God. We think we know Him, try to describe Him, and seek to do His will. But Who is He, really? We can describe Him based on His qualities, can do a word study to understand what those qualities actually mean, but this week, we will learn about Him differently. Stripping away everything we think we know about God, we will explore Him anew this week.
When my grandmother died, I received both her dining room set and living room side tables and coffee table. Her tastes ran toward walnut colors; mine run more toward mahoghany. After enduring decades of use by a large family, the living room tables needed re-finishing. Convenient for me, my father has decades of woodworking experience. One challenge of re-finishing tables is the stripping of the current stain and varnish. One method of stripping the wood is to “dip” the furniture in stripping chemicals and let them do the work.
This is what we must do with our understanding of God. We are furniture, stained and varnished in a way that has been worn, that likely has impurities, and needs to get down to the raw wood. A beautiful finish requires excellent preparation. And to prepare the wood, you must first get rid of the impurities.
What impurities are present in your current view of God? Are you stuck in a health, wealth & prosperity cycle, believing that earthly reward should be your focus? Do you treat Him like a servant—demanding He act at your will and command? What is flawing your pure understanding of God?
Maybe it is fear—maybe you are afraid that by looking at God anew, you run the risk of learning something that makes you different from everyone else. Let me tell you, I have been a follower since my early years, and I have been rejected by Christians throughout my life. And yet, when your understandings are congruent with scripture, your endurance in such uncomfortable circumstances makes those circumstances a tool to drive you ever closer to Christ.
What fears do you need to set aside as you work through this series?
The next step in this process is a realization of our self-centered attitudes. It is important for us to understand the lenses that we look through in order to counteract the harmful ones and capitalize on those that will bring us closer to Christ.
One example of such a shift happened in my life during college. I was riding in the car, going to a family function. I asked that the radio be turned on, and my parents obliged. I noticed over the course of about 30 minutes, my mom was getting increasingly frustrated with the music. We were listening to a Christian radio station playing songs whose musical style align fairly tightly with what my parents usually listen to—it wasn’t like I was making them endure Christian rock, rap, or punk. Confused, I watched as each song increased her frustration. She finally leaned over and turned off the radio. I asked her what was bothering her—her response sticks in my mind: “Since when did the Christian life become all about our feelings? Not a single song mentioned God, only God in relation to us. Since when did it become all about us?”
In what ways has your faith become all about you?
Repent of those now.
Thinking of God, His glory, and His worthiness of praise, go back and review what you learned during the lesson on creation. What stands out to you with regard to the majesty of God?
The glory of God can seem an elusive concept. We begin to grasp the enormity of His greatness. We get that He is greater than us, bigger than us, and more magnificent than us. At a loss to describe it, we stumble—we know He is great. We have experienced His working in our hearts, homes, and lives. And yet, when we are asked to describe it, we come up with a whole lot more “uh, well, um” and a whole lot less detail. How are we to describe God’s greatness to others? Rather than making up our own definition, let’s take a look at what scripture says about the glory of God.
Read the following passages. Briefly describe what you learn about the glory of God.
- Exodus 33:12-22
- Isaiah 42:8-9
- Now read Isaiah 42:5-9
- Proverbs 25:2
- John 1:14
- Romans 4:16-22
- Romans 16:25-27
- Psalm 63:2
- I Corinthians 1:26-31
- Psalm 145:5
What stands out to you, overall, about the glory of God?
Review the last passages. Make Psalm 145:5 your commitment.
We know about God’s love. We try to imagine what it would be like to sacrifice our own child for the sake of willful, disobedient people. We imagine ourselves in Abraham’s sandals, walking the long road to sacrificing Isaac. We study His sacrificial love. We try our best to understand it. We listen to sermons, participate in communion, and explore this sacrificial aspect of the Almighty’s love for us.
It is powerful. It is meaningful. And instead of studying that once again, we will be looking at His love in a little different way today.
Read Joshua 5:13-15. What stands out to you?
Reading verse 13 again and taking what Joshua says, how would you describe the perspective with which he is approaching this situation?
The New King James Version reads: “Are you for us or for our adversaries?” Are you here for us or here for them? Are you for me or against me? We often take this same perspective in our life. We see things as “my way or the highway”…whether it be issues of faith, doctrine, disciplining children, or how the ice should be scraped off the car. We pick our battles, number them one by one, and demand for people to take sides: are you for me or against me?
Take a moment and reflect on all areas of your life. Are there issues for which you have built a battle strategy and asked for people to take sides? It can be as complex as issues of doctrine, or as simple as how the toothpaste should be squeezed out of the tube. Be honest, be real, and take a look at how you are living your life with regard to drawing battle lines.
Know that you can decide how much to share from this—the important part is to be honest with yourself and with God.
List those areas, those battles, here—then hide the list should you so desire. This is between you and God.
What are the dangers of drawing these battle lines? What results have you experienced, or could you experience?
As the last question suggests, there is a danger of drawing battle lines and demanding that people choose sides on any issue. Some of those dangers may be worth it, some may not.
Going back to our passage in Joshua, review Joshua 5:14. What does the Man (some translations say “angel”) respond to Joshua’s line in the sand?
Whose side was the Man/angel on?
