Is God a Megalomaniac?

In a recent Everlasting Truths radio broadcast one of the pastor’s commented, “God is not ultimately for us, He is ultimately for Himself.” By that he meant God’s work in this world is to bring glory to Himself. Some see this and believe God must be a maniac who is psychotically bent on having everyone worship Him and on doing that which makes Himself looks better. Does the Bible teach that God is doing everything for His own glory? If it does, does that mean God is a self-centered jerk?

The Bible does teach that God is working in this world to bring glory to Himself. Revelation 4:11 says, “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.” Jesus told his disciples, “He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” In Isaiah 48:11 God tells the Jews why He would rescue them from captivity and judgment, “For mine own sake, even for mine own sake, will I do it: for how should my name be polluted? And I will not give my glory unto another.” God is working in the world for His own glory.

Since this is a Biblical idea, does it mean that God is a self-centered maniac? If a person acts this way he is considered to have a mental disorder. Brad Pitt could not accept God’s call to worship Him alone. He said, “I didn’t understand this idea of a God who says, ‘You have to acknowledge me. You have to say that I’m the best, and then I’ll give you eternal happiness. If you won’t, then you don’t get it!’ It seemed to be about ego. I can’t see God operating from ego, so it made no sense to me.” Michael Prowse, a writer for a London newspaper said, “We know that human tyrants, puffed up with pride, crave adulation and homage. But a morally perfect God would surely have no character defects. So why are all those people on their knees every Sunday?”

Statements like these suppose God’s desire for the exaltation of His own glory is a personality flaw that brings injury to others. When a maniac rules a nation for his own aggrandizement, it always bring suffering and ruin on that nation. Only when the unfortunate citizens of that land are freed from his tyranny is there a measure of good brought to them. Is this true of God? Does His rule result in our misery? Is our rebellion the only means to bring joy to mankind?

When God created humanity He designed men to know Him, to walk with Him and to love Him. The Bible gives a glimpse of the paradise that existed while man walked with God and obeyed Him fully. When man rebelled paradise was lost. Misery, death, sorrow and pain filled the world. When God calls men to worship Him He is calling them to return to the place we abandoned to venture into the desolation of sin. He is calling humanity to leave the things which bring condemnation and wrath upon the world to return to Him who gives goodness and joy. When God demands men worship Him it is for His glory and for our good. These two things cannot be separated: what exalts God is good for mankind.

God does not demand our worship as if he needed his ego soothed or his self-esteem bolstered. God does not need anything from man. Paul says in Acts 17, “God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed anything, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things.” “For in him we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17:24-25, 28) God does not need our worship for His own sake. He commands our worship because it is due Him and it is good for us. God is ultimately concerned with Himself because He is infinitely concerned for us.

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How can I give thanks for everything?

How does a Christian give thanks for terrible events? Fatal disease, personal tragedy, national catastrophe, evil men and inhuman atrocities are just some of the grim things that are always occurring in this world. Should a Christian give thanks for things like murder or child abuse?

The Bible commands Christians to give thanks in every thing, give thanks for every thing and give thanks all the time.
“In everything give thanks.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
“Giving thanks always for all things.” (Ephesians 5:20)
“In every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.” (Philippians 4:6)
“Do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by Him.” (Colossians 3:17)
“By Him therefore let us therefore offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to His name.” (Hebrews 13:15)

How can a compassionate Christian obey these commands?

Giving thanks for bad things is not treating evil as if it is good. Nor is it trying to excuse evil. Evil will always be a horrible tragedy. Giving thanks for calamity does not deny the painful reality of suffering. Instead, giving thanks for evil recognizes the good purposes of God that are being accomplished in even the most terrible evnts. Consider the most inhuman evil ever perpetrated in the world. The rejection of the Son of God followed by His unjust execution is the most horrible thing to ever happen. Yet Christians always thank God for Jesus’ death on the cross. In the Lord’s Supper Christians gather to remember and give thanks to God for the death of Jesus. Jesus Himself gave thanks at the first Lord’s Supper. Though He knew the suffering waiting for Him Jesus gave thanks to God in that time of great personal agony. Jesus did not deny the horrors of what was coming. He knew them, looked them full in the face and thanked God. Christians can thank God for terrible things without acting as if evil is good or pain is pleasant.

