Who Is God?


God is an individual entity and cannot be defined completely by humanity. He defines himself. According to the previous post, this defines what God is because it is what God has revealed to us. The greater question this poses is what is this God like or who is God? Since we are assuming the Christian belief that God is not a bliss experience or that He is the universe, it must follow that God has characteristics. 

Humans are very familiar with characteristics. Think of your friends and family. If we were to talk about each one, you could go into great detail about their characteristics, even the annoying ones. Through the long history of man being approached by God, we have begun to notice things about this God. Every character back to Adam has had some inclination about God’s characteristics. The Bible is full of moments where the writers have described God with characteristics. It’s true that God is other and in some cannot be known by our attempts at describing God. However, we see God continually revealing Himself to the world. People like Moses, David, and Paul have applied their best descriptions in order to give us a picture of who God is.

One of the most prominent descriptors of God is that He is love. Even in John 1 we find that Christ, who is love, is one with the Father, who is love. This leads to a whole list of other characteristics that we see reflected in 1 Corinthians 13: patient, kind, forgiving, selfless, seeks for justice, faithful, hopeful. To people who are not Christians, I have no idea what characteristics you apply to God. So far for me, the God found in Jesus is one I could follow forever. To fellow believers, we need to seek this God again.  We need the God who patiently applies grace to all through the cross of kindness, forgiveness, and selflessness. We need the God who seeks justice, is faithful to all of creation, and hopes beyond even reasonable hope that we will enter His presence with joy. 

Just like we mentioned in the last post, this is a God we cannot define. Why would we? We are a very violent and vindictive species bent on greed, power, and luxuries that have been taken through oppression. I would hope that we would never try to define God. It’s just bad PR for Him and He knows it. God has to be allowed to come to us just as He is. If we allow this God to reveal Himself, we will begin to see His love for us. If we begin to fear what He is, then through His self-revelation, the fear will melt away due to His love. Him loving us is the great delaration, “FEAR NOT!” Whenever we think of the God described in the Bible, we must remember that the writers found a God that that brought a love that was fearless and brought a better world in the end. Even in their context of violence and fear, God’s way seemed to be a better path. If you are looking for a way to create a better or to find force for good in the world, this God described in the Bible is always challenging the world with something better for all those who want to follow Him.

What is God?


God is not an it to be defined as if we can know God in that way. We have tried for a very long time. The Christian faith has been blessed enough to have God revealed to us through the Holy Spirit. Even then, however, we can only see God’s revelation in part. Other religions have tried to understand the unseen reality. Hinduism tries to escape into the divine by getting out of Karma. Tribal religions have made God’s that fit their community’s needs. Some have proposed that everything is God. Others have tried to discount God’s existence altogether. One thing is for sure, that the existence and nature of God has been on our minds all throughout history. The differences prove one thing, that we have a tendency in our search for God to apply our own desires and ambitions onto Him. We try to make Him in our image, but is not in our image.

This series on the relationship between God and man has to start with the question what is God? Your view of God will effect your own life in profound ways. A violent God leads to a violent community. A loving God will lead to a loving community. Something in our brains tend to associate our own character to what we believe about God. Even a belief that God does not exist will transform your worldview. In the Christian scriptures, we have a clear vision of God through Christ. Though most of the religious beliefs surrounding the scriptures were filled with mishaps and make us question God’s plan at times, when we see God through Jesus, we see a kind and benevolent God with a plan for ultimate peace for the world. Such a vision of God implies that God is an independent entity with characteristics. He is not everything and he is not a nirvana existence. He is a God independent of His creation who has chosen humanity as his beloved. 

God’s independence is a very important factor when considering what He is. That separateness means we cannot be God, something tried by Adam and Eve in the Genesis account of the Fall of Man. The Christian message is that God is not the same as His creation, and since He is creator above His creation, He is holy or sacred. This kind of being is one that has the ability to do anything and everything. This would mean that He has supreme power over His creation. If this Is what God is, we would naturally have a sense of fear towards such a towering being. 

