Sunday, July 29, 2012


These truths have been taken at face value by many of us. Let me reiterate, that approach is not entirely wrong. When it comes to issues of faith and God, there are many things we must simply take at face value. For example the truth that God is omnipresent is one such truth. No matter how much I try to understand it, I will never fully comprehend this reality. However, in taking things at face value, we run the risk of missing some deeper truths. And the way I see it, when it comes to many of these truths we are about to look at, we have done God a severe injustice. Each of them has been placed neatly in a box we have been carrying around.

Before we go any further, there are a few things you need to know about this box. First thing's first; I am not talking about a literal box. (The idea that we actually tote around a box is preposterous. If you happen to literally have the box I am about to describe, you may want to stop reading, find the nearest trash can and throw it away. I'm sure you're getting tired of lugging it around.) Rather, each of us sub-consciously carries this box around. And inside we place only that which can be observed with our five senses. Translation--in the scheme of things, this box is pretty small! On the outside of the box is a label that reads "God." Overall, this has resulted in a diminished understanding of who God is and how God operates.

Lucky for all of us, my God box happens to be sitting at my desk as I write this. I'm going to open it up and see what ideas about God we have been placed in this tiny container. In this list you will find 4 common truths (in no way are these exhaustive) about the nature of God that we have exchanged for lies.

Truth #1: God is a God that can be known. 
"And this is the way to have eternal life—to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one you sent to earth." (John 17:3)

Truth #2: God is a God that is changeless. 
"I am the LORD, and I do not change." (Malachi 3:6a)

Truth #3: God is a God of absolutes.
"All he does is just and good, and all his commandments are trustworthy. They are forever true, to be obeyed faithfully and with integrity." (Psalm 111:7-8)

Truth #4: God is a God of law.
"Don't misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not even the smallest detail of God's law will disappear until its purpose is achieved." (Matthew )

At the onset of this, I hope you realize each of these statements is entirely factual. These ideas come straight from Scripture. They are 100% true. No falsehood can be found in any of them. However, as we will see over the course of this discussion, these truths have been taken to some illogical conclusions. The result is that we have painted an inaccurate portrait of the reality that is God.

Several summers ago I spent a week on vacation in Las Vegas. A lot of walking (I mean a lot) and a ridiculous amount of sight seeing was done. There was an exorbitant amount of pictures taken, several shows were attended, and did I mention there was a lot of walking that took place? And of course I had to purchase several souvenirs. One of my favorite souvenirs from that trip was a drawing. However, this was no ordinary drawing. Only one of it's kind exists in the entire world. It's probably even worth millions of dollars!

I bought this drawing while wandering around in one of the hotels. I stumbled across an artist that specialized in caricatures. In order to commemorate the trip I had one done. Just sitting there was pretty entertaining. Everyone that walked by would stop to look at the picture, then look at me, then look back at the picture and give me a thumbs up or smile. One passerby even burst into laughter. I have to admit that one made me a bit nervous. In case you aren't sure what a caricature is, let me give you a definition. A caricature is a representation, especially pictorial, in which the subject's distinctive features or peculiarities are deliberately exaggerated to produce a comic or grotesque effect.

This is exactly what we have done with many of these “truths” of God.  We have (whether accidentally or deliberately) made God, in a sense, into a caricature—exaggerating His traits that we can relate to most or those that seem most viable to us.

It's time we address the first truth and it's corresponding lie.

Some within the Christian faith have taken the truth that God can be known and twisted it in such a way that they believe He is a God who can be understood. But if we turn to Isaiah 55:8-9, we find this just isn't the case. To all of us, God says: "My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts. And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts."

Please don't misunderstand the point I am making. In no way do I want you to believe God is this distant being so different from us that he cannot be known at all. There are some religions (and even some Christians) that will hold to this truth. Sometimes they will argue that god is so unique from humanity it is absurd to think that finite humans can relate or know him in any significant way. This is not so when it comes to the God of Christianity. I contend that although we cannot fully know everything about God, we can still know him. Notice I said we can know him, not necessarily understand him. There is a big difference, which Isaiah clarifies! 