Giving thanks is not just about the thanking God for the pleasant things we receive from Him. It is easy to give thanks for answered prayers, a nice home or a pay raise. Giving thanks is about more than the blessings of God. Giving thanks is about recognizing God’s good hand in everything that happens. Giving thanks looks above the circumstances to acknowledge the holy God who is accomplishing His good purposes in all things.

Christians can give thanks because we recognize that temporary benefit is not the most important thing. We can be grateful for painful circumstances because we know they are working in us eternal good. (2 Corinthians 4:17) God’s primary interest is not in increasing our comfort or in helping us achieve our dreams. God’s concern is for our eternal gain. Giving thanks looks beyond the present to the promised. Continual thankfulness looks past the temporary to the eternal good that God is working.

We give thanks because God is good, God is sovereign, God is accomplishing the eternal plan promised in Scripture, God is redeeming men and God is using every situation to change the Christian into the likeness of Jesus. We give thanks because no matter how much the situation changes, God is the same and He is always accomplishing what is best for those who love Him.

Should Christian’s use Marijuana?

In the November elections the state of Michigan passed a ballot proposal to legalize recreational marijuana. Ten states now allow recreational marijuna us. Thirty-three allow the use of medicinal marijuana. In the two years since the following article was originally posted the legal landscape has changed significantly. For Christians, the major issue remains the same.

The acceptance of marijuana use has increased significantly in America. We have come a long way from the 1980’s “Just Say No” anti-drug campaign. Today marijuana is praised as a marvelous medicine for those suffering from ailments like glaucoma, persistent pain and the lack of the munchies.

Over half of the states in America have legalized some form of marijuana use for medicinal purposes. Seven states now allow recreational use of marijuana. If the progression continues many Christians will find themselves living in a state which permits relatively unrestricted use of marijuana. Will Christians then have the freedom to use marijuana?

The legalization of marijuana is a complex subject involving many aspects that do not fall under the scope of this ministry (this is not a political, scientific or medical blog). The question being discussed today is limited to using marijuana recreationally. Using THC or CBD based substances that are prescribed and overseen by a competent physician is an entirely different issue.

Though marijuana use is legal in some states, it is still illegal across America because of federal statutes. Marijuana is classified as a schedule one drug and is thus a controlled substance whose use and distribution is subject to federal prosecution. In other words, using marijuana is forbidden by the federal government and you can be arrested for it even if you have a prescription.

Christians in American are citizens of a state and the nation. Romans 13 says, “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers.” “Ye must needs be subject . . . for conscience sake.” Christians are obligated by God to obey the governing officials. In those cases where the laws of the state and the laws of the nation disagree, the Christian is still bound to obey them all. Though the state where a Christian lives may allow the use of marijuana the nation does not. Consequently, obedience to the higher powers requires the Christian to obey the federal government and abstain from using marijuana.

Though the federal government may not enforce the law, or at least not enforce the law consistently, yet that law is in place. Until such time as the nation repeals the ban on marijuana use Christians are bound by their Scriptural duty to the government and not smoke marijuana. If the federal government eventually permits the use of marijuana those living in a state which forbids it must obey the state’s prohibition.

However, even if the nation were to permit the use of marijuana Christians have a higher obligation that forbids their use of the drug. The Christian is not to participate in anything that would enslave him. Marijuana is an addictive and mind altering substance. The Christian must never be under the power of any addiction. The Christian must never be under the control of anything but the Holy Spirit. If the child of God is forbidden to get drunk (Ephesians 5:18) then certainly being high on other substances must be equally inappropriate. Christians have no business using marijuana or any other drug for the purposes of getting high, relaxed, buzzed or stoned. The believers mind, heart and life is to be controlled by the Holy Spirit, not intoxicating substances.

Was Jesus created?

A recent survey conducted by LifeWay Research indicated that over 3/4 of Americans believe “Jesus was the first and greatest being created by God the Father.” This finding is astounding because it shows that many Americans hold to a belief that contradicts one of the most significant tenets of Christianity. The doctrine of the deity is Jesus is shared by all Christian denominations except the Christian cults. From the very earliest days of Christianity, Christians have affirmed that Jesus is the eternal God.

The Athanasian Creed declares, “The Son is uncreated”, “The son is eternal” and “The Son was neither made nor created.” These statement are merely a reflection of the clear New Testament teaching that Jesus is God. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.” (John 1:1-3) The words of John 1:3 make it impossible for Jesus to be created by God. If nothing was made apart from Jesus making it, then Jesus Himself could not be a creation. He must have eternally existed, as John 1:1 teaches. He was in the beginning with God because He is eternally God.

