“If It Don’t Work Out…”?

As with most Nebraska farmers, I grew up on country music. In my teens, however, I had a conversion experience and pop music won the day. Today I listen to contemporary Christian music. But that doesn’t keep some of the old tunes and lyrics from escaping the memory vault and floating back through the floorboards of my mind. Sometimes, in spite of myself, I even hum the tune. Here is a recent example:


Kiss me each morning for a million years,

Hold me each evening by your side,

Tell me you’ll love me for a million years,

Then if it don’t work out,

Then if it don’t work out,

Then you can tell me goodbye.


So what’s the problem with those lyrics?

For starters, the grammar is terrible. Unfortunately, poor grammar has become part of our everyday language. Sometimes I wonder whatever happened to that good old contraction, “doesn’t.” Mrs. Oak, my freshman English grammar teacher, would wince to hear us say, “He don’t wear shoes” and “it don’t matter.”

Yes, I suppose you could call it poetic license. And I do understand that “doesn’t” adds another syllable and is more difficult to sing. And besides all that, lyricist John D. Loudermilk did just fine with his 1962 release without bothering to consult me.

Actually I have a much deeper problem with his lyrics. Kissing a person each morning for a million years and holding them each evening by your side sounds like marriage to me. It sounds like a genuine commitment, until we add the disclaimer, “If it don’t work out, then you can tell me goodbye.”

The lyrics reflect our times. Contemporary marriage ceremonies often become mere celebrations; the solemnity of the covenant is lost. The wedding vows often seem to reflect a choice of staying married until one or the other mates has a change of heart. No fault divorce has replaced “till death do us part” with something like “if it don’t work out.”

I remember when divorce wasn’t so easy. One of the married partners (then it was always a man and woman) had to prove just cause to be granted a legal divorce and to nullify the covenant that had been made before God and friends as witnesses. Now it’s nobody’s fault, and any old reason is sufficient to break the covenant.

If it don’t work out….

Tragically, the church has been caught up in that destructive cultural current. Fearing pushback or creating offense, many pastors choose to tiptoe around the whole subject of divorce. To do so, however, is to ignore God’s Word and the clear, specific teaching of Jesus Christ. For pastors, it’s a question of whose opinion matters most: God’s or contemporary culture’s.

Yes, divorce is a sad, ever-present reality on this broken world of ours. It has always been a problem—even among God’s people. Moses had to deal with it as did the prophets. Listen to God’s words through the lips of Malachi, explaining why God no longer accepted the priests’ offerings.

“Because the Lord was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and the wife by covenant. Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union?” (Malachi 2:14, 15; emphasis mine).

God charged the priests with having divorced their wives in order to marry younger, more attractive women—perhaps even from among the Canaanites. To do so was to defile their priestly garments with violence. Sounds very serious, wouldn’t you agree?

Note the two truths in verse 15: God had made them one, and the Spirit was involved in sealing that union between the man and his wife. If that means what it seems to be saying, how sacred is the marriage bond! “…A portion of the Spirit in their union….” With God that deeply involved and invested in something, how could we ever be so casual about it?

Divorce always affects more than a man and his wife. The Spirit of God has been violated! Divorce is the death of a relationship. It is like decapitating a head from a body. And if there are children, they also become collateral damage—often being shuttled between parents. Every holiday and family celebration tends to be painful, like picking a scab before the wound has healed.

In a word, there are no easy, painless divorces. Even divorces that are justified because of abuse and adultery are painful.

Yes, God will forgive a divorce, just as He forgives all our sins. The church must extend grace and support for the wounded and come alongside the single parent trying to be both bread-winner and nurturer without their covenant half.

So what’s the take away from this article?

I am asking churches and pastors to squash once-for-all the devil’s deceptive words: “How can it be wrong when it feels so right?”

How can it be right to casually dismantle a family unit? How can it be right to justify leaving one’s mate because someone more exciting (at the moment) has entered the stage? I have actually listened to professing Christians trying to convince me, their pastor, that God “brought” the other person into their life because He wants them to be happy. Whatever happened to being called by God to be holy as He is holy? To do the right thing because it is the righteous response? To do the noble thing. To keep a promise?

