27 October 2011

Off the Ceiling? Maybe Off the Wall....

'I feel like my prayers are just bouncing off the ceiling.'

I've heard this one. Most of us have. We may have even uttered it from time to time. While I understand the sentiment, and that it is genuine at times, it reflects a horrible failure to grasp some basic theology.

First, God is not (solely) 'out there.' God is with us. A few verses state this point clearly.

"The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit." (Psalm 34:18)

"The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth." (Psalm 145:18

"Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you." (James 4:8a)

We miss a crucial point when we posit our heavenly Father "somewhere out there." "Our father who is in heaven" could be rendered, "Our father who is as close as my next breath, and as all around me as the stars up above." We are so afraid of being pantheist (God in everything) that we try to drive him totally out of our surroundings for his own safety.

Secondly, we, as believers, we have God within us. Let us not forget the Trinity--Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The third person of the triune godhead lives within each believer. We are in-dwelt by the Holy Spirit. I'm not sure what that typically means to you, but if we take the doctrine of the trinity seriously, it means that God is within us.

The logical deduction from this is that our prayers don't even have to pass our lips, let alone make it to the ceiling to come before the throne of grace.

"Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God." (Romans 8:26-27)

The Spirit can do this because the Spirit is within us, cohabiting with our own spirits. (Which makes you wonder how on earth we could ever think we could hide anything from God.)

All of this, of course, is why we can pray "in our heads" and still be heard. So, if you're praying silently anyway, how could your prayer "get past the ceiling?" Because it does not need to. God is with you.

Immanuel--God with us. The gift of the Nativity. We would do well to remember it. He hears our prayers. The Holy Spirit is living in and with our spirit, and praying for us--keeping us in constant communication with God, even when we aren't consciously praying.

So, the only way your prayers can 'bounce off the ceiling' is if your theology is off the wall....I pray that is not the case.

16 October 2011

God is God

"In the beginning God…" Genesis 1:1

     Theology, rightly understood, is learning about God, it is not creating or defining God. When we look at Scripture, the first thing we are told is, "In the beginning, God." This is where all understanding, knowledge, wisdom, experience and existence has its genesis. God is the source, the author, the creator of all. Nothing pre-exists Him. He is the irreducible source of all things.

     One often hears talk about, "this or that kind of god," or, "A god that would do or allow such and such." In reality, such talk is ludicrous and nonsensical. If God is god, then there is only one God and what we think of Him is of no consequence to his identity and being whatsoever. We can either seek to believe and know the truth, or we can choose to believe fantasies of our own making.

     You may believe me to be the Easter Bunny. Your mistaken belief does nothing to change my identity. It will impact the way you relate to me. Ultimately, such a mistaken belief will cause you to relate to me in ways that are inappropriate and lead to disappointment and misunderstanding.

      We only have 2 choices in relating to God, to accept him or to reject him. To obey or disobey, to believe or disbelieve. We do not have the option to change him.

     When we discuss a "type" of God, what we generally mean is the interpretation or understanding that a particular person or group has of God. Phrases such as, "The God of the Catholics," or "The Muslim God" would be more accurately rendered as, "the Catholic conception of God," or, "The Muslim understanding of God." These may be studied, and analyzed, but they are of little value if they are not the truth. It is akin to someone who studies the "Star Wars universe." They may have much knowledge of Ewoks and Jawas and the Empire. Ultimately, however, it is of little value because it has nothing to do with reality.

     One must take into account deception from the supernatural. Satan desires to lead us astray, and if he can do that through giving us a false god to worship, he is perfectly content to do so. It is important to acknowledge that this is not just a passive pursuit, but a battle that is being waged all around us for our souls through the revealing and distorting of truth.

     Our goal, as Christians, is to understand God as he really is. This is important, because it is the God who really is who we will have to answer to. It is the God who really is who holds our destiny and existence in his power. Understanding the "God who is" is of prime importance for all knowledge and survival.

     Theology is not just a discipline, it is the primary and foundational science for humanity. To leave theology entirely to ivory tower academics is not only lazy, it is irresponsible. Assuming that God interacts with and has concern for individuals, then we, as individuals, should reciprocate the same interest toward God. Since understanding God is foundational to all knowledge, whatever our vocation or interest, understanding God is a prerequisite to right understanding and living.

     We must understand God if we are to understand anything in our world or in our lives as it truly is. We are citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven. It is not a democracy. We serve a king, we need to understand his will, his desires and his rules. We are created in his image, he does not need us to return the favor and try to create him in our image. To do so is idolatry.