In one of my previous blogs on July 1st I introduced the two most important questions each of us must face in life: “Is there a God? What is God like?”
If you missed that blog, why not check it out now? It began with Mary bursting into my office exclaiming, “Syd, look at this quote. It says the same thing you have been writing about in your book.”
So, to honor my best friend who has supported me throughout writing the book, I have replaced my picture with the two of us celebrating our 50th anniversary in a Pizza shop two years ago in Banff National Park.
Now, back to today’s topic here on the swing.
First question: Is there a god? (Please don’t correct my typing here. I have deliberately chosen to use the lower case letter “g” to allow for all alternative answers before we nail down the correct answer.) Are there many gods—each with his or her sphere of limited influence? Do we have one god over the mountains and another over the oceans? Is there a god who rules over the rain and harvest while a competitor god brings on drought and famine?
That’s a description of polytheism—the belief in multiple gods. This was pretty much the accepted belief through the millennia of human history—and describes the religion of the nations surrounding Israel. Polytheism still exists in Hinduism and many native religions and animism. So before assuming there is only one God, the God of Scripture, I have used the word “god.”
I choose to believe there is a God. One God. The Creator of everything. When you think about it, the universe is so expansive and majestic and intricate that it is difficult, if not impossible, to deny that someone had to design and create the cosmos, our planet, and all that lives and breathes. That was Paul’s conclusion in Romans 1:18-32. If it requires faith to believe God exists, and it does, I believe it takes even more faith to consider the evidence of His handiwork throughout Creation and choose to deny His existence.
Honestly, it all comes down to a rather stark choice. Either everything has come from nothing and happened by sheer chance or Some One has created it.
Second question: What is God like? Assuming (choosing to believe) there is a god/God/Deity, what is God like? That has been the challenge throughout the history of human civilization. How can any mere human left to only their limited ability ever hope to discover what God is like? They can’t. We can’t. Left to ourselves, we will always create a god in our own image. Just like each of us, god will be malevolent (mean spirited and harsh) and capricious (unpredictable, always changing with the circumstances).
Just for the fun of it, how about a little snap quiz? Yes, I know it’s always more fun for the teacher than for the poor student sweating it out at their desk. To make it easier, let’s make it a multiple choice exam. Are you ready? Here are the questions:
What do you think God is like?
● God controls every detail of my life, even the seemingly incidental things such as where I work or live or whether I will die of cancer or in an auto accident or of old age.
● God only controls the bigger, more important things in my life.
● God created the world and sort of walked away to let it run by itself, so He really isn’t personally involved in what happens here and now. We’re pretty much on our own.
Let’s try another question.
● always good and kind and loving and so full of mercy that He would never sentence anybody to an eternal Hell?
● Or is He Holy and just punishing every sin no matter how insignificant?
No matter how you answered the above questions, you could never be certain your answers were correct, unless God chose to make Himself known to us. We call that revelation—God revealing something about Himself that we could never discover unless He chose to tell us.
My early impressions about God were shaped by my experience in a very conservative church that emphasized God’s holiness and wrath. God was a Cosmic Cop—and very intimidating. I wanted His help whenever I found myself in trouble, but I never felt close to Him, like I did my friends.
I believe that may also reflect Moses’ early experiences with God. Discover for yourself by reading through the book of Exodus, beginning with Moses’ first encounter with a blazing and mysterious God at the burning bush. Moses learned one thing for certain that day on the backside of the desert: God is holy and will not be trivialized. He was not “safe.”
Years of studying the Bible have balanced my early impressions about God. I have attempted to address the question about the character or attributes of God in the book. (By the way, Moody Publishers and I have chosen the title for the book. Perhaps I will share it on a forthcoming blog.) It is my prayer that you will come to know and appreciate God more fully and personally when you have read the book.
Today, why not pause to reflect on your own personal, spiritual journey. How have your early impressions about God changed? Does He seem more merciful or more severe today? Why?
Remember, God’s attributes or characteristics are not a box of chocolates. We can’t pick and choose our favorite. God only offers the full meal deal. He is who He is. We either choose to accept and submit to Him or we put ourselves at risk of devastatingly eternal consequences when we try to make God safe.
He is not safe. But He is good. What’s more, He is always good—even when we can’t trace His hand in the experiences of our life. God is also righteous. He always does what is right. He is never unfair. Never capricious or malevolent. We can count on Him to never change. Never respond out of impatient anger.
I can love that kind of God. Come to think of it, I have no other choice, since He alone is the Almighty God creator of all and rules over every molecule in this vast and beautiful universe.
It’s not that I have to love Him. I want to. Even the “want to” is a gift from Him.