Sunday, December 29, 2013

Where in the World is God?

Where is the visible God of the Old Testament, mighty and thunderous, and why is He silent now?
Why doesn't He perform miracles?
Why doesn't He answer prayers instantly and emphatically?

Does He care about the needy?
Doesn't God know how the masses would believe on Him if He'd show himself daily, monthly or annually?

These are all questions that run through our minds when we think about God. And to find the answers one must read the Autobiography of God: The Holy Bible.

When God made the first human beings Adam and Eve, He made them immortal and in direct communication with Him. God walked and talked with them; He as their Father and they as His children. But when they sinned by disobedience and ate from the tree of life, God cast them out of Eden. By their actions this perfect communion was lost, for sin cannot survive before the pureness of God.

The world multiplied and there was little communication until Noah, who received the command to build an ark to save a faithful few from the flood. Then, when God decided to claim a nation of people for His own, He directed Abraham to leave the land of his forefathers. At this time God was communicating mostly through dreams and angelic messengers.

 Many years later on Mount Herob, the Voice of God from the burning bush told Moses to lead His people out of Egypt and into the land promised to Abraham and his descendants forever. There was no room left for doubt in anyone's mind about the realness and power of God when He persuaded Pharaoh to let his people go through the 10 plagues. Even Pharaoh's sorcerers and magicians admitted: "This is the finger of God."

And so The LORD led His people out of Egypt with a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night, through the wilderness for three months, with Moses as His messenger. For 40 years he would be with His people constantly, but out of the 600,000 men that left Egypt, only 2 would enter the Promised Land.

Next came the reigns of the Judges and Kings. Without fail: when they chose to follow the commandments of God they were unbeatable; when they sinned against God their enemies overtook them. Consequences of blessings and curses in those days were black and white. Yet why didn't they follow Him?

At the end of the Old Testament and beginning of the New Testament God entered a new phase. His direct interference with mans doings was now ended; the fire and thunder of his direct revelations and the instant rewards or destructions came to a close. He sent His only begotten Son Jesus Christ to represent Him. He lived 33 years amongst man preaching and teaching them of His Holy ways and plans.

However, they did not believe what he plainly told them. Instead they executed Him in the most excruciatingly painful and humiliating way of their times. Death by crucifixion.

But to their surprise and our salvation Jesus rose from the dead and spent 40 days on earth. He showed himself to be alive to many before He ascended to be with His Father. That was the ending of the 2nd phase, and the beginning of the New Covenant.

The New Covenant: Before Jesus ascended into heaven He instructed his disciples that they should go and not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which was to be the Holy Spirit.

Jesus in John 14:15-17 had promised them "If ye love me, keep my commandments, and I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth Him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know Him; for He dwelleth with you, and shall be in you."

One may ask; "What is this Holy Spirit?"

The easiest way to explain would be like this; we all have spirits, I have one and you have one. You can't know my thoughts, for you don't have my spirit. Likewise; I can't know your thoughts, for I don't have your spirit. But when God sends us His Spirit, we can know how He wants us to behave, because His Spirit lives in us! That is really special, wouldn't you say?

 And if His Spirit lives in us then we see what the Apostle Paul meant when he said "I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me."

These are wonderful words, but they come with responsibilities, as the parable in Matthew 25 teaches us.

 "For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me."

 The people will answer, "Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?"

 He will reply, "Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me."

This parable tells us to seek how we can serve Jesus in the people around us every day. This might be our sick neighbour, our elderly parents, the troubled young man at work, the hungry child, the stranger in need, whoever it might be; let God's Spirit in us answer the need in them.

We may not hear God's voice like Moses and the Israelites did in the wilderness of Sinai, with smoke and fire; but we may hear Him in the voice of a friend or even a stranger. We may hear Him in church where His word is preached. For Jesus promised "For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them."

 We may not see the miracles of the Old Testament when manna fell from heaven to feed the children of Israel, or the 5 loaves and 2 fish with which Jesus fed the 5000; but we may see these works of God in hungry countries through people moved to help the needy by His Spirit.

 We may not see our prayers answered as Elijah's was on Mount Carmel, when he challenged the prophets of Baal to call upon their god while he called upon his. God answered by not only consuming Elijah's offering with fire, but also by burning the stones of the altar. When the people of Israel saw this, they fell on their faces; and cried: “The Lord, He is God! The Lord, He is God!" In our times, we may get an answer that is not apparent to us now, but in retrospect may be greater and more substantial than we prayed for.

We may not be cured of our afflictions like the man from Lystra, a cripple from birth to whom the Apostle Paul said: "Stand up straight on your feet!" and immediately the man leapt up and walked. For those of us today whose lives are affected by illnesses, we may lead hearts towards Jesus and be touched by others along our journey. The Bible has many comforting words including these; "The LORD Himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged."