Being all-powerful and sacred could lead to the assumption that this being is not able to interact with us since we are only the creation, much like a child with building blocks who when putting the blocks together can never meaningfully relate to his creation. God is different. From the second He puts the world together, He decides to fully embrace it and exist within its history. God decides to be a knowable being. He positions Himself to be experienced and be transformational. He has chosen to reveal to us what we are ready to understand. There is much we still do not understand, and God is a mystery that we will never fully understand until He is fully revealed at His return. There are some that might say that not knowing the mystery means we cannot truly make the claims of the Church absolute since we cannot know the mystery. It is true that we cannot fathom the unseen, that is, unless the unseen reveals itself. If it chooses to reveal itself, it can be known, not from our own effort, but from Its reaching to us. This is what most will miss, hat knowing God is not about what you theorize about God, but what He chooses to reveal to you.

Assuming this God really exists and if the Bible is right, God is an independent being that is the most powerful force in the universe because He created the universe. Yet He has chosen to be with this world in a very intimate way. This leads us into God’s character which will be for the next post. It will also spark a conversation about His plans for the world. For now, we must consider the possibility that this God is real and that He has revealed Himself to us. Revelation is the only way we can experience the great unknown and begin to understand what He is and then what He is like.

(This post might contrast the following views: God is unknown and we can make no claims about Him, all religions lead to the same God, God is not real. The proof here is not academic. There is actually not much proof at all, except that God can be and must be experienced through Him revealing Himself to us through His Spirit.)

The Wasteful Buyer


Have you ever found something in the store that excited you and you immediately decided to buy it? It might have been a new kind of candy when you were a child or that stylish car the dealer sold you on a few months ago. Have you ever bit into the candy bar to find that it tasted horrible? Maybe after driving the car for a few months the engine gave out or it started producing a strange smell. Excitement can be fun but it can cause someone to make bad investments when no thought is put into it.

In Matthew 13:44-50, God tells a story of people who made bad investment decisions. The buyers in this story were in the midst of making an emotional decisions. The farmer has a farm and a good source of income. He sells that source of income to buy a field with a small buried treasure. The merchant has probably made many lucrative deals that have given him stable income over the years. He finds one really valuable pearl and sells all he has to get it. None of this makes any sense and seems like the actions of a drunken lunatic. The story following this is the story of God final assessment of people who are good and bad. Those who have listened to the Holy Spirit’s guidance will be allowed into Heaven and any one who fully rejects God’s guidances towards righteousness and love will be cast away.

Traditionally the two buyers are people who find Jesus and give up everything to follow Him. This is not what Jesus is teaching. If you read the passage closely, the two buyers are God doing everything to bring His people to Him to a point that most would consider a fault. God is putting full investment into humanity. These two stories show God would blindly squander everything to bring in all of humanity, even though humanity has let Him down and God probably invest in something with more return for what He has put into it. Jesus in the end put His life on a cross to retrieve humanity. This was the fullest investment any human could have made. Before we assume that God is foolish, think about how much love and grace goes into this kind of investment. God is not investing for His own gain. He is instead investing simple for our benefit. Much like the prophet Hosea and his prostitute wife, this causes God to forego many offenses while He is reaching out to us and pulling us towards Him.

The last story is about God doing away with evil. The sad reality is that there will be people who choose to defy God and go against Him. God has already made the investment and purchased humanity. It is His. However, he still allows humans to choose their destination. His purchasing gives us a way to salvation, but we still have to follow the path He paved for us. Jesus is speaking about all of humanity here. He is even speaking about people who have been baptized and claim Jesus as their savior, yet they still take part in greed, hate, and violence. God is in the business of create a shalom filled earth. So he has drawn a line. The ones who want peace and wholeness in the world on one side and the people who want only things for themselves and could care less about peace on the other. Which reality are you choosing, one of God’s peace and justice or on centered on what you can gain for yourself. It is your choice, but what you choos for your lifestyle defines your eternity.

