Numbers are a big deal to me. They represent organization, and I love organization. (Now, of course, I almost didn't use this picture, because the numbers are not in order. But that's not the point.)
There are some people - and I am one of them - who love to search the Bible for patterns and trends and special meanings attached to numbers. Many numbers have a meaning that has been universally accepted, and some of them are included here. (Some other meanings are simply ideas I have noticed.)
While I have followed biblical numerology, I have never before noticed that beyond the meaning of each number, one can see the story of God's relationship with man in the ORDER of the numbers. I love it; check it out:
1 - God (Deuteronomy 6:4)
In the Beginning, God. There was One God. No others. As a matter of fact, there was nothing else at all. Why am I not starting with zero? Because there was never time when there was nothing. God always was.
God is number one. He comes first, as He always should. The first commandment? Have NO OTHER gods before Me. Seek FIRST the kingdom of heaven. If we only could look to God first, without being distracted, our lives would be much less complicated.
*Here, our story begins. It all began with God, in His perfection.
2 - Goodness and Evil
There are only these two polarities. Goodness is a one-point scale - it's all or nothing, no in-between.
All [men] have sinned. None are righteous, no not one. So basically, God is good, and anything that is not of God is evil. What's amazing here is that, even though you could count so much that is not of God, if you measure it against God, the balance is still in God's favor. His goodness far outweighs everything else.
2s that show this:
Darkness and Light
Cain and Abel
Heaven and Hell
Judgement and Mercy
Life and Death
* Part 2 of the story: Once man was created, he was good. Then he sinned, and he was no longer good. It's black and white, with no room for grey. God is good; man is not.
3 - Trinity (the number of Perfection)
Three is very common in the Bible and probably the most important number we see, due to our triune Godhead. I believe the founding fathers of the U.S. had the trinity in mind when they wrote the Constitution and created a government with three branches. (Which has served our country quite well.) Three is never random in the Bible, as God knew even before man was created that Jesus would rise from the dead after three days. The threes we see prior to Jesus's death are usually pointing to the resurrection in some way.
3s that show this:
Three items [entombed] in the Ark of the Covenant
Three sons of Noah [who gave new birth to mankind after the flood]
Three days in the whale (Jonah)
Three years of Jesus's ministry
Three denials from Peter (and then three affirmations to restore him)
Three days in the tomb (Jesus)
Also, have you noticed how often God's salvation message appears in the THIRD CHAPTER of a book of the bible? See:
-Matthew 3 and Luke 3: Jesus's Baptism
-John 3: Nicodemus & re-birth
-Romans 3: God's righteousness vs. our lack thereof
-Galatians 3: Faith over works
-Ephesians 3: The mystery of the Gospel
-Philippians 3: Righteousness through faith
-Colossians 3: Put away death, put on Christ
And that's just a sample from the New Testament!
* Part 3 of the story: Although the Trinity always was, now its necessity is evident. God already knows His Son will be sacrificed for the redemption of mankind, but now the play goes into action.
4 - Four Gospels/Accounts of the life of Christ on earth. (the number of the earth)
Jesus came to earth. God on earth to save mankind. Almost unimaginable. His story is repeated 4 times, from 4 perspectives. (Matthew, the tax collector, showed the story of the common man's relationship with Jesus. Mark, written by Peter, the impetuous disciple, was short and action-oriented. Luke, written by the physician, is full of details, and John, from the disciple whom Jesus loved [his words], a gospel based on love.)
4s that show this:
Four directions (north, south, east, west)
Four seasons (winter, spring, summer, fall)
Other thoughts on the number 4: evangelism!
According to Acts 1:8, the message of the gospel is to be spread to:
4. The ends of the earth.
The 4 corners of the world, perhaps? (Isaiah 11:12)
* Part 4 of the story: Jesus has come to earth. The Good has come for the evil.
5 - The number of grace
The number five is not as prominent as some of the others. But then again, we could easily miss God's grace if we are not looking for it.
5s that show this:
In the Old Testament, God showed his grace through acceptance of offerings, of which there where five types: burnt, sin, grain, trespass, and peace. (Leviticus 1-7)
In the New Testament, Jesus showed us that His grace was more than enough to cover all by using 5 loaves of bread to feed 5,000 men.
Romans 5 explains grace beautifully.
There are a few other instances of the number 5 in the Bible, but I personally did not see how they relate to grace.
* Part 5 of the story: While Jesus was here on earth, He showed man what grace looks like, both as an example of how to treat one another and also as a foreshadow of God's grace post-resurrection.
6 - The number of man
Six is the number of man, not of the devil, as some may think. People give the devil too much credit. It is, in fact, MAN'S SIN that separates us from God. Satan just gets in the way. Man would have sinned eventually, without prodding.
6s that show this:
Man was created on the 6th Day. (Genesis 1:26-31)
6 things, the Lord hates. (from Proverbs 6)
(Note, anytime something is repeated in the Bible, one should especially take notice. I do
not think that finding SIX things in Proverbs SIX is something that should overlooked.)
The 6th commandment, do not murder, is about death. (Man's death is the whole reason for salvation.)
6 pieces of armor man has to protect himself in spiritual battle. (Ephesians 6)
(Again, note the chapter number.)
Jesus died for man's sins after 6 hours on the cross. (Mark 15)
* Part 6 of the story: This is the climax - the spotlight is on man. What will he do? Will he accept Jesus as God? Or will he crucify Him? Man will fail, because man cannot save himself.
