Does God Regret or Relent?

Cloud of the word regret

Do You Regret?

Do you ever regret something you said or did? Or something you should have said or did…and didn’t?

I think any human with a conscience regrets over time…hindsight has a way of ensuring that. We are not like Adolf Eichmann, a major player in the Holocaust, who (while on trial in Israel), said:

To sum it all up, I must say I regret nothing.1

Of course, he may have just been pretending…but one would have to have a totally seared conscience to have been heavily involved in Nazi atrocities. Instead, I am like Letitia Elizabeth Landon, who may have only lived 36 years in the early 1800s, but lived long enough to pen this in her poem Despondency:

Were it better to forget

Than but remember and regret?

It is better to forget than regret in my opinion…as someone who, when he looks back, regrets much. You?

Omniscience and Immutability

How about God? Does God regret? Also, does relent?

[Read more…]

Anthony’s Sermon on Why and How Is God…God (Part 3)

Cross out of blocks spelling God LoveCatching Up

Welcome to “Anthony’s Sermon on Why and How Is God…God (Part 3).” Before we wrap up this three part series, we need to review what we learned about God in the previous two installments. Do you recall the multi-syllable words we discussed to describe God?

  • Uncaused cause — God was not created; He has always been and will always be.
  • Incorporeal — God does not have a body and is not made of matter.
  • Omnipresent — God is everywhere at the same time.
  • Omniscient — God knows everything.
  • Omnipotent — God can do anything.
  • Immutable — God does not change.

Ready for the last three divine characteristics? Let’s dive back in with immortal! [Read more…]

Anthony’s Sermon on Why and How Is God…God (Part 2)

Flying doveLast Week

Last week’s sermon was too long for one aimed at children, so I’m going to try to behave this week and limit this one to just three characteristics of God. Before we can do that, however, we need to quickly remind everyone of what we learned about the Most High in part one of this series.

Kids, the first thing we learned last Sunday was God is omnivorous, right?

Not exactly, eh? 🙂

Actually, the first thing we learned was that God is the uncaused cause. Nothing created God, because He was never created. He has always been and always will be. The great I Am just is.

Do you remember the other two things we learned about God? That He is…

  • Incorporeal — God does not have a body and is not made of matter.
  • Omnipresent — God is everywhere at the same time.

Now on to our first divine characteristic of God…

Omniscient

What does “omniscient” mean? Heading back to my Mac’s dictionary:

knowing everything: the story is told by an omniscient narrator.

[Read more…]

Anthony’s Sermon on Why and How Is God…God (Part 1)

Cloud with glowing crossText Messages

I think I may have mentioned before that I am never quite sure if it is Augustine or Elisa who is texting me when a message comes from their family. 🙂 Maybe after church today I’ll write down each of their phone numbers and put them in my iPhones contact list so it’ll keep track of who is texting me…but recently one of them sent a message saying:

Anthony wants me to ask why and how is God…God?

Great question Anthony!

So, today I’ll be preaching “Anthony’s Sermon on Why and How Is God…God (Part 1)” Anthony, it’s a awesome question, but so as not to break the second rule of preaching to children, I cannot fit its answer into one sermon.

And kids, to you remember the three rules for preaching to children?:

  1. Use simple words.
  2. Keep it short.
  3. See #1 and #2.

I’ll break rule #1 a little bit…but promise to explain all the “not so simple” words. However, as I mentioned, this will be a three part sermon so as not to break rule #2!

Why God? [Read more…]

He’s Got Your Back

Skunk

A Tent and a Skunk

Many years ago I was sharing a tent with someone…who will remain nameless to protect the guilty :-)…and outside on the campground we heard an animal making noise. I cannot remember exactly what the noise was from, but perhaps the varmint ferreting about in trash.

So we peer out of the tent, and you know what it was…?

A skunk!

Now, that’s a whole lot less dangerous than a bear, but still not something you want to mess with, so we agreed we’d both slowly exit the tent and walk…again slowly…together away from the noxious critter.

So, we edge out the door, stand up…and the nameless person sprints away!

No, it wasn’t Michelle. 🙂

Someone You Can Depend On

As the future would prove in other respects, that individual was not someone I could depend on. I didn’t get sprayed by the nefarious skunk that night, but I probably should have divined a bit more from the tent incident than I did.

However, instead of thinking of people like that, do you know (or have you ever known) someone you can (or could) always depend on. That never fails you (or never failed you)? The one person you would want beside you in a foxhole?

