But For the Grace of God Go I

Is this saying another way to blame God? One day I was reading the newspaper about a tragic accident that happened on I-95 where a six-year-old child was killed. The driver was the father who had a car load of children on their way to a church function. All came out fine except for the death of the father’s child. One of the children said to another, “God was with us,” which those around were in agreement and with much thankfulness. But I can’t help but think, was God not there for the six-year-old who was killed? And what about the grieving family?

Grace go IHow many times have we heard, “There but for the grace of God go I?” Often we hear that phrase when it has to do with escaping some horrible accident, escaping death, various addictions, or some type of disaster. We may hear something similar, “By God’s grace” He helped me find a job, find a spouse, pay my bills, that my house didn’t get flooded during the storm, etc., etc..

I used to have a co-worker who used that phrase quite often. I couldn’t help but cringe every time she said it. Finally one day I asked her, “What about those who were not as fortunate to experience all of this supposed grace? What about those who end up with flooded homes, no job, or loss of a child in some horrible accident, etc. etc.? ” I could see I caught her off guard and she stumbled for an answer.

I have never noticed anyone using the phrase directly at the person experiencing the horrible tragedies in their life.  Could using the phrase be an unintentional smug remark when others are faced with disaster, disgrace, or other misfortunes, as a result of their choices or no fault of their own? Does it not imply that the person making the remark could have been in the same position but was fortunate enough to escape such disasters because God favored them more than the other? Is such an expression Biblical or implied? I have yet to find it.

I have a friend from Germany who needed help with the grammar of this expression. He could guess from the context but didn’t get the exact meaning. He said the sentence would not work in his native tongue.  My reply to him is that one could explain it as a person who experiences bad things in life, but to the other person, it could have happened to them, but it didn’t because God was watching over the “favored one.” For example, one year my neighbors around the corner from us were flooded out of their homes from a week long rainfall. I could easily have said, “There but for the grace of God go I.” It’s another way of saying, “Too bad God wasn’t watching over and protecting you, but God protected me instead from such disaster.”

I think it is such a terrible saying for those who face a string of personal catastrophes and to think we come out unscathed because God favored us over them. It is one of the dangers of attributing an event to God’s direct involvement when it could have been natural causes.

Another danger of this kind of thinking is concluding that disastrous events did not happen to you because of your good relationship with God, or by those who think they have a relationship with God. There is one thing I do know. Jesus said,

“That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.” Matthew 5:45.

It is not a matter of who is getting blessed and who isn’t. Or who is enjoying life and who is not. As someone has aptly said,

“God is not rewarding the unjust with his rain, nor is he trying to frustrate the just by raining on the unjust. It is simply a testimony to God’s impartiality.”

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The Christian Hope is Not Going to Heaven

The HOPE of the righteous is RESURRECTION FROM THE DEAD. It is NOT the hope of “going to heaven,” for nowhere in scripture does it say heaven is our destination when we die no matter how this unbiblical teaching is reinforced in hymns, at funerals, in literature, in the pulpits, and Hollywood movies.

God is going to renew this earth and promised that the righteous are going to “inherit the earth.” Jesus repeated this promise: 

“Blessed are the meek, for they are going to inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5).

This renewed earth is the reward and inheritance of all the saints.

“For evildoers will be cut off, but as for those who wait for the LORD, they will inherit the earth. Yet a little while and the wicked man will be no more; and you will look carefully for his place and he will not be there. But the humble will inherit the earth and will delight themselves in abundant prosperity…The LORD knows the days of the blameless, and their inheritance will be forever… For those blessed by Him will inherit the earth, but those cursed by Him will be cut off…The righteous will inherit the land and dwell in it forever…Wait for the LORD and keep His way, and He will exalt you to inherit the land; when the wicked are cut off, you will see it” (Psalm 37:9-34).

Question:  Just curious….what about when Jesus said, “This day, you shalt be with me in Paradise?”  And, “In my Father’s house there are many mansions.”

Good question.  There is so much to cover, but I will try to give it to you in a nut shell. 

One of the scriptures you are talking about is John 14:1-3

Concerning preparing a place, it says, 

“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:1–3).

Just to make some points.

