Christianity 201

August 29, 2015

Does God Cry?

Today we pay a return visit to Faithviews which, like us, features different authors. To read this at source, click the title below.

Does God Suffer?

Dr. Jeffrey Johnson is a humanitarian, author, and sought-after lecturer on Jewish roots and Bible Prophecy. He was a pastor for over 17 years and received his Master’s Degree from Moody Bible Institute and his Doctorate from Louisiana Baptist University. He is a member of the American Society of Church History as well as Evangelical Theological Society. He has authored several books including God Was There, Childhood of Jesus, and Life After Death: What Happens Next? His latest book, The Moses Papers, will be released this fall. For more information visit http://www.IsraelTodayMinistries.org.

The last few years, we have found ourselves in a position to minister to and comfort the suffering people of Israel, both Jews and Arabs. We have helped those who have lost their homes in northern Israel, being victims of rockets launched from Hezbollah’s lair in Lebanon. We have wept with families who lost their children in suicide bombings. Daily, the school children in Israel race to bomb shelters when they hear the “red color” sirens sounding the alarm that Hamas in Gaza fired more rockets into their town. They wet their beds and rock back and forth in fear. They suffer from nightmares; parents weep and struggle because they have no money to buy food. Holocaust survivors live in poverty within the walls of Israel. And now, the new threat of the so-called Arab Spring with the change of power and the emboldened nefarious leaders, clanging swords and killing their own neighbors. Does God feel this suffering and fear?

The early church fathers, both Latin & Greek, insisted upon what is called the “impassibility” of God. Basically, this means while man, created by God, experiences suffering, God himself does not. Yet, portions of the Hebrew scripture narrative imply God does have feelings and does react to His creation.

Understandably so, those who advocate a strict “impassibility” realize that God is not completely apathetic. On the other hand, when the scripture narrative describes God in human terms, i.e., hands, eyes, etc., we understand that God is a spirit and is bigger than our physical universe, or our ideas and understanding of personifying God. Notwithstanding, is something to be learned from the scripture when it ascribes human emotions and human features to God – does reveal something about the Creator God?

Before the Incarnation of the Messiah we find it stated of God:

1. “His soul could no longer endure the misery of Israel (Judges 10:16).”

2. “Is Ephraim My dear son? Is he a pleasant child? For though I spoke against him, I earnestly remember him still; therefore My heart yearns for him; I will surely have mercy on him, says the LORD (Jeremiah 31:20).”

3. “How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, Israel? How can I make you like Admah? How can I set you like Zeboiim? My heart churns within Me; My sympathy is stirred (Hosea 11:8).”

After the Incarnation it is stated of Jesus:

1. “Now it happened, the day after that He went into a city called Nain;…And when He came near the gate of the city, behold, a dead man was being carried out, the only son of his mother; and she was a widow…When the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her and said to her, Do not weep…(Luke 7:11-13).
2. “Therefore, when Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her weeping, He groaned in the spirit and was troubled…Jesus wept. Then the Jews said, See how He loved him (John 11:33-36).”
3. “But when He saw the multitudes He was moved (Matthew 9:36).”

Looking at these passages, we learn that before the birth of Jesus, God was directly affected by the trials and anguish of his creation. After the Incarnation, we find God identifying with human pain and responding with immeasurable love.

Our suffering causes God to grieve; God cries when we cry; God hurts when we hurt. This, of course, does not diminish who God is in terms of his essence, being all power, all knowledge, everywhere present. If human beings, created in God’s image, can make suffering their own through their love for others, how much more can God, who is love, make suffering His own. In other words, if a human being is affected by another’s sorrow and pain, God is more affected. Why? God created us out of an act of love, and is not indifferent to the angst we experience. He created us and is involved and identifies with us – even proving his involvement by taking it to the ultimate expression of love and concern– the Cross.

Simply, God cries when someone dies; He has compassion on those who are ill; He sorrows for the children who do not have a meal; His heart yearns for the one gone astray; He has sympathy for those in need.

