universe.

That is why the Lord says, “Turn to Me now, while there is time. Give Me your hearts. Come with fasting, weeping, and mourning. Don’t tear your clothing in your grief, but tear your hearts instead.” Return to the Lord your God, for He is merciful and compassionate, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. He is eager to relent and not punish. Joel 2:12-13 (NLT)

God is also patient and “slow to anger” (Nahum 1:3; see also Jonah 4:2; Exodus 34:6-7; Numbers 14:18). God forgives again and again! In fact, God patiently gives everyone a chance to hear His Word, genuinely repent and turn wholeheartedly to Him. The Holy Scriptures are clear that God is patient, slow to anger and not willing to see anyone perish under His judgment (Psalm 103:8; Nahum 1:3). Yet, God’s judgment will come because He will not allow sin to go unpunished forever (2 Peter 3:8–9). In other words, God does not leave disobedient sinners unpunished for long without guilt consequence (Exodus 34:6–7). God will not tolerate dishonesty, adultery, envy, greed, and violence to go unpunished. God is a God of justice (see Exodus 23:1-9; Deuteronomy 32:4; Amos 5:15). When God does deal with sin, His judgment often comes rather swiftly, suddenly, and without warning (see Genesis 19:24; Matthew 24:36-44).

No doubt about it! God is good— good to good people, good to the good-hearted. Psalms 73:1 (MSG)

Moreover, God is good and He cares for His people (Nahum 1:7). Nahum invites everyone (as the apostle Paul says) to “consider the goodness” of God (Romans 11:22, NKJV). The psalmist also declared “For the Lord is good and His love endures forever; His faithfulness continues through all generations” (Psalms 100:5, NIV). Also, “God is love” (1 John 4:8, 16) and light (1 John 1:5). God’s mercy is a strong refuge, supplying all our needs and protections, for those who wholeheartedly trust and love Him (Psalm 46). Yet, God is an “overwhelming flood” (Nahum 1:8) or angry fire to those who hate and disobey Him (Nahum 1:6).

The Lord is slow to anger and rich in faithful love, forgiving wrongdoing and rebellion. But He will not leave [the guilty] unpunished. Numbers 14:18 (HCSB)

Taste and see that the Lord is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in Him! Psalms 34:8 (NLT)

KJV Bible Commentary. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1994.
Life Application Study Bible. Carol Streams, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2005.
Wiersbe, Warren W. Bible Exposition Commentary. Victor Books, 1989.
Wiersbe, Warren. With the Word Bible Commentary. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1991.
Word in Life Study Bible. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1996.
Zondervan NIV Study Bible. New York: Zondervan, 2008.
The Amplified Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1987.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

An Invitation to God’s House

Who may worship in Your sanctuary, Lord? Who may enter Your presence on Your holy hill? Those who lead blameless lives (walk straight) and do what is right (act right), speaking the truth (honesty) from sincere hearts. Those who refuse to gossip or harm their neighbors or speak evil of their friends. Those who despise flagrant sinners, and honor the faithful followers of the Lord, and keep their promises even when it hurts. Those who lend money without charging interest, and who cannot be bribed to lie about the innocent. Such people will stand firm forever. Psalms 15:1-5 (NLT)

Have you ever wanted a dinner invitation to the White House or Buckingham Palace?  Normally, there are rules and guidelines to obtain an invitation to such exclusive places. In Psalm 15, King David also provided people some simple guidelines to follow if they wanted to get an invitation to God’s eternal home – His heavenly sanctuary. Psalm 15 with parallel references in Psalm 24, also written by King David, gives some easy guidelines to obtain an invitation to God’s presence – His holy, royal house.

Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord. Hebrews 12:14 (NKJV)

The true and living God was not looking for people who just gave empty sacrifices or performed half-hearted religious rituals. God wanted moral righteousness in order to gain access to His House (see Exodus 20:1-17; see also Isaiah 1:10-17; Isaiah 33:14-16; Isaiah 58:6-10; Jeremiah 7:2-7; Ezekiel 18:5-9; Amos 5:14-15, 21-24; Zechariah 7:9-10; Zechariah 8:16-17). Like the other true messengers of God, King David proclaimed that God wanted our genuine and wholehearted love, alliance, and obedience to Him and not the people’s empty, dishonest, and half-hearted worship (see also Isaiah 1:10-20; Isaiah 66:3; Jeremiah 4:4; Jeremiah 6:20; Jeremiah 7:22-23; Hosea 6:6; Amos 5:21; Micah 6:6-8). Such people who seek righteousness and God’s ways of living are ultimately invited into God’s eternal sanctuary (Psalm 15).

God calls all people to sincere faith and wholehearted devotion to Him (Isaiah 1:10-14) although we live among evil people whose standards and morals are steadily eroding (Isaiah 33:15; Isaiah 56:1; Micah 6:8; Habakkuk 2:4; Mark 12:29-31). Sin blocks our intimate union and access to God. However, King David reminded the people if they wanted this close fellowship with God; they must turn from sin and wholeheartedly obey God (Psalm 24:3-6; see also Isaiah 33:14-16). The only sure cure to restore a meaningful relationship with God is by confessing our sins, obeying God’s teachings, and communicating regularly (prayer) with God (see Psalm 140:13; Isaiah 1:16-19; 1 John 1:9). Our close fellowship with God brings God's protection and God's provision (blessings).

From Psalm 15, God said we must walk blameless before Him (Psalm 15:2; see also Genesis 5:22; Genesis 6:8-9; Genesis 17:1). Being blameless means living a life wholeheartedly devoted and loyal to God and faithfulness to His holy teachings. The true and living God wants people to reverential trust Him, respect and honor Him as their God, and order their lives in accordance with His will as they shun evil and sin (Psalm 34:8-14; Job 28:28; Proverbs 1:7; 1 Peter 3:8-12). “Blameless” before God does not mean “sinless,” for nobody on earth is sinless. Instead, blameless has to do with our moral character, integrity, and complete loyalty to God. Noah was blameless (Genesis 6:9), and God warned Abraham to be blameless (Genesis 17:1), that is, devoted wholly to Him (see also Deuteronomy 18:9-13; Psalm 101:2, 6; Luke 16:13).

Second, God wants people to act right (that is seeks after righteousness) and tell the truth (truthful conversations) from their hearts (Psalm 15:2; see also Psalm 1:5). Words are powerful. God wants honesty with Him, truth in our innermost being (Psalm 51:6) and honesty in our conversations with others (Ephesian 4:14-15). Dishonest communication hurts our fellowship with God and our relationship with others. Without honesty, a close relationship with God is impossible. How greatly God values our honesty!

Third, the true and living God does not want His people to backbite and hurt other people (Psalm 15:3). Gossiping, blaming others, and speaking evil of people are things God dislikes (see also Leviticus 19:18; Matthew 22:39). More trouble and heartache is caused in families, neighborhoods, offices, and churches by gossip and lies and the people who keep them in circulation. Instead, God wants everyone to “speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of His body, the church” (Ephesians 4:15, NLT). God wants us to use our words to encourage, uplift and help people and not hurt (see 1 Thessalonians 5:11; James 3:1-12).

Finally, God desires for His people to keep their promises (our word), even when it may cause personal hurt (Psalm 15:4). We must all “keep your word even when it costs” us personally (Psalms 15:4, MSG). Even more, God wants people to make an honest living and not take bribes and kickbacks and not charge people excessive interest (Psalm 15:5; see also Isaiah 1:23). As with King David, the Prophet Isaiah reminded the people that God wanted: “All who are honest and fair, who reject making profit by fraud, who hold back their hands from taking bribes, who refuse to listen to those who plot murder, who shut their eyes to all enticement to do wrong” (Isaiah 33:15, TLB).

