Proof of God, If You Will

www.bible.com/1713/1ti.2.5-6.csb

In our very Westernized society, we need, seek, demand even, PROOF! Especially for those things we are to be convinced of, not things we already believe. We have a strong confirmatory bias, that we only believe evidence or information which confirms what we already believe. We demand a much higher degree of evidence for an opposing viewpoint.

I suspect that most people who are Christian (at least in this country) are so because they were raised in Christian environments, homes, with grandparents, etc. We have a strong legacy of Christianity in this nation. It is inherent in our government, corporate systems, even social culture. Why else would be have hospitals?

Hospitals exist because we do not believe that the weak ought to be culled from the herd. We believe the weak ought to be helped. If our culture did not have a cultural sense of Christianity, we would have no desire to call the ambulance when someone gets sick. We would simply kick them and say, “Be done with it. I’ve got better things to do than watch you die!” Christianity instills the expectation that when someone is sick, we seek to get them help and treatment. Christianity offers hope, that even if this life is awful, there is hope for a better world after death.

But is that proof of God? No. Just because a culture adopts in principle the underlying assumptions that life is valuable and ought to be protected, doesn’t prove that God exists. It may show that being Christian is more reasonable, but not necessarily better.

The better proof is what inspires Christianity. When did it start? Where does it begin? Of course, the answer lies in its namesake, Jesus Christ, or, Jesus the Christ, since “Christ” is a title rather than a name. The passage of time tends to forget that. He was called “the Christ” because Christ transliterated from the Greek “Xristos” and means “messiah” or “Anointed One”. How was this man so anointed? You might remember that in the four books written about him, he was anointed not with oil, but with the Holy Spirit. The clouds parted at his baptism and a being like a dove descended upon him. A voice from heaven declared, “This is my Son in whom I am well-pleased.” Now, is this proof of God? Well, it’s better, but it’s still an old document, established by the presence of eye-witnesses (a., because it was written so close to events of the story that eye-witnesses would still have been around to corroborate or deny it, and b., eye-witnesses attested to writing it, not someone who wrote centuries after it happened). If eye-witnesses can say they say the clouds part, heard a voice and a dove, and what the voice said, that is better proof of God, is it not?

But perhaps the better proof, especially if you are not a Christian, is the man Christ Jesus Himself. While the New Testament documents could have been faked (though the evidence is much stronger for the New Testament than against it, and those who deny the veracity of the New Testament documents as authentic have a much harder time establishing any other document from antiquity), it is much more likely that they are genuine, and are written by people who saw and heard the Christ. That being the case we have a good idea that Jesus lived, worked and ministered in first century Palestine, performed miracles that could not be explained scientifically, and died on a Roman cross (as attested by Roman historians, namely Tacitus) and yet inexplicably rose from the dead a short time later. All of these elements combine into a powerful proof for God, for as atheists like to remind us, no one rises from the dead. Dead is dead. Such an occurrence is impossible and unlikely. So for anyone to do it, with a number of eye-witnesses to attest to it, must be proof that a higher, directive power exists. That Jesus both predicted and fulfilled this death, burial and resurrection, established this higher power as intelligent, and may even be Jesus Himself. No one else could do the things He did. And while some may argue that other gods of other religions have done these and similar things, I would counter by asking if the evidence is as good. While with Jesus we have eye-witness testimony, all other “god” stories rely on hearsay, documents wrote long after the events in question and so forth.

But you may again counter that of course the documents were written long after, because writing didn’t exist until then. Okay. Does that make the events they describe more likely or less likely? While some like to apply the “telephone” analogy (i.e., messages degrade with transmission) to the gospels, they don’t like it when applied to Osiris, or Zeus. While there has been a corruption of the text of the gospels, the degree of corruption is known, since much older documents exist which can be checked. Anyone with a casual knowledge of document transmission and the 5000 New Testament documents, copies and early translations extant can verify this. The New Testament is a very well established document of history.

Proof of God? A better proof than I can think of. But there is something I always notice about God. God never provides 100% proof. Despite the volume of evidence that He provides us about Himself, there is always, always a certain percentage of faith required. Because the truth of God is never acquired by scientific truth, evidence, or even vaunted reason. God is Spirit. And those who approach Him must do so with a degree of faith. It is the “leap of faith” that gets you from evidence to trust.