Our sorrow is mingled with joy because Christ, the Passover Lamb, brings hope and answers in our time of need. God expressed his love through the life, death and resurrection of Christ. The resurrection proves that he is God. God is not indifferent to the sorrows of this world – and that brings an amazing comfort to our hearts.

Being created in God’s likeness we can emulate Him by being His hands and feet bringing comfort to fellow human beings. “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning (Psalms 30:5).”

March 4, 2013

Embracing Weakness

We try to go six months before revisiting an author, but after formatting this, I realized it’s only been two months since we featured Elsie Montgomery and her blog, Practical Faith. (I guess she writes good stuff.) Here is another one of her great devotional posts, titled Weakness is a Good Thing. You’re encouraged to read ‘borrowed’ C201 posts at their original source. This one also continued to look at the key verse the next day, that link is below.

Jesus loves me, this I know,
for the Bible tells me so.
Little ones to Him belong;
we are weak but He is strong.

For someone who often sings “Jesus loves me…” God surprises me again by pointing to thinking about my weakness in terms of His love and compassion toward me.
As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust. (Psalm 103:13–14)
Today’s devotional uses these verses again. Obviously, I’ve still more to learn from them. Spurgeon again focuses on the compassion of God, this time on the weakness of His children.
 
As he says, children cannot do much. They have little strength and little children are quite helpless. Yet their father does not chide them for this. In fact, he will enjoy carrying his baby who cannot walk and not at all be angry with the little one who is unable to help himself.
 
As verse 14 says, my heavenly Father knows my weakness. Whether it is a physical lack of strength due to some infirmity or some other shortcoming that keeps me from full capacity, He remembers that I am only dust. He even sympathizes with my weakness.
 
This is the God who became a man, actually, a tiny baby. He became helpless and knows helplessness. This is the Creator of the universe who allowed Himself to be beaten, mocked, and strung up on a cross. The Bible says, “He was crucified in weakness… we also are weak in him… (2 Corinthians 13:4)
 
Yet there is power in weakness, partly because it means I will be carried by my Father, but also because when I am weak, I will call on Him and experience His power. Without weakness, I would not do that. This makes weakness, especially a childlike weakness, my friend, not my enemy. Paul said,
… I will not boast, except of my weaknesses…. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:5–10)
Weakness is more than feeling weak. It is also being weak and unable. I’ve struggled as a teacher on those days I could not put together a lesson plan. Many times God has put people with questions in my path and I knew the answers, but my mouth seems sewn shut and I could not speak. I get weary, disorganized, depressed, and bowed down, and feel like a total failure, yet God has compassion on those who fear Him. He knows that I am dust.
 
I have to ask, why should I think I should be able to do everything I want to do? When I see problems, why can’t I solve them? When I see spiritual blindness and hardened hearts, why can’t I open eyes and soften hearts? Maybe my attitude of wanting to fix everything stems from pride. Maybe it stems from wanting to be like God in the wrong way, the way that tempted Eve to eat the forbidden fruit. But I cannot do it all nor does God put me up against a wall and hammer me with “do it.” Instead, He says things like…
We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. (Hebrews 4:15)
The Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. (Romans 8:26)
Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. (Hebrews 12:12–13)
If I were able, I would not need God or even seek Him. It is weakness that breeds faith and weakness that keeps me in the right place before God, on my knees in humility and utter dependence. I see this clearly and can only say no wonder Paul was content to be weak and even boasted of his weaknesses.
 
Spurgeon says that “a person in perfect health and strength may joyfully accomplish what another cannot even think of undertaking,” but is this what God wants? I don’t think so. Jesus was such a person, but He chose weakness…
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:5–8)
For he was crucified in weakness, but lives by the power of God. For we also are weak in him, but… we will live with him by the power of God. (2 Corinthians 13:4)
Click this link: Another Practical Faith post continues to look at Psalm 103