Wednesday, July 24, 2013

God: A Nuclear Blast or a Protective Bubble?

If you read my previous post, you know that I have been running from God.

Last week, I met with a spiritual mentor of mine. Although I gave some intellectual reason for meeting with this man, I could not ignore the nagging fear lodged in my heart. At the time of the meeting, I was incapable of coherently discussing anything lofty with him. I finally broke and out gushed my broken relationship with God.

How do I view God? I described Him as the sun or a nuclear blast; something huge and destructive. If He get too close to me, He will envelope me and I will fry.

We are instructed to fear God. But the Bible also describes another characteristic of God: Love. Somewhere along the way, I seemed to have misplaced this in my understanding of God.

My mother told me a few days ago that I seem to be believing in the God described solely by the Old Testament; rather than incorporating the Incarnate Son of the New Testament. I have to admit that this is true; I find it easier to wrap my head around the Old Testament descriptions of יהוה . Plus, it probably doesn't help that I was in the middle of reading Jeremiah: "O LORD, you have deceived me, and I was deceived; you are stronger than I, and you have prevailed" (20.7).

Anyway, my mentor told me to ask God to show me who He really is--since it seems that my view of Him is faulty.

It is difficult to do that kind of thing--especially with Jeremiah's words ringing in my ears--and a variety of doubts plaguing my mind.

Just last night, I realized how much I feel my views pulled in opposite directions. I keep seeing two sides of God, and I struggle to connect them. Where is the middle ground? Is God some kind of hybrid of the two (in that humans have jumped to extremes)? Or does He miraculously hold two sets of seemingly opposing character traits?

I decided to read through Hebrews yesterday--figuring something in the New Testament would be more along the lines of what I needed; rather than Old Testament fire-and-brimstone. But--silly me--Hebrews is full of warning passages about falling away, and it includes many references to the Old Testament. I was especially frustrated with this line: "for our God is a consuming fire" (12.29). Great--this seems to only confirm my fears. Thanks, God.

Needless to say, I finished Hebrews in the same stand-off-ish place that I had begun.

Enter: this morning...

I came across this in God Calling (I am sure I have stated before that I struggle with this book to begin with, but I am determined to stick with it): "Keep close to Me and you shall know the Way because, as I said to My disciples, I am the Way. That is the solution to all Earth's problems. Keep close, very close to Me. Think, act, and live in My presence. How dare any foe touch you, protected my Me! That is the secret of all Power, all Peace, all Purity, all influence, the keeping very near to Me. Abide in Me. Live in My Presence. Rejoice in My Love. Think and Praise all the time. Wonders are unfolding."

The general thought process after reading anything out of that book: I am horrible at this--all of it. I didn't feel peachy after reading that.

And yet, there was a small voice, which asked: Could you possibly envision God as a protective bubble--that still envelopes you? But instead of frying you, it keeps you in your own skin and protects you from harm outside?

That small voice was quickly countered: "for our God is a consuming fire!"

I had to go back to Hebrews. This time I read the whole section over. I will record it here in ESV, which is what I initially read it in:

"For you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them. For they could not endure the order that was given, “If even a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned.” Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I tremble with fear.” But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.
See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven. At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire." (12.18-29)

Now, to be honest, I didn't understand what I was reading at first. I couldn't get past the references to "blazing fire," "darkness," "gloom," "fear," "judge of all," "blood of Abel," "shook the earth," and "consuming fire." Honestly, with my focus on those words--rather than stepping back from my emotional response--I felt the whole section reinforce my feelings.

But--thankfully--something kept tugging at me: what if you are missing the point?