[Read more…]

Time in a Bottle (Redux)

Hourglass running out of sand

Previously…

I call this sermon “Time in a Bottle (Redux)” because, back on October 3 of 2010, I did a sermon called “Time in a Bottle.” The title of both talks is based on Jim Croce’s classic love song of the same name…well, minus “Redux” in this one :-)…

The first time I started it off with Ephesians 5:15-17…

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.

…and the primary point of the first sermon is summed up by its very end:

I also know that we can learn, from his experience and the Bible, that we can never assume we have more time.

So I ask you…Christian…and non-Christian…

How should you be spending your time?

Where will you be spending your time in eternity?

Outside Looking In

This time…no pun intended :-)…however, what brings “time in a bottle” to mind for me is a part of the conversation James, Nev, and I had during the Bible study Nev led before service last week. As beings trapped in space and time, it is impossible for us to understand an existence outside it.

To understand a state with no time.

Don’t agree? Let’s do a quick test. I have my handy, old-fashioned stopwatch here…for five seconds I want you to imagine no time. Ready? Go!

[ Wait five seconds. ]

How successful were you? I bet you were very aware of every second that passed. The silence…well minus the constant hum of the fans and coolers here…might have been deafening.

Now, in fairness to you…it’s not like this is an optimal atmosphere to think of “no time” and I didn’t give you…time…to prep…but, regardless, at best you can lose track of time. You cannot truly imagine no time because, without time, you wouldn’t exist. It is foundational to your being and your experience.

You might say that time is trapped in a bottle and we are trapped in time. As such, we are also trapped in that bottle.

Whereas, I would argue, God created that bottle and is on the outside looking in.

And if I am going to make a convincing argument about that, what will I have to base it on?

That’s right, the Bible! 🙂

So let’s turn there…

[Read more…]

Failure to Communicate

Video snapshotWeeks ago I heard Guns N’ Roses’ “Civil War” again, which starts off with this famous quote from Cool Hand Luke:

What we’ve got here is failure to communicate. Some men you just can’t reach. So you get what we had here last week, which is the way he wants it. Well, he gets it. I don’t like it any more than you men.

In this Hollywood case, it is a tyranical, evil prison warden who is saying it to rationalize mistreating a prisoner (played by Paul Newman). However, I cannot help but think that, replacing an evil man with a good God, it can be used to illustrate some biblical truth.

  1. Between God and man, there is a failure to communicate
  2. The issue is on man’s side, not God’s, because…
  3. Some men you just can’t reach
  4. God ultimately gives men what they want
  5. God takes no pleasure in given men what they deserve

(Of course, in this case I am using “man” and “men” in its traditional form, representing humans regardless of gender.)

With the first one, I hope I don’t have to prove it. From the moment Eve first trusted the devil more than our Lord, that failure to communicate has been pretty obvious. As for the problem being on our side (versus God’s), here is an interesting example from just before the first Christian martyr, Stephen, gets stoned:

You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you (Acts 7:51, English Standard Version).

Throughout history, it hasn’t been for a lack of effort on our Lord’s part that men haven’t heard…it’s because we resist. Today, we have even less excuse, because the Ultimate form of communication came:

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world (Hebrews 1:1-2).

Yet, there is still a failure to communicate. [Read more…]

“Nonsense Remains Nonsense Even When We Talk it About God”

The Problem of Pain book coverI started C.S. Lewis’ The Problem of Pain today on a flight to Honolulu. Now, before you get envious, it is for work. However, I sill stipulate that there are far worse places and things to do for work. 🙂

In either case, it is yet another thought-provoking work by him, and I am sure it will generate a good number of posts here on Traditores…this being the first. Getting on with that…

How many of you have ever heard someone ask, “Can God create a rock so large He cannot lift it?”

To them, hopefully with kindness in your heart and voice, you can respond:

[God’s] Omnipotence means the power to do all that is intrinsically possible, not to do the intrinsically impossible. You may attribute miracles to him, but not nonsense. There is no limit to His power. If you chose to say “God can give a creature free will and at the same time withhold free will from it,” you have not succeeded in saying anything about God: meaningless combinations of words do not suddenly acquire meaning simply because we prefix to them the two other words “God can.” It remains true that all things are possible with God: the intrinsic impossibilities are not things but non-entities. It is no more possible for God than the weakest of His creatures to carry out both of two mutually exclusive alternatives; not because His power meets an obstacle, but because nonsense remains nonsense even when we talk it about God.

