In the Silence of the Mind: December 13, 2013
The Most Important Thing You’ll Ever Read… Seriously!
Lee Brown: FaceBook l Website l Twitter l Pick up a copy of Lee’s book: Here’s How: An Introduction to Practical Discipleship
Trek back through the Silence: Anthems to Overcome the Grave; Positivity, Passion, Power, and Praise Part 1 l Part 2 lPart 3; Love Songs to God
In his beloved farce The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Dr. Who alum/writer Douglas Adams pictures a futuristic society that has found a way to seek the answer to the question. The question of life, the universe, and everything is pondered over laboriously for millions of years by an advanced computer named “Deep Thought.” At the completion of her investigative cycle, Deep Thought gives a definitive answer; “42.” After her programmers balk, Deep Thought responds by noting that it is not the answer, but the question that she needed to be able to truly figure out the answer to life, the universe, and everything.
Considering The Guide mentions one intergalactic writer’s book Who is this God Person Anyway?, one would think that Deep Thought would have stumbled across the question on its own. The fact is, Jesus of Nazareth asked the ultimate question in Mark 8 and its parallels. Looking lovingly at His vagabond group of closest followers, Jesus asks, “But who do you say I am?” This is not an inconsequential question at all. In fact, it is the question that leads both directly and indirectly to the meaning of life, the universe, and everything.
You see, every single one of us has a worldview. Think of this as a set of glasses through which one looks out to see the world. Just as a be-speckled individual cannot see anything without these images first going through the filter of their glasses; everything we see as humans is shaped by the lens of who we say God is. The way we see “this God fellow” shapes and tints the glasses through which we see everything else in the world. It matters little whether one does not believe in God, at least in the Christian usage of that word, for logic and experience dictates that such a person will place themselves or someone/thing else right back in the place that “God” usually occupies.
No matter what your personal faith or belief, the characterization you give to what you believe to be god/God/gods is the first unconscious filter through which you see all of life. And it is the exact nature of that god/God/gods that you adhere to that will shape the way you think, act, speak, and so much more. If you believe, for example, that there is no god and elevate sex, secular humanism, vanity, or even a wishfully pure idea of self-empowerment to that “God Throne,” then you will act accordingly to what you believe about that god and its demands.
However, let’s go so far as to assume that belief in God… even the Christian God… may be taken for granted among this readership. This does not automatically ensure (in fact, for some it muddles things up even more) that the question has been asked and subsequently answered. For, just as eye-glasses can become dirty, smudged, and hard to see through, our view of God can equally become smudged, and therefore discolor the way in which we see all things. It follows, then, that this Jesus of Nazareth’s question to us (by way of his First-Century followers) really becomes the question that shapes life, our view of the universe, and everything. “Who do you say I am?”
This question is explored in the second chapter of my book Here’s How: An Introduction to Practical Discipleship. As such, I am transcribing that entire chapter, below. Now, let me make a few things clear. First of all, though I stand by my title and assert that this is the single most important thing you could read (next to God’s Word itself), I am not so arrogant to think that it is my writing it down that brings any impetus to that statement whatsoever. This topic has been handled before (and with much more eloquence) by theologians like Dr. Cliff Sanders and J. P. Philips and other great souls all the way back to Peter’s enlightened response. It is the topic, not any merit of my own, that merits such a bold claim. However, since I did write it down in published form (and can therefore copy a long section without risk of plagiarism), what follows is my exploration of this very topic from my book.
Secondly, I know that copying an entire chapter of a book makes for a very long post, however I did not want this to be split into multiple posts and risk someone getting an incomplete picture (for any who dares to read the entirety). Despite its length, this is something every person (and especially every believer in Jesus Christ) needs to take to task. Lastly, since December 13th (the date of this post) just happens to mark the thirty-second anniversary of my first breath of air, if you are impacted by what you read here, perhaps you wouldn’t mind taking less than what you would spend on a latte and pick up a copy of Here’s How. This excerpt is a mere smidgeon of what you’ll find in the twelve chapters that make up the whole. You can also head over to my website for the FREE leader’s/particpant’s workbooks that go along with the book! And so with that, I give you my birthday gift to you… the question.