I tried the passage in the NASB translation. No better; they are both literal. So I drifted toward a more dynamic version: New Living Translation. This provided a better view of what I was reading:

"You have not come to a physical mountain, to a place of flaming fire, darkness, gloom, and whirlwind, as the Israelites did at Mount Sinai. For they heard an awesome trumpet blast and a voice so terrible that they begged God to stop speaking. They staggered back under God’s command: 'If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned to death.' Moses himself was so frightened at the sight that he said, 'I am terrified and trembling.'
No, you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to countless thousands of angels in a joyful gathering. You have come to the assembly of God’s firstborn children, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God himself, who is the judge over all things. You have come to the spirits of the righteous ones in heaven who have now been made perfect. You have come to Jesus, the one who mediates the new covenant between God and people, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks of forgiveness instead of crying out for vengeance like the blood of Abel.
Be careful that you do not refuse to listen to the One who is speaking. For if the people of Israel did not escape when they refused to listen to Moses, the earthly messenger, we will certainly not escape if we reject the One who speaks to us from heaven! When God spoke from Mount Sinai his voice shook the earth, but now he makes another promise: 'Once again I will shake not only the earth but the heavens also.' This means that all of creation will be shaken and removed, so that only unshakable things will remain.
Since we are receiving a Kingdom that is unshakable, let us be thankful and please God by worshiping him with holy fear and awe. For our God is a devouring fire." (12.18-29)

I realized I had been missing a lot in my emotional response state (for Hebrews is exactly the book I needed to be reading).

The author is setting up a contrast between Mount Sinai and Mount Zion, which most likely represent the old covenant and the new covenant--the covenant of the Old Testament versus the covenant prophesied in the Old Testament and realized in the New Testament. And what is the differing factor between them? "Jesus, the one who mediates the new covenant between God and people."

The author points out that God is still God. The "devouring fire" statement at the end is a reminder of Mount Sinai. However, we are covered in the blood that speaks of forgiveness rather than vengeance.

Therefore, God is both a nuclear blast and a protective bubble. Under Jesus's mediation, I am protected. I get to experience God at Mount Zion; rather than Mount Sinai. But--as the third paragraph points out--if I reject Jesus, I am subject once again to the nuclear explosion, and I will be fried.

Looking back at the rest of Hebrews, the author goes to great lengths to prove Jesus's supremacy as our High Priest before God.

Can I trust Him?
Can I trust Jesus?

The Holy Trinity is One. Jesus is just as much the character of יהוה as the fire-and-brimstone God of the Old Testament. God holds himself in perfect balance. Yes, He is a nuclear blast; but He is also a protective bubble. It is up to me which I will choose to experience Him as.

The Way has been laid out before me. Will I follow Him inside of His bubble? Trusting that He will preserve me in His Love?

Friday, July 12, 2013

You Cannot Hide

"And one cannot simply think about God in one's own strength, one has to enquire of him. Only if we seek him, will he answer us." --Dietrich Bonhoeffer

I've stopped inquiring of You, God. I suppose it is mainly because I am doubting the "rightness" of what I've done in the past. I'm doubting my relationship with You. Was it all just based upon emotions? I feel like my relationship with You has never been the same since that fateful (faithful?) night that You met me in my memory. Why did something like that push me away from You so much? Maybe it was partly because You showed me Your realness and Your power. I backed away. Originally in anger. But deep down below that anger was fear. Because You revealed to me, without a doubt, that I am not in control of my own life; YOU ARE. And I have absolutely no say in the matter. Even now that I have pulled away from You--holding You at an arm's length--I know that You are still there. I know that You are still watching me. I am certainly not going to curse You. Nor am I going to deny that You exist. I know that You are my Creator and my Master. I can't even deny that You are my Deliverer/Savior. But where our relationship gets cloudy is Father and Friend. Heck! I can even see Lover. I mean You keep proposing to me--down on one knee--every time You catch a hold of me. And yet I doubt You. I doubt Your ability to be gentle in Your intimacy and genuine in Your favor. A father favors his daughter above himself. A friend is gentle in his care. But a lover only seeks to possess. A lover seeks only to rape me of my identity and then to become master over me. And so I run. I cannot hide. But I run. 

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Are We Still Dangerous?

Followers of יהוה used to be dangerous.
We used to be a threat to the ruling powers of this world.