For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor un-circumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. Galatians 5:6 (NIV)

The true and living God encourages all people to do good and make a positive difference (Philippians 2:12-16). We are saved by faith, not by deeds (Ephesians 2:8-9). Nevertheless, love and kindness for others and wholehearted love for God is the proper response of all those whom God has truly forgiven and accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior (Matthew 22:34-40; Romans 13:8-14; Galatians 5:22-23). Jesus Christ said that those who are forgiven much love much (Luke 7:47). Our genuine love and goodness for others are evidence of our salvation and God’s forgiveness (Matthew 5:13-16; Matthew 7:15-23). Besides, the Lord God exercises “kindness, justice and righteousness on earth” and He wants everyone to do the same towards others (Jeremiah 9:24).

The Jewish rabbis taught that there were 613 commandments for the ancient Israelites to obey if they wanted to be righteous. However, Psalm 15 with parallel references of Psalm 24 brings that number down to eleven. Isaiah 33:15-16 gives six requirements, and Micah 6:6-8 lists three. Habakkuk 2:4 names but one—faith! Faith in God’s only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, and faith in Jesus Christ’s life and sacrificial death is the only way to have our sins completely forgiven and be welcomed into God’s eternal sanctuary (John 14:6; Acts 10:34-38, 43; Romans 1:7; Galatians 3:11; Hebrews 10:38). Our salvation through faith in Jesus Christ is not merely a gift received but one that ultimately expresses itself in good works and love (Galatians 5:6; James 2:18, 20, 22).

In every nation He (God) accepts those who fear Him and do what is right. This is the message of Good News for the people of Israel—that there is peace with God through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. You know what happened throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee, after John began preaching his message of baptism. And you know that God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. Then Jesus went around doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him. And we apostles are witnesses of all He (Jesus Christ) did throughout Judea and in Jerusalem. They put Him to death by hanging Him on a cross, but God raised Him to life on the third day. . . . He (Jesus Christ) is the One all the prophets testified about, saying that everyone who believes in Him will have their sins forgiven through His name.” Acts 10:35-40, 43 (NLT)

Psalm 15 and Psalm 24 are not a prescription for being saved. As stated earlier, only our personal faith in God (Father, Son – Jesus Christ, and Holy Spirit) brings about our salvation (Genesis 15:6; Habakkuk 2:4; Mark 12:28-34; see also Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11; Ephesians 2:8-9; Colossians 1:19). “This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. . . . For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:22-23, NIV). Good works or religious character cannot save us. The only way we can enter into God's eternal sanctuary is through the merits of Jesus Christ, which means we must repent of our sins and place our wholehearted faith in Him. Only Jesus Christ qualifies to enter God the Father's eternal presence, and He has gone to heaven to represent His people and intercede for them before God the Father's throne. God's righteousness is a gift to all who believe in His Son, Jesus Christ and not a reward for our good works (Romans 3:21-4:9; Romans 5:17; Romans 10:1-10). Ultimately, our salvation through faith in Jesus Christ expresses itself in good works and love (Galatians 5:6; James 2:18, 20, 22).

Psalm 15 and Psalm 24 do provide a description of how saved people ought to live if they want to please God and have eternal fellowship (union) with Him (Matthew 7:24-27; Luke 6:47-49). A godly life discussed by Jesus Christ in the Sermon on the Mount parallels the characteristics of the godly person described in Psalm 15 and Psalm 24. A life built upon God and God’s teachings has a strong and stable foundation. Practicing obedience to God’s teachings becomes the solid foundation to weather any storms of life (see James 1:22-27). “He who does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:17, NKJV).

Who may climb the mountain of the Lord? Who may stand in His holy place? Only those whose hands and hearts are pure, who do not worship idols and never tell lies. They will receive the Lord’s blessing and have a right relationship with God their Savior. Such people may seek you and worship in Your presence, O God of Jacob. Psalms 24:3-6 (NLT)

“Only those with pure hands and hearts, who do not practice dishonesty and lying” will see God (Psalms 24:4; see also Matthew 5:8). “Clean hands” speak of righteous conduct (Isaiah 1:15-16, 18), and a “pure heart” speaks of godly character and motives (Matthew 5:8). Jesus Christ said that the “pure in heart . . . will see God” (Matthew 5:8). A pure heart is a right attitude and motives (Psalm 51:10; Psalm 73:1). Those who are pure in thought, word, and deed will receive God’s blessings and goodness (Psalm 24:5; Matthew 5:8) and “allowed to stand before the Lord and worship the God of Jacob” (Psalm 24:6, TLB). Inner purity and truth are required of those who worship God aright (Psalm 15; Psalm 24:3-5; John 4:24).

