Tag Archives: God

Sentence Sermons

There are only two kinds of men: the righteous who think they are sinners and the sinners who think they are righteous. ~Blaise Pascal

A puritan is a person who pours righteous indignation into the wrong things. ~G. K. Chesterton

Faith refers to Christ. Holiness depends on faith. Heaven depends on holiness.  ~Alexander MacLaren

True faith rests upon the character of God and asks no further proof than the moral perfections of the One who cannot lie. It is enough that God has said it.  ~A. W. Tozer

Faith must have adequate evidence, else it is mere superstition. ~A. A. Hodge

Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you get neither. ~C. S. Lewis

He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose. ~Jim Elliot

Prayer does not change God, but it changes him who prays. ~Soren Kierkegaard

One act of obedience is better than one hundred sermons. ~Dietrich Bonhoeffer

See, I have set before you this day life and good, death and evil … I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse; therefore choose life. ~Moses

Now faith is assurance of things hoped for, a conviction of things not seen. ~Hebrews 11.1

I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me. ~Jesus of Nazareth


Am I a God who is near?

Am I a God who is near, declared the LORD, and not a God far off? Can a man hide himself in hiding places, so I do not see him? declares the LORD. Do I not fill heaven and earth? declares the LORD. (Jeremiah 23.23-34)

There is no place in the universe void of God’s presence. He is not limited by the dimensions that confine us. Therefore, we have the knowledge that wherever we are in whatever situation or circumstance, God is with us. Because we are His children through faith in Jesus Christ, we live daily with the assurances that He cares for us and is concerned about us. Though He is indeed Creator and Master of the Universe, He is also Father and we are His precious children – we belong to Him!

Because we belong to God we are never alone; He is our constant companion. Loneliness is an awful thing. People were made to live in “community,” and that greatest community of all is the one that transcends this world where love, friendship, and companionship are not only present now but throughout all eternity.

Because we belong to God when we are troubled, He is our confidence. Because of Emmanuel, He knows what it is like to be here and to be human. He understands hardship and heartache. He knows about worry and anxiety and says, “Cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you” (1 Peter 5.7).

– grace to you all, and peace, Bill


God and Hell

Have you ever heard this question, “How can a God of love send anybody to hell?” Now that may sound intelligent or problematic at first, but the question misses two critically important points.

A Holy God

First, God is not only a God of love but a God of utter holiness whose very nature ensures His unchanging anger at sin – and as “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3.23) all people are by nature exposed to it. The Bible says more about God’s anger than it does about His love, and we dare not ignore one and concentrate on the other; as an article in Punch put it, “You can’t just have the bits of God you like and leave out the stuff you’re not so happy with.”

God does not send people to hell, He sends sinners to hell and as Zechariah declares, “The LORDis righteous and does no injustice” (Zechariah 3.5). God condemning unrepentant sinners to hell leaves no stain on His character. As it is impossible for God to do anything that would violate who He is, the question to ask is, “How can a God of holiness allow anyone into heaven?”

A Matter of Choice

Second, those who despise God’s authority and reject His patience and love are designing their own appalling destiny. J. I. Packer says, “Nobody stands under the wrath of God save those who have chosen to do so. The essence of God’s action in wrath is to give people what they choose, in all its implications; nothing more, and equally nothing less.”

Jesus described Himself as “the light of the world” (John 8.12) and warned, “…the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil” (John 3.19).

C. S. Lewis got it right when he said, “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done’ and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done.’ All that are in hell choose it.”

– John Blanchard, Major Points from the Minor Prophets, 208-09


“I am God, and there is no other” (Isaiah 46.9)

Most Western-style democracies guarantee freedom of religion. The Bill of Rights in the American Constitution ensures Americans are free to practice whatever religion they choose (as long as they are not harming anyone). Perhaps because of this liberty, many people assume that all religious beliefs are basically equal and valid, a concept called pluralism. It is a mistaken and false concept.

The God of the Bible insists that He alone is God. There is no other God besides Him (Isaiah 46.9). To modern ears, that may sound intolerant, or even arrogant. It certainly flies in the face of the proponents of pluralism that all beliefs are equally valid. But the LORD leaves no room for disagreement or compromise on this point: there is no god but God. One can either agree with Him or call Him a liar, but there is no middle ground.

