The God I Want

What if we made God in our own image? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

N.T. Wright has talked about finding a book in a secondhand bookstore that he didn’t buy, but the title was intriguing. He hopes there is no misrepresentation of the book, but it was called The God I Want. Wright states that God is not the God that we want. If He was, He would be quite different.

It’s an interesting thought exercise. I decided to think about the god that I want. I was thinking today that the omni qualities would still be there, but maybe not. What if God being all-knowing meant He did not give me something that I really wanted because He knew it wasn’t good for me? Would I be willing to have such a god to get what I want?

So if I was making this god, what would he be like? Well, this god would definitely care about my prayers. He would jump to whatever request I made and be ready to meet me. I would get to be the superhero in the drama of my life, my health would be great, I would be well-known in my field, I would have a photographic memory, and he would be honoring the requests of my wife as well, provided, you know, they fit in with my requests.

This god would assure me that I enjoy a good life. Odds are I wouldn’t have to wait for a return of Christ because this god would keep me alive and young and in great health. I thought more and more about this god and realized something.

I would not be wanting to serve this god. This god would be serving me. This god would not be an object of worship. He would be a personal butler. Ultimately, this god is not god. He makes me god.

So what do I learn from this exercise?

First, this doesn’t reveal hardly a thing to me about God. Instead, it reveals a lot about myself. It also reveals a lot of things I don’t like about myself. I don’t see anything about other people so much as I do about myself. This is also our nature. Consider a movie like Bruce Almighty. When Bruce gets the power of God, he focuses on his own wants and doesn’t care about all the prayers of the other people.

Second, if Christianity were something we were making up, this is the kind of god we would likely make up. Who would really want to make up a god like YHWH? Yep. Guys would love to make up a deity that tells them they need to give of themselves and love as Christ loved the church and maintain a sexual relationship with only one woman. We would make a God who would tell us to give some of our hard-earned money and esteem others better than ourselves.

Third, it reminds me that we don’t need to go to our feelings and experiences to find out who God is. That is where we usually go. It doesn’t work. We judge God by our own subjectiveness instead of His objective revelation in Scripture, Christ, and the world around us.

Ultimately, if we had the god that I wanted, perhaps I would be happy, but most everyone else would be miserable. God may not be the God that I want. In many ways, He isn’t because of my fallen sinfulness, but He sure is the God that I need.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Experiencing the Love of God

What does it mean to experience the love of God? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Last night, my wife and I were with our church small group and we started talking about the lesson on experiencing the love of God. Now keep in mind in all that I say that I am not questioning God’s love for us. I am also not doubting that some people have very deep and profound experiences, but on the other hand, I think there are many of us out there that aren’t really experience and feelings oriented and that doesn’t strike us the same way.

And that’s okay.

When my wife and I go to church, many times I could be fine with skipping or greatly reducing the music time. The music often seems to me like a concert meant to get us to an emotional high. I also think a lot of times, we’re just saying the words and such because there are so many lyrics I hear where people sing about how valuable God is to them. Color me skeptical when I hear people talking about how excited they are about the love of God and don’t often seem to live like they know what it means.

Sometimes, it can also be a self-centered thing too. We can think about how much God loves us to make us feel better about ourselves, which to an extent is fine, but then we don’t go and do anything in response. When we do that, we’re essentially a taker in a relationship. We are in it for what we can get out of it, but not what we can give.

Many people do have profound feelings and experiences about the love of God. I would count my wife as one of them. These feelings are not constant and these experiences are not every day, nor can they be. Your goal in your walk with God is not to maintain a feeling and keep it going perpetually. It is to do the right thing for God every day and serve Him the way you ought to.

Consider it also like a marriage. Your goal is not to maintain feelings of being in love with your spouse. Those are nice when they come and you should enjoy them, but if they are not there, you are still to do the right thing. The question we have to ask ourselves in our walk with God and if married, with our spouses, is if we are treating the other one the way they deserve consistently.

I said that for me, I could cut a lot of the music. Instead, I want to get to the sermon. This isn’t to say the sermon isn’t important to others, but for me, it is the main event. Yet when I get to that sermon, I have high standards. I want it to give me more than just the basics.

The best church we had at this was The Point back in Knoxville. It was a Lutheran church and the pastors were always diligent researchers into the Scripture. I would see a serious exegesis and deep insight followed by a chance to ask questions. It was also enough that my wife, who does not get into the intellectual stuff like I do, did not think things were going over her head.

Most sermons I hear from preachers today are fluffy. They most often seem to jump immediately to application. There’s nothing about what the text meant to the hearers of the time or the historical background. Instead, it’s all about helping you be a better person. There’s nothing wrong with being a better person of course, but the Bible is more than self-help. It’s about the Kingdom of God.

You see, I am willing to admit many people are feeling-oriented, and that is okay, but sometimes I think when we talk about the love of God, we can make it awkward for others in a way that could hinder them. Those of us who are more intellectually stimulated as it were can be given the impression that we are lesser Christians. Some who are not Christians could think that if they don’t feel something, then they shouldn’t come into the Kingdom.

