The God Imprint; Part 5 Other faiths…

June 22

One of the things I hear quite often is that Christians tend to be exclusive and “narrow-minded” when it comes to what others may believe. “After all,” it is said, “All roads lead to God.” Or: “There are so many good things, and good people, in other religions – why be so demanding about believing your way?”

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This sentiment isn’t just from religious people… it also includes non-religious people, who say things like: “we are truly moral, because we do what is right just because it is right – and not because we are looking to gain some reward, or avoid some punishment from some god.”

So how do we respond to those who say all religions are “good” – and to those who pose the question: why is God even necessary for good morals?

Just this way… First, we need to understand two very essential things. One is that all confusing-street-sign1religions do NOT lead us to God. The reason for this is because religion is man’s ideas of how to get to God. “Take this path. Do this thing. Talk this way. Pray these prayers. Perform these rituals.” All religion, at it’s core, is based upon human effort to get us to God (or to get God to like us).

Christianity is not a religion (although it CAN be made into one). At the heart of true value-the-blood-of-jesusChristianity, is God’s efforts to bring us to Himself. It is never what we DO that merits God’s favor or attention – it is accepting what God has done for us that brings us into relationship with Him. At it’s core, Christianity is a relationship with God – based upon a mutual love and proper respect.

This brings us to the other thing we need to understand. God alone is good. Even when RYRJesus was called “good,” he deflected our attention to its proper place: “No one is good, except God alone.” (Mark 10:18; Luke 18:19)* Religion does not make us good people – it makes us people who think our efforts at goodness make us like God (or make us pleasing to God). God has a term for our efforts at righteousness… “filthy rags.” NOT the robes of gleaming righteousness that we think we are wearing.

Christians are not people who are trying to be good. We are people who have attached ourselves, by faith, to the One Who is good. This connection allows HIM to inhabit us – bringing His goodness, and His good works, into this world, through us. Do you see the difference? Good works ARE God works. And the only way that good is produced through us, is by the One Who is good.

“Well, that is fine,” you might say. “But what about all the good things (unselfish, helpful things) that people of all faiths (and even non-faith) do for others, all over the world? What do we make of that?”

For me, it is profoundly simple. And we have been talking about it over the past several days. It is the God imprint, at work, in every human being. God put the imprint of Himself within each of us – which draws us to the things that resonate from His divine character. Things like loving, helping, giving, doing right by other people. All these things are the core values of God – and He has placed them at our very core.

The real key is understanding why they are there in the first place. They are not there just to get us to live moral lives. They are there to compel us to search out and connect with the One Who put them there.

They are “home” calling us from our tireless wandering – to the place where all those inner virtues find their ultimate expression and meaning…

Welcomed home

Prayer focus: God, help me to see the infinite value of living in You – and having You live through me.

 

* People have used this statement to denounce the deity of Jesus. They say, “See, even Jesus doesn’t want to claim to be God.” But that is not what Jesus is saying. He is simply saying, “Think about what YOU are saying… if you are calling Me good, you are calling Me God.” Jesus WAS good. Therefore: Jesus WAS God. This is no denial, but an affirmation.

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The God Imprint; part 4 God-shaped Vacuum…

June 21

We have all probably heard some spiritual sage tell us that we each have a God-shaped 6 21 God shaped vacuumvacuum that only He can fill. This is certainly true. That vacuum began when God had the idea of us, and proceeded to shape us in His Own image. That vacuum was formed in the very shape of His Own likeness. ONLY God can fill that place!

This is why we need Him. And why the enemy of God fights so strenuously to keep us from recognizing that need.

This is what forms the battleground. And the battle really boils down to one thing… who or what will fill your life.

This is the other thing… we are all aware of this God-shaped vaccum. It is another part of what God imprinted within us – that cannot be taken away.

But what so many people often try to do, is fill this vacuum with the things of this world. This can be some very selfish things. But, quite often, it is very good things… things like being successful at your job, or loving your spouse and kids, or finding a cause that is a benefit for other people, and on and on.

These are good things. But can be substitutes for the one thing that matters most.

God designed us to pursue things that matter to us – with a passion. But He also designed us to pursue Him first and foremost. It is only when we discover the fullness of relationship with Him (filling that vacuum) that we are actually capable of truly effecting the world for good.

6 21 seek-first-the-kingdomJesus said it best: “Seek first (and foremost) the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you.” (Matt. 6:33) “All these things” are all the things that people pursue in life. What Jesus is telling us is this… when we are filled with God – then, and only then, are we at peace within ourselves, and are able to have something of substance to give to others.

It is a fundamental principle of the Kingdom of God that we have to have something to give something. And God is supremely interested in supplying for those whose hearts are set upon Him. First, He supplies Himself – and then the resources of His abundance to meet needs around us.

