God’s Timing in Your Life
How Do You Feel About God?
Back a few pages we made reference to the Commencement Address by Dr. Stephen Sample to the graduates of the University of Southern California in 2010. Let’s revisit his last question to those graduates: How do you feel about God? That question deserves to come to the surface when we talk about God. We have already considered the low probability of an atheist thinking about God’s part in creation.
It seems that when you have God in the creation model, how you feel about God becomes a critical factor. You recall that we talked previously about the early Greek model of God as the “unmoved mover.” Their God was around, but not in a way we could know anything about him. We probed the possibility of a “cosmic magnet”—an invisible force with no vital contact with humankind. He could create things but after that, everything was on its own—like a “cosmic orphan” to match the cosmic magnet.
That, however, is not the portrait of God seen in either the Old or New Testaments. From the Hebrew Testament, as you read Psalm 19, God’s hand is seen and felt throughout all of creation. It points to a God who has provided instructions for living life in a healthy, happy and holy manner. This God desires conversation with us and wants our consideration of his directions.
The New Testament almost floats in an ocean of Divine activity designed to bring us into conversation and long-term relationship with God. A review of just a couple of chapters will cement this into our thinking. In John 1:1-18 and John 3:1-18, we hear of a God who is interested enough in humankind to take extraordinary steps to get us into the circle of his attention and affection.
Now bring these ideas to the table of God’s activity seen in Genesis and other parts of Scripture. He does not appear to be a person who wants to play “hide and seek” with his human creation. Rather, what he reveals about himself in Scripture should be in accord with the evidence we discover in creation. Why would God put on display a universe that can only be measured in billions of light years yet leave us with a verbal record saying it is only about 6,000 years old? That is not the God that we see in the records we have available, either written or visible.
So, how do you feel about God? The written record we have proclaims decisively who the Creator is and why he created. That record is silent as to how he created matter and life forms, and how long it took. That information has to be assembled from other sources. We can confidently trust God because he has given us the truly critical information about creation. God has revealed that he is the Creator. The rest is interesting, but it isn’t vital. Argument may satisfy our egos, but it can’t give us eternal life.
What’s The Most Important Day of Your Life?
In the foregoing section, we have concentrated largely on God’s day and what his day looks like. Yet, while we consider God’s perspective of time and argue over what it means to him, we can miss what should be important to us. That is understandable. In a way, it may even be entertaining to detach ourselves from our own accountability as we fight over what God did or didn’t do. That can be a smokescreen to evade what we should do.
That strategy of evasion is as old as the Garden of Eden itself. You may recall what Adam replied when he felt the heat of God’s question about their disobedience. He said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” It’s like he had no part in the decision. Then, of course, Eve gave the current standard reply, “The Devil made me do it.” (“The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”)Each pointed to someone else thinking that would take each off the hook. And we knowingly nod our heads because things haven’t changed that much.
Let’s go after an answer about the most important day of our life. Surely, our “birth day” has to rank at the top of that list. It’s a day that in most cultures is universally celebrated. And it can go on for years. In America, notable people such as presidents, civil rights leaders, war heroes and others are regularly remembered each year. Public media will throw in composers, artists, actors, etc., to remember while perhaps sharing a sample of their work on their special day.
Even so, not everyone sees eye to eye with this kind of celebration. The Biblical patriarch Job, who suffered the loss of most of what he owned and his health as well, cried out to God, saying, 3 “May the day of my birth perish, and the night that said, ‘A boy is conceived!’ 4 That day—may it turn to darkness; may God above not care about it; may no light shine on it.” (Job 3). In his distress, Job had even more to say about that day. But for most, birthdays are special.
And on that day when you entered into your world, what did you have? Nothing? No, lots! Now that we understand better the makeup of our bodies, including our DNA, we come equipped with many of the features of our mothers and fathers and their forebears. When the newly born is proudly shown to those in the family, the usual questions surface: Who does she resemble? Is that his mother’s nose or his fathers? He sure looks like his brother when he was a baby! He’s just like his father! These are just some of the features that are sometimes debated in families.
But when you were born, you had life, you had a family that was ready to nurture you; later on, you had opportunity, you had choices. All, of course, are not created equal in those characteristics. Aboriginal tribes-people in the jungles of Bolivia, for example, will be markedly different from wealthy families in New York City. And just like the circumstance of where we are born, there are distinctly different outcomes that will eventually emerge.
Nonetheless, that leads directly to this conclusion: Our birthday is an important day in our lives regardless of circumstances. Each individual will come to crossroads in life where choices are made and outcomes begin developing. So what we do from the beginning is important. Like Eve and Adam and as Dr. Sample asked, how you feel about God will become not only important but decisive in your life, right from the start. So let’s move the chronology forward a few years.