Something to think about on your Thursday. Thanks for reading.

Worthy

www.bible.com/1713/rev.4.11.csb

I can’t tell you how true this is. I really can’t, because to tell it to you would imply I could understand it, communicate it, and you could understand it too. I don’t think either of us is capable of this kind of understanding. For to understand the worthiness of God would also be to understand His eternal and infinite nature. My human mind just isn’t up to the task. But I can easily say “You are worthy!” and fully believe and trust every word of it. For God is worthy.

The writer names three things that God is worthy of 1) glory, 2) honor, and 3) power. This statement by the way is communicated to the Lord via the 24 elders that surround the throne. That offers a little context here, as the source of God’s praise and glory here does not come from an earthly source, but from these creatures in Heaven who in all likelihood represent the Church and Israel. In context, before they offer this word of praise, these 24 elders cast the crowns from their heads before the throne, an act of utter submission and humility before the One who sits on the throne. If there are any who understand among the human race what these three things are, I would hope it would be these glorified men before the throne of God. This raises the stakes of understanding, as they have a deeper understanding of the very things we are discussing.

So whatever glory these elders have received (they are wearing crowns and have received some glory to be able to sit in the presence of the throne), the One who sits on the is worthy of more glory. Whatever honor these men have received for the same, the One who sits on the throne is worthy of more honor. Whatever power these men have to sit at foot at the throne, the One who sits on the is worthy of more. For all the glory, honor and power they have been given, it is nothing compared to the One who sits on the throne, the Eternal One, the All-Powerful One. Even these men in their glorified state know that they are not the One.

If these glorified Elders can acknowledge the glory, honor, and power of the One, what are we doing? We have no glory, no honor, and certainly no power, yet we grasp at it ourselves, claiming some kind of divine favor because God loves us. Compared to Him, we are microbes, and that’s being generous. The only grace, glory, honor, and power we have is what He has given to us, to use for His glory. There can be no pride in the presence of a Christian. It is anathema to God, for whom all credit for all things is due. He is the Creator. He made all things. He deserves all the praise, because all things owe Him their existence. He ALONE is worthy. We are privileged, PRIVILEGED, to receive any grace whatsoever.

I am sorry, we must start here, with who God is, Hie eternal nature, His worthiness, His absolute sovereignty over the universe, before we can being to understand Jesus, and what it meant for Jesus to become a man, lay His life down for us, bearing upon Himself the weight of man’s sin before this Almighty God. As worthy and amazing as God is, the Lamb is given this honor:

“When He [the Lamb] took the scroll, the four living creatures and the 24 elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and gold bowls filled with incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song: ‘You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because You were slaughtered, and You redeemed people for God by Your blood from every tribe and language and people and nation.'”
(Rev 5:8-9)

That’s Jesus. That’s the Jesus who came from the worthy God and demonstrated that worthiness before us. Jesus showed us what God’s worthiness means. He is worthy of glory, honor and power, not just because he sits on a distant throne and surveys the universe He created. That alone would have been enough, more than enough. But He also sent His Son, His equal, His second Person of a Divine triunity we still do not understand, both God but also Man. This One showed us what God’s worthiness means. He would give it all up, all the glory, honor, and power, to live as one of us, to tell us about Himself, and ultimately to die in our place. He would take all of the offenses against HImself that all of us have or will ever commit, and took the penalty upon Himself. He is both a just God, and a God willing to pay the price for His own justice.

All for you.

Who is worthy? He is.

Lord Jesus, Son of God, the Lamb who bears the sins of the world, oh my God, may I never forget all that You are. I am ever in Your debt, because I can never repay what I owe you. All that I have is Yours, for it was Yours from the beginning. May I be of service to You today, casting aside my foolish pride, so that You may count me as one of Yours. In Jesus’ Name I pray, Amen.

To All Generations

www.bible.com/1713/eph.3.20-21.csb

Who do you think Paul is talking about here? Is he talking about Jesus? You might think so, but Jesus is mentioned secondarily in this passage. He isn’t primary. To find the subject of this passage, you have to go all the way back to verse fourteen, where Paul writes, “I kneel before the Father.” Interesting huh? Context!