Think of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.
"Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, 'O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.'" (Dan. 3:16-18)
Think of Ester.
"Then Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, 'Do not think to yourself that in the king's palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father's house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?' Then Esther told them to reply to Mordecai, 'Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my young women will also fast as you do. Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish.'" (Ester 4:13-16)
Think of Daniel.
"Then the presidents and the satraps sought to find a ground for complaint against Daniel with regard to the kingdom, but they could find no ground for complaint or any fault, because he was faithful, and no error or fault was found in him. Then these men said, 'We shall not find any ground for complaint against this Daniel unless we find it in connection with the law of his God.' . . . When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously." (Dan. 6:4-5, 10)
Think of Jesus, himself.
"Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there with a withered hand. And they watched Jesus, to see whether he would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse him. And he said to the man with the withered hand, 'Come here.' And he said to them, 'Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to safe life or to kill?' But they were silent. And he looked around at them with anger, grieved a their hardness of heart, and said to the man, 'Stretch out your hand.' He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. The Pharisees went out and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him." (Mark 3:1-6)
Think of Paul.
"Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one--I am talking like a madman--with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked  a night a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant? If I boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, he who is blessed forever, knows that I am not lying. At Damascus, the governor under King Aretas was guarding the city of Damascus in order to seize me, but I was let down in a basket through a window in the wall and escaped his hands." (2 Cor. 11:23-33)
Think of the Early Church. 
"Polytheists’ belief in the power of the gods, their desire and need to be worshipped by humanity, and the fear that society would lose the gods’ favor or be destroyed in retribution, made this a frightening prospect. Just a couple intransigent Christians who refused to make these offerings, could put everyone ... from the town to the province to the entire Roman state ... at risk. For some, this made their very presence a danger." (
Think of Martin Luther
"Since then your imperial majesty and your lordships demand a simple answer, I will give you one without teeth and without horns. Unless I am convicted of error by the testimony of Scripture or by manifest evidence...I cannot and will not retract, for we must never act contrary to our conscience....Here I stand. God help me! Amen!" (
Think of Dietrich Bonhoeffer
"The man who felt all the force of the pacifist position and weighed the 'cost of discipleship' concluded in the depths of his soul that to withdraw from those who were participating in the political and military resistance would be irresponsible cowardice and flight from reality. 'Not,' as his friend Bethge says, 'that he believed that everybody must act as he did, but from where he was standing, he could see no possibility of retreat into any sinless, righteous, pious refuge. The sin of respectable people reveals itself in flight from responsibility. He saw that sin falling upon him and he took his stand.' Here he acted in accord with his fundamental view of ethics, that a Christian must accept his responsibility as a citizen of this world where God has placed him." (Introduction to Bonhoeffer's Life Together by John W. Doberstein)

Why were these followers of יהוה so dangerous?
Because they looked to יהוה as their highest authority.
"And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell." (Matt. 10:28)

But Christians are no longer dangerous.
Because we are filled with fear.
Fear of fellow man.
Fear of our own perceived neediness.

But what if this neediness is just a lie?
What if this neediness is really just an exaltation of our own psychological desires and lusts?

What would happen if we stopped focusing on the temporal and looked to the eternal?
What would happen if we stopped focusing so much on our humanity and looked to our adoptive, divine inheritance?
What would happen if we stopped focusing on our psychological needs and looked to the spiritual blessings of our sovereign Master?
What would happen if we stopped focusing on "me" and looked to "Him"?

What would happen if we stopped living as if we are chained to this world and instead realized that we are free?

We would be . . . dangerous.

From "Darkest Valley" by Group 1 Crew:
"Now I'm a PC but with a MAC face.
Too smart to get caught up in the rat race.
I don't need the cheese.
I don't need my life fast paced.
I don't need the lights.
I don't need to play the hard case.
All I need is you.
All I need is simple blind faith.
Now my eyes are open seeing HD.
Definition of a prodigal who has been set free.
I can tell you stories
Where this world has tried to take me
through the darkest valley.
But His grace was there to save me."

Are we dangerous?
Or are we too worried about gaining acceptance, affirmation, love, happiness, etc.?
When we focus on those things, we are completely enslaved by the people in this world because they are the gatekeepers to our psychological fulfillment.
Our hands become tied behind our backs.
We are no longer as effective in God's army.
We are no longer dangerous.
We are just like everyone else--
only a nullified threat to the kingdom of Darkness.