Graduation day will become another transition time in life. It’s like a diving board at a swimming pool—like a “spring board” into the future, our future. You’ll remember that graduation is directly connected with “commencement,” meaning a beginning or new start. We arrive at another day or time when a new set of decisions will be called for.
Not only what we think about God, but also what we think about money now becomes an issue. Do we stay with the struggling family business or move to a new venture or place with more opportunities? Do we leave our friends and family for a fresh start? Do I go on to graduate school? These decisions are about our priorities and our friends, about what and who they will be.
As we look back to Dr. Sample’s three questions, we remember the other one: What do you think about children? You may be nearing your wedding day, giving thought to being responsible for children. Can that be a deal breaker? If one partner does not want that responsibility while the other does, there is only one wise decision: Don’t!
After all, it’s not just the “down payment” or birth of the child—it’s the monthly installments—including perhaps hundred’s of thousands of dollars for a university education. And we’re not even close to the truly important issues of nurturing and development within the boundaries of a healthy family. That commitment demands more than a casual conversation a week before our wedding day!
Finally, in the list of our special days, we arrive at the last one, that day when an unwelcome visitor—death itself—comes knocking at our life’s door. It is a visit that we cannot ignore. No one can. But are you ready for that day when, according to author Brennan Manning and many, many others, we will stand before God. And his question to us? How do you feel about God? Or, perhaps more accurately, How did you feel about God? What was your response to his call to come home, to abandon self-centeredness and selfish ambition? To treat your neighbor as you would want to be treated? To love God and his purposes with body, soul and mind?
So, when you have lived your life and draw a line under your motivations and your loves, how did you feel about God? Was he the main event for you or was he just an occasional interest that caused you to show up in a church once in awhile? Or perhaps it was that occasional good deed that made you feel good? As you look ahead to this day, just how would you define your feelings about God?
But God’s invitation is not peripheral to our existence; it is the core of what makes us tick. Once a part of us, it becomes the heartbeat of life that energizes us beyond what we can do on our own. You see, the day we were born was not the day of independent, physical birth. There is no way we could make it alone without outside nutrition and care. Spiritual life is no different. It doesn’t arrive as a “do-it-yourself kit.”
Yes, our graduation day was a step towards independence—outside of the family womb so to speak. But if we didn’t head in the right direction, it wasn’t a happy journey. The day of our wedding can’t satisfy us if we think of ourselves as the center of the universe and the rest of the family outside that circle. And if the Divine Lifegiver hasn’t entered into our being, the day of our dying will only be an extension of the death life that has preceded it.
All our days, along with that last day can be and ought to be a day—a life—in anticipation and preparation for an eternal life that has been promised to those who recognize God as the center of their own universe. In America, we spend thousands and even millions of dollars to extend our lives for a few months or years. What, therefore, would you give for an eternal life with unimaginable joy and fulfillment? What consideration is that worth?
God Offers “God Time” to Humanity
God has been offering light and life eternal to a failing and hurting humanity right from the beginning of time. Have you tried him? Have you responded to him? Those questions are pregnant with potential to transform your living forever. The appointed season that God promised before the beginning of time is now. Wherever you might be in your accumulation of days, your day of inclusion into God’s family, God’s future, God’s grace and God’s eternity is in your hands today. So how do you feel about God?
Two chapters in the Bible explain in particular what we are now talking about. It is not complicated and was never intended to be difficult. So beside what you have already thought about in these pages, here are two segments in John’s Gospel in the New Testament that will help you settle the “eternal day” God wants you to enter. The first person you will meet is the Messiah, Jesus the Son of God. He is introduced as the Word:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.
The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John testified concerning him. He cried out, saying, “This is the one I spoke about when I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’”) Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.John 1:1 – 18.
Perhaps some of those thoughts are new to you. That’s all right. Here is some more from the same writer about Jesus’ conversation with a highly religious man who had gotten his “days” mixed up. He thought he was on the right track, but he was depending on his family to carry him through life and death. That’s a nice thought, but our families won’t be standing with us on that day when we have to answer just one question: What did you do with God?
Nevertheless, Jesus’ helped this well-intentioned man understand the nature of relationship with God. If this is a conversation you have already considered, think it over again as you read this story.
Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.” Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” “How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!” Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” “How can this be?” Nicodemus asked. “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man. Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.” For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. John 3:1 – 18.
Again, don’t worry about any words or ideas you don’t understand. If someone were in the middle of a lake yelling, “Help!” you would know what to do without any lengthy explanation. Well, God is in the “listening” business. He understands the way or words you might choose to talk with him. Just make a move in his direction and he will reach out with his hand, his life and with his grace. That will make your day! And yet, we still have another day coming—something more to live for.