It is easy to see how this quote from chapter two applies to the rock question, but we humans fall afoul of this far more often than we realize; whether as believers building a self-contradictory systematic theology, or non-believers rationalizing our rejection of the Divine through an intrinsically impossible standard for an acceptable God.

Nonsense remains nonsense.

Now that You Have Blown It

New Year’s Resolutions

Epic fail signWe are 10 days into the new year…and here is hoping that it has started off great for everyone sitting here in front of me. I know the Lord continues to bless my family and me in 2016.

How many of you made New Year’s resolutions? [Wait for hands to raise.] Anyone willing to share one or two things they’ve resolved for 2016? [Wait for answers.]

Are you interested in what other people resolve? I was…and for my tween/teen class last week we went straight to the Internet to find out. Now, I realize that I have to be cautious with that and I pay heed to something a famous president said said that I found on the web. Abraham Lincoln is quoted as advising…

“Don’t believe everything you read on the Internet.” 🙂

However, I think Nielsen is pretty safe, and their list of top resolutions for 2015 were:1

Stay fit and healthy 37%
Lose weight 32%
Enjoy life to the fullest 28%
Spend less, save more 25%
Spend more time with family and friends 19%
Get organized 18%
Will not make any resolutions 16%
Learn something new/new hobby 14%
Travel more 14%
Read more 12%

Ignoring the sad commentary on society that not a single one of the top ten resolutions (based on Nielsen’s survey between December 29, 2014 and January 2, 2015) were spiritual…are most of them are at least okay?

If you made any resolutions in 2016…were they included in Nielsen’s list? I had a four that showed up in one form or another…lose weight, be better with money, read more, and get my technical and general ham radio licenses (which would fall under “learn something new/new hobby”).

[Read more…]

The First Tree?

TreeLast Saturday, heading to breakfast at Burger King followed by a haircut, Augie (my eight year-old) and I were chatting…and…I can’t remember exactly why…but the subject of trees came up. That led to a question of the first tree, and Augie said the first one created by God was the Tree of Life.

What do you think? Was he right?

Now, the Bible doesn’t really say what the first tree was. Instead, trees were created at the same time as other plants:

And God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, on the earth.” And it was so (Genesis 1:11, English Standard Version).

Assuming this part of Genesis is chronological (which it may not be), the Tree of Life came into the picture after man was created…which was after trees already existed:

And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:8-9).

However, I have to admit that Augie’s childlike view that the first tree was the Tree of Life appeals to me…and I think it makes sense. This is what was said by Paul about the God who created that tree…well, all trees:

This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:3).

Our Lord wants all people to be saved. Even after our original parents (and we) sinned, He wants us to live eternally.  Personally, I think God always intended us to do so, and as such it would make sense that He’d have the Tree of Life ready from day one to help with that. It was only our rebellion in the Garden that prevented ready access to it.

Was the Tree of Life the first tree created? Probably not…but it wouldn’t surprise me given how much God has shown His heart for us from day one. Now, that’s a God I would like to live forever with!

Okay, I Stipulate God Is an Alien

To my atheist readers and friends, the article below will come off a bit snarky, but I actually respect your skepticism and penned it the way I have to prompt dialogue, not insult your laudable aversion to blind faith.

Alien with haloIt seems to me that atheists (and others) can hold I am someone who has blind faith in fairy tales since I believe in God, but (at the same time) they can provide far-fetched explanations for the inexplicable and it’s okay. Can’t explain why this universe is so perfectly designed for life? Posit a zillion universes out there with ours just happening to be one with conducive conditions. Can’t explain where the Big Bang came from? Just, ironically, take all our physical laws out of the picture as Steven Hawking did:

At this time, the Big Bang, all the matter in the universe, would have been on top of itself. The density would have been infinite. It would have been what is called, a singularity. At a singularity, all the laws of physics would have broken down. This means that the state of the universe, after the Big Bang, will not depend on anything that may have happened before, because the deterministic laws that govern the universe will break down in the Big Bang.

You can pretty much propose anything and still look down on people who believe in the supernatural…

Because science.

