Where does God come from?

This question takes me back to childhood when my “why” questions were seemingly brushed off by my parents with an answer like, “because I said so” or “that’s just the way it is.”  God calls us his children and, more often than we like, he gives our curiosity little or no satisfaction.  However, since we’ve asked the question, let’s see what God does tell us about his origin.

Psalm 90:2 says, “Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.”  The concept of everlasting is taxing on the brain. When I try to comprehend “forever” my mind gets stuck on the carousel.  Forever means eternal…no end…EVER!  This Bible verse takes us to a time before God brought forth the earth and complicates the matter further.  It speaks of a time before time.  God not only has no end, he has no beginning either.

The Bible deals with the question “where did God come from?” by answering the question, “WHEN did God come from?”  Psalm 93:2 answers, “Your throne was established long ago; you are from all eternity.”  So here is your answer to an intriguing question.  God didn’t come from anywhere.  He has always been.

I do find some satisfaction in this discussion.  God, who is infinitely beyond our comprehension, comes down to our level and becomes “comprehendible” in the person of Jesus.  God, who is outside of our time constraints send his Son into time.  Galatians 4:4 tells us, “But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.”  God considers us his children and traded his only Son’s life for ours.  And even His plan to save our lives transcends the boundaries of time as we know it.  “For he chose us in him (Jesus) before the creation of the world…” (Ephesians 1:4)

Ecclesiastes 3:11:  “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” As an adult I now realize that my parents weren’t brushing me off.  They just weren’t sure how to put things into words that were far too difficult for me to understand as a child.  I can’t fathom how God can have no beginning.  I guess I also can’t fathom how or why God could love me as much as he does either.  Rather than wasting time explaining things I’ll never understand, God emphasizes that his love for me is just like him: from everlasting to everlasting.  God is far more interested in satisfying my soul than my curiosity.

The New Testament

The New (3 letters) Testament (9 letters) contains 27 books (3×9) that fall in to 3 general categories:

  • Historical books: Mathew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts of the Apostles.
  • Epistles (Letters): Romans, 1&2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians…
  • Prophetic books: Revelation.

The New Testament books were written over a span of approximately 70 years and were written in the Greek language.  Below is John 1:1 in the original:

εν αρχη ην ο λογος και ο λογος ην προς τον θεον και θεος ην ο λογος

(The books that are highlighted and in italics are recommended for reading)

The Historical books focus on the life of Christ and his body – the Church. Three of the Gospels are written from the same vantage point – time.  They are chronicles of the life of Jesus and follow his work and words on earth.  These are the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke.  The focus of John‘s Gospel is on Jesus’ life too but is more focused on his thoughts and teachings and less on an orderly time line.  All of these gospels contain Jesus’ words and focus on his ministry and message – to save us, to redeem us, to pay for our sins – to forgive us.

The epistles (Greek word meaning “letters”) contain, especially in the letter of Paul to the Christians in Galatia (Galatians), an orderly explanation of the central teachings of Christianity including salvation, by grace, through faith in Jesus;  practical advice for Christians for daily living, and overflowing in gospel encouragement.  To gain more insight into this read the letters to the Romans, Ephesians, and the Philippians.

The prophetic book of Revelation has been misunderstood and misused by many to further personal gain.   Simply put, the book of Revelation, written by the apostle John, was written to reveal these simple truths:

  1. Christians will suffer – there will be persecution.
  2. Jesus has won the fight.  The victory is ours – won and given to us by Jesus on the cross and in his resurrection.
  3. Jesus, at his own time, will finally take us to be with him for eternity.

This book is written by the apostle John in “dream language,” so to speak, and written to Christians who already knew and had a strong foundation in God’s Old Testament and faith in Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

The New Testament’s primary message is so very clear.  Jesus is God and he came in human flesh to suffer and die, that is, to be punished for our sins.  He did this willingly so that we might be at peace with God.  Experience the peace that transcends all understanding as you read the life saving and eternal words of Jesus.

The Old Testament

While all the Old Testament (OT) books were written many centuries prior to Jesus’ birth – they span from about 1,400 B.C. to 430 B.C. – through history, poetry and prophecy, they all point and direct us to Jesus and the salvation that all people have through faith in him.

The Old Testament consists of 39 books (one way to remember this number is that there are 3 letters in the word “old” and 9 in the word “testament”) that fall into one of the following categories:

  • Historical books (The first five books of the OT plus Joshua, 1&2 Kings etc.)
  • Poetical books (Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Song of Songs)
  • Prophetical books (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Hosea, Malachi etc.)

They were written in Hebrew.  Below is Genesis 1:1 written in Hebrew:

בְּרֵאשִׁית בָּרָא אֱלֹהִים אֵת הַשָּׁמַיִם וְאֵת הָאָֽרֶץ׃

In the following paragraphs you will see that books of the OT that have been italicized and highlighted.  These are books and/or chapters of books that are recommended for initial reading.

The first five books of the OT (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy) are historical books.  They contain the accounts of the creation of all things, the first wedding/marriage, the beginning of sin/destruction and the first promise of a Savior.  They include the history of the Jewish nation; the history of Abraham the father of the Jewish people, their enslavement in Egypt and their flight to freedom.  They also include the God given laws that were to govern them.  Quite a lot of stuff!

