Last week was our first taste of what will be our weekly routine for the next 10 weeks. It was packed with heaps (just testing out my Aussie words) of new found knowledge and revelation, lots of laughter and of course, sports.
Last weekend, we drove about an hour outside of the city where we had our first of many (hopefully) Australian barbies, ate some good food, saw some kangaroos, fed some parrots and played volleyball. During the week, we also managed to squeeze in a group movie night, basketball at the park with some new friends, and our school leader’s rugby game. Let me tell you… that is one rough and bloody sport.
Last week’s lecture topic was the nature and character of God. I took almost 20 pages of notes, so I will do my best to condense it down to the parts the hit closest to home for me. 🙂
In order to completely trust God, you’ve got to be able to clearly see who He is. So often, we don’t trust God because we have a distorted view of Him. Have you ever played with one of those programs where you can distort your picture and make it look like you have a ginormous forehead, a tiny nose and tennis ball-sized eyeballs? If we don’t have a right understanding of who God is, we slowly allow our circumstances to distort the true image of God.
There are a number of ways we can distort the image of God, including, but not limited to:
- We deceive ourselves. In Exodus 32, Moses is up on the mountain with God and Aaron is trying to hold down the fort with the Israelites, but they become impatient because Moses is taking too long. The Israelites tell Aaron to make them gods to go before them because they don’t want to wait for Moses to come back. Aaron caved under pressure and without hesitation, he asked everyone for their gold earrings and proceeded to form them into an idol cast in the shape of a calf. Aaron created a god that the people could see and manufactured the type of god that he and the people wanted. How often do we slowly mold God into a god that we are more comfortable with, deceiving ourselves into believing things about God that simply aren’t true?
- Wrong teaching/cults. We emphasize certain parts of the bible, while neglecting others all together. God is not sitting on His throne with His hands tied behind the back, unable to intervene, crossing His fingers and hoping that everything goes well for us. He’s also not using us as a puppet, walking us through each day without any chance for us to make our own decisions. Both are completely untrue and distorted images of God’s character.
- Experience. Our interpretations of experiences can distort the image of God. Maybe you’ve gone through a tough time and don’t feel like it was fair. Our experiences tell us that God wasn’t there, and we view God through the lenses of our circumstances instead of viewing our circumstances through God’s lenses. Your circumstances are always changing, but God’s character is unchanging. When you don’t understand why something is happening to you, instead of running from God, run to Him. You may not understand why you went/are going through this particular situation, but if you run to God and seek Him, He promises that you will be comforted.
- Role models. When I think of role models, I think of my parents. Maybe your role models aren’t your parents, but rather a close friend, sibling, or mentor. As you reflect on your experiences with your role model(s), whatever your emotional response, I think it’s safe to say that they aren’t/weren’t perfect. Although there are plenty of attributes of our role model(s) that we admire, there are plenty of areas where they fell and continue to fall short. So when, for example, we picture God as a Father, we see a distorted picture of who He is because of the imperfect role models in our lives.
What you really and truly believe about God will form your behaviors and choices. As a class, we made a list of God’s attributes: He is kind, gracious, compassionate, joy, faithful, loving, merciful, Father, righteous, holy, patient, just, trustworthy, unchanging, etc. We discussed that although these are things that we know to be true about God (head knowledge), we can take a look at our behaviors and choices to see if these are things that we really and truly believe about God (heart knowledge). To give you a personal example, the last year I worked in my corporate job, I was struggling with a lot of discontent. I thought if I just took matters into my own hands and found another job, I would be happy. So I found open positions and applied… and applied… and applied. After a couple of months of no one contacting me to schedule an interview, I grew really frustrated. During that time, had someone asked me if I thought God was trustworthy, I would have said, “Absolutely.” My actions, however, spoke volumes about what I really and truly believed about God. Although I knew in my mind that God was trustworthy, in my heart, I really and truly believed that God could only be trusted up to a certain point and therefore, I needed to take certain areas of my life into my own hands. (Note: This is never a good idea. Have you read the story of Jonah?) In John 16, Jesus says to his best friends, his disciples, “But a time is coming, and has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet, I am not alone, for my Father is with me.” What would you do if your best friends, the people you did life with each day, left you? Jesus could have had a pity party because His best friends were leaving Him and He’d be all alone, but He really and truly believed that God was with Him and knew that He wouldn’t be alone.
God is love. God doesn’t just verbally express His love throughout the bible, but He shows His love; the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is proof. He offers forgiveness; He provides for our needs; He interacts; He enjoys spending time with us; He disciplines out of love; He comforts.
2 Cor 1:3-4: He is the God of all comfort; the Father of compassion.
Jn 14:26-27: The Counselor (He teaches and reminds us); The peace giver.
Jn 1:10-13: God loved us and sent Jesus. Some believed in Him and some didn’t. True love gives freedom.