Now a rough segue…but I promise it’ll all be connected before we are done. 🙂 [Read more…]

Au Contraire Mr. Edwards

Hand pointing at youDepending on your picture of the Most High, this may sum up your perception of Him:

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

Perhaps the most famous sermon based on this sentiment is Jonathan Edwards’ “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” For instance:

We find it easy to tread on and crush a worm that we see crawling on the earth; so it is easy for us to cut or singe a slender thread that any thing hangs by: thus easy is it for God, when he pleases, to cast his enemies down to hell. What are we, that we should think to stand before him, at whose rebuke the earth trembles, and before whom the rocks are thrown down?

No question, if you reject our Lord, your final fate isn’t going to be positive (when He gives you the separation from Him you want). But, let’s look at a biblical incident where, numbering Israel, David made God quite angry:

And when David arose in the morning, the word of the LORD came to the prophet Gad, David’s seer, saying, “Go and say to David, ‘Thus says the LORD, Three things I offer you. Choose one of them, that I may do it to you.'” So Gad came to David and told him, and said to him, “Shall three years of famine come to you in your land? Or will you flee three months before your foes while they pursue you? Or shall there be three days’ pestilence in your land? Now consider, and decide what answer I shall return to him who sent me.” (2 Samuel 24:11-13)

Considering the options for punishment, would you agree God was quite cranky?

Yet, in the next verse…

Then David said to Gad, “I am in great distress. Let us fall into the hand of the LORD, for his mercy is great; but let me not fall into the hand of man” (2 Samuel 24:14).

David may not have been as smart as his son Solomon (see 1 Kings 4:29-34), but he was pretty wise and “a man after [God’s] heart” (see Acts 13:22). He knew, given the choice of being put in man’s hands or God’s hands…the best choice…hands down (pun intended)…is the later.

Let not our theology say otherwise…

P.S. I have purposely left a lot of reasonable counter-arguments unanswered. Just an article to spur thoughts and discussion…

Dividing God

Scissors cutting heartI have been blessed with the opportunity to lead the tween/teen class for church, and the material I’ve been provided is very good. However, in today’s lesson (based parts of Amos) it appeared to separate God’s judgment and discipline from God’s love.

I think this is a mistake. I love my 7 year-old more than life itself, and might, out of that love, be “long-suffering”…but if I never never called him to the carpet when he needed it…how loving would that be?

Not very.

Ditto when it comes to the larger world. For instance, in a classroom it would not be loving for a teacher to never correct a student…not loving to that student nor the rest of the class that suffers because of that child’s misbehavior. I’m sure you could start thinking up a bunch more examples (e.g. enabling a drug-addicted son or daughter).

So, I don’t think that our Lord’s justice and discipline are separate from His love. Instead, I believe it is a vital…loving…aspect of it.

And I would suggest Hebrews 12:5-7 confirms this (emphasis mine):

And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?
“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
nor be weary when reproved by him.
For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and chastises every son whom he receives.”
It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?

Praise God He loves us so much He will do whatever it takes to set us straight!

Why Do We Assume a God…?

HourglassBefore an article I posted earlier today, I wrote this on Facebook and Twitter:

Why do we assume a God who can create time can only create it from the beginning forward?

On Facebook my friend Terrance commented:

Elaborate !!! Sounds Interesting

To which I responded: [Read more…]

A House of Cards

Man pulling a card out of a house of cardsToday (and maybe yesterday) I ran into multiple links to “Pope Francis wants Catholics to doubt the Church. He’s right.” by Kyle Cupp. I would posit it is two articles in one.

The first theme is what led to the title of this post (“A House of Cards”) and has to do with infallible belief systems:

According to Catholicism, the core doctrines of the church express absolute truth and therefore cannot be altered, but paradoxically this premise doesn’t preclude changes to its teaching. In the parlance of the church, it only means that a previously proposed understanding wasn’t really unchangeable doctrine. Still, a big deal. By merely entertaining doctrinal development, the church entices believers to question its authority and the exact content of its faith.

Catholicism isn’t the only church that claims inerrancy (at least in aspects)…think of even more recent pseudo-Christian denominations like the Church of Latter Day Saints and Jehovah Witnesses. When a group that has claimed to have a corner on truth changes truth…well, it’s a house of cards. Pull one out (the first wrong “truth” as proven by changing it) and the whole thing crashes down.

Not that folks will not find mental ways to avoid that fact.

The second main point I gleaned out of Cupp’s piece is that, when it comes to God, there really is no way to completely “know” Him: [Read more…]