Tuesday, December 31, 2013

God's Story: The God Who Meets Us

The events covered in chapter two of The Story, titled “God Builds A Nation,” revolve around Abraham and his family. In this, and a follow up post, I will draw on two aspects from the sermon from 9/15/13.

First, we will look at how the God of the Bible is a God who meets us where we are at. In other words, God does not expect us to figure everything out, or get rid of all sin in our lives, or drop our friends, or anything like that before we come to Him. If these things were the case, no one would ever come to God. Yet a sad reality is how these, and similar false beliefs, are what keep many people in our culture away from God.

While it is often said in jest, there is some truth behind a person joking about showing up in church and having it burn down. I am not saying the building would burn down. Rather, what this reveals is a false perception shared by many (even many in The Church) that somehow we have to be good enough for God to have anything to do with us – let alone love us.

However, let us consider Abraham. Did you know that after God called Abraham (named Abram at the time) and he left all he knew, that Abraham did not trust in God and took matters into his own hands by lying to preserve his life? (And this was no small lie as it momentarily jeopardized God’s plan to work through Abram – just think if Sarai had become pregnant by Pharaoh...)  

Now, we could make a biblical case-study for how you can lie and be materially blessed (seriously, read about it in Genesis 12:10-20), OR we can see God is a God who meets people where they are. Although Abraham responded in faith to God’s call, he still needed to trust God more. Thankfully God is big enough to work in spite of our imperfections. No doubt about it, Abraham’s life was not all in order...but God still pursued and worked through him.

So what about you?

One thing the Christmas Season shows us – and yes it is still Christmas until January 6th – is that the God of the Bible is a God who meets people where they are. After all, Jesus left the riches of heaven to invade the slums of earth and meet people, from all walks of life, right where they were. This was certainly an unexpected twist in God’s Story. But when it comes to God...it seems we ought to expect the unexpected.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

God's Story: Which God? [4]

OK, so this is seriously the last post on the issue of “Which God?” – for now. The next post will be different, likely moving on to chapter two of The Story. Yet I must do one more for a few reasons, one of which is how it ties in nicely to the season of Advent.

If more people read the Bible and gained a better understanding of God’s Story, they would be truly amazed at the amount of grace and mercy present. It is practically everywhere.

The distinction between some “god” and YHWH God has already been established. The God of the Bible does not operate how people often expect Him to function. We already Him pursue Adam and Eve in the midst of their rebellion. Yet to illustrate this again let me ask you this.

Why did God kick Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden?

Quite often people say Adam and Eve were kicked out because they sinned. Or they were kicked out because God was punishing them. However, what does the text say?

If we read the Bible this is what we see:
22 Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” 23 therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. 24 He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life. [Genesis 3:22-24]

Did you catch that? The reason God kicked them out of Eden was to keep them from the tree of life. In other words, He could not bear the thought of Adam and Eve having continual access to the tree of life, and therefore living forever, in a distorted relationship with Him.

We need to be honest; the fear of death is real. Many people are so terrified of it that they do not talk about it, refuse to go to funerals, and try and “move on” with life whenever death interrupts their daily plans. I do not think it is a stretch for you to think of a few people who would gladly eat of the tree of life as long as they had access to it.

To be clear; I am not insensitive to those who have lost loved one – whether in the distant or recent past. The truth is, losing a loved one hurts. And that is OK…it is one of many signs that a life had significance; that the person mattered.

However, we need to trust God on this one. Knowing that an eternity with a distorted relationship with Him is not an eternity worth living, in His mercy and grace God bars His children from something that would be harmful to them. He bars them from the tree of life.  

Yet notice he bars them. The text does not say He destroyed the tree of life, which was intended to be for the good of humanity. No, God merely made it off limits until the other bookend of God’s Story occurs – the new heavens and new earth. In the new heavens and new earth God’s people will once again have access to the tree of life (cf. Revelation 2:7; 22:2,14,19), and there will be no more death.

Can you imagine it? No death (nor no anything of a lot else – Rev21:4), because the Kingdom of God will have come in its fullness.

And this is where Advent comes in. Advent is an entire season leading up to the Christmas Season. And on the first Sunday of Advent (this past Sunday – 12/1) the focus was on the return of Jesus…when everything is made right in the new heavens and new earth.

So which god; a perception of a god formed out of isolated verses and personal experience? Or the God who took on flesh and came to earth as Jesus?

What a glorious day it will be, when Jesus returns and the fullness of the Kingdom of the God of the Bible is here. There will finally be true peace in that day. And in that day what God’s Story says so clearly, if we have ears to hear, will come to fruition. God’s Story says sin, death, and the current state of this world will not have the last word. No, God has the last word. This is His Story – period.

Maranatha – Come Lord Jesus!