Tag Archives: Love

The Unlimited Limited

We know that God is everywhere at once, so it would be impossible for Heaven to be His literal dwelling place. But we’re also taught that He lives in Heaven, that He sits on a throne, that Jesus stands beside Him, and so on.

So I’ve wondered before whether God in Heaven is just a limited manifestation of Him, like a protuberance into our universe that He extends, like He’s reaching an arm into Nature. Sunday’s lesson’s author almost agrees with that, but shows a refined view of it from the Bible.

The Logistics of Being Everywhere and Right Here

God isn’t lying to anyone if He has a local form of Himself while also being everywhere at once, because He most likely just tells everyone something like, “This is just one aspect of my infinite Self. I am actually everywhere at once, and I just give you this appearance of myself here as something for you to understand.”

And actually, they would probably have a direct experience of Him being everywhere in the universe: anywhere they go, I’m sure they can  sense His promptings in their minds, so they know that He isn’t just in the throne room in Heaven.

God the Indivisible

Here’s a little-known attribute of God you can use to impress somebody: He’s indivisible. That means He can’t be divided into different parts; He’s not made up of different pieces; He’s a single, indivisible whole. So that appearance of Him in Heaven’s throne room would be totally undiluted; it wouldn’t be a part of Him, because He has no parts!

Keep in mind also that He is infinitely powerful in every place in the universe. And He has infinite attention; nothing can ever use up His attention or divide it.

What this all means is that that aspect of Him in Heaven would be fully Him, have 100% of His attention, and have all His power. It, or He, would be able to create a whole new galaxy with a single word, or whatever else. It’s really Him.

And at the same time, there’s an infinity of Him out there doing other things, such as sustaining the whole universe, keeping every atom and photon in motion, and maybe interacting with strange and exotic beings we know nothing about.

God Has His Own Country We Know Nothing About

God has a whole life we don’t even know about and can never really understand. He’s uncreated. He’s infinite. We are so tiny compared to Him that we’re almost infinitely small: He’s infinite and we’re finite, and any finite number divided by infinity is very, very close to zero.

So we’re like tiny little thoughts off in the corner of His mind somewhere, like a grain of sand on the beach in front of His summer home in His true country that is really Himself. He certainly wouldn’t be obligated by someone above Him to have to come to Earth on that grain of sand to die for our sins, but He did it anyway, because He is principled and loving.

And the appearance of Him in Heaven is another example of that love. He meets beings in a special way there. He is so infinitely immense and different than us that we could never understand Him, but He gives us something we can understand because it is loving to do that for us.

Solomon: God is Uncontainable yet Chooses to be Near

Surprisingly, 1 Kings 8 expresses these concepts perfectly. In verse 27, Solomon (billed as the wisest man who ever lived) states that Heaven can’t contain God (so how much less the temple on Earth that Solomon built, he says). And then in verses 30, 43, and 49, he also asks God to hear them from His special dwelling place in Heaven.

In other words, he acknowledges this strange reality that God is everywhere at once, is also above and beyond our physical reality, and is also specially present in a place that we call Heaven.

His true mode of existence is unimaginable, but because He constantly sustains our universe and also maintains a local home for His people to visit Him, we know that He loves us.

~Lemuel Bach
(Praise Team Leader at New Horizons SDA Church in Republic, MO)

Two Poisons and an Antidote

Satan got two main lies into the mind of Eve in order to get sin into our lives. The only way to discredit a perfectly loving God is through lies. (This is a reaction to the February 3 bible study lesson at http://ssnet.org/lessons/13a/less06.html.)

When he told Eve that they would become like gods if they ate the forbidden fruit, he implied that God was withholding something good from them, which would mean God was unloving, God was not generous, God was untrustworthy.

Then he said that Eve wouldn’t die from eating the fruit, that being separated from God doesn’t really lead to death. He wanted us to think that being separated from God is preferable.

Why do I say “being separated from God”? My understanding is that sin is the condition of being separated from God. Here’s why. The Bible says that sin is “lawlessness,” a lack of law. Well, what is the Law? It’s love. And it says that God is love. So sin is lawlessness, which is a lack of love, which is a lack of God. So sin is separation from God.

We see this in the Garden: as soon as Adam and Eve broke their promise, they experienced separation. God walked around calling to them, instead of them running to Him as usual. They were separated from their own bodies by shame. They were separated from each other by blame. They were separated from their home. That’s the state of sin: separation.

Those two lies became real in Eve’s life when she took action on them, when she actually ate the fruit. She created distrust within herself – as Adam did soon after – by acting on the idea of not trusting God.

The distrust, fear, and blame against God in our minds is like a poison that Satan put there through these two lies, separating us from God – a separation that leads to death.

Now, what type of antidote could God give us to a mental poison? Jesus on the cross gave us a mental antidote: He showed that God is loving and generous and that sin really does cause death. Even while being tortured, He prayed for forgiveness for His tormentors, and that showed God’s amazing love. He went to the Cross unresistingly, “like a lamb to the slaughter” (Isaiah 53:7), showing God’s generosity.