The Last Day: The Day You Want to Live For
We have looked at birthdays, wedding days—even the day we receive the call of the grim reaper. Yet, one more day still looms ahead for you. One way or another, all of us will participate in that day. It will be a day truly like no other day we have talked about. It is a day that has been in the mind of God Almighty for more ages than we might imagine.
We introduce this day with a story about a man who went through unimaginable torture and pain. It was during a time of great destruction, persecution, searing pain, and death to millions who were not of the right heritage. It was the Holocaust during World War II. It was horrible to the most unimaginable degree. And yet, out of this one man’s experience came insights that have brought life and light to generations even today. It is the story and strength of hope.
In this discussion nearing the end of our dialogue, we will lean on the wisdom of Viktor Frankl and his personal story. This is a man who, with the exception of his sister, lost his entire family in the gas chambers of Nazi Germany. It is a story you can read for yourself in his book, Man’s Search For Meaning.
Perhaps the title of Dr. Frankl’s book says it all: Are we not all searching for meaning to our lives? Isn’t that it? Yes, it probably is what we all are striving for. It was during his imprisonment that included time in both Auschwitz and Dachau concentration camps that Frankl came to an incredible discovery. We must remember that with just one exception, Frankl lost his entire family to the German atrocities during that war. And in no way, do we want to suggest that our times today reach that level of devastation to life and decency.
But in that appalling situation that may mirror what some even today may feel they are going through, what insight did Dr. Frankl gain? Here is what he said: In his time in the concentration camps, he never knew of a person who survived that did not have something else to do after they got out of the camps. In his book Dr. Frankl writes:
“Woe to him who saw no more sense in his life, no aim, no purpose, and therefore no point in carrying on. He was soon lost. The typical reply with which a man rejected all encouraging arguments was, ‘I have nothing to expect from life anymore.’ What sort of answer can one give to that?” (Man’s Search For Meaning, Page 98). In effect, Dr. Frankl is saying that without hope, without something to live for, without a belief in a future that lies beyond the senseless agony of the present, we become hopeless.
Yet, there is something that every person on earth can look forward to in the future. You may not have the walls of a concentration camp around you, but there are other walls that can be just as real and threatening to individuals. Whatever those walls may be (your reality or anyone else’s) there is another day coming that you cannot even imagine from where you are standing. It is a day that God has been planning longer than you and I can figure out.
You will remember from the opening chapters of Genesis where God laid out his completed universe for us to read about. Well, in the final chapters of the book of Revelation God lays out his plan for our future. If you care to join him, his invitation to humankind is clear and without reservation. The only cost to you or me is our independence from his love, grace and forgiveness. Accepting his offer will make “sense to your life and provide purpose to carrying on. You will not be lost.”
You see, in the beginning (Genesis) God was about creating matter and life. That boils it down to the basic explanation. Beyond that, what we read about in those first three chapters of the Bible establish relationships—God’s relationship to matter and mankind, mankind’s relationship to God and with each other and to the rest of creation. That’s a lot in a few words, but it completes the picture of the opening three chapters of Genesis about God’s creative activities.
The Last Day Ends With A New Creation
Will God ever do that again? We wouldn’t know unless he were to tell us. And, yes, he is going to do that again. In the final three chapters of the Bible, Revelation 20, 21 and 22, we are told about God’s plans for a “new heaven and a new earth” that will come about through a reordering of our world as we know it today. That is indeed a new creation and you want to be a part of that fresh, dazzling world he is planning.
First, let’s take one major issue off the table: Are we talking here about God’s day or mankind’s day? You will recall we explained the difference between “kairos” and “chronos,” two Greek words used in the New Testament to denote our word “day.” We also detailed the wide range of meanings attributed to the Hebrew word “yom” in the Old Testament. In this part of Revelation, we are looking at “kairos” time—God-Time, not human time. As you read these verses, it seems to jump off the page!
Can you see yourself living for a thousand years? Here’s how the Apostle John describes it for us:
Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain. He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, and threw him into the pit, and locked and sealed it over him, so that he would deceive the nations no more, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be let out for a little while.
Then I saw thrones, and those seated on them were given authority to judge. I also saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their testimony to Jesus and for the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. Revelation 20:1-4.
In this passage we have stepped out of human time into God’s time. Imagine discussing your plans with someone in your neighborhood about what you are going to be doing for the next thousand years. What would your neighbors think? But you can also see that at this stage of events, God is totally in control of everything that is going to take place. I don’t know of anyone else who could grasp “the dragon . . . who is the Devil” and lock him up “so that he would deceive the nations no more, until the thousand years were ended” other than God the Almighty. And that is good news!