If that isn't proof enough, look to the book of Job. In there you will find a section titled "The Unanswerables." Here God asks Job a series of questions that, as you might guess, Job has no answers for. For example, he asks Job questions like: Where were you when the earth was created? Who put the boundaries on the water? Can you tell the sun when to rise and when to set?

Although God cannot be understood, we can know many true things about him. For example, we know that God is love 1 John 4:8, "But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love." Elsewhere in Scripture we discover that God is spirit John 4:24, "For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth." Perhaps you have even heard God referred to as being just or righteous, Romans 3:26 says "...God did this to demonstrate his righteousness, for he himself is fair and just, and he declares sinners to be right in his sight when they believe in Jesus." These traits of God have been revealed to us via many different avenues. However, they are more than mere facts to be stored in our mind. They are truths we can see and experience in life every day, if only our eyes are open. 

Since God has chosen to reveal himself to his creation in a variety of ways we can know him personally, meaningfully, and significantly. Albeit in a limited but ever-increasing way throughout eternity.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012


USA Today conducted a national survey of 1,721 Americans. This survey asked 77 questions with nearly 400 answer choices that burrowed deeply into beliefs, practices, and religious ties.

The results are as follows:

Though 91.8% of those interviewed say they believe in God their views varied widely. How they see God's personality and engagement in human affairs can by classified into 4 overarching categories. These four categories were dubbed by researchers as: Authoritarian, Benevolent, Critical and Distant.

The Authoritarian God (31.4% of Americans overall) is angry at humanity's sins and engaged in every creature's life and world affairs. He is ready to throw the thunderbolt of judgment down on “the unfaithful or ungodly.” Those who envision God this way “are religiously and politically conservative people, more often black Protestants and white evangelicals."

The Benevolent God (23% overall) still sets absolute standards for mankind in the Bible. This group, which draws more from mainline Protestants, Catholics and Jews, sees primarily a forgiving God, more like the father who embraces his repentant prodigal son in the Bible.

The Critical God (16% overall) has his judgmental eye on the world, but he's not going to intervene, either to punish or to comfort. “This group is more paradoxical. They have very traditional beliefs, picturing God as the classic bearded old man on high. Yet they're less inclined to go to church or affiliate seriously with religious groups. They are less inclined to see God as active in the world. They are definitely not liberal, but they're not quite conservative, either.”

The Distant God (24.4% overall) is “no bearded old man in the sky raining down his opinions on us.” Those who hold this view of God see a cosmic force that launched the world, then left it spinning on its own. This has strongest appeal for Catholics, mainline Protestants and Jews. It's also strong among “moral relativists,” those least likely to say any moral choice is always wrong, and among those who don't attend church.

Maybe your view of God doesn't fall in line with any of these. Perhaps, to you, God sounds more like "a mean kid over an anthill with a magnifying glass. And [you're] the ant. He could fix [your] life in five minutes if he wanted to, but he'd rather burn off [your] feelers, and watch [you] squirm!"

Let's turn a corner for a moment, open your Bible and read Romans 1:19-25.

If you've done that, let me offer an explanation where I'm going with this. In this passage we read how these individuals who knew God started to lose sight of who God really was. Why they made this turn we aren't entirely sure, but I'm almost certain it started with their exchange of the truths of God for seemingly insignificant lies.

From Scripture, we are sometimes given a clear and concise depiction of who God is. However, most of what we read about God is a bit murky at best. Because of that, God offers some room (I said some, not a lot; don't deem me a heretic yet) for our varying beliefs. Thus, we have a plethora of varying denominations, translations of Scripture, and ideas of who God really is. That is why I am a firm believer none of us has the market on God. If you look close enough, you will see things you don't agree with in any church. You might find various translations of Scripture that don't seem to paint the picture you have in mind. When it comes down to it, they may not be entirely wrong; however, there still has to be some common denominators that fall in line with his true character.
Due to human nature, the way our mind functions, our perceptions of reality, and our varying experiences, some of us tend to relate to a “different” God. What I mean by that is this, we find it easier to understand and believe some characteristics of God more than others. How about an example? A person that values justice (that would be me) has a hard time grasping the merciful side of God. Is this wrong? Not entirely! Bottom line, we may have a somewhat incorrect or at the very least a skewed view of who God is.

