Category Archives: What is God Like?

What Is God Like? part 6

True Narratives Smashing Distorted Concepts

“God is Holy”

False narratives

God is wrathful. God is mad all the time, and wrath and anger are essential to His nature because He’s holy and we are not.

God does not care about our sin. This would actually undermine the entire Christian story.

A God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgement through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross.   ~H. Richard Neibuhr

Jesus’ narrative: Wrath is God’s right action

Many passages of Scripture do indeed speak of wrath, judgement, condemnation. Integrating His wrath and love is difficult for us, but since Jesus did, so must we.

Passion versus pathos

It’s not an option to only embrace the parts of God we are comfortable with a la Thomas Jefferson.

Agape– to will the good of another, to see the precious jewel at the core of every person. God’s love is seen more as parent to child than infatuated teens. It does not wax and wane.

We humanly connect wrath with being out of control. God’s wrath is not a crazed rage but rather a consistent opposition to sin and evil. God hates (detests) sin. Even this concept is tough for us.

In the Bible, His wrath is pathos not passion.

Passion– emotional convulsion, loss of self-control

Pathos– an act formed with care and intention, the result of determination and decision

It’s actually an act of love! God is fiercely and forcefully opposed to the things that destroy His precious people.

Wrath is not a permanent attribute of God. Whereas holiness and love are part of His nature, wrath is contingent upon human sin. If there were no sin, there would be no wrath.

A necessary reaction of a good and beautiful God to evil.

God’s wrath is a temporary and just verdict on sin and evil. Remember, it’s our rejection of Him, not our sin that brings judgement. It is our lack of choice.

Example of the formation of MADD

Holiness is the essence of God

There is no sin, evil, or darkness in Him. He is love and holiness and cannot be otherwise. This is not true of wrath. Wrath is not something He is, but something He does. While it is correct to say God is holy, it is not correct to say God is wrathful. Wrath is the just act of a holy God toward sin (unbelief?). God is first holy and pure. Wrath comes from rejection of God by humans and is a necessary part of His love.

Our God is a consuming fire [Hebrews 12:29]

Love loves unto purity. ~George MacDonald

God loves us so much that He longs for us to be pure and works tirelessly to make us pure. God is against sin and thus for  humans:

He is always against sin; in so far as, and while, they and sin are one, He is against them- against their desires, their aims, their fears, and their hopes; and thus He is altogether for them.

God is against my sin because He is for me, for my purity conforming to the image of Jesus. If I am for sin, God is against those desires because they cause my destruction.

I am prone to excusing my sin or rationalizing my weakness, but God is not. Sin hurts me, Him, and others. His kindness and love lead to genuine repentance. This is how He burns it out. You cannot be truly happy or have shalom with allowed sin in your life.

You don’t really want an unholy God

You don’t really want the permissive parent. Being soft on sin is not really loving because sin destroys.

I want a God who hates anything that destroys me. Because the true God not only hates what destroys me (sin & alienation), but also takes steps to destroy my destroyer, I love Him.

The necessity of hell

Love does not demand love in return; it’s not coercive.

Hell is simply isolation from God.


People choose hell, barring God from their life, thus the doors of hell are locked from the inside.

“Better to reign in hell than serve in heaven” many of us say (John Milton). There is part of human life that resists relinquishing control to God.

God cares deeply about sin because it destroys His precious children. And God longs for holiness in us because it is the way to wholeness.

God willingly sacrificed Himself to put an end to the problem of sin, breaking its power and taking away our guilt. We are able to triumph over temptation through Him. On our own we’re totally screwed. Using what He’s provided, we are totally victorious.

Grace is more than overlooking sins

Example of girl feeling justified in her sinful behavior because of the message of God’s love.

People need to know God’s unconditional love first, before being able to deal with sin it seems. We assume wrath comes before grace.

Until we have been assured that we are loved and forgiven, it is impossible to address our sinfulness correctly. One must feel safe. Otherwise we will operate out of our own efforts to change, and this is a losing battle.

God’s first word is always grace, then we will understand holiness.

What Is God Like? part 5

True Narratives Smashing Distorted Concepts

“God is Love”

Our father who is as near as the air we breathe, we your children are often troubled in mind, hearing within us at once the affirmations of faith and the accusations of conscience. We are sure that there is in us nothing that could attract the love of One as holy and as just You are. Yet You have declared Your  unchanging love for us in Christ Jesus. If nothing in us can win Your love, nothing in the universe can prevent You from loving us. Your love is uncaused and undeserved. You are Yourself the reason for the love wherewith we are loved. Help us to believe the intensity, the eternity of the love that has found us. Then love will cast out fear; and our troubled hearts will be at peace, trusting not in what we are but in what You have declared Yourself to be. Amen.