7 - The number of perfection, the number of completion, the number of God.
Seven is one of the other most important numbers in the Bible (other than three.) However, while three deals mainly with man's relationship with God in salvation, seven deals more with God's completion of Creation.
7s that show this:
The 7th Day - when Creation was complete (Genesis 2:2)
70 times 7 - when forgiveness is complete (Matthew 18:22)
After 70 weeks - when the earth's time will be complete (Daniel 9)
7 years - when the tribulation will be complete (Rev. 19)
* Part 7 of the story: THIS IS THE MOST EXCITING PART! Notice how the number of God comes AFTER the number of man. Not in importance, but in timing. God had to come after man to fix what he had done. In the number 7, it is finished.
8 - New beginnings. (My favorite number.)
This is a tough one because we don't often see eights, and so it is difficult to make the connection. Eight as a number of new beginnings, though fairly widely accepted, is mostly logical. Once something has been completed (the sevens - 7 days, 7 weeks, etc.), something new can begin.
8s that show this:
Eight people survived the flood. (Genesis 7:13)
Eight days in the Feast of Tabernacles
Eight days after birth for circumcision (Gen. 17)
* Part 8 of the story: After God fixed what man had done, he has new life and can start again.
9 - The number of growth (although I have not seen it called this specifically anywhere.)
As rare as it is to see eights in the Bible, nines are even less frequent. Many other religions use nine as a special number, and conclusions can be drawn, but it doesn't appear that nine is super special in Christianity. Some make the case for instances of three threes, but I think that's pushing it a little. The only very special nine I see is listed below.
9s that show this:
9 fruits of the Spirit. (Galatians 5)
* Part 9 of the story: After man has been saved and can begin again, he can now grow in his life with God and bear fruit.
10 - The number of the law.
Of course, this refers to more to more biblical law than governmental (man's) law. Although man was given God's law shortly after man sinned, it was not a to-do list. Man was given the law to show him that he is inadequate and needs a Savior. So why does man need to follow God's law, even though Christ's sacrifice released us from the need to keep it? Man is still imperfect and needs the law to remind him of how desperately he needs Jesus's gift and God's grace.
10s that show this:
10% of giving in a tithe (Malachi 3)
10 Plagues (upon a reigning Pharaoh who did not listen)
10 Commandments (Exodus 20)
10 Kings under the anti-Christ (Daniel 2, 7)
* Part 10 of the story: God has saved man, and man is growing in faith. Even though the law cannot be kept 100% by any man, man can continue to work at growing and obeying His commands to please Him and give thanks for what He has done.
11 - Number of discord.
Eleven is also not seen often in the Bible, but where it is, it is prominent. Once Judas is removed from the group of Jesus's apostles, the group is seen distraught and disorganized until a replacement is found.
11s that show this:
The "Eleven" (group of Jesus's apostles after the suicide of Judas)
The 11th year of Zedekiah, the prophesy of when Jerusalem would fall
The 11th hour, when the last of the workers are hired in the vineyard (Jesus's parable, Matt. 20)
* Part 11 of the story: Not all will follow Jesus. Even those who show interest in Christ could possibly give up on Him. These are like the seed in the parable that grows quickly, but then withers. Some will fall away, like Judas.
12 - Another number of completeness, as it relates to man.
Whereas seven was God's number of completeness (Creation, forgiveness), twelve is more a number relating to a more earthly completeness.
12s that show this:
12 tribes of Israel, God's nation, unbroken (Genesis 49)
12 disciples, the followers needed to spread the Gospel to the world (Matthew 10)
Many of the dimensions in the New Jerusalem, our heavenly final resting place. (Revelation 21)
* The end of the story: Those who remain in Jesus complete their eternity in His company, in His glory. Don't you love a happy ending?
I hope this post wasn't overwhelming. It is simple when broken down into parts, just like God's grace is meant to be. Simple to obtain, impossible to understand. For those of you who enjoy number searching, maybe you have found something new.
Even if you have not, or you skipped the number part altogether to read the simple Gospel message, we are left with one simple, relief-filled message:
God's will always triumphs.
I just finished watching the end of an incredibly exciting March Madness game between Notre Dame and Stephan F. Austin. In the last few minutes, SFA was up by 3 points and not giving up anything! The Fighting Irish indeed clawed their way back for one 2-point shot, and then, with a little more than one second on the clock, they tipped in a final shot to put them ahead with less than a second to go. SFA missed the buzzer-beater, and Irishmen everywhere jumped out of their seats.
I don't normally watch post-game interviews or coach's pep talks, but I was stranded on the treadmill at the gym, so I kept my eyes open. Head coach Mike Brey had an interesting look on his face as he addressed his Sweet-Sixteen-bound team. It was a look that I could tell his team didn't see all the time, but it was genuine nonetheless. I had seen this look myself from a high school softball coach.
It was a smile.
It took me a while to recognize it, maybe because in the past year, I saw Chip Kelly take the Eagles to a losing 6-9 record, and I saw the Phillies go through 3 managers in 3 years who gave up on the team only shortly after the fans did. As a fan from Philadelphia, I'm not used to seeing a lot of smiling coaches.
After Googling images of Mike Brey, I don't think anyone was used to seeing a lot of smiles from him either.
But that's how it goes in sports. When the game is intense, coaching is extreme. Why do they yell? Because, you know, they all yell.