And Jesus didn’t die of the wounds He received but rather because of the separation from God the Father: as evidence that They were being separated, right before He died, Jesus cried out that God had left Him alone. Then, the soldiers saw that He was already dead far before someone would normally die from natural causes.

Satan wants us to think that God is unloving and that separating ourselves from Him is safe. That’s the poison. But Jesus gave an antidote that goes in through our eyes and ears by the power of the Spirit when we contemplate Him.

Graham Maxwell said in his book Servants or Friends? that only a best Friend will share an unpleasant truth with you. Well, God in Jesus used His own body to show us the truth of His love so that we don’t have to be separated anymore.

~Lemuel Bach
(Praise Team Leader at New Horizons SDA Church in Republic, MO)

Having Perfect Love

(This is a reaction to the January 30 bible study lesson at http://www.ssnet.org/lessons/13a/less05.html.)

That first passage, Matthew 5:44-48, ends with what is a major tripping point for some people: the call to be “perfect, as your Heavenly Father is perfect.” That seems like an impossible demand.

But the word “perfect” means something in this context, and not what people suspect. Right before that statement, Jesus had been preaching about loving even people who don’t love you back. He then says basically that if we love like that, we will be perfect like the Father.

And in that context, “perfect” seems to mean that we have a complete understanding of love, at least more complete than the common person. I’ve heard that the Biblical idea of perfection includes the concept of being complete and right and correct at your current level, rather than being at an end point where no more improvement is possible.

So you can be “perfect” in love, meaning that you have a complete understanding that love is really only true love when you are loving even towards people who do not love you back. But perfection doesn’t mean being some sort of flawless performer on a stage who executes every movement with amazing precision and never trips (which is what people think Jesus means by  “perfect”).

Pastor Doug Batchelor preached about this (search the Internet for “Doug Batchelor perfect christian” to find the sermon). He said that the common definition of “perfect” means that there is no possibility of improvement. Well, no one can honestly say we’re there, so it’s scary to think that God wants us to be.

He explained that the Bible many times states that it’s impossible for anyone to be righteous except for God. Jesus Himself said that no one is good except the Father. So how can He ask us to be perfect and also state that no one is good?

Well, Abraham was declared righteous (Genesis 15:6) because he trusted in God’s promise. Phillipians 2:1-8, used in today’s lesson, tells us to have the same mind of humility and love that is in Christ. Jesus Himself stated several times that we can’t do anything except through Him, as if we are branches coming off of a vine and He’s the vine.GoodSamaritan

So being perfect really is just abiding in Christ. It means learning from Him to be a servant, like the Good Samaritan who went out of his way to help someone in need — to love his neighbor. Even if we make a mistake now and then, the trend of your life if you stay connected with Jesus every day will be a trend toward God.

Batchelor stated an analogy from marriage: you can’t be a faithful to a spouse 358 days per year out of 365 and think that’s enough because you only takes a week off per year. Faithfulness means every day. So with God, we are perfectly abiding in Him when we spend time with Him every single day.

You will keep growing, you will change, you will make mistakes if you’re trying new things, but you will be declared perfect, meaning “complete,” at each stage when you are connected to Jesus the sinless Man.

~Lemuel Bach
(Praise Team Leader at New Horizons SDA Church in Republic, MO)

The Serpent and the Sabbath

(This is a reaction to the January 27 bible study lesson at http://www.ssnet.org/lessons/13a/less05.html.)

God is powerful and we’re dependent on Him, but those aren’t the best reasons to trust and obey Him. Yes, we’re created so we only have life when connected to Him. But it’s not like there’s an unfun life without Him and a fun life with Him. No, He is life, and we only have any life in Him. He’s infinite, and there’s nothing outside of Him.

But we trust and obey Him not just because of His power, but because He is wise and good. Someone who just has power without love isn’t worth obeying. The Bible says that we obey Him out of love. And demons know His power but don’t put their faith in Him.

Anyway, I don’t think Adam and Eve saw rules and obligations. He was their everything, their whole lives: they knew nothing else. And the things He commanded them to do were things they wanted to do anyway, such as multiplying and eating.

Of course they would want to multiply, because they would be expressing their boundless love for each other; and of course they would want to eat, because everything would be indescribably delicious.

So He gave them natural desires and then commanded them to do things that would simply be following the desires He gave them. But that one prohibition against eating that one fruit was the only command that would seem more like a modern rule, because it would be the only one against their natural desires.serpent tree

And actually my understanding from reading C.S. Lewis’ book Perelandra is that that test actually gave them a benefit: they gained the knowledge of good and evil by not eating from the tree, because they experienced the battle between trusting self and trusting God above self that they wouldn’t get if they were just following their pleasant natural desires all the time.

God gave them a chance to step outside of their own will and more deeply into His by resisting a fruit that seemed desirable to eat and just obeying Him without understanding why.

And we need that experience, too. Maybe that’s partially why the Sabbath is so important, because there’s no logical reason for it to be on a particular day. But if we obey God’s command in spite of that, we step outside of our own will and into His.

~Lemuel Bach
(Praise Team Leader at New Horizons SDA Church in Republic, MO)