God loves you enough to punish me

And God loves me enough to punish you, too.

Sounds a little backwards, doesn’t it? If God loves you, why punish me? To me the answer is very simple to understand- God is just and true, dependable, and righteous. That means, despite how much He loves every one of us, He will do as He says He will do when it comes to the unrepentant and sinful at Judgment Day.

I get really sick to my stomach when I hear people who talk about God only in terms of His love. Yes, love is important, and yes, love is what we are to do to each other, and yes, God is love.

But He is also righteousness, He is also truth, He is also very hard to follow in a world that hates and rejects not just Him, but all those who follow Him. Yeshua said to follow Him we must give up everything that we have held dear, even those things that we were raised with, people we know and love, but are sinful . Sin is very comfortable and fits us like a glove, whereas righteousness needs an expert tailor to make it feel (at least) wearable.  Love helps to overcome, but it doesn’t overcome everything.

I think the people who only want to talk about God as love, loving everyone and every single thing, and their discussion always comes down to how God loves us are probably enablers in their own lives. Love is not acceptance of wrongdoing; love is not acceptance of sin; love is not acceptance of improper behavior.  Do you think Yeshua showed “love” when He made a whip of cords and drove out the businessmen from the Temple courts? Did they feel the love? And what about when God sent fire and brimstone down on Sodom and Gomorrah? Or the fire that destroyed the (total of) 100 men who came after Elijah?

Or the death of Ananias and his wife Sapphira in Acts? And the way Yeshua talked to the Pharisees? Insulting them, calling them “white-washed sepulchers?” Was that a term of endearment?

God is totally just and His love is truly remarkable, but that isn’t all He is about. He is about zealousness for His laws, determination to live as He says and not as the world demands, and strength and honesty. God is not about lovey-dovey dreck: He is a strong and glorious God who is about truth, devotion, faithful obedience, and love. But love for what is right also makes Him a jealous and fearful God! God is love, all right, but not human “mamby-pampy everything is love, you are love, I am love, God is love, love love love, love is all you need” kind of love.

God is about the hard love that brings people into righteousness.

I accept God as my God, I accept Yeshua as the Messiah God sent to us, and I also accept that love is the keystone of salvation, but it is not the whole building. There is also the need for punishment for those who reject God. If we can’t trust God to punish the wicked, we can’t trust Him to reward the righteous. It’s that simple- God is totally binomial: right or wrong, truth or lie, just or unjust. If you notice, throughout the bible when God gives us a commandment, those who violate it first are punished most severely, and it seems that later on people catch a break. In Numbers we read how the man that gathered sticks on Shabbat, right after God said do not work, was stoned to death, but in Ezra’s day they bought and sold on Shabbat and no one was killed for it. Yes, it was a bit later, but God is the same today, tomorrow and yesterday, so His laws are just as important today and tomorrow as they were yesterday.  God’s mercy, which comes from His love, prevented us from totally destroying ourselves. He gave us His laws and when we first violated them His punishment was swift and terrible, but as we continued to violate His laws His mercy showed (mercy from love) in His tolerance for our wrongdoing. But that didn’t stop Him from punishing Shomron and dispersing His people throughout the world, and it didn’t stop Him from destroying His own house and nearly destroying Judea.

The ultimate sign of His love was sending Yeshua, His only begotten Son, to die so that we can be absolved of our own sinfulness.

God’s love for us doesn’t override His punishment for those that don’t love Him back, and I don’t think that He expects us to allow sin in our lives or to accept sin from others. We are to be holy, meaning separated, from the society of the world. We are to hate the sin, and love the sinner. But not love them to the point where we accept what they do in the name of love- we are to reject the sinner who continues to sin. We are to ostracize those who sin, even our own brothers and sisters. Those who plow and look back are not fit for the kingdom of God, so said Yeshua, which means we must go forth and not cling to the past. Our past is sin, our present is grace, and our future is salvation- as long as we walk the walk.

Love is fine, love is good, and as Shaul said, without love, I/you/we are nothing. But love doesn’t conquer all: sin is not acceptable, ever. Love the people in your life, even though they are sinners, but make it clear that their sin is not acceptable and if they refuse to stop sinning in your presence, then vomit them out of your life. Not right away, not without trying to save them, and not every single one of them because even Believers sin. I can’t draw a line in the dirt for you telling you exactly when you should reject someone and when you keep trying to save them; you need to determine that on your own with the guidance of the Ruach haKodesh (Holy Spirit.)

What I am trying to say is that love is fine and love is wonderful, but it may be the alpha and omega, but there is plenty of stuff in between, and we need to recognize all the factors that go into living a righteous life. If we want to live as Yeshua lived we need to understand this: It ain’t easy being Him!

Why Die Young?

We read about it every day in the paper, or hear it on the news: someone who is young and helpful, a real angel (so to speak) and he or she has died.

