Tag Archives: Spirit

What is a Living God? (part 2: 8 Qualities)

How easy it is to forget that there is (exists) a Living God. Maybe this is so because we are surrounded by dead ones. Since the things we need and “serve” are not consistently life-giving, I think we lump everything to together and get along with that sort of paradigm. A “less-than Living” take on life.

The originator, Creator God, is never-ending, and a not relegated to some notion of goodness, or idea we get to keep in the back of our minds.

Here are 8 attributes to this Living God:

1. A Living God embodies Love not Apathy (the opposite of love).

2. A Living God makes a worshiper like him/her (God transcends gender).

It should be noted that dead gods, in their way, do the same thing. Nevertheless, a Living God refines and purifies, and dead gods foster forms of decay/destruction, and of course selfishness–which cannot lead to life. (Examples: the (dead) god of career, of drugs, of overeating, of anger, of popularity, and so on.)

3. A Living God has a personality (is a being), and relates to others (has the true quality for connecting in relationship) as a primary undertaking and desire.

4. A Living God is interactive in human history, and perpetually involved in common life with regards to people, events, and circumstances.

5. A Living God is wise and forbearing.

6. A Living God is everywhere, unconquered, and vigorous (spirited).

7. A Living God may display displeasure or delight.

8. A Living God has no pride, (because pride is delusional and also leads to deadened life).

In light of this, what is your response to God?

I’m asking for you to take a minute, and comment on your response, one (or more) of these 8 mentioned traits, or bring up something I didn’t mentioned.

Thank you very much.

The Man Upstairs Fallacy

I have a body, you have a body, and…..

we’ve gotten used to God (the Father) having one too. “The Man Upstairs” We’ve heard this dysphemism, right?

This almighty person* of the three-in-one Godhead, who is the center of Reality, is the One Jesus invited us to respectfully, personally, and literally, address as “Dad” in our prayers.

Yep, this is probably why the male depictions crop up. And, it’s not surprising that since God has been around for quite a while (okay. That is hyperbole….it’s been forever and ever) that he would be depicted as elderly. There’s the white hair, wrinkles, and, of course mad skillz at wisdom etched in the contours of his face. He’s usually shown as robed (relaxed fit clothing , perhaps), light-skinned (really huge shock, right? Thanks, Rome.), and bearded. There’s a verse about Jesus having the hair in his beard ripped out, but God the Father having a beard, well, maybe he’s just too busy to shave? Did famous Greek Stoics look like this, so it was a jumping off point for artists? God, so many questions…

AND-Yes, curiously the depictions appear very much like Father Christmas (Santa Claus). If you think about that bit for too long, it will start to get creepy; especially with those holiday songs that include lines, “he sees you when your sleeping…” and such.

Here’s the part where I pop the fantasy bubble, like it or not.

God is not a man.

God does not have a body.

“He” isn’t “upstairs”.

That deity in art, and in our minds, looks like a human, and acts as such. It’s human created. The street term sadly, I’m sorry to say, this is, an idol. There, I said it.

More importantly to our spiritual growth, those types of pictures of God are bitty and short-changed. God does not have body parts, or biology to make God one or another gender. Jesus, and others may say “he” for God because it is a term of relationship. It is a gift of grace, goodness, and love toward us (as children) that no human father can accomplish perfectly well. But God can. God displays qualities most often distinctive to both genders respectively, and in perfection and holiness.

God is everywhere. Let’s just try to wrap our brains around this a bit, because we are not at all everywhere. I’ll just repeat it: God is everywhere. This is one big benefit a Spirit Being has, someone like “the man upstairs” is only, well, upstairs. And sometimes downstairs, but not both at the same time. This is where Deism is straight out against the Trinitarian percepts of the Bible. Deism, separates God from his creation: God-The Watchmaker. Distant, Aloof. It’s just dead wrong, because Jesus called him Father, and invited us to do so, too.

To perform an act of God in the flesh (in human form) Perfect God needed a body. So, yes, God incarnated a real human body to heal and redeem humans, body and spirit.

That incarnation: Jesus, the Anointed One.

The Holy Spirit, also a full member of the three-in-one Godhead (not just a pale bird in flight above a placid, pasty, bearded white guy often seen in artistic depictions), is the full power of God that is with us who receive God and Jesus. This Being, works on us to teach us, and transform us into Jesus’ character, what we call “Christ-likeness”.