Give up your evil ways. Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows. “Come now, let’s settle this,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool. If you will only obey Me, you will have plenty to eat. But if you turn away and refuse to listen, you will be devoured by the sword of your enemies. I, the Lord, have spoken!” Isaiah 1:16-20 (NLT)

God hates all kinds of deception and frauds, especially false witness in court. Even more, external religious rituals are meaningless before God without inward holiness and truth (Isaiah 1:15-16, 18). Our religious celebrations and sacrifices are to be an outward sign of our inward love and faith in God (see Deuteronomy 10:12-16; 1 Samuel 15:22-23; Psalm 51:16-19; Hosea 6:6). Our gifts and sacrifices mean nothing to God when they come from a corrupt heart. God wants us to wholeheartedly love Him, faithfully obey Him and turn from our sins. God's Word promises that He gives everyone an opportunity to repent and be forgiven (Isaiah 1:16-31) with full cleansing of all our sins and shame (Psalm 51:1-7).

KJV Bible Commentary. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1994.
Life Application Study Bible. Carol Streams, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2005.
Woman’s Study Bible. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1995.
Zondervan NIV Study Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008.
Wiersbe, Warren W. Bible Exposition Commentary. Victor Books, 1989.

Monday, May 12, 2014

God's Greatness

The earth belongs to God! Everything in all the world is His! He is the One who pushed the oceans back to let dry land appear. Psalms 24:1-2 (TLB)

The entire world belongs to God – the glorious eternal King. God is the source of all creation and all things come from and depend upon Him (Psalm 24:1: see also 1 Corinthians 10:26). He upholds and maintains the whole world (Daniel 4:34-35; Ephesians 1:11). The true and living God (God the Father, God the Son (Jesus Christ) and God the Spirit) is the Creator, Sustainer, and Possessor of the whole world (Psalm 19:1-4; see also Genesis 1:1-3; John 1:1-5). “The Lord is the true God, He is the living God, and an everlasting king” (Jeremiah 10:10). As the true and living God, He personally provides and guides His creation toward a meaningful and good purpose (Philippians 2:13).

God is always present in His created world and is never separated from any part of His creation. In fact, God is all-seeing, all-knowing, all-holy, and all-present (Psalm 33:13-15, Psalm 139:13-16; Proverbs 15:3; Jeremiah 16:17; Jeremiah 23:24; Hebrews 4:13). At one, God gives total and undivided attention not just to one thing at a time but to everything and everyone everywhere in His world (Psalms 139:7-10). God is everywhere in His fullness as He is free from limits and bounds (1 Kings 8:27; Isaiah 40:12-26; Isaiah 66:1). Even more, God already knows everything about us, including our inner motives, heart  desires, and even the number of hairs on our heads (1 Samuel 16:7; 1 Kings 8:39; 1 Chronicles 28:9; Psalm 139:1-6, 23; Jeremiah 17:10; Matthew 10:30; Luke 16:15; Romans 8:27). In other words, God knows everything and about everybody all the same time. In some mysterious way, God is immanent, that is, He is present in the day-to-day human existence. As Spirit, God is living, working in His world, and stands ready to help His people. God is near “to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth. He will fulfill the desire of those who fear (respect) Him; He will also hear their cry (prayer) and will save them. The Lord keeps all who love Him” (Psalms 145:18-20, NASB).

For those who know and love God, we are never separated from God's uplifting presence (see Romans 8:35-39; see also Psalm 86:5; Jeremiah 23:23; Hebrews 4:14-16). The psalmist exclaimed, “I can never be lost to Your Spirit! I can never get away from my God! If I go up to heaven, You are there; if I go down to the place of the dead, You are there. If I ride the morning winds to the farthest oceans, even there Your hand will guide me, Your strength will support me” (Psalms 139:7-10, TLB). The prophet Isaiah looked for the Messiah to be named Emmanuel, meaning, “God with us”; and Matthew reported that God fulfilled that promise in Jesus Christ (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23). As Spirit, God chose to humble Himself and take on the form of human flesh in Jesus Christ (Philippians 2:6-11). Believing Christians join with Peter in confessing that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16, NIV). At the end of the age, God’s presence will be very clear: God will live with His people (Revelation 21:3).

