Posts Tagged With: wisdom

Omniscience: God Knows All

“Remember this, and be assured;
Recall it to mind, you transgressors.
Remember the former things long past,
For I am God, and there is no other;
I am God, and there is no one like Me,
Declaring the end from the beginning,
And from ancient times things which have not been done,
Saying, ‘My purpose will be established,
And I will accomplish all My good pleasure…’” (Isaiah 46:8–10; all Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible).

Several posts over recent months have looked at some of God’s majestic attributes, including the Bible’s teaching that He is all-powerful (omnipotent), sovereign (He rules over all creation), and eternal. Many of the Bible verses that speak of God’s omnipotence and sovereignty tell us that He is all-knowing, or omniscient. Isaiah 46 tells us that God’s purpose will be established because He declares the end from the beginning. In other words, God already knows how everything will turn out, so He can tell us what will happen before it happens. He can accomplish whatever He plans to do, because He knows what will happen next. If He does “a,” He knows “b” will happen next. Even if I do what I think is unexpected (let’s call that “c”), He is not caught off guard and is prepared to do “d” so that His will comes out at the end. We are not going to outwit God. He will not be outsmarted.

NASA-HS201427a-HubbleUltraDeepField2014-20140603God knows all, even the number of all the stars. Photo by NASA, ESA, H. Teplitz and M. Rafelski (IPAC/Caltech), A. Koekemoer (STScI), R. Windhorst (Arizona State University), and Z. Levay (STScI). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

This creates a paradox. If God knows all, is He responsible for everything? Is He responsible for evil? Does this mean that He is responsible for sin? Isn’t it really His fault if somebody becomes a drug addict, prostitute, child abuser, rapist, etc., since He knew this would happen before they were born? Isn’t it His fault that I committed that sin? Isn’t the COVID-19 pandemic all His fault?

The list goes on. Some people reject faith in God because they have trouble figuring out how God can be all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-loving while the world seems to be going totally insane.

On the subject of sin, Scripture is clear: even though God is all-knowing and all-powerful, He is not the cause of sin:

“Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust” (James 1:13–14).

I will not try to address every question about this paradox. Such questions—How God can be all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-good, yet still allow evil to occur—fall into the realm of mysteries. There are things about God that we cannot understand. They are far beyond human comprehension and, at that point, we simply have to trust Him:

“‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,’ declares the LORD.
‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways
And My thoughts than your thoughts’” (Isaiah 55:8–9).

Human wisdom cannot answer some questions. We probably have a better chance of standing on our tiptoes to touch the moon than we have of figuring out all of the mysteries about God. Although we cannot understand them, though, what we can grasp can give us confidence and comfort as we trust in Him.

We might make decisions and plans with the best of intentions. Even so, we may fail. Even with our best intentions and planning, we may encounter the unexpected. Somebody may do something we did not expect, and the entire plan falls apart. However, God is not caught off-guard. He knows what He plans to do and how we may try to avoid His will. Nobody will outsmart Him.

Copyright © 2020 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

[If you do not have a place to worship, please visit my church at http://live.intercessorchurch.com; services stream at 9:30 and 11:30 AM on Sundays, 12:00 noon on weekdays, and 6:00 PM Saturday evening (all times ET).]

Categories: Bible meditations, God's Majestic Attributes, Omniscience | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Balanced Christian Response to Coronavirus

The previous post looked at some of our responses to Covid-19 and the resulting isolation it created. In the midst of the humor, there are some grim facts to face. As of April 12, 2020, at 2:07 AM GMT, there were 1,780,312 confirmed cases of the disease worldwide, according to https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/. The United States has the most cases by far (532,879). Over one-third of America’s cases, and more than one-tenth of the confirmed global cases, are in New York State (161,504), and Nassau County, where I live, is currently the hardest-hit area. The official worldwide mortality rate (total deaths per 100 confirmed cases) is over 6% (108,827 deaths), while the mortality rate in the USA is approaching 4% (20,577 deaths). Both percentages will probably be even higher, since the number of confirmed cases includes people who currently have the disease, some of whom will die before all is said and done. In addition, some deaths may not be counted in this tally if the person was not diagnosed while alive, and many more people may be dying from other illnesses, either due to the strain on the healthcare system or sick people’s inability or unwillingness to obtain medical attention. The number of deaths at home has increased by about 200 per day in New York City during the Covid-19 crisis, some of whom may have had undiagnosed cases of the disease, while others did not get the care they needed for other life-threatening conditions.

