How do I know there is a God?

Have you ever thought about how many things you know and believe without having seen them? Take gravity for instance. I have never seen gravity, but I see evidence of it all around me. As a matter of fact, we depend on it for almost all of our everyday activities. Gravity holds our cars on the road. It keeps us from floating away into space. We would be in serious trouble without it.

I look at God in very much the same way that I look at gravity. I have never seen him, but I see evidence that he must exist in the world around me. Whether I am taking in a soft summer sunset or a late night display of the constellations, I know that someone took some serious time and effort to get things just right. The Bible puts it this way, “Every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything.” (Hebrews 3:4)

Have you ever taken time to look closely at the world in which we live? Get up a little earlier than normal tomorrow and let the sunrise speak for itself. You decide which is more impressive, the beauty of the sunrise or the fact that it has risen every day in the history of the world. You will hear an inaudible voice in that sunrise. It is God’s voice. (See Psalm 19:1-4)

Perhaps you are more impressed with detail. Take time to count the hairs on one of your arms from your wrist to your elbow. As you notice the delicacy with which each hair is connected, consider how hard plastic surgeons work to duplicate a “normal” hair pattern. They never do get it quite right, do they? All of this is part of God’s great attention to detail and more evidence that he does exist.

I have never seen God, but, like gravity, I know he is here. He has taken the time to leave evidence of his existence all around the world in which we live. Take time to notice it. You will see that he is very real. If you want more, definite information, take time to get to know him better in the Bible.

What Is the Trinity?

“Trinity” means “three-in-one.”  It’s true, the word “Trinity” is not in the Bible.  But the concept is.

The true religion has always stated that there is only one Divine Essence who is called “God.”  From the beginning of time God has revealed himself as the LORD God (Genesis 2:4) and there is no other but him (Isaiah 44:6).  Monotheism set the Hebrews apart from other nations (Deuteronomy 6:4), and Christianity follows the same truth.

God the Father is God.  Jesus spoke of him as “the only true God” (John 17:1,3).  The apostle Paul spoke of God the Father as the creator God and the source of life (1 Corinthians 8:6).

God the Son is God.  Hebrews chapter one emphasizes that fact, explicitly saying “the Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word” (1:3).  We believe as the Bible teaches that “in Christ all the fullness of the deity dwells in bodily form” (Colossians 2:9).  And we believe that “he is the true God and eternal life” (1 John 5:20).  Besides, the Bible attributes to Jesus all the characteristics of God (Matthew 28:18).  Jesus is also to be worshiped as true God (Matthew 28:17; Hebrews 1:6).  The New Testament shows that Jesus is the redeemer of the world from sin and the power of Satan.

God the Holy Spirit is God.  “The Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Corinthians 3:17).  He is distinguished from the Father and Son when Jesus said, “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor, the Spirit of truth, to be with you forever” (John 14:16-17).  The Holy Spirit is more than an impersonal power of God.  He grieves (Ephesians 4:30), and is the person of the Trinity who works faith in our hearts.  Ananias lied to the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:3).  Some people “speak against the Holy Spirit” to their damnation (Matthew 12:32).

There are many places in Scripture that mention all three Persons of the Triune God (Matthew 4:16-17).  God has always presented himself in plural terms (Genesis 1:26).

There are three Persons, each one the complete God, and yet there is no more than one single God.  “We worship one God in three persons and three persons in one God” (from the Athanasian Creed of the Christian church).

The Father is God. The Son is God. The Holy Spirit is God. And they are one God.

What is the Holy Spirit’s work?

“Fire the coach!” That’s what happens when a team loses too many times.

Put a group of baseball players together who know how to play the game, but don’t give them a coach for running the bases or telling them where to play on defense, and that team won’t go very far.

So it is in the lives of people.  You don’t have to be a Christian to have a good, moral life. God has given each of us a natural understanding of his will. Everyone in the world knows you can’t steal your neighbor’s house, spouse, or stuff. But this alone does us no good after we die—for no one can be morally perfect!

We needed a “Spiritual Coach.” The Bible calls our Spiritual Coach the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit uses the Holy Scriptures to bring people from being morally good to eternally saved.

Some people say, “Don’t I get some of the credit for the good I do in my life?”  The answer is, “No.”  God gets all the credit.  No one would have a desire to obey God or have the ability to obey God if they weren’t first changed or renewed by the Holy Spirit.  The Bible says, “For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose” (Philippians 2:13).

