The Wild Man of the Universe

In his book, "The Sacred Romance", John Eldredge presents an image of God as "The Wild Man of the Universe".. untameable and unpredictable. I love that picture. Do you?

I suspect that you may not like this picture if you have bought into an absolutist image of the Almighty. If you find yourself saying things like "God always" or "God would never" then you may have bought into a fundamentalist, absolutist, black and white view of God.

Consider this scripture that I think paints God as a wild man:
What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! For he says to Moses,
"I will have mercy on whom I have mercy,
and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion."
It does not, therefore, depend on man's desire or effort, but on God's mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh: "I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth."
Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden. One of you will say to me: "Then why does God still blame us? For who resists his will?" But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? "Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, 'Why did you make me like this?' " (Romans 9:14-20)
I love this picture of God because it puts man in his place. To those who would say that "God always" or "God would never" He says I will do whatever I want to do even if you don't understand what I am doing or why I am doing it.

This may make you mad.. I find God to be like that.. He often makes us mad when He acts in a way that is contrary to what we want.

Many of us don't like the idea that the scripture says that God hardened Pharaoh's heart (and other hearts for that matter) because it goes against our idea of what God looks like. We want God on our own terms.. we want to define Him as a tame God that always acts in loving ways.. of course we reserve the right to determine what love looks like :)

Does it challenge you to think of God this way?

Living from Our Innermost Being

"He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, 'From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.'" (John 7:38)

Over the past few years this verse has been a transforming one for me. In it Jesus speaks to us of our "innermost being".. other translations of this verse use the word "heart". I have written much here about the heart and sometimes have created a bit of confusion because many have a different perspective about the word heart and it's theological interpretations.. so today I want to focus on this idea of living from our innermost being.

I'd like to first reflect on two companion passages of scripture.. one in the Old Testament and one in the New.. one written by a king (Solomon) and one by an apostle (Paul):
Trust in the LORD with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6)

But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. (James 1:5-6)
It has always perplexed me how one can "ask in faith without any doubting".. until I began to better understand the inner life and how trusting God is all about living from my innermost being. When we live from this place.. this place within us where the Holy Spirit lives.. we live in a place of trust. I think that it is a good indication that we are leaning on and living from our own understanding when begin to doubt.. when fear captures our lives.

I think that we "acknowledge Him" when we live from our innermost being and not from our own understanding. Really.. when we following our own understanding we sadly only acknowledge ourselves. In a sense, this idea of acknowledging Him is best exemplified by Jesus when He says "From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water." When life flows from within we begin to acknowledge God.

I am reminded of that time almost six years ago, when I was faced with the trauma of dealing with a crisis on the high seas, when my wife became paralyzed from the waist down after we boarded a cruise ship. I vividly remember the crisis and how God spoke to me about letting go.. He whispered these words to me:
"You cannot project manage your way out of this. You need to flow with Me in this and give up control".
Interesting how the Holy spirit spoke to me of flowing.. it was like He was speaking of my need to stop leaning on my own understanding and trust Him to flow from deep within me.

I guess control is the real issue.. isn't it? Several times the writers of the New Testament speak to the idea of quenching the Spirit. Does it amaze you that the Holy Spirit.. the third person of the Godhead.. can be stifled or quenched in our lives? I think that this idea is best exemplified in this passage:
Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words. But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. (1 Corinthians 2:12-14)
This passage captures the heart of of what it means to live from our innermost being. It speaks to the idea of receiving the Holy Spirit, being taught by Him, letting Him flow out of us in speech and discernment. It also speaks to how this stuff seems foolish when we live out of our own "natural" understanding.

I guess I need to end by saying that I am really a learner in all of this. I feel that I am only a few steps into this journey of living from my innermost being. My wife's illness and disability stretches me a little more each day.. it causes me to let go of my own limited understanding of life a bit more each day.. and I am enveloped in a peace and contentment that I didn't believe possible.. but not all of the time :)

Faith and Prosperity

The prosperity gospel is a subject that often surfaces in the blogosphere and often is accompanied by a lot of vitriol and controversy.. thought that these economic times might be a good time to discuss it here.