In a recent survey, Two out of Three members of the Trinity prefer being body-free.

From Jesus, written by John in Chapter 4. Verse 23 “Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.”

*(person here does not signify a human person (i.e. human individual), but instead, one with a personality. personality |ˌpərsəˈnalitē|noun ( pl. -ties)1 the combination of characteristics or qualities that form an individual’s distinctive character)

Now it’s your turn.

Like me, have you ever thought of God the Father as a man? Or an old man in the sky?

Or a Being with a body?

How do you image God?

Which artistic depiction of God (shown above) do you find the strangest, or most fascinating?

All Comments welcome.

thank you.

Featured Guest Writer- Professor Doug Jackson (not a futurist)

Professor Doug Jackson

Today’s Featured Writer has something to say about the future of the church. But, he has an altogether different perspective, than our previous guest writer, John O’Keefe, and actually, most people. And this, in a nutshell, is Doug Jackson. But you could ever squeeze him into a nutshell, so never mind. He is a thoughtful and gifted thinker, a searching pilgrim, a devoted Christian, and a baking whiz. And, he’s topped with more than a modest dollop of wisecrackiness.

Please enjoy and interact with Doug’s contribution.

Mini-Bio: Doug Jackson

Director of Logsdon Programs, Instructor of Spiritual Formation at South Texas School of Christian Studies, in Corpus Christi, TX.

  • D.Min. – Truett Seminary ( 2006)
  • M.Div. – Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (1985)
  • B.A. – English Literature, Grand Canyon College (1982)

The Church with a Future

-Doug Jackson

John O’Keefe is a futurist.  I find that intimidating as heck.  Personally, I’m a traditionalist.  I can quantify the difference.  Tramping through the jungle, a futurist and a traditionalist happen on some tiger tracks.  “You track him,” suggests the traditionalist, “and find out where he’s going.  I’ll backtrack and find out where he’s been.”

There isn’t even a cool name for the preferred direction for my arrow of time.  “Futurist” conjures up images of, well, guys with shaven heads and soul patches.  “Traditoinalist” calls up images of guys with bald heads (which is SO not the same thing) and no soul at all.  This part I can at least work on.  I think from now on instead of “traditionalist,” I’ll call myself a “past-er.”

So what can a past-er say to the church’s future?  If there is, in the words of T. S. Eliot’s J. Alfred Prufrock, “time for a hundred visions and revisions” of the people of God in community, how much time do we have (and should we allow) for a rear-vision?  Not too much, I don’t guess.  Accordingly, I want to state a thesis and offer three theories.  My thesis is that, whatever the church OF the future looks like, the church WITH a future will be the one with a past.

To speak of the church OF the future is simply to make a chronological observation.  It means “the church that isn’t here yet.”  It doesn’t tell us much about what this church will do or how long it will last.  By the church WITH a future I mean the local community with staying power.  And this church, I believe, has a future precisely because it has a past.  Which leaves my three notions of what such a church looks like.

First, I believe that the church with a future cares less about the draft of its craft than the depth of its ocean.  In his eightieth sonnet, Shakespeare admits to his chick that other poets can praise her better.  So why should he keep scribbling?  Then the bard continues:

But since your worth, wide as the ocean is,

The humble as the proudest sail doth bear,

My saucy bark inferior far to his

On your broad main doth willfully appear.

Your shallowest help will hold me up afloat,

Whilst he upon your soundless deep doth ride.

In other words, what matters is that her merit can bear the burden of grand praises and meager ones. I come from a generation of ministers who learned that good meant big so bigger meant better.  I think the church with a future looks back on the mighty acts of God in history and realizes that the Queen Mary of the megachurch and the rowboat dinghy of the corner congregation all float on the vast sea of God’s greatness, and that plumbing this depth, not scaling our own impressive rigging, is what counts.

Second, I believe that the church with a future cares more about reading its story than writing its narrative.  “Narrative” seems to be a big word in church these days.  As far as I can tell, it has a lot to do with composing our own future in a compelling way that attaches single acts of worship or service to a greater purpose.  I’m all for that, but I think it is important to remember that, at best, we’re writing one chapter in a very long book whose plot is already clearly laid out.  This even works at the local church level.  Eugene Peterson warns us in The Contemplative Pastor that, “the cure of souls takes time to read the minutes of the previous meeting, a meeting more likely than not at which I was not present.”