The Holy Spirit uses the Good News that Jesus died on the cross to save us. This powerful Word changes hearts and lives. The Holy Spirit gives us the desire and the ability to live according to God’s will. So you can see, in this sense, that the Holy Spirit gets all the credit for the good we do. In fact, because of our sinful nature, we cannot even cooperate with the Holy Spirit to produce faith and trust in Jesus.

But after Jesus takes possession of our hearts, we have the ability and desire to serve. Even then it isn’t a 50-50 cooperation. We love to serve Jesus because the Holy Spirit living in us motivates us to love and serve Jesus.  He is the Spiritual Coach who trains us, directs us, and leads us on to victory for Jesus’ sake.

If I were the devil I would work very hard at ruining the work of the Holy Spirit.  I would try to keep people away from the Bible and make them think, “I’m good enough the way I am.”  Because if I could keep people away from the Bible, the tool the Holy Spirit uses to bring us and keep us in faith, then I could easily deceive them about their relationship with God, and they wouldn’t even know it!

Let’s recognize the temptation of Satan to try and entice us away from Jesus.  The Holy Spirit will continue to work hard to keep us as God’s children.  Let’s never fire our Spiritual Coach! Let’s enjoy his work in our hearts and lives.

Who is the Holy Spirit?

“We’ve got spirit, yes, we do! We’ve got spirit how ‘bout you?”

That cheer used to bounce back and forth across the gym during high school basketball games. The cheer comes to mind as we talk about the Holy Spirit, because there are those who confuse “spirit,” that is, the emotion or enthusiasm talked about in the cheer, with the Holy Spirit who is spoken of in the Bible. Still others think of the Holy Spirit as an impersonal power or energy flowing from God.

The Bible, however, teaches that the Holy Spirit is a person, not merely an impersonal force or emotion. It shows this by ascribing to the Holy Spirit intelligence, emotions and will; the key components of personality.

  • In Romans 8:27, for example, the apostle Paul speaks of “the mind of the Spirit,” and adds that the Holy Spirit “intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.” Such a description fits a personal being, but does not fit an impersonal force.
  • The prophet Isaiah says that when the people of Israel rebelled against God they “grieved his Spirit” (63:10). Paul also describes the Holy Spirit as a personal being with emotions when he warns Christians not to “grieve the Spirit of God” by their behavior (Ephesians 4:30). Paul also speaks in Romans 15:30 of “the love of the Spirit.” A person can have emotions, but we could hardly talk about an emotion having emotions.
  • In speaking of spiritual gifts given to God’s people by the Holy Spirit, Paul teaches that the Holy Spirit “gives them to each man, just as he determines” (1 Corinthians 12:11). In other words the Holy Spirit is a being with a will, who distributes spiritual gifts as he decides to or wants to. Being able to make decisions is a characteristic of a personal being.

The Bible teaches that the Holy Spirit is the third person of the Holy Trinity—true God with the Father and the Son. The Holy Spirit is called God in the Bible; when the apostle Peter accused a man named Ananias of lying to the Holy Spirit, he told him that he had lied to God (Acts 5:4). The Holy Spirit does things only God can do. The Bible says the Holy Spirit was active in the work of creating the universe (Genesis 1:2).

It’s good to know who the Holy Spirit is, but it’s also important to know what the Holy Spirit does. The special work of the Holy Spirit is to create faith in Jesus in the hearts of people who could not and would not believe in him on their own. Paul writes: “No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:3).

The Holy Spirit does his vitally important work of creating faith in human hearts through the Gospel, the good news that Jesus lived a perfect life on earth, died a terrible death on a cross and rose from the dead to take away the sins of the world and give eternal life to all who believe. In fact, right now the Holy Spirit is at work through these words, inviting you–yes, pleading with you–to believe in Jesus as your Savior and giving you that faith as a free gift.

There was a group of believers in the city of Rome in Paul’s day. When that apostle wrote to them, he reminded them that the Holy Spirit had made his home in their hearts, and gave them this wonderful promise: “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you” (Romans 8:11).

School spirit is great, but the Holy Spirit and his work are absolutely essential. May God grant us a rich measure of his life-giving Spirit!

Life is empty without Jesus

 …you were redeemed from the empty way of life… – 1 Peter 1:18

To live in certain parts of Siberia means to live in some extreme conditions. Over the years, observers of people who live in those extreme conditions of Siberia have described an unsettling phenomenon. The phenomenon has come to be known as “Siberian Hysteria.”