Such numbers can seem cold and meaningless. It can hit home more clearly when we make it personal. Some experts claimed that Covid-19 would infect 50-70% of the population within a very short period of time without social isolation measures. So, imagine the 100 people you care most about: family, friends, co-workers, etc. Imagine if 70 of them caught this disease. Now, imagine if three or four of them die of it. Imagine that one or two other friends or loved ones do not get the care they need.

A lot of the complaints about social distancing do not consider that. Yes, it is a colossal inconvenience. People have been laid off or even lost jobs. People are going stir-crazy sitting around the house all day. This may set a precedent for future government intervention over a health threat. We should all hope our elected officials do not decide to seek such drastic measures during the next seasonal flu outbreak.

We need to consider all of these factors. We should walk in faith and wisdom, not in fear or carelessness.

We cannot take Covid-19 lightly. The mortality rate in America is high. People are dying, and we cannot ignore that fact.

On the other hand, we should not live in fear, especially as Christians. If I have to step outside, I bring a mask in case I am near other people, and I wash my hands frequently, keeping hand sanitizer with me always. Beyond that, I pray. I ask for the Lord to protect me and those close to me. I have a pretty strong immune system and will probably recover fairly quickly if I do catch the disease, but I do not want to pass it on to others who are less healthy.

Especially as Christians, we need that perspective. We serve a God who humbled Himself, sacrificing His very life for us. Are we willing to sacrifice a brief period of our lives and some comfort and convenience for others? For those of us who consider ourselves to be pro-life Christians, protecting the well-being of others should always be a priority.

Copyright © 2020 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Current events | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Coronavirus, Faith and Fear, Wisdom and Folly

“Almighty God, you know that we have no power in ourselves to help ourselves: Keep us both outwardly in our bodies and inwardly in our souls, that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen” (Book of Common Prayer).

The Book of Common Prayer’s collect for the day on the third Sunday in Advent was very fitting this year. As I write this post, Americans are living in anxiety, if not outright fear. People are rushing to stores to buy whatever they can to prepare for quarantine due to the spread of a new strain of coronavirus, known as COVID-19. Good luck finding toilet paper; apparently, some people think you need 666 rolls if you are going to be stuck in your house for two weeks. Hand sanitizer is also hard to find; some online sellers have charged over $100 for one-liter bottles that sold for under $20 not very long ago. One pair of brothers hoarded about 17,700 bottles, clearing out countless stores’ inventories of the products, to sell them at highly inflated prices online. Amazon and Ebay have removed his listings; too bad the local stores did not start limiting sales of these items earlier.

Now, schools are closing: some for two weeks, others for a few months, and a few colleges have ended their spring semesters prematurely. Sports leagues have postponed games or prematurely ended their seasons. We suddenly know the meaning of the new term, “social distancing.” Handshakes and kisses on the cheek during the passing of the peace at my church have been replaced by elbow bumps; I have not banged elbows with so many guys since my days playing youth hockey. Some businesses are closing their doors until further notice; others are encouraging employees to work from home.

Some may say that all of this caution is unnecessary. After all, many more people have died in the USA from the flu this winter than have died worldwide from COVID-19 since it was first identified in December. This is the first time that I recall public health officials going beyond the standard advice (wash your hands, cover your mouth when you sneeze or cough, stay home when sick, etc.) to pushing for mass quarantines.

The precautions may seem extreme, but I will do my part to avoid the disease. My greatest concern, though, is about the proliferation of irrational fear in response to this disease. So, here are a few thoughts worth considering:

  • Humanity has survived worse epidemics and pandemics throughout history. The bubonic plague killed perhaps one-fourth to one-half of the population of Europe in just a few years during the fourteenth century. A little over one hundred years ago, the Spanish flu took more lives than any other pandemic in history. (A little trivia for my fellow sports’ fans who are bemoaning cancellations: That flue pandemic forced the cancellation of hockey’s Stanley Cup Finals mid-series after Montreal Canadiens’ star Joe Hall died of the disease and several other players fell ill.)
  • Most people will not catch the virus. China has had a little over 80,000 confirmed cases. While that is a lot, remember that it has over one billion people, and the city where COVID-19 was first diagnosed, Wuhan, has almost nine million. That means that less than 1% of the people of Wuhan have caught the disease. It is possible that the number of cases in China was reduced by aggressive social-distancing practices.
  • Most people who catch the disease will recover. Less than 4% of confirmed cases worldwide have died so far. If you calculate all who have died and those who have fully recovered, the mortality rate is about 7.25% worldwide. The vast majority of deaths have been the elderly and others with underlying health conditions or weakened immunity. Most otherwise-healthy people who catch COVID-19 eventually recover. We should take wise careful precautions, especially for the sake of elderly and unhealthy friends, family, and neighbors. However, we should not act crazy as if the world is about to end.