God is always faithful and He will never fail (1 Corinthians 10:13). We can always depend on God. Of all the heavenly bodies created by God, the earth is where God has chosen to be His own special sphere of activity. God selected the planet earth, and there He sent His Son – Jesus Christ to live, to minister, to die, and to be raised from the dead, that we humans might be saved. We humans are God’s stewards of the earth (1 Timothy 6:17). As stewards, we must treat God’s earth with goodness and care. Indeed, in Jesus Christ (who is God in human flesh) “all things hold together” (Colossians 1:17), and He is continually “upholding the universe by His word of power” (Hebrews 1:3). Indeed, God has the whole world in His hands (Exodus 19:5)!

Life Application Study Bible. Carol Streams, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2005.
Zondervan NIV Study Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008.
Butler, Trent. Holman Bible Dictionary. Broadman & Holman Pub., 1991.
Grudem, Wayne. Systematic Theology. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994.
Packer, J.I. Concise Theology: A Guide to Historic Christian Beliefs. Carol Stream, IL:  Tyndale House Pub., 1993.
Wiersbe, Warren W. Bible Exposition Commentary. Victor Books, 1989.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Knowing God

This is what the Lord says: “Do not let the wise boast in their wisdom, or the powerful boast in their power, or the rich boast in their riches. But those who wish to boast should boast in this alone: that they truly know Me and understand that I am the Lord who demonstrates unfailing love and who brings justice and righteousness to the earth, and that I delight in these things. I, the Lord, have spoken! Jeremiah 9:23-24 (NLT)

Our world today tends to admire human knowledge, power (strength), and wealth (possessions). Yet, God places a higher priority on knowing Him personally (intimately) and living a life that reflects His holy qualities. The prophet Jeremiah tells us that God is not impressed with our human wisdom, human strength (power) nor human riches (Jeremiah 9:23). Rather, God takes pleasure and enjoyment in His people coming to know Him and understand Him as a faithful, loving, forgiving, merciful, and fair God (Jeremiah 9:24). These qualities are God’s trademarks (see also Exodus 34:6-7). God is “compassionate and gracious . . .  slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion, and sin” (Exodus 34:6-7, NIV). Therefore, “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:31; see also 2 Corinthians 10:17). Ultimately, only God and our knowledge and love for Him are valuable.

Even more, God delights in people who also practice kindness, justice, and mercy, and faithfulness (Matthew 23:23). In fact, God promises covenant blessings to those who obey Him and follow His example of holy living (see Matthew 5 -7, Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount). God takes pleasure in His people living these His qualities of loving-kindness, mercy, and faithfulness in their daily lives (see also See also Psalm 11:7; Psalm 33:5; Psalm 99:4; Micah 6:8; Galatians 5:22-23). The true and living God wants everyone to live a life fully committed to Him as their God and following His example of living (Romans 2:25-29).

And this is the way to have eternal life—to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one you sent to earth. John 17:3 (NLT)

Theologians use many big words to describe God’s special qualities:  transcendence (greatness), omnipotence (all-powerful), and omnipresence (always present). Yet, truly knowing God comes through our wholehearted faith in Him as the true and living God of heaven and earth. This faith-relationship in God brings our salvation and eternal life as well as generating love, faithfulness, mercy, fairness, humility, grace, and forgiveness (John 17:3; Ephesians 1:17-19; Ephesians 3:19; Philippians 3:8-11).