By the way, while we’re at it, let’s talk about this love we’re supposed to know. What is it? If love means warm fuzzies of some kind, then it’s not really an outward act. Love becomes about the way you feel about someone else and if you feel something, that is love. Love can have feelings that come with it, but love is an action. Love is seeking the good of the other for the sake of the other. That is what God does for us. That is what we are to do with our fellow man.

Some of you reading this have deep and profound feelings about your faith and what you would say are experiences. That’s fine. I’m not knocking that, but I would say don’t let them control your life or make a diet out of them. Make sure they result in actions. Many of us are intellectually oriented. That’s okay. Your charge is similar. Don’t let God just be an idea, a piece of trivia that you study with no change. Let it result in action.

If someone responds differently than you do to something, that is okay. One person is moved to act towards God by good music. One is moved by the beauty of creation. One is moved by a theological insight. One is moved by showing that Jesus rose from the dead. We’re all different, and that’s okay.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Doing The Right Thing

What do you do when you don’t want to do what you should do? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Biblically, we all know no one lives life on the mountain always. There will be times of trouble and sorrow. Bluntly, my mood isn’t the best right now. I woke up this morning not really wanting to do anything and there are times then the apologetics ministry becomes a burden. You see, I normally love doing what I do, but there can be times you wish you could go without having to interact with the rest of the world. There are times you wish that the skeptics weren’t there that you had to answer. There are times you wish that you could push the pause button and put everything else on hold. Yet I get up this morning and not too long after waking up, what do I find myself doing? Apologetics.

Note, this can happen even when you’re not really happy with what God is doing in your life. I think too often we go and put on our best church faces because Christians are always to be people of happiness who don’t have problems. Don’t know what Bible you’re reading, but the one I read seems to say a lot to people who have a lot of problems. We live in a world where everyone puts on a face which means we really don’t discuss the problems we have going on. It’s a wonder so many of us can look to study the problem of evil and how to deal with it and try to live our lives as if evil isn’t a reality.

But evil is a reality and we all know of times when it looks like the universe is not working the way we think it should. It is often thought that when God seems silent, the real pain is wondering if He’s even there. I disagree with this entirely. For those of us who know He is there, the real pain is that we know He’s there and He doesn’t seem to be doing anything. The pain is that we know that this is in fact what is good for us at the time and we best learn to grow from it somehow. There are times that quite frankly, the goodness of God is something that is awful.

So here you are and you are one who says He is a servant of Christ and you know your duty and yet there is nothing inside of you that is prompting you to do it really. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. What do you do in this case?

You do your duty.

Our culture has become so feeling-oriented that we look at our world through the lenses of our experience and feelings first. Unfortunately, the hard struggle for us is the Bible doesn’t make many allowances for us. There is nothing that says “Love your neighbor as yourself, unless your neighbor is being a jerk and then you have a pass.” “Pray for your enemies, unless they do this specific evil to you and then you can pray for fire and brimstone to fall on them instead.” “Love your wife or respect your husband, except for those times that they quite frankly are getting on your nerves and then you have an exception.” Imagine how far we can go with this. Rejoice in all things. Pray without ceasing. Study to show yourself approved. Do the work of an evangelist. This is the way, walk you in it.”

Yeah. Go through the book and see all the exception clauses you can find. There’s a story supposedly told that when a famous atheist was dying, a friend of him was surprised to come to see him on his deathbed and find him reading the Bible. When the friend asked the atheist what he was doing he got the reply of “Looking for loopholes.”

We laugh, but we all are looking for loopholes or living like they should be there. “Oh I know Biblically that I should save sex for marriage, but I really love her and we’re going to get married anyway.” “Oh I know Biblically that I should give to the poor, but there’s this item on sale that I really want this week.” “Oh I know Biblically that I am to be loving of my neighbor, but do you have any idea what the jerk did to me?” “Oh I know Biblically that I am to pray, but God is really silent so if He doesn’t care about me why should I care about Him?”

I think we’ve all made statements like this before.

And you know, this all gets harder in light of James 4:17.

“So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.”

We have this strange idea that we should do what we feel like doing or don’t feel like doing and get away with zero consequences. We fail to realize that every action we do, big or small, is building up a character, and not just in us, but in everyone around us who we interact with. We do not stop to ask what kind of person we are becoming. We all tend to think we’re the exception to the rule and that reality will treat us differently.

It won’t.

Reality is what it is and we Christians are called to live in accordance with the truth. If we start making exceptions for us, don’t be surprised if the rest of the world starts to think there are exceptions for them too.

So what is it that we are supposed to do on those days when we don’t desire to do what we ought? What are we to do when our every feeling and desire in us is telling us to not do something?

We are to do the right thing.

This is the way of the cross. This is taking it up and following Him. This is dying to our self and knocking ourselves off the throne of God and realizing that we are to live in accordance with what our master teaches and if it doesn’t seem to make sense at the time, we are to still realize that He knows best. If we have to do it while inwardly we are kicking and screaming and gritting our teeth in frustration, well we do it anyway. If we often wait until we feel like serving Jesus or doing anything that He has told us to do, then it is quite likely that we will never do what we ought.

Do you not like that?

Well quite honestly, neither do I.

But reality is not about what I like. Reality is about what is. The truth is Jesus is my Lord and I am to follow Him regardless.

He knows best after all.

In Christ,
Nick Peters