Getting the Full Picture of God

In the Bible study we went to on Sunday, the leader had three of us draw in a box what we thought about when he said Winston Churchill. One guy drew him in a hat smoking a cigar, one lady drew the coverage at his funeral, and I drew a Union Jack with a plane dropping bombs and a battleship. The leader drew his own box with Churchill standing with his wife and children, and then wrote a title for each of the four boxes: Statesman, Influential, Wartime Leader, and Family Man, respectively. He asked us which of the pictures was right and the obvious answer is all of them. He wasn’t just a statesman or a family man; he was both, as well as being influential and a wartime leader.

With God, it seems we have a tendency to see Him predominantly in just one or two ways. He’s our Judge or ever-merciful Savior or King. He’s our 911 Call or our Friend or our High Priest. The truth is that He’s all of these and more. He’s also the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, our Provider, and the Creator of the universe.

And all of these can be summed up by saying He’s our Father.

If you’re married, you know that your spouse is more than just a collection of body parts or has more to offer than “furniture mover” or “cook.” There are different sides to them. There’s a business side, a family side, a lover side, a friend side, and more. Different faces, whether slightly different or completely different, come out depending on the situation. We accept that as a given with people, but we often seem to forget it with God.

God plays all of the roles I listed (and you might be able to come up with a few I forgot) at times, but in all of them, He is our loving Father, and it is this primary role that drives the others. If you’re seeking to know Him better, I would suggest getting to know Him as a Father, with an eye toward these other roles as parts of being a Father. Not only does it help in seeing Him as a Father primarily, but it also helps you to understand why He sometimes plays these other roles and why He does. He’s not a Judge so He can smite you; He has enough evidence already against you to justify sending you to Hell. He’s a Judge because He’s perfectly holy, but your sins if you’re a Christian have been paid for by Jesus, so now He’s a Judge of your actions so He can discipline you and keep you from running away from Him.

I don’t know what your relationship with your earthly father is like, but I do know there’s a heavenly Father who died so you can know Him…as He truly is.

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Call Waiting

Another thing I had wanted to post on from Sunday’s sermon was the point that we will all stand individually before God. But delivering that point is not what I’m led to do. It’s what God told our pastor, Gary Wilkerson, to do. What I’m being led to do is write about how people change and I’ve already written about confidence and forgiveness. Pastor Wilkerson is called to teach God’s grace.

Neither of our callings is more important or better than the other’s. God gives to each as He sees fit and He doesn’t demand certain results from us, just that we do our best to serve and honor Him. In Matthew 25:14-30, Jesus tells the Parable of the Talents, in which a wealthy man gives one servant five talents, another two, and the last one. The first two both double the money entrusted to them. They get the same reward and same praise from the master. The second servant didn’t seem to be worried that he didn’t gain five talents. He knew he had done his best and was faithful with what had been entrusted to him.

We have a tendency to be jealous of others. “The grass is always greener on the other side,” after all. Unfortunately, we can do this with other people’s callings as well. Even Peter wasn’t immune to it. When Jesus told him how he’d die, Peter was apparently jealous of John, even though it doesn’t seem he knew what would happen to John (John 21:18-21).

A large part of our walk is learning to be content with the walk He has planned for us. There may be death, disease, sorrows, riches, pain, joy, laughter, tears, marriage, children, crushing defeats, heartache, or any other good or bad thing. Your calling may be what you consider small and unimportant. If it is, maybe that’s God’s way of telling you that you must kill your ego to serve Him. If it’s in front of millions, perhaps God has much to teach you from the feedback of so many. In His eyes, though, all of these are really the same because all of them boil down to one simple question and your answer to it:

Will you serve Him with your whole heart?

Tell Them About My Love

When I was in church on Sunday, the ideas for posts this week came fast and furious. At one point, I was going to blog about the pastor’s message. I asked God what He wanted me to say about correction vs. rejection (not the main thrust of the message, but an important point) and He responded, “Tell them about My love.”