Now, does it change how we read this text? Well, not a lot. But it does show us a bit about how Paul thought of God. You see, of all the terms Paul could have used here, his favorite is “Father” when referring to God. This of course is in reference to Jesus, the Son. But Father is also important to us as believers in Christ, since we are also “sons” of God through faith. While there is one Son, the Son, we are also “sons” and “children” of God. And it is pretty remarkable.

I want you to notice something else about this verse. He is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think. I know that when I pray to God, and petition Him for certain outcomes, my imagination can only go so far. I can imagine a healing or a relief from stress or something minor like that. But God has infinite creativity. He is able to “do” beyond anything that we can “ask or think.” God “does” more before breakfast than I could ever imagine thinking. So in our limited capacity, we can ask, we can hope, and we can imagine, but God can DO. And His work surpasses anything that we could come up with.

I can remember when I was between churches and just bumming out, feeling sorry for myself about what God’s purpose and role for me was. Never in a million years would I ever have imagine looking in the want ads in the newspaper for a ministry position, but God did. My wife happened to see it first, showed me the classified, and thus began a four year ministry at Browns Corner Chapel outside Scipio, IN. I would have never imagined it, but God did, and God arranged circumstances to get me started there. God is like that.

The last piece I wanted to focus on is from my title above. Don’t let anyone tell you that the Bible is an old dusty book that belongs to history. There are books like that, but this isn’t one of them. This book, though it describes historical events and was written nearly 2000 years ago, is fresh every day. It wasn’t just written to the first generation, but to every generation. Jesus is just as alive and real today as He was for your grandparents and your ancestors. You can have as close a relationship with Jesus as the Apostle Paul, or even as Peter did, if you want it. Do you?

Lord Jesus, Heavenly Father, sweet Holy Spirit, I cannot help but be awed by what I see and hear. Your word continues to stand today as the best source of authority, Your message of hope that I will ever read. I cannot but be in awe and wonder by how Your old book still speaks. I am grateful that even such a one as I, far removed from the events of the Bible, can still read and be blessed, as if I too were participating in the events as they unfold. I too can experience the presence of God in my life just as the early disciples did, because You are just as real today as 2000 years ago. Lord, however I may serve You today, let me serve. In Your Name I pray, Amen.

Those who Fear

www.bible.com/1713/psa.103.13.csb

What is your perception of God like? Is He in close fellowship with you? Or is God distant, standoffish, and disapproving? Are you nervous about when God finally comes in judgment, or do you welcome it, insofar as you anticipate what He’s going to to all those wicked sinners?

It is no coincidence that our perception of God is not unlike the perception of our own fathers. In fact, one plays directly into the other, which is why many people who have “daddy” issues also have God issues. It isn’t by accident either, as our fathers have the task of representing God to us. This comes up in the Ten Commandments when we are told to respect our father and our mother. Why these two in particular? Because our respect for these two bleed over into our veneration of who God is and our respect for authority in general.

This is why we need good fathers, men who will protect us and counsel us, men who will discipline us when we need it, and encourage us when we falter. We need men who model God, and who instill a fear of God in us. When we have no “fear” of our father, meaning we aren’t scared of disappointing him, or fear his anger, we also lose our fear of the same in God.

I would encourage you to seek God’s presence in your life. You have greater responsibilities than just existing from day to day. He has called you to higher purposes, and you can hear His voice when you condition it your hearing through prayer and Bible reading. I encourage you to spend time in each every day to be able to hear the “still small voice” of the Lord.

Lord Jesus, I just need You today. I don’t need money, fame, or any distractions. Let me wholly be devoted to Your leading and direction. Let my mind and my heart wholly fear You, affording You the respect and awe that is already yours. You are God. And I need to me reminded of this every day. Thank You Jesus, for it is in Your Name I pray, Amen.

Christmas God

www.bible.com/1713/heb.4.16.csb

How fortunate are we that we serve a God who sits on a throne of grace? If you remember the movie ELF, you might remember Will Farrell’s title character getting very angry at the department store Santa where he worked, telling him he is not the “real” Santa, and that the chair made up for him to visit with eager holiday shopping children is a “throne of lies!” What a sad commentary on our religious system. Something many people are waking up to these days is that the system in which they’ve been employed, raised their families, gone to church and given their blood, sweat and treasure, is built on “lies”. The throne of Santa in many ways epitomizes that system.

