What Does the Universe Tell us About God?

Intelligent Design is a term used to describe a certain point of view of many scientists and academics who study the universe or some part of it.  Plus, it’s the point of view of many others who arrive at the same conclusion because of their religious beliefs.  Basically, it’s the idea that there are clues in our universe indicating that an intelligence is behind it all.

For you that may be God, and of course it is for me too. Without question.  Others like to go with the idea that aliens did it, and aliens put us here.  Intelligent aliens are more palatable to some than God.  As silly as that may sound to you or me, (understatement) don’t think for a second people aren’t willing to go there.  A few prominent people have suggested it, and one major movie was built around it.

-all because the evidence that points to an Intelligence behind the Design is substantial enough to convince a lot of people.

But let’s put God in the picture for a second, and take it a step beyond.  Besides just the remarkable facts of how our universe is constructed and how it came to be… what if we asked why?

In the Bible, Romans 1:20 said this about God and His creation:

“For His invisible attributes, that is, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen since the creation of the world, being understood through what He has made. As a result, people are without excuse.”

Usually, we quote this verse and say the creation proves God exists, but really there’s more than that isn’t there?  It says that through His creation we can discover God’s “invisible attributes” and His “eternal power and divine nature.”

Which leaves us with the conclusion that not only would the creation argue for the existence of God, (and this is precisely what many believe Intelligent Design demonstrates) but the creation would give us clues ABOUT God.

So what are they? Continue reading

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The Rapture: Taking it Literally?

The Christian belief in “The Rapture,” made famous by the Left Behind series and various doomsday predictions, comes from two Scriptures in the Bible which speak about the resurrection of the dead.  In neither place is it specifically called “the Rapture” although you can find the Latin word for “rapture” in there if you use the Latin Vulgate Bible.  In fact, the Latin is where we get the term, and the term simply applies to the event described in I Corinthians 15:51-52 and I Thessalonians 4:15-17.   And since saying “The Rapture” is easier than saying “The-Event-Described-In-1st-Corinthians-15-51-52-and-I-Thessalonians-4-15-17”  or T.E.D.I.1.C.1.15.52.A.I.T.4.15.17 for short…

Most of us just say “the Rapture.”

Anyway, the Rapture is basically a simple concept.  In both places, the Bible (Paul was the writer) is talking about what happens to believers in Jesus who are still alive when the resurrection happens.  Obviously, God’s not going to strike them all dead so He could raise them up at that moment.  Instead of that morbid method, the Bible says we will be “caught up” to Jesus in the air (I Thessalonians 4) and changed “in the blink of an eye” into immortality (I Corinthians 15).  Part of the reason Paul wrote about it in I Thessalonians was to give people hope.  It is a rather exciting thought to consider. And assuming you believe in God and Jesus in the first place, it makes sense.  I mean, if Jesus returned and raised the dead into eternity, it’s only natural to ask what would happen to those who are still alive at the time. The Rapture is the answer for that question.

But we still manage to have huge arguments over it.  Those debates are generally over whether to take it seriously in the first place, or if you believe in a resurrection, the argument is over when exactly the Rapture part of it happens.

THE “WHEN” ARGUMENTS

The “Left Behind” books and movies took a very common position on the WHEN part, Continue reading

Knowing Jesus Rose from the Dead

This claim is the center-piece of Christianity. As all four Biblical narratives about Jesus life and death attest, Jesus died from severe torture and crucifixion at the hands of the Romans and the blessings of the leadership in Israel. On a purely human level, Jesus’ teaching was obviously threatening the power and status of those in the theocratic leadership of Israel, and Rome was wary of anyone causing disruptions. It created a perfect storm which resulted in Jesus’ execution. On a spiritual level, Jesus life and death fulfilled over 108 distinct prophesies and became the culmination of the Old Testament religious covenant to the Israelites and the world. The New Testament Scriptures indicate that perfect storm was actually God-orchestrated, for the purpose of providing forgiveness and grace to the human race.

