I have had several blog posts that I have written, then re-written, then not finished or put aside lately.
But, this one, I can't help sharing with you.
Recently, I have seen several posts/thoughts about how if the God I worship demands certain things (rules, no freedom of choice, etc.), and that hurts someone or causes someone to have to make painful decisions, then why would you want to worship that type of God? And, if this God you worship makes you reject certain lifestyles or choices as being "sin", isn't that mean? And, why would you want to worship someone who won't let you do what you feel is important or necessary or "best for you"? Essentially, these statements are including tiny bits of truth, twisted to fit an agenda or way of thinking that is not based on the character of God, but mainly on what so-and-so perceives God to be based on their feeling of him, namely that he is cruel, vindictive, demanding, full of rules and regulations, and judgmental. This type of God certainly does not fit into what most people want- at all. We prefer to make our own choices, our own rules, and run our lives our way. This is called "free will"; and all people have it. That's why even tiny babies who are so cute demand things. We are born with a free will that wants what we want when we want it, namely, RIGHT NOW! And, if anything or any person interferes with that choice, that person is considered demanding, mean, judgmental, and a bigot (or whatever other term you prefer to use these days).
I was thinking about these comments and beliefs over the weekend. As I was thinking, I was reminded, in several ways of the faithfulness of God.
First, I am reading through a study on depression with several other ladies, and we discussed how depression and every other disgusting and devastating thing we experience in this world is because of sin. And, this experience is not what God intended for us to have. He first created everything good. (see Genesis 1) And, then, guess what? Adam and Eve rejected the good because they chose (free will) to believe a lie about the character of God, specifically that he was depriving them of something they felt (there's those feelings and free will again) was better than what he had already given. And, they lived in a perfect world!!!!! How were they so fickle to think that what they already had wasn't good enough?
Well, in addition to this study, in Sunday school, we finished a class on the life of Joseph. We ended the class reflecting on how Joseph saw the "big picture" of his life. He recognized that God had allowed all these things into his life to benefit countless people, and essentially preserve his people by bringing them to Egypt during the time of great famine. Instead of looking at his current situation as hopeless, Joseph chose to trust and have faith that God would do what he promised; Joseph believed in God, not based on current feelings or what was popular, but on who God had declared himself to be. And, if we look in Hebrews 11, Joseph is not remembered for having been the second-in-command in Egypt or having been such a good guy or having interpreted dreams- no, he is remembered for his faith which motivated him to look ahead to when God would bring his people out of Egypt and return them to the land he had promised them (See Hebrews 11:22, and Genesis 50:22-26).
Then, during the church service, our pastor started a sermon series on the book of Acts, positing the question: "How did a religion that started out with a few rag-tag, scared people become the greatest belief in the history of the world?" He focused on the power of God through the selfless act of Jesus on the cross and of his unchanging word to break through the boundaries we set up in our lives and effect change in us through the work of the Spirit. Then, as the Spirit does its work, the power of the Gospel is seen, believed, heard, and proclaimed throughout the whole world so that everyone can have a chance to know God as their Father, know Jesus as their Savior, and claim the Spirit as their Comforter and Help in this crazy, broken world. The truth of God and who he is has endured centuries of persecution and trial because its power is unmatched, its truth is unchanging, its effectiveness is real, and its results are life-altering- and all for good (see Romans 8:31-39).
At church, also, the men and ladies have just begun a Bible study through the book of Ephesians. In the first chapter, we read about all God promises to those who believe in Jesus' righteousness. God has promised that those who come to him, claiming the blood of Jesus in place of their sinful, broken lives, will receive adoption as his children- and he does this in love. He chose us to be his own, to redeem us, to reconcile us to himself, to lavish his wisdom on us, to make known to us his will which he showed us in Jesus to reconcile all things to himself in perfection and beauty and goodness (see Ephesians 1:3-10). Furthermore, he declares that as we claim our hope in Jesus, knowing we have been chosen by God and cannot please him in and of ourselves, the Spirit will seal us as God's own, becoming our guarantee of a heavenly inheritance as God's chosen ones (see Ephesians 1:11-14). And, then, in that adoptive state, we are not just left to our own devices; instead, there is a wealth of wisdom, power, and hope promised to us that are at our disposal if we apply ourselves to know him.
In a shortened bullet-point version, it's like this:
Child is abandoned, left alone, without hope of ever being rescued and loved. He lives day by day on the crumbs he can scrounge up out of trash cans. He sleeps wherever he can find a warm place, and finds tiny bits of hope from a few people who offer him a new start, but they all fall through. No one can give him what he needs or what they so glitteringly claim to be true.
Child meets benefactor who claims to love him and will provide him with everything he needs if he will but come to him, just as he is.
Child believes this claim "too good to be true", and instead tries to earn money, offers to work for the benefactor, and when that is refused, the child becomes angry with the benefactor, believing him to be aloof and heartless and unyielding.
Child learns that the benefactor's son died, knowing that his father would choose some undeserving, weak, no-name to receive his inheritance. Yet, the son died willingly, because this was the Father's greatest desire.