But everything begins with pursuing God.

first pursuit

This is not as difficult as it might seem. He is the One Who is actually pursuing us. He is eager for relationship with us – but He will not force Himself upon us (even though that just might be the best thing for us!). He is waiting for us to end our pursuit of all other things, so that He can have our undivided attention.

We humans are famous for wanting God… and wanting everything else too. Christians are also human. And we tend to fall in line with what everyone else does.

This is part of the reason why Christians end up acting (and reacting) no different than people who are not believers. We have not yet given ourselves completely to the King.

Until the vacuum is filled, only with God, we are not yet ready to live as God has imprinted upon us.

Prayer focus: God, may my heart be completely Yours, so that You might fill me with all I need.

phil-vischer-80-19-39

 

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The God Imprint; Part 3 Losing sight…

June 20

crueltyOne of the primary reasons given for why people reject faith in God, is often stated as something like “the cruelty of the world.” In other words, people look at all the terrible things that people do to one another and conclude that, since this world is such a horrible place, there is no way that God could have made it.

There are a couple of things that grab our attention, here…

First, there is the assumption that a perfect God would not (could not!) have created such a messed up world. God couldn’t be real, because, if He was, this world would be a much different (and far better) place.

But where did we get this sense of the perfection of God? How is it that we instinctively attach perfection (and “all things right”) to Him? Then, when we don’t see that perfection, we conclude that a perfect God could not have been involved in such a cruel disaster.

Second, how do we come to this conclusion that the world is “wrong” or “imperfect.” We circle-life-23936511look at all the predation and violence in the world, and abhor it. Yet, that is exactly the standard of the animal world. The animal world survives by predation and violence (that whole circle of life thing!). Why is it right for the animal world, and not right for the human animal world?

The answers lie within the fact that we just cannot escape the God Imprint within us. Even when we are not readily aware of it. God put it there. Not only to give us the framework for how we should live, but also to help us to live within that framework.

So why do we fail to live by these intrinsic standards that God placed within us?

The Bible tells us… It is because sin, and its effects, have distorted our “sight.” Or more accurately, we lose sight of that God Imprint within us. Other things, other pursuits, other objectives become more “real” – and more important to us.

Simply stated: we learn to forget that God made us in His Own Image, stamping His likeness into our DNA. Because we lose sight of what makes us so special (and so important) our sight shifts to our own pursuits, our own desires, our own causes.

In this state, our decisions and our actions no longer reflect the God Imprint – they are the reflection of our own self-centered animal nature. When we lose sight that we are selfish goalsdivinely endowed, we resort back to the one thing that we know best… our own wants, our own pleasures, or whatever we think will make us happy. And we pursue those things with a passion – in spite of how it may impact our own lives… or effect others, around us.

Whenever we lose sight of the God Imprint, we also lose sight of our divine purpose to be God’s representatives on this earth – and people are going to get hurt.

The reason that this world is such a mess (and that we know it is such a mess) is because we were placed in charge, we were given the capacity to live and act just as God does, and we (through sin) forgot WHY we were created in the first place.

The fault for the cruelty of the world, is not God’s – it is our own.

psalm-23-3-4-jesus-god-restores-my-soulBut here is the wonder of God. The whole reason why Jesus came to this earth was to restore every one of us back to God’s purpose for our lives. It wasn’t just to forgive us our sins – it was to bring us back to seeing the God Imprint within us.

But it is even greater still… When we look at the life and ministry of Jesus (in the gospels) we are actually seeing what the God Imprint looks like. Jesus came as the Model of everything God intended for every person born on this earth. That we could actually form and shape this world, after God’s Image… by BEing His Image, everywhere we go.

Prayer focus: God, open my eyes to see the wonder of all you have made me to be.

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The God Imprint; Part 2 Inside Information

June 19

God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…” (from Genesis 1:26)

When I was a kid, at Christmas time, it was a bit of a tradition to make Christmas cookies. You know the drill… make sugar cookie dough, roll it out on a flat surface, and use cookie cutters to make your cookies into various Christmas-themed treats.

christmas cookiesThis was especially fun for us kids, who took great pleasure (and care) in selecting our favorite cutter shapes, “cutting out” our own particular cookies, and decorating them with colored frosting (after they were baked, of course). In every cookie, we put just a little of ourselves – and took great pride in our work.

It strikes me that at the very heart of what it is to be human is this understanding: Our divine Creator took the time to form and shape us – and the shape He used was Himself. Just like us kids, He put a lot of Himself into what He was doing.

The real question is why??

gods dnaWe touched on the answer yesterday. It seems that God always wanted us to know that He was there, that He was real – and He wanted that knowledge to be with us forever. He literally made Himself a part of our DNA. He put aspects of Himself into everything we are. Clues to His existence, that could only come from Him.

