God: What are you Expecting?

Expectations do not dictate reality. I’m going to start off with a short passage of scripture. My dad shared this with me the other day, and it sparked these realizations in me.

John 20:15-20, “‘Woman,’ Jesus said to her, ‘why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?’ Supposing He was the gardener, she replied, ‘Sir, if you’ve removed Him, tell me where you’ve put Him, and I will take Him away.’ Jesus said, ‘Mary.’ Turning around, she said to Him in Hebrew, ‘[Teacher].’ ‘Don’t cling to Me,’ Jesus told her, ‘for I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to My brothers and tell them that I am ascending to My Father and your Father—to My God and your God.’ Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord!’ And she told them what He had said to her.'”

Now, based on my first sentence, most of you could probably guess where I plan on going with this. I was to focus on one word: SUPPOSING. Mary just assumed that Jesus was an ordinary gardener because she was expecting him to look and be a certain way. Mary expected Jesus to be dead and buried, so she did not even see Jesus when he was right in front of her face.

Although it may not be in a physical sense, we do this too. We expect Jesus to appear to us a certain way. We expect God to be a certain way. And those expectations built around human understanding and our own knowledge are often what lead us to miss God. Sometimes we are looking for God so hard that we miss what’s right in front of our faces. I am not by any means suggesting that it is possible to seek God too much. I am simply stating that sometimes we are seeking our own image of God, and that can make us miss the real one.

I am going to take this even a step further. Is this not a form of idolatry? If we are seeking our own image of God, is that not the same thing as not seeking Jehova God? If we start giving God characteristics that we simply wish for him to have, we are creating god. There is a quote that was shared in my philosophy class a while back that has really stuck with me, and it goes along perfectly with what I am talking about. Voltaire said, “If God has created us in his image, we have returned him the favor.” That hit home with me. It still tears my heart up when I read that and meditate on it.

We earnestly and desperately reach for a God that is not the God of the Bible. We simply give him the same name. We reach for a God that doesn’t send people to hell. We reach for a God who does not punish our sins but punishes everyone else’s. We reach for a God who will bless us. We reach for God who does not ask anything of us. We reach for a God who is easy to reach for. We reach for the God that will get us A’s on tests and help us win basketball games. We reach for a God who we have constructed in our own minds. We reach for us and call it God.

If the God that you are seeking is not the God of the Bible as he describes himself, you are not following the God that will redeem you. We need to stop getting so wrapped up in our theologies and our hopes of what God should be like. We need to read the scripture and find out who God is. God will reveal his character to us, but first we have to let go of all of our presumptions on how God really is. We must stop worshiping ourselves.

I don’t know if anyone else feels like this, but I certainly do. I have prayed about this for years, and I feel that this is a righteous anger. Sometimes this anger is even directed at myself, so it’s not just me bashing the church. I get angry when I hear churches worship sometimes. I listen to the lyrics of certain songs, and all that runs through my mind is, “This is not the gospel.” If a visitor came to your worship service or to your church, and all that they heard was your music, would they be lead to Jesus or some worthless construction of a god? When they listen to your songs, what matters more, how you sing it or what you are singing? I am sure that God cares more about the words, the meaning behind them, and your heart when you sing them. I get passionate about this. It almost makes me sick sometimes when I listen to certain songs in the church because I will put myself in an unbeliever’s shoes and know in my heart that they are not being lead to the God of the Bible.

We often seek to draw people’s attention to God with how pretty our voices sound or how great we play guitar. We focus on making everyone stand up and sing these songs we have created. I feel like often times we worship the song more than the God who the song is supposed to be about. This could honestly be an it own post altogether, but I will stop ranting now. I think my point has been made.

To sum this up, though, what I am getting at is that in everything we do, we seem to be creating God in our likeness, rather than being molded by him for his glory. Just because we expect God to be a certain way doesn’t make him change. It just draws our attention away from the true God and his glory, and on onto ourselves and our own glory. I know I went off on a mini-tangent there, but I will tie this all in. Just be patient with me.

The point. Whether we are singing songs or just living life, we must ask God to reveal his character to us, not suppose God to be a certain way. Our human minds cannot comprehend the true nature of God. We have to stop filling in those empty spaces with our own thoughts, and instead fill them with faith that God is good.

God is. We must let him be.

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Myth: The God of Karma

Okay, the title might be kind of misleading. Just stick with me here! This will (hopefully) make sense as you read.

Often times, it seems that Christians fall into this ideology that God is a god of karma. We may understand that our works do not save us, but often it seems that we believe that our works will make God love us more or bless us more. This is simply not true. Remember, I have said this before, but Satan only tells lies when they are almost the truth. Our works matter and God blesses us, but these are not related in the way we seem to think they are. Let me explain.

For some reason, as Christians, we tend to fall into this rut of “I am doing all of these things right, but God hasn’t ____.” We believe that our attempts at pleasing God should be met with God bestowing happiness and blessing upon us. This is not the case at all. Jeremiah 17:7 says, “The man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence indeed is in the Lord, is blessed.” Now, you may be thinking that that means when we trust God, all of this happiness and rainbows and butterflies are just going to come pouring over us.