You see, the Father loved the child so much that he and his son planned, for a long, long time, that this was the way they would redeem the child.
The only stipulation was that the child must come of his own free will.
The child wrestles with this, because he knows that becoming this Father's child will require him to give up the life he knows and is comfortable with for the unknown.
The child has heard things from other people, and he's not sure if he should believe those people or the Benefactor himself.
"What-ifs" swirl around in his head. "What if" this Father is really cruel and demanding? "What if" he makes me give up this lifestyle I am comfortable with? "What if" I can't go do the crummy, wasteful things I have been doing now (which to him seem very important, as that is all he knows presently)?
You might be thinking- "this kid is crazy!! Why wouldn't he give up that terrible street life? How can he be so dumb to believe that a life wasting away in the streets is better than what the benefactor is promising? And, to think the benefactor's own son die to give this child a chance at a new life? Why is he being so fickle!?!"
And, then we think back to Adam and Eve. And to ourselves.
Here, we have a whole entire book (the Bible) devoted to what God has done, through the ages, since the beginning of time, to reconcile to himself this terrible, broken, crummy world. This crummy world that became broken, mind you, not because of God, but because man chose (free will and those stinkin' feelings again) to believe a lie about God. He offers us life. New life. Hope. Hope for salvation and hope for the life that is to come when we live unbroken, unfettered, and without sin forever with him as his children. He offers us his wisdom to have as our own as we navigate through this confusing, discouraging life. He offers us knowledge of himself to better understand his works and his ways toward mankind. He offers us his power to fight against evil and lies. He offers us the riches of his mercy and grace to live differently for his glory. He promises an inheritance beyond our comprehension.
And, yet, we believe it too good to be true. We believe we have to do something for it. We believe we have to try harder, do it our own way, in our own crumbling power. We become angry when other sin-cursed people do sin-cursed stuff, and we blame God for it. We become bitter, thinking God has done nothing to give us hope or "the good life". We become apathetic, sarcastic, and distrustful of God's word because it says things we don't like or makes claims that make us feel guilty.
What we refuse to see is the "big picture".
We refuse to see that "God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses (sins), made us alive together with Christ- by grace you have been saved- and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Therefore, remember... that you were at one time separated from Christ, alienated... strangers... having no hope and without God in the world. BUT NOW, in Christ Jesus, you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ" (Ephesians 2:4-13).
We refuse to see that what God has done is more than we could ever hope to do with our lives. God has done everything he could to redeem, to mend, to fix, to bring hope. Yet, we are like Adam and Eve and like that child who believe God is out to get us, or there's a "catch" somewhere, or that we will miss out on good things here in the trash cans or on that one particular tree if we follow God. And, yet, as we actually begin to break apart who God is and what he says and what he has done, we are faced with the stark reality that we are the ones who are broken. This world is what is broken and angry and demanding and vindictive.
Sure, God is a God of justice and a God who demands his holiness be revered, but if you only focus on that one part, you totally miss the part that he must demand these things or he would not be the loving, righteous God that he is. He cannot be true to one character quality and neglect the other ones because then he would be just as fickle as we are.
Our minds become overwhelmed when we consider this justice-demanding, righteous God paid our way to reconciliation and redemption and hope and life through sacrificing his own son- why? Because he loved us.
That truth alone blows every other religious thinking out of the water.
And, then, there's the riches and the inheritance and the faithfulness and the life and the hope and the peace and so much more he promises.
But, you will reject it all because of how you feel about a certain part of God you don't like because it doesn't make you feel good.
Oh, there is no other way. And, God doesn't promise that this life will be easy and hunky-dory and rainbows and sparkles. We live in a sin-cursed world (thanks to our own doing- ugh, that free-will thing again), but what he does promise is that in him, we have hope. We have life. And, he is a God who redeems. He mends. He heals. He makes new.
And, who are we to demand or declare him to be something when we have not cared to know or cared to discover who he actually is.
My grandpa would say this phrase a lot: "How do you know you don't know if you don't know you don't know?"
And, I was thinking this way about all these things. How do you know God is one way when you haven't cared to know God in other ways? How can you claim a truth about God and yet not claim other truths?
This can go a lot of different ways and cover a lot of different topics.
But, for now, I want you to ask yourself: "Is the God I know- or think I know- actually the God HE says he is?"
And, then, in that answer, have you cared to know who he is? How? And, to what extent? Because the God of the Bible far exceeds any one thing we can conjure up- and that's a good thing. How will you know if you refuse to know and search it out for yourself? And this applies to those who do not believe as well as those who do. Who is God to you? And why? And how? And, did you know he is who he says he will be for you- now, and in whatever state you find yourself at this moment and in the future? How will you know you don't know if you don't know you don't know? Seek him. He promises to be found. Study his word (not what others say or pretend to know), but who God himself declares himself to be for you.
Because to me God has been- and is- everything.
And, so I pray for you:
"that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ..." (Ephesians 1:17-20)
Additional Songs for Meditation: