Our INDEPENDENT God … (September 2021 Update) 

Independence! 30 Years agoUkraine declared its independence from the USSR (August 24, 1991). And for 30 years, Ukraine has struggled to maintain that independence. The biggest struggle has been against many forms of Russian interference. Even in 1991, Russia recognized that Ukraine was the key to determining if the USSR would survive or not. The secession of Ukraine from the USSR ended any realistic chance of keeping the Soviet Union together. By December of 1991, Russia, Belarus and Ukraine had met to form a “Commonwealth of Independent States” to replace the USSR. Ukraine was officially independent and the USSR ceased to exist. 

But Ukraine still struggled to be really independent. Russian influence and pro-Russian politicians refused to allow Ukraine to experience real freedom. In 2004 (the Orange Revolution), massive protests against the rigged election of the pro-Russian candidate, Victor Yanukovych, led to more than 500,000 protestors camping in the main square from November to January until the election was restored to the pro-Ukrainian candidate, Victor Yushchenko. In November of 2013, after Yanukovych was “elected” again, he refused to keep his promise of moving toward relations with the EU. This prompted massive protests and violent battles between his pro-Russian government and the hundreds of thousands of pro-EU protesters between November (2013) and February (2014). After snipers shot and killed 100 protestors, Yanukovych fled the country and Russian troops captured Crimea and attempted to capture eastern Ukraine. With no army to protect itself, Ukrainian volunteers formed armies to protect Ukraine in the east, and people even gave donations at grocery stores for these volunteer armies until the government could raise funds to supply national army. Because of these selfless heroes, Ukraine was able to maintain its independence as a country. Now Ukraine is celebrating 30 years of independence! 

But, in reality, no country and no individual is completely independent. Every country depends to some degree on other countries and every individual is dependent on others. (Even the US exists today because other countries, especially France, helped the colonies in the Revolutionary War, and the current global pandemic has reminded us that we are all interconnected). We like to talk about our independence, but what we really mean is that we are mostly independent. In reality, we are all dependent to some degree. But that is not true when we speak about God and His independence. 

The Independence of God is one doctrine that we rarely speak about, but it is one of the most basic and foundational attributes of God. This doctrine is often called the aseity of God or sometimes called the simplicity of God or even the freedom of God. Regardless of which term is used, the attribute of the independence of God is essential to our confidence in God and our relationship to Him. 

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The ONLY Wise God … (August 2021 Update) 

Exclusive claims bother us – and they should. Whenever anyone says that they are the “only one” who can fix a problem or they are the “only one” who can do something, we automatically think they are simply bragging. We can all remember athletes who claimed to be the “only one” who were humbled by their subsequent defeats! But when we are speaking about the God of the universe, the claim to be the “only” one is not just appropriate – it is the ONLY correct assessment. When we speak about love and forgiveness, ONLY God provides perfect love and forgiveness. And ONLY God perfectly judges and punishes. ONLY is the only appropriate word when we are speaking about God. And ONLY is especially appropriate when we are talking about His wisdom. No one else compares. That’s why He is called the ONLY wise God! 

When speaking about the attributes of God, theologians usually divide the attributes into two categories – communicable and incommunicable. Communicable attributes are characteristics of God that are similar to those in humans. For example, love is a communicable attribute. It is one that humans share with God. This attribute of God is called communicable because we also love and, therefore, we experience and understand this attribute. On the other hand, the incommunicable attributes of God are characteristics of God that we do not share. God is infinite; we are finite. We cannot even begin to understand the concept of infinity. God is eternal; we are temporary. We can talk about eternity, but we really do not understand it because we do not naturally share this attribute. 

One very important attribute of God is His wisdom. In Jude 1:25 and also in Romans 16:27, God is called the “only wise God.” These verses emphasize that God alone possesses complete and total wisdom. Wisdom is a communicable attribute. It is something we share with God. We understand wisdom and we experience it (even though we often do not live according to it!). But we are not all-wise. Unlike God, we do not have complete and total wisdom. Nor do any other (so-called) gods. There is only one all-wise God. He alone has all wisdom and all power (Revelation 7:12). He is the ONLY wise God! 