In his timely book, The Storm-Tossed Family, Russell Moore shares a story about a celebrity musician’s wife. When asked by a reporter for the secret of staying married so long, her response was stellar: “The main reason is that neither of us has died.”

For her, divorce was not an option.

“If it don’t work out” was just bad grammar in a silly lyric.


“Too Much with Us”

Many of my best ideas for these blog posts come from reading what others have said, and I always seek to give them credit.

In the May 21st edition of  Christianity Today’s, The Exchange, Mark Galli introduced Sam Kim, co-founder of 180 Church in NYC, who warns against materialism among “celebrity preachers.” (I have stated in a previous blog that those two words, “celebrity preachers” are incompatible.) Kim calls out some of these preachers who flaunt expensive Adidas Yeezy shoes in their effort to appear cool. Frankly, where I live on the economic ladder, I have never even heard of Yeezys.

Kim also refers to Christian apologist Os Guinness, who asserts that “when we look at evangelicalism today, it is the world and the spirit of the age that are dominant, not the Word and Spirit. The church in the U.S. is strong numerically, but weak because it is worldly. The church in America is in the world and of the world; and as a result, it is in profound cultural captivity.”

Those are very harsh words, wouldn’t you agree?

William Wordsworth, Romantic English poet, offered a similar lament in 1802:


This world is too much with us; late and soon,

Getting and spending, we lay waste our power; – …


Wordsworth was not lamenting materialism within the church but was challenging his culture to not ignore the joy and refreshment of spending time in Nature. If those words were relevant in 18th century England, what would Wordsworth say about 21st century American culture?

I understand Wordsworth’s lament. That’s why I choose to climb a butte several miles from town, rather than the more popular Pilot Butte in the center of our city. I am refreshed by the solitude when I am in Nature.

Let us enjoy all these good gifts that God has provided for just that purpose—to be gratefully enjoyed. Hoarding wealth, however—or wasting God-given resources on personal pleasure or image-building—runs contrary to the teaching and the personal model of Jesus in whose steps we profess to follow. Consider these comparisons: Jesus would never wear Yeezy sandals, even if they had been available in the marketplace. He would more closely resemble a homeless person. Jesus didn’t even have an address. Unlike the foxes Continue reading

“Do You Love Me?”

“How do I love Thee? Let me count the ways:

I love Thee to the depth and breadth and height

my soul can reach….”

–From Sonnet 43

Elizabeth Barret Browning, nineteenth century English romantic poet, composed those lines to express her love for Robert, her husband. I believe her poem rose spontaneously from her heart. After all, we can’t command love from another.

Or can we?

Consider these commands that God told Moses to share with Israel: “Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” (Deuteronomy 6: 4, 5, niv)

Those words, beginning with the word “hear,” were the bedrock of ancient Judaism. The passage is often called The Shema, because the first word, “hear,” is the Hebrew word shema. The Israelites were reminded that Yahweh, their God, was the one and only legitimate God. There were no competitors, except in the imagination of surrounding cultures. I believe the Shema is still foundational truth for us today. Jesus Himself declared that the Shema was the first and the greatest commandment.

So what do we learn about God from the Shema? We discover that He is the one and only God, and that we are to love Him with all that we are and have. There is no need to debate the distinction between heart, soul and might. Those three words, welded together, are a way to emphatically describe everything that we are—our totality as a person. To love God with all that I am demands passion—foot to the metal passionate love with total and absolute voluntary submission. In the word all, I see whole-hearted service lived out with gut-busting energy because of our love for God.

My mind is drawn back to a breakfast scene on the shores of Galilee after Jesus’ resurrection and before His glorious ascension. I imagine Jesus handing Peter another grilled Tilapia and looking deeply into Peter eyes asking, “Peter, do you love me?”

Peter responds almost mechanically, “Yes, I love you.”

Three times the same script is repeated. Jesus is asking Peter to take inventory of his heart. “Do you really, really love me, Peter? With all your heart do you love me?”

It is easy for me to criticize Peter and assume his problem was half-hearted love and anemic loyalty. It is also painful, because that describes me more often than not. How many times, I wonder, would Jesus need to ask me before I “fessed” up about my shallow love for Him?

