Without much commentary, below are a handful of scriptures that describe some of who God is. Interestingly, and maybe purposefully, they are all Old Testament scriptures, which are found in the midst of much narrative which can bring some confusion to the nature of God. But in the midst of the narrative, these scriptures, and many like them, stand out and give us the basis through which we can see the narrative around them.
It would be very beneficial to us that our curiosity and imagination would be captured by these attributes of God (In saying the attributes of God, we count them as attributes of the Godhead. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). That in reading these passages, we would believe in how God reveals himself, even if our mind cannot fully comprehend. That our confession would go beyond our understanding. That in the midst of a fallen world we believe in a God who desires to redeem his creation and reconcile a lost humanity back to him. Read these passages slowly. Re-read them. Again and again. Let them lead you to other places of scripture that build the framework for your understanding of God, to who you believe God is and what he is like. Then allow your imagination to be stretched. God is deep and wide, not shallow or thin…
Exodus 34:5-7 Then the Lord came down in the cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed his name, the Lord. And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished…”
Psalm 36:5-6 Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies. Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, your justice like the great deep.
Lamentations 3:19-23 I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
Isaiah 41:10 So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
Psalm 136:1-9 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of gods. His love endures forever.
Give thanks to the Lord of lords: His love endures forever.
to him who alone does great wonders, His love endures forever.
who by his understanding made the heavens, His love endures forever.
who spread out the earth upon the waters, His love endures forever.
who made the great lights—His love endures forever.
the sun to govern the day, His love endures forever.
the moon and stars to govern the night; His love endures forever.
This God, the Creator, whose love endures forever, who is patient yet not tolerant, who is full of compassion and grace, is of justice- he will do what is right. As the psalmist of chapter 36 allowed his imagination to poetically describe certain characteristics of God as the heavens and sky, the might of the mountain, and the depth of the great deep: This God is with me. He is my God. And I look to him as is quoted in Psalm 23, “The Lord is my shepherd.”
Due to crazy busyness I haven’t been blogging at all, but will eventually (& hopefully soon) get back to it. Part of the busyness is due to the launch of The Bridge Community Church in Dublin, OH. The short video talks about the launch and the first series I will be teaching,
I’ll get back to writing posts soon…
If you’re addicted and bound;
come find freedom
If you’re depressed and lonely;
come find joy
If you’re tired and anxious;
come find strength
If you’re lost and confused;
come be found.
He’ll lift my head and rescue me,
He’ll restore my broken heart,
He’ll wipe away my every sin,
Abundant life is mine today, come find Jesus.
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
John 1:14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
The truth came into this world. The Word, the logos of God. The fulfillment of the law and the prophets as well as the vocation of Israel. The perfect revelation of who God is. Truth is a light unto men in a dark world. A dark world needs truth. The light exposes the darkness as much as it gives light to it. Though not all of it, part of the proclamation of truth is that it exposes the problem of the darkness. It needs to know that the problem is sin. Jesus came to fix that problem. The Kingdom of God deals with, at ground level, sin. Overall, the church is often well practiced at proclaiming this. But we cannot ignore that Jesus came full of grace and truth. Grace is from love. Grace gives us what we do not deserve. When the Word became flesh, truth came into the world in flesh so that truth could be practiced with love. God had always been proclaiming truth though things and people. Now God was proclaiming truth in flesh. Immanuel. How he did it makes all the difference in the world.
The proclamation of truth without the practice of love is not the Jesus way.
It is easy to say what you want to say in our tech world. It’s easy to throw out your opinion to the masses because of social media. Our world is overflowing with people saying a lot of things. Simply open your Facebook page, type away, and hit enter -a message to the four hundred or so ‘friends’ connected to your page. One thing that some Christians do is use social media to proclaim what they believe to be the truths of scripture, the truths of the Kingdom of God. The proclamation of truth is a form of love. Nothing really wrong with this…unless truth is given without the practice of love. A whole lot of saying and no doing. Just because one believes they have truth does not mean they can go about that truth in any manner they choose. So it is with the message of the Kingdom. We must proclaim truth along with the practice of love. This is what Jesus did. This is what we are to do. This is vitally important when one wants to proclaim truth about sin. Often, a person will want to proclaim truth about a particular sin. Maybe a hot topic in our society. Maybe towards a particular group of people. The question is, as you proclaim truth about this particular sin, how are you practicing love along with it in a particular way? It should make you stop and make you really think. How are you the embodiment of the Word made flesh, full of grace and truth, in that particular issue you are speaking towards? How can you practice love in a tangible, maybe relational way? That’s how Jesus did it. That’s how he brought truth to the world- the truth you proclaim to be a representative of.
