Tag Archive: Understanding God


The God who suffers

Listening to a lecture given by Tim Keller on suffering, and he states that “Christianity is the only religion with the audacity to claim that God suffered”. I thought that was both simple, and yet profound (yes I realize it is not original with him, never the less).  Why would God suffer?  Not just suffer in a general sense but in a very real very literal way, and for us.

 “All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. (Revelation 13:8 NKJV)”. How amazing.  God did not just suffer, but Jesus was slain from the foundation of the world, not destined, not a future tense but past, was slain.
Can you imagine what that conversation was like?  The Father and Son discussing creating man.  And perhaps the Spirit chimes in and asks, yes but what about when they rebel?  The Father none the less says, let us make man in our image, but Jesus you know what this means.  And in that moment the Son not only sees the future, the beating, the suffering, the death.  Not just a knowing or a feeling, but he in that moment experiences being slain.  For God is outside of time in the way we know it.  In that moment the spear pierces his side.  The nails puncture his hands and feet.  The thorns dig deep,into his brow, as the blood pours forth  and he says.  “Of course I will die for them.”

 

I can barely fathom it.  

Can you?  Can you imagine what that moment felt like?  The sense, being slain before we were created?  Can you imagine knowing that your kids would literally kill you before they were born, and yet deciding to give birth to them anyway.  Maybe thinking oh well by the time it happens I will be old and besides they will have done a few nice things here and there.  A couple of breakfasts of soggy cereal and cold pancakes in bed, a few hand drawn birthday cards.  I know they will be the death of me, but it will be worth it.  No I can’t imagine either let alone going thru with it.  But imagine what this really means, before the hugs and kisses, before the “I love you” before a single moment of joy, you will suffer and be slain, and only then will you be allowed to enjoy those few of your children that don’t spit in your face and curse your name.
If that’s not love I don’t know what is.
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English: Penn Jillette at Rio Las Vegas

English: Penn Jillette at Rio Las Vegas (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Abraham was instructed to sacrifice Issac to God.  But what if God never intends to accept or allow this sacrifice to take place?  If God is all knowing then the plan and the outcome are already known by God.  If on the other hand God does not know what Abraham will do and what’s going to happen then God is not God, but god.

So which is it?

“If god(however you perceive him/her/it) told you to kill your child- would you do it” …….”if your answer is yes, please reconsider.” Penn Jillette
And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only [son] from me.” Genesis 22:12

Is God different?

What if instead this is looked at in the context of what was unfortunately all to common place in the region at the time.  We know child sacrifice was not uncommon.  What if instead of Abraham being asked to be like those around him, God was showing him that Yaweh was nothing like what others thought of  as God.  “I will provide the sacrifice” says God.  And your children are not what I desire.  If you are going to take a portion of the narrative of what is going on then don’t you have to take it in full.  The account does not give the option that part is true and the rest is not, the sacrifice is required, and the type is stipulated.  Do others make human sacrifice?  Does God ever accept it? Or does he make it clear time and again that those that do as much bring his wrath down on their own heads?
Do we really think that God who is unchangable, has changed his mind?  Or is it any wonder that God no longer blesses a country that sacrifices her children by the millions on the alter of convenience?
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Christ in Gethsemane (Christus in Gethsemane),...

Christ in Gethsemane (Christus in Gethsemane), oil painting by Heinrich Ferdinand Hofmann (Heinrich Hofmann). The original is at the Riverside Church (Riverside Church, New York City). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Working thru some things at the weekly men’s breakfast, the idea of God’s wrath came up.  We were looking at the fact that God is unchanging, and a couple of the guys who are newer to being disciples of Christ were asking about the God of the Old Testament vs. the God of the New Testament.  They had been given the idea that God pre the incarnation of Christ was mean, and punished and was full of wrath.  But now, since the life of Jesus, God is love.  Kind, loving, gentle, God is now different.

How can God be Loving and Wrathful?

So is God different?  Has he changed?  My Bible says he is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.  So why the disconnect between the perception of what God was like in the Old Testament, vs God who is in the New Testament.  The one that created the biggest discussion is the wrath of God.
So did God stop being wrathfull after the crucifixion of Jesus?  First God released his wrath on Jesus when he was put on the cross.  When Jesus took my sin on himself, taking my place, he not only took my sin, my failure, but he also endured God the Father’s wrath.

Doesn’t seem to me God’s Wrath is gone

Secondly look at Revelation 6:16 which says “And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb:”
That’s not the wrath of the Father, the Lamb is Jesus and His wrath is coming.
Now that’s not about trying to scare you.  Hopefully you are a disciple of Christ, a Christian, and the wrath mentioned above is not directed at you.  But it does go to show that God’s wrath did not go away, or stop.  He may withhold his wrath for a season, for a time, but patience isn’t the same as forgetfulness.
On the other hand if you have not made Jesus Lord, my question is what are you waiting for?  God may be long suffering, that doesn’t mean He is asleep.
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What is enough?

