Category  |  Doctrine of God

God Is Here

A plaque in our home states “Bidden or not bidden, God is present.” A modern version might read, “Acknowledged or unacknowledged, God is here.”

Hosea, an Old Testament prophet who lived in late eighth century BC (755–715 bc), wrote similar words to the Hebrew nation. He encouraged the Israelites to “press on,” to acknowledge God because they had forgotten Him (Hosea 4:1). As the people forgot God’s presence, they began to turn away from God (v. 12) and before long there was no room for God in their thoughts (see Psalm 10:4).

Hosea’s simple but profound insight to acknowledge God reminds us He is near and at work in our lives, in both the joys and struggles.

To acknowledge God might mean when we get a promotion at work, to recognize God gave us insight to finish our work on time and within budget. If our housing application is rejected, acknowledging God helps to sustain us as we trust Him to work in the situation for our good.

If we don’t make it into the college of our choice, we can acknowledge God is with us and take comfort in His presence even in our disappointment. As we enjoy dinner, to acknowledge God may be to remind ourselves of God’s provision of the ingredients and a kitchen to prepare the meal.

When we acknowledge God, we remember His presence in both the successes and sorrows, whether big or small, of our lives.

Thanks for Who God Is

Among the thousands of sentiments printed on greeting cards, perhaps one of the most touching is this simple statement: “Thanks for being you.” If you receive that card, you know that someone cares for you not because you did something spectacular for that person but because you’re appreciated for your essence.

I wonder if this kind of sentiment might indicate for us one of the best ways to say “Thank you” to God. Sure, there are times when God intervenes in our lives in a tangible way, and we say something like, “Thank You, Lord, for allowing me to get that job.” But most often, we can simply say, “Thank You, God, for being who You are.”

That’s what’s behind verses like 1 Chronicles 16:34: “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.” Thank You, God, for who You are—good and loving. And Psalm 7:17: “I will give thanks to the Lord because of his righteousness.” Thank You, God, for who You are—the holy One. And “Let us come before him with thanksgiving . . . for the Lord is the great God” (Psalm 95:2–3). Thank You, God, for who You are—the Almighty God of the universe.

Who God is. That’s reason enough for us to stop what we’re doing and praise and thank Him. Thank You, God, for just being You!

Wisdom’s Source

A man filed a lawsuit against a woman, claiming she had his dog. In court, the woman said her dog couldn’t be his dog because she had purchased the five-year-old canine on the street. Although the plaintiff said his dog was younger, the real owner’s identity was revealed when the judge released the animal in the courtroom. Tail wagging, it immediately ran to the plaintiff!

Solomon, a judge in ancient Israel needed to settle a somewhat similar issue. Two women each claimed to be the mother of the same baby boy. After considering both arguments, he requested a sword to divide the infant in half. The real mother begged Solomon to give the baby to the other woman, choosing to save her son’s life even if she could not have him (1 Kings 3:26). Solomon gave the baby to her.

Wisdom is necessary input as we decide what’s fair and moral, right and wrong.. If we truly value wisdom, we can ask God for a discerning heart, like Solomon did (v. 9). God may answer our request by helping us balance our needs and desires with the interests of others. He may also help us weigh short-term benefits against long-term (sometimes eternal) gains so we can honor Him in how we live.

Our God is not only a perfectly wise judge, but He is also a personal counselor who is willing to give us godly wisdom in great amounts (James 1:5).

Still the King

One news report called it “the single deadliest day for Christians in decades.” The pair of attacks on Sunday worshipers in April 2017 defies our understanding. We simply don’t have a category to describe bloodshed in a house of worship. But we can find some help from others who know this kind of pain well.

Most of the people of Jerusalem were in exile or had been slain when Asaph wrote Psalm 74. Pouring out his heart’s anguish, he described the destruction of the temple at the hands of ruthless invaders. “Your foes roared in the place where you met with us,” Asaph said (v. 4). “They burned your sanctuary to the ground; they defiled the dwelling place of your Name” (v. 7). 

Yet the psalmist found a place to stand despite the awful reality—encouragement that we can do so too. “But God is my King from long ago,” Asaph resolved. “He brings salvation on the earth” (v. 12). This truth enabled Asaph to praise God’s mighty power even though His salvation seemed absent in the moment. “Have regard for your covenant,” Asaph prayed. “Do not let the oppressed retreat in disgrace; may the poor and needy praise your name” (vv. 20–21).

When justice and mercy seem absent, God’s love and power are in no way diminished. With Asaph, we can confidently say, “But God is my King.”

How to Stand Firm

It was a cold, icy winter’s day in Chicago, and my mind was on getting from my warm vehicle to a warm building. The next thing I knew I was on the ground, my knees turned inward and my lower legs turned outward. Nothing was broken, but I was in pain. The pain would get worse as time went by and it would be weeks before I was whole again.