I know that I am not alone. In the May 15, 2019 Christianity Today blog by Mark Galli, I was shaken out my complacency. Galli, with over 50 years of significant Christian ministry confessed:

I do remember when I became aware of a personal crisis that gave me insight into the challenge we all face. I cannot remember the time and place, but I do remember my reaction.

It may have been as the result of hearing a sermon, or perhaps reading a book. But I distinctly remember thinking that my Christian life was sorely lacking in the love of God. I didn’t have any affection for or yearning to know and love God. I wasn’t angry with him. I didn’t doubt his existence. I wasn’t wrestling with the problem of evil. I was being a faithful Christian as best I knew how. But it occurred to me that I didn’t feel any love for God.

As for myself, I have preached, taught and studied my way through Scripture.  I have visited the sick and comforted the grieving for 50 plus years. From time to time I have “met God on a mountain” and felt renewed passion and love for Him. But, far too often it been business as usual.

I believe life’s greatest challenge and privilege is to know and to enjoy God as He is.

Knowledge about God, however, doesn’t build bridges or transform lives. I hear in the crevices of my mind and sense in my heart a perceptive voice asking, “Syd, do you really love Me? With ALL your heart, soul and strength do you love me?”

I wonder, is Jesus also knocking on the doors of our churches asking to be treated as the special guest He is? Might He be saying, if we care to listen, “You have left your first love! Your love is lukewarm; I want passion. I want all you heart!”

Listen with me for just a moment….. I think He is saying that right now.

Syd Brestel on Pastor resources

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Taste and See

Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!

Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!

Psalm 34:8 (ESV)




I love pie. All pies, with perhaps the exception of mincemeat. Those of you who know me best may have heard me respond to the question, “What is your favorite pie?” with a simple, “yes.”

At this moment, our home is filled with the aroma of two rhubarb custard pies baking in the oven. Mary and I agree that rhubarb custard is one of our favorites.

I can hear somebody responding, “Ugh, I hate rhubarb pie!” My response is, “Have you ever tasted rhubarb custard pie?” The sweet custard blends with the beautiful red blush and tartness of the rhubarb. You have to taste it to see for yourself.

“Taste and see!” That was David’s invitation to seek God.

That is also the title of the seventh and final chapter of my newly released book, God in His Own Image: Loving God for who He is not what we want Him to be.

What can we expect if we accept the invitation to taste and see if God really is good? To actually discover God as revealed in the Bible? I believe it will be the most transforming experience anyone can make. That was also Jeremiah’s conviction.


This is what the Lord says:

“Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom

Or the strong man boast of his strength

Or the rich man boast of his riches,

But let him who boasts boast about this:

That he understands and knows me,

That I am the Lord, who exercises kindness,

Justice and righteousness on earth,

For in these I delight.”

(Jeremiah 9:23,24) 


Jeremiah declares that the highest calling—the noblest pursuit in life—is to know God as He truly is. Every other pursuit is a dead-end street. Our culture considers wealth, educational achievements and athletic prowess to be success. We often challenge our youth to discover their identity in these pursuits. (Some wealthy parents have even paid exorbitant amounts of money to bribe their children’s entrance into a more prestigious university.) Truth be told, money, intellectual or athletic achievements are nothing more than ladders leaning on empty space—destined to disappoint those who clamor to reach the top rung and discover no true satisfaction.

Jeremiah’s culture was no different. That is why he wrote the above challenge to the people of Judah. Because they had chosen to pursue lesser deities, they were facing imminent invasion of hoards of Babylonian troops. Then exile for the survivors.

The question we are considering today on the Front Porch Swing is “What’s the endgame if I ignore the challenge to know God as He is?”

First, we would miss the incomparable experience of enjoying eternal life. On the eve of His crucifixion Jesus linked the concept of knowing God with eternal life. Listen to an excerpt from His prayer recorded in John 17:3, “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” Can it be stated any more clearly? To know the one true God, as He has been revealed, is to experience eternal life! When we ignore Jeremiah’s clarion call to find our identity and our greatest passion in knowing God, we miss out on experiencing an incomparable life that never, ever ends. That is as serious as it is meant to sound.

Eternal life is more than simply living forever. I believe Scripture teaches that everyone will live forever. Obviously, we will not live forever in our decaying bodies but in another dimension of life than we know today. Eternal life is not only about the location where we will ultimately spend eternity, but it is also about experiencing eternal life here and now. Eternal life is quality life, not simply quantity. To know God is to love Him and to enjoy a relationship with Him. I realize that may sound a little too theoretical or mystical. How can I, the sinner and mortal that I am, even dream of experiencing a relationship with the holy and transcendent God? After all, who do I think I am?

Consider the first and greatest of all the commandments; it was an invitation as much as a command to love (to know experientially) God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength. That sounds very intimate, doesn’t it? Jeremiah didn’t call for us to simply know about God. Instead he said, “understands and knows me, that I am the Lord.” Created, as we have been, in God’s image, we have an inherent passion to know our Creator. Our soul is hungry for God. Nothing less will satisfy.

With so much at risk how did we ever get into this rat race of trying to fill our soul hunger with wealth, fame or any number of substitutes? Paul described it in the first two chapters of Romans. They had the truth about God but suppressed it. They enjoyed all of the Creator’s benefits but forgot to be thankful. The fall, having begun in the heart, has affected their intellect and will. To fill the void, after voting God out, they created gods of their own choosing. The rest is history.

Listen to Paul ‘s description in Ephesians 4:19: “They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts.” (Emphasis mine.)

Can you imagine any more tragic, more haunting words than being “separated from the life of God…?” What began in their hearts and minds became a lifestyle resulting in a death sentence, and not just physical death but what the Bible calls the “second death”—to be separated from God forever. To know God is the greatest challenge and most fulfilling experience in life.

That is why I have written the book.

Syd Brestel on Pastor resources

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Loving God for Who He Is

For the past five weeks I have introduced the book, God in His Own Image. Now that the book has been officially released for sale on May 7, some of you have or should soon receive copies that you pre-ordered. Feedback from friends who have already begun to read the book has been encouraging.

Thank you for your support if you have already purchased the book. I trust you will enjoy the book, but more importantly that you will be stimulated to meditate upon the sheer majesty of God. I pray that your love for God as He is will increase. In fact, that is part of the sub-title of the book: Loving God for who He is, not what we want Him to be.

The first part of that subtitle, “Loving God for who He Is,” is where I’d like to focus for a moment or two. What would it look like to understand and love the REAL God?

It would begin with a passion or hunger to know God personally. If knowing or understanding God sounds a bit too brash, you are correct. Who am I, or we, to think we are up to such a task? Can I trot up to the “Burning Bush God” chattering like a child waiting in line to sit on Santa’s lap? Of course not!

Consider the adjectives we use to even begin to try to describe God. Words like holy and sovereign and transcendent are reminders of the incomprehensible gulf that separates us from the REAL God. Remember how Queen Esther risked her life to approach her own husband, the King of Persia, without an invitation? If that was hazardous ground for her, then who am I, a guilty law-breaker, to dare approach the holy, almighty God of the universe.

I wouldn’t or couldn’t. Unless, of course, I had been invited!

That’s the starting point in our pursuit to know God. We have received invitations from the very King above all Kings to approach. Consider these unmistakable invites from the holy, but hospitable God:

  • Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him. (Psalm 34:8)


  • Come now, let us reason together,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.” (Isaiah 1:18)


  • “The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come.” Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.” (Revelation 22:17)


How I love that word, “come!” It may be one of the most tender and welcoming words in the Bible: “Come!”

The pursuit of God begins with the choice to accept His invitation to come. In the Garden of Eden, God called out, “Adam, where are you?” These words weren’t part of a search and rescue mission seeking information from His “lost” couple. This wasn’t a childish “hide and seek” game. The all-knowing God hadn’t lost them. These words were more rhetorical, intended to drive home a truth. Something had changed. Everything had changed. The relationship had been broken. Fear replaced intimacy. Guilt had severed them just like divorce decapitates the one flesh relationship.

But God, the great reconciler—the great lover that He is—invites us to taste and discover a relationship that will satisfy our soul hunger.

