God is Good: some thoughts on God.

God is good.  God IS good.  What I mean is this: God is the definition of good.  He is: that which is good.  Further, apart from God, there is no good.  Because God is good, He is also the sustainer of all that is good. (Col. 1:17, Acts 17:28) Good cannot exist on apart from God because God is good.  However, to be clear, the converse is NOT true.  Good is NOT God.  God exists as the definer and the definition of good, but God is not confined to a definition of good that is set forward at one time or another.  Good is defined by God, but God is not thereby relegated to a definition of good.  He remains above the definition as the creator of good.  In other words, there is not an external good that God is confined to obey.

Evil, is defined as “unserviceable” or “useless.” (TDNT -“poneros”) Let that sink in for a minute… Romans 12:9 states, “Love genuinely and hate Evil!” Hate that which is useless or unserviceable. Do we do that? How much time do we waste on useless things?  Convicting eh?  Back on topic: Evil is defined as “Useless,” thus; evil is only defined by that which it is not. One can only define what is useless by ascribing a use.  In other words, without a definite purpose or “good,” you cannot define evil.  You cannot insist on an object as useless or unserviceable unless you have an established use or service.  Much like a shadow helps to define an object, so the same is with evil.  Evil helps to provide definition for the object on which God, who IS good, shines on.  The purpose or definition is not in the shadow, but is in the light’s unveiling on the object.  The shadow exists only to show you where the light is.

So where does use come from?  Where does service come from?  It comes from that which is good.  And if God is the definer of good, then service and use come from God.

Googling God

ImageIn John 8 Jesus reaches the mid-point climax of His confrontation with the Pharisees.  Up to this chapter, the religious leaders have maintained their composure and have stood in front of Jesus with some semblance of dignity.  But things are about to go bad for them.  In John 8 Jesus forgives an adulterous woman who was brought before Him as a trap and the religious leaders become infuriated with His claims to be “The Light of the World.” (v.12) Attempting to turn their eyes heavenward and to remind them of the eternal nature of their God, Jesus begins to speak of Heaven, truth and His own eternal nature.  This befuddles the religious elite and they begin to grasp at anything they can to discredit Jesus.

So, before we go any further, let’s get the issue straight.

1. Jesus has shown them that He can forgive sins and that forgiveness is not based on making the right choices in life or being good enough, but on His grace and mercy.

2. Jesus has told them that they cannot understand the light because they are not of God and are in need of Him to change their hearts.

3. Jesus has explained to them that He is the truth that can set them free from sin and that freedom is found in Him and not in self-made righteousness.

4. Finally, Jesus has explained that the religious leaders have believed the lies of the devil because they do not know the Heavenly Father.  In essence, Jesus is telling them that they are not God and they do not know God.

Now, we come to the place where someone has been confronted with a truth about God that they were not prepared to accept.  In verse 48, the religious leaders begin to come unraveled.  They attempt to grasp at anything that will discredit this God-man who stands before them.  Confronted with who Jesus is, they spit out, “Are we not right is saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon!?”  Now let’s just pause here… who would EVER answer that affirmatively?  The question is, in itself, a testament to the reality that these people don’t know God.  When we don’t know Jesus, we leap to whatever theological standpoint that would prove us right.  I like to call this, “google God.”  It happens more often today than we like to admit.  When we are confronted with a character trait of Jesus that we don’t particularly like, we often dive head first into the world-wide-web and google our theology.  What we come away with is a sad indictment on who we are and to what it is we really think makes us righteous.

The religious leaders cling to their accusations of Jesus, but the accusations are unfounded and are not based on a relationship with God and His word.  If the religious leaders had really been concerned that Jesus was teaching something heretical, they would have gone to what they knew authoritatively about God from the Scripture.  But, they don’t.  They google God.  What I mean is this: instead of seeking the authority of the Most High God to determine their answers, they take the first opposing argument they can grab hold of and throw it out in a last ditch effort to win the debate.  This is what so many people who profess Christ do in our time, we google God in an effort to find a short-cut to win a debate.  But, this is not how God works in our hearts.  God works in the tireless efforts of struggling to know His nature and find our delight in Him.  God is more evident in the disciplined heart that has labored to understand Scripture than the one who is incredibly proficient at using the internet to find satisfactory answers for a debate.  When we google God, we don’t look impressive to those who know Jesus or even those who want to know Jesus.  We look annoying and we ask questions that don’t make since, just like the Pharisees did.