Part of it is so they can be heard. Games get LOUD. But I have a feeling they would yell anyway. The adrenaline makes them raise their voices. They are focused on nothing but how to win the game. If those coaches could be out there on the field/court/diamond, they would be. They want to keep showing the players what to do. But at game time, they have to just trust that they have taught enough.
Then… the game is over. If the coach's team has pulled through, there is an huge amount of relief. It results in a smile.
Some say that God is your biggest cheerleader. But I think it is more accurate to consider Him like your coach. He has given you everything you need to succeed. (Hello, Holy Spirit!) He has even drafted for you the best player in the league! (Thank you, Jesus!) But He won't go on the field anymore, not since the days He walked with Adam, before sin.
Still, He calls to you from the sidelines. It's loud enough, but you may have trouble hearing it for two reasons:
1. Because the crowd noise drowns it out.
The people in the world are all saying different things, and all at the same time. That makes our world pretty noisy. Some of them might be yelling out advice. But the crowd doesn't know how you have been coached. They could be giving bad advice.
My oldest daughter had a soccer coach once who told the team not to listen to their parents while they were on the field, and instead to concentrate on her voice. She knew soccer, and also knew that we parents didn't. I'm sure it was hard for the girls to ignore their parents (… or maybe not!) but when they listened to the coach, they played better.
2. Because you are too focused on the game of life to listen.
Beyond the crowd noise is the noise in your own head. You try to remember every thing you did during practice. That's a good thing, but you only have a limited perspective. Formations on the field may require you to adjust your game plan. You can't always see the whole picture, but the coach can!
God is calling to you - telling you what to do - and whether you turn to the right or to the left, you will hear the voice behind you saying, "This is the way; walk in it." (Isaiah 30:21)
Are you listening for His coaching? Do you want to hear what He says, or do you want to do it your own way? Who knows more? The coach or the player? Who can see the bigger picture - the coach on the sidelines who has a full view of the defense, or the player on the line of scrimmage who might not be able to see over the guard?
How does He sound? Does He sound angry to you? Does that mean He's mad or even that you've done something wrong? Possibly, but more than likely, it's because He is so invested in what's going on, He's just trying to get you to hear. He wants you to win!
He's coaching you on to the end of the game. At the end of the game, nothing else can be done. Your game will end in one of two ways - you win or you lose - depending on which team you play for. If you have done a good job listening to your coach (this is assuming, of course, you are playing on His team, with Jesus!), you will hear at the end, "Well done."
The Bible doesn't say, but I totally believe you will see a smile on God's face, whatever that might look like. I can't even imagine, but then again, I haven't finished playing the game yet.
Tom Hanks tells us there's no crying I'm baseball, but I don't think we see a lot of smiling either. Not until the game is over. The celebration will be grand, and the rest will be sweet. I'm smiling already.
Picture yourself at the foot of the cross. You are there as it's happening -- the very moment when all the sin in the world, every last one: past, present, and future is removed from the shoulders of all mankind and placed squarely on the shoulders of the God-in-man's- body of Jesus Christ. The most monumental event in all of spiritual history, and there you are.
You are among many others. Woman are crying; soldiers are laughing; men are yelling. Somehow, what is being done on the other side of heaven is lost on these people. I would venture to say only one person in that picture really knows what is going on. (And it's not you.)
He's tried to explain it, but no one is getting it. (I can only imagine Jesus's frustration.)
Why aren't we awed? Why are the men still laughing?
Because there is a lack of dramatic music. The brilliant light and rainbows are absent. As a matter of fact, the death of Jesus Christ looks amazingly similar to those of the thieves next to whom his is dying.
This is so disappointing.
We have been trained to only really pay attention when we are told to do so. We have lost the skill of discerning what's important on our own. We have become lazy and sometimes only think what others have already thought for us. If we weren't given a direct sign from heaven telling us we are being cleaned, why would we bother to look at the facts ourselves?
Our King entered Jerusalem to take His reign, not just on a donkey instead of a white steed, but on a baby donkey. Jesus's feet were probably brushing against the ground as it struggled to haul its load. Sure it fulfilled Scripture, but what was up with that? A little awkward for the apostles.
Where are the bells and whistles? Where's the red carpet? Where is the fanfare? Where is that doggone horse?
How are we supposed to stand up to Rome on a donkey? How are we supposed to tell our neighbor Jesus is King when He looks like a beggar?
It's too quiet at the base of the cross. The wrath of God could surely conjure up some lightning. He did it for Elijah when he offered a wet sacrifice. No music, but God put on one heck of a pyrotechnic show.
The propitiation of man's sin is a little more important than Elijah's reputation.
Now, had you been standing in the temple, you would have felt the earthquake. You would have seen the curtain tear. You may have even understood that significance.
But still. No music. Some rumbling, yes. But buildings remained intact.
If anyone is to pay attention to anything today, we need to be attracted and compelled to watch. I live near Philadelphia (that is to say within a 40 mile radius), and we just had a visit from the Pope. No one around here wondered when he was coming. We were told about it on the news months ago. I believe a countdown began last summer. Every aspect of Philly was cleaned up - I can't imagine a single detail was overlooked.
Some people flocked to see him; others fled the crowded hysteria. But there was nothing about this visit that was quiet. And granted, I do not know the Pope personally, but he seems to me to be kind of a humble guy. I doubt he wanted any fanfare. But it was an Event to be sure. (Yes, with a capital "E.") One of the most important in recent Philadelphia history. The city wanted it known that the Pope was there.
Back to 33 A.D. Had camera crews been available at the time, would there have been the same kind of coverage? Doubtful. The government was down-playing Jesus's significance as much as they could.