Suppose we deny that God alone is God. That doesn’t affect God in the least. He simply says that we are wrong, and reminds us that we are mere mortals who will die. But God also warns us that our perspective is distorted, because we are stubborn-hearted sinners (46.8, 12). Who are we to decide who and/or what is God?

God refuses to be bound by our ideas of Him. That’s why He declares the truth to us: “I am God, and there is no other.”

Am I a God who is near, declared the LORD , and not a God far off? Can a man hide himself in hiding places, so I do not see him? declares the LORD . Do I not fill heaven and earth? declares the LORD (Jeremiah 23.23-34).

There is no place in the universe void of God’s presence. He is not limited by the dimensions that confine us. Therefore we have the knowledge that wherever we are in whatever situation or circumstance, God is with us. Because we are His children through faith in Jesus Christ, we live daily with the assurances that He cares for us and is concerned about us. Though He is indeed Creator and Master of the Universe, He is also Father and we are His precious children – we belong to Him!

Because we belong to God we are never alone; He is our constant companion. Loneliness is an awful thing. People were made to live in “community,” and that greatest community of all is the one that transcends this world where love, friendship, and companionship are not only present now but throughout all eternity.

Because we belong to God when we are troubled, He is our confidence. Because of Emmanuel, He knows what it is like to be here and to be human. He understands hardship and heartache. He knows about worry and anxiety and says, “Cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you” (1 Peter 5.7).

“For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God” (1 Corinthians 2.11).

There’s a problem understanding spiritual things with a mind orientated to thinking in physical terms. After all, we live in a world of matter, time, and decay. How do we describe the beauty of heaven, the horror of hell, or the wonder of salvation in physical terms? It seems almost impossible. Yet God, who fully understands our limitations, draws on human experiences and physical reality to describe spiritual things.

The Bible is filled with “spiritual pictures” drawn in language and terms we can understand. By looking at these pictures our spiritual awareness is quickened and our spiritual nature is aroused.

Think of the prodigal son, the pearl of great price, or the tree of life. Each one reveals a facet of great spiritual truth. No single picture reveals it all, but each contributes to the whole revelation until we eventually stand awed by the complete painting.

Some words in the New Testament are pictures themselves – atonement, forgiveness, justification, redemption, reconciliation. Each word draws on examples from the Bible or human experience to shed more light on the wonder of salvation.

Jesus is the ultimate revelation of God: No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him (John 1.18). To reveal Himself to us God entered the physical realm through Jesus Christ. He did so visibly, powerfully, and dramatically. In Jesus, God says, “I’ll draw a picture for you so you can see what I’m like” – Immanuel, God with us!

 – Bill

Comfort and Hope in Isaiah 40-43

After 39 chapters of judgment oracles, mixed with some prophecies of hope and the Messiah, we come to the second half of Isaiah’s writing. Here he changes his tone and encourages, comforts, and gives hope to Israel. They would still go through the war with Assyria, they would still go into Babylonian captivity. Yet that would not be their end.

The hard part again is identifying any particular prophetic event. We have some help in that the New Testament quotes and applies some of them. Apart from that, many of the events are similar: the return from Babylon and the spiritual return to God under the Messiah. Both are often termed in Old Testament pictures of blessing.

God promises their return and comfort (Isaiah 40.1-5, quoted and applied to John the Baptist in Matthew 3.3 and John 1.23. God’s word is eternal and thus these promised events will happen ( Isaiah 40.6-8, quoted in 1 Peter). God will come, not in wrath, but as a shepherd to gather his people and protect them (Isaiah 40.10ff) God is both wise enough and powerful enough to accomplish this. [Note Isaiah 40.13-14 quoted in Romans 11.34).

The thing that got Israel into trouble was idolatry. This is also the downfall of Babylon and the rest of the nations.

Throughout this section God emphasizes He alone is God.