Generations


Future. Change. Possibility. New. These words spark different feelings among people. New things are scary and exciting things. One thing is for sure, when change comes, the experience touches everything in its path. Whether people avoid or accept change will affect what happens. Another thing that happens is the younger who will receive the results of the consequences will experience them much stronger than the previous generation. 

To talk about change we have to talk about The generations in the Church. There have always been issues between the imaginative, futuristic minds and the people who desire traditionally familiar approaches. It has led to conflicts that range from low key church splits to drawn out heresy trials. Those of us familiar with Church History can recall the split of the eastern and western church around one thousand years ago. Another instance is Martin Luther standing against the Catholic Church and being put on trial. The core reason for the extreme reactions during these events was that change was in the air. 

These days, we do not have many heresy trials like we used to. We definitely have stopped killing people for heresies. However, change is one of those things that produce high anxiety among many established churches. A Church might be established for a mere two years and can create its own traditions which result in no chance for change without a reaction equivalent to a rabid lion. That is why many older congregations chase off new people and die off while new congregations platue within the founding generation by not being able to find new people.

How do we combat this? We know that change is necessary for healthy growth. No change produces a misunderstood community cutoff from the world. This sort of self imposed exile in the of spirituality produces the shrinking community which will not take part in the missional imperative of evangelism. However we know that tradition is also important since it is tradition which has shaped the core of our identity.

The prominent figure who shows us how to straddle this paradox of keeping tradition while initiating new things is Jesus. Jesus challenged the traditions of His day. He sent His disciple to not just Jews, but Gentiles as well. He made the relational God more important than the God revealed through rituals. Yet, he still participated in Temple worship, synagogue meetings, and even said that He came to fulfill the traditional Mosaic Law that is central to Judaism. The changes that He created led to many conflicts with the leaders of His religion who saw themselves as protectors of the religion, but it led to positive interactions with the common Jewish person and even Gentiles He came in contact with. Even within the leadership there were individuals who saw Jesus as good and not evil.

Jesus revealed that the problem with exclusively traditional approaches is that it loses touch with the reality of God’s mission. Judaism was meant to be a light unto the nations, but it was not living up to that at the time. Jesus wanted them to show everyone else the better way to live, but the people wanted to relive their former glory and bring the strict adherence to Mosaic law. It was not healthy and did not bring hope to the world.

Jesus also revealed that changing everything at all costs was not good either. Jesus still adhered to the essentials of Judaism. Basic observance of the sabbath, teachings of God bring liberation to His people, and even keeping the dietary laws. Although He pushed the limits of what was allowable by challenging the man-mad parts, He made certain that was fulfilling the law.

People who bring in the future need to copy Jesus. There is this balance between keeping the core of Christian identity, but change is necessary to translate those element into relatable practices today. The traditions that are important are those that show us the true character God, such as love, justice, and peace, and how being in the presence of that God produces joy or misery depending on the desires of our hearts (Revelation 14:9-11). In the end, we should ask if people can understand our traditions? Can they see the character of God? When they see Him, does this affirm their own character with joy or challenge it with the angst of being out of sync with the God who loves the world? These questions will help us navigate the traditions and changes needed as we find the unchageable elements as well as how we should morph into a powerful force.

As a body of believers, the mission is not about us. This only leads to making a religion and a God in our own image. Changing others or God is not our calling. We cannot change others. Only the Holy Spirit can. We cannot make God in our own image because we have already been made in His (Genesis 1:26-27). Change must start inside us (Romans 12:1-2). Pray and meditate on God. Read the scriptures.  Find out how you sync with God’s character. Seek the traditions that show us what is true about God and seek out how that should you. If you allow the transformation that God requires inside of us individually, we can then be used by Him to change the important things that will change the world for peace.