  1.  Heaven is never referred to as “my Father’s house.” (Allusion to the temple)
  2. Jesus is not talking about taking them to heaven when they die. If this were so, we would have Jesus “coming back” many times after each person dies and individual resurrections.
  3. We know that Jesus is not literally building buildings or mansions (translated “dwelling places”) There is no construction work going on in heaven. :)

But Jesus does promise to prepare a place for us. A question to ask is, Where is this place? It will be here on earth when he returns, thus fulfilling a prophecy given by the angels in Acts 1:11. It is also in harmony with Jesus in 1 Thess. 4:13-17 where we will be united with Christ at the “second coming.” The coming of Christ fulfills a multitude of prophecies of the “Kingdom of God” in the Old and New Testaments. 

All the saints will have important position of authority in the coming Kingdom, the Millennium, which will be initiated by Jesus’ Coming (Rev.19:11-20:6; Isa. 9:6-9; Ps. 2; Acts 3:21). The saints will judge the world and angels (1 Cor. 6:2-3). Jesus restores life to conditions seen in the Garden of Eden (Rev. 20:1-6; Is. 2:1-4; 9:6-9; 11:1-16; 51:1-8; 60-62; 65:17-25; Ps. 2:6-12; 110:1-7; Mt. 5:5; 6:10; 17:11; 19:28; Acts 1:6; 3:21).

As far as the thief on the cross, this is really no problem. The thief on the cross said to Jesus, 

“Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom” (Luke 23:42). 

Again, there is nothing in there that says anything about going to heaven. It’s about a “Kingdom.” “…come into your kingdom.”

When Christ died, he didn’t go to heaven, but was in the grave and it was on the third day that God raised (resurrected) him from the dead. Christ was raised to a life of immortality, which is promised to all those who believe the gospel about the Kingdom that Christ preached. 

Jesus responded to the thief,

“Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43).

We have a system of punctuation in the English that was not used in the Greek language. There is a big difference when a comma is moved or not in the correct place. The translators give us the impression that Jesus went to heaven the day he died, as well as the thief. To get a correct reading, and which “harmonizes” with other passages of scripture, it should read, 

“Assuredly, I say to you today, you will be with me in Paradise.”

Now, if paradise is in heaven, neither the thief or Jesus went to heaven that day. Christ was three days in the grave and after his resurrection Christ said to Mary Magdalene, “I have not yet ascended to My Father.” So I can say with confidence that the comma is in the wrong place. That simple comma where the translators has placed it makes other passages of scripture contradict. 

Paul received a vision of paradise (2 Cor.12:3-4), the garden of Eden. Paradise will be the restored garden of Eden, which contains the tree of life: 

“To him who overcomes, I will give to eat of the tree of life which is in the midst of the paradise garden of God” (Rev. 2:7; 22:2).

God never promised eternity in heaven as a reward for the saved, but a promise to “enter the Kingdom.” Jesus preached about the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom of his Father. When Jesus comes again he will reign on earth and we, as coheirs, will reign with him (compare for example – Romans 8:17; 2. Tim. 2:12; Hebrews 1:1-2; 2:5-11; Rev. 5:10; Revelation 21:7). 

So ultimately, we inherit the entire universe, “inherit the earth.”

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Everything  Happens For a Reason?  It’s God’s Will and He is in Control?

accident.jpgI would like to discuss the first part of the title where we commonly hear that if something tragic happens or things are not going just right, that it all “happens for a reason.”

There may be some of you who disagree, but I find it an unfortunate choice of words when people try to console themselves when something disastrous happens in their lives by saying,  “Everything happens for a reason.”   In your heart of hearts, do you really believe this?

People think everything that happens in their life, down to the minutest details, is all in God’s will.  They are taught such phrases as “It’s God’s will,” or “Everything happens for a reason,” or “God is in control.”  Such phrases are used as a pain killer, a narcotic, if you will, in order to try and ease the pain of human suffering.  

There was an actor whose son was shot and killed and people tried to console him concerning the death of his son.   He said,  “Some have come to me and said it was God’s will.   My answer to them is that I choose not to consider God carrying out his will with a bullet to my son’s head.”

Seriously think about it.   If someone were to harm your child or any of your loved ones, could you honestly say it was “God’s will” and that “everything happens for a reason?”   And please tell me, what  kind of reason  would God have?  Just about everyone knows there is a reason, but no one can tell what that reason is!  It’s always a mystery.  In the mean time there are many who go through years of struggle and guilt. They struggle because they just can’t comprehend why God would allow such a thing to happen in their life, and have guilt because over a period time they have become angry with God.  This has affected many people so extremely that they have walked away from God angry and confused.