Over the past few days we have been talking about evidence for God’s existence. I purposefully focused on things that are within us, that cannot be adequately explained as the effect of natural forces. Things that are distinctive to humans alone.

peaceThings like the notion of perfection. How we dream of a perfect world where everyone treats everyone else with respect, consideration, and love – and where our hearts for each other eliminate world hunger, conflict, and strife. Perfection, peace and harmony are all characteristics of the divine Person.

Or like the sense of eternity. We just seem to know that there is life after this life. This is because God is eternal – and He has placed that sense of the eternal into every human heart – into the very core of our beings.

Right-vs.-WrongOr like our sense of morality. We are all intrinsically aware of what we ought to do – that there are things that are morally “right.” This comes from the holiness of God – Whose commitment to “right” and righteousness is impeccable.

Or our ability to be rational. Of all the creatures on earth, humans are the only ones to be able to think, reason, contemplate, and draw rational conclusions. We are the reflection of the very Mind of God – Who has thoughts, Who reasons, and Who makes decisions after “the counsel of His Own will.” (Ephesians 1:11)

These things are not within us by accident. They did not develop over millennia of chance occurrences. These are the personal work of a Personal God – whose proof of His Own existence was purposely placed within each of us… By His design.

imprintSo whenever we dream of perfection, or sense that there is more to life than we currently see, or we just know when something is right or wrong, or we come up with an idea that becomes some thing, or we just think about life or truth or how things ought to be… we are experiencing the effects of inside information – that could only have come from Someone Who stamped us out of His Own image.

Prayer focus: God, thank You for making ME after Your Own image and likeness.

 

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The God Imprint

June 18

in-the-beginning

 

I find it remarkable that, throughout the pages of the Bible, God never once gives us irrefutable proof of His existence. You would think that a matter of such importance would be prevalent throughout the Scriptures – that the Author of the Bible would give us several rock-solid proofs that He is real – and that He is ever-present. But not one verse. Not one phrase. Not one word.

Some have speculated that this is probably because the Bible was written for God’s people (the Jews) who already believed in the Almighty – so no reasonable proof was necessary.

But, this seems short-sighted. God surely knew that the Bible would become the Source of His truth for ALL people (and not just for those who already believed in Him). Believers, pagans, skeptics, and those totally ignorant of Him – the Bible is God’s Personal guide given to every human being, for all of time. How could something so important as the proof of God’s Own existence, escape His attention?

I don’t think it did. I think He gave us all something that would endure forever – something that goes beyond words (something that cannot be argued away).

And it was there in front of us all along. It was mentioned in the very first expression of His intention for all of creation.

It was so simple that we missed it. Or, at least, we didn’t really see it for what it was. It was God’s work to assure that each of us can know that He is real – and that He has a plan and a purpose for our lives…

God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…” (from Genesis 1:26)

let-us-make-man-in-our-image-570x349

Now, these words have been studied and debated for centuries. Many thinkers (far greater than myself) have given us much to consider. But it seems to me that the one thing that we must all understand is that God created us with Himself in Mind. And He put into us, His Own qualities (albeit, on a limited scale).

We are the ultimate copies of the Most High. We are stamped out of His Own Person and Character – the physical representations of the Lord of Heaven.

But it is more than that.

He put things within us that only He possesses. Things that could not have happened without the imprint of Himself upon our spirits. Things that could not have happened by chance or circumstance. He was the Cause. We were the effect.

And we bear His imprint upon our very souls. He made us (formed us) out of the stuff of earth – and breathed into us the stuff of Heaven.

What are the implications of this? For that matter, what are the applications of this?

We will look at these things tomorrow…

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Evidence; Part 9    Rationality…

June 17

“”Come now, and let us reason together,” says the LORD (from Isaiah 1:18)

I find it very interesting that one of the most prolific criticisms of Christianity is that it is not rational. That it is all fables and fairy tales about an imaginary friend. That it offers nothing of rational substance to anyone but the simple-minded. That reason and faith are anything but compatible.

But the truth is: Christianity is very rational.

There are plenty of logical Christians who have found that reason and faith are not only compatible partners – they are indispensable to their lives. Authors such as Timothy Keller, Lee Strobel, Josh McDowell, and C. S. Lewis (just to name a few of my favorites) look at the tough questions and bring solid, rational answers to those who are willing to hear them.

God is a thinking God. Scripture reminds us that God’s thoughts are “not like our thoughts… as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are His thoughts higher than ours.” (Isaiah 55:8) And we are advised of “the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!” (Romans 11:33) His thoughts are infinite in wisdom and understanding and truth.

Come-Now-Let-Us-Reason-Together-06-02-16Yet, here is the fascinating thing… In spite of His lofty status, He invites people to come to Him, to converse with Him, “and reason together.”