  • He is the first and the last.
  • There was / is no god beside Him.
  • He is the creator of all.
  • None can compare: “to whom will you liken me” is asked repeatedly.
  • He is able to tell what would happen in the future, which only the true God could do.
  • He rules over nations, raising them up and destroying them in His wrath.
  • God chose Israel to be His servant in bringing the Messiah.
  • God chose Israel to be his witnesses that He is God.
  • God will bring the Messiah, His chosen servant, to redeem and save His people.

Many people today have only a caricature image of God and thus make many foolish statements about Him and about religion. We need to immerse ourselves in these last chapters of Isaiah and get a true understanding of who God is.

“This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (John 17.3).

Do you know God?

–Hugh DeLong

[Hugh and I began preaching together as interns at the Johnson Avenue church in El Cajon, California in 1971. – Bill]


Her Children Rise Up and Call Her “Blessed”

Mothers Day Roses
Happy Mother’s Day!

Motherhood in the Bible

The Bible refers to every aspect of motherhood: conception (Genesis 4.1; Luke 1.24); pregnancy (2 Samuel 11.5; Luke 1.24); the pain of childbirth (Genesis 3.16; John 16.21); and nursing (1 Samuel 1.23; Matthew 24.19).

The Book of Proverbs (1.8; 31.1) indicates that even in ancient times mothers shared with fathers the responsibility for instructing and disciplining children. Mothers have the same right to obedience and respect as fathers (Exodus 20.12; Leviticus 19.3).

Jesus enforced the Fifth Commandment and protected it against scribal evasion (Matthew 15.3-6).

Motherly virtues are often extolled in Scripture: compassion for children (Isaiah 49.15), comfort of children (Isaiah 66.13), and sorrow for children (Jeremiah 31.15, quoted in Matthew 2.18). The fact that God would use a human mother to bring His Son into the world graced motherhood with its greatest honor.

Mothers – Made in the Image of God

The selfless acts of love performed daily by most mothers reflect how they were created in the image of God and it reveals to this world that God Himself loves and sacrifices like a mother does. The truth is, a mother’s sacrificial acts for her family and children reflect and point to a characteristic of God that many fail to recognize.

God created male and female different; He designed them both to fulfill specific roles. But He made two people to represent all that He is. Men reflect one dimension of God and women reflect another. It takes both of them together to get a true glimpse of the nature of God himself. Here is what Scripture records in Genesis 1.26-28:

Then God said, “Let us make man in Our image, in Our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it…”


How We Respond to God

January 24, 2016 – Bill Bryan

Notes and Scripture References

Last week’s sermon examined the way God is the Beginning of everything. He takes the initiative in creation, revelation, and salvation. How do we respond to these gifts?

  1. Diligently – Hebrews 11:6; 2 Timothy 2:15
  2. Humbly – Ecclesiastes 5:2; 1 Peter 5:5-6; John 14:2
  3. Honestly – Jeremiah 29:13
  4. Obediently – Luke 6:46; Luke 15:1-7; Luke 15:8-10; Hebrews 11:6; 1 Peter 1:22; Romans 6:16-18

Conclusion: Luke 22:41-42

Beginning with the Beginning

In the beginning God…

The opening words of the Bible are profound in their simplicity. I’ve always found it interesting that the Bible never attempts to explain or defend the existence of God. Rather it assumes any rational being will recognize and acknowledge His existence because since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made (Romans 1.20).

Long ago the psalmist sang the heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims His handiwork and by the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and by the breath of His mouth all their host. He gathers the waters of the sea as a heap; He puts the deeps in storehouses. Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him! For He spoke, and it came to be; He commanded, and it stood firm (Psalm 19.1; 33.1-9).

One of the reasons I love living in Imperial are the dark, clear, moonless nights. A short drive out of town into the country reveals the starry host above in brilliant array – it takes the breath away. On such nights Stuart Hine’s hymn inevitably comes to mind:

O Lord my God! When I in awesome wonder consider all the works Thy hand hath made. I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder, Thy power throughout the universe displayed…Then sings my soul, my Savior God to Thee How great Thou art!

In the beginning was the Word…

The opening phrase of John’s gospel has always intrigued me. “In the beginning was…” So there “was” something before the beginning.