Why then does Colossians 1:15 describe Jesus as “the firstborn of every creature?” The word “firstborn” in Colossians speaks to rank, not birth order. Paul is saying that Jesus is the chief over all creation. This becomes obvious in the next couple verses as Paul goes on to say, “By Him were all things created that are in heaven, and that are in earth . . . all things were created by Him, and for Him . . . that in all things He might have the preeminence.” Jesus is Creator and He is supreme over His creation. This great position is His so all will know He is most important.

Why then is Jesus called “the only begotten Son” of God? Jesus is the Son of God. He is God the Son, the second person of the Trinity. He is not the Son of God because in eternity past the Father caused the Son to come into existence. Jesus is the Son of God because that is the title given to Him in Scripture which describes the eternal relationship which exists between God the Father and God the Son. Jesus is the only begotten Son of God because He is God the Son who was begotten of God as a human being. The begottenness of Jesus is not a description of how the Son came to exist, but of how the Son became a man.

The New Testament consistently declares that Jesus is God, the Creator of all things and the Savior of men. He is “the beginning and the end, saith the Lord, which is, which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.” (Revelation 1:8) Jesus was not created by the Father. He had no beginning and will have no ending.

Can Christians Learn God’s Will by Casting Lots?

Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus and then committed suicide. Weeks later the disciples sought to replace Judas. The disciples chose two men out of the 120 people in the upper room and then they cast lots to see which of the two would be the twelfth apostle. This is the last reference in the Bible to casting lots, and the only time the New Tesament describes Christians making a decision by casting lots.

Casting lots was a regular practice in Israel during Old Testament times. God instructed the Israelites to cast lots as part of the prescribed ritual on the day of atonement. The high priest would cast lots to decide which of two goats would be sacrificed. Later, lots were cast to assign land to tribes and cities to families. When the temple was built lots were cast to arrange the service of certain Levites. The book of Proverbs seems to speak favorably of casting lots. “The lot causeth contentions to cease, and parteth between the mighty.” (Proverbs 18:18) “The lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof is of the Lord.” (Proverbs 16:33)

Casting lots in the Bible was the process of reaching a decision through the random result of thrown sticks, stones or bones. The most common modern parallel is flipping a coin– heads we go out to eat, tails we eat at home. Sometimes the coin is tossed to reach an impartial decision, sometimes to resolve a dispute and sometimes to reach a decision when a person cannot decide. Though the Old Testament used lots as a legitimate part of certain decisions, the New Testament church never did. Is it alright for Christians to roll dice, draw cards or flip coins to determine God’s will?

The Bible does not condemn casting lots, but the New Testament has no examples of casting lots after the reception of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. Once Christians received the Holy Spirit they did not need to rely on external devices for guidance. When the church selected elders, deacons or missionaries they did not cast lots. When the apostles sought God’s direction in their ministry travels they did not cast lots. The apostles and early church made decisions through prayer, the Word of God and the Holy Spirit’s instructions. The Holy Spirit’s guidance of every Christian eliminates the need to cast lots.

Instead of casting lots, Christians are to learn the will of God. In the book of Colossians Paul prayed for the believers to “be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding.” Prayer is a key element of learning the will of God. When Paul desired to go to Rome and then to Spain he asked the church to pray for him that he would be able to do so.

The will of God is learned through the Word of God. God’s commands are always God’s will. The wise application of Biblical principles also direct the Christian to know God’s will. In situations where the Biblical commands and principles leave room for a Christian to legitimately choose any of several options, then the Christian ought to make the best decision possible while trusting God to guide and protect in the decision making process. If God directs the fall of the lot, how much more will He direct His child who seeks to make a wise decision that obeys and honors Him.

How should we respond to the Brett Kavanaugh debates?

The strife regarding Brett Kavanaugh continues to hold America’s attention and promises to dominate the news for some time to come. Christians, like everyone else, are struggling to understand this long and contentious process. Few, if any, judicial nominees have been the subject of such a vicious conflict. How should Christian’s respond to this whole situation? Does the Bible give any principles to guide us through this ordeal?