And so my first post this week was about how much God loves us all. I could be as eloquent as Shakespeare and still fail miserably to capture the tiniest fraction of His love for us.

Whether I can say it well or not is not important. What is important is that I show it. Most of our communication with people has nothing to do with the words that come out of our mouths. It has been estimated that 55% of our communication with others is in our body language and facial expressions, 38% in our tone of voice, and 7% in our actual words. I would argue that there’s another component to consider: our actions.

When you talk to others, do you just say the right words, or do your expressions and tone make that person feel loved and accepted? Do your actions line up with your words and body language? There will likely be someone where you work or in your social circle who watches you a little more closely just because they know you’re a Christian. They will pay attention most of all to how your actions line up with what they know of the Bible (which may be unfair if their knowledge of it is limited or skewed) and to how much you love people. The one thing that seemingly all non-Christians who have heard of Jesus know about Him is that He commanded us to love others, not to judge them.

I know that when others offend, hurt, or annoy me, I’m not as charitable in my heart as I should be, even though I sometimes manage to say the right words. The problem is that people are very adept at reading when you don’t like them and we all crave love and acceptance. If the God you believe in is not enough to change you, why would people believe in Him to change them?

I honestly don’t mean to come down on anyone. God knows I’m desperately in need of this message myself. I just want you to ask yourself honestly how you’re coming across to other people you meet, whether your best friend, spouse, colleague, or a stranger on the corner begging for change. Do they feel loved after being with you? And how much love do you have for them, especially when you don’t like something they’ve done?

When God is Silent

One of the reasons it can be so easy to fret over life’s situations is we often don’t hear God giving us guidance and reassurance, even though we’re praying for them. As babies, we learned the concept of object permanence: that an object still exists even when we can’t see it anymore. As adults, however, we seem to forget that this applies to God as well.

There are times where God is not silent, but merely quiet, that you must draw closer to Him in order to hear Him. At other times, He is completely silent, and these are the ones that truly frighten us, for our mind wonders what we did wrong, what we’re supposed to do now, and what will become of us.

As with everything He does or allows, though, there is a purpose: to show us our hearts and strengthen our faith. Hebrews 11:1 tells us that “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” We must have faith in God even when there is no tangible, incontrovertible proof that He is on our side or even exists. When we require a sign often, it shows a lack of faith in Him to guide us and account for our mistakes in His plan. It shows that we don’t truly think of Him as good, loving, and forgiving enough to take care of us when we’re imperfect. And it shows that we think of Him as a poor Father who would let His children down.

When God is silent, we are to seek Him and stay near so that if He should speak, even in a whisper, we would hear it. Aside from that, provided we are living according to His will and commands as well as we can, we are to assume that we are right where He wants us for the moment. No general would expect his troops to move without giving them a command first; just so, God will not expect you to do something differently without telling you first.

Rest in Him, serve Him, praise Him. It may well be that God is silent because He wants your trust to be in Him, not in the manifestations of His power and goodness.

Seeking Rest

I recently began reading The Confessions of St. Augustine, and I’m already thinking you’ll be seeing a lot more posts inspired by him. His passion alone, even without his considerable rhetoric, is inspiring. Just reading what he wrote, it’s hard to not have the thought of, “This guy gets it.”

One quote in particular that jumped out at me was this:

Thou (God) hast prompted him (mankind), that he should delight to praise Thee, for Thou hast made us for Thyself and restless is our heart until it comes to rest in Thee.

I don’t know about you, but I find it difficult to praise God sometimes, especially when I’m worried or upset about something. I have less peace when my heart isn’t trusting in Him. With less peace comes less of a desire to praise and, cyclically, with less praise comes less peace because I forget the magnitude of God.

Oddly, even knowing this, I still have a tendency to worry about certain things, particularly money. I tend to take my focus off of God and put it where it has no business being, which is really anywhere but Him.

If you’re like me in this, I’d like to encourage you to try something with me: take at least 5 minutes every day this week and just praise God. No requests, no confessions, no crying out to Him about how you feel – just praise for His power and goodness.