It’s powerful stuff, and the deeper you get into it, the more powerful it becomes. Jesus was the culmination of the Jewish sacrificial system for sins because He was the ultimate sacrifice, taking away sins once for all according to the book of Hebrews. (It’s why John the Baptist once announced Jesus was “the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!” -Lambs were often used as sacrifices)

Taking away sins once for all, meant a person no longer had to feel separated from God by sin, and provided a way for anyone to approach God, without a priest to intercede. It’s one reason three of the four Gospel accounts record the curtain of the temple being torn in two by an earthquake at the time of Jesus’ death. The curtain of the temple is what separated “the Most Holy Place” -where the presence of God was- from the outside world. The meaning being that humanity no longer had to be separated from God because of Christ.

And that only begins to scratch the surface how in Jesus, or through Jesus, so much of the Old Testament religious teaching is fulfilled, or reaches the highest order of magnitude. But none of it matters, if Jesus never got out of the grave. Continue reading

How Does the Whole Miracle Thing Work?

Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. -James 5:14-15 (NIV)

The mere suggestion that God may not work a miracle, or does not very often, would rock many people’s faith. “Pentecostals believe in religious experience the way electricians believe in electricity,” writes Earl Creps in his book Off-Road Disciplines -Spiritual Adventures with Missional Leaders, “without it, we have no reason to show up for work. The Spirit moves in profound and observable ways, and our heritage teaches that most everything else just takes care of itself.” A very open and honest admission by a guy who has taught in the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary and I’m told pastors a church these days.

He follows that with something akin to a bombshell when he speaks about his experience pastoring a church: “Our congregation’s story failed to line up with what our movement’s culture taught us to expect. At one public rally, for example, the only ‘testimony’ from two years of renewal came from one person who thought he might have quit smoking.” (p.12)

As this account shows, miracles haven’t always happened when we expected them to. Let’s admit it. People have had their faith rocked. Why didn’t God always come through? Why do miracles seem random? Continue reading

When A Miracle Doesn’t Come

The evidence used for Christ or God most often by those who preached in the Bible was not the evidence of a miracle. Jesus used miracles. The early church performed miracles and Moses performed miracles. For most, however, it was the word of God and typically, the prophetic word that provided the evidence. Miracles by Moses, Jesus, & the early church leaders authenticated God’s word through them.

Why is this true?

    JESUS SPEAKING TO THE PEOPLE IN HIS HOME TOWN:
    “I tell you the truth,” he continued, “no prophet is accepted in his hometown. 25I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land. 26Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon. 27And there were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed—only Naaman the Syrian.” -Luke 4:24-27 [NIV]

First, Jesus was making a larger point to the Jews. He brought this up because in both of these examples from Israel’s history, God withheld blessing from his people and instead gave assistance to non-Jews. This was symbolic of what was happening in Jesus day. The Jews, God’s people, wouldn’t accept Jesus and so while God would bless the non-Jewish world through Christ, the Jews would be left out. In fact, their nation would cease to exist about 35 years after this in 70 AD when the Romans wiped them out.

But there’s another question.

Why is it true that God blessed two people, curing Naaman the Syrian of leprosy and providing food for a non-Jewish widow, while at the same time Jews were dying of leprosy and Jewish widows were starving to death?

Why doesn’t God give a miracle every time? Or more to the point… Why doesn’t THIS appear to be true all the time?

    THE BOOK OF JAMES, GIVING VARIOUS INSTRUCTIONS AT THE END
    13Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. 14Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. 16Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. -James 5:13-16 [NIV]

Without looking very deeply, this passage obviously seems to say that if the elders of the church anoint someone with oil and pray for them, they will get well. Period. They will be healed. Yet I know of times when this doesn’t seem to work. Someone prayed for by the elders, even anointed with oil according to the verses above, doesn’t always get better. Or least not for as long as we’d like. Why? Continue reading