FREE EXCERPT FROM Here’s How: An Introduction to Practical Discipleship —————————
In his book, Making Sense Out of Spirituality, Dr. Cliff Sanders recounts the time when he and his wife Becky were going to purchase a new home. At this stage in their lives, the couple knew they would not be able to afford a large home, but were surprised when their realtor presented them with the house of their dreams and told them it was in their price range. “It was a two-story home of over two thousand square feet, and it had great curb appeal,” he recounts.
As the couple took the initial stroll through the house, excitement grew. That is, until Cliff noticed water sitting in many of the floor vents, a sure sign of structural damage. Upon inspection from a professional, the prognosis was given with the worst possible results. The foundation of the house was in bad shape. What had appeared at first to be a house of dreams turned out to be a broken home that must now be avoided like the plague. As any honest realtor will tell you, structural issues are a deal breaker. No matter how pretty the building is that sits on a bad foundation, it is already headed for ruin. Sadly, this is the case with our spiritual houses, as well.
Best-selling author Ted Dekker once noted that “what you do will flow from what you believe.” The most basic foundational element of who we are and what we do comes from what we really believe about God. This is our foundation. This single element defines why we make the choices we choose to make every single day. What we believe about God is the lens we see the rest of life through, whether we realize it or not.
So what’s the problem? If you’re reading this book (especially after the scare of having to get disciplined), you likely already believe in Jesus Christ. Your foundation should be pretty solid, right? Perhaps. That’s it. Just “perhaps.” Maybe you really do have a strong foundation to build upon that has no cracks at all. But most people don’t. Most people, even most Christians, have not taken the time to critically examine the foundation of their spiritual lives and radically test it against God’s Word.
The average believer, even ones who have followed God for many years, has built the house of their spirituality on a foundation that has serious cracks throughout. This should be alarming to us. It should cause us to call for an inspection. That is exactly what this lesson is. You’re going to be presented with the idea that your view of God is the very foundation upon which every other element of your faith is built.
I am a person who likes honesty, even if it hurts. Some call this a bit masochistic. The reality is, however, if you’re going to get what God is giving you from this lesson, you have to be masochistic enough to completely tear down the spiritual house you’ve built over many years and critically re-evaluate your foundation. If it is found that your foundation is cracked, you have to be disciplined enough (with a caring group around you) to re-pour that foundation and make sure it is done right before you allow any other piece of your spiritual house to stand again.
So, if what we believe about God (really and truly, deep down) is the foundation of our spiritual life, why should we consider what we believe about God? Author William Temple strongly states, “If your conception of God is radically false, then the more devout you are the worse it will be for you…You had much better be an atheist.” Echoing that sentiment, Dr. Cliff Sanders (to whom this entire lesson is indebted) has stated, “If there is a God, it should be your life’s business to know Him correctly for who He is and what He respects. The foundation for Christian living is knowing the kind of God that God really is.”
If you haven’t caught it yet, this is a really big hairy deal. Having an incorrect view of God is like being on the wrong path towards a destination. The worst possible thing you can do if you’re on the wrong path is to go further. Progress is actually found in doing an about-face and going back to where it all started. If you have an incorrect view of God, the worst thing you can do is become further devoted to this caricature or image.
All said and done, there are three reasons to consider what you believe about God. First, Christianity is reported to be a relationship. Christianity is not a series of rules that somehow makes you righteous before a Holy God…it is much more like a marriage covenant that impacts and sets the course of every moment of the rest of your life.
Secondly, trust and commitment are the result of knowledge. Psalm 9:10 says, “…and those who know Your name will put their trust in You.” In Biblical times, the word “name” implied more than just what a person was called when listed on an attendance roster. A name implied something about who they were. It explained the character of the person. The Bible spends an awful lot of time showing, explaining, and revealing the character of God. Our trust in Him is a result of knowing what sort of Person God is. In all honesty, we will only trust God to the degree that we trust His character.
Third, this is the cry of the human heart. There is an aching in every human being that wants to be known and loved for who they really are. As I’ve found in the Scripture, God is no different. We are simply mirroring Him in this aspect. The reason God has given mankind the free will to accept or reject Him is because He didn’t want a world of robots. God wanted a creation that could intimately get to know Him for who He really is.