Who am I to expect more?

Ask – sure
Want-ok
Work for – of course
But expect?
How dare I. How presumptuous of me to expect anything beyond the grace of God.  Even expecting that seems, as I am writing this, to be the pinnacle of arrogance.
Max Lucado in his book “In the Grip of Grace.” Tells the story about praising God for saving his daughter from drowning.  “As clearly as if God himself were speaking, this question came to mind: Would I be less wonderful had I let her drown?”  I have to admit I probably would scream YES, yes you would be less wonderful.

What is the right perspective?

Right now I do not have the perspective to even really know what is good for me.  Yet I actually try to make that decision.  Should I keep working to build a business that is struggling?  What about being single, when not only do I not really want to be, after all didn’t God say “It is not good that the man should be alone.”  Yet if I was married I don’t see how I could work full-time(and then some), teach a couple of small-group classes, write this blog, study trying to better understand God, and love a wife as Christ loves the church.
My humanity, my desires, seem in conflict with my Christian ethics, my belief that God’s best is best.  Knowing that I just don’t have the wisdom to make the call, doesn’t necessarily make it easier, but it does make it do-able.
I may not have the answers, but I do know the one who does.
 Now if I would just be ok with that.
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Our Side

English: Abraham Lincoln, the sixteenth Presid...

English: Abraham Lincoln, the sixteenth President of the United States. Latviešu: Abrahams Linkolns, sešpadsmitais ASV prezidents. Српски / Srpski: Абрахам Линколн, шеснаести председник Сједињених Америчких Држава. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“We should not pray that God is on our side, but rather that we are on His.”  Abraham Lincoln

Right to bear arms, abortion, welfare.  So much dividing our country right now.  I wonder if anyone is praying as President Lincoln, not that God was one our side but that we are on His.  As Christians are we assuming too much?  Some who dare to call themselves by the name of Christ, presume to know the mind of God, but I wonder how much time has been spent seeking God’s will before taking action.  Or do we just jump in with what we think is the correct Christian ethic, never stopping long enough to seek God’s will.

neither for or against

Back before the children of Israel entered the promised land Joshua is standing near Jericho.  I wonder if he is thinking about the battles to come.  Is he contemplating the lives that will be lost fighting?  I don’t know and it doesn’t say.  But then he sees a man standing with his sword drawn.  And Joshua asks him “Are you for us or for our enemies.”, and what’s the response?  “No, but as captain of the host of The Lord I come.”  Is God for Israel?  It seems to me God saying, I don’t do this for you, I do it for me.

Are we thinking God is on our side and forgetting that we need to be on his?  Until we get on his side we are not doing it for his glory, but for ours.

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English: "The First Thanksgiving at Plymo...

English: “The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth” (1914) By Jennie A. Brownscombe (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am wondering about having a longing for God. I want to want nothing more than God.  And I know that there truly is nothing more.  I intellectually want and desire nothing more than all of God. Mentally I desire to settle for nothing less. Physically I go to my knees, face to the ground and ask for the fullness of God.

But day after day I get up,and go my way.  Off to work I go without what I came for.  Is it too much?  I come to God and like Jesus example I ask for a fish, an egg, and most certainly the Father won’t give me a scorpion, or a stone.  But is he saying to me, “you have no idea what it is you are asking for.”  Does he hold back, not for his sake, but for mine?
Is God holding back, hesitating a moment to allow me the time to build the muscle so I can lift the load that is coming. What if it takes tough guys to handle knowing God?  Is it really for the 98lb. Weakling to lift up God?
I don’t think so, we serve a big God, shouldn’t it take broad shoulders to carry him into a world that is lost, hurting hopeless.
At the same time I think of Thanksgiving day.  All the sights the sounds, but especially the smells.  I know Thanksgiving is nearly a year away, but right now thinking about it can you smell the Turkey, the gravy.  I think about the hunger building, the anticipation.  Being famished, and the smell makes it worse.  Is that sometimes the way God works.  Building the desire by letting us smell, maybe even see, but holding back the feast, for a moment.  Should I settle, taking what is there right now, or do I wait?  Refusing to get up until God gives me what I need?
Especially since what I really truly need is all of him.
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I read an article last week from Sacred Struggler, titled “Apologetics: I hate it!” that really struck home.  Now I don’t consider myself an Apologist when compared with Ravi Zacharias or C. S. Lewis but I have a strong interest in the subject.  That said I certainly get where Sacred Struggler is coming from.  Apologetics sounds like such a big impressive word, and I am sure there are some who call themselves apologists who are really more like argumentative-ists.

But what is it really?

