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.
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.