Christians must avoid the temptation to spread fear and falsehood. Whenever a disaster or possible threat arises, some Christians will claim it is the end of the world and spread extreme, exaggerated, or absolutely untrue statements in the name of “discernment” or “prophecy.” Some have even claimed that Bill Gates owns the patent for this disease and is using it for some diabolical agenda! Such people should be forced to place a dunce cap on their Facebook profile pictures. It is true that Gates’ foundation has funded research involving genetic engineering of coronaviruses. However, there are numerous kinds of coronavirus, and the ones he has funded have been patented as vaccines. (Actually, many viruses and bacteria are genetically engineered and patented for medical purposes.) They are not the same as COVID-19. Christians must repent of their godless practice of spreading falsehoods to promote an end-time agenda. Making up lies about people—even if they are celebrities or politicians, and even if they have promoted questionable or immoral activities like abortion—is a sin. God is not glorified when His people violate the biblical commandment against bearing false witness (Exodus 20:16). If you have joined in sharing or posting such libel, confess your sins and repent.

Likewise, Christians must not join in promoting an environment of fear. Yes, we should take necessary precautions, but we should not instill fear in people. Our mission is always to advance the kingdom of God by sharing His love, grace, and mercy. He calls us to bring hope. He calls us to speak life into the hearts of others. He does not call us to instill fear. Be prepared to minister in faith, hope, and love to those around you.

“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18, ESV).

“… {F}or God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Timothy 1:7, ESV).

Copyright © 2020 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Current events | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

2020: A Year of Vision

“Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained,
But happy is he who keeps the law” (Proverbs 29:18, NASB).

“The most pathetic person in the world is someone who has sight but has no vision” (Helen Keller).

A few years ago, several people I knew posted “a word for the year” on Facebook. I doubt there was anything significant to most of the words. I think some of them used a Facebook app that randomly assigned a word and explanation to people’s pages. A few of my friends tried it several times, getting multiple results.

Other people actually thought of their own word for the year. They chose a word that summarized what they wanted to pursue in the coming 12 months or a trait or ideal they wanted to guide their decisions. It bore personal meaning for them. Some of those people were still talking about that word several weeks and months later.

“2020” just begs us to call it “A Year of Vision.” In optometry, 20/20 is the standard for normal healthy vision. It means that objects 20 feet away from you appear as clearly to you as they should. 20/50 vision means such objects look about as clear as something that is 50 feet away. Just for the record, my eyesight in my left eye is worse than 20/50, and my right eye is much weaker. My optometrist is very surprised that I can function as an editor with such bad eyesight, even when wearing glasses.

Of course, I am not talking about eyesight when I speak of a Year of Vision. I am speaking more metaphorically about other things we might associate with vision: foresight; passion; direction. A person with vision is someone who sees where he wants to go in life and has a desire and plan to get there.

I have often joked about New Year’s resolutions. I usually tell people that my New Year’s resolution is to make no New Year’s resolutions, so I can succeed and fail at the same time. The average New Year’s resolution lasts about 17 days. So, if you are serious about working out at the gym, wait until January 18. By then, most of the people who resolved to work out will have quit, and you can get on the treadmill or exercise bike without delay.

All joking aside, New Year’s resolutions are not all bad. There is never any harm in trying to make a commitment to make better choices, overcome bad habits, or develop healthy habits. However, perhaps you want something more. Maybe, as you are reading this and beginning a new year, you sense that God is calling you to something greater than the usual New Year’s resolutions in 2020. Perhaps He is calling you to bring your hopes, dreams, and visions to Him, align them with His vision for your life, and allow His wisdom to guide you in 2020 and beyond.

Vision provides guidance. It sets you on a path and points you toward a destination. It provides the inspiration and goal which can define any resolutions you choose to make.

King Solomon. Painting by Simeon Solomon (1840-1905). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Frequently, “vision” in the Old Testament refers to prophetic visions or dreams. The English Standard Version (the translation I usually quote) emphasizes this sense in Proverbs 29:18. Throughout the Old Testament, men of God received divine guidance through trances or dreams. A good example of this is King Solomon. In 1 Kings 3:5-14, the young king had established his throne and went to Gibeon, at that time one of the most prominent places to worship the Lord. During his visit, God visited him in a dream and made a bold offer with no apparent strings attached: “Ask what I shall give you.” Solomon’s response showed remarkable maturity. He already had a sense of vision in his life. He knew his purpose. His prayer was driven by that purpose:

“And Solomon said, ‘You have shown great and steadfast love to your servant David my father, because he walked before you in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart toward you. And you have kept for him this great and steadfast love and have given him a son to sit on his throne this day. And now, O Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of David my father, although I am but a little child. I do not know how to go out or come in. And your servant is in the midst of your people whom you have chosen, a great people, too many to be numbered or counted for multitude. Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people?’” (1 Kings 3:6-9, ESV).