There is always a danger this will inadvertently lead us to exchange the truths of God for lies. For that reason it is good to read books and listen to speakers outside our comfortable paradigm. It challenges us and helps us to sort fact from fiction...when it lines up with the overarching themse of Scripture. In the posts to follow, we will take a look at some of these truths we have exchanged.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

OUR GOD, Part 2

Now, to the topic at hand: What does this promise to be our God mean, thousands of years later?

To begin with, it means that God knows me intimately. “You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb.” (Psalm 139:13) If you are anything like me, this verse should freak you out. God knit me together. He knows all the intimate details of what makes me who I am. He has a purpose and a plan for my life. He knows how I am going to react and respond to each and every situation. And scarier still, He knows what I’m thinking--before I even think it. There are some things I don’t want anybody to know, especially an all holy God. But the incredible reality is this: given the fact that God knows all of these things about me, He is still willing to lay it on the line. He still offers himself as a sacrifice. And He still wants to enter into a relationship with me. If my closest friends knew some things about me, I’m not entirely sure they would want to be around me sometimes. Fortunately, that is not the case with the very God of the universe.

You see, for the longest time this scared me because I thought of God as this rule-maker; this fun-sucker; this celestial being waiting to strike me down for the stupid things I did (and trust me, I've done a lot of stupid things). It turns out that isn’t the case at all. When He says He knows me intimately, He’s really saying that He knows the ugly stuff and still chooses to accept me. That's a pretty sobering thought!

This also means that God will take care of me. “For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you a hope and a future.”  (Jeremiah 29:11)

Often where we get confused is differentiating our wants and our needs.

His promise to be our God also brings to the fore-front His offer of unconditional love.

Now for the second and probably more important part of this passage; thousands of years after this promise, what does it mean for us to be the people of God? How does this apply to my everyday life? How does it change things?

To begin with, this means we must walk in faith. What is faith? “Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.”  (Hebrews 11:1)

Basically this is just a big word for trst. Do I trust God? When the Bible talks about faith and love toward God, this is what it comes down to. In the midst of all that is going on, do I trust God. A great quote of Brennan Manning's sums it up well, "Perhaps it means more to God when we say I trust you, than when we say I love you." Trust is a preeminent expression of love. I can love someone without totally trusting them, but I cannot trust someone without totally loving them.

It also means that we must be devoted. Tons of Scripture makes this point clear. God says we must be either hot or cold, he who is not with me is against me, no one can serve two masters, either you love God or you love the world—there is no riding the fence here. God will not stand for us to be fickle…we must decide to serve him or serve any other number of things. Basically, God is asking ‘will you be faithful?’

We must also learn to live sacraficially. There is this myth out there about relationships (well, actually there are a lot), but one of the bigger ones is this: a relationship will only succeed if two people are compatible. They say this is true of all relationships, but especially an intimate relationship. Let me clear things up and tell you that is not entirely true. There is no scientific equation or mathematical formula that will predict the likelihood of a realtionship succeeding. If there is I'm not aware of it and would like to see this. It would certainly save a lot of hassle. I wholeheartedly believe there is only one thing required for a relationship to succeed. And I'm going to let you in on the secret right's sacrifice. For any relationship to succeed, both parties must choose to put their own wants and needs on the backburner in order that they may put the wants and needs of the other above their own (of course, there is always the risk they will take advantage of it, but that is a separate discussion altogether). In doing so, you find your needs will be met beyond your wildest imaginiation (at least with God). This is one of the paradoxes of the faith.

The whole idea here is one of mutual pursuit. As I pursue God, He will pursue me!