Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Who's Your God?

Dear Friends,

Last week I was at Costco early in the day but it was already crowded. As I came around one of the shelving stacks, I saw a young woman who had stepped away from her cart to reach for something on the shelf. Sitting in the cart’s child seat and facing me was a small boy about 1½ - 2 years old. As soon as he saw me, his face lit up in a gigantic smile, he threw out his arms toward me and yelled out, “DADDY!” His mom whirled around and looked at me with panicked eyes opened wide. Her mouth opened like she was going to say something but she closed it as she looked around her and saw an audience of other shoppers now eavesdropping with grins on their faces. I was old enough to be the mom’s grandfather so it was apparent that this the little boy had confused me with his dad and they were waiting to see what would happen next in this Costco reality show. The boy still had his arms stretched out toward me and his now mortified mom was frozen in silent embarrassment. I said, “I don’t care what he says, I’m not paying you child support!” Both the mom and the crowd broke into laughter as I walked into the dairy cooler.

But on the way home I couldn’t help but to reflect back and wonder if that little boy mistook the face of a stranger for his father’s because his own father was also a stranger to him. I don’t know of course if that was their situation at home, but I prayed for the boy and his mom in case it was. I also thought about how most of us could easily recognize our daddy when we were young, but how often today that we struggle to recognize our “Daddy” – our Heavenly Father – when He shows up in our life.

We all know there is a God. His Word tells us that God has made it plain that He is real. “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – His eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” Romans 1:19-20 NIV But who is He? The Bible shows us His characteristics using words more familiar to the theologian than the person in the pew: Omniscient, Omnipresent, Omnipotent (all-knowing, ever-present, all-powerful), and in our struggle to imagine who He is, we “fill-in-the-blanks” by creating Him in our own image.

A progressive liberal friend believes that if Jesus were on earth today, He’d throw open all prison doors and set the prisoners free, legalize all drugs and Jesus would lead all the liberal democrat’s marches for justice. My friend voted for a recent liberal President who declared that God had blessed Planned Parenthood for the over 300,000 abortions that they perform every year. A fundamentalist friend believes that Jesus would build a wall on the Mexican border as was built around Jerusalem – to keep out intruders and unwanted persons. He believes that homosexuality is the sin that God hates the most and that God condemns abortion providers to hell for murdering babies. He voted for our current President who described himself as “strongly pro-life” and declared, “Every life is a sacred gift from God.” Both my two progressive and fundamentalist friends, until recently, attended the same mainline church and yet they worship completely different gods. When we don’t know who God is, we make Him look just like we do – in fact, if I was a betting man, I’d bet that your God even votes the same way you do!

Okay..So we know there is a God (remember the scripture in Romans) but how do we know God? How do we recognize our “Heavenly Daddy” from the gods that we have created in our own imagination? Can we count on the Biblical God being preached in our churches? Sometimes we can and sometimes we hear about a “God” that exists only in the far-right or far-left worldview of the preacher. 

If you’re a friend of mine, I have photographs – images (Greek: icons) – of you. It is your exact image. It’s not an air-brushed image or a cartoonish-looking “avatar.” The image of you is the accurate and precise embodiment of who you are! I love those images of my loved ones because you are known to me in your image. I see in your face the kindness that I have known through your actions. In your eyes I see the sparkle of your sense of humor. I see your strength of character. I am reminded of your intelligence, your beliefs and your faith. Your image is more than a disconnected pictorial representation of what you look like. Your image is you. And that’s how we know our Daddy God. He is known to us through His image. And His exact, mirror image is Jesus Christ. Colossians 1:15

We know Jesus from the men who lived with Him. John and Matthew wrote about Him while Mark and Luke recorded the disciple’s experiences and recollections. It’s all there in the Book that so many of us revere and so few of us read. In a 2014 survey, 56% of mainline Protestant Christians admitted that they never read their Bible and only 30% read it at least once weekly. 74% of all Catholics never or rarely read their Bible. When we don’t read our Bible, we don’t know Jesus. When we don’t know Jesus, we don’t know God. When we don’t know God, we are like the confused little boy, and we cry out “Daddy” to every “god” who comes around the corner.

Jesus tells us how we know God: “If you really know Me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know Him and have seen Him.” John 14:7 NIV Jesus is saying, “When you look at Me you are looking at God!” So you know what to do. Start looking at God. Begin at Matthew 1:1 and don’t stop until you get to Revelation 22:21. Amen?

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