The books of Joshua, Judges, Ruth and 1&2 Samuel take you with the Jewish people into the Promised Land.  You witness their struggles with their external enemies and their internal enemy – sin.  You witness them fall, God’s grace in sending prophets to witness to them concerning God’s will, God’s forgiveness, and you see them repent and blessed by God.

From 1&2 Samuel to 1&2 Chronicles you have the history of the Kingdom of Israel and later the history of the divided kingdom – Israel to the North and Judah to the South.

The poetical books are dispersed throughout the Old Testament.  The most famous of them is the book of songs – Psalms.  The book of Psalms contains psalms/songs that fall into many different categories.   Some of them are listed below:

  1. Penitential Psalms – Psalms 32 and 51.
  2. Messianic Psalms – Psalms 22.
  3. Prayers – Psalms 80 and 90.
  4. Praise Psalms – Psalms 100 and 117.
  5. Thanksgiving Psalms – Psalm 118.
  6. Word of God Psalms – Psalm 119 (longest chapter in the Bible).

The book of Proverbs is just that – a book full of proverbs – wise sayings describing and sharing wisdom.  The book of Ecclesiastes is also a book on wisdom, the focus of which is the meaninglessness of life without God.

The prophetical books are divided into Major Prophets (major reads too!) like Isaiah and Jeremiah and Minor Prophets like Hosea and Amos.  Throughout these prophetical books you will find two clear teachings: sin and repentance (the promise of a Savior).  Rejoice as you read Isaiah 53.  Enjoy reading the history of the world, the history of salvation.

What is the Bible?

You have probably heard Christians talk about “the Bible” or use expressions like “Word of God” or “Holy Bible” or “Scriptures” when referring to a rather large printed book that they carry around and quote a lot. The question is, “What is it? Who wrote it? Where did it come from? What does it contain?”

The way that we answer questions about the Bible is not to offer up opinions. No. We are going to let the Bible speak for itself.

The word “Bible” comes from the Greek word for “book.” The Bible is the book of God – God’s Book.   It describes itself as the “word of God” (1 Thessalonians 2:13). It is exactly that – not words of people – but the Word of God. How? Well, the Word of God says God “breathed” the words, the actual words, into the writers who then wrote them down (read 2 Peter 1:21 and 2 Timothy 3:10-17). God used the grammar of the writer, the vocabulary of the writer and the experiences of the writer in crafting his Word. It is therefore the Holy Scriptures, the words whose source and authorship is divine – God.

Because the Scriptures are of divine authorship and origin we do not mess with them! God warns against this in Deuteronomy 4:2 and Revelation 22:18-19.

So, what is the Word of God? Just that – God’s Holy Scriptures. They are divine. They are from an eternal divine source – God – and therefore without error or contradiction despite what we might think or have been told.

Finally, though, what is the Bible about? What does it contain? Well – it is about God. So, the question to ask is, “What is God about?”  Well, to begin with – the Law. Read Matthew 19:17ff. What God demands is simply this – follow his law – PERFECTLY – and you will live. That is easy isn’t it? You have got to be kidding! No way! We have this problem, this endemic disease called sin that causes us to be selfish, proud, arrogant, unloving etc.

Well, what kind of a God do the Christians worship anyway who expects the impossible?! That is nuts. Okay…hold on…we haven’t let God finish yet.

God continues by saying that he sent his Son, Jesus, to suffer eternally to pay for all those times we DON’T keep God’s law perfectly. Read Ephesians 2:14ff. Only God can suffer eternally in our place – and Jesus did just that on the cross. Our sins have been paid for. The law that we mess up – it holds no power over us. Jesus kept the law perfectly for us, giving us credit for perfection in exchange for our sins. This is Good News. God calls this the gospel.

And that is what God’s Word – his unchanging divine Word is about – LAW and GOSPEL. Read the Bible and let God speak to you. It truly is a divine experience.

Is faith blind to reality?

Imagine two young children at the corner of a busy intersection.  Cars fly by.  Large trucks approach and roar through.  The children need to get to the other side of the street.

One child has his father by his side.  He places his hand in the hand of his father, and he trusts that the parent will get him across the dangerous intersection safely.

The other child is alone.  He believes, or trusts, that he’ll be able to run to the other side of the street before that big, white semi gets to the intersection.

Both children are trusting.  The first is trusting his father.  The second is trusting himself.  Yet both, one might say, have “faith.”

All “faith” is not equal.  What matters most is the object of one’s faith.  Is it smart for a little child to trust himself to cross a street safely?  Adults know that this is not a good idea.  Children do best when they trust a responsible, loving parent.

In this important sense, then, faith should not be blind at all.  It is a child whose eyes are wide open who knows that he can’t get across the street by himself.  It is a child whose eyes are wide open who recognizes reality—that Dad can be trusted—and joyfully places all confidence in that person.  Faith is not blind.  Faith is confidence that depends on being able to see clearly.

Some might say, though, that when it comes to God, faith must be blind.  Who today has ever seen God?

