God Doesn’t “Make Time”

A lot has occurred in my life since I wrote my last English blog in November and posted the last Italian blog in March. Two days after Christmas my parents visited us in Verona, it was the first time my 75-year-old mom had ever flown. While walking downtown on January 3rd she had a massive stroke and was in the hospital for a month before flying back to the States, my dad hardly left her side.

I continue to spend untold hours studying the Italian language that I might effectively preach the gospel. Each week much of my time is spent in evangelism, Bible studies, tract distribution, sermon development and investing in the Italian people that I love. Earlier this year we also spent months preparing for a summer mission team from one of our supporting churches.

Sandy, in spite of some health issues, continues to pour herself into our family. Planning family days, leading us in adventures, organizing crafts and games for the kids, baking with Pearl, hosting Italian friends for dinner, monotonous daily duties, and so much more keep her always on the move.

The kids have finished another school year and next week they will begin a new one. Isaiah and Pearl are growing up far too quickly for their parents liking, they continually entertain us, and both constantly have an eye on what tomorrow holds.

There have been so many things occur in our lives that I have wished to record with a blog, so many observations in life I would have liked to jot down and post on our website. There have been many interesting happenings in society and the world that warranted a thoughtful reflection that sometimes only writing can clarify and crystallize the arguments that flow in my mind – things like the presidential election, BLM, transgender and sexual identity, the earthquake in Amatrice, and so many more.

As much as I would like to have been consistent in writing, I never made the time. I never arranged my busy schedule to include submitting a weekly blog. This past week, as I determined to once again begin to write, I decided to continue with my observations of Stephen Charnock’s puritan classic The Existence and Attributes of God, and as chapter 5 addresses the eternity of God I was struck by the thought that God never has to “make time” or arrange his schedule to do anything. God is eternal. Time is but a drop surrounded by the endless ocean of his eternity.

To be in time is to have a beginning – to be before all time is never to have a beginning but always to be. God always was, always is, and always will be what he is. He is always the same perfection. As nothing is past or future in regard of his essence so nothing is past or future with him in regard of knowledge.

Volume 1 Chapter 5: On The Eternity of God

The consideration of the eternal duration of God is both a comfort as well as a great challenge. A comfort in that it is impossible a Christian, who is united to the immortal God, can ever perish. Should the Lord’s return tarry, death will seize upon us by God’s irreversible decree however our Creator will cause death to “disgorge his morsel,” as the whale did Jonah, and land the believer in a glorious immortality with a changeless God.

As Charnock notes, the happiness of our souls depends upon his many other attributes but the perpetuity of it depends upon his eternity. Would there be any comfort in God’s wisdom if it could be confounded? Is there any solace in a mercy that can expire? Any security in truth that can perish with the subject of it?

For some time since having read this chapter I have been deeply affected by the thought of my sins committed against an eternal God. Please understand, I do not fear and worry as an unbeliever – how dreadful is the thought of lying under the endless punishing stroke of an eternal Judge? However, I am bothered by the fact that sins of mine long since committed, though in my past, are in regard of God’s eternity present with him. All things are before God at once – our sins are before him as if committed this very moment, though perhaps committed long ago. In other words, even though my sins are under the blood and his wrath poured out upon his Son on the cross in my stead, I’m bothered by my oft indifference and forgetfulness of how I have grieved my God and Saviour.

Man is made for eternity. To an eternity we must go and live as long as God himself lives. As each tick of the clock draws us nearer our mortal end, I don’t want to waste time, take sin lightly, or dishonor God with a life unworthy of his unlimited perfection. May we resolve to say with the psalmist: “I will sing unto the LORD as long as I live: I will sing praise to my God while I have my being.” (Psalm 104:33)

God Being a Spirit

My first impression walking into the Sistine Chapel was that the iconic image that Michelangelo painted of God creating Adam was much smaller than I imagined. It is contained in one of nine rectangular panels that depict scenes from the Book of Genesis that run down the central portion of the ceiling. Not knowing much about the fresco beforehand I had expected to see a dominant image of God, but was rather surprised that it was somewhat lost amongst the more than 300 painted figures that covered the ceiling of the chapel.

This iconic image of God framed in a panel serves as a metaphor to me of how we confine God in our imaginations. We may not conceptualize God as Michelangelo’s elderly white-bearded man wrapped in a cloak but oftentimes I think we are guilty of limiting God in our minds. In the third chapter of Stephen Charnock’s The Existence and Attributes of God he expounds on the doctrine of God being a Spirit.

