In God’s Likeness, I am made, Amen. I have a beginning, my end?
Deep in thought one day, I considered my essence, experiences, gains and losses…to what exactly did I lay it on? A force, a being, myself? The latter made me laugh uncontrollably!
There is history! I live my history, a story that will forever exist in the annals of ‘time.’ Profound thought besailed me… “Time”: What is it? Does it exist?
Here in the Solar system it is governed by the rotation of Earth about the sun! Has ‘Time’ ever stood still. A complex question, if the Earth ceased its rotation on its axis or around the Sun…’Time’ in essence would stand still. Laws of nature, physics, existence determine this not to be so.
I am drawn to an account of the Sun not setting so that a ‘day’ was greater than 24 hours.
Our system of telling time is based on the premise that every day is exactly 24 hours long — quite precisely, with no exceptions. This concept is fully ingrained into our culture, a core principle of our modern technological society. At the same time, we are taught in school that a day corresponds to one complete rotation of the Earth on its axis. Unfortunately, these two concepts don’t quite match up — and the mismatch is more than just a few milliseconds. In fact, the mismatch amounts to several minutes every day. Furthermore, because our traditional concept of a “day” is actually defined by the cycle of sunlight and darkness — and not by one rotation of the Earth — the length of a real day is not consistent, but varies somewhat during the year. We only pretend that all days are the same length — by averaging the length of all the days in the year, and then defining this average as a “standard day” of exactly 24 hours.
This is not a bad thing. In fact, it has been quite helpful to define our system of time in this manner. But once you understand why this system does not quite match up with the real world, then you can begin to make sense of several interesting phenomena. For example, you would think that the earliest sunset and the latest sunrise would both occur on the shortest day of the year, which is the first day of winter. But this is not the case at all.
If our definition of a day was truly based on one complete rotation of the Earth on its axis — a 360 degree spin — then a day would be 23 hours, 56 minutes, and 4 seconds. This is nearly 4 minutes shorter than our 24-hour standard day. However, our concept of a “day” has long been based on the natural cycle of sunlight — a period of daylight followed by a period without daylight. The mismatch of nearly 4 minutes is because the Earth must rotate more than 360 degrees between one dawn and the next. As you know, the Earth experiences two simultaneous motions — it not only spins on its axis, but it also travels in orbit around the sun. In a period of one day, the Earth travels about 1/365 of the way around the sun (because it takes about 365 days to go all the way around, which is how we define a year). This daily progress in the Earth’s orbit is almost exactly a degree (defined as 1/360 of a circle). Therefore the Earth has to spin an extra degree in order to line up with the sun again each day. The result is that one complete cycle of sunlight and darkness — one day — represents a rotation of about 361 degrees, not 360 degrees. Although a year consists of 365 and a quarter days, the Earth actually spins 366 and a quarter times during a year. From the standpoint of sunrises and sunsets, one complete spin is negated each year by the journey around the sun.
Trending back to considering what I am, I am my experiences simple and straightforward. I am my actions AND decisions. What drives me? Screech! I jam on the breaks!
What drives me?
I need to refer to a text as old as time (again, what is ‘time’?)
In being born, I am here on Earth – alive, then? 1 John 5:12. “Whoever has The Son has life; whoever does not have The Son of God does not have life.” The Good News: Welcoming Jesus into your world and giving your spirit over to Him will help ensure that you have a fulfilling and happy life.
We get deeper yet! Just what is happiness?
Are you pleasing God? Accepting this sacrifice and following Christ into grace is a key component of pleasing God. God does not want you to be a slave to sin and death. Accepting the gift of salvation that God offers to you is the greatest thing you can do to please Him.
Here’s 13 ways to please God:
1. View your relationship with God the way He does. From God’s perspective, your relationship with Him is based on love, not rules. Keep in mind that God is your Father in heaven, so you can look at your human relationships in families (such as with your parents or with your children, if you have any) to help you understand what a loving parent’s expectations are like. While God does call you to keep growing in holiness, He doesn’t reject you if you fail to live up to all of the rules. Like a good human parent, God encourages you to live up to your potential while also forgiving you when you fail, teaching you valuable lessons, and empowering you to keep growing. You can trust that God has your best interests at heart, because He loves you completely and unconditionally.
2. Focus on the only work God truly requires of you. All that’s really necessary for you to do as a Christian is the work of faith: believing in Jesus and trusting Him in every part of your life. Every other good work that God leads you to do will flow from the foundation of faith, and only faith is necessary for your salvation. While it can seem like faith doesn’t involve work, it actually does, because you must make an effort to relinquish your own efforts to control your life and place your trust fully in God to lead you to what’s best.