Solomon’s mission and vision was to effectively govern God’s great people. That guided his prayer. As God observed, Solomon could have been inclined to pray for riches, long life, honor, or the death of his enemies. However, Solomon wanted to be a successful king. For that, he needed wisdom, and God gave it.

The prayer for wisdom is one that God always wants to answer:

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him” (James 1:5, ESV).

Solomon had his own personal sense of vision, one which was consistent with God’s will. God then spoke to him in a dream. God also speaks to us in His Word, the Bible. He always offers wisdom to His people. Are we willing to accept His wisdom to guide us in our pursuit of the goals and dreams He has instilled in our hearts?

As we begin 2020, the Year of Vision, consider these questions:

  • What is God calling you to do in the coming year?
  • Is He calling you to do something differently?
  • What desires has He placed on your heart?

You may feel a certain compulsion or desire to pursue a dream or calling. Could it be from God? Can it be devoted to His service?

As you consider these thoughts, you should be able to recognize the vision God has for your life.

Having recognized the vision, seek God’s wisdom. Twelve Step programs offer some necessary insight into prayer. Step 11 states that the recovering addict “Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God…, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.”

Pray daily for God’s wisdom regarding that vision. Ask Him to reveal His will to you day by day and to give you the power to carry it out. That power includes the courage to do what is right and to persevere when it would be easy to quit.

A New Year is ahead of us. As 2019 ends, I feel some relief and satisfaction in some significant accomplishments. Yet, I do not want to merely coast through the coming year. There is still room to grow. I have dreams and goals to pursue. Perhaps you do too. Let us each commit to making 2020 a year of vision that will allow us to pursue greater goals and dreams in the years to come.

Copyright © 2020 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, Christian Life, Holidays | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

St. John of the Cross: The Dark Night of the Soul and Knowing God

This post is written for the commemoration of St. John of the Cross (December 14).

“In order to come to union with the wisdom of God, the soul has to proceed rather by unknowing than by knowing” (St. John of the Cross, 1542-1591).

St. John of the Cross. Painting by Francisco de Zurbarán (1598-1664; public domain, via Wikimedia Commons).

After posting two recent articles about how our Lord is a personal God who can be known and reveals Himself to us, I found the above quote by St. John of the Cross, a sixteenth century monk, mystic, and poet. (Some traditional churches commemorate him on December 14.)

Modern people, living in a society powered by science and technology, assume that we can figure everything out. We have questions; we desire answers; we pursue the information we desire (scientists may conduct experiments or perform other controlled observations); and we draw conclusions. We know stuff because we sought information.

However, the Bible tells us that we can know God not because we figured Him out, but because He found a way to reach us. God chose to reveal Himself not as an abstract concept but as a man, Jesus Christ, who lived and died as one of us.

The dark night of the soul is a term that is often associated with St. John of the Cross. The title of one of his most popular poems, it describes the soul’s journey towards knowledge of God. He believed that one comes to know God only through painful experiences and struggles. He had his share. As a member of a strict order—members would not even wear shoes in an attempt to avoid worldly comforts—he faced persecution, opposition, and even torture: sometimes from people who thought his ideas were too radical and at other times by people who thought he was not radical enough.

What is the lesson in all of this? Whatever you are going through, ask “Where is God in this situation?” He is there. What is He doing? What is He showing you about Himself? What is He showing you about yourself? He is always there; He may just be doing something that you are not expecting.

Some writers speak of the dark night of the soul as a struggle with doubt. St. John of the Cross struggled with his faith. St. Teresa of Calcutta (aka Mother Teresa), despite decades as one of the world’s most beloved examples of faithful service to people in Jesus’ name, often admitted in private correspondence to decades of doubt. When you face doubts or questions, do not avoid them. Ask God for wisdom and faith. Continue to follow Him, expecting the answers to follow. Faith grows through testing.

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind” (James 1:2-6).

Copyright © 2019 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, Church Calendar: Holy Days and Seasons, God's Nature and Personality | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Create a website or blog at WordPress.com

%d bloggers like this: