What is Your Image of God?

Earlier this week one of my students shared with me that she learned that a friend committed suicide. She was really hurt and at the same time very angry. She said that her friend had so much potential and now he is gone. She also felt that he didn’t work hard enough to survive and wondered why he did not reach out to her for help. In her heart, she felt God will truly punish the friend because, in her words, ‘he was young, he had a lot of potential and he didn’t fight hard enough to survive.’ I shared with her that God may be disappointed in her friend, but God would not punish the friend. That God, better than us, understood his pain. She seemed relieved and said “I just wished my friend was still with us.”

After that conversation, I began to reflect how each of us has a different perspective on God. What is your image of God? Or very simply, how do you see God?

As a child my God could do everything. He was omnipresent, omnipotent, all knowing, caring and intervened in people’s lives when they called upon him. Nevertheless, he was a God to be feared. He was the hell and damnation God. Although I knew I needed and wanted God, I was afraid of this God and feared too that I would be damned to hell.

Later in life, God became an all loving God; still Omni-everything and still the God who intervenes in the lives of those who seek him out. I don’t know about you, but my image of God is still evolving.

He’s definitely not the God of my youth or the God of my young adulthood; he sometimes seems to be the God of indifference, a God of distance, a God who rarely intervenes in the affairs of humankind. This is a God I cannot accept and I doubt is real. But like you, I’m still wrestling with who God is.

Mark Batterson in his book, In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day (2006) said that “how you think about God will determine who you become. You aren’t just the byproduct of “nature and nurture.” You are a byproduct of your God-picture. And that internal picture of God determines how you see everything else” (p.28).

Batterson goes on to say that “our biggest problems can be traced back to an inadequate understanding of who God is. Our problems seem really big because our God seems really small. In fact, we reduce God to the size of our biggest problem” (p.28). I don’t know about you, but I need a God that’s bigger than any problems. I need a God who not only can tackle my problems, but the world’s problems. Batterson continues and believes that God has no dimensional units and that our belief or thoughts of God will determine who we will become. Wow!

Wow is right. I need a God who is greater than all this world’s imagination; especially as it relates to who God is and what God can and will do. I need a God that is as big as this world; still has concerns and abiding love for me and not only showed loved for me on a CROSS centuries ago, but a God who daily reminds me of his love and protection.

I need that infinite God; the God of love and mystery and yes, a God that I or no one else can define or put in a box. I need a God that loves “even me.” I need a big God; the same God that told Isaiah, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are my ways your ways,’’….”As the heavens are higher than the earth so are my ways higher than your ways and thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9). To learn more about God’s awesomeness read Job, chapters 38 through 41. That’s a big God and no, he is not in a box.

How do you see God? How big is your God? My image of God is evolving, but each day I love this God who refuses to be defined. I hope you too will envision a God that is unlimited and therefore undefinable and that my friend will make all the difference in your world.

The Beatitude (You Are Blessed, vs. 9)

Blessed Are The Peace Maker (Beatitudes #7)
Blessed Are The Peace Maker (Beatitudes #7) (Photo credit: loswl)

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God (Matthew 5: 9).

You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family (The Message).

It is not important to be the first person at the food table. There’s plenty for everyone. Nor, is it important to “always be right.” It’s good to hear ideas from others. Another person may have a better idea, a more efficient and effective idea to increase life’s bounty and to improve life’s comfort.

Cooperation will ensure that all benefit, not just a few. Cooperation assures that we all benefit from God’s earthly blessings.

Are you a peacemaker, if so, lead the way? We are counting on you.

The Beatitudes (You Are Blessed, vs 4)

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted (Matthew, 5:4 NIV)

“You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you” (The Message).

What a paradoxical statement!  How can that be? Let’s think this through? What’s dear to us can vary over time and/or we can have many things that are dear to us:

            A pet

            Our jobs (careers)

            Parents

            Our spouse

            Our church

            Our brothers, our sisters, our homes, you name it.

For me it was the loss of a job and to certain extent a career that I spent 30 years building.

But you know I am surviving. I am embracing the process and learning to live by faith one day at a time.

I trust God to take care of me; yes, for the essentials (shelter, food, clothing, etc) and for the existential (the meaning of life, why me God, etc).

Yes it is scary, but I embrace this uncertainty, this mystery because the Lord has taught me that He is my shepherd and I shall not want (Psalm 23:1) and that He will carry my burdens daily (Psalm 68:19). 

So in this time of loss, uncertainty and yes, questioning, my faith in my God is unwavering.

I know that God hears my sighs, sees my tears and even when I cannot pray intercedes for me with groans that words cannot express (Roman 8:26); and because of this, I know without doubt that I am in God’s care and in His will. Amen.

 

 

 

Our Paradox, Not God’s

I say to God my Rock, “Why have you forgotten me? Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy” My bones suffer mortal agony as my foes taunt me, saying to me all day long, “Where is your God” (NIV).

As we, the faithful contemplate your silence; we can come dangerously close to questioning your existence. Where are the angels, do we really have a Heavenly Parent? Who is this Jesus, “the supposed Son” and oh yes, our comforter, the Holy Spirit? It is easier, but not comforting, to believe the “foolish ones;” who say when we die we simply cease to exist or disappear into a great, dark abyss.