Even without a light show (and God could surely have provided one), the message is out. But how are we supposed to convince our neighbors that their sin is taken away when they can't see it? We can't even feel it. You become a brand new human being and your heart rate doesn't even budge. There was no music when Jesus executed the means of our salvation, and there is likely none when you accept it. (Don't get me started on massive crowds at alter calls.)
Why isn't there fanfare for such a monumental event? Because that, my friends, is what faith is all about. It's easy to run down with all the crowds to see the Pope. If God would have yelled from the sky, "This is it, people!" when Jesus died, if the angels would have gathered his body in plain sight, while the sound of harps filled the air, who would have remained unsaved?
But who would have understood?
And that is why faith is such a big deal. God wants us to think about it. Faith must have purpose. You must decide to be faithful.
2 Corinthians 5:7
"For we live by faith, not by sight."
I was taking communion at church recently, and as usual, I bowed my head to pray.
I began as I normally do. Lately, almost every prayer I pray is directed to our daughter's medical situation. It has been so taxing on us all, that I never waste an opportunity of prayer get away without asking God to cure her of her T1D.
Most impromptu prayers I have are usually spurred by someone's need, usually not my own. I bet this is pretty common among Christians. We're good people, right? We need to use our focus to turn it outward.
We need to give up our prayers on behalf of others because we're already okay, you know. We're doing fine. We might have a desire, or maybe even a need, but we should really be interceding for those less fortunate than ourselves. Since after all, we're okay.
During that communion time, my mind was redirected quickly. I don't have to give up praying for my daughter, but now was not the time for that. Now was the time to look at myself.
It has to be done.
Not looking at what I want or need. I'm not an infant; I can move past looking at getting myself taken care of. What I needed to look at was who I am. I had to look down deep into my heart and find my sins. I had to see why I am not that "higher than thou" person who can call on God to care for those less blessed than me.
Looking around at others so much has made me forget that maybe I am a fallible person myself. Other people have needs, but I do too - a primary need to be forgiven.
During communion, I need to look at myself and see what I have done. There is a reason I need a Savior to bring me into the presence of the Father, and during communion, I see those reasons individually. If I don't see the reasons for my need of a Savior, then what is the point of having a Savior?
The more I go without looking at myself, the more I see the faults of others. I would venture to say that when you come across a particularly judgmental person, you have probably found a person who has not been looking at his own faults too closely. When the Holy Spirit shows me my sins, I know I am often humble enough overlook the sins of others. Pulling this plank out of my own eye takes up a lot of my focus.
So, the idea of putting others first, of always thinking of your brother before yourself is great for about 90% of the time (give or take whatever God tells YOU it should be). Where two or three are gathered, there Christ is in the midst. You NEED to pray for others. You NEED to turn your focus outward.
But I don't think that can happen with a true heart until you have had the chance to clean out your own heart. If you are praying for someone because you believe another person needs your holy prayers, it's time to look in the mirror again. If you feel badly for that person because their sins are so much greater than yours, stop and look again.
Possibly you are just ignoring yourself, and you feel this is an act of humility. Well, how can you have a relationship with God and converse with Him without being there yourself? You are a part of the "God and me" didactic, so you must work on that fellowship before asking Him to help with another one.
There are times when fellowship is a "more the merrier" situation. But just like in a marriage, if you don't commit some time to the one-on-one aspect of the relationship, you won't be able to know the other person well at all.
So, to get to know God better, you need to be able to see yourself first. Because I guarantee when you look at yourself and see your faults, you most certainly will see God's lack of faults and His awesomeness. And that is the bottom line - why we were created - to see His greatness and give Him glory.
I'm glad we have communion once a month. I should really be thinking about this more often, but communion is a great reminder that I need to look at me to see how my salvation had nothing to do with me, but all about Him.
I have always hated giving Audrey her shots. Even now that she is on the pump, and injections are only every 2-3 days, I still dread it. Knowing that it is keeping her alive doesn't make it less painful for either of us.
When she was in the hospital, she was severely dehydrated (which was baffling to me, as much as she had been drinking at the time). What do you get with a tiny, 40 lb., dehydrated child with wobbly veins? Apparently, a near-impossible stick, as the nurses kept telling me. We were in a very highly-rated children's hospital, and no one on the team of pediatric IV-specialists could get an IV started on my child. These are people who do nothing but start IVs on dehydrated children day in and day out. No one could do it. (*side note- Alan, to whom I refer as "super nurse" from our local hospital's ER, was the ONLY one able to get a line of any kind on her for the whole week. That, after more than an hour of trying.)
Watching all those professionals dig into my daughter's skin with needles for so long, was almost sickening to me. I'm not terribly squeamish around blood, and I have no problems with needles myself, but this was too much. The only blessing was that she was delirious and mostly oblivious to the pain. I can only imagine if she weren't.
Did you ever watch a child react to the sight of a needle? A needle that was going to invade their body? I believe most children universally scream like you've chopped off an major appendage. Why? Because they hate pain. Any and all pain, no matter how brief or necessary or non-life-threatening.
So what do we, the parents, do? We hold them down and make them endure it. We explain to them (or to ourselves) how this simple action keeps away a world of more dangerous pain and sickness. They don't understand. But we do. We must. Or else small pox would wipe out the rest of us.
A diabetic 7-year-old who needs 4 shots daily is just plain mean, isn't it? Especially when the child also has sensory issues with her skin. What torture! She dreads every moment of that pain. When she really can't take it, she runs away. And she cries. Because she knows what's coming and that I won't give up.