A Japanese author has described Siberian Hysteria in this way. He says, “Try to imagine this: You’re a farmer, living all alone on the Siberian tundra. Day after day you plow your fields. As far as the eye can see, nothing. To the north, the horizon, to the east, the horizon, to the south, to the west, more of the same. Every morning, when the sun rises in the east, you go out to work in your fields. When it’s directly overhead, you take a break for lunch. When it sinks in the west, you go home to sleep. And then one day, something inside you dies. Day after day you watch the sun rise in the east, pass across the sky, then sink in the west, and something breaks inside you and dies. You toss your plow aside and, your head completely empty of thought, begin walking toward the west. Heading toward a land that lies west of the sun. Like someone, possessed, you walk on, day after day, not eating or drinking, until you collapse on the ground and die.” That is a description of Siberian Hysteria.

It is also a description of your life and mine without Jesus.

Think about that for a moment. Isn’t it true that the worst part of living as a lost soul in a broken world is just the sheer emptiness of it all? I can do things to occupy my time. I can find enough to eat. I can find a place to sleep. But if I am doing all this in a vacuum, if I am doing all this surrounded by emptiness–emptiness of meaning, emptiness of hope, emptiness of anything that matters–isn’t it true that I am just a case of Siberian Hysteria waiting to happen?

That’s why God chose to invade my emptiness. He invaded my emptiness in the Person of Jesus. Where once was the awful nothingness created by my own sin, there now is my Savior. His perfect life and death on my behalf destroyed the chasm that had surrounded me, isolated me, made me so alone.

Then he rose from death, just to assure me that my days of emptiness were over; to assure me that I would never be alone again. Ever.

And he has done the same for you.

The Good Shepherd Leads You

The Lord is my Shepherd; I’ll not be in want. – Psalm 23:1

Psalm 23 describes our Savior God as our Shepherd. And because he is our loving Shepherd, we come to this confident conclusion: we shall never be in want—we shall never lack anything we truly need.

How does the Lord our Shepherd give us such confidence? We can trust where our Good Shepherd leads us. He guides us for our benefit, even if it doesn’t always appear that way.

Many people want to be leading their own life. As they strive after numerous things, they look somewhat like a dog chasing its tail. They pursue money, possessions, popularity and many other things, but those things don’t give them any true peace and lasting fulfillment. They know what they want for themselves, but they miss what they need for a relationship with God.

Give thanks that we do not have to be part of this vain chase. We do not lead. Our Shepherd does, and his lead is always for our greatest benefit. He supplies everything we really need for our physical life. Most importantly, he gives us what we absolutely need for our souls: the forgiveness of sins which he provided by laying down his life for us!

Take comfort in the confidence that your Good Shepherd is always leading you. Trust him, and gladly follow the Lord who is your Shepherd.

The word is very near you

The word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it. – Deuteronomy 30:14

Nikita Khrushchev, the leader of the Soviet Union in the earlier 1960s, declared in regard to Yuri Gagarin, the Soviet cosmonaut who was first human to journey into outer space, “Gagarin flew into space, but didn’t see any god there.”

No matter how high we go, we will not find God. No matter how deeply we delve into the mystery of the human psyche or dig into the wonders of particle physics, we will not find God.

Yet he is not far from any of us.

Where do we find him? He reveals himself in his word. “The word is very near you.” It is no farther away than the Bible.

How does his word come into our hearts? As it is spoken and read. Notice how the passage lists the mouth before the heart. We don’t find God by delving into our hearts. Rather, he makes himself known as our mouths read his word. That’s how the Holy Spirit opens our minds to understand and writes his word on our hearts.

What does the Spirit teach us through the word? First, no matter how good we are, our hearts have failed to obey our God. We have failed to truly love our neighbor as ourselves and to love God above all. You and I have no excuses for failing. We can’t plead ignorance. The word is very near you.

But what good news the word reveals as well! We could not ascend to God, so he came down to us. He did not come to condemn but to save you and me. He came near to us not only in his word but also in person. Jesus is God with us, Immanuel. His mouth always spoke God’s truth in love. His heart reached out with unselfish compassion. His perfect record of obedience counts for you. His sinless life covers your failures and mine. Believe this with all your heart, because that’s what God’s Word promises.

The word is near you. Unbelief rejects what the word says. Then only guilt and hell remain. But faith cherishes the word, for it brings us Jesus, our only Savior.

Will I Rise from the Dead?

Christians say:  “I believe in the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.”  Christians believe Jesus when he says:  “A time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear my voice and come out.”  Essential to Christianity is the belief that every man, woman and child who has ever lived will rise from the dead on the day Jesus returns.  We call that day Judgment Day.