The meaning behind  “everything happens for a reason,”  is that  God “intends for everything to happen that happens.”

Is that really true?  If God intends for everything to happen that happens, then why do we see the God of the Bible intervening in people’s lives if everything was planned out to the minutest detail?  What would be the purpose for the times He has changed His mind?  

Furthermore, if God intends for everything to happen that happens, then there is no escaping the fact that this is accusing God of being behind all the evil that takes place in this world.

What we have been taught to believe is Reformed Theology (Calvinism) and not Bible truth.   I will give you a few quotes from Reformed Theology:

God is seen as the great and mighty King who has appointed the course of nature and who directs the course of history even down to its minutest details.”

He also perfectly controls all the depraved and impious affections of the wicked, and turns them as He pleases.”

When we get the larger view we see that even the sinful acts of men have their place in the divine plan.”

So when you say,  “Everything happens for a reason,” or “It’s God’s will,”  you are only repeating Reformed Theology and not Bible truth.

You see, there is one element left out.   Now we know God  created  systems that governs the laws of nature and can intervene at any time (ex. Ex. 14:21-22;  Joshua 10:13;  Haggai 1:11).   When it comes to human beings, the element left out is that God gave us a  free will.    We can choose good or evil.  God does not decide that for us.    But those who hold to Reformed Theology, you are holding to a god that is sadistic. 

Everything happens for a reason?   Then we should not complain when someone does something vicious to us.   We should not be upset when we see cruel and vile crimes committed such as abortions, rape of children, murderers murdering people, women forced at gunpoint and repeatedly and brutally raped  and other such vile crimes, because according to Reformed Theology (Calvinism),  the  criminals had no choice!  Why? Because the god of Reformed Theology “controls all the depraved and impious affections of the wicked, and turns them as He pleases.”  “Everything happens for a reason,” and all is in “God’s will.”

Are you beginning to see the implications of this repeated  rhetoric?   God does not choose evil to befall you, that is man’s choice.

God is not capable of perpetrating evil.   God did not create evil. I know some will immediately point out Isa. 45:7 in the KJB, but look and compare context carefully because it has nothing to do with “moral” evil or sin. but rather with “calamity” or “disaster”. 

There is good news! Though people will make wrong or evil choices that affect our lives, we are told,

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Rom. 8:28

This tells me that God can use circumstances for our own good if we allow him.   God can heal physical, emotional, and relational wounds.   A classic example of this is seen in the story of Joseph who was sold into slavery by his brothers. (Gen. 37)  At the end of that story, God brought healing and reconciliation and much more.   What the brothers conceived and imagined to harm Joseph,  God was able to use the circumstances in Joseph’s life for good.  Joseph did not moan, “Oh, well, this is God’s will and everything happens for a reason.”  What Joseph did see was that God was powerful and loving enough to use his circumstance to bring about good. (Gen. 50:20)

Is God really in Control?

The second point of Reformed Theology (Calvinism) claims that God is in control of everything that goes on in this world. It is really no different from “everything happens for a reason” or “it’s God’s will.”  However, this is not the Biblical view.

That ‘God is in control,’ does not exist anywhere in the scriptures.  Throughout scriptures we  can  observe where God intervenes in the world.  ( If God were in control, then He would not have to intervene.)   The Bible shows that God is  selectively  involved in the affairs of the world.

I would say that God is in control, but with the clarification that there is nothing beyond His ability to intervene.   God has all authority and power and can do whatever He pleases.  But it is wrong to say “God is in control” if a person means by that statement that God is controlling every little detail in this world.   In that sense, God is not in control. To cause less confusion, we can say,  “God is in charge.”

If God were in control, Jesus’ prayer would be meaningless.  Jesus taught the prayer,  “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven…”   Can we honestly say that God’s will is being done today?   God’s will is that “none should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9), but has everyone come to repentance so they will not perish?   There are things happening this very moment that grieves God’s heart.  Why would God want to control to a point that it grieves His own heart?  If God is in control of everything then we cannot be blamed for His sorrows.   If He controls everything, we are simply victims, and without reservations, can blame God for making His life and ours miserable.   Full responsibility is placed on God alone, and why not, since we are told God is in control?