So, don’t be that guy.  When you are confronted with something difficult about the character and nature of God, go to Scripture.  Google-ing God may give you a short-cut to the answers to win a debate, but it also short-cuts your journey to know Jesus more and thereby limits your ability to know Him truly.  Knowing Jesus is much more valuable than winning the debate.

Wake up early to pray and study, stay up late to study and pray, do the discipline to know Jesus.  A relationship with Jesus can’t be googled.

Top 10 Goofy Teachings I’ve Heard

I’ve heard a great deal of goofy teaching in my life.  The goofiest has come from my own mouth.  These are the top ten things I have heard people teach that I think are just goofy.

Number 10

“If you love God, He will give you a gold tie!”  Seriously… This one happened at a youth rally.  The speaker shared that God loved His children and therefore wanted to give them prosperity and wealth!  With passion he spoke about the need to live a life dedicated to the Lord.  He said, “Your lifestyle should reflect the glory of God!”  He challenged us to be mirrors of the glory of God and then drew the conclusion that God is King, we are His reflection, and we should live like kings!  Then he proceeded to tell us a story of a young man who repented from sin and came forward at one of these meetings.  The speaker said that he had led this young man through understanding of salvation and then took off his tie and gave it to the young man saying, “God is your Father now, so you need to dress like a king!”  Three years later the young man owned a fast food chain and came to another conference with the speaker, walked up on stage, and presented him with a golden tie!  His application: “if you love God, He will give you a golden tie.”  The problem with this speaker is that he didn’t’t actually know the God he spoke of.  Further, he didn’t read the whole counsel of God’s Word, just the parts he likes.  He left out the foundational character of belief and leapt to the application he wanted to be true. 

Number 9

“You don’t need to know the Bible, just to Love Jesus.”  This is a deceptive one.  The person who said it to me was an AWESOME spiritual person!  They spoke in breathy tones, they prayed often, and they never challenged what they thought about God.  Often this is the way this teaching is manifested.  Someone who looks awesome says this and we are tempted to say, “yeah! I don’t need to work hard to study Jesus, just love.”  Now let’s think about this.  I want to love my wife well…  so I spend time thinking about her and talk to her and stare at pictures I have drawn of her.  The pictures I draw of her show her deep brown eyes and red hair.  I pour out my soul to her as I speak.  But I never actually listen to her or look at her!  Is that really loving my wife?  No!  My wife has blonde hair and blue eyes!!!  Not to mention, she may know me at this point, but if this were true I wouldn’t know her!  You see, Jesus has spoken in the Bible and His character is shown in the Word of God.  If you want to love Jesus, start by knowing Jesus.

Number 8

“In order to reach people, you have to dress Jesus up!”  This one was in a conversation with another youth pastor.  He said, “if we don’t make Jesus look cool, students won’t get saved!”  He passionately implored me to offer prizes, shorten sermons, wear cooler cloths, familiarize myself with the latest technology, and put in a smoke machine.  I was dumbfounded!  I had no idea how to do ministry, but I was pretty sure this guy was off his rocker.  I went home and providentially was confronted with the Gospel for Asia quarterly magazine.  It had story after story of missionaries who had gone to the field and preached the Bible and saw entire villages get saved and changed almost overnight.  The guy on the cover was a native missionary, wearing a white button down shirt and khaki pants.  He had a Bible in his hand, bicycle at his side, and no shoes on his feet.  The story recounted how he had traveled 20 something miles on his bicycle to take the gospel to a rural village.  The whole village was saved.  It was the shoes that got me.  This guy didn’t need anything flashy to see the salvation of many!  He simply needed his Bible and the willingness to go.  He didn’t even need shoes!  Likewise, Jesus didn’t look cool.  He looked holy.  If you’re dressing Jesus up, you probably aren’t actually teaching people who Jesus is. 

Number 7

“The Bible is a road map!”  AWWWWW Yeah!  Almost all of us have heard this one.  I have even said it a few times in my life.  This is just goofy!  First, the Bible is not about this life, it is about the One who made this life!  It is not a book that is designed to help you navigate; it is the very breath of life to help you live!  (c.f. 2 Tim.3:16-17) I remember Ryan Lintleman saying, “That’s just dumb!  You need to be in your Bible every day.  Who takes out a road map and looks at it every day?”  The Bible is not a road map for life!  It is the Word of God and inherent within it is life itself!  To call it a road map is to cheapen it!