There are two “beginnings” in Scripture. The first, Genesis 1.1, tells us God was there and that He is the Creator. The second, John 1.1, takes us behind the scenes and gives us a glimpse of what was before the beginning. We’re introduced to the “Word,” the eternal logos. John reveals that He was in the beginning with God, that He was God, and that all things were made through Him and without Him nothing at all was made.

Reading a little further in John 1 we’re told that the logos became flesh. In other words, the “Word became a person” (verse 14) and lived “among us.” Reflecting on that experience, John recalled that he had seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. Years later he would write “we saw Him with our eyes and touched Him with our hands” (1 John 1.1).

Seven centuries before John lived, a prophet in Israel named Isaiah promised that a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call His name Immanuel – a Hebrew word meaning God with us.

Fascinating isn’t it that the Creator Himself would choose to become a person and to share the human experience with us. That claim and that reality is made of no other god.

In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men (John 1.4)

When John uses the term life he usually means “spiritual life or eternal life,” but here he has a broader view in mind – Jesus is the source of all life – physical, moral, spiritual, and eternal. He is keenly concerned with all those aspects of life. His ministry focused on transforming mere life into abundant life, to have a “surplus” life, a life of meaning and purpose now and a transcendent life that exceeds our ability to comprehend. When He breathed life into the nostrils of that lump of clay, we became “living souls” (Genesis 2.7). He created us for life not death, and He came and walked among us to show us the way to true life.

In Scripture, light is frequently used of things pertaining to God while darkness is just the opposite, as in 1 John 1.6: God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. The darkness Jesus came to dispel was caused by sin. We got ourselves into this mess through our own willfulness and we’re powerless to find our own way out. That’s where He comes in – He’s “Life and Light.”

I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life (John 8.12).

Grace to you all and peace – Bill



If one puts aside the existence of God and the survival after life as too doubtful…one has to make up one’s mind as to the use of life. If death ends all, if I have neither to hope for good nor to fear evil, I must ask myself what am I here for, and how in these circumstances I must conduct myself. Now the answer is plain, but so unpalatable that most of us will not face it. There is no meaning for life, and [thus] life has no meaning.

 – Somerset Maugham, The Summing Up

Though we cannot offer irrefutable empirical evidence for God’s existence, there are strong clues – divine fingerprints, if you will – to be found for His reality. Those of us who think about such things have always been fascinated by the question, “Why is there something rather than nothing?” The question becomes even more interesting in light of the “Big Bang Theory.”

There is evidence [the second law of thermodynamics] that the universe is explosively expanding outwardly from a single point. Stephen Hawkins (The Nature of Time and Space) has observed, “Almost everyone now believes that the universe, and time itself, had a beginning at the Big Bang.” In his book, The Language of God, scientist Francis Collins asserts:

We have this very solid conclusion that the universe had an origin, the “Big Bang”…the universe began with an unimaginably bright flash of energy from an infinitesimally small point. That implies that before that, there was nothing. I can’t imagine how nature, in this case the universe, could have created itself. And the very fact that the universe had a beginning implies that someone was able to begin it. And it seems to me that had to be outside of nature.

Everything we know and can be observed about our world is contingent – that is, everything has a cause, it’s dependent on something else, a cause outside of itself. The universe, which is nothing more than a huge collection of such contingent entities, would therefore itself have to be dependent on some cause besides itself. Something had to make the Big Bang happen – but what or who? What could that be but something outside of nature, a supernatural, non-contingent being that exists from itself?

In his review of Collins’ book, Sam Harris, a militant atheist, makes the classic objection to this line of reasoning. He states, “In any case, even if we accepted that our universe simply had to be created by an intelligent being, this would not suggest that this being is the God of the Bible” (truthdig.com/report/page2/20060815_sam_harris_language _ignorance/).

In one sense Harris is perfectly right. If we’re looking at this argument to prove the existence of a personal God, it doesn’t get us all the way there. However, if we’re looking for a clue – a clue that there’s something besides and beyond this natural world – then it give us a lot to contemplate.