How else can we explain the killings and assaults on human lives? How else can we explain the hatred, the injustice and discrimination of the vulnerable or those who are different?

How else can we explain the loss of lives and properties by tsunamis, earthquakes, tornadoes, floods, hurricanes and other storms that this evil world creates; how else can we explain 9/11 and the purposeful goal of one group to annihilate another. Our history, the world’s history bears this out.

What loving God would allow such destruction, such evil?

O, but then, a gentle spirit reminds us of the great mystery; the mystery of the Cross and the desires of our hearts to fight for justice, to right the wrongs and to help the helpless and the loss.

What causes us to praise YOU in the midst of these injustices; even when they are at our front doors? O God, we are “as the deer that desire cold fresh water, our soul pants for you O God. Our soul thirsts for YOU, the living God.” (Psalm 42:1-2).

Some say that you thirst too; you thirst to have a relationship with us. Some believe that you too cry along with us as evil tramples upon us. So, why the silence; aren’t you the omnipotent one? So what’s the answer Lord? Is life meant to be a struggle always?

So as I anxiously waited and prayed, with multitude of doubts, God gave me a glimpse of heaven; yes, I had a peek. I had a peek of heaven, not visually, but within my soul. O what an adventure. It is hard to put into words, but my soul was fueled with joy and thanksgiving. It was a wonderful gift; a miniscule sample of things to come.

So in this silence God strengthened my faith and I realized that things happen in this world that is unexplainable. So will my lot in life improve because of this, not really? I am no different from anyone else who has suffered and will suffer. My job is, to partner with God, to the best my understanding and abilities, to make heaven on earth for others.

My Eyes On God

“My eyes are ever on the Lord, for only he will release my feet from the snare.” Psalm 25:15 (NIV)

 I decided to check several other versions:

“…for he shall pluck my feet out of the net.” (The New King James)

“…If I keep my eyes on God, I won’t trip over my own feet.” The Message Bible

Oh yes, that’s the one for me; “I won’t trip over my own feet. How many of us have done that—trip over our feet or put our foot into our mouths.

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God, this verse speaks to us today. How can we go wrong, if our thoughts are always on you? Who can hurt us, if our trust is always in you?

 God as we hunger for you; guide us toward your truth and teach us your ways. We don’t want to falter; nor do we want to hurt or to be hurt.

Our wish is to serve and to show others your way. Amen

One Person at a Time

“As Jesus was on his way, the crowds almost crushed him. And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, but not one could heal her. She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediate her bleeding stopped” (Luke 8:42b-44).

To receive a full appreciation of what I am about to explain please read Luke 8:40-56.  If you read verses 40-56 you learned that Jesus healed a woman who had been seriously ill for 12 years and on that same day raised a little child from the dead. There are many lessons and yes, sermons in these few verses; but the lesson that I want to share today is this.

Jesus blessed one person at a time; even as the crowds pressed against him. Jesus’ sole interest was that one person. That’s our charge. Even with our busy schedules and life pressures, we need to find a way to touch somebody; one person, at a time. And when we do, we can make a big difference in that person’s life and in this big world of ours.

I was reminded of paying forward just this week when I received a very special card and note from a former colleague, and again on that same day a telephone call from another former colleague and emails from so many others supporting me through a difficult time.

I believe when we intervene in the lives others, one person at a time, that we make a real difference in our world. So reach out and touch someone today.

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God, I thank you for the people who made a difference in my life—too many to name—continue to bless me so I can do the same for others. Amen

Miracles Witnessed

Waiting for something better? How soon we forget the miracles of our past and yes, even the miracles of today. Today, I want to share with you a prayer that I shared with my faith community on August 1, 2009 and later published at Upward Edge (www.upwardedge.com). It’s time to share it again. I hope that this short prayer will bring to your remembrance your  everyday miracles. 

 MIRACLES WITNESSED

“So they said to him, “What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing?” John 6:30

God help us not to forget the miracles we have witnessed in our life time. Don’t let today’s burdens make us forget your love for us and your willingness to share our yoke.

 God help us not to forget the miracle:

Of having a place to call home

Of having that job to pay those long overdue bills

Or finding that special friend and the love of our life

God help us not to forget the miracle:

Of being parents—when we and others thought it was not possible

Or re-uniting with family and friends that we thought were long-lost

God help us not to forget the miracle:

Of having spiritual mentors and heroes who strengthened our faith

For witnessing the physical healing of family and friends; we thought would long be gone

Of holding the hands of a dear brother as he departed this world or to be in the presence of friends as they too left us.

 God help us not to forget your peacefulness, your assurances and the promises you have laid on our hearts.

I pray that as we remember the miracles in our lives that we will use our “gift of living” to help others who have forgotten their miracles— to bring hope to the hopeless; to provide shelter for the homeless and like Jesus feed the thousands.

When we remember our miracles we, like Jesus, can speak boldly the words of Isaiah 61:1-3a:

“The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon (us)…; God has sent (us) to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners; 2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor…; to comfort all who mourn; 3 and provide for those who grieve…”

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Will you share with us your miracles?