Who among us hasn’t taken a spill of some sort? Wouldn’t it be nice to have something or someone to keep us on our feet all the time? While there are no guarantees of surefootedness in the physical sense, there is One who stands ready to assist us in our quest to honor Christ in this life and prepare us to stand joyfully before Him in the next.

Every day we face temptations (and even false teachings) that seek to divert us, confuse us, and entangle us. Yet, it’s not ultimately through our own efforts that we remain on our feet as we walk in this world. How assuring to know that when we hold our peace when tempted to speak angrily, to opt for honesty over deceit, to choose love over hate, or to select truth over error—we experience God’s power to keep us standing (Jude 24). And when we appear approved before God when Christ returns, the praise that we offer now for His sustaining grace will echo throughout eternity (v. 25).

The Lord Speaks

We can find nearly every argument in the book of Job about why there is pain in the world, but the arguing never seems to help Job much. His is a crisis of relationship more than a crisis of doubt. Can he trust God? Job wants one thing above all else: an appearance by the one Person who can explain his miserable fate. He wants to meet God Himself, face to face.

Eventually Job gets his wish. God shows up in person (see Job 38:1). He times His entrance with perfect irony, just as Job’s friend Elihu is expounding on why Job has no right to expect a visit from God.

No one—not Job, nor any of his friends—is prepared for what God has to say. Job has saved up a long list of questions, but it is God, not Job, who asks the questions. “Brace yourself like a man,” He begins; “I will question you, and you shall answer me” (v. 3). Brushing aside thirty-five chapters’ worth of debates on the problem of pain, God plunges into a majestic poem on the wonders of the natural world.

God’s speech defines the vast difference between the God of all creation and one puny man like Job. His presence spectacularly answers Job’s biggest question: Is anybody out there? Job can only respond, “Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know” (42:3).

Hard Mysteries

As my friend and I went for a walk, we talked about our love for the Bible. She surprised me when she said, “Oh, but I don’t like the Old Testament much. All of that hard stuff and vengeance—give me Jesus!”

We might resonate with her words when we read a book like Nahum, perhaps recoiling at a statement such as, “The Lord takes vengeance and is filled with wrath” (Nahum 1:2). And yet the next verse fills us with hope: “The Lord is slow to anger but great in power” (v. 3).

When we dig more deeply into the subject of God’s anger, we understand that when He exercises it, He’s most often defending His people or His name. Because of His overflowing love, He seeks justice for wrongs committed and the redemption of those who have turned from Him. We see this not only in the Old Testament, as He calls His people back to Himself, but also in the New, when He sends His Son to be the sacrifice for our sins.

We may not understand the mysteries of the character of God, but we can trust that He not only exercises justice but is also the source of all love. We need not fear Him, for He is “good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him” (v. 7).

No Co-Signer Required

When a person without a long history of paying his or her bills on time wants to obtain a loan to purchase a home or car, lenders are often reluctant to take the financial risk. Without a track record, that person’s promise to repay what he borrows is insufficient for the bank. The would-be borrower usually resorts to finding someone who does have a history of making good on their debts, asking them to put their name on the loan too. The co-signer’s promise assures the lender the loan will be repaid.

When someone makes a promise to us—whether for financial, marital, or other reasons—we expect them to keep it. We want to know that God will keep His promises too. When He promised Abraham that He would bless him and give him “many descendants” (Hebrews 6:14; see Genesis 22:17), Abraham took God at His word. As the Creator of all that exists, there is no one greater than He; only God could guarantee His own promise.

Abraham had to wait for the birth of his son (and never saw how innumerable his offspring would grow to be) (v. 15), but God proved faithful to His promise. When He promises to be with us always (Hebrews 13:5), to hold us securely (John 10:29), and to comfort us (2 Corinthians 1:3–4), we, too, can trust Him to be true to His word.

God of the Depths

“When you go to the deep sea, every time you take a sample, you'll find a new species,” says marine biologist Ward Appeltans. In one recent year, scientists identified 1,451 new types of undersea life. We simply don’t know the half of what’s down there.

In Job 38, God reviewed His creation for Job’s benefit. In three poetic chapters, God highlighted the wonders of weather, the vastness of the cosmos, and the variety of creatures in their habitats. These are things we can observe. Then God spoke of the mysterious Leviathan—for an entire chapter. Leviathan is a creature like no other, with harpoon-deflecting armor (Job 41:7, 13), graceful power (v. 12), and “fearsome teeth” (v. 14). “Flames stream from its mouth . . . smoke pours from its nostrils” (vv. 19–20). “Nothing on earth is its equal” (v. 33).

Okay, so God talks about a huge creature we haven’t seen. Is that the point of Job 41?

No! Job 41 broadens our understanding of God’s surprising character. The psalmist expanded on this when he wrote, “There is the sea, vast and spacious . . . . And Leviathan, which you formed to frolic there” (Psalm 104:25–26). After the terrifying description in Job, we learn that God created a playpen for this most fearsome of all creatures. Leviathan frolics.

We have the present to explore the ocean. We’ll have eternity to explore the wonders of our magnificent, mysterious, playful God.

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