Our faith-knowledge only comes by knowing God the Father Himself through His Son, Jesus Christ, who is God incarnate (in human flesh). Jesus Christ has clearly revealed to us God, His truth, and how we can know Him (Matthew 11:27). Through Jesus Christ, we come to know His Father as our loving heavenly Father (John 14:6; see also Matthew 11:27; John 17:3). Even more, our wholehearted faith produces the fruit of rebirth (John 3:5-15), the delivery of a new heart (Jeremiah 24:7; 1 John 5:20), and enlightenment by the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 4:6; Ephesians 1:17).

Many respected biblical scholars will attest that no one can fully understand God because God is eternal and beyond our full understanding. Psalm 145 says, “Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, and His greatness is unsearchable” (Psalm 145:3). In other words, God’s greatness is beyond searching out or discovering and is too great ever to be fully known (see also Psalm 147:5). No one can fully comprehend God except the Spirit of God (1 Corinthians 2:10-12). As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are God’s ways higher than our ways and His thoughts than our thoughts (Isaiah 55:9). We can all cry out with David, “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain it” (Psalm 139:6).

Nevertheless, if we are to lead a life “worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him,” it must be one in which we are continually “increasing in the knowledge of God” (Colossians 1:10). God has given us His love letter, the Holy Bible, to help humanity know and love Him (Deuteronomy 6:4-6; Matthew 22:37). From the Holy Bible, we can know that God is love (1 John 4:8), that God is light (1 John 1:5), that God is Spirit (John 4:24), that God is just and righteous (Romans 3:26). Still more, God controls the universe and our lives in perfect wisdom, justice, and love as He is the possessor of all power and all wisdom. Although we may not all understand God completely, “we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them” (Romans 8:28, NLT).

Oh, how great are God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge! How impossible it is for us to understand His decisions and His ways! For who can know the Lord’s thoughts? Who knows enough to give Him advice? And who has given Him so much that He needs to pay it back? For everything comes from Him and exists by His power and is intended for His glory. All glory to Him (God) forever! Amen. Romans 11:33-36 (NLT)

Life Application Study Bible. Carol Streams, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2005.
New Student Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992.
Zondervan NIV Study Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008.
Packer, J.I. Concise Theology: A Guide to Historic Christian Beliefs. Carol Stream, IL:  Tyndale House Pub., 1993.
Grudem, Wayne. Systematic Theology. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Does God Really Exist?

The heavens tell the glory of God, and the skies announce what His hands have made. Day after day they tell the story; night after night they tell it again. Psalms 19:1-2 (NCV)

NO ONE – not even one who has not heard of the Holy Bible or Jesus Christ – has an excuse for not worshipping God. The world surrounding every human being gives abundant and fantastic evidence of God’s existence, craftsmanship, and power (Romans 1:19-23). The heavens and surrounding nature proclaim God's existence and power (Psalm 19:1-4; Psalm 29:3-9) because God has revealed Himself to everyone through His creation – the sky, animals, trees, oceans etc. The knowledge of God can be “clearly perceived . . . in the things that have been made” (Romans 1:20). But humans – created in the very image of God – give the most evidence of God’s existence and character (see Genesis 1:26-28). In essence, every created thing gives evidence of an all-wise and all-powerful eternal God and His character (Psalm 104:1-30). 

We have come to bring you the Good News that you should turn from these worthless things and turn to the living God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them. In the past He permitted all the nations to go their own ways, but He (God) never left them without evidence of Himself and His goodness. For instance, He sends you rain and good crops and gives you food and joyful hearts. Acts 14:15-17 (NLT)

The true and living God is humankind's Creator and Redeemer. God is entitled to all our worship, love, and affection. God has proved “He is real by showing kindness, by giving you rain from heaven and crops at the right times, by giving you food and filling your hearts with joy” (Acts 14:17, NCV). “The basic reality of God is plain enough. Open your eyes and there it is!” (Romans 1:19, MSG). All of creation declares God’s power, majesty, and glory. In God, “we live and move and exist.”. . . and we are “His offspring” (Acts 17:28, NLT). Nevertheless, all our ideas and thoughts about God should be measured, verified, and confirmed by the Holy Bible. The Holy Bible is the Word of God, sixty-six books forming God’s love letter to the world for godly living and faith.