So here’s a question for us: What can we expect when we accept and worship God for who He really is, not what we want to make Him? I believe we will face challenges. We will be swimming upstream against the current of our secular, post-Christian culture. But that’s nothing new, is it? Didn’t the early Christians face persecution when they worshipped this unseen Deity in a pagan culture saturated with idolatry?

What is more disconcerting is the challenge of swimming against the current of our contemporary Christian culture with its pop theology and a safe, politically correct God. That is why I have written the book.

Sometimes, in our pursuit of God, we may struggle with disappointment. None of us enjoy waiting for much of anything. But God doesn’t operate on our schedule, nor is our agenda always His. When we can’t make sense of God’s silence, let’s trust His character. In the lyrics of a song, “When you can’t see His hands, trust His heart.”

Remember the three young men who were threatened with death in the blazing furnace because they refused to bow to the government-sanctioned, manmade image? Remember their reply to the king’s threat? “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and He will rescue us from your hand, O King. But even He does not, we want you to know, O King, we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up” (Daniel 3:17, 18). These men loved God for who He is.

I believe that setting out to know and love God will result in personal blessings:

  1. We will discover the soul satisfaction that Augustine wrote about. Our hearts will experience joy and peace. We will learn to say, “It is well,” no matter what life throws at us.
  2. We will discover and enjoy an extended family. No matter where we may travel in the world, we will meet brothers and sisters.
  3. We will discover purposeful living. Nothing that we do will be in vain.
  4. We will experience enduring hope, because we know the God who knows the endgame. No matter the life situation we can sing, “Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine. O, what a foretaste of glory divine!”

I love that word, “foretaste.” Having accepted the invitation to taste and see the Lord is good is like enjoying a tantalizing appetizer while waiting for the lavishly wonderful main course.

In other words, the best is yet to come.

Syd Brestel on Pastor resources

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Chocolate Factory Theology


Is there a God or not?

People have asked that question for millennia. Some choose to believe; others deny. Assuming there actually is a God, what difference should that make in how I live my life?

The answer, in a word, is everything!

If an all-seeing, all-wise, all-powerful, personal God truly exists, then everything I do will be—or should be—influenced by that fact. It becomes the central truth in all of life. The converse, however, is also true. If there is no God, then we are free to do as we please, creating our own perspective of what is truth, what is good, and what is evil.

In fact, how can we assume that anything is inherently evil if we have evolved from lower life forms? But if we have been created, the Creator must have had a purpose for creating us. It would seem rational to believe that we have been called to live on a higher level.

That is why I have written the book, God in His Own Image: loving God for who He is not who we would like Him to be.

If you have followed my blogs, you already know my convictions: I believe that God not only exists, but has revealed Himself to us and has a purpose for our existence. The challenge then, is to understand how we should live. To whom shall we give thanks for this wonderful gift called life?

I believe there is an innate hunger in the human heart to know God. Lacking clear revelation about Him, we try to imagine what God (or the gods) would be like. We are small children lying on our backs in the green grass on a warm, summer day with marshmallow clouds floating on a sky-blue ocean imagining what a particular cloud may resemble. “There’s an elephant! Oh, look, a bird over there! See that dog?”

Perhaps you remember playing the cloud game with your children. It was fun, wasn’t it? But one thing was certain: the imaginary dog never wagged his tail or barked. Soon the cloud morphed into something shapeless, and floated off toward the horizon.

Sometimes our imaginary description of a cloud was downright cute. However, playing the cloud game to describe what God may be like is never cute. I call it “Chocolate Factory Theology.”


Just like the lyrics from the song “Pure Imagination” in the movie Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, attempting to adapt God to fit our cultural desires is simply “pure imagination.” Willy asks, “Do you want to change the world?” The assumption is, just imagine and you can. Trying to create our own more contemporary version of God is both insulting and dangerous. And according to Romans 1:18-32, it’s actually a matter of life and death.

In last week’s blog post I mentioned the television series, God Friended Me. The issue of God’s existence, or lack thereof, was handled fairly well. However, the God in God Friended Me, became more and more culturally acceptable and politically correct in final episodes of the season. To one character God was Allah, to another a Confucian Buddha. Jewish people celebrated their view of the God of the Old Testament at a young girl’s Bat Mitzvah. Then there was the Episcopal priest representing Christianity’s version of God. The not-so-subtle message seemed to affirm that there are many ways to worship and perceive of God, with each being legitimate.