3. Discover the contentment behind God’s commands. Recognize that God has designed each of His commands to you for your benefit: to protect you from harm and help you develop contentment, regardless of what circumstances you encounter in this fallen world. When you keep in mind that God has good purposes for calling you to behave in certain ways, you can see that God’s commands aren’t burdens, but blessings.
4. Realize the limits that God has built into His commands. When God commands you to do something, He makes it practical to fulfill those commands by building limits into them so they become measurable objectives. For example, rather than commanding you to love every person in the world, God commands you only to love the people whom you personally meet.
5. Embrace the freedom you have to serve God out of love rather than obligation. Since the good news of the Gospel is that Jesus has set you free from the impossible task of trying to earn God’s love and connected you to God as a gift, you can respond to that wonderful gift by freely expressing your love back to God however you like. You don’t have to serve God, but considering God’s great love for you naturally motivates you to want to serve God.
6. Invest your time and energy first into your relationship with God instead of your work for Him. Whenever you have to choose between spending time and energy on developing a closer relationship with God and doing good work to serve Him, choose to invest in your relationship – that’s far more important, from God’s perspective. It ultimately does no good to pursue volunteer work for God if doing so leaves you without enough time or energy to keep growing closer to God Himself every day.
7. Give cheerfully. Rather than tithing to your church and donating to charities out of a sense of duty, do so cheerfully by identifying specific needs that your financial support will help meet and enjoying the satisfaction that comes from being a vital part of solving problems and growing into a more generous and loving person.
8. Devote one day per week to genuine rest. Celebrate the Sabbath day as the gift from God that it is by doing only activities that you find relaxing and enjoyable during that one day each week. As you do, savor God’s presence with you and enjoy His company.
9. Find creative ways to love the difficult people in your life. It doesn’t need to be a chore to obey God’s command to love the people you know who seem hard to love – from siblings who compete with you to enemies who have hurt you. You can choose to act in love toward everyone you know, even when you don’t feel love toward them. God will help you to treat people with respect and kindness, and to forgive them while setting healthy boundaries. In the process, you’ll come to enjoy your relationships with others more.
10. Carefully consider whether or not to take on new responsibilities. Don’t automatically say “yes” to a new responsibility simply because there’s a need for someone to do it and someone asks you to meet that need. If you take on a responsibility without considering it carefully, it could lead to stress, failure, and guilt rather than good results. Think and pray carefully about each potential new responsibility, considering whether or not it is really worth your attention and effort during this season of your life.
11. Choose mercy over sacrifice. Rather than trying to please God by making sacrifices (such as avoiding a guilty pleasure), focus on loving God back by letting His love flow through you and out into the world, bringing mercy to people who need to experience it. Then you can express your love naturally without trying to force it.
12. Choose excellence over perfection. You set yourself up to fail when you try to be perfect to please God, because in this fallen world, every human being is tainted by sin and falls short of perfection. But if you shift your focus from perfection to excellence, you can actually accomplish excellent work for God – all while enjoying the confidence of knowing that God loves you unconditionally.
13. Enjoy living in the present. Treat every day that you’re alive like the gift from God that it is, and revel in the moments God offers you to enjoy the blessings He constantly pours into your life – from food and friends, to the joy you can find through experiencing God’s ongoing presence with you.
Put these 13 steps into practice and begin to realize the joy of pleasing God through a relationship and not rules or work!
Returning to my starting point, there are things that I must do to be saved and exist forever in The Presence of God.
1. God is immanent because he is transcendent.
The Lord is “God in the heavens above (transcendent) and on the earth beneath (immanent)” (Josh 2:11). But to understand God in full we must recognize that his drawing near to creation stems from his being distinct from creation. In other words, there is no deficiency in God that creation satisfies. The Lord doesn’t relate to this world because he lacks something within himself. No, God draws near out of the abundance of who he is.
God’s transcendence distinguishes him from the created order and puts things in their right perspective. God does not come to us needy and wanting, but rather he comes to “revive the spirit of the lowly and the heart of the contrite” (Isa 57:15). It is the holy and righteous One above who restores the broken and needy below.
2. The Bible emphasizes God’s manifest presence, not only his omnipresence.
There is a difference between saying “God is everywhere,” and saying “God is here.” The former is the default category for most Christians. We talk about God’s presence being inescapable and that he is “everywhere present” (Ps 139:5-12; 1 Kings 8:27).
But it seems Scripture is more concerned with his presence manifest in relationship and redemption. And though these divine realities are certainly not at odds, the biblical story does turn on God’s being manifest with his people in Eden, the tabernacle/temple, the incarnation of Christ, and the new heaven and new earth.