What we have made of Christmas is the throne of lies. If Christmas is the best holiday of the year, then we have truly turned it into a cash cow, when everything is Christmas-ified. Even things that have nothing to do with Christmas, like outdoor power equipment, liquor beer and wine sales, palm trees, you name it, everything gets the Christmas treatment. All to make an extra dollar. The character of Santa, and his god-like persona is the kind of god who rewards kindness, just for the asking, but looks askance at evil, just this once, so that you can have a good holiday. He sees you when you’re sleeping. He knows when you’re awake, but he doesn’t punish evil, but to grant a stocking full of coal. He is the kind of god people want when grace without cost. That’s what we call “cheap grace” and the feelings of forgiveness and gratitude last just as long at the packaging it comes in. The kindness of “good feelings” of Christmas wear off by December 26th, and all the “good will toward men” seems to fade with the last of the Christmas carols. This isn’t a throne of grace, but a throne of lies. Actually, it reveals the human heart as much as anything, since it demonstrates that we can all get along with each other when we expect something, but when it is unmet, or even satisfied, we go back to the business of looking out for ourselves as usual.

There has got to be a better way. If we can all respect the ideals of Christmas, the joy and the feeling of peace and well-being, then perhaps we need to seek a different throne. Instead of one built on presents and anticipation, perhaps we need to seek one built on Presence and realization. We can no longer rely on cheap forgiveness and “cheap grace”. What we hope for in Christmas is fulfilled in Christ. The “peace on earth and good will toward men” isn’t something found in a box under a tree, but in a man who died on a cross 2000 years ago. Peace of earth doesn’t come from a store, but from the atoning death of the One who came from heaven, lived among us, tempted in all ways that we are, and yet without sin. This One died in our place. He took the punishment and the wrath intended for you, and suffered it in Himself. So instead of wrath, as we deserve, we can receive peace and grace from the Father.

Don’t dare reduce the sacrifice that Jesus made for you. Don’t dare reduce the penalty for sin. God doesn’t wink at sin and say, “maybe just this once”. God hates sin. And He hates the one who sins. Be glad. Because if God was apathetic towards sinners, He wouldn’t care if you lived or died. But because God hates the sinner, he very much cares about what happens to them. This is why He sent His own Son to suffer and die in Your place, not because He had to. God is under no obligation to suffer for you. You are obligated under His justice to suffer and die for your own sins, and you will if you ignore His great salvation. But God in Christ chose the suffer the indignity of human flesh so that each of us could choose life in Him and through Him. This throne of Justice is awesome, and will strike you with intense fear, because even as a Christian, you know you are not holy enough to be in His presence. But for us, it is a throne of grace. Though we are terrified, He loves us. And that is a strange feeling.

Dear Father, as I come before you today, let me pray for my brothers and sisters today who still cling to the lies of this world. For a whom a veil has been pulled over their eyes, and they cannot see the truth for the lies, who have clung to cheap grace without consequence. Father, rather let us open our eyes to the reality of grace. It comes at great cost, at the dearest most treasured price, and shame on us if we do not keep this before our eyes, that we were bought at extreme cost, precious beyond anything this world can offer. This is the grace extended to us because our sins, our vile, filthy, worthless sins, spare us from that grief and everlasting punishment for which our sins deserve. Lord we do not deserve what You offer us, and I know that is the point of grace. Thank You Jesus for bearing that sins upon Your shoulders, so that we could live. In Your holy Name I pray, Amen.

God and the Devil

I had a conversation some time ago with a patient that went something like this:

Proposition A. “God and the Devil are the same person.”

Why?

Proposition B. “People blame God for some things and they say the Devil caused other things.”

So it’s like two sides of the same coin. It made absolutely no sense to me. So in making conversation, it was something like this: God causes storms and illness, and Satan causes storms and illness. If the we have the same effect, we must have the same cause. If she’s right, then there no hope, because how can you have a God who judges evil if He is the source of the evil? How can God consign His own being to Hell? It just doesn’t make sense when you start to think through it. This does not solve the problem of good and evil, and it does not satisfy the issue that we know in our hearts.