False narrative: God only loves us when we’re good

God’s love is conditional, depending on how He feels about us.

He turns away from us when we’re sinning & the only way to get Him to turn back around is through good behavior.

Have you heard something similar to the “swivel-chair” narrative in your own life?

The world of performance-based acceptance

We learn performance & conditional love from very early on in life.

We must teach our children that their actions, & not their identity, is being evaluated.

We learn from the world that our acceptance, value, & worth are based on external talents, abilities, & performance. We project this on to God [Psalm 50:21].

Think of how people answer the question, “What must you do to get God to like, favor, & bless you?” People generally say things like “I should go to church.”

Think about that word choice. Where does that come from?

Has the performance-based narrative been a part of your experience? Example?

We think we can control how God feels about us by doing those things on the list & avoiding sin.

Legalism- the attempt to earn God’s favor or avoid God’s curses via pious activities. This is superstition. Performance-based acceptance is a dominant narrative for many of us despite the fact that it leaves us in a state of constant uncertainty & anxiety.

The good news is that this is not Jesus’ narrative & He seemed to go out of His way to  show us this by word & action.

Do you sometimes feel that God’s love depends on your behavior?

Jesus’ narratives

Nowhere does the Bible tell us that God only likes us when we’re doing good things & not sinning.

YHWH’s actions

A God who welcomes sinners

Matthew 9:9-13–Calling Matthew the tax collector to follow Him. They were thought of as traitors & cheats. Rabbis were normally very selective when choosing disciples. Jesus dines with him. The religious leaders did not approve of this at all

If someone were to look at the kind of people you spend time with, what would they assume about your main narratives?

But Jesus says He came for the sick, the unrighteous. He says-toungue in cheek-that He did not come for the “righteous” [self-righteous]. We say, “Maybe He can forgive & love them if they promise to improve.” But this is not what Jesus taught. In actions & words He proclaimed that God loves sinners-as they are, & not as they should be.

God loves sinners  [John 3:16-17 Romans 5:8]

The aim of God in history is the creation of an all-inclusive community of loving persons with God Himself at the very center of this community as its prime Sustainer and most glorious Inhabitant. [Eph.2:19-22; 3:10] ~Dallas Willard

We yearn to be loved without condition.

The prodigal father

Prodigal means recklessly extravagant.

Asking for your inheritance was like wishing your dad dead.

Luke 15:20–God looks on us with compassion even when we have done the very worst to God we can possibly do. When we give Him the finger, He just hugs us tighter.

It was disgraceful to hike up your robe & run. Could’ve had son stoned, but hugged & kissed him- a sign of forgiveness. Robe, ring, shoes- signs of restoration, the rights of a son. Position restored. Lost nothing. Deserved none of it.

It appears God is very fond of sinners [not sin, He hates it].

The elder brother & me

The second half of the parable is aimed at the religious leaders who did not approve of eating with “those people”. It was aimed at the ones not comfortable with God’s unconditional love for others. Think of Jonah.

The elder son had all the privileges & presence of his dad, but did not like it that grace was being shown to “this son of yours”- he refuses to call him his brother.

The chief point is that it is not our sin that separates us from God, it is our self righteousness. Some would say it is not our sin, but all the things we do, even good, to earn favor & position with God. It is a refusal of grace, & it does not turn God from us, but us from God.

Sometimes it’s not God’s grace towards rebels we don’t like, rather we have difficulty with it being shown to us. The earning favor narrative is so deeply embedded, that it’s hard to just let go, accept, & rest in it- in what He’s done for me.

The truth about God

Love (III) by George Herbert

Love bade me welcome, yet my soul drew back,

Guilty of sin and dust

But quick-ey’d Love, observing me grow slack

From my first entrance in,

Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning

If I lacked anything.

“A guest,” I answer’d, “worthy to be here”;

Love said, “You shall be he.”

“I, the unkind, the ungrateful? ah my dear,

I cannot look on thee.”

Love took my hand, & smiling did reply,

“Who made the eyes but I?”

“Truth Lord, but I have marred them; let my shame

Go where it doth deserve.”

“And know you not,” says Love, “who bore the blame?”

“My dear, then I will serve.”

“You must sit down,” says Love, “and taste my meat.”

So I did sit and eat.


Glory to God on high, and on earth peace, Good will towards men.

We are worthy because God says we are, through His Son, not through anything in me. So it is we who refuse God. He will never refuse a contrite heart. This must be more than mere belief, even the demons believe & tremble, it must be faith that takes hold.