Creation’s design, sophistication, and organization all point to an involved Creator. Just to look upward and see the sky by day or sky by night and see the sun, moon, stars, and clouds all continually declare the existence of an all-wise Creator that maintains and sustains their order. Still more, every leaf of the tree, every blade of grass, every star in the sky, every snowflake, and every other part of creation all cry out continually “God”. Indeed, the universe (cosmos) itself proves the existence of God. To say that the universe happened by chance is ludicrous. The harmony, order, and the design of the universe give evidence of an intelligent purpose. There must be an intelligent and purposeful God to create a universe to function this way and to maintain the universe’s existence. The revelation of God in creation is truly wonderful.

For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see His invisible qualities—His eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God. Yes, they knew God, but they would not worship Him as God or even give Him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. As a result, their minds became dark and confused. Claiming to be wise, they instead became utter fools. And instead of worshiping the glorious, ever-living God, they worshiped idols made to look like mere people and birds and animals and reptiles. Romans 1:20-23 (NLT)

All people everywhere have a deep inner sense that God exists and that God is our Creator. Even more, people have an inner sense of right and wrong, as well as the need of justice from a holy divine Judge. This inner sense of justice and fairness proves there must be a God who is the Source of right and wrong and who will someday mete out justice to all people. But in spite of God’s universal revelation that speaks day and night in creation, most people ignore God because they want to live as they please (Romans 1:18-2:23; see also Genesis 3:17-19; Romans 8:20-22). Although many people acknowledge that God exists, they have “exchanged the truth about God for a lie” (Romans 1:25). Sadly, many people have elected to reject their inner sense of God’s living presence and His character (Romans 1:21-25) and say “There is no God” (Psalm 10:3-4; Psalm 14:1; Psalm 53:1) in order to sin. Sin and the “god of this world has blinded the minds of unbelievers” to keep them from seeing the truth of God (2 Corinthians 4:4). These evil forces cause people to think foolishly and to deny God’s existence. Inevitably, these people “suppress the truth” about God and deny God (Romans 1:18, 20, 23, 25, 28, 32).

Only fools say in their hearts, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, and their actions are evil; not one of them does good! . . . Will those who do evil never learn? They eat up my people like bread and wouldn’t think of praying to the Lord. Terror will grip them, for God is with those who obey Him. . . . The Lord will protect His people. Psalms 14:1, 4, 6 (NLT)

Beside our inner sense of a true and living God, clear evidence of God’s existence is seen in the inspired Holy Bible. The Holy Bible assumes the very existences of God. In fact, the first verse of the Holy Bible says “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Most important, God has now accompanied His existence with further revelation of Himself through Jesus Christ, who is God incarnate (human flesh). Everyone who has genuinely accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior has an inner sense or awareness of God and this awareness become stronger and more distinct. Believers of Jesus Christ begin to know God as a loving Father in heaven (Romans 8:15), the Holy Spirit bears witness with our spirits that we are children of God (Romans 8:16), and we come to know Jesus Christ living within our hearts (John 14:23; Ephesians 3:17; Philippians 3:8, 10; Colossians 1:27). Unless we have a personal relationship with the Lord so that God is our Father and Jesus is our Redeemer, what we see in creation and what we read in the Bible will not do us much good.

Therefore, evidence in God is not some “blind faith”; it is based on evidence found both in the Holy Bible, in the surrounding world, and our hearts. Not only the Holy Scriptures proves God’s existence, everything in nature (e.g., the clouds, the majestic thunderstorms, the sun, etc.) all reveal evidence that God exists and that He is the powerful force that sustains the world He created. This wonderful conclusion must lead to our worship of our loving and living God.

Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is filled with His glory. 
Isaiah 6:3 (TLB)

Life Application Study Bible. Carol Streams, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2005.
Zondervan NIV Study Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008.
Packer, J.I. Concise Theology: A Guide to Historic Christian Beliefs. Carol Stream, IL:  Tyndale House Pub., 1993.
Grudem, Wayne. Systematic Theology. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994.
Grudem, Wayne. Christian Beliefs. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2005.
Wiersbe, Warren W. Bible Exposition Commentary. Victor Books, 1989.