Have you ever heard the question,   ‘If God is in control, why is there so much suffering in the world?”    The world scoffs at the answers given by those who hold to Reformed Theology (Calvinism), because they have the sense to know it is nonsense.   Their answers tend to turn people away from God, not closer to Him. No matter what the answer, there is still human suffering and it shows that God favors one over the other if God were in total control.  It also leaves them with only two options:

1.   Either God is in control
2.   Or He is completely uninvolved

Since it is hard to accept the first option because of all the suffering at the hand of God, they will apt for the second.

If one leans to the first option, he must conclude that God is responsible for all the pain, all the rapes, all the murders, the cause of wars, the cause of all diseases, and so on.   This makes God fully responsible because He is said to be “in control.”   There is no way around this no matter how one tries to squirm out of the issue. It’s not enough to say, “God knows what is best for us and we must accept it by faith.”   This same person will find himself asking the same question when it strikes home.

Since the first option does not satisfy, one must choose the second, which most people have concluded.

Is there a third Option?

Yes. The Biblical view  –  That God is not in control.  Why?  Because man has a free will.  And that is one of the reasons why there is so much pain and suffering in this world.

If one were to read the Bible carefully, he will find that from the time of  Adam, and throughout the whole scriptures, of things that happened that God did not intend to happen, but yet they happened because God has given us a free will.  He gives us the ability to make choices which can have a positive or adverse effects on ourselves and our fellow human beings.  

God does not have total control, not because He doesn’t have the ability or power, but because He chooses not to exert that power in all situations.  God can intervene and does influence this world through responses to our prayers, our relationships, and spiritual laws.

Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, among other Biblical characters, understood God was not in control, but they did know God was  “in charge”  and therefore had no problems approaching God with prayers, tears, requests, and praise.

Living for God and following Christ’s example by living righteously will not come easy in this world filled with wickedness.  As long as we stay strong through the many trials that life brings us, we can join Paul who said,

“For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, northings present, nor things to come, nor powers,  nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Rom. 8:38-39

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What is the Gospel?

Many professing Christians cannot fully tell you what the Gospel is. It seems the only answer they can give is to quote 1 Cor. 15:1-4.

“Now I make known to you brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures . . . ”

They say THAT is the whole Gospel. Well, not really. Notice what Paul says,

“For I delivered to you AS OF FIRST IMPORTANCE…”

Now why would Paul start off like that? Because there is much more to the story than Christ dying and raised from the dead, but since this chapter has to do with the resurrection, this is his main focus for the rest of the chapter. If the dead are not raised, then our preaching is useless and so is our faith. If Christ is not raised, our faith is simply foolish.

I’ll tell you why.

Because the Gospel of the Kingdom of God is about God’s immortality plan for human beings in the Kingdom to come which all will “inherit the earth.” (Psa_37:9; Psa_37:11; Psa_37:22; Mat_5:5)

The one major element of the Gospel that most people leave out is the Kingdom of God. Jesus came preaching the Gospel (Good News) about this kingdom and was the main purpose for which he was sent.

“I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose.” Luke 4:43

Jesus sent his disciples (seventy others – Luke 10:1-12) to preach this gospel before any of them knew about the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus (which of course, later became part of the gospel…good news!). The disciples preached this gospel. (See Matt. 4:17; 4:23; 9:35; Luke 4:43; 8:1; 9:11, and also read how Jesus always spoke about the Kingdom of God before and after the cross (Acts 1:3).

Heb. 2:3, along with many other verses, attest that Jesus is the first preacher of immortality. Even Paul tells us that Jesus,

brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel.” (2 Tim. 1:10)

Jesus is our preacher who showed us by his example and told us how we can eventually live forever. People must repent and believe this gospel about the kingdom of God.

Paul spent two years in his own hired house and,

welcomed all who came in to him, proclaiming the kingdom of God, and teaching those things concerning the Lord Jesus Christ, with all freedom, and without hindrance.” (Acts 28:30-31)

So to sum it up, the mission statement of Jesus reveals his whole purpose, i.e., to preach the GOOD NEWS about the Kingdom of God and how to gain immortality in that Kingdom.

The devil wants to blind the eyes and promote lies that being disobedient to God will not lead to death (Gen. 3:4) But for those who believe the Gospel of the Kingdom of God and do as Jesus instructs us, though they die physically, will one day be resurrected to a life of immortality, just as Christ was.

The Kingdom of God will be inaugurated by the return of Jesus to resurrect the faithful of all ages (who are still dead in their graves) to a life of immortality.

resurrection hope

Jesus said,

Do not marvel at this, for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves shall hear His voice, and shall come forth, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have practiced evil to the resurrection of condemnation” (John 5:28-29).