Don’t we ask ourselves, “Why? Why, Lord, did you take this wonderful person away from their family and loved ones? And away from all the good they were doing? Why?”

I wish I had an answer. I am thinking about this because I saw one of these stories in the paper the other day. A beautiful, young woman with young children who left them a video of herself while she was still lucid and healthy looking. A few weeks later she was dead.

It started me thinking about God’s plans and purposes. I think of all the prophets and could-have-been heroes that are not in the Bible because they didn’t heed God’s call to them. I always say you can’t make an argument from nothing, and you may say, “Steve- if these people aren’t in the Bible how can you say they didn’t heed the call? If there’s nothing about them, you can’t talk about them.” But there are some mentions in the Bible about people that didn’t heed God’s call, or tried not to. Jonah almost made the list of not-knowns, but he changed his mind and did as God asked. Moshe almost made the list, but God sent him Aaron and was very convincing (although Moshe almost caused God to kill him for disobedience on the way to Egypt.) There are some people we hear mention of in the Gospels; the man who wanted to follow Yeshua but wouldn’t give up his wealth, and the other guy who Yeshua asked to follow him but he said he needed to bury his father first. The event about the person is talked about, but the person is on the list of not-knowns.

There is another list, and one that is closer to finding an answer to why people die young. That’s the list of those God took for (apparently) no reason. Miryam (Miriam, Moshe’s sister) died and was buried in the desert. No reason, she just up and died. Aaron was gathered to his people, too, but there was no reason. No mention of sickness, no reminder of the sin he committed at Mt. Horeb, just, “Time to go, Big Bro: Bye-bye.” Moshe also was gathered to his people, even though he was still as sharp as a tack and in good health (the Bible tells us this.) Although here we pretty much know why Moshe was called home- the people were ready to enter the land and Moshe was not allowed to go, so God decided to call Moshe home instead of leaving Him alone in the desert. Moshe was called home because his service to the Lord was at an end.

Hey- maybe that’s the answer? When what the Lord has called us to do is at an end, he will take us home. That’s why Miryam and Aaron were gathered without any obvious or stated reason. That might be true also of Enoch, who walked with God and then just wasn’t there anymore. And Elisha, who was taken into heaven by the chariot of God.

Oh, wait- Elisha didn’t see death. Hmmm….oh, I get it! Elisha was done on Earth but not done, totaly. He had to return to foretell the coming of Messiah, so he was taken from life but not gathered to his people. Not yet, sort of an in-between.

We also have the stories of children that died and were brought back to life- Elijah, Yeshua, Shaul all brought children back to life. Perhaps the kids died so that God’s purpose could be fulfilled, not because their job on Earth was done but because their job was to die to show God’s power by bringing them back.

I think we’re on to something here. Maybe the reason people die, what seems to us uselessly, is planned by God because either they had served their purpose for him , or their death will serve a purpose for Him. The Bible does show us that the death of some people was related to their service to God. Moshe died when his service was done, the boy that Elijah revived and returned to his mother served God in that the mother said, “Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the LORD in your mouth is truth.” And Yeshua even tells us that the death of Lazarus was determined and had a purpose (“This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.”)

Going forward, I think I will stop asking “Why?” when I read about “untimely” deaths and accept that they are, in fact, good things because it is in someway serving God’s purpose. Perhaps the young woman that died had served a purpose that glorified God, or that the results of her death will glorify God in the future.

I remember hearing, when I was very young (just after the Earth cooled) someone explaining that when a wonderful person died that it was because God needed another angel in heaven. I like that- it’s a little sappy, I agree, but it may be closer to the truth than we realize. Maybe He is not calling someone to be an angel, but recalling an angel He sent here to help someone? How many times have we read of God using human beings to accomplish His plans?

I started out without an answer to the question I posed in the title, but now I think I have come up with a good possibility. Why die young? Maybe because the death we don’t understand is related to a purpose that God has had all along. The person has completed what God has called them to do, or their death will result in some action that will glorify God.

I like this answer much better than what could be another valid answer: we live in a cursed world and sometimes bad things just happen. There’s a lot of truth to that, too.

Nah…I like the serving God’s purpose reason better. Don’t you?

There is a downside, though: if you feel you are performing a purpose that glorifies God, you may think that completing that task will result in your death. I mean, if there is any validity to my postulation, serving God’s purpose on Earth will get us killed! On the other hand, we could refuse God’s call to us and end up on that list of not-knowns.  Life is not like salvation: God grants us both, but whereas God will not take back the gift of salvation, He certainly can, and will, take back the gift of life if it serves His purpose.

Let’s also remember that it is much, much better to be in God’s presence than on Earth (at least, I think so) so, overall, serving God is the highest calling anyone on Earth can have, and since we don’t know how much God wants us to do, or how long it will take, might just a s well do as He calls us to do and not worry about what happens when it’s over.