“Just be with Me. I don’t need you to do  anything for Me. My desire is for you to love Me & let me first serve you.”

Then we will serve others & obey Him as a response to God’s love, not out of motivation by guilt. Love is the great & long-lasting motivator, not guilt, shame, or fear.

What Is God Like? part 4

True Narratives Smashing Distorted Concepts

“God is Generous”

The process of spiritual transformation in Christ is one of progressively replacing…destructive images & ideas with the images & ideas that filled the mind of Jesus Himself…Spiritual formation in Christ moves toward a total interchange of our ideas & images for His.” ~Dallas Willard

“Little Lady Prophet” street preacher who would yell of God’s wrath only at everyone within ear shot. The clear narrative is that God is mad at you. There was no mention of God’s love, grace, or even Jesus’ name.

False narrative: Earning favor

Love & forgiveness are commodities that are exchanged for performance. God’s love, acceptance, forgiveness must be merited by right living. What God most wants is for us not to sin & instead to do good. Obviously, a half-truth. He desires that we don’t sin, yes, but more so to know Him & love Him (then we sin less).

Cultural narrative of earning

Earning is the means by which we obtain things. When every person in every situation in every day of our lives treats us on the basis of how we look, act, & perform, it is difficult not to project that on to God. [Ps. 50:21]

How does our culture support the narrative of earning?

Have you felt this pressure?

Guilt, fear, shame, & hunger for acceptance become the primary motivators in our performance-based culture.

The (misunderstood) biblical narrative of earning

Israel-exile, yes for their habitual disobedience, but the larger narrative is that they were chosen by Yahweh to be His people…just because!

David- baby died seemingly because he was born out of adultery, but the larger narrative is that he was not killed & also had Solomon from the same woman & he grew to be rich, powerful, & wise.

To say that sin has consequences is much different than saying that because of our sin God rejects us.

The larger narrative is Yahweh’s “steadfast love” (hesed). The dominant narrative of the Bible is one of unearned grace (you are special because of who you are), of a God whose love is not thwarted by human sinfulness, & of a Christ who dies for sinners [Rom. 5:8]. The minor narratives are a part of the ambiguity of all epic stories.

The metanarrative of the Bible is the story of the steadfast love of God that culminates in the incarnation, death, & resurrection of God on behalf of a wayward world.

Therefore, we should interpret the entire Bible and each of its parts in light of Jesus.

Every story gets absorbed into the story of Jesus.

The false narratives we hear from the church

God is good. You are bad. Try harder.

Ex. of misinterpretation of Hebrews 6:6

If you fell more deeply in love with God, how might that change your behavior?

Jesus’ narrative: The generous God

Imagine you know nothing about God & you hear Jesus tell this story in Mt.20:1-15.

It is a parable of generosity. The world of merit vs. the world of grace..

“Are you envious because I’m so generous?”

Jesus reveals a God who does not demand, but who gives; who does not oppress but who raises up; who does not wound but who heals; who does not condemn but forgives. ~Brennan Manning

God is so wealthy that His chief delight is to give.

Do you agree that God is generous? & gives to us freely? Why or why not?

Generosity & scarcity

Generosity happens when you live in abundance and/or compassion. God is limitless in both areas. Love, forgiveness,acceptance, kindness are not in limited supply. So why do we hold back? Because we live in scarcity! We feel we must protect what we have. We never got enough growing up (or so we may feel).

Yahweh is constantly generous. What else do we really need? You deserve nothing you have- creation, air, sun.

What are some ways you have experienced the unearned blessing of God?

We have His love, food, clothes, shelter. What else do you need?

What were we created for? Matanoia. John the Baptist. Prepare the way.

So whenever we are unhappy while having all these things, it is out of complete selfishness.

What the God of Jesus really wants

What does God want from me? Jesus would answer, “To know Him & to love Him.”

Do you see how much sense this makes? Greatest commandment reminder.

Not doing anything, but loving Him. You’ll then do automatically, but sin does damage relationship.

It is a grief to the heart of God when we try to provide things for Him…It is a grief to Him, too, when we try to do things for Him, for He is so very, very able. He longs that we will just let Him do & do & do.  ~Watchman Nee

Westminster Larger Catechism of 1648

Q: What is the chief end of man?

A: Man’s chief and highest end is to glorify God, and fully to enjoy Him forever.

Do you think God wants you to enjoy Him?

Do you think we will have to give account for all the blessings we took for granted & did not enjoy?

The greatest honor we can give to God is to live gladly because of the knowledge of His love. What God most wants is to see you smile because you know how much God loves you.  ~Julian of Norwich

How does it feel to know God delights in you? Why?