3. The story of Scripture begins and ends with the presence of God.
In the book of Genesis, Eden is the first couple’s home but, more importantly, it is God’s sanctuary—the garden temple where the Creator and his image-bearers relate (Gen 3:8).
Fast forward to the end of our Bibles and we see a very similar picture but on a much larger scale. All of heaven has collided with the whole earth to make a perfect sanctuary for God to dwell with man (Rev 21:1-4). In the book of Revelation, Eden has returned and expanded into new heaven and new earth where all of God’s people enjoy his presence eternally.
4. Humanity’s mission and the presence of God are inseparable.
God gave man and woman purpose. They are to “be fruitful and multiply” in order to “fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion” (Gen 1:28). Adam and Eve are to do this in Eden, the epicenter of God’s relational presence in creation. As the first couple’s family expands, so too will the garden’s borders and, with it, God’s presence. Likewise, God’s presence was to spread to the rest of the earth through Adam and Eve’s exercising dominion (Num 14:21; cf. Ps 72:19; Isa 11:9).
5. Sin undermines humanity’s mission and the experience of God’s presence.
But there is a problem, isn’t there? Adam and Eve replace blessings for curses when they eat the forbidden fruit. These curses cut right to the heart of who they are and what they were made to do. For Eve, pain overwhelms the promise of a people. For Adam, perspiration and thorns will impede the promise of place.
Sin hinders everything now, especially man’s experience of God’s presence. Because of their disobedience, Adam and Eve are now exiles; their mission is in shambles as they stand outside of Eden. The presence of God they once knew freely is no longer free.
6. God covenants to bring his presence back to his people.
But in grace, God steps in to pay the price. To overcome man’s sin and ensure his purposes, the Creator becomes covenant Redeemer. Through his covenant promises, the Lord restores what Adam failed to do. God makes a people and a place through the covenant all the while keeping his promises to humanity.
God does all of this so that he can be our God and we can be his people (Gen 17:7; Ex 6:7; 29:45, Rev 21:3, etc.). At the heart of the covenant, then, is a relationship—one that is decidedly on his terms. God enters into his creation to create a people and a place for his presence. And so the covenant is as the Lord declares at Sinai: “I will dwell among the people of Israel and be their God. And they shall know that I am the Lord their God, who brought them out of the land of Egypt that I might dwell among them” (Ex 29:45-46).
7. The presence of God is the means and end of redemption.
As evangelicals, we talk a lot about the presence of God but seldom look to the Bible to see what it is. When we do, we find that it is first and foremost a theme on which the story of Scripture hinges. If we read our Bibles though we begin to see a two-fold pattern.
First, the Bible makes clear that the presence of God is a central goal in God’s redemptive mission. All of God’s work ends with the Lord dwelling with man. And second, the presence of God is, not only an objective, it is also the means by which the redemptive mission is fulfilled. God writes himself into his own story to bring salvation. To understand our Bibles and how it changes us, we need to know God’s presence.
8. The presence of God finds its greatest expression in Immanuel, God with us.
God himself comes to save. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, entered human history to give his life as a ransom for many (Matt 20:28; Mark 10:45). In his grace, God buys us back in the most unimaginable way possible: God in Christ became a man, walked among humanity, and died for his people.
In this merciful act, Christ reconciles us to himself and re-opens access to the Father so that those who were once exiled from his presence might again draw near to God (Heb 4:16; 7:19).
9. The purposes of the church are tied to the presence of God.
The presence of God has massive implications for the way we understand the church (1 Cor 3:16-17; 2 Cor 6:14-7:1; Eph 2:13-22). The New Testament calls the church a temple for a reason. Through this image, we see that the community of Christ is—in this time of waiting on Christ’s return—the instrument the Lord uses to disseminate his presence to a lost and sinful world.
Accordingly, the church has two clear purposes: 1) the church works within itself for the sanctification of its members to prepare God’s people for God’s present and future presence; and 2) the church works externally to share the gospel so that the lost may enjoy God’s presence now and forever as well.
10. To be a joyful Christian is to know God’s presence.
If we are honest, many of us can think of God as our “magic genie” from time to time. We keep him on the shelf until troubles arise or there is something our neighbor has that we really want. The problem is, real relationships don’t work this way—especially with the triune God. The Lord over all will not be left on the shelf of anyone’s life.
Instead, Scripture is clear that all of life—and, principally, the gospel life—is about being in God’s relational presence. This is why David proclaims, “in your presence there is fullness of joy, at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Ps 16:11). When we push all our peripheral issues to the periphery, this is all that is left and all that really matters.