Mk 2:1-12: He’s forgiving… ask for forgiveness and keep a short account with God.
1 Jn 1:8-9: His forgiveness is free and vast. Confess in detail.
1 Pe 1:17-21: He’s Just; He’s selfless; He put our needs first; He is Redeemer; He is powerful; He is worthy.
Gal 4:4-7: He not only saves us from something, but He adopted us into something. We are no longer slaves, but sons. He is the Father, not the slave driver.
1 Jn 3:1: God is Father. He lavishes us with love.
Jn 15:15: He is Friend, not master. A friend who lays down His life, not a come-and-go friend.
1 Co 13: God is LOVE. An always, unconditional, never stopping, never giving up love.
Ro 8:38-39: There is no barrier is too great to keep us from God’s love.
Mt 28:20: God is ALWAYS present.
Lk 15:11-24: God is forgiving; He gives us free will; He doesn’t hold grudges; He celebrates when we repent.
Love does not control, just as control does not create love. For example, if a stranger came to you and said, “I’ll give you $50,000 if you marry me” would that bribe create love? No? Okay, well what if they pulled out a gun and said, “I’ll kill you if you don’t marry me,” would that create love? No, it wouldn’t. With God, there is no bribe and there is no threat. God doesn’t force us to love Him. He could have created us all as robots and controlled us to love Him, but He didn’t. He wants relationship with you and He wants your heart. He doesn’t want your modified behavior. He doesn’t manipulate us to love Him. He gives us free will and you have a choice. When God reveals Himself to you, you can either harden your heart as you walk away, or you can drop your pride and walk humbly to Him.
Because God is 100% Holy, He can be trusted 100%. Holiness is to live up to the standard of all revealed truth. Holiness is not just knowing truth, but putting truth into action. God’s standard of truth is holy. He knows all truth and lives up to all truth and therefore, God is 100% holy. He is not almost perfect, He IS perfection. Because God is 100% holy, there is no point at which He can’t be trusted. The reason we don’t trust people is either because we doubt their ability, or we doubt their integrity, and the point on the line of trust only goes so far. I’ll give you an example: There is a guy by the name of Nik Wallenda who recently walked across Niagara Falls on a tightrope. He started his career at the age of 13, and has successfully walked the line (obviously, because he’s still alive) countless times. I would say this guy is a professional. He knows what he’s doing, and it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that he’s one of, if the not the best tight rope walker who has ever lived. Keeping that in mind, let’s pretend that Nik successfully crosses to the other side of Niagara Falls and he looks at someone in the audience and says:
Nik: “Well, what did you think?”
Person in Audience: “Oh Nik! Dude, you’re the best tightrope walker who has ever lived! No one compares to you. You’re so awesome! Oh man, the way you walked across that tightrope like it was nobody’s business … So amazing.”
Nik: “I’m glad you liked it. Listen, I want to cross again, but this time, I want to take someone with me. Do you think I can do it?”
Person in Audience: “I totally believe you can do it! You’re the best! I wouldn’t trust anyone else.”
Nik: “So you believe in me? You would trust me? ”
Person in Audience: “Without a doubt.”
Nik: “Great. Hop on my back and let’s go.”
Person in Audience: “Wha… huh? Me? Oh, I thought you meant should someone else trust you… Yeah… about that. My life is actually pretty great right now, I don’t really want to die…
Nik: “But I’m the best. No one else compares to me. I’m the greatest. I can be trusted without a doubt. Isn’t that what you said you believed…?”
What you really and truly believe will form your choices and behaviors. Although Nik is the best tightrope walker, he’s also human, and that means that he can only be trusted up to a certain point. God, on the other hand, is 100% holy and unchanging. This means that He is always holy and there will never be a point on the line at which He can’t be trusted. There is no one else like Him. What are you waiting for? Jump on and walk the line.
Things that you can be praying for:
- Patience as I wait on God, specifically as it relates to hearing His voice. One thing I feel like God is teaching me is to wait expectantly and patiently on Him. When I’m learning something new, I have a tendency to want to know everything I’ll need to know within the first 5 minutes and then grow frustrated when I’m not. It sounds pretty stupid, I know, but it’s true. Like anything else, hearing and discerning the voice of God will take practice and time… and patience.
- Prepared hearts for us and the kids we’ll meet as we begin working in a local detention center next week. The kids in this specific detention center have been charged, but not yet sentenced. Most of their hearts are hard and that haven’t experienced true love. Please pray that the Holy Spirit would stir up and soften hearts to receive His Love and Truth. Please also pray for our protection and safety as we walk into a place heavy with spiritual warfare.
This week’s lecture topic is forgiveness and repentance. Tomorrow is the application day, which means that we’ll put everything we’ve learned this week about forgiveness and repentance into action. I’m sure I’ll have some good stuff to report back to you next week. Until then, I’ll leave you with some pictures… Enjoy!