Live your life to glorify God, do as He calls you to do, and you will live a blessed life. Then, when God is ready for you to come home, it will be peaceful and glorious.

Is God Really Invisible?

We often hear about the “Invisible God” of the Jews. Whereas the pagan worshipers of old had gods that one could see and feel, the Hebrew God was an invisible god that no one had ever seen.

And, for the most part, God is invisible. Good thing, too, since He tells Moshe that no human being can look upon His face and live. On the other hand, He does show Himself, now and then, in visions (Daniel and Ezekiel saw nearly His entire body) or directly, as He did with Moses.

Is God really invisible? Or, is it that we can’t see Him because we aren’t looking?

After all, what is invisible? When we are in the daylight we see the white light of the sun but none of the colors inside that light. When we go out into the sun we get a sunburn, but we don’t see the UV rays that are burning us. We can see the light, and we can feel the warmth, but we don’t see the colors or feel the burning rays.

Here’s the kicker- those invisible aspects of sunlight are not invisible. They can be seen; all you need is the correct filter. If you look through a special filter, such as a prism to see the colors or one designed to allow the frequency that the UV rays operate within to be visualized, we can see those here-to-fore “invisible” things. They may be invisible to normal sight, but they are real and with the proper filter they are no longer invisible.

God is like that. His presence can be felt, His works can be seen, and His existence is obvious. As obvious as a sunburn. But we don’t “see” Him. Yet, as I said before, Moshe, Daniel and Ezekiel all saw Him. He made Himself known, visually, to them. How is it that they could see and we don’t?

Think about Elijah and when he was being hunted. The story is found in 2nd Kings: the King of Aram sent his army to kill Elijah, who was able to foresee by God’s spirit the ambushes being set against the King of Israel (the Northern Kingdom) and when the servant of Elijah awoke and saw the troops surrounding the city, Elijah told the servant, “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” And Elisha prayed to God and asked that He open his servant’s eyes. God did as Elijah asked, and then the servant could see the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. Essentially, that which was invisible became visible because the servant was looking through a special filter- the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) enabled him to see the invisible army of God.

If we look for God through that same filter, I believe we will see Him. It may be as an angel, it may be as a vision, it may be as a normal human being who does His work in our life. God is real, God is present, and God is visible when we look for Him using the filter of the Holy Spirit.

We cannot see His face, we know that already, but we can see Him as clearly as the nose on our face if we just look hard enough. I see Him, in the beautiful sunsets and sunrises that remind me as I wake and as I go to sleep that God is a wonderful artist, and His presence is with me, always. I see Him in others when I see someone do something nice for another person, when I do something that I know I don’t want to do, in my flesh, but need to do because in my spirit I know I should. I see God whenever I see goodness, love and compassion in the world.

Don’t get me wrong and think that I see God all the time. That’s not true, because I am still sinful and weak. I never saw God at all before I accepted Him and Messiah Yeshua. He wasn’t just invisible to me, He was non-existent. Now He is real, I feel His presence, I see Him through the Spirit (occasionally) and because of this I know Him to be real.

Do you have the spiritual sight? Have you seen God? Again, let me emphasize: I am not saying you will see Him in totality, or as you see another human being. You will see His effect, His presence, His armies and maybe, if He chooses to allow it, His physical being (not the face- stay away from the face!) in a dream or vision. I haven’t seen that part of Him, yet. Maybe someday?

The truth is God is invisible because we choose not to see Him. It’s all on us, just as many don’t see His presence or His works because they refuse to accept His existence. I believe that many people who say they believe in God are just saying it. I have nothing to go on to justify that statement except my personal feelings, and my experience of having seen so many people who profess to believe in God do and say things that they would never do or say if they really knew the Lord.

If you are unsure about God, whether or not He really exists, or whether or not He really cares about you, take off the filter of the world and try to look through the filter of trust, faith, and the spirit. God will make Himself known to those that genuinely seek Him out. Don’t expect that one half-hearted request will get Him to drop everything and show up on your doorstep. He requires us to be faithful, which means to keep trying even when things don’t happen. Just keep at it, keep asking, and keep expecting, in faith, for Him to show Himself to you.

If you do that, I believe that He will show Himself to you. You need to keep looking through the proper filter to see Him. It took about 3 months of constant requests and prayer, when I was first saved, before He made Himself known to me. And when He did, WOW!! I felt His Ruach enter my body, and I was (for a second or two) totally ethereal. I was spirit, not flesh. That was nearly 18 years ago, and when I think about it or relate the story I still get chills and teary-eyed. It was a life-changing experience (I think I have a link to it somewhere on the Home page of this blog.)

Pray, be faithfully expectant, and ask God to let you see through the filter of the Ruach HaKodesh so you can see Him.

God isn’t invisible to those who want to see Him.