Apologetics has really gotten a bit of a bum-rap.  Having an interest in the subject I was recently asked to give a study on the subject to my church’s men’s group at our weekly prayer breakfast, we finish up on Thursday.  Apologetics is not to go around saying “I’m sorry” all the time.  Neither is it to have an argument, or act as some high-powered attorney in a Supreme Court case.
Acts 22:1 “Hear my defense(apologia)which I now offer.”  1 Peter 3:15 “be ready to give an answer(apologia) to every man that asketh you a reason for the hope that is within you.”
Apologetics is not about winning an argument but rather a way to show those we have contact with at home, work, with friends, family, or co-workers that we have thought about the big questions and as Christians have a different answer.  Michael Spencer at ccapologetics.wordpress.com  does a great job of using this approach.  You can find his podcast on iTunes under apologetics.
I see apologetics as really having three components:
1- To explain Christian ethics and thought.  It amazes me what some people think it means to be a Christian. For a sample see this survey from the UK of self-identified Christians and see what some people think makes them a Christian.
2- To give opposing thought and reason to the worlds philosophy.  Such things as the idea that man has intrinsic value because he is created vs. Darwinism which holds a boy, is a dog, is a pig, is a pollywog.
3-  To explain why we (Christians) are different.

Why do we act different then everyone else.

Sure part of apologetics is defending, but some of it is to show a different way to live.  All of it is to give hope.  Apologetics is not evangelism, but more a way to hopefully start a conversation that will lead to the opportunity to show someone Jesus.  We want to create a curiosity and a desire on the part of the person we are talking with to want to know more.
If you want to see my study on apologetics email me at cognitivefaith@hotmail.com and I will be happy to email you a copy of the study guide and notes.
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Or so I used to think.

Earlier this morning I was talking to God.  And in typical fashion when I was discussing my financial needs with Him, I was saying to God, just get me to “Here.”
This year has been, from a business stand point anyway, the roughest I have ever had.  I started in real estate 15 years ago, and I have never had a tougher year in this industry.  You know the kind, one step forward two back.  So I am praying about the things I need to cover expense wise, new tires, insurance, marketing costs and a handful of other things.  I had added up the dollar amount and was praying to God just get me to here.  When I realized, then what?  Am I really so bold as to think I could actually handle it from there?
How ridiculous it seems now just a few hours later.   To say to God “Just get me to the edge of the Promised Land and I will do the rest.”  Only to realize then what?  I can’t do it on my own.  Just look at my life and it becomes obvious.

Doing the right things may not be enough.

I can do all the “right” things, and usually do.  Plan, set goals, do the work (lots of it), but without God’s blessing, I am going to if not fail, at least struggle mightily.  Don’t get me wrong I’m not saying don’t try.  I am saying that realizing my utter and obsolete dependence on God is not just for today.  I am going to have to continue to rely on God.  Probably more so when things are going great, then during the struggle.
When work is not going well, or anything else for that matter, it’s easy to rely and trust in God, at least for me.  But when things are going well how easy it becomes to say “Look how great I am”, or “Look at what I’ve done” or to even say to God “I’ve got it from here.”
Oh the arrogance.  Guess that’s what I get for praying for a humble heart.  God pointing out where I am arrogant and powerless all at the same time.  Not at all the type of wisdom I was looking for, but I guess God doesn’t always give us what we want, but he does always supply our need.
Has God ever given you what you need, even if it wasn’t what you wanted?
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Theology

Defined- The study of the existence, nature, and attributes of God. To know God

Now I am no theologian, I only know an infinitesimally small aspect of who/what God is. What I know is only because this magnificent, beautiful, all knowing all powerful being has, for a reason I cannot fully grasp, chosen to reveal himself. Not just to me or just to a few, but wants to be known by everyone.

And yet today so many seem to want to place this immense being (how else do you describe infinite) into a neat little box. But how can we do that? That somehow if God is not completly and wholly understandable he must not exist. Maybe trying to understand the Father is messy, not because God is messy and all over the place, but because we are. Ok maybe not you, you probably have it all together. Let me rephrase that I am messy.

Because I’m messy, when I try to know God I fall short of understanding. Some of it I get, but a lot I don’t. I get that God is love, but other things are beyond my ability to understand. As I try to see the face of God I am overwhelmed. Overwhelmed by who & what God is & overwhelmed and mightily aware of what I am not. Like David searching to know God better I can only say “What is man that you are mindful of him?”

Is it really any wonder that some search for God, and upon facing what God must be, can not wrap their heads around it and pronounce “There must be no God? Is it because while searching they are expecting to be able to confine and define God inside some neat little box, only to find that He won’t fit? Still others lightly say they believe in God yet make no effort to know who God really is.

Christ says to know God is eternal life (John 17:3) This doesn’t speak to just some book knowledge; this is about an intimate knowledge, a knowledge that permeates everything.

No I’m no theologian, but I want to be.