However, hold on—that is just the beginning. As we mentioned, we’re seeing a rewrite of what we saw in Genesis chapter 1, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth . . .” Looking in the 20thchapter of Revelation, God has not abandoned his creation activities:
Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Revelation 20:1-4.
Can you see the picture of the new heavens and a new earth? Yes, we have stepped into God-Time with his design according to his plans: “ for the old order of things has passed away.” Isn’t that what is needed in today’s convulsive, upside down world? God’s adopted family from earth will be freed from tyranny, sorrow, pain and even the king of fears, death itself. That is the “new order” that God has been planning for the new day that is coming. And you have been invited!
The Day You Are Invited To Join
For a moment, just imagine a close friend of yours throwing a huge party with most of your best friends and your family invited but not you. Perhaps you might not even have known about this party until it was going on. Then you tried to get in, but a tough-looking security guard blocked your entry into your friend’s party. That would really be depressing, wouldn’t it?
Yet in due time, “kairos time,” God is planning for such a party. It won’t be the college fraternity kind of party. It will be more like a birthday party—the beginning of a new age God is preparing for everyone who is invited. And you’re saying you haven’t even heard about this party? You haven’t been invited?
Although you may not have heard, the real truth is you have been invited. If you haven’t seen this before, I want to print out your invitation so you can think about getting in your acceptance in a timely manner. God even sent a special messenger to make sure you and everyone else would get it. This is recorded in the last chapter of the last book of the Bible, Revelation 22. Here is your invitation to drink of“the free gift of the water of life,” that is eternal life:
“Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.
“I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.”
“Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city.” The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life. Revelation 22:12-14, 16, 17.
You remember who Jesus is, right? He’s the one we read about a few pages back from John’s Gospel. He’s the one who John the Baptizer talked about in John chapter 1 and the one who talked to this Jewish man named Nicodemus in John chapter 3. And here, you can put in your name because the invitation to join this “new Jerusalem party” has been forwarded to all of us. And if you accept this invitation, you can join right in—there won’t be any security guards there to keep you out. Read on:
On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life. Revelation 21:25-27.
You probably have never received this kind of invitation—one coming from “kairos” time into “chronos” time. So what do you do with that kind of invitation? Well, if it were someone down the street or in another state, wouldn’t you reply? Pick up the phone, send an email or whatever device you have, right? What about God’s invitation sent to you by Jesus, isn’t it the same thing? He wants you to acknowledge that you got the invitation and you want to be there at his big, eternal party.
Again, you may say, “But I’ve never talked to this Jesus person. What’s involved?”
Here’s a suggestion. Check the rest of the things Jesus said and begin reading what he was all about. Remember that the Bible was left behind so we could understand the who and why of creation and a lot of other things, too. A comfortable place to start is with that book written by Jesus’ close friend, the Apostle John, called the Gospel of John. And as you read, tell him often that you want to be at that grand opening of the New Jerusalem spoken about in the book of Revelation. He will get back to you in ways you will understand.
There may be some things you won’t understand—don’t worry. Just respond to the things you do understand, and you’ll end up where you should be on that great day. On That Day, You Will Be There!
As you are reading this, it may seem to have been somewhat rushed for you to take in. So added to what is written, here are a couple of other books that may be of help.
The first book has stories about three people who had what seemed to be impossible odds against them, but they came through just fine. In all three accounts, God acted when it seemed that nothing could be done. The stories show we can’t prejudge what God is going to do according to his time—and not by our watches.
This book of stories is entitled Amazing Grace in the Life of John Newton. It’s the life history of a slave trader, John Newton. In his day, slavery and the human trafficking in slaves were not considered dishonorable. Even members of the clergy supported the importation of slaves. It took an act of God to get through to Captain Newton. In time, he would not only come to oppose slavery, but became influential in ending slavery and slave trading in England.
Two other stories in this book will be of interest because they seem to be improbable. One is about Jonah of the “giant fish” narrative. The other is about Joseph who rose from being a slave and a prisoner to become the second most powerful person in the ancient Kingdom of Egypt. All three stories will give you light on how God can act even when conditions seem hopeless.
The second book, On Knowing and Talking with God, will lead you carefully through significant parts of the Bible that show how to begin your conversation with God. In this book, you will be guided more completely beyond the Scriptures that have been mentioned here.
The whole idea is to begin and maintain a regular adventure of walking and talking with God. Remember, that was God’s plan from the very beginning. The two books outlined above can be read either on Amazon Books under Don Parker Decker, or under ParkerPress.Org on the Internet. You will be encouraged as you pursue mankind’s greatest achievement—a vital relationship with God.
Blessings on you!