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Jesus making Himself Equal with God? (John 5:17,18)

Trinitarians claim Jesus is God and quote:

John 5:17,18 – 

“‘My Father has been working until now, and I have been working.” Therefore the Jews sought to kill Him, because He not only broke the Sabbath, but also said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God.'”

It is unfortunate that Trinitarians would side with the unbelieving Jewish leaders because they misunderstood him. Did Jesus ever think he was equal with God? Read John 10.29 and 14.28 where Jesus claims the Father is greater than him.

It would be best if one did not align themselves on the side of Jesus’ critics.

Furthermore, read the very next verse. He started off by saying “the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing” (John 5.19).

Jesus calling God his Father is not claiming equality with God, thus making himself God. 

Do you call God your Father? Does that make you equal with God and therefore God?

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Simple Logic, Simple Arithmetic

Trinitarians like to take verses such as “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30), “I am in the Father and the Father is in me” (John 14:10), to prove the trinity doctrine. They explain that the Father and Jesus are one in the same being, of the same substance (whatever that really means). They say they are united in one body – God became flesh in the person of Jesus and lived among men. In John 14:20 Jesus also said, “I am in my Father and you in me and I in you.”

Verses like those above suggest no other meaning than their “unity in purpose.” The verses have nothing to do with substance or the trinity (three beings or persons composed of one God). Furthermore, in the same manner that the verses are interpreted (each one infused into one body), they should not limit the trinity to 3 beings (persons). We now have to add the 12 disciples (John 14:20) in this one body, which produces fifteen (15) beings united in one body! Their trinity doctrine now becomes more problematic because they fail to understand how flawed is their logic, and their math not so simple anymore by the way they interpret the scriptures through the trinity lenses.

The Creed (not the Bible) states that the ‘Three Persons’ are united in one body, making one God, and cannot be separated. My question is, how can any member be considered fully God when in reality each of them constitutes 1/3 of the ‘Godhead’? Also, while Jesus was on earth, he wasn’t completely God. (Trinitarians say he “emptied himself, meaning, he emptied himself of his deity to become human.) This would leave the Father in heaven not a whole God (separated). One third of Him ceased to be God.

When Jesus was on the cross he cried, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46) “Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit.” (Luke 23:46) This is a cry from a person in distress. If Jesus is God, by whom is he deserted? Was he deserted by himself? Did God forsake God? Did God raise himself from the dead? Since God is immortal (1 Tim. 6:16), how can 1/3 of God die? In the Trinitarian world God forsakes himself (God forsakes God), commits himself to God (God commits himself to himself), and raises himself from the dead (God raises a dead God)? Does anyone not see the absurdity?

God Almighty is one single being, not three. Over 11,000 times the singular pronouns tell us God is a single person. Whenever the Bible speaks of God in the third person it reads “He,” “Him,” or “His.” Not one time are plural personal pronouns used (we, us, our, ours, they, them, their, and theirs). Example. If God is three, John 3:16 should read like this:

For God so loved the world that THEY gave THEIR only begotten Son.”

Or when Jesus said how from the beginning God created them male and female.

Have you not read that HE who created them from the beginning made them male and female?”

If Jesus is God, it should read,

Have you not read, that WE who created them from the beginning…”

I can give so many other examples, but as you can see, to claim Jesus is God Almighty negates the rules of language, leaving it absolutely useless as a tool of communication.

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John 8:58 and Trinitarian belief

Trinitarians claim that the Jews picked up stones to try and stone Jesus because he was claiming to be God in John 8. The fact is, they were not stoning him for that reason, but because he claimed to be the Messiah.

The Jews had an awful short memory if they were trying to say Jesus was claiming to be God here in John 8:58, but were not bright enough to bring this up at the trial where they had the perfect opportunity to recall this to everyone’s attention that he was claiming to be God and set the record straight. What did they ask Jesus at the trial? If he were God? No. They knew exactly what Jesus was claiming. The High Priest said to Jesus,

“I put you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the CHRIST, THE SON OF GOD!”

And THAT is why the Jews wanted to kill him, not because he claimed to be the Supreme God, but the Son of God, the Messiah.

“The Jews therefore came round about him, and said unto him, How long dost thou hold us in suspense? If thou art the Christ, tell us plainly.” (John 10: 24)

Not if you are a third part of the Trinity and therefore one of the three gods.

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