Who has it worse? The child who must endure the pain, not understanding its importance? Or the parent who cannot successfully communicate that the pain prevents death?
The parent has probably been acquainted with death. She has had family members delivered to the ground in beautiful boxes meant to seal them away forever. They never returned. Possibly, that family member suffered with an agonizing disease. Maybe they died in a horrific accident. Or it could have been a quick, easy passing. No matter. Her loved one never came back.
And that is not going to happen to my child. Not on my watch. That child can fight, kick, scream, and even try to run away. But she's not going to die. Not while I hold life-giving insulin in my very own hand.
You hear that, child? I hold your life in my hand. What I can give you will make it so you won't die. Why. Why? Why are you running away from it? From me? Why don't you believe me?
Oh yes. Because you don't know what death is yet. (Really, I don't either. But I know that I don't know the full extent. You deny it all.) To you, a child is invincible.
They are not. Children can die. Children do die. I hate to say it. I hate to admit that I am glad it is not my child. But it will not be my child. Not when I hold her life in my hand.
It's times like this when I "get" God, the Father. (To a limited degree, I admit.) He holds life in His hand. He holds it out for every one of His children. But not every one takes it.
Which one of us understands what happens after we die? None of us. No one has been there; no one can tell us. So we live our lives in pure oblivion. Like the invincible child who cannot die, we are the eternal souls sure that every one of us is bound for Heaven.
Only the Father knows differently. He desperately tries to tell us, just as the parents tell their children of the horrid diseases they will not be getting after they have endured their vaccination. The Father was so desperate to tell us, that He sent Evidence from Heaven. He sent His Son to tell us, to show us, EXACTLY what will happen when we die.
How frustrated is He when we don't "get our shot?" When we don't believe the precious Evidence He sent us? I know a piece of that frustration! Why on earth would my child NOT want the medicine that keeps her from dying? Why?
So why do God's children not take the medicine He offers us? Why? The medicine we need to take is simply believing that He loves us and already paid the price it took for us to be with Him in heaven when we die. It's so easy. Why are people not taking it?
All we need to do is believe. If the child believes the parent and gets their shot, they will not get the disease. If God's child believes, he too, will be rescued from the disease of sin. If my daughter takes her insulin, she will not die from her diabetes. If we accept God's medicine, we will not die a second death.
The vaccination ends the possibility of getting the disease. Audrey's insulin, unfortunately, does not end the disease. Only a cure will do that. Her pancreas is dead. It needs new life.
Jesus brought new life to us. There's nothing else that needs to be done. We can have new life by simply taking it.
But it's painful, right?
It could have been. It was. When God sent His Son, Jesus demonstrated the suffering that was supposed to have been for sinful man. But once He accomplished that, He concluded, "It is finished." Therefore, it does not need to be done again. One cure saves forever.
The only pain is submission. Dying to yourself and admitting that you cannot save yourself. It hurts to not be your own God.
But the reward should be amazing.
You love your bed, don't you? I love mine. It has the best sheets in the world. Really, it wouldn't matter what sheets on on there. When the alarm goes off in the morning, it still feels like nothing could drag me away from them.
So then, why do I go to bed so late at night? If my bed were so great, don't you think I would be jumping into it the minute the kids are sent to bed? I don't. I usually wait at least 2 hours after they are in bed before I even think about it. The draw of everything else in the world pulls me back. But that's a different line of thought to which I will return in a minute.
There are nights when I suddenly find myself so tired, I can't even haul myself off the couch to go to that glorious place called bed. I don't think I'm the only one.
So why? Why, why, why? Why don't I go running up to my bed as soon as possible? I'm tired, aren't I? Even if not at the moment, I know for a fact I will be tired and need sleep eventually. I always wind up in that bed, and I am never unhappy about it. Never.
Hold that thought.
Have you ever put your hand out, hoping to have a bird come and fly to it? You may have even called to it, hoping it would understand that you will not hurt it. Why won't it come? Sometimes, you may even have food in your hand, and it still won't come. What is wrong with that dumb bird?
Keep this in the back of your mind. Back to the bed idea.
If there were something even more secure than your bed, and going to it were inevitable, would you hesitate to go? It is so inviting, the allure of it draws you near. But you don't go in. Even knowing that you will go - at some point you will have to go - you hesitate. You wait.
God has put out His hand. There is no more secure resting place than in His hand. Like you with the bird, He has no intention to harm you. Like the food you had for the bird, He has sustenance for you in His hand. You can trust it to be exactly what you need.
His hand doesn't grab for you. It waits for you. You must go to it. You must put everything else aside and go to it. Once you are there, you receive so much more than His nourishment. You receive His peace, His comfort, His protection.
At some point, everyone will be brought to His hand. It is better if you choose to go on your own, rather than being plucked away from the world and forced to see the back of His hand instead.
No, where you want to be is curled up in the warmth of his palm, perhaps being stroked, perhaps being cooed at. Definitely, He is smiling at the prize He holds.
So why are you not running to leap into that hand? Maybe you are like the bird and you have trust issues. Or maybe there are too many other things around you, distracting you from the hand.
Or maybe you are waiting because you don't think it's time yet. You want more out of the world before you settle into the comfort of the hand.
Really? When I sleep on the couch, I get a kink in my neck. My bed was made for comfortable sleep. If I don't go to bed in time, I stay up and just get more tired. For what? A movie on TV? Time on the computer? Is any of it better than a full night's sleep in my bed? NO!