Number 6

“Take the age of a person, divide that in half and add 5 minutes: then you have the attention span in minutes of that person.”  Now, if this were true, only 55 year olds would be able to watch a show with no commercial breaks.  However, I know students that can watch 10 shows of HORRIBLE TV in a row without even moving off their couch!  Further, people go to movies all the time.  Not to mention listening to comedians.  And don’t get me started on talk radio nonsense!  I remember at my first church I had a student say, “are you gonna be preaching a short message tonight?”  In my snarkiest youth pastor tone I responded, “you have somewhere to be?”  To my surprise he said, “no, it’s just that the last two sermons you gave were only about 30 minutes and I felt like I just got going and you wrapped it up.  So could you take your time this week?”  Now before you go judging and telling me this was an anomaly, I have had multiple students do this, and they are NEVER church kids.  You know what a church kid is.  It’s the youth that grew up in church and knows the unspoken requirements.   They are usually the ones who have a restriction on how long something can be.  Non-church youth tend to just be happy they are hearing the Word of God!  The truth is that people can give what you expect from them.  If you expect them not to pay attention, then they won’t.  If you expect them to be able to engage, then they will.  There are always exceptions, but they are few and far between.  I have learned that students don’t want to be patronized, they don’t want to be talked down to, and they don’t want to be told that they can’t do something.  So, teach them however you teach them, but remember, methodologies matter very little to the students so long as they know your heart. 

Number 5

“Going to church makes you good.” This one is particularly funny when we consider that one of the basic tenants of becoming a Christian is repentance from sin.  In other words, you have to admit your that you’re not good before you can become Christian.  Therefore, churches are filled with people who are not good seeking the only one who is good (Jesus).  Good people don’t go to church.  In fact, good people don’t exist.  Further, going to church does not make you a good person.  In contrast, going to church is a recognition that one is not good and is in need of repentance.  That is what is funny about people being frustrated with church members who behave poorly.  People who are in the church are there because they recognize they are wicked and need repentance.  The difference between people inside the church and people outside the church is simply recognition. 

Number 4

“If you really love Jesus, you’ll never be sick!”  Clearly the people who espouse this kind of thing don’t actually read their Bible or live in reality.  The Bible is loaded with believers who get sick, die, struggle with disease, and even are told no when they ask God to take it away!  If we say we believe in the God of the Bible, we must admit: Job, Paul, Timothy, and John Mark make this really difficult to believe. 

Number 3

“God will never give you more than you can handle.”  I’ve heard this one all my life and believed it for several years.  However, then I watched my friends and family go through terrible things that they couldn’t handle.  I watched them struggle to overcome disease.  I watched them loose family members suddenly.  I watched them lose all their worldly possessions in natural disasters that the insurance agencies call, “acts of God!”  My pastor puts it well: “It’s not that God will not give you more than you can handle.  He does that all the time.  The truth is God will not give you more than He can handle.”  That is the truth.  In all the suffering and trials one truth remains, God is with His people.  He suffers through trial with us.

Number 2

“There is no such thing as truth and all truth is relative.”  This is actually two that I am cramming into one.  I think Ravi Zacharias does a great job dealing with this one and you could look him up for a more thorough explanation.  This idea usually comes up when discussing hot button social sin issues… issues like drinking, smoking pot, or promiscuity.  One person will say, “well maybe it’s ok for me to drink but not for you” or “I don’t feel like God would want me to marry someone without knowing whether or not we’re good in bed together.” (I actually heard this one first hand) And yet, as CS Lewis points out in Mere Christianity, people who claim there is no moral absolute will become moral absolutes in the instant you begin to affect them.  Truth is relative until you value something or until relativity begins to take a negative effect on you, then truth is absolute.  Further, objective truth is demonstrable in common every day occurrence.  Don’t believe me?  Tell yourself that a wall does not exist and try to walk through the wall that does not exist.  You’ll find out very quick that the existence of the wall in that space and that time is an absolute.

Finally, the number 1 goofy thing I have heard taught!

Drum roll

”If you’re broke, ask The Lord and He will rain down gold bricks in your lawn while you sleep!”  A teacher recounted a story of an elderly lady who did not have enough to pay her bills and she went to bed praying that God would provide for her bills and the next morning her lawn ha 10 gold bricks on the grass.  That was the whole message! He said that God wanted us all to have gold bricks.  He told us to ask for gold bricks when we went to bed!  When I asked the teacher to substantiate that story with any actual facts his response was to challenge my faith and claim that I must just not trust God. My friend (who was much quicker on his feet than I) asked the teacher if he was paid to speak.  The speaker answered in the affirmative, and my friend asked, “don’t you trust God for gold bricks?”  We were ushered away.

So what are some goofy things you’ve heard?