As I claimed above, many people have a bad foundation. I would not hesitate to say that even a majority of those who call themselves Christians today have a serious flaw in the foundation of their spirituality. But, if this is true (which you’ll discover in just a moment) then how did we get this problem? How did our view of God get distorted?
There are two primary answers to this question. The first place we got a distorted view of God was from significant relationships early in life. Social scientists have discovered that much of how we see the world is shaped very early on by our relationship with our parents, or lack thereof. To this end, your view of God is often a direct result of your early relationship with your father. The more striking reality, however, is that the basic structure of your personality was almost entirely formed by your fifth birthday.
If your father was distant as a young child, you’ll find in your life that God, no matter how devoted to Him you are, often seems very distant. If your father was cruel and punished you for every little transgression, you’ll find that you see God as always out to get you for every wrong (no matter the size). As unfortunate or fortunate as you may have been in your early relationship with your father, that relationship has left ripples that daily affect the very way you see and interact with God.
The second area where we develop a distorted view of God is through uncritically reflecting on life. Critical thinking is not taught to growing minds any longer. As a result of this, so much of what happens to us in our lives is left uncritically considered and improperly worked through. One example of this happens often to those who have lost a loved one in a tragic occurrence. Very likely, someone will come up to this person and tell them that it was just “God’s will,” or that “God needed another angel up in heaven for some reason we simply can’t grasp this side of heaven.”
We often give too much emphasis to “God’s will” (and ironically not enough in other instances and areas). Biblically, there are three “wills” in the universe. God’s will is, of course, one of them. Your own will is a second. Then there is the will of the enemy, who is called “the destroyer.” The simple fact from Scripture is that God designed life to be a system where the will of man can thwart the will of God. Look at the Parable of the Sower and the Seed for an example of this.
When significant events happen in our life that we cannot explain, we simply chalk it up to God’s will as a way of dealing with it (in a way that we really don’t have to deal with it). Dr. Sanders says of this, “Many people begin to ascribe to God all of the terrible things that have happened in their lives…He is the answer to the unthinkable, and the sense for the senseless events in life…If we cannot explain it, we assume that God did it.” In doing this, we often attribute events to the character of God that are not really His doing or even go against his character. We uncritically reflect on life and come out with a fault in our foundation because of it.
So how do we know if we have a distorted view of God? Only critical reflection and a revelation from the Holy Spirit will show the way. The following, then, must be critically reflected upon as you ask the Holy Spirit to guide you and, like an inspector, reveal the cracks in your foundation along the way. There are five very common misconceptions about what sort of God, God is. These five distorted views of God leave your foundation, and therefore everything built on that foundation, cracked and ready for demolition. What follows can serve as nothing more than a summary of these distortions. Due to this fact, I strongly recommend picking up and reading Dr. Cliff Sanders’ Making Sense Out of Spirituality, and J. B. Phillips’ Your God is Too Small.
The summary of the five distortions begins with God as the Cosmic Cop. This distortion sees God as a vindictive policeman waiting for you to do something wrong so He can “get” you. Others correlate this God to an image of Zeus in the sky hurling lightning bolts down upon those who don’t do his every whim. This is a very common way that people mistakenly see God in their lives.
Think critically for a second. When you think of God, do you think of a God who is simply waiting for you to screw up so He can punish you? This god does not exist. This is not God as He is revealed in the Bible and it is dangerous to see Him in this light. Dr. Sanders says, “No intimacy or relationship is ever established with someone whom you fear and wish only to keep from punishing you.” The Bible does tell us that we are to fear God and that this is the beginning of understanding, but I challenge you to do an etymological study on the word used that we translate as “fear” and what nuance it has against the kind of fear that makes God look like the boogeyman. Fear in the sense of the cosmic cop jails our relationship with the true God and works to separate us from Him through iron bars.
The second distorted view of God is that of “the voice inside my head.” This is essentially breaking God down into the function of your conscience. God has given human beings a wonderful function in our neural pathways that helps us in so many ways to discern good and evil. Conscience, when broken down etymologically, literally means “with knowledge.” This is that little pinprick of insight and knowledge you feel when you perceive that something you’ve just done (or considered doing) is not right. The problem is, our consciences can become malformed.
