The Goodness of God

jesus-good-shepherdc. 425 AD, Mosaic, Mausoleum of Galla Placidia, Ravenna

The goodness of God can be seen throughout the Bible. For example, when God created the world and filled it with living creatures, He looked back on all that He created, and, as Genesis 1:31 says,

God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good.

But God didn’t just create a good world and leave it to govern and order itself. God has good intentions for the world, including humankind. For example, Jeremiah 29:11 says that God intends good for Israel:

“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. (NLT)

But God’s goodness is not limited to Israel. God invites everyone to receive His goodness in their lives. The question isn’t if God is good, but how can I receive God’s goodness in my life? Psalm 34:8 gives us the answer:

Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good;
Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!

In order to see God’s goodness in my life, I have to taste and see—I have to trust in Him. It is only by trusting in God that I can begin to understand how His goodness shows up in my life.

Trusting God means recognizing His sovereign rule over all creation and our humble position within God’s created order. Many people think that God is required to give the same blessings to everyone everywhere all the time. But this kind of thinking comes from a prideful entitlement mentality so common in the world today. Our very existence—the breath in our lungs, the blood in our veins, the thoughts in our minds and the intents of our hearts are all blessings from God. Every aspect of our lives is an undeserved gift from God. And as the ultimate gift-giver who owes us nothing, the ways and degrees by which He shares His goodness varies from person to person, according to His purposes.

It is also important to understand that, especially concerning spiritual matters, God does not force His blessings on those who truly do not desire them. The invitation to believe requires exercising the free gift of informed choice about the sin in our hearts and our eternal destiny with or apart from His loving presence.

God has made it very clear that He has created two different spiritual destinies. One, created for people, is residing with Him for eternity. The other, created for the devil and his spiritual cohorts, is a place of eternal torment called hell. God never desires for anyone to go to hell. But when we truly don’t desire eternity with God and willfully reject His invitation to receive eternal life, God grants us our desire for an eternity apart from His loving presence by giving us the only other alternative, hell.

But this is also one of the reasons why receiving God’s invitation requires trusting in Jesus. In the trusting we acknowledge His existence with our minds and voluntarily submit our hearts to the truth that God is wholly good and has good intentions for His creation and our lives.

The Existence of God

Painting by: Jan Brueghel the Younger, God Creating

John 3:16 begins with the phrase for God. This is the beginning point for the Christian faith—believing in God. The Bible offers no explanation for God’s existence. It simply claims that from the very beginning, God always is. Going back to the beginning, the very first verse of the first book of the Bible, Genesis 1:1, says:

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

Notice, before the beginning of the universe, God already exists. God has no beginning, middle or end. God simply is. The Psalmist set this truth to song in Psalm 90:2,

Before the mountains were brought forth,
Or ever You had formed the earth and the world,
Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.

Consider the last phrase, from everlasting to everlasting, You are God. There is no before God, as if there were some point in time before He existed. Nor will there be any after God, as if He might stop existing while the world continues operating without Him. The Bible teaches that the physical universe had a beginning and that beginning came by the will of God. But God has neither beginning nor end.

It is interesting to note that the most prominent scientific theory for the origin of the universe, the Big Bang Theory, agrees with the Bible that the physical universe had a beginning. Beginnings and endings are easy enough to understand. Life is filled with examples of beginnings and endings—schooling, job opportunities, home improvement projects, even life itself. Beginnings and endings are commonplace human experiences. The challenge for the human mind is acknowledging the existence of something or someone without beginning or end.

I’ve been asked often by children, “if all things have a beginning, then who created God?” On the face of it, the question seems puzzling. It puzzles even the most educated people in the world, some who honestly admit they don’t know while others perceive this question as one of the greatest challenges against Christianity. But the child’s innocent question isn’t an unanswerable logical challenge. The question demonstrates one of the common misunderstandings many people have about God. God does not need a creator because God is self-existent. God’s existence depends only on God Himself.

God is not physical, but spiritual. He is not bound by time, space, or matter. He exists beyond the physical universe in the spiritual world. The Bible teaches that this spiritual world is real, inhabited by spiritual creatures and governed by God. The question isn’t who created God, but whether we are willing to accept the possibility that Bible’s claims about God’s spiritual existence are true.

The spiritual world can’t be seen, but evidence for its existence is all around us. The struggles of daily life are very real, but what we see is just the surface. Like the tip of an iceberg giving an indication to an approaching ship of the danger beneath the surface of the water, so our daily life struggles give us a glimpse into the battle taking place behind the scenes in the spiritual world for the souls of humankind.

The spiritual world, sometimes called the heavenly places, includes two opposing factions, one of which is set against both humanity and God. Paul describes the battle in the spiritual world in Ephesians 6:12:

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.

And we are not passive spectators in this battle for human souls. Rather, we become active participants when we align our thoughts and behaviors with or against God’s will. Our alignment begins with our response to God’s invitation to believe in Jesus and receive eternal life. When we respond in faith, God welcomes our souls into His heavenly household, where we rest in the truth that God is the sovereign ruler over both the spiritual and physical worlds. As Psalm 103:19 says,

The Lord has established His throne in heaven,
And His kingdom rules over all.