God's hand has His hand out for you. You were made to be held in His hand, and you won't be quite right anywhere else. You can stay away, but why? What in this world is better than God's comfort and love? Nothing is. You will need to go to Him eventually. Do it while the welcome is open.
Oh, and the best thing about His hand? There's no alarm clock. You never have to leave. So snuggle in. You've got all eternity to get comfortable.
P.S. - This post was completed at 11:38 p.m. Time for bed!
Statistics was my favorite subject in college. For some reason, numbers and odds and predictability all came alive to me then. So now, I love to think in terms of tangible absolutes. Measurement is as good as fact for me.
Let's measure ourselves, shall we?
Recently, I have been involved in a discussion in one of my Goodreads groups about the virtue of mankind. We all varied in what we believed about how much evil could be found in an individual human being. Let's look at some evidence and get out our scales.
There are the terrorists in some sects of Islam whose sickening deeds have been blasted through the news lately. Men who decapitate children for the purpose of scaring others or use them as shields to protect themselves are 100% evil.
Not to defend their actions AT ALL, but let me throw in this caveat. Those men think they are doing exactly what their god is telling them to do. In their minds, they are holy men.
How about a person of the opposite extreme. There is a woman who is a missionary in a third world country. She lives with nothing more than what she needs to survive and she doesn't complain about it! From the moment she wakes until the closing of her tired eyes at night, she helps the people in her poor community. She farms with them; she serves them food; she shows them how to care for themselves.
Can we all concede to give this woman a 100% good for her selflessness?
Now, let's look at an average person who is not a participant in mass genocide or a pre-cannonized saint.
Since I may not know you, I will be the guinea pig and put my life up for examination.
You might be able to consider me a "good" person. I attend church every Sunday (and not just because I work there.) I even come on days that are not Sunday. I pray every day and read my Bible when I can. I don't cheat on my husband or beat my children. I floss my teeth. I don't kill spiders. I even do nice things for strangers periodically.
I'm not perfect. I have lied. (Perhaps in the above paragraph? You'll never know.) I am greedy; I am selfish; I have said things I should not have.
But more good than bad, right? Great! So what would you give me? 50% good? Nah, how about 90% good? (I always strive for A's.)
Here are my questions:
How did you come up with your answer? and
How are you qualified to give it?
Hmm. OK, so maybe good and evil must be determined on an individual basis. If we use different people to judge - I mean measure! - a man's actions, it could give us different readings. Your 50% rating might be my 90% rating. It all depends on the standard we use.
We need to use one reliable measurement instrument. There is only One standard, one absolute we can use. Since the goal of doing good is so we can see God and be with Him in heaven, we must use Him as the standard.
We know that God is 100% good. (The word "good" was actually derived from the word "God.") So where does that leave the rest of us, in my opinion? Here's where I came down in my Goodreads discussion: I believe that there is no good whatsoever in a person.
0% good. Every single person.
Wow, that's harsh, isn't it? Too harsh, right? It would be akin to saying that we are no better, no more righteous a human being than one of the terrorists I described above. And if it were true, we would be completely unlovable by a perfect, 100% holy God. I mean, why would God create a purely evil being and choose to love him?
Well, first of all, how are we supposed to know why God does anything? ("As the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." Isaiah 55:9)
But secondly, that's exactly the point. God is not picking and choosing people to love based on what they do. Where would He draw the line? The Bible doesn't say, "Thou shalt complete forty good deeds in thine lifetime. Only then shall I grant thee welcome into My kingdom."
Nope. Instead it says, "Be holy as I am holy." (I Peter 1:16, as well as 5 other similar references.)
And how is God holy? Completely. There is no imperfection in Him. (Matthew 5:48) THAT is the standard we have to live up to. Do any of us meet that standard? No. Even that missionary woman from Case #2 has committed at least one sin in her lifetime. She is less than 100% good.
For ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23, emphasis mine)
Furthermore, I propose that if you have ever committed any sin, you are completely sinful. Just as a little yeast works its way through a whole batch of dough, a little sin makes a person sinful. (Galations 5:9)
God is a God of absolutes. It's all or nothing. (How about that for making statistics easy?) If there were anything good in us, if there were any way to make good on our own, what would stop us from being completely good, all on our own?
If that were the case, we would have no need for a Savior. We could get ourselves to heaven and He would not have needed to die on a cross for us.
But He did die on a cross for us. He laid down his perfection to be seen by the Father as our complete imperfection, so that we could in turn pick up His perfection in the Father's eyes.
We can't be full of His perfection unless we are empty of everything that is ours. We must be nothing good so that we have room for his 100% goodness.
God only takes 100% goodness into his home. Since we can make 100% on our own, He offers it to us freely. I accept! 100% has always been my favorite percent.
T.C. Slonaker writes Christian fantasy novels to point others to Jesus. Read more about her Angelmen series HERE.
I hate death.
That's such an obvious thought that it's almost absurd, don't you think?
And I don't even feel like I have as much of a right to feel that way as so many others. I've known people who were there one day and gone the next, but never a close friend or family member. The closest I have come were my cats that had to be put to sleep.
That was horrible.
Since I have had such a small taste of it, I can only have the tiniest idea of what loss is like.
Anytime I am given "the small picture," I am reminded of how God has the bigger picture. So, the question becomes, not "Why do we have death?" but rather, "What purpose does God have for death?"
Isn't that the same thing?