In other words, discover your own truth and you’ll be just fine.

That’s the big lie of the era in which we live.

I wasn’t surprised that a network TV series would suggest this approach. I am very concerned, however, about a similar movement among professing Evangelical Christians. Biblical Christianity is not politically correct. It is not inclusive. It is not tolerant of errors and distortions, and never has been.

The claims of Jesus Christ were and are very exclusive. Jesus claimed that He, and He alone, is the only pathway to God. He hasn’t just discovered truth, He is truth. He doesn’t just know truth, He embodies truth. Truth is Who He is. Jesus also affirmed that to know Him is to know the Father—the one and only true God.

I assume none of us really believe we can create or recreate God. None of us would offer food sacrifices to the more than 25,000 sacred black rats at the Karni Mata Hindu temple in India, would we? But aren’t we doing essentially the same thing in a more subtle manner (stay with me here) by simply ignoring or diminishing some of God’s revealed attributes? Isn’t that what we are doing when we pick our favorite attributes of God, such as love, grace or mercy, and ignore the rest?

Yes, God is love. But God is more than love. He is also holy, just and, yes, even severe. We have been commanded to respect and even fear God, but also to love Him by obeying His commands.

I am convinced that trying to imagine God is not pure imagination; it is impure imagination at its core. Wasn’t that the serpent’s spiel in the garden?

Perhaps you have witnessed examples of this attempt to make God more “safe and gentle” at the expense of His holiness. I am encouraging you to help maintain the fences of truth about who God really is. I suggest a few tools to help understand and defend the truth about God.

First, read the Bible as it was meant to be read: as God’s revelation of Himself. Accept Him as He presents Himself in His Word, in His Own Image.

Read a good theology book by a conservative scholar such as Wayne Grudem to help you understand the terms we use to describe the indescribable God.

Listen to Chris Tomlin’s song, “Indescribable.” (I share a link to the song below.) Meditate on the adjectives Tomlin uses to describe God, words such as incomparable, untamable, undeniable and uncontainable.

All of these words beginning with the prefix “un” tell the story of a God beyond limits, a Father, Creator, Savior, and Counselor far greater and more wonderful than human minds or words can describe.

Finally, I humbly suggest you read the book, God in His Own Image. I have chosen to write to and for the average Christian or church attendee, not the theologian. I have tried to put truth on the lower shelf so anybody can understand. I would be pleased if the book can provide just a little more light to help point readers in the right direction.

As I write this morning, I just received word that the first copies of the book have been shipped to our home. We can hardly wait for the FedEx package to be delivered to our front porch.

Meanwhile, the book will be officially released for sale on May 6th. Why not pre-order, so you can start the journey of discovering more about our Great God?

You can pre-order the book at these addresses: Christianbook.com ($10.95); Amazon.com ($11.12); barnesandnoble.com ($11.12). Check your local bookstores as well.

Thank you for your support.

Enjoy Chris Tomlin’s praise of our indescribable God by clicking below:

Chris Tomlin Indescribable




Solving the God Problem

I confess that when Mary and I first checked out the television program God Friended Me, it was with skepticism. How could a major television network like CBS present a series about God without messing it up?

The series is based around a young blogger, Miles Finer (played by Brandon Michael Hall) who uses his blog to promote his skepticism about God’s existence. One day Miles receives a mysterious text claiming to be from God. Convinced the text is a hoax, he sets out to discover the true source behind the “God text.” In each episode Miles receives another “God text” and is always surprised by “coincidental” events pointing to the possibility of God.

Miles’ search for the answer of who is behind the “God texts” is a picture of each one us. We are born with an innate curiosity to know if there is a God somewhere out there in that awesomely big, beautiful universe. Wherever you may travel, there is evidence of this hunger to know about God. Religion is everywhere. It survives every attempt to destroy it—whether through intellectual skepticism or religious persecution.

Last week I shared about my Cosmic Cop, the imaginary God of my childhood and adolescence. He was severe. I seldom felt His love nor could I describe Him as a close friend.

Apparently, I am not alone.