Self Importance


My wife and I took on the opportunity of sponsoring a kid overseas. It’s been quite a journey. You definitely have to keep an eye out to make sure you have funds for a someone who is in need of it. The thing that I have missed is that this has been one of the most important things I have ever done. 

 How did I miss this? 

Any sane man would see that this was a very valuable pursuit. Sometimes, however, desire for certain positions of greatness can cloud judgement. I used to be a youth pastor. I have wanted to be a pastor ever since I left that position. It has been a desire that has enveloped many thoughts and efforts ever since I started college. Being like any other human being, my focus on this has led me to be blinded to other things that God has led me into along the way. Working outside of the Church has led to me to interact with unbelievers. Being a regular attendee has led me to see being a pastor with a different perspective. I have also experienced both humility and greatness in changing a life in a very simple way.
Changing one person’s life is how you change the world. That can be very difficult to see when you are trying to focus on your own future. Sure, doing good things are easy, but if you do not recognize that to be a result of the purpose God has given, you will still be frustrated and wondering when God is going to use you for great things.

Participation in the kingdom is about being least in the kingdom. How does that relate to my previous point? We are sometimes blinded by our own desire for greatness that we will miss the great things happening around us. Missing those moments of being a servant for God’s glory can cause us to resent those moments or miss out on them altogether. In Matthew 9:13, Jesus quotes Hosea 6:6 by declaring that God “desires mercy and not sacrifice.” The leading religious people of the day were always trying to find that next thing that they wanted to be involved in that had leadership and respect connected to it. They found purpose in their positions and not in the purposes God had made for them. Mercy, love, and justice are primary responsibilities of the believer. However, these can be lost when our main focus is on something that makes us feel important. To put it another way, “whoever is least among you is greatest.” (Luke 9:48) 

Serving others or submitting tho their needs can never be replaced by a sense of self importance. Positions never bring importance and purpose. Instead, relationships do the heavy lifting in how we feel in regards to purpose and spiritual health. If you want position and status, you will get that only. No meaningful relationship can be built by just pursuing being a pastor, teacher, priest, etc. It can only come from interacting with the rest of God’s creation with mercy, love, and justice. Instead of trying to lift yourself up on a pedestal, lift others up above you and make sure they are the ones achieving greatness. The only way to be great in the Kingdom of heaven is to make others greater than you.

Our Fate and God’s Goodness


Goal: show that God plans for good. Despite our choices which bring consequences, God is bringing us blessing.

All of us make mistakes. Despite what you have been taught, the human tendency is to eventually mess one or two things things up along the way. Since we make mistakes, we understand another thing all too well, consequences. They hurt when we make the wrong decision and feel great when we make the right decisions. It can seem like life will end before we can make the consequences go away or experience something good again.

Most of us have heard or seen Charles Dicken’s classic “A Christmas Carol.” In this story, Ebenezer Scrooge has made some serious choices to pursue money and resources. His heart freeze and he pushes everyone out of his life. Although the story makes it seem easy for Mr. Scrooge to make up for bad decisions, it shows us that how we choose to live today can have devastating effects on us and those around us.

We all know that finding out way out of bad decisions is hard, but there is a darker theology in which people assume that decisions will lock in the results for a lifetime with no hope of escape. One of the ways we tend to lock in consequences is to spiritualize the matter. Sayings like “God will not bless that” or “God’s going to get you” point to a theology that God only blesses those who please Him. That would make sense from our perspective. If someone wrongs us or messes up our plans, we want to get back at them. If we were given the powers of a deity, we would draw our line very clearly and return spite for spite.

The good news is that God is not like this. God’s character is to combat evil with love. That would include inviting the people who have offended Him to participate in His kingdom. Note that this does not do away with consequences. Whatever choices we make will define many events that follow. Choosing to punch someone will lead to either a fight, jail time, or even death. Choosing not to follow God will lead to not participating in what He has for your future. Despite that, God is still reaching to us. God’s grace includes the broken people although we may think blessings should only go to the ones who deserve it.