Proposition B above is often applied to acts of nature or natural evil for which there is no human cause. i.e, storms, illness, freak accidents. But what about personal evil? Stuff we are tempted to do, or is done to us? If God and the Devil are the same, is there good and bad? Right and wrong? No, because they all come from the same source. And this violates our own sense of justice. If we have a sense of justice, then justice must be a real thing. But our sense of justice can’t be greater than God’s, can it? So God must be more just, and thus he cannot also be anti-justice at the same time. That violates the law of non-contradiction.

If we were only to take the proof of Proposition B, we might be tempted to accept Proposition A. However, there is far more proof to consider against Proposition A. While it is true that natural evil can come from Satanic influence (See Job 1) we also know that God uses catastrophic weather to judge evil (The Flood of Genesis 7). God sends plagues, causes the sun not to shine, parts the seas, and raises the dead. Satan on the other hand is known to afflict individuals (Job again is the example), and torments people. By his work, whole nations can suffer. David was tempted once to conduct a census, and because he did, God judged him for not trusting His faithfulness to sustain the nation, and offered David a choice of three judgments (this is in 2 Samuel). But Satan could not plague a whole nation, or send a flood. The two, God and Satan, may do similar things, but is a difference in scale. God can destroy the earth with a flood in judgment for sin. Satan can afflict a person with illness to tempt him to rebuke God. It’s very different after all.

And this doesn’t account at all for moral evil. Since we have a sense of justice, we know there is a difference between right and wrong. Every time we watch a movie or TV show, we know who the good guys are and who the bad guys are. It’s not hard. We can detect moral failure a mile away. With all of that skill, there must be some opposition between good and evil. They cannot come from the same place.

Also, Proposition A represents, though I doubt the speaker could articulate it, what is known as dualism. The Eastern religion of Taoism is probably the best articulation of this idea.

The white and the black portions represent good and evil, but both together form a whole. It was also popularized in Star Wars as the two sides of the force. However, in Star Wars, they never clearly represent it, as good is always implied to be the better way. That point of view doesn’t make sense in Taoism, as good and evil are both equal and equally powerful. This is contrary to Christian thinking, as it is very clear that God, the Creator, is uncreated Himself, and all things, even Satan, are created beings, making them inferior to Him.

Because God is the Creator, He has the authority to determine what is right, which necessarily are all things that agree with His nature. Everything that is contrary to His nature is considered evil. The universe declares the glory of God. Even without the Bible you can know that God is infinite, and infinitely creative. That He created surpassing beauty and wonder in the world around us. Even in us, He created beauty and grace, as we can tell between beauty and ugliness. When you read His word you find that God is a God of grace and mercy, forgiving sin and desires relationship with human beings through His Son, Jesus Christ. God wants all that is best for you, and is a ready refuge in times of trouble.

Satan on the other hand is consistently depicted as one who wishes you harm, wants you to reject God, and even in your own heart, you know there is always an influence desiring to tempt you away from what is good for what is sinful or evil.

How can God both encourage you to be better, and tempt you to be worse? Whose schizophrenic here?

I think it’s obvious that both Propositions are false. The first because it simply doesn’t fit the facts as we understand them, and the second because there is a vast difference in scale between “acts of God” and Satan’s schemes.

Perhaps

www.bible.com/1713/zep.2.3.csb

I feel a bit more certainty than my brother the prophet Zephaniah. On the Day of the Lord’s anger, which many feel is even today, I know where my soul is going.

Righteousness and humility both seem to be at the heart of this text. This isn’t a relative righteousness where you compare yourself to your neighbor and tell yourself, “At least I’m not as bad as that guy.” This is an absolute righteousness, where the standard and model you compare yourself to is Jesus Christ. God does not grade on a curve, but on grace. He knows you cannot measure up, so He sent His Son to die on a cross for you, so that you would believe on Him and accept His gift of righteousness in exchange for your filthy rags.