It’s said that home is where the heart is. God created our hearts, now He wants to be their eternal home.

The Results are In

I’ve been writing quite a bit lately about how to go about starting a real change in your life. I believe that everyone has a change they should work on, whether that’s a moral or personality issue like losing their temper too easily, an addiction like gambling, or simply a way to improve their lives. Rooting out the bad habits and starting good ones is a wonderful thing. Changing your heart is much better still.

The best changes, though, are the God-inspired and God-aided ones.

One thing God has been dealing with me on is my motivations for writing. I have to admit that there’s a part of me that wants to make a fair deal of money from the books. Part of me wants to go into a bookstore and see what I’ve written on the shelves. The former is based in part on a desire to support my wife, myself, and our future children, but both are based in large part on ego.

There are two problems with this. The first is that it’s wrong to use God’s work for your glory. God doesn’t exist to honor you; you exist to honor Him. He doesn’t owe you anything, even if you give your life and everything else you have to Him, because He has already given His infinitely more valuable life for you. God often chooses to bless those who serve Him well because He loves us, but He owes us absolutely nothing. If you’re using your calling to honor yourself, God will not be in your work. You may become wealthy and famous, but you won’t be blessed by God, and His gifts are always better for you in the end.

Second, you can’t control the results. In 1 Corinthians 3:6-7, Paul says, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase.” God gives each of us a calling in life, but rarely does He tell us the outcome. Jeremiah and Ezekiel were called to warn people of God’s wrath and impending punishment. A few people listened, but it seems they were largely disregarded. The fact that they were ignored does not mean that God was not with them, though. It does not mean they did anything wrong or didn’t give it their best effort. It was not on them to ensure results, only to obey God in what He bid them.

Whatever your calling is, whether it’s to talk to one person one time and plant a seed in their heart that will eventually lead them to Christ though you never see it, or to become the next Billy Graham, preaching to millions worldwide, God will not demand specific results of you. He just wants your obedience. It is on Him to provide the results.

As one last point, keep in mind that His idea of success almost certainly differs from yours. For example, as my wife sometimes has to remind me, if God had me write my books to reach only one person, and that person got the books, then He’ll consider my ministry a raging success. All the effort I’ve put into writing, editing, and getting them out won’t guarantee my definition of success, nor His if I do it with a wrong heart. All I can do is serve Him willingly and wait for His results to come in.

Change is Hard

As I mentioned yesterday, Leah and I are starting a book on how to overcome our resistance to change. One insight we’ve had is that our willingness to change doesn’t seem to depend on the possible reward for change, but rather our perceived likeliness in getting that reward vs. the perceived sacrifice involved.

For example, it’s possible that if you were to learn web developing, you could become the next Mark Zuckerberg, a multi-billionaire in just a few short years. Fame and loads of money are powerful motivators for most of us, so why don’t we all do it? Because we have a low perceived likelihood of that happening.

To be fair, that is an extreme case. We aren’t all going to start the next Google, Twitter, or Facebook. That said, there are more jobs in web developing than there are people to fill them, making the odds of getting a job fairly high. Many of these jobs pay good money, too. You don’t even need a degree for most of them, either. So even if you don’t hit your goal of being the next web billionaire, you can still significantly improve your life.

It’s something we often miss with our goals. Many of us have a tendency to look at the best that could happen, then tell ourselves we could never do that, and so don’t even try. We miss out on all the benefits that a change is more likely to bring.

Ah, but many of us don’t want to be web developers. We don’t have the interest or we think we can’t learn it. That’s the other half. We tell ourselves that no amount of effort will get us to the change we need and so no effort at all should be expended. We give up before we even start or at the first sign of any difficulty.

I believe that procrastination is not the cause of our resistance to change, but a method we use to resist it. Even our misconceptions of the rewards and sacrifices involved in change, though closer to the cause, do not seem to be the root causes of our recalcitrance. The root cause is always in our heart, not our head. We’ll get to that more next time.