When we draw lines in the sand, we provide only two options: me or them. God draws lines based on a whole other system. Him or not. We draw our lines between humans and then demand that God choose a side—we raise our fist, command attention, and then demand that people choose. We say we are on God’s side, but then ask people to choose us rather than Him.
Read Joshua 7:6-9. Knowing that this passage happens after the victory at Jericho, describe Joshua’s perspective on where God has placed the Israelites.
Joshua, a mere man, wavers in his commitment to the ways of man and the ways of God. Though Joshua’s life history includes faithful greatness of being one of two spies to tell Moses the people could take the scary things in Jericho, Joshua too had moments of weakness in his faith.
Review again the question Joshua asked the Man/angel in Joshua 5—“Are You for us or for our adversaries?”. What is the danger of making battle lines based on human understanding?
Joshua sat outside Jericho, leader of millions of people. He had great faith moments in his past and had seen the previous generation, including its leader, die in the desert for their faithlessness. He had seen great deliverances from God and experienced God’s provision of manna from heaven and water from rocks. Joshua had seen the cloud by day and fire by night. Joshua was chosen by God as the next leader of Israel, in part, because he was willing to stand against Moses’ fear-filled faithlessness.
And Joshua’s faith faltered.
No matter our history of faith, no matter where our battle lines were begun, we are faltering humans. We cannot be trusted to remain faithful, even to the most faithful God. We cannot trust our own emotions, our own perspectives, without checking them continually against what God would have us do/be/say/become.
You might be right that the toilet paper comes more easily off the roll if the end comes over the top rather than hangs down the back. However, what would God’s perspective be on the issue? True, it is not a scriptural issue—there is no verse to look up that gives guidance as to how He would have the toilet paper sit. Lacking that, we have to look to scripture for other aspects of the issue—how are you treating those around you with regard to this issue? Is your behavior aligned with scripture? Is your perspective on the issue so ingrained in you that you are unwilling to hear it from a different perspective?
Review the issues you listed above where you have drawn battle lines. Which ones have you chosen to be on God’s side, regardless of what He chooses? Be careful—it is easy to say “I am right and God would agree.” It is much harder to say “I think I am right, but God, what do You want?”
List out those issues that you need to surrender to God’s hand and following His perspective:
There is another important aspect to understand about our battle lines. I have been in true battles before for the truth of God as revealed in His Word. I have fought in prayer, in word, and in deed to stand up for what God has declared, despite the risk to my present and future livelihood.
And even when I was exactly on point with what the truth of God said, He continually brought me to the point of humility regarding HOW I was going about the battle. For the battle was not about flesh and blood, but it was happening in the flesh and blood world. I could stand for all the truth I wanted, and be “right” in my interpretation of truth, but if I sinned in the HOW of the battle, I was just as much a loser as those who were standing against God. I was on God’s side with my understanding—I needed, also, to be on His side in my manner and being as well.
Reviewing the list of battles again, in what ones might you be on God’s side in truth, but need to re-surrender daily to His methods?
Read John 2:1-4. What is Jesus’ response to His mother’s request?
Read Ecclesiastes 3:1-11. What stands out to you?
It is important that in your battles, where you are on God’s side and following His lead, that you continually seek His wisdom for His timing. What He asks you to do today may be different than what He asks you to do tomorrow. In my own example, He asked me to stay in the battle for eight months—eight very long, very arduous months. And during those eight months I had very wise, very caring people who have known me for years and genuinely care about God’s ways and the best for my future suggesting that I leave the situation. And for those seeking God’s perspective rather than our own, it did not take much for me to share that God wasn’t releasing me from it yet. They then shifted from suggesting I leave to providing support in my battle. Others were not so easily dissuaded—and I had to choose: God’s side or not? God’s side meant eight months of tremendous stress, hourly battles, and being publicly and privately denigrated.
And then, one day, the final straw happened—only I did not yet know it was the final straw. I had committed myself to seeking God before acting/speaking/reacting. It was habit, it was pattern. Yet another thing happened, and when I went to God expecting Him to say “endure”, He instead said, “leave.” I was shocked. After eight months battling, begging to be released, I was surprised with the different answer on that day.
And though I knew not what the future held, though leaving would leave a stain on my future attempts at livelihood, I left.
And even though the end result was the same, the timing was different. Choosing God’s ways and God’s timing meant putting aside me versus them—it put aside my pride, my reason, my rationale and required me to choose moment by moment to do things God’s way and not my own.
Which of your issues, or others that have come to mind, do you need to continually commit to God’s way in the battle?
Commit now to choose His side in the battle. Then commit to choose His way in how to go about that battle. From personal experience, it may not be easy, it may lead to arduous days, tears, stress, and even being ostracized—but choosing God’s side and God’s approach will bring you more than you could ever dream from your human perspective.
So what does this have to do with God’s love? His love is this: He knows we are small humans with limited minds—He does not shift with our wavering shadows. Instead, He remains consistent in His holiness, constant in His intimacy, and dedicated in His desire to give us a better life, in this world and the next. It takes an enormous amount of unfathomable love to keep that better perspective while the ones following are wavering and throwing fits—ask any parent of a toddler trying to teach them how to properly behave in this world. Patience doesn’t begin to describe. God’s love reaches beyond our mortal mind and perspectives to provide for us a way of life that will reap rewards beyond our imaginations.