Christianity today recently highlighted two preachers who pastor two of the largest churches in America and their views on the subject:
For [Joel] Osteen, Prosperity Gospel isn't a pejorative term:

"Does God want us to be rich?" he asks. "When I hear that word rich, I think people say, 'Well, he's preaching that everybody's going to be a millionaire.' I don't think that's it." Rather, he explains, "I preach that anybody can improve their lives. I think God wants us to be prosperous. I think he wants us to be happy. To me, you need to have money to pay your bills. I think God wants us to send our kids to college. I think he wants us to be a blessing to other people. But I don't think I'd say God wants us to be rich. It's all relative, isn't it?"

On the other side is the guy whose church rounds out the "largest four" list:
"This idea that God wants everybody to be wealthy?", [Rick] Warren snorts. "There is a word for that: baloney. It's creating a false idol. You don't measure your self-worth by your net worth. I can show you millions of faithful followers of Christ who live in poverty. Why isn't everyone in the church a millionaire?"
Two interesting perspectives.. my thinking is somewhere in between.

I agree that God wants us to pay our bills.. also think that He doesn't want us to live above our means.. don't believe that God wants us to be slaves to our credit cards.. this is where many prosperity folks go wrong.

I think that God does want us to be happy.. if that happiness is accompanied by contentment.. really.. money and things can't make you happy.. again the prosperity folks mistakenly define "blessings" narrowly and create an illusion of a "right" to be blessed with things.

I also agree that God wants us to be a blessing to others.. but often money is not what people need most.. many times they need our compassion.. mostly they need us.. they need our presence.. they need the blessing of our time.

I do wonder who Warren is speaking of when he says:
"I can show you millions of faithful followers of Christ who live in poverty."
He is probably not speaking about folks that attend his church in Southern California. He might be speaking about folks who have had troubles.. health issues.. family tragedies.. folks in third world countries.. mostly he speaks the obvious.. the world is full of folks who are poor due to no fault of their own.. but I doubt that he would say "God wants you to be poor" to His church.

So what should a pastor say to the folks who they regularly speak to? Should they say "God wants you to be poor"?.. or "God wants you to be rich"?.. or should they simply offer scriptures that will cause folks to consider how they can best live a contented and responsible life?

Prayer Blog

I felt a bit inspired this morning watching my wife Ann receiving chemotherapy and decided to create a new blog dedicated to prayer. I am calling it Daily Prayer.. you can find it at I will be keeping a prayer request list there as well as a list of answered prayers. Feel free to stop by, pray and leave a prayer request.

God and the Election

I received an email message this morning from Chip, my old friend, one-time church history teacher and missionary to Kenya that has some good thoughts about tomorrow's election. Here is the note in part:
Tomorrow is Election Day in the US. Scriptures indicate that God appoints kings, rulers and those in positions of authority in governments. I believe that in a democracy that means that God has appointed the citizens to rule and have authority. I don’t believe that God will get even one vote to cast on Tuesday. He has already made his choice – the citizens of the United States.

Although God does not vote in the election, please do so yourself if you are a US citizen. Chari, Amanda, and I have all voted already via absentee ballot. If we do not exercise our responsibility to vote, we are, in effect, abdicating the authority that God has bestowed upon us. I hope you can join us in praying that:

• God will grant the people of the US, wisdom, insight, and understanding to make good decisions

• The citizens of the USA will take their responsibility seriously to vote for the candidate of their choice

• Both those who are happy and those who are disappointed in the results, will reach out to each other and purposively engage in the process of dialog and collaboration to create policies, programmes, priorities, and procedures that will facilitate the wellbeing of people, both in the USA and around the world.
Please join me in saying an amen to Chip's prayer and making that trip to the voting booth if you have not already.