For humility, I can think of no better example than the Holy Spirit. Consider that the third person of God, co-equal with God in every way, calls no attention to Himself. God the Father is the Creator, the Provider, the King of the Universe. Jesus the Second Person of God is the Savior, the One who rose from the dead and offered eternal life to all who believe. But the Third Person of God, the Holy Spirit, simply points to the Father and the Son. He does not glorify Himself or point to Himself, but points others to the Father and the Son. I think this is why there is such stern penalty against blaspheming the Holy Spirit. All the Holy Spirit wants to do is to bring us through the Son to the Father. He doesn’t ask for praise or worship Himself. I think in many ways, the Holy Spirit is the humility of God, and the reason He calls us to humility. As much as there is glory, laud, and honor for the Father and the Son, there is humility in the Spirit showing us what it means to be co-equal with God, and yet desire only that you give glory to the Father and the Son. What would it mean for your life if you only worked to bring people to the feet of Jesus, instead of taking any praise for yourself?

No one of us can live up to the standards set by God in Christ and in the Holy Spirit, but thankfully, Jesus came and lived out these ideals for us. We then trust in Him to school us and raise us up according to His word, that in every day and every way, we work to be more like Him. Let us praise the Name of Jesus before the Father!

Lord Jesus, thank You for taking this one for the team. Because of You, I have a chance, no, a certainty by my faith in You to spend eternity with You in Heaven. May every day be a day that I give honor to my calling. In Your Name I pray, Amen.

Name

www.bible.com/1713/pro.18.10.csb

What’s in a name? Does the name of a person embody their character? For example, does Karen tell you all you need to know about a person’s personality? What about Billy Jo Bob? Or Alexander? Or Marx? In the West, I think we’ve lost something when it comes to names. We tend, as parents, to give our children names at birth, before we really know anything about them. Sometimes they are family names, or names of people we favor. My first daughter, for example, is named for my wife’s best friend from high school, who passed not long after we were married. Our daughter has not grown up into anyone like the best friend. Maybe, in time, that will change.

In other cultures, there is a birth name, and then a name you choose or earn for yourself. You see this sometimes in the Catholic tradition, where a child chooses the name of a saint as their baptismal name, of upon joining an order, they choose a name for being in the order. But you also see this name-changing in high school or college where someone received a nick-name, or he “makes a name for himself”, which often means they take a name they’ve been given and apply meaning and importance to that name. Many have heard of Wal-mart, named for Sam Walton. Other names like Macy’s, JC Penney’s, Woolworth’s, and a host of others that over the years have become household names (Sony, Sanyo, Ford, Chevrolet, etc.) because a person made a name for himself. In my own feeble way, I am even now applying meaning to the name Meritt through my weblog, merittmusings.com.

So a name, though it can have its own inherent meaning (if you trace it back through its parent language), can also acquire meaning through its use. You become known in your workplace or your area of influence by your name. Your name means you. And people associate either good or bad reputation with that name. If others appear with that name, they also receive the same credit or debit as the case may be.

But what about the Name? As this Proverb points out, there is one Name that is a strong tower, a place of refuge and strength. It is the thing itself. God is His Name. But what is His Name?

The LORD descended in the cloud and stood with him there and proclaimed the LORD by name. The LORD passed by before him and proclaimed: “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, and abounding in loyal love and faithfulness, keeping loyal love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin. But he by no means leaves the guilty unpunished, responding to the transgression of fathers by dealing with children and children’s children, to the third and fourth generation.”
(Exo 34:5-7)

The Name of God, the infinite Creator of the Universe, from which the stars and heavens proclaim His glory, is the LORD, YHWH. There is no holier name under heaven, but second is Jesus (Iesous), and third is the Holy Spirit, a title more than a name, but holy all the same. These three are YHWH, “I Am.” He is our ever-present, ever-loving-faithful God. In the shelter of His Name I run to. In the power of His Name I speak. His Name is authority, wisdom, and knowledge. In His name is protection, refuge, and power. That’s what’s in His Name.