Volume 1 Chapter 3 On God Being a Spirit

The Bible declares that God is infinite, “for the heaven of heavens cannot contain him” (2 Chron. 2:6). God, as a Spirit, fills heaven and earth and is not limited by a body. It is true that God is described in the Bible as having many parts of the body but this condescension of God is to make Himself known to man with such representations that will assist our finite minds of understanding His infinite nature.

God is an infinite, immense, eternal, invisible, incorruptible spiritual being and yet sinful man has always been prone to represent Him in a bodily form. This has impaired the reverence of God in the minds of men and often limits Him with the imperfections found in our own bodies. I wonder if we often live independent of God because we subconsciously transfer to Him human attributes and flaws such as not seeing our every step, not knowing our every thought, not hearing our every word, etc.

Charnock writes that though we cannot have a suitable conception of God we must not be content without any conception of Him. It is a sin to have a low notion of God but if we ascend as high as we can in our thoughts we will still come short of a suitable notion of Him… this however is not our sin, but the weakness of our humanity.

The nature of God as a Spirit is infinitely superior to whatever we can conceive in our minds. Charnock concludes, “Whatsoever God is, He is infinitely so: He is infinite Wisdom, infinite Goodness, infinite Knowledge, infinite Power, infinite Spirit; infinitely distant from the weakness of creatures, infinitely mounted above the excellencies of creatures. Conceive of Him as excellent, without any imperfection; a Spirit everywhere without place; powerful without members; understanding without ignorance; wise without reasoning; light without darkness; infinitely more excelling the beauty of all creatures and when you have risen to the highest, conceive Him yet infinitely above all you can conceive of spirit and acknowledge the infirmity of your own minds. And whatsoever conception comes into your minds, say, ‘This is not God; God is more than this: if I could conceive Him, He were not God; for God is incomprehensibly above whatsoever I can say, whatsoever I can think and conceive of Him.’”

What a glorious thought that this same God was manifest in the flesh, died for our sins, was buried,  rose again the third day, received up into glory, and through repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ, He now is in me forever and His eternal life is my present possession – O what a God, O what a Saviour!

God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” – John 4:24

Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honour and power everlasting. Amen.” – 1 Timothy 6:16

Practical Atheism

Earlier this year I began reading The Existence and Attributes of God by the Puritan writer Stephen Charnock. I originally intended to record some highlights from each chapter as I completed them and subsequently posted an outline for the first chapter back in June. Although it made for a good summary for my personal reference upon further reflection I realized that lengthy blogs are generally not read and to continue my initial intent for the remaining chapters would most likely be a waste of time. So rather than give an extensive reproduction of the thought provoking material from each chapter I decided to condense it down to one or two highlights that have spoken to me in one way or another. For me, the title alone of the second chapter gave me considerable pause for meditation.

Volume 1 Chapter 2: On Practical Atheism

The title “On Practical Atheism” begs the question of whether we live our lives as if God does not exist? It seems that many professing Christians today no longer blush over sin and have no conviction regarding walking after the flesh. I happened to read this chapter as I considered the apathy of modern Christianity towards living carnal as seen in the light of Paul’s epistles to the Corinthians.

The church at Corinth was characterized by man-exalting schisms (i.e. “what camp are you in?”), condoning flagrant evils, pride, etc. They claimed to be spiritual but were in reality very carnal. There was also a certain Judaizing element among the Corinthians that were slandering Paul and trying to overthrow his authority. In his second letter to the believers at Corinth, which is probably his most emotional epistle, Paul admonishes the Corinthians, “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith” (2 Cor. 13:5). In other words, it is hard to distinguish between someone who professes Christ but is lost and a carnal Christian living after the flesh. More than once Paul accuses the Corinthians of being ignorant that Jesus Christ was in them (see 1 Cor. 3:16; 6:15,19). It is sadly the case that often a person doesn’t “know” that they are the temple of the Holy Ghost because they are abandoned to sin (Paul uses the term “reprobates”).

Charnock writes that, “Men may have atheistical hearts without atheistical heads. Their reasons may defend the notion of a Deity, while their hearts are empty of affection to the Deity.” The main theme of chapter two is that the testimony of works is louder and clearer than that of words or as James put it, “I will shew thee my faith by my works” (Jam. 2:18b). Charnock rightly expressed that a sense of God in the heart should burst out in the life and where there is no reverence of God in the life, it is concluded there is less in the heart. Thus, we must be diligent to guard our hearts from the rebel within us (the old nature) and to have no greater joy than to know Christ and to live in His presence.

They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate” – Titus 1:16

Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” – Matthew 7:21-23

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