This article is not intended to address whether or not Kavanaugh’s nomination should be confirmed, but how to think about and respond to the controversy of the situation. The before the Senate has moved away from whether or not Mr. Kavanaugh should be confirmed to whether or not he perpetrated various acts of sexual misconduct, including sexual assault. The accusations against him are serious. Sexual violence is never excusable. God clearly forbids all sexual immorality and sexual violence (Deuteronomy 22:25). Assaults upon any person are evil. No Christian should brush such an accusation aside as unimportant because the accused shares our political leanings. If the events happened as described then Brett Kavanaugh committed a great evil. The statute of limitations has run out so he is not criminally prosecutable, but he and any who have sinned in this matter will be judged by God. God fully knows the truth and will bring every sin into judgment.

It is impossible for anyone to know the full truth of the matter, especially those of us who are getting their information second hand from news reports or online news feeds. Proverbs says, “He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto Him.” (Proverbs 28:13) In this situation the average person will never properly hear the matter. The Christian needs to speak with care and reserve judgment or rigid opinion about the truth of the accusations.

In all things act charitably and graciously. “Let your speech be always with grace seasoned with salt.” (Colossians 4:6) No matter what happens, and how strong your feelings may be on this topic, always speak words that minister grace to others. Never speak words that defame, enrage, slander, embitter or belittle.

Regardless of personal opinions about the issue and the people involve, always speak respectfully of the appointed leaders. Speak respectfully of Brett Kavanaugh and the Senators involved in his hearing. They are the ministers of God appointed for our good and the good of the nation. (Romans 13) We must always treat them with honor and respect, even when we don’t think they deserve it. One way in which the Christian honors his government is through prayer. Pray for Mr. Kavanaugh, Congress and all who are involved in this process. (1 Timothy 2:1-3)

In all the turmoil, do not lose sight the importance of the Supreme Court. Whoever sits on the Supreme Court weighs significant matters of law that deeply effect the lives of every American. Whether they be issues of hurman life and marriage or issues of healthcare and international trade, the Supreme Court is entrusted with a huge responsibility. The character of those who sit on that court matters. Righteousness still matters. Integrity in government matters. The principle of Proverbs 14:34 is still true, “Righteousness exalteth a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.”

Does God hate religion?

Alex Himaya wrote a book entitled, “Jesus hates religion.” He said that, “Jesus is about love and relationship, not rules and religion.” A quick search online turns up dozens of reasons why God hates religion. “Religion has started wars.” “Religion builds huge churches but fails to feed the poor.” “Religion sees people as the enemy, but Jesus sees sin as the enemy.” “Religion keeps people from God.” “Religion is a replacement for a relationship with Him.” This popular notion sets up a conflict between religious institutions and Jesus. With the problems in many churches, the failure of organized religion to address injustice and the sheer hypocrisy of many religious adherents it is tempting to believe that God really does hate religion.

God created religion. After man sinned, God began to teach sinful man how he could come to God in worship and fellowship. This way of coming to God is religion. Man immediately began to devise his own way to approach God. Cain’s failure in worship is the earliest example of human religion. Man’s attempt to come to God in his own way is also religion. If “God hates religion” means that God hates man’s own efforts to approach him, then yes, that statement is true. The Old Testament shows time and time again that God rejects all attempts to come to Him except according to the way He prescribed. “All our righteousnesses are as filthy rags.” (Isaiah 64:6) If religion is defined, as one author said, as “a man made path to God”, then God hates religion. But if you mean God hates the religion He gave to humanity, then that’s just nonsense. Not only does God not hate His religion, He requires men to follow it.

The argument cannot be made that God liked religion in the Old Testament but not in the New. Jesus established New Testament religion that includes rules, rituals and doctrine. Jesus established the church (Matthew 16:18), appointed its leaders (Ephesians 4:11-12), defined its practices (Matthew 18:15-17, 28:19-20; Luke 22:19-20; Colossians 3:16; 1 Timothy 4:13) and established its doctrines. (Galatians 1:11-12) No one can argue that Jesus is all about relationship but not rules. He said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” (John 14:15) and “Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.” (John 15:14) Jesus does not hate the religion He gave to humanity.

Many religious institutions have abused the teachings of Jesus. Religion has divided people and has been a major factor in a number of wars. Religion has been used to cloak the worst kind of abuse and depravity. God hates man-centered, self-righteous and man-devised religions. God gave religion to man as a good thing enabling the sinner to come to Him. Man has misused and perverted God’s good gift, but God still loves the religion He instituted when it is followed according to His instructions. There is such a thing as pure religion which all who seek to follow Christ must participate in. None can truly say they love Christ but not His religion. “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” (James 1:27)