J. B. Phillips points out that many people have confused the function of their conscience with the action of God. Our conscience, like everything in life, can be molded to one extreme or the other. When perfectly in harmony with how God designed it, our conscience can be a tool that warns of actual spiritual danger; however, it can also become neglected until it is dull and unaware. Like Pharaoh in his dealings with Moses, our consciences can become scarred and seared by the sin we allow into our lives. Think of, in an extreme example, serial killers, who often admit they have felt nothing wrong in their actions. Sin can scar our conscience and beat it like tough leather into a shape where it will not function properly.
Likewise, our conscience can become hypersensitive. Many people who view God as the Cosmic Cop also have hypersensitive consciences. To them, every little misstep is worthy of the most severe punishment. What a healthy conscience could overlook, a hypersensitive conscience will enslave a person’s mind and emotions over, gripping it with fear and regret.
In both directions, when we confuse God with the function of the conscience He created in us, we allow ourselves to attribute things to God that are not Him. This leads to huge cracks in our foundation that will slowly destroy the very walls of the spiritual house we’ve built atop it. This is why we must, in a moment, look at what a healthy view of God should include.
A third misconception of the character of God is to see Him as the Pharaoh god. Pharaoh was an unrelenting taskmaster who pushed his servants and cared little for their well-being. A person who sees God in this manner never feels like he is enough, no matter what he does. No matter what task is accomplished, there is always a fresh one waiting at the end of a cracked whip. In this person’s mind, his worth before God is based upon what he can do and it lasts only as long as he can continue to produce. Once he/she is unable to “do,” God no longer has any need of them. This is the God of 110%. Like an overzealous coach He demands we give Him more than we have and will never understand why we were unable to comply.
The fourth common misconception is what Dr. Sanders has called “the farmer and his mule.” This misconception is very similar to the one we just discussed, with one slight but meaningful difference. “The farmer and his mule” god cares for us and tends to us (unlike the god of 110%), but he does so only that we may continue to serve him. This is a cuddlier pharaoh, but a pharaoh nonetheless. In this misconception, we are cared for and loved to a degree, but we must produce something to keep the love coming. This god may not require 110%, but his love is still contingent upon our production schedule.
The person who sees God in this way serves God not because He does value them, but to become valuable in God’s eyes. This person is caught up in becoming a human doing instead of a human being. Service to God is real and God loves them to a degree, but the focus of the matter is staying valued in God’s eyes. This is like the middle child who must walk in their older sibling’s large shadow, yet does not get the glowing adoration of the youngest child. This child does as much as they can to become as valued (in their eyes) as their older sibling, rather than simply being themselves and being valued for who they are.
The final misconception we’ll discuss is that of the Waiter God. You may call this the Server God if you prefer a gender-neutral term. In many ways, this is the opposite of the Pharaoh god. In this distortion, the balance has shifted to where God is the one who is always under a whip that we gleefully hold to torment Him. In this view, God exists to bring us what we want, when we want it. Not only is He the Creator of the universe, He is our divine waiter.
This misconception has grown in popularity in many ways today. This is the god of “name it and claim it.” This is the god of “God wants me to be happy, so…” In this twisted fantasy, God is so loving and so caring for us that He would never upset us in any way, shape, or form and will give us everything we ask the moment we ask it. If we’re honest, most of our prayers go to this false god.
Think about it, how much of your prayer time is spent before God as if He were Santa Claus and you’ve come before Him with a list of shiny toys you desire. It doesn’t matter how “holy” this list may seem. This misconception runs deep in our “me” society. I know for myself, despite recognizing this misconception in my life, I often find my prayers to God sound something like, “And God do this…and God heal this…and God be with this…and God make this…” When you pray to a Waiter God for whatever your wish may be, you are praying to a figment of your willful imagination that does not exist. No wonder we often don’t get what we pray for.
What comes next is the hardest thing you may ever have to do. Wherever your foundation includes any of the distortions of God that we’ve mentioned above, you cannot do anything less than remove the house of spirituality you’ve built atop it and ignite the dynamite. In all honesty, there are few who will not need to do this. Very likely this is going to be a lengthy process, and the more “religious” you’ve become in these misconceptions, the harder it is going to be for you. Take this seriously. If you don’t take it very seriously, your spiritual house will crack and crumble. You may have built a pretty impressive spiritual house at this point in your life, but if that house has a bad foundation, it will not last.