Matthew 5:45b makes the point perfectly. God sends His blessings and resources to all of humanity, both good and bad. We decide how to use those blessings. We can choose to make a world better since He has . Romans 5:6-8 shows how God shows grace regardless of our rebellious choices. What is God’s purpose? To draw us to Him and His plan. If God is blessing us, then should we not return the favor of kindness to all around us and at least try to bless as best we can? This God even sent His Son into a hostile world to save the enemy, all because He does not consider us the enemy at all. Being an enemy is a reality that we have created. It is fake and goes against all that we were created to be.

God moves towards us even in the midst of sin. We are not victims of a fate which is out of our control and is uninterested in benefitting us. Choices can define us for a moment. In light of Christ, we have hope in the midst of devastation. There is no eternal torture necessary. God has given us a path to peace, but we have to be willing to follow Him to that place and help each other get there.

Superbia


““Almighty and everlasting God, you hate nothing you have
made and forgive the sins of all who are penitent: Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily
lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness,
may obtain of you, the God of all mercy, perfect remission
and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives
and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever
and ever.” – BCP

Suberbia is the Latin word for Pride. This is one of the more noticeable sins in our culture. Not just in everyone else, but in ourselves too. There have been countless times that people have looked back on their actions and said, “How could I have done that?” Unfortunately, it is a very common sin. In the moment it can be very easy to not see our own pride until it is too late. Usually, someone is hurt, and then we are filled with guilt.

What makes pride so deadly is that it destroys of generosity, openness, and humility. Some people can be very proud in the hard work that they have done and they miss that God is the one who has given them their earnings. They could not have gained anything on their own. Pride can lead us to hide other sins, making it poisonous to our hearts and the hearts of others. It can ruin humility. When we entertain pride, we think to ourselves, “I can do all things through me,” which contrasts with Philippians 4:13.

Pride can also ruin the Church by making Christians think that they are wiser and better than they really are (Romans 12:3). This makes people unwilling to take not only criticism, but also biblical discipline. When that happens, it becomes apparent that pride in the self has replaced loyalty to God, who is the one who gave us the Church to begin with.

We should think as Christ and be humble servants of others. We should not even begin to practice being someone of higher social, economic, academic, or even sanctified status. These things will bring danger to our souls. Let us practice the way of Christ, which is generosity with our material things, openness in relationships, and humility in our hearts.

You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God

as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross. – Philippians 2:5-8

What have you done or thought that has made you proud of yourself? Have you ever let that pride define you? Is it possible that your Pride is blocking you from fully experiencing what is best for you? Are you willing to go the way of Christ and sacrifice Pride?

Invidia


“Almighty God, you alone can bring into order the unruly wills and affections of sinners: Grant your people grace to love what you command and desire what you promise; that, among the swift and varied changes of the world, our hearts may surely there be fixed where true joys are to be found; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen” – BCP

Invidia is the Latin word for envy. It is immediately obvious that this is connected to an uncontrollable desire of the flesh. This may look like greed and gluttony, but it is more specifically oriented around unthankfulness.

The basis of this is not trusting in God’s provision and plan. It is an easy sin, because we naturally like to think that we can supply all of our needs. The problems here are that we do not always recognize needs properly and we are often powerless to gain them.

The way of Christ demands trust. No one can carry their cross without having hope that God will provide life in the midst of a deadly situation. Such a faith is profound and highly exercised in loyal trust to a faithful God. And what’s more, if God was willing to provide for His Son, who became human, in His moment of crucifixion, then He will surely provide for those who also voluntarily walk the path of the Lord.

Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor

and gave him the name above all other names… – Philippians 2:9

What is your envy? Is there something that you are scared that you cannot live without? Or do you think people will think less of you if you do not have it? Are any of these things what you really need? Are you willing to see your need for taking up the cross and following Jesus? Are you willing to trust God to provide for that sort of journey?