 – Bill

Timothy Keller
The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism, pp. 131-33

› The Spacious Firmament on high,
With all the blue Ethereal Sky,
And spangled Heav’ns, a Shining Frame,
Their great Original proclaim:
Th’ unwearied Sun, from day to day,
Does his Creator’s Pow’r display,
And publishes to every Land
The Work of an Almighty Hand.

Soon as the Evening Shades prevail,
The Moon takes up the wondrous Tale,
And nightly to the list’ning Earth
Repeats the Story of her Birth:
Whilst all the Stars that round her burn,
And all the Planets, in their turn,
Confirm the Tidings as they roll,
And spread the Truth from Pole to Pole.

What though, in solemn Silence, all
Move round the dark terrestrial Ball?
What tho’ nor real Voice nor Sound
Amid their radiant Orbs be found?
In Reason’s Ear they all rejoice,
And utter forth a glorious Voice,
For ever singing, as they shine,
The Hand that made us is Divine.

Joseph Addison





What Is God Like?

Communication is everything – in domestic and international relations, in marriage, in education, in business and industry, in research, and most certainly in religion. The Bible exists because God communicates.

We exist. How and why are the age-old questions of our existence. We think. We think about our origins, the nature of our being as compared to all other living things, and the purpose, if any, of the content of our lives.

The Natural Explanation

One train of thought is to pursue a natural explanation for the universe. Among the many hypotheses of this line of reasoning are that 1) The universe is the result of inexplicable natural phenomenon; it’s here and we’re still learning and trying understand how it happened. 2) Given enough time and under the right circumstances, anything can happen. Stress, pressure, cataclysm, heat, cold, and the endless expanse of space and time produced the universe. 3) While not intending to be arrogant, to our knowledge, human beings on the planet earth represent the highest life form known to exist.

The understanding of our existence is built upon the knowledge of who we are and how we function. Understanding how we function has enabled us to build a case for the existence of a universe capable of producing the kind of living beings we are. It’s circular in its approach (it starts with us and ends with us), but it’s about the best that can be done when seeking a natural explanation for our existence. And, too, it enables one to avoid the other train of thought – the supernatural.

The Supernatural Explanation

The concept of a supernatural makes some people uneasy. The reason for that is simple: It forces us to admit we aren’t in control, and even worse, we may be accountable. Yet for many people, mere casual observance of the heavens on a clear and moonless starry night compels them to believe in or at least admit the possibility of a supernatural creative force, a divine being we know as God.

Communication is everything – God communicates. The Bible exists because He wishes to be known throughout His creation. Through the medium of Scripture He provides an account of the universe’s creation and the origin of mankind. He explains the inherent traits He placed within human beings to distinguish us from all other living things.

A Moral Governor Unique to Humans

Among those traits is a moral governor only humans possess, a conscience. But without some universal standard or moral code, a conscience is of little value. In the Bible God has revealed the universal laws and moral code which govern His universe. The basic criteria which makes an action or thought right or wrong is what God has said about it. Throughout all of human history certain forms of behavior have always been deemed to be wrong – murder, theft, thuggery, sexual impropriety, incest, and promiscuity – yet in the remainder of the “animal kingdom” none of those activities are assigned any moral value.

If we are the mere result of a long evolution of natural processes, no different from any other living thing, just different branches (accidents and quirks) in the process of our development, why is it wrong for a mother to kill and eat her baby and not wrong when an animal does exactly the same thing? Where or what in an evolutionary scheme provides for the appearance or development of a conscience and a moral code to govern the conscience? There is none. The only explanation is supernatural – God.

“What is God like?” our naturally inquisitive minds want to know?.And further, we’d like Him explained in human terms, traits, and characteristics. To some extent that’s possible because He describes Himself in such manner. We understand terms and concepts like “good,” “mercy,” “love,” and “holy.” It is interesting to observe our understanding of those terms is directly related to their relationship to God. It is the nature of their relationship with God that assigns their meaning and value for us. We understand “good” because God is good; “mercy” because God is merciful; “love” because God is love; and “holy” because God is holy.

Communication is everything – and God wants us to know Him and trust Him.

 – Bill