Why do we think the visible presence of God would make a difference in who believes in Him today when history teaches us the opposite? A precious few did believe, but the vast majority ridiculed Him, were indifferent to him, or feared Him more than they loved Him.

 There is a parable that tells us of a rich man who died and awoke in hell, and of Lazarus, a poor man who died and went to heaven. The rich man pleaded with Father Abraham to send Lazarus back to earth to testify to his 5 living brethren lest they also come into this place of torment. Father Abraham replied "If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead."

 Scripture says His Spirit resides on anyone who follows His commandments and accepts Jesus as their Saviour. These will then show the true fruits of the Spirit, which are; love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: all described in Galatians 5:22-23.
 And like a tree, the more fruit it carries, the lower to the ground it bends, contrasting with one with no fruit, standing tall and proud.

So to answer to the question ‘Where in the world is God?’ is quite simple.

God is here with us, just as He always has been. He is as loving, as just, and as real as He ever was. Where His Spirit is, there He is also. If we as partakers of His Spirit follow His commandments to love and care for one another, then we are fulfilling Jesus' words: "A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; as I have loved you." Then our random acts of kindness would truly be random acts of Jesus.

We who bear His Spirit are God's witnesses to the Earth today. As His spirit works in us, we can truly be as Adam and Eve were before the Fall: Children of God.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Steh, Ephraim, besinne dich. Song from Hutterite "Kleine Gesangbuch"

This is my humble translation of an old German Church song which appears in our Hutterite "Kleine Gesangbuch". This song reiterates God's all-encompassing and unending Grace and Love for us. Love and Grace so great that it surpasses human understanding. Yet we humans can veto it, and oft times do by unbelief, and non-acceptance of Jesus Christ as our personal God and Savoir.  The line that sums up this song goes "I am God without you" telling us in the end, our salvation is up to us and our personal choice, we can take it or leave it.

Stay, Ephraim, don't disbelieve,
Eternal life lies waiting,
My heart breaks for you, child it grieves, 
Do you choose death unending?
Have I not fathered you,
Have I not nourished you,
You have but purest love from me,
O feeble worm, where headest thee?

You haste from Me, I'm calling you
My heart with love is burning,
You rush towards that fiery tomb,
Relentless and not caring.
Mere mortal, concentrate,
Stay still, evaluate,
Have I not made you bona fide?
And you become the Devils bride.

Oh do not think, I am a beast,
That needs blood for survival,
How good, how rewarding will be,
For all who seek my bridal.
Come here, my child, come here,
I am no wolf or bear,
I, I am God, the Purest Love,
What profits me a hand of blood? 

Alas, alas I see my child
Running towards perdition, 
I cry and plead, he is so blind,
There is no recognition.
O Ephraim, stay still,
Don't pursue your free will,
I love you unconditionally,
I'll be there in your greatest need.

And Oh, how much it hurts to see
Your plight, your endless fleeing,
My heart starts breaking, lamenting,
Oh hear my urgent pleading.
Oh feeble, paltry worm,
You haste, a raging storm
To everlasting grief and pain,
Yet could be saved in Jesus' reign. 

As sure as I'm Eternal God,
Don't want your ruin, never.
Please come to Me, misguided soul
I'll grant you Life forever.
The Lamb has ransomed you,
Immerse your sins into
His wounds, which did with crimson seep
Then I will show you mercy deep

See Ephraim, how true I am,
Who better is to Love thee,
Oh, come to me and take my Hand,
How can you disappoint me.
Flee, flee this evil world
That caught you in it's whirl,
Flee, flee far from this Sodom, rouse
And come into your Fathers house.

Once you'll decide to follow me
I'll tear those chains that bind you,
You will repent, I'll set you free
Then Jesus' blood will save you.
Believe in Me, you'll see,
I'll grant you personally
Atonement, Grace, with all My Might
Just do not flee, come to My Light.

If all the pleasures of this earth
Could satisfy your yearning,
I'd grant her in her greatest worth
To you for all eternal.
I am God without you  
But you, I pity you,
What thrills your heart and seems so free
Forsakes you in eternity. 

And what will fill your empty heart
And still your endless searching?
What seems today to be so smart
Won't satisfy eternal,
Lust, riches, pride and gold
Dissipates like wisps of smoke,
So come to me, deluded soul,
For I alone am worth it all.

And oh, how great Salvation is
That waits for you in Heaven,
No death, no pain, no suffering,
No enemy, no devil.
I am your Savoir, God,
Your shield, refuge above,
So Ephraim, come seek, come soon,
This all is waiting here for you.

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