Lord God, my LORD, YHWH King of the Universe, before You I humbly bow and offer all that I am to the “I Am.” I owe my existence to You, my being and my purpose. There is nothing I have that was not Yours before, and nothing I will become that You have not already planned for. May my every day be sanctified before You. My every thought be conformed to Your will and purpose. Thank You LORD, for loving me, and saving me from my sins and the penalty that awaited me. I am forever in Your debt. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

The Darkest Valley

www.bible.com/1713/psa.23.4.csb

Though I’m used to reading “the valley of the shadow of death”, somehow this makes more sense to me. Darkest valley sounds like a more accurate translation than the King James, since adding “death” to the phrase includes and unnecessary note to an already dark passage. One should never add to the Scripture, as the inclusion of “death” implies that this passage only has relevance to someone who is dying, which isn’t true at all. This passage speaks to everyone. David knew especially what it meant to trod this valley. He knew depression, which anyone who read through the Psalms can easily surmise. David, along with other great men of the Bible (Moses and Elijah) experienced profound depression, and may have been been diagnosed today as manic depressive or bi-polar. They had extremely high highs and extremely low lows. Yet God used all of them to great effect.

I write today to those in their darkest valleys. Whether by external circumstances, for which this year provides plenty of, or something more internal, I want you to know that God has not forgotten you. You have not been left abandoned on the side of the road by the Lord God Almighty. He still loves and cares for you, even though you can’t feel it right now. God never stops loving you. But He does test us.

You may be familiar with the story about the father and son who sent into the woods. The boy was to be tested for manhood. The father sat him on a stump, blind-folded him, and told him to stay put until morning, when he could take off the blindfold. All through the night, the boy stayed on that stump, though he heard growls and howls throughout those chilling hours. He was afraid, but knew he must stay there, or he would never be accepted as a man. When the sun rose in the morning, the boy took of his blindfold to see his father sitting just across from him. While the boy sat and endured the test, even though he couldn’t see his father, his father never left him.

I am telling this story from memory so my details are probably way off, but the gist of the story illustrates the truth of our Heavenly Father. We are always walking through dark valleys, and it seems that at those times God steps away, when the truth is that God is never far from us, but always watching out for the dangers we cannot see and protecting us.

My prayer is for you walking in a dark valley today. Fear not. God is with you. God will never forsake you. Even in 2020, God is still God.

LORD

You may not be aware of this in English Bible translations, but when you see the word LORD in all capital letters (though this does depend on translation) it usually means it is translating the Tetragrammaton, or the four-letter word which God revealed to be His Name, YHWH, blessed be His Name. English translators do this out of respect for the Name of God, so as to not overuse it. I think this is a mistake.

If you were to be reading in the original Hebrew, you would see His Name written. He chose that His Name be written down so that we would not forget It. He wants us to know His Name. By the same token, the fact that we often see LORD instead of YHWH actually lessens over time, as we rarely use the term lord anymore. Lord, as with all English words, change meaning over time. The only time I ever hear the word used outside of church or historical dramas is in the word “landlord”, which often leaves a bad taste in the mouth. In American culture, we has eschewed titles of nobility because we are all “free men!” So a title such as “lord” just doesn’t carry the same weight it used to.

But YHWH has never been used for any other purpose than the Name of God. It’s connotation has not been diminished by common usage. There are no little “yhwh’s”, no diminutive of the Name. It has and always will be the Name of God. Whether you pronounce it Yahweh or Yehowah (please, not Jehovah) is still a matter of how you insert vowels, but the Name is unchangeable. In it is the nature of an unchanging God, who still loves, cares, and helps. He is the Rock that cannot be moved.

If you need an anchor today, a Rock as your sure foundation, then you can’t go wrong with putting your faith and trust in YHWH. He not only made you, but formed you and molded you to to be the person you are today. He loves you, and despite the fact that others have harmed you, or you have harmed yourself, His love for you has not diminished. He does not consider you “unforgiveable.” Even though we are enemies of Him by our deeds and thoughts, He sent His Son to die for us. He reaches into the pool of history and calls out to us, “Take my hand! I can save you!” and it is up to us to choose to take His nail-scarred hand and be pulled to safety.

Dear Heavenly Father, My gracious and precious YHWH, You alone are great. You alone are worthy. You alone are God. By Your Holy Word, Jesus Christ, I am saved today, certain of my eternity because the God I trust in is certain. His promises are sure as stone. May my life fall aligned to Your Word and promise. In Jesus’ Name I pray, Amen.