Reread this verse. The man IS blessed. It doesn’t say that the man WILL be blessed. Although this may appear to be just a small grammatical difference, this is huge. God does not bless the man who trusts in him with things or gifts or anything like that. The man’s blessing comes simply from being in the presence of God. I think that we often forget that being in God’s presence is the greatest blessing of all. That is fulfillment. That is abundance. That is blessing. That is love. That is where we find ourselves. That is where we are complete. That is the only place we are complete. What more could you ask for?

This issue can also be approached from a different angle. The idea of karma is that one can essentially put the universe (or whatever higher being) into his or her debt. The reason this does not work with the idea of the God of the Bible is that Jehova God can never be in our debt. He doesn’t owe us anything. Everything is already his. You cannot make God owe you. You can’t try to do all of things right and then expect some sort of reward. The reward for loving your neighbor is peace, fulfillment, completeness, not an A on the math test you didn’t study for or a little extra money this month. That isn’t how God works. He’s not a credit card. He’s the creator. He’s the savior. No matter what we do in this life, we belong to God. God doesn’t belong to us.

We need to stop seeing God as synonymous to karma. God doesn’t just bless the good and curse the bad. His will, his purpose, his nature is far more complicated than that. We limit God by expecting happiness from simply doing the right things. When we do what is expected of us, that doesn’t merit reward. That’s simply what you were supposed to do.

For the visual learners out there, I am going to apply this to my dad and basketball yet again (big surprise, huh?). My dad was the kind of coach that didn’t get excited too easily. We often saw him standing on the sidelines with his arms crossed in front of him, subtly chewing on a piece of gum, and either nodding or shaking his head ever so slightly. If my dad shows a lot of emotion, it’s serious. You either did something so unbelievably awful that he felt the need to act it out, laugh at you, and sub someone else in, or you did something so great that all he could do was chuckle to our assistant coach and give you a thumbs up. Anyways, THE POINT: If we ran a play correctly, my dad didn’t get all excited and give us all some candy and throw a party for us. He would just nod his head because it was expected.

The same is true for God. God expects us to seek him. Obviously, he knows we are imperfect, but his standard is that we will seek him. Our reward for seeking God isn’t the blessings along the way. Our reward is in heaven. Our reward is to receive exactly what we are searching for. Our reward is God.

A Place Only You Can Go

So one of my favorite songs of all time (which is saying quite a bit) is Needtobreathe’s song A Place Only You Can Go. I love this song for many reasons, but the most moving and most truthful lyric I have ever heard is in this song. It says, “Grace she comes with a heavy load / Memories they can’t be erased / Like a pill that’s swallowed that makes me well / But leaves an awful taste.”

This one particular line often flutters around in my head. My conscience uses this lyric on me constantly. It reminds me of Romans 6, which is such a difficult yet profound chapter of scripture.

For those of you who are not familiar with this chapter, the beginning goes a little something like this, “What should we say then? Should we continue to sin so that grace may multiply? Absolutely not! How can we who died to sin still live in it” (Romans 6:1-2)?

Those two verses kill me sometimes. The most common lie the devil likes to tell me is this: “It’s okay. Just see what this is like. You can have grace later.” Romans 6 absolutely destroys this lie. So many times in my life, I have done things while thinking “I can always be forgiven later.” This is a terrible aspect of the human condition, but it is remarkably real in my life especially.

Going back to that Needotbreathe lyric. “Grace she comes with a heavy load / Memories they can’t be erased / Like a pill that’s swallowed that makes me well / But leaves an awful taste.” Grace cures, but memories don’t just die. Yes, I 100% believe that I have been forgiven for everything I have done, am doing, and will do. However, just because I have been forgiven of those things doesn’t mean I don’t still think about them. Even once the guilt and shame have been overcome through Jesus’ grace and forgiveness, there are still the memories of the things that I have done. I am not the same person because of things I have said, my mistakes, and choices I have made.

Sin isn’t an idle thing. Sin isn’t just something that you do that you need forgiveness for. Sin eats you alive, even after the actions have ceased. Sin destroys you. Sin changes you. Sin makes you see people differently. Sin makes you see God differently. The deeper you get into sin, the more grace you may receive, but the more difficult it is know what is true and what isn’t. Sin is darkness. Lies are darkness. One cannot focus on truth while living in sin. We say we have died to sin. Although, people still makes mistakes, and though we are all still growing and learning, sin is not something to be teased. Don’t play around with it. Sin is death. God meant that when he said it.

God is not trying to limit your life or keep you from doing things. God doesn’t want you to be hurt by your sin. God doesn’t want to see his children die from the inside out. God doesn’t want to see darkness take over you. God wants your life to be abundant. John 10:10 says, “The thief comes only to steal and to kill and to destroy. I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance.” God’s rules are not legalistic. God’s rules are to make your life more abundant.

I know from personal experience that this is true. I have lived many years in darkness. I have returned to that same darkness many times, and each and every time it becomes more difficult to escape. Grace becomes harder and harder to swallow the more we live in sin. I am not saying that not sinning will make you happy all the time. I am saying that life will be much more fulfilling without sin and without the memories of sin.

God’s grace is beautiful. Just be careful not to sin with the thought that grace will follow. If you’re thinking about grace before the sin, you know better. Mistakes happen. Just don’t abuse God’s grace. It will only leave you empty and hurting.