If we were, indeed, created by a God of infinite Mind, we should not be surprised to discover that He desires to share His thoughts with us – and He actually desires for us to share our thoughts with Him. For this to happen, He endowed human beings with minds that were capable of thinking, and processing, and learning, and understanding not only their Creator – but also life and living. God wanted us to know Him, and communicate with Him – and He endowed us with minds that were able to do just that.

darwin2Charles Darwin popularized the belief that human minds are similar to the animals, and merely incrementally more intelligent, as a result of our higher evolution. But new research is proving something else entirely. According to Marc Hauser, director of the cognitive evolution lab at Harvard University, “mounting evidence indicates that, in contrast to Darwin’s theory of a continuity of mind between humans and other species, a profound gap separates our intellect from the animal kind.”

We are not just “higher thinking” animals. We were imbued with mental abilities that separate us from all other creatures on earth. This is another important clue. We are the product of special design, by a special Designer, for a special purpose. We were created with abilities that allow us to comprehend, and reflect, the Mind of our Designer.

cell-phone-compare-mainThink about all the amazing inventions and technical VRadvancements that we utilize every day. All of these “creations” began with a thought in the mind of a single human being. That thought was given more thought, became a design, and eventually… became the physical incarnation of that thought.

God has given human beings the capacity to think, imagine, and create (just like He does) – to remind us that we are, in fact, made in His image – as a physical reflection of His Own abilities and character.

God is rational. Faith in Him is not wishful thinking or make-believe. It is also rational. In His thoughtfulness, He designed it to be just that way.

6 17 greg-koukl

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Evidence; Part 8 Morality…

June 16

Have you ever wondered if animals have souls? I have.

The classic definition of the soul is that it is the collection of the mind, the will, and emotions. So, from this definition, we can draw some preliminary conclusions…

Daisy and Cody 1As I consider my two dogs (Daisy and Cody) it is fairly clear that they possess all three. At times, you can tell they are thinking about things (you can just see the wheels spinning). Rudimentary thoughts, I’m sure, but thoughts nonetheless.

As for the will… check. Especially Cody. He is an expert at exercising his will frequently (much to the consternation of his master!).

And as for emotions… you bet. In them, I have seen: fear, happiness, anger, anxiety, and even some sadness (especially when they sense we are leaving on a journey).

So if our dogs are typical of other animals… then, we might conclude that (according to the classic definition) animals may have souls. But does that make them equal to humans? And if not, what separates us from all other animals?

Tightrope Between ThumbsOne of the great differences is that human beings possess the capacity to determine what is right and wrong. We not only make choices (exercising our wills), we make moral choices. My dogs don’t do this. It seems that humans possess a “filter” that assists us in making the choices of our lives. We call this… a conscience.

But the real question is where did our conscience come from? How did it come to be within us? And why is it that only human beings seem to possess a conscience?

It is important to note that we are not just talking about an ability to use our minds to determine our morals (although this is certainly a part of it). There are some things that go beyond our moral feelings or reasonings. There are some things that appear to be embedded into the very fiber of our being.

first-respons_621Like when a natural disaster occurs, and there is a tremendous outpouring of help for those who are devastated by the tragedy. People feel compelled to give of themselves to help total strangers. They feel it is the “right” thing to do. Even if it is costly or inconvenient.

drowningOr when we are walking beside a river and notice someone drowning in the water. We are compelled to help – even if it could cost us our own life in the process of helping. And if we choose NOT to help, we feel guilty about our neglect.

Or when we hear of a school shooting, or a bombing at a concert, or the horrors of sex trafficking – we immediately feel the need to condemn such things, because “they are just wrong.”

Could our conscience have arisen through centuries of development? That seems unlikely. If we are products of natural selection and “survival of the fittest,” what is the DogEatDogbenefit of altruism towards others? If it has always been “dog eat dog” then it is more advantageous to just “eat the dog” than heal the dog. Survival is always easier when we make the commitment only to take care of ourselves, and our own.

Yet, there is something within us that actually seeks to help, and to heal, those who are in need, or broken. We actually feel this is “right.”

It is my contention that the best explanation for this, is that conscience was placed within us by our Creator (Who also has a Heart to help and to heal). He did this to aid us in making our choices – and in making choices that respect and honor Him.

The real problem with our consciences is that they are malleable. They can be shaped and reshaped in accord with our thought processes and our experiences. We can actually subvert our consciences, in our desire to adhere to some questionable passion or cause. It is even possible for us to silence our consciences completely – and to sear them to the point where they are no longer a help to us.

And it is at that point that we revert back to the animal world, with animal passions, that make our choices no better than any other animal’s.

Without conscience… animals are all that we are.

clear conscience

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