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A City Set On a Hill … (July 2021 Update)

In March of 1630, John Winthrop delivered a message to the new arrivals who had come to settle what is today Boston. Preaching to them from the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), Winthrop warned his fellow colonists that the “eyes of all people are upon us.” He explained that their “experiment” on American soil would make them like a “city set on a hill” for all the world to see. And that their success or failure in this experiment depended upon their willingness to uphold their covenant with God and with each other. Even as America celebrates another year of its independence, the world is still watching. And many are wondering if that experiment will continue to shine for all the world to see.

But Jesus was not speaking about a political experiment in Matthew 5. He was speaking to his disciples about the testimony of the church to the world. In verses 14-16, Jesus outlines his plan for the witness of his church. Let’s take a look at it and remember its importance even for us today.

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The Cost of Freedom … (June 2021 Update) 

Fifty-one men gathered together to make one of the most important decisions of their lives. Some had already sacrificed much up to this moment. Others were sacrificing much just by being present with these men. All knew that they would sacrifice much more in the years ahead – their fortunes, their homes, their families, and even their lives. Some were not even supportive of the direction they were heading. But all knew that what they were doing was essential if they were ever to have real freedom. 

With this in mind, these men met together in Philadelphia to decide on a declaration of independence from Great Britain. After much debate, they voted 12-0 in favor of independence on July 2nd (with New York abstaining for the moment). The whole of Congress approved the final draft of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. The official signing took place on August 2nd. The mood at the signing was far from a celebration. In fact, the mood was very somber as delegates went one by one up to the desk to sign the document. Signer Benjamin Rush said they signed “what was believed … at that time to be our own death warrants.” The final line of the Declaration of Independence read: “We Mutually Pledge To Each Other Our Lives, Our Fortunes, And Our Sacred Honor…” Benjamin Franklin is reported to have said, “Yes, we must indeed all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately.” Such was the cost of freedom in 1776! 

Most Americans today have forgotten the sacrifices that these men and many others made so that we can be free today. They think of freedom as “free” rather than something that was costly and fought for. Nearly 60 years ago, John F. Kennedy said, “The cost of freedom is always high, but Americans have always paid it. And one path we shall never choose, and that is the path of surrender, or submission.”  

Freedom has never been “free.” Not here in America; not anywhere in the world. Ask Dietrich Bonhoeffer what freedom from Nazi tyrany cost him. Ask William Tyndale what freedom to print the Bible in the language of his people cost him. Ask any Anabaptist of the 16th century what it cost them to worship freely in their own manner. Freedom has never been “free” and it never will be. Ronald Reagan reminded us that “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.” Freedom is never free! It is always costly. 

This was never more true than with the greatest emancipation in the history of the world. Nearly 2000 years ago, a carpenter from Galilee hung on a cross so that everyone who believes in Him would be free from the penalty and the punishment of sin. But, like most Americans today, most evangelical Christians celebrate their freedom in Christ without remembering the cost of that freedom. For us, this freedom is without cost. But it was not free – Jesus purchased our freedom with his own blood (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). It is free for us – but it was very costly for Him! 

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Little Providences from A Big God! …  (May 2021 Update) 

Every day, we experience “little providences” from the hand of God, but we usually don’t notice it. The providence is mysterious – often even hidden from our eyes. Yet the little providences that we do see remind us that the Lord is working all things together for good even behind the scenes. 

The word “providence” is a Latin term which literally means to “see before.” It means that God sees everything before anything happens and He makes plans to accomplish what He desires. Biblical providence is not the same as fate or luck. Luck is blind, but God is all-seeing. Luck is what happens accidentally; providence happens because God sees and plans ahead. Fate is impersonal; it does not care about the people who are affected. Providence is personal; it comes from the hand of a loving Father. 

Since we don’t see what God is doing, we are often (at least initially) frustrated by the providences of God. We desire one thing, but it seems like God is letting everything get in the way of our plans! Providence often feels frustrating – until we see the amazing way God is working out everything for His glory and for our good. On our trip back to the US this past month, we experienced many “little providences” – some caused me a great deal of frustration. But the Lord showed us His kindness and His wisdom in each situation.  

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