Right about now you may be asking yourself: “How in the world can Christians believe all those unbelievable things?”  I’ll agree with you.  The thought that all people will rise bodily from their graves someday, wherever and whatever those graves may be, is “unbelievable.”  But the God who tells us this is not in the business of only doing things that fit into the framework of our way of thinking.  In fact, Jesus once said: “With God all things are possible.”  If God brought the universe into existence out of nothing, as the Bible teaches, he certainly has the power to pull our bodies back together from the dust of the earth on Judgment Day.

So, the answer to “will I rise from the dead?” is a simple “yes.”  Perhaps the more uncomfortable question is: “What’s going to happen to me when I rise from the dead?”  The fact that it’s called Judgment Day sounds ominous.  You and I are going to be judged on that day.  When you consider that God, who is holy, demands that you and I be holy and sinless in order to escape his judgment in hell forever, then Judgment Day really sounds like bad news.

But there’s more.  The one who will come to call us out of our graves, the one who will judge us, is the same one who came to save us!  That’s Jesus.  About 2000 years ago he came to live in this world and give his perfect life in your place.  When he died on the cross he covered you with his holiness.  When he rose from the dead he proved that you, too, will rise from the dead.  He makes the same promise to you that he’s always made: “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved.”

And there it is.  There’s the way a person can approach Judgment Day with confidence, not fear.  Jesus has taken away all your sins. Clothe yourself in his holiness and enter everlasting life when you are called forth from your grave.  Believe in the Lord Jesus and be saved.

Saved by Grace

When the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. (Titus 3:4-5)

What can happen if you forgot to close the gate in your back yard and you let the dog out? You were 99% sure you closed it. What might happen if you are 99% sure you turned the stove off before you left the house? We don’t like to be less than 100% sure of something; it makes us uncomfortable that something bad can happen.

That’s why we really like the word GRACE. For five centuries the Lutheran church has focused on the fact that the Bible tells us very plainly that we are saved by grace. God tells us that he has done everything for our salvation and he gives eternal life to us as a free gift—there is nothing we have to do for it. This is an amazing message of good news!

However, the proclamation of God’s Word wasn’t always clear. For many years the message of the Bible was not made available to everyone. People went to church, they confessed their sins, they heard the priest tell them to go and do certain things and then maybe, hopefully they might make it into heaven. How would people ever know if they did enough, or if they were good enough? They were led to believe that Jesus’ life and death were not enough; they still had to contribute in some way for their salvation. Even after they died, someone still might need to do something to help them finally reach heaven. Imagine the doubt.

The Word of God removes all doubt about our salvation. The Bible teaches us: “When the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.” Salvation does not depend on what we do, but entirely on what Jesus Christ came to do for us.

Jesus had great mercy on us. In his love he died the death we deserved and rescued us from our sins. By faith in him as our Savior, we have complete confidence of eternal life in heaven.

This is the main message of the Bible that we preach and teach in the Lutheran church. We are saved by grace through Jesus. Please come and hear it for yourself.

Power of the Gospel

I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.Romans 1:16

Crucifixion was a most shameful way to die. The condemned individual was stripped of both clothing and dignity, nailed to a wooden cross, and left there to die slowly over the course of hours or days. It was an execution reserved for only the very worst of criminals.

With all this in mind, you might expect the early Christians to have been ashamed or even embarrassed about what had happened to Jesus. Instead, from the very beginning, the message of Jesus’ suffering and death on the cross has been at the heart and core of Christianity.

As he addresses a group of Christians in Rome, the apostle Paul even calls Jesus’ suffering and death “the gospel,” which means “good news!” He writes, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.”

How could Paul and other Christians be so positive about the shameful death of Jesus? The answer is that by Jesus’ death, God was accomplishing something wonderful for all people.

The prophet Isaiah put it like this: “He was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.” The reason Jesus died that shameful death on the cross was to take away all our sins—our lust, pride, selfishness and greed…every cruel word we have said to hurt other people…every wicked action for which we are ashamed and wish we could take back. All these sins, for which we deserve to be punished, were placed on Jesus and he took the punishment in our place.

Jesus’ suffering and death on the cross means that we are saved from God’s punishment for our sins. It means that relying on Jesus as our Savior we can look forward to eternal life in heaven that our Savior has prepared for us.

Thank God for the message of the gospel, “the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.” Powerful enough to wash away our sins. Powerful enough to bring us home to heaven one day. Powerful enough, and important enough, for us to rely on Jesus alone for salvation.