Have you ever tried to save a drowning man? The trouble is that his fear prevents him trusting himself to you. When that is so, there are just two ways of going about it. Either you must knock him unconscious & then drag him to the shore, or else you must leave him to struggle & shout until his strength gives way before you go to his rescue. If you try to save him while he has any strength left, he will clutch at you in his terror & drag you under, & both he & you will be lost. God is waiting for your store of strength to be utterly exhausted before He can deliver you. Once you have ceased to struggle, He will do everything. God is waiting for you to despair.  ~Watchman Nee

A God I have to do things for is difficult to love.

A God who delights in me I can’t help but love.

The God who delights in you

What if God is not mad at you?

What if He delights in you despite how you look, feel, what you do or don’t do? The only possible response is absolute delight in return. [I John 4:10-11] Our love for God does not determine God’s attitude toward us. While we were scum, He sent His son to reconcile us to Himself so we could be in union. The primary thing God wants from us is not improved moral behavior (which will come), but to love God because He first loves us.

The most important thing about you

What comes into your mind when you think about God is the most important thing about you…Were we able to extract from any man a complete answer to the question , ‘What comes into your mind when you think of God?’ we might predict with certainty the spiritual future of that man. ~A.W. Tozer

Our thoughts about God will determine how we live.

What we think God is like will determine the relationship we have with Him.

We see what we are ready to see, expect to see, and even desire to see. If you examine the accounts of peoples’ great moments of breakthroughs, they usually are not referring to what they see as much as how they see.

How do your beliefs about God explain how you live your life?

If we have low or false views of God, we are actually committing a form of idolatry, worshipping a false god.

As you get to know the God that Jesus revealed, you will fall more & more in love with Him. How could you not??? He’s perfect in every good way and is out for your good.

Why would you stay away from that? Why would you not spend time with that?

What Is God Like? part 3

What Is God Like?

True narratives smashing distorted concepts

part 3

“God is Trustworthy”

The God Jesus revealed would never do anything to harm us. He has no evil intentions.

The fact that He is all-knowing & all-powerful makes His goodness even better. Way better than ours. I can trust Him even when things look bleak. All-knowing & all-powerful is just downright scary if He is not all good.

How would you describe your level of trust when it comes to God?

Have things happened to you that made you doubt that God is trustworthy?

False narratives

~God is not trustworthy

~God will send me to hell for any sin not repented of or confessed if I die before I have a chance.

Jesus’ core narratives

~No one knows Yahweh to the extent that Jesus does. Luke 10:22

~God as Abba

> “Dear Father” or “Daddy” or “papa”

> The fact that Jesus addresses Him as Abba tells us that, to Him, God was not distant or far removed, but was intimately involved in His life.

> It conveys the deepest most trustful reverence.

> He called Him this at His most desperate & terrible moment, in the garden.

~God as Father

> The problem is that we begin with our own concept of Father & then project that on to Yahweh. Psalm 50:21

> We must let Jesus define Fatherhood, for God has always been, then humans came on the scene.

> The solution then is not to abandon the term “Father”, but to allow Jesus to define it, & therefore heal it.

> The parable of the two sons is probably the most profound of the parables defining God as Father. Another way to study this is through Jesus’ “Our Father” prayer.

Our Father

~The fatherhood of God is defined by Jesus’ prayer.

1. God is near- “in heaven”

> In Jewish cosmology, heaven was not far away, but surrounding us.

> Heaven was opened at Jesus’ baptism.

> “Our Father who is as near as the air we breathe” may be a better translation.

2. God is holy, pure, set apart- “hallowed be thy name”

3. God is King, ruling heaven, powerful!- “thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”

4. God cares for us- “daily bread”

> Rain, sun, & food are provided.

> Jehovah Jireh means Provider

> Give us today the things we need today.

5. God forgives our wrongs- “forgive us our trespasses”

> “At the heart of God is the desire to forgive & give.” -Richard Foster

> He pardons. He wants to forgive us even more than we want to be forgiven.

6. God rescues us from trials & evil- “do not bring us to the time of testing”

> He longs to protect us

> God gets the last word

> Nothing can happen to us that God cannot redeem.

“No irredeemable harm can ever come to us.” -Dallas Willard

~Jesus’ father is nearby, pure in heart, strong, caring, forgiving, & our protector.

These attributes provide strong images of who God is & what fatherhood means. We now have a way to define the Father’s goodness & what true parenthood should be.

A good parent should possess these six characteristics.

Of the six aspects of the nature of God the Father (present, pure-hearted, powerful, provides, pardons, protects) as seen in the Lord’s Prayer, which do you most need to see & understand about God?