I have a good friend with whom I have shared both delightful and difficult life experiences. Responding to my Cosmic Cop description of God, he responded in an email: “I’ve experienced a lifetime of guilt as a child, and knew in my heart that God was always severely disappointed in me—even though God’s Word told a different story.”

It almost seems both of us may have been raised in the same local church. We weren’t, but we shared the same view of God.

Today I serve and worship the God who is kind and severe, loving and holy. I have discovered God as He truly is, or as the title of my book has it, God in His Own Image.

Recently, I was challenged to write a series of blogs promoting my book. I was encouraged to share three or four steps to help the reader solve the challenge of knowing God. My initial response was to push back, because the book doesn’t offer a recipe with three or four sure-fire ingredients to satisfy our soul-hunger. The challenge is too significant to wrap up with three cute, alliterated bows like a birthday present.

Honestly, I had misinterpreted the suggestion. Rather than a few sure-fire ingredients, the challenge was to offer some basic, universal steps to help a reader embrace God as He truly is.

So here are some basic suggestions to solving the God problem:


First: Humble Myself.

Admit I am incompetent to solve the God problem. I am like a third-grade boy playing a one-on-one pick-up game against Michael Jordan in his prime.

Left to myself I am a blind man, lost in the Carlsbad Caverns trying to feel my way out. I have lost my white cane that was so handy on the outside. I grope my way down endless side passageways with dead ends—including some with severe precipices ready to snuff out my life. I need a guide! Somebody who knows the way out, somebody with a lantern.

Without a guide or without a light I will inevitably create a deity that resembles me. And that is idolatry. The images we make may take on unique forms, but each one will reflect an unreal, inadequate God who is always changing and never fully up to the difficult challenges in life.

Thank God, we do have a guide. We have a light to show the way. The psalmist declared: “Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path” (Psalm 119:105). There it is! The Word of God is our guide.

Psalm 19 celebrates the evidence of God’s handiwork in Creation, whether innumerable stars or a harvest moon or a stellar sunrise. Beginning at Psalm 19:7, the focus is on God’s written Word.


The Law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul.

The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple.

The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart.

The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes.  

(Psalm 19:7-8)

I always feel a distinct thrill when I read about or watch a video about a remote tribal group receiving the first copy (or portion) of a Bible in their mother tongue. It’s celebration time, because the light has come!

If you want to know what God is really like—to really and truly solve the God problem—read His Word, because it reveals God as He is. Open its pages and see Him in His majesty, unlimited in power, perfect in every way, yet gentle, humbling Himself to come down to seek, serve and save people like me. Like you. This certainly is not the Cosmic Cop I once dreaded.


Second: Trust My Guide.

Like most men, I don’t like to take time to read an owner’s manual or follow enclosed assembly instructions. Just hand me the tools and let me get at it! Whenever I charge into a project like that, with banners flying and bugles blowing, I usually end up sounding retreat, and regret my haste. I discover at step number seven that I skipped number three. Now it’s time to disassemble and start over again!

It is not only foolish but impossible to try to solve the God problem on our own. The task is too great. That is why He gave us the owner’s (I say that realizing it sounds almost trivial) manual, His Word, to introduce Himself to us so we can know Him. Having a copy or two of God’s Word laying open on the coffee table, however, is no guarantee of success. I still have to follow the instructions. And I must not only read what God has said about Himself, but also accept what God has said about Himself—even when it seems difficult.


Third: Accept the Full-Meal Deal

To know and to enjoy God—here and now and forever and forever—I need a balanced diet. I must accept God in His own image, not in the way I might wish to re-create Him for my convenience. God’s attributes are not products displayed on an end cap in my favorite supermarket. I can’t pick and choose my favorite brands; it’s all or nothing. Anything less is just another idol.

Matt Redman described it so well in the praise song, “Let My Words be Fews.” Whenever we discover God—the great, transcendent God dwelling in heaven—our natural, human response is to feel overwhelmed and breathless. So, let our words be few. “I love You, too.”

If I were to slip in one more suggestion, it would be to read the book, God in His Own Image. You will be challenged to “taste and see that God is good.”

Oh, by the way, Miles, yes God truly has “friended” you.

In fact, He has friended each one of us.

Let My Words be Few by Matt Redman