No. The former question asks how death fits into our world, while the latter question seeks to know an answer from God's view.
How does God experience human death? Does He?
I believe part of the reason God gave us death was as a way to get a glimpse into His experience with the human race. Here is how I get to that point, step by step:
1. Before man sinned, he walked and LIVED with God (Gen. 2). There was no death, anywhere, in the animal kingdom. I'm sure this was a wonderful time that both God and Adam enjoyed.
They could be together.
2. When he sinned, man could no longer walk with God and be in His physical presence. (Gen. 3:24) God is perfect, and can't commune with imperfection. Their relationship changed.
Sin caused a separation.
3. Even though God knew man would sin, I think He was torn up by it in a way that felt like He was being ripped apart. (Luke 15:7, Psalm 31) When sin entered man's life, it became a part of who he was. He would ALWAYS be a sinner.
Sin caused a PERMANENT separation.
4. Death was the curse placed upon man as a result of man's sin (Gen. 3:19). What is death? A PERMANENT end of life. That may sound obvious, but look at the connection between the offense and the punishment:
The offense: A means of keeping God PERMANENTLY away.
The punishment: Being put PERMANENTLY away from the life man was in.
5. It is important to remember that there are two deaths: the first death, that every almost every human will experience, when he is removed from life on earth, and the second death that not everyone has to experience, when man could be removed from God's eternal presence. The first death is more of a change in status and is not a permanent state, but the second death changes everything. The second death IS permanent. (Is. 13:9, Rev. 20:6)
So in other words, God provided an answer and room for GRACE after the punishment.
6. God knew what the effect of sin was. (Ps. 37:38) I don't think man could ever grasp it. In order to understand it, man would have had to have known a life without God. And God had always been there. He suffered the first loss.
And He knew the PAIN of the SEPARATION.
7. So man was given life and death. When experiencing the death of other people, man would experience a seperation. Someone would be there one day, the next, and so on. Then one day, the person would not be there. Death meant never coming back.
There was PAIN in knowing the PERMANENCE. Of course, the pain was proportional to the depth of the relationship, helping us understand both at the same time God's sorrow at our sin and His love for us.
7b. Can we beat it? Can we choose not to create relationships, and thereby avoid the pain of separation in death? Yes, but in doing so we will never experience love either. What is worse? Experiencing love and having it taken away? Or never experiencing it at all? God chose to love us, and love us deeply. (Rom 5:8)
8. After Jesus died on the cross, He LIVED, proving that death (permanent separation from God) can be supernaturally overcome. (John 11:25) The permanence was undone by God's love. It was the ONLY thing that could.
See how it comes full circle? Even though we have sinned and experience death, we will live and walk with God again, just as Adam did before sin entered the world. And through the experience, we are drawn a little closer to God by seeing what it's like to be separated from a loved one.
Is there hope in this message? Yes! Will we see it when we are mourning? Probably not, but here it is. God knows your pain when you lose a loved one. He loses them every day.
Also, it is important to remember that I have given one reason for death that answers one question. God has ALL the answers. Therefore, there are more answers, more perfectly explained than I could ever speak, to give a complete justification for this difficult experience. I'm glad God has all the answers. Sometimes, I'd like to know more of them, but a part of me is glad that I don't have to have that responsibility. I just have to know there is a reason, and we are not lost.
Other PERMANENT experiences God has given us: Marriage and Parenthood. I'd like to address these in later blogs. Stay tuned!
If you are looking for fiction writing that shows the love of God, please check out my books from the Angelmen series here.
I am a Christian. What does that mean to me?
Christianity is not my religion, it is my way of life. It integrates itself into everything I do. From the time I first discovered Jesus, God, the Bible, and church - when I was seven years old - until now, there has been one thought always in the corner of my mind:
"Is God pleased with the life I am living for Him?"
Here's the main point of what I believe - I have sinned, it's in my nature. Even though I couldn't help it, I still deserve to be punished for my wrong. Why? Because when I die there are only two possible outcomes: being with God forever (in heaven) or not being with God forever (eventually in hell).
Because God is perfect and sinless, He cannot have any imperfection or sin in His presence. (That would make His presence imperfect.) Since all people have sinned, there would be no one in heaven.
But God did create us. And He does love us. He wanted to make a solution to the problem, and so He did. In order to erase all sin, it needed to be placed on a blameless, perfect sacrifice. There was only one way this could be done. God, himself, had to cast away His perfect Son, Jesus as the sacrifice for man's sins.
It worked, and even better, Jesus rose from the dead to prove that He was God. Now man kind has the option of accepting that sacrifice as our own and spending eternity in heaven.
My theology in a nutshell. I believe a lot of other details, but that's the crux of it.
Back to the original question: What does that have to do with my life? Now I can live as a person redeemed. Instead of fearing death, I can give glory to the One who gave me eternal life. And tell people about it, so they can too!
God has put more in my life than just worshipping Him in church, however. While my regular job is in my church, I also have kids and talk to their friends' parents. I play softball. I dawdle on Facebook and Goodreads. I have an extended family. All the while, trying to make sure I am giving the best Christian example I can.
I am also a writer. How do I incorporate the above into my writing?
Well, the Bible has already been written. And we are encouraged in the good book not to add one iota to it for dire consequences. So what's left to write?
Writing about people.
Here's the problem. Remember how I said that all people have sinned? That actually works pretty well to make for interesting books. But wouldn't God frown on reveling that sin?
As a Christian, shouldn't I be writing about how to do it right? What being a Christian looks like?