~God’s fatherhood must define what human fatherhood ought to look like, & not the reverse. Let Jesus define what “Father” means & come to know the God Jesus knows.

~When we see Jesus, we see the Father [John 10:30], a perfect balance of all of the characteristics of goodness.

What is your cup?

~The cup represents things forced on us in life that we must drink from.

What aspect of your life makes it difficult for you to trust God?

-divorce         -death of loved one       -death of a dream       -loss of physical ability   -loss    -being single     -loss of business

Anything we struggle with as our “lot in life”. This usually makes it difficult to believe that God is good. You must face it!

“The Father that Jesus addresses in the garden is the one that He has known all His life & found to be beautiful in His provision, reliable in His promises, & utterly faithful in His love. He can obey the will that sends Him to the cross, with hope & expectation because it is the will of Abba whose love has been so proved that it can now be trusted so fully by being obeyed so completely. This is not legal obedience driven by commandment, but trusting response to known love.” -Thomas Smail

~Knowing we are loved by God, we can trust through the pain. The reason Jesus

could trust His Father in His darkest hour is because He had been living so closely to Him, knowing Him very well.

Joining our narrative with God’s narrative

~When we join our story to Yahweh’s metanarrative, where our good & beautiful God

gets the last word, everything begins to make sense. Pain is still real, but bearable.

~Begin to see the big picture of mercy, not just the micro view of our own suffering.

Focus on blessings more than cups

~Ink blot illustration. What do you see?

~Our troubles are so small compared with God’s big mercy.

“Stop telling God how big your problems are, & start telling your problems how big God is.”

~The least we can do is “enjoy the ride”.

Will we one day have to give account for all the blessings we overlooked & did not enjoy?

A rewording of The Lord’s Prayer to capture better the fulness of its meanings & its place in the gospel of the kingdom by Dallas Willard:

Dear Father always near us,

may your name be treasured and loved,

may your rule be completed in us-

may your will be done here on earth

in just the way it is done in heaven.

Give us today the things we need today,

and forgive us our sins and impositions on you

as we are forgiving all who in any way offend us.

Please don’t put us through trials,

but deliver us from everything bad.

Because you are the one in charge,

and you have all the power,

and the glory too is all yours-forever-

which is just the way we want it!

What Is God Like? part 2

What is God Like?

True narratives smashing distorted concepts

part 2

“God is Good”


“God, of your goodness, give me yourself, for you are enough for me. I may ask nothing less that is fully to your worship, and if I do ask anything less, ever shall I be in want. Only in you I have all.”

-Julian of Norwich

“We have a God who is infinitely good & who knows what He is doing.” -Brother Lawrence

The belief that God is good is a foundation stone for all sound thought about God & is necessary to moral sanity. If He’s not good, then there is no distinction between kindness & cruelty, between heaven & hell. There is no standard, no rule of life.

The goodness of God means that God is the final standard of good, & that all that God is & does is worthy of approval. The cause of His goodness is in Himself. There is no higher standard of goodness than God’s own character & His approval of whatever is consistent with His character. And because He is the ultimate standard of goodness, He is also the ultimate source of all goodness. Therefore, all the goodness we seek is ultimately found in Him.

It’s easy to say God is good when life is going well & smoothly, but what about when tragedy, heartbreak, or difficult times hit?

Do we still really think God is good?

“Who sinned?”

~When Jim’s (author) wife was 8 months pregnant with their second child, they were told their daughter had a chromosomal disorder & would live for just days. The diagnosis was wrong & Madeline actually lived for two difficult years.

~Having coffee with a pastor, Jim was asked, “So who sinned, Jim? You or your wife?”

~People feel the need to make sense of life & end up saying outrageous things.

~Have you ever been through a situation that caused you to doubt the goodness of God?

~Train yourself to ask this question when choosing the right narratives about God: “Is this understanding of God consistent with the God Jesus revealed?”

An ancient narrative: The Angry God

~It basically says this: “God is an angry judge. If you do right, you will be blessed. If you sin, you will be punished.”This is different than “There are natural consequences to my actions.”

> Do you agree with this statement?

  > This is the most prevalent narrative among Christians today

~Have you ever wondered how & when you would be punished for a particular sin?

~Or have you ever had something bad happen to you & wondered what you did to deserve it?

Jesus’ narrative

~First off, He said His Father is good like no other being [Mt.19:17]

~So does Yahweh make people suffer for being worse sinners than others here on earth?

  > Luke 13:1-5 answers this question clearly

> Jesus answers emphatically, “No.”