Perhaps you need to stop, reflect, and critically think through what happens next. Maybe you need to spend a couple days journaling, talking with your pastor, seeking the guidance of your disciple-maker, or even getting counseling from a good Christian source. Whatever you do, the worst thing possible would be for you to ignore this. Make no mistakes; if your god looks like what is above, your god does not exist. Let me say that again. Say it out loud and listen to every single syllable. If your god looks like what is described above, your god does…not…exist.
But, there is good news. In fact, the very message of the Bible (the Gospel) means “good news.” The Bible spends a lot of time explaining the character of God. Don’t get me wrong, there is a great deal of mystery surrounding the Lord that we may never understand this side of heaven, but the same God who desires us to enter into a true relationship with Him also took the first steps in explaining to us who He is. So much of the Bible is dedicated to this very subject, that it’s utterly astonishing in scope.
In an effort to rebuild the foundation of our spirituality, we will briefly examine four aspects of God’s character that are clearly described in Scripture. Please understand that what follows is simply a brief overview. If it should truly be our life’s work to get to know God for Who He really is, then these serve as just the first whiff of what should become a much deeper study in your life. Each aspect discussed here deserves many books written about them (and, in fact, many books have been). Of course, the most important of these books is the source material itself, which we will now examine to find just Who is revealed in those powerful pages.
If we are to come to understand God for Who He really is, we must first understand that He is consistent with the Person of Jesus Christ. Hebrews 1:1-4 lets us know that Jesus the Christ is the exact representation of the nature of God. Even a cursory glance at the Gospels will show Jesus Himself making this exact claim. What this means for our understanding of God is that how we see Jesus interact in the Gospels is the exact way that God interacts with people. When we see Jesus speaking and dealing in a certain manner, we are seeing God act in that manner.
Jesus said, “I and the Father are One,” and, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father.” This should make our hearts race. Unlike the pantheon of nameless gods invented and served from the dawn of time, we can see how the One true God interacts with people just like us. When we see how Jesus responds to the woman caught in adultery, we see exactly how God deals with us in our weakness. Likewise, when we read dialogue such as the scathing remarks Jesus gives in Matthew 23 to the religious of His day, we see exactly how God deals with us in our pride.
John 1:18 says that though we have not seen God, Jesus has translated Him to us. That’s some powerful language. When we see Jesus act, we see the very movement and breath of our God. Therefore, a proper understanding (foundation repair) of the character of God is to first look at the life of Jesus the Christ. If our understanding of the character of God varies at all from the Bible’s presentation of Jesus Christ, we have not seen the God who is and we must rebuild our foundation.
The second thing we come to in Scripture is a God who has our best interests at heart. Far from being the Cosmic Cop who is only out to get us when we do wrong, God truly cares about us enough to want only what is best for us. Many people do not believe, at the core of their being, that God has their best interests at heart. John 10:10 informs us (through the very mouth of Jesus Christ) that the Lord desires to give us life abundantly.
In the original language of the Bible, there were at least two words we translate to mean “life” in English. One of these words, bios, carries a meaning of physical life. If Christ’s words were that He came to give us bios abundantly, then we could only infer that He came to give us a life defined by duration. However, the word used for life in John 10:10 is zoë, a word that has to do with the quality of life. Zoë is a more spiritual form of life. “God knows how life works, and, far from being eager to punish us, He wants us to enjoy life to the fullest.”
The ancient Hebrews used to believe that God created life to work a certain way, and that wisdom was found in discovering how God intended life to be lived and so living it. God created life and understands what is best for us. Like a wise parent who can see what their child cannot, God does not do things to dampen our fun, but to keep us from what will truly destroy us. God has our best interests at heart.
This is not a warm and cuddly caricature of a god that does not exist. God created life for His good pleasure and blessed us to enjoy it. This does not mean that life was somehow created for us or that we can take this to mean whatever we want it to mean. God clearly outlined the rules in many areas, and we are to follow them or face the consequences of our missteps. But, God did not give us these guidelines to ruin our lives or to pile up heavy burdens on our backs, but to help us to have lives to the fullest. This aspect of God is tempered by the next dominant attribute of God.