It is true that I cannot see God with my two eyes.  But just because human eyes cannot see something does not mean that this “something” is not real.  Every human being, without ever being taught, has an inborn awareness that there must be a God.  Look around at the many, many world religions to be reminded that humans naturally conclude there is a divine being, something real which we cannot see.

There is something else we know just naturally.  Humans are born with some awareness of “right” and “wrong.”  We have an inborn fear of dying that is connected to that knowledge of right and wrong.  We do not want to meet the one who might punish us for doing wrong, that divine judge we can’t see but know is real.

So, something can be real even though we cannot see it.

When the true God blesses an individual with the gift of true faith, there is something else real that one can suddenly see and know: God came to earth in the person of Jesus and suffered eternal punishment for the wrongs of the whole world.  In Jesus I have forgiveness.  In Jesus the judge will give me eternal life.

Can my two eyes see this?  Not now.  But faith can see.

Is such a faith blind to reality?  Such faith is placing confidence in the only One who can be completely trusted, the Father who can get us safely across the street of life to a happy “other side.”  Faith is not blind to reality.  Faith alone can see.

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. Hebrews 11:1

Do I have to believe the whole Bible?

Your chest feels as if an elephant is dancing on it.  You’re gasping for air.  Sweat is glistening on your face.  You are in the emergency room of a hospital.  Nurses are hooking wires all over your chest.  Another nurse is searching for a vein to start an I.V.  Another nurse is putting a small pill under your tongue.  After looking at the monitor and the EKG tape, the doctor informs you that you are having a heart attack.  It’s a frightening scene.  Other tests prove that there is a blockage in your heart.  The doctor tells you what has happened to your heart and then proceeds to explain what needs to be done to repair your heart so that you can continue to live.

Are you going to believe everything he says? Or are you going to pick and choose what you want to believe and disregard the rest, which could cost you your life?  Your life depends on believing everything the doctor tells you. There are people who believe the whole of the Bible.

There are people who don’t believe anything in the Bible.  But how can a person believe just some of the Bible?  How does a person pick and choose what parts of the Bible are true and what parts are not true?  How can a person believe that Jesus died on the cross to take the sins of the world away and yet not believe that Jesus rose from the dead?  How can a person believe that Jesus did miracles, but that Jonah could not have spent three days in the belly of a great fish?

What is true and what is not true?  The Bible is God’s Word.  Not believing some of the Bible will lead to doubting all the Bible.  The Bible is not a collection of human ideas and thoughts.  The Bible is God’s Word, given word for word by the Holy Spirit to human writers.  If any part of the Bible is merely human thoughts, and not God’s Word, then all of God’s Word can’t be trusted.  If it is God’s Word, then all of it is true and is to be believed.

We believe the entire Bible is God’s Word and it is true.  Our belief is not founded on shaky ground.  First, there is more evidence for the documents of the Bible than for any other ancient book.  Second, all the writers of the New Testament wrote within the first century of Christ’s birth.  They all knew Jesus.  Third, even historical facts cited by the writers have been proven to be true.  Fourth, God promised that the writers would tell the truth.  The Holy Spirit guided them so that they did just that.

We believe all of the Bible because in it God tells us that he loves us sinful human beings so very much that he sent His Son Jesus to live, suffer, die and rise for us so that we could be with him in heaven.  That is why God tells us that his words “are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31).

God’s Word is all true. You can trust every word of it from beginning to end.

Who wrote the Bible?

Picture this: the CEO of the company is dictating a letter to the secretary. As the CEO speaks, the secretary takes down every word. When the CEO is done, it’s clearly the CEO’s letter.

At the same time, the secretary’s abilities, skills, etc. are sure to show through. For example, if the secretary has poor eyesight, the letter will probably be typed in a larger font. Yet the letter remains the CEO’s.

Although simplistic, that basically illustrates how we got the Bible. God is the “CEO,” and various human writers are the “secretaries.” God gave the writers the exact words which He wanted them to use. The Bible describes it this way: “All Scripture is God-breathed…” (2 Timothy 3:16). Similarly, “For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21). Often in the Old Testament (written about 1400 – 400 B.C.) you’ll hear God say something like, “Take a scroll and write on it all the words I have spoken to you … ” (Jeremiah 36:2) These words are God’s Words.

Does Jesus agree? Yes! One time Jesus quoted a passage from the book of Psalms. After He did, He made a parenthetical, yet important, remark: “–and the Scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35). He was saying, “These words are God’s words.”

The New Testament makes the same claim. One example is found in 1 Thessalonians: “… when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the word of God . . .” (1 Thessalonians 2:13) Again, these words are God’s words.

And yet God in mercy chose to work through human writers, more than 35 of them. God used people like Moses, Isaiah, Luke, John, and Paul to write down His words, to be His “secretaries,” and indeed their personality/talents shine through. For example, Luke was a physician. In his books, we see lots of details, as you might expect from a physician. Paul was a learned man, so the books he wrote are often quite deep, even a bit more difficult to understand.

To summarize, God gave the Bible through human writers; we can learn a few things about them by reading their books. Yet they remained merely the “secretaries.” The words, finally, are God’s.