> Jesus rejects the widespread idea that wealth or suffering of   individuals is God’s reward for righteousness or punishment for sin. He counters the common Jewish belief that calamity in life is the result of past sin.

> He made it clear that human tragedies are not always divine punishment & that it is wrong for us to “play God’ & pass judgement.

> Job’s friends made the same mistake of saying that his afflictions were evidence that he was a sinner. And if that was the case, what about the prophets, apostles, & Jesus Himself?

> If God does punish in this way, then you all best repent because you all are sinners. There’s God & then everybody else.

> The question & focus should not be “Why did these people die?”, but rather “What right do I have to live?”

> “We must abide by this rule, that we cannot judge of men’s sins by their sufferings in this world; for many are thrown into the furnace as gold to be purified, not as dross & chaff to be consumed.” -Matthew Henry

“Rabbi, who sinned?” John 9:2-3

~Rabbis taught that illness was caused by the parents’ sin or the person’s sin. Some ancients even taught you could sin in the womb!

~When confronted with someone’s suffering, have you ever wondered What did they do to deserve that? 

 Why is this response so common?

~Jesus affirmed none of this teaching. He made it clear that there was no correlation between this man’s blindness & his or his parents’ sin.

~Then Jesus healed him totally putting to rest any chance of this man’s blindness being justice for his transgressions. Otherwise, He would not have healed him.

It rains on the righteous, too Mt.5:45

~Reality bears out that terrible things happen to wonderful people & wonderful things happen to terrible people.

~People don’t all get what they deserve in this life.

~Yahweh is no respecter of persons & His loving-kindness never changes or waivers with anyone.

**Keep in mind though, there are consequences to our actions in this life! Here we are talking of tragedy, disaster & illness not brought on by our actions.

~There are good consequences to actions too.

Name some of the peculiarly good consequences (character, disposition, reputation) that are a part of the lives of those who do good.

There is no justice in this life

~Why is the “punishing-blessing god” so popular?

Because we like control. Guess what. We don’t have it.

~This narrative allows us to live in the illusion that we can control our world, which is very appealing in our chaotic existence. But it’s actually just another form of superstition- Don’t walk under a ladder, break a mirror, or let a black cat cross your path. Silly, but we still believe them as is evident by our actions. Some say we live on the “performance treadmill.” Think here of the evangelists who say they know why 9/11 happened or why the tsunamis hit. No one knows but God.

~At the end of the day, there is no way to make sense of it all, no system to explain all of the whys. Just know that God is sovereign & good beyond our comprehension. He knows what He is doing. We do not. It is wasted energy trying to figure it all out & can rob our focus of where it should be. If we needed these answers, He would have shared them with us because He is good!

~”We do not know why God’s judgement makes a good man poor, & a wicked man rich…Nor why the wicked man enjoys the best of health, whilst the man of religion wastes away in illness…Even then it is not consistent…Good men also have good fortune & evil men find evil fortunes…So though we do not know by what judgement these things are carried out or permitted by God, in whom is the highest virtue & the highest wisdom and the highest justice, & in whom there is no weakness or rashness nor unfairness, it is nonetheless beneficial for us to learn not to regard as important the good or evil fortunes which we see shared by good & evil persons alike.” -Augustine

Still, God is just

~He has the final say in life, & He is good.

~One day we will understand why God has done or allowed everything to happen that has happened.

~Does the fact that God has the final say offer you comfort? Hope? Frustration? 


~What if we viewed everything in our life as either done or allowed by God to perfect us into what He wants us to become?[Juggernaut car or chariot of God] -H.W. Smith

Jesus believes when I cannot

~It’s not just the narratives of Jesus that help us through sorrow & rough times, but Jesus Himself. This is the difference between our faith & mere inspirational stories.

~The love, redemption, & communion we have with the Father are all a gift that cannot be earned. He gives us all out of His goodness & for that reason only.

> When we pursue Him, we are merely placing ourselves in the path of His goodness that is already there, not causing Him to bless us.

> This is like tuning into television or radio frequencies.

> We do not, by our good works, force God’s hand to bestow goodness upon us, we rather participate in His goodness. The more we participate, the more we experience God, & the more we experience Him, the more peace & abundance will characterize our life.

A reason of hope

~A while after Madeline died & Jim was in solitude, He told God that maybe it would have been better if she had not been born. That’s when he heard the clearest message from God he ever received. The voice of a girl he never heard but recognized as Madeline’s- “Daddy, you should never say that. If I had never been born, I would not be here now. I am so happy here in heaven, & one day you & mom & Jacob will come & see me, & we will live forever together. And there is more good that has happened because of me that you can’t see now, but will one day understand.”

~Two years later his wife was pregnant with another girl. They named her Hope.