The truth would be more honest, wouldn't it?
For example, there is a situation in my first novel, Amity of the Angelmen, where a young priest (Father Mackenzie Abel) falls in love - and perhaps takes it a step too far - with a 17-year-old girl. Especially in light of all the bad press the Catholic church has received recently about abuse among priests, I was extremely nervous about putting this in.
Here's the deal. Mackenzie is not perfect, even though he is a priest. He makes mistakes. When you read the book, you will probably like the character. (The most frequent question I receive about the book is, "What happens to Mackenzie?") So, if I have done my job as an author correctly, you will feel his pain in knowing he did what he shouldn't have done. Some of you will think, "Good for him!" Others of you will think, "What are you doing?" But you will all know that he knows he has sinned.
I'm not condoning it. I'm simply saying it happens.
A book I have slated to come out possibly next year gets even darker with the life of the suicidal child of an alcoholic. I really struggled writing it, because I have no experience with a life like that. But I know it's out there. And this is a story of how God can use even someone with no self-worth to become the commander of His army.
My books aren't about perfect people. (Amity is afraid to do as she's told. Asher is prideful and uses his popularity in using girls to fill his loneliness, Malachi is an angry delinquent with plenty of blood on his hands, and Caedmon could be responsible for the death of his parents.) None of that is new to God. There is hope for these four. When the Israelites needed to to get through Jericho, they used the help of a prostitute. That prostitute wound up being in the blood line of Jesus Christ.
So, I am a Christian writer. What does that mean?
I tell it like it is, and God gets the glory for any good that comes of it. So read on, and be comforted that you are not alone.
It's the story of my life.
I love to eat. And what I love to eat is not what is best for my body. While I can say I do enjoy a good spinach salad, given the choice, it would not win out over cheesecake.
My favorite foods, in order, are:
So, yeah, I've got it bad.
The problem is that, even though I can look at a hundred and four unreadble ingredients on the side of a package, I only taste one – and it's good. Normally, when I eat French fries, they don't taste like they are slowly killing me. They taste pretty good. Good enough to eat more.
Sometimes, I'll feel it later. The grease form the fries makes my stomach complain.
Sometimes, I won't feel it later, but I'll notice its fatty remains later.
And all of it shows up later in a way I don't even feel or see at all, on my annual cholesterol report.
Satan works like this in our lives. He's been around for a while, you know. He doesn't live in hell. His home is right here on earth. We're told he is the prince of this world. And he's pretty comfortable here too. Or at least we've become pretty comfortable with his presence.
Scripture tells us Satan walks the earth looking for prey to devour. (I Peter 5:8) Do you see that happening? I don't. Sin doesn't rear its head like a wild animal, it rubs your ankles like a soft kitten. I see a lot of happy people doing what they want, little by little choosing to believe whatever makes them happy. Making themselves the authority they answer to.
Just like the ice cream I eat is slowly killing me through pleasure, Satan is slowly killing us with pleasure too. He is letting us have all the things we want, and we don't always realize when it is bad for us. The more things go our way, taste the way we like, the more it's possible for us to consider that maybe not every good and perfect gift comes from above. (James 1:17) Maybe we can do it on our own, without any help.
We can't. It's all part of the lie. Just like the lie that ice cream tastes so good, it can't be that bad.
Moving on. So, I don't weigh 800 pounds, and I have yet to have a cardiac episode. What's my secret?
Doing what I don't want to do.
Yes, that's right. I run. When I was a kid, I hated running. In the past few years, I've been trying to convince myself that I like it. But I'm convinced no one really “likes” running. It hurts! It's a pain.
It's the total opposite of all that stuff I love to eat – that suff that doesn't feel bad going down but is really bad for me. Running feels really bad going down, but is really good for me.
I've heard some people might actually like running. They have been doing it enough that their muscles know what to do without too much thinking. That surge of endorphins known as “runner's high” comes to them quickly. (I'll admit. That part is rather addicting.)
Running breaks down your muscles, little bit by bit, so that they can be rebuilt stronger when you're done. It forces your heart to beat faster to get the oxygen in your blood to the places in your body that need it. In short, it makes your body work better.
God will do that to us to. Because of the sinful world we live in, we need to be broken down, too. There are parts of us too that need to be exercised when all we want to do is sit around. We need to get up off our keisters and work!
If I didn't indulge so much in what was bad for me, I wouldn't have to run so much. (Between running and biking, I get in about 50 miles a week. That's a lot of donuts.) But if I ate perfectly, could I be completely sedentary?
Moot point. I could never eat perfectly. We have a world that is imperfect. Even if I ate all fruits and veggies, they could be contaminated with pesticides. Is it possible to eat perfectly? I don't know. Because I don't want to. I want the bad stuff. It's too enticing.
Are you catching the connection here? We can't be perfect. As long as we live in this imperfect world with all of Satan's beautiful distractions and brownie sundaes, we're sunk. One thing that this analogy doesn't make clear is how easy the work is we need to do. All we need to do is accept his Gift of Jesus. No running shoes required.
It's still going to be tough to live in this way too tasty world of comfort. So we need to make sure we keep running back to Him.
God provided a way for us. He made it so that we won't die. It might not seem as enjoyable as sin, but that's just because we have never known pure goodness.
Can you imagine the ice cream in heaven. New meaning for the word, “heavenly,” if you ask me. I can't wait to try it.
*Please note. This is meant to be a light commentary and not an exact theology.
Passion Under Grace,