(Maybe a quick side not here: When we begin to live practicing love, the rest of what Jesus says falls into place. Things that we often struggle with. Words like meek and peacemaker. Phrases like ‘love your enemies’ and ‘whoever wants to be the greatest must be the servant of all’. The practice of love allows the life traits of humility, obedience, and servant to show. This is the Jesus way. Of course, we must grow into these things…)
When I think of truth without love, I think of the Pharisee in parable that Jesus told about humility found in Luke 18:9-14. “To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable. “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” Humility is the key. Truth without love breeds pride. Humility rids one of confidence in his righteousness that causes him to look down on the sinner. The Pharisee knew truth about sin but missed it’s essence because he did not practice it in love. He had a prideful view of the sinner. You cannot pray better than your heart. You cannot proclaim truth better than your heart. If you are not humble, you will not look to love and serve those to whom you are proclaiming truth to.
We should never make it hard for others to enter the Kingdom of God. We do this when we proclaim truth and do not practice love. Remember, we each have the opportunity to enter the Kingdom because of grace and truth, not truth alone. Truth exposes sin. Love paves the way to salvation. When we proclaim truth with the practice of love and it is then hard for someone to enter the Kingdom, then it becomes that person’s personal struggle with the things of God. But the Kingdom should not be hard to get into because of how we proclaim truth. I’ve heard it said that the church needs to be excellent at accepting those who are not good at being spiritual. We do this by practicing love. If the Pharisee understood this his view of his own righteousness as well as his view of, and interaction with, the tax collector would have been vastly different. When one proclaims truth without the practice of love he proclaims truth from a sense of his ‘being good at being spiritual.’ That’s pride.
Proclaim the Kingdom. Proclaim the truth of the Word made flesh. Proclaim the truth found in scripture. But match each syllable, each word, each verse with the practice of love. Then, and only then, are we are like our Savior.
Philippians 2:3-8 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!
1 Corinthians 15:42-44 “So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.”
Revelation 21:1-5 “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
I believe in the resurrection of the dead. I believe in the life to come. New heaven and earth. God is going to make everything new. My hope is in this. But I had to come to terms about how much I really, really believe in it. That may sound silly- or maybe unspiritual. Now, I have been a follower of Jesus Christ, more or less, for about 23 years. You would think believing in those things is a given. Yes, I have always believed in them since I came to their understanding. But how I allowed my belief in them to change the way I think and view the world and follow Jesus is really what has been changing.
If you really believe in the resurrection and the life to come, living as Jesus leads us to live becomes a bit easier (at least in the approach to do so). When you really believe in the resurrection and the life to come, how we live now takes on a new light. Now, before I go on, let me say this: I do want to enjoy life now. I believe God intends us to enjoy life. I pray the blessings of God on my family and those around me. I want my children to walk with God and be blessed. I intend to smile and laugh. I intend to live this life to the fullest. (But, of course, my definition of living life to the fullest and my definition of success have changed a bit over the years.)
What I am getting at could be said through the following examples:
When Jesus says, in Matthew 6:19-21, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth…But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven…”, taking that to heart is easier when I believe in what is to come. My view in what is most important is shifted from now to what is to come, as is, in turn, my view of what I do now as it affects what is to come.
Jesus said, as recorded in Matthew 5:5, “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” That is hard to reconcile with the way the world functions. It only works because of the resurrection and the life to come. The meek are generally trampled in our world and certainly are not currently inheriting the earth. But we are to be meek.
Jesus said, in Matthew 5:11, “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.” Be a light, no matter the consequence. Stephen, the first martyr, lived this out fully. He didn’t throw any rocks back. He had to really believe in the life to come.
Jesus told those listening to him, Matthew 5:38-45, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also…“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.” Hard teachings of Jesus are possible, and mostly logically acceptable to you, when you really believe in what is to come. You will willingly begin the hard changes needed to be his disciple.
How can we approach life and live as a follower of Jesus -and do what he asks us to do- in this messed up world, living within a system of fallen-ness that at times seems to “win” and have its way? You must really, really believe in the resurrection and the life to come and put your hope in it. Now, what about the things that happen to us as we live this life? As I wrote earlier, I intend to live this life to the fullest. I also have opinions about matters in the public square. Some of these are formed by my faith, some of them are not consequential to my faith. But as life is happening, I understand that if things do not work out the way I want, or if life actually turns quite bad, or if I lose rights that I currently have under my government, or (insert any number of scenarios), that my hope is not in what I get or can have in this life but in what is to come. I can live according to what my hope lies in no matter the circumstance. I believe through the initial disappointments or grieving or anger or whatever any hypothetical situation may cause, that I will come back to what my hope is really all about. I will try not to let my hope rest on any particular outcome in this life, but in what I believe Jesus is doing and will do while living as he is leading me to live as his disciple. In this, at the end of the day, I find peace in my soul.
Matthew 16:26 “What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?”