In this world you will have trouble

~God’s goodness is not something we get to decide upon.

~”My own experiences of disappointment with God say more about my expectations than they do about God.”

~Jesus never promises a life free of struggle, but rather that all struggles will be redeemed [Jn.16:33]. We grow through adversity.

~Imagine before a lengthy road trip someone says to you, “I promise you will reach your destination safely & on schedule no matter rainstorms, roadblocks, or flat  tires.” This is what God promises us with our destiny.

~Jim learned:

> His daughter did not die due to his, his wife’s, or Madeline’s sins.

> God is just.

> He will one day fully understand. All wrongs will be made right.

> There is a hope of heaven.

> God is good all the time, & all the time, God is good.


“God did not take my daughter, evil did.” -Luke Mertes


What is God Like? part 1

What is God like?

True narratives smashing distorted concepts

part 1


O Lord God Almighty, not the God of the philosophers & the wise but the God of the prophets & apostles; & better than all, the God & Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, may I express you unblamed?

They that don’t know You may call upon You as other than You are, & so worship not You but a creature of their own imagination; therefore enlighten our minds that we may know You as You really are, so that we may perfectly love You & worthily praise You.

In the name of Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.


Why we must think rightly about God

~What comes into your mind when you think about God is the most important thing  about you. Belief influences behavior. It is foundational.

~The most significant fact about you is not what you at any given time may say or do,  but what you in your deep heart conceive God to be like.

~A right concept of God is basic to practical Christian living. It is the foundation of our worship, & where it is inadequate or out of plumb, the whole structure will sooner or later collapse.

~The person who comes to a right belief about God, what He is really like, will be relieved of ten thousand temporal problems.

~A low view of God is the cause of a hundred lesser evils everywhere among us.

~It is impossible to keep our moral practices sound & our inner attitudes right while our idea of God is erroneous or inadequate. You will never worship one whom you do not trust in your heart.

~”Before the Christian Church goes into eclipse anywhere there must first be a corrupting of her simple basic theology. She simply gets a wrong answer to the question, “What is God like?” & goes on from there. Though she may continue to cling to a sound nominal creed, her practical working creed has become false. The masses of her adherents come to believe that God is different from what He actually is; & that is heresy of the most insidious & deadly  kind.” -A.W. Tozer

~Psalm 50:21 Do not make the mistake of thinking God is like us.


What are you seeking?

Would you like to have abiding peace?

Would you like to have a heart that is filled with love?

Would you like to have the kind of faith that sees everything- even your failures & losses- in light of God’s governance for good?

Would you like to have the kind of hope that endures even in discouraging circumstances?

Have you tried for this? Begged God for it? Gone to church for it?

Do you want to be a Sermon on the Mount kind of person who loves their enemies & worries about nothing?

Do you believe this is possible? Or have you made “agreements”?

It is, and comes from one Source, & one Source only…

It starts with knowing God as He really is, though His Son Jesus Christ. John 17:3

How do we become like Christ?

The problem is not that we don’t want to, or that we are not trying, but we are not training. We have never been taught a reliable pattern of transformation.

If you change what you are thinking, what you are doing, & who you spend time with, you will change your life.

You must desire to do the work & the HS will change you, not your own willpower.


False Narrative: We change by our willpower

~The will actually has no power

~It is the human capacity to choose, but doesn’t actually do anything

~It’s more like a beast of burden that simply responds to the impulse of other influencers

~The 3 primary influencers on the will are:

1] Mind– what we think determines our emotions then decisions then actions. We are  what we think about.

2] Body– need (food, water) manifests in feelings (hunger, thirst)

3] Social Context– people around us, peer pressure. You become the average of the three to five people you spend the most time with.

~The will is not strong or weak. Like a horse, it has only one task: to do what the rider (mind influenced by the body & social context) tells it to do.

*Therefore, change-or lack thereof-is not an issue of the will at all. Change happens when these other influencers are modified.

The good news is that we have control over these influencers. When new ideas, new practices, & new social settings are adopted,  change happens.


Jesus’ Narrative: We change by indirection

~He understands how people change, therefore He used stories to communicate

~If we adopt Jesus’ narratives about God, we will know God properly & right actions will follow

~We change not by mustering willpower, but by changing the way we think which will involve change in actions & social environment

~Indirection- Doing what we can do in order to enable us to do what we cannot do directly

~Peyton Manning & wet footballs-practice off the spot

~You can’t change by simply saying, “I want to change.”

Examine what we think, what we do, & who we are interacting with. What are our rhythms of life?

If we change those, & we can, then change will come naturally to us.

This is why Jesus said His “yoke” is easy.