The third understanding we must come to in rebuilding our view of God is that God is a God of Holy Love. The depth of those words is yet to come. In my home state of Wyoming, wind would often bend and warp sapling trees as they grew. Tension wires would have to be attached to them from four posts in order to make them grow properly. If the tension on these wires were not perfectly balanced, the tree would grow skewed in one direction and possibly have to be cut down.
Our understanding of the next aspect of our view of God must carry this same tension. The Bible very delicately balances the fact that God is holy, holy, holy, and that He is love incarnate. Emphasizing one or the other of these two facts gives us a god who does not truly exist. Here is where, perhaps, the most damage has been done in our world when it comes to the character of God. Emphasizing God’s holiness at the expense of His love gives us a caricature of God who is dominantly wrath and judgment. On the other hand, emphasizing God’s love over His holiness gives us the God of popular culture who would never call us to do anything difficult or call anything we so dearly love “sin.” This god would never be strict with us, never tell us we’re wrong, and never create hell as a consequence for angels or humans who have openly rebelled against Him, because He is love. Or so the reasoning goes. Neither of these extremist gods exist. At all. Not even in the slightest.
We must, as the Bible does, come to an understanding of a God in perfect balance in His love and His holiness. Holiness means that He is without stain or blemish, perfect in every regard. We see this aspect of God shouted in glory in the book of Revelation. Revelation 4:8b says, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God almighty, Who was and Who is, and Who is to come.” Holiness means that God cannot accept anything that is stained or has sin. This is why we see in the Bible where the Hebrews had to make sacrifices for their sins regularly, because God cannot accept anything imperfect. This is the very reason we needed a Savior and the other side of this is the very reason why God provided the answer for us.
1 John 4:8 says, “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” God does not simply provide love. He is love. Love is an aspect of God’s character. There is no true love apart from God, for love is a part of Who God is at His core. All “love” that we as humans share is borrowed capitol from the character of God. Again, this is why God provided a Savior for us. It is also why we’re even able to love Him in return. The Bible says that we love God because He first loved us (1 John 4:19).
Here is where I must digress for just a moment, however. Simply because “holiness” is somewhat foreign to our daily language and way of thinking, we actually seem to understand it better. We tend to have only one definition or so, even if we don’t fully understand it. The term has not become watered down in disparity. Love, however, has. In the same breath we will say that we “love” our spouse, and also “love” a piece of clothing or a car. A man will say, “If you really loved me, you’d do it yourself and let me watch football,” and a child will say, “But, don’t you love me?” to a parent who will not buy them a new toy. Clearly, the word “love” carries quite a bit of baggage. Many people, especially those who do not want to be bothered to get to know God further than “God is love,” read whatever meaning they want into the word.
This is why so many people are confused on the matter. In order to fully understand God as love, you need to be able to understand what true love is. Nicely enough, understanding the balance that holiness has in tempering love can help you to understand what love itself is. Love does not mean permission. Love does not mean veiled lust. Love does not mean whatever you happen to want it to mean. The Bible has a lot to say about love, so in your search for truth (another aspect of God, which we will not dive deeply into here) this could be a great jumping off point.
Of course, the “love chapter” in Corinthians would be a good place to start for personal study. In this regard, since 1 John 4:8 lets us know that God is love, we can also take the word “love” in 1 Corinthians 13 and replace it with the word “God” to see deeper aspects of God’s character as love. God is patient. God is kind…etc. It works remarkably well and proves consistent with the remainder of Scripture.
In any case, the point here is that there must be a delicate tension between love and holiness if you are to have a correct view of God. “Our view of God must have just the right tension between holiness and love. We dare not emphasize one to the neglect of the other. Both must be equally present if we are to have an accurate view of God.” Anything less than this and you no longer have the God Who is.