As ruler, God has supreme power and authority over every event that takes place. On the one hand, that means God sovereignly chooses to allow events that contribute to the perceived evils of this physical universe. However, the truth of God’s ultimate power and authority brings comfort when we recognize that He is also good.

I Am Yours (Gracie’s Song)

An original song based on Ephesians 1:3-6.
In loving memory of Graciana Jane Northup, December 6th, 2019.

I Am Yours (Gracie’s Song)
Words and music by Tim Northup

Before You made the worlds
You called me by Your name
That I might live for You
Holy without blame
You chose me as Your own
According to Your love
To the praise and glory
Of Your beloved Son

I am Yours, I’m Yours
I am Yours, I’m Yours

Before You set the stars
In the evening sky
You knew every thought
That passes through my mind
Every joy and pain
That ever fills my heart
Sovereign over all
You keep me by Your love

I am Yours, I’m Yours
I am Yours, I’m Yours

When I feel alone
Drifting in the wind
The storm surrounding me
Darkness pressing in
You never let me go
Your Spirit drawing near
Comforting my heart
Wiping every tear

I am Yours, I’m Yours
I am Yours, I’m Yours

When the pain is too much to bear
This heartache beyond compare
All hope lost in the despair
You are near, You are near
You are here, You are here

I am Yours, I’m Yours
I am Yours, I’m Yours
I am Yours

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread Mini Muffins

IMG_20200313_110555-01

I adapted this recipe from my basic banana bread. It’s a fairly straightfoward recipe, using pantry basics: eggs, oil, vanilla extract, brown sugar, all-purpose flour and typical leavening agents. My family really likes chocolate chips, but other mix-ins like nuts or berries work well, too!

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread Mini Muffins

  • Servings: 24
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 1 medium very ripe banana (roughly 1/2 cup) mashed
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar loosely packed
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp mini chocolate chips

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk mashed banana, egg, oil, and vanilla extract until uniform. Then mix in brown sugar.
  3. Add flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Mix until well-combined.
  4. Stir in chocolate chips (or other mix-ins).
  5. On a non-stick mini muffin tray, spray 24 of the mini muffin cups with non-stick spray. Then distribute batter evenly among the 24 mini muffin cups.
  6. Bake at 350 degrees F for 10-13 minutes, until edges just start to turn golden and toothpick stuck in center comes out clean with maybe a couple crumbles (but no raw batter).
  7. Allow to cool 10-15 minutes before removing from pan.
Makes about 24 mini muffins at roughly 85 calories per mini muffin. Great for breakfast, snacks, and dessert!

Fear and the Goodness of God

wrath-of-god-martin

Fear (terror) compels people to do all kinds of things. History has proven this to be true at all levels of human experience, from personal interactions to community concerns to international conflicts.

Concerning salvation, many Christians confess that the fear (terror) of God’s wrath resting on unrepentant sinners (John 3:18-21, 36) is what initiated their faith in Jesus.[1]

There is another sense of fear that also plays a role in the Christian’s faith. The Bible teaches, “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (Prov 1:7, NKJV). This kind of fear (awe, reverence) comes from some measure of recognition of how truly great, mighty, and awesome God is and how small, puny, and powerless we are in contrast to Him.

But when it comes to salvation, God isn’t just interested in handing out “fire insurance” or “keep out of hell” cards. God doesn’t save us to set us on a pedestal. God desires changed hearts producing changed lives, lives that increasingly become transformed to reflect the the righteousness of the Son.

This kind of change is not produced by fear, but by the goodness of God. As Romans 2:4 says, “the goodness of God leads you to repentance.” Thus, the Lord invites us, “Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who trusts in Him!”

Consider an example from Jesus. It was not the fear (terror) of death that drove the prodigal home. His fear caused him to reflect on his life choices and remember his father’s house. It was the goodness of his father that convinced him that he might find some small portion of sustenance after squandering his resources and exhausting his options (Luke 15:11-32).

Thus, in facing the fear (terror) of death apart from God, we learn the fear (awe, reverence) of the Lord, which draws us to the Son. And when we come to the Son by grace through faith (Eph 2:8), we find we need no longer fear death and the grave because God’s wrath no longer abides on us. What we find is good Father who welcomes us with open arms.

[1] R.C. Sproul relaying the testimony of some of his congregants for their reasons for believing in Jesus https://youtu.be/fcOzTZUOBn0?t=293.

San Diego Holiday Half 2019

san-diego-holiday-half-2019

Tomorrow morning, Lord willing, I will run my first half marathon race. Last winter I wasn’t quite ready for the distance and this year has been a very rough whirlwind of events. But the Lord is faithful. I’m excited for this next milestone in the journey of healthful living that the Lord started me on a little over two-and-a-half years ago, on February 27th, 2016. As long as the Lord keeps me healthy, I know I can go the distance. But my two hour goal is going to be a bit of a challenge.

This race is also very special for me because one of the reasons I run is for my family. I signed up for this race back in August knowing my goal time would be to hours. But I didn’t know then how meaningful those two hours will be for me. Exactly two weeks ago today, on December 6th, 2019, at 6:05pm, my second little girl, Graciana Jane Northup, was born. She had already been quite sick for several weeks and the doctors didn’t hold out much hope for her to survive delivery. Nonetheless, the Lord graciously gave our family two precious hours with her to pray and sing praise over her before He took her home.

Gracie, this race is for you.