If we think the things He thought, do the things He did, & spend time with like-minded people, we will become like Him.  Phil. 2:5-11

A Reliable Method of Changing our Hearts

The Triangle of Transformation involving 4 basic elements:

1] Change the stories in our minds

2] Engage in new practices

3] Reflection & dialogue with others on the same path

4] All under the leading of the HS


Step one: Changing our stories

~“Be careful what you think because your thoughts run your life.” Proverbs 4:23

~Significant experiences shape us. We live by stories.

Family narratives

Who am I? Why am I here? Am I valuable? These questions get answered early on in life.

Cultural narratives

What is important? Who is successful?

Religious narratives

From the pulpit, classroom, books that tell us who God is, what He wants, & how we should live.

Jesus’ narratives

The stories & images Jesus tells to reveal the character of God

~We are shaped by our stories. Once in place, they determine much of our behavior without regard to their accuracy or helpfulness.

Once stored in our minds, they stay there largely unchallenged until we die.

Here is the main point: these narratives are running (& often ruining) our lives. That is why it is crucial to get the right narratives.

~Find your narratives so you can measure them against Jesus’. His are truth because He is the pre-existent Son of God. He Himself is truth, so the key is adopting Jesus’ narratives. Jesus revealed His Father to us- the God pulsing with goodness, beauty, power, & love. To know the God of Jesus is to know the truth of who God really is.

~In order to change, we must first change our minds.

Jesus’ first line to His opening sermon in the gospel accounts is:

“Repent [metanoia], for the kingdom of God is at hand.” Rom.12:2 Col.3:2

~Our family, cultural, & religious narratives might have their roots in the kingdom of this world.

~Adopting Jesus’ narratives is a way we come to have the mind of Christ [Phil.2:5]. Once the right narratives are in place, change will begin. But getting the ideas & info right is only the beginning.

~”That our idea of God corresponds as nearly as possible to the true being of God is of immense importance to us. Compared with our actual thoughts of Him, our creedal statements are of little consequence. Our real idea of God may lie buried under the rubbish of conventional religious notions & may  require an intelligent & vigorous search before it is finally unearthed & exposed for what it is. Only after an ordeal of painful self-probing are we likely to discover what we actually believe about God.” -A.W. Tozer

Step two: Practicing soul-training exercises

~To deepen the true narratives, & make them real, not only in our minds, but in our bodies & souls. Belief influences behavior.

~Wise practices with the aim of training & transforming our hearts by deepening our intimate relationship with Christ.

~Athletic type training> I Cor.9:25 I Tim.4:7-8 II Tim.2:5

~Essential not optional for transformation & growth [maturity, sanctification] !!!

Step three: Participating in community, partnership

~Hebrews 10:24

~Best in a group

~Because we are created to be relational, growth will be slow, if not impossible, in isolation for most people.

~Isolation & withdrawal is different than solitude which is necessary for spiritual growth

Step four: The work of the Holy Spirit

~HS orchestrates the events in our lives with the single aim of making us disciples of Jesus.

~The HS & narratives

John 14:26 John 16:13 I Corinthians 12:3 Romans 8:15-16

Two most important relationships in our lives:

1] Jesus as Lord & Master

2] God as our Father, Abba

and both of these come by the work of the HS

~The HS & soul training

-When we open the Bible & begin to read slowly & listen for God, the HS illumines our mind & gives us a direct word from God.

-Pray Romans 8:26

-As we give ourselves more & more to God in soul training exercises, our ability to hear increases.

~HS & community

I Corinthians 12 Acts 13:2-3

HS is there leading us to a deeper love of Jesus & father

Transformation: The fruit of the Spirit Galatians 5:22-23

~We cannot just grit our teeth & become patient. It is the work of the HS, developed from inside out, like a tree.

~When the HS has changed our narratives, we begin to think differently.

*As a result, we begin to believe in & trust a good & loving God who is strong & powerful. We begin to see how Jesus lived a perfect life that we cannot live & offered that life to the Father on our behalf, setting us  free from having to earn God’s favor. The Atonement.

*And as we engage in soul training exercises, especially in group, our confidence that God is at work in and among us increases.

This creates an inward change that manifests itself in outward behavior. Doing flowing naturally from our being.

Come & See

~Ask ourselves over & over the all-important question, “What is it that I really want?” What we truly desire, what we are most passionate about, will determine how we organize our lives.

~Jesus has called you to be one of His apprentices. This is not because of your strength & skills, but because He knows that if you learn how to think as He thinks & do the kinds of things He did, you can live an amazing life- one that is characterized by patience, forgiveness, love, joy, & peace.