The final aspect of God’s character that we will use to rebuild our Spiritual foundation is the understanding of a God who is consistent with the revelation of Father. One of the most revolutionary things Jesus ever did was to tell humanity that they could relate to God as Daddy. In the history of the Hebrew people (who tended to overemphasize God’s holiness, unlike those today who tend to overemphasize His love), you will find that God’s name was regarded as so very holy that they would not write it or even speak it at times. In texts where God’s name was meant to be, they would often leave it blank, take out all the vowels (which is where we get YHWH and the attempt to reconstruct it in Jehovah), or use the appellation Adoni. Even in speaking, the Hebrews would often not refer to God, but put an audible pause where His name was meant to be and then utter, “may His name be praised.”
Contrast this with Romans 8:15 or Jesus’ discourses in the book of John, which tell us to cry out to Him as Abba, Father. Jesus, in teaching on how we are to reference God, often used the term Abba. In today’s world, we have over-glorified the simplicity of that word. Abba was what an Aramaic child would have uttered before (s)he could pronounce the term used in their language for “father.” Literally, if Jesus’ words were to be translated for meaning into English, He was saying that we can call God “Dada.” In contrast to the great and overly reverent tone the people of God before Him would take with the Creator, Jesus came and told us that we have a personal Father.
The imagery involved makes me think of a little child that is just learning to walk. I picture a child who is stumbling with his/her arms in the air raised to the one whom he trusts and finds complete comfort in as he sputters out, along with drool, the only thing his feeble mouth can utter, “dada.” The imagery really is striking. If you understand the depth of that imagery, it is no wonder the religious wanted to kill Jesus. No wonder they thought He was blaspheming the name of God.
A firm and true foundation is one that understands to the very core that God is our Dada, a completely holy and completely loving Dada who has our best interests at heart. When combined with an understanding that Jesus Christ is the exact representation of God’s character, we then have a foundation upon which we can build our spiritual house. This should be the start of your extreme makeover.
Take some time this week, maybe half an hour a day, and search through the verses mentioned above and their surrounding contexts. Spend some time reading through the Gospels. This must now become the foundation upon which the rest of your thoughts and “religion” must be based if we understand that how we see God impacts every aspect of our lives down to how we think. If how we view God dramatically affects the persons we become, then this foundation of our faith is the most important thing in life we can focus our immediate attention on, and it is the single most impactful thing we can do to change the course of the rest of our lives.
 Sanders, Cliff. Making Sense Out of Spirituality, MACU Press: Oklahoma City, OK, 2008, 7.
 Dekker, Ted. The Slumber of Christianity: Awakening a Passion for Heaven on Earth, Thomas Nelson: Nashville, TN, 2005, 199.
 Re-read that statement over and over until it sinks in. The longer you’ve been a Christian, the longer you need to spend re-reading it.
 Temple, William. Christian Faith and Life. MacMillian: New York, NY, 1931, reprinted 1936, 24.
 Try picturing a really big hairy deal. Draw what yours looks like in the margins. It’s fun.
 Having recently become a father, this thought scares the poop out of me. Yes, poop is the most utterly spiritual word I could think of there.
 Usually on Facebook or Twitter.
 Sanders, 24.
 My first reaction to Phillips’ book was, “This book is too small.” Seriously, it is like a hobbit compared to most books. I guess dynamite really can come in small packages.
 Sanders, 31.
 Phillips, J.B. Your God is Too Small, MacMillian Publishing, New York, NY, 1961.
 Like a Spider-sense.
 Insert scene from ________ movie with _______ villain here.
 Could you imagine God being your waiter? Sure, He wouldn’t even have to ask you what you wanted (it would probably be on the table the moment you got there), but think of the tip you’d have to leave for literally perfect service. Who could even afford that? And, you can’t stiff Him…he knows where you live.
 Of course, the devil sometimes gets in the way of this promised “immediate blessing” in this view. Pesky little devil.
 Actually, there’s this pretty awesome scene in Revelation with these thousand-eyed angels that still find new things to praise God for all the time…so maybe not even with an eternity in heaven.
 Don’t mistake what I’m saying. Christ is clear that real life ONLY comes with our picking up our crosses and following Jesus daily. Life only comes through the death of our selfish desires.
 Sanders, 42.
 The ones saying this are actually those thousand-eyed angels I mentioned earlier. I’m telling you, you really need to check this one out.
 Sanders, 44.
 Think along the lines of the way no one would say “Voldemort” in the Harry Potter movies. Though for very different reasons, I hope.