We find those minutes recorded in church history and church hymnals, two documents which have fallen from favor in my own denomination, where we seem to believe that the church poll-vaulted from Pentecost over several regrettable centuries until she landed safely in our own generation.  That’s why we jettisoned a songbook that came to us polished by millennia of theological mulling on the part of the worldwide body of Christ and opted instead for toe-tappers and hand-clappers that can give us no idea of who we are.

I’m not knocking contemporary music, nor do I believe the Spirit quit inspiring songwriters somewhere around the time Fanny Crosby died.  But because more recent music has not had the advantage of the filtering years, I would like to apply C. S. Lewis’ dictum about books to the business of congregational singing:  “After (singing) a new (song), never allow yourself another new one till you have (sung) an old one in between.  If that is too much, you should at least (sing) one old one to every three new ones.”  (I should admit here that Lewis disliked ALL hymns because he thought the poetry was bad.  He’s probably right, but to me it seems that their theology is rather good.)

Finally, I believe that the church with a future cares more about present faithfulness than future viability.  Because the church of the future will be a mess.  Do what we will (and I hope we will), she will remain a morass of carnality and littleness and arguments over service times and carpet samples for the new fellowship hall.  And she will be the Body of Christ, the one institution Jesus ever promised to care about, and one which he said would sit on an unshakable foundation.

So the church with a future doesn’t spend too much time reading the chicken guts of the changing culture and dealing a Tarot deck of trends.  She doesn’t cross with sliver the grasping palms of earringed “consultants” ensconced in dark tents of occult insider info.

Lewis’ Screwtape rightly warns his protégé Wormwood that the proper focus of human endeavor is the junction of Right Now and Forever which leads us to ask what we need to do in the former in order to serve the latter.  But “the future is, of all things, the thing least like eternity.”

The beauty of futurists like John is that they won’t let us rest in Merlin’s tower forever gazing at some ecclesiastical zodiac; they keep demanding that we do something about this stuff.  They refuse to let us fall into Screwtape’s trap of forgetting that the future is not (Screwtape again) “a promised land which favoured heroes attain,” but rather “something which everyone reaches at the rate of sixty minutes an hour, whatever he does, whoever he is.”

In short, I should simply say that the Church is the church with a future.  For two thousand years we have hijacked her with our high-handedness, betrayed, bureaucratized, bushwhacked and bamboozled her, tarted her up, sold her out, locked her in and dragged her down.  We have made her impertinent, irrelevant, irreverent and irritating.  We have used her to camouflage our carnality and let the slimming stripes of the martyrs’ scars hide the midriff bulge of our overfed carnality.  “And for all this,” the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins reminds us (if I may take a large liberty), Christ’s church

. . . is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things; 10
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs—
Because the Holy Ghost over Christ’s bent
(Bride) broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

What feedback do you have for Doug?

Jehovah Java, My Provider (The God who supplies even my coffee)

Smile, It's Coffee Time

On Sunday mornings I’m reserving my home, and my coffee for friends who want to enjoy it with me, along with some snacks, and a bit of time to converse about the things of life and God. (9:15-10:10 a.m.)

I’ve decided, if my husband makes the coffee, we won’t be forced to look at passages in He-brews. (A few coffee and Bible jokes there. Not very good ones, though. Sorry.)

I may create a home page tab to reflect specifically on our times together, and the topics, or the insights that come from it. Feedback on this idea would be appreciated.

If you join us for Jehovah Java Coffee Club time, or plan to, or would like to join in “at a distance,” please be encouraged to continue our conversation after posts, or add your input.

Today’s topic was entered as the previous post, Sunday Homily.

Questions? Comments? Suggestions?

Sunday Homily / Meditation / Lectio Divina

 Winter Sunrise NC

I present these two passages to you, from my own meditation time today, for your own reflection. Either one is a good choice for meditative prayer (Lectio Divina) which I have written about in previous posts. (You can do a search, or click on the appropriate category at the bottom of the page, for the 4 movements typical to this prayer form.) I have taken these two passages from the material offered in the Holy Bible: Mosaic by Tyndale, pages 58-59.

After reading these, please share your reflections.

Psalm 29:3-4

The voice of the LORD echoes above the sea.

The God of glory thunders.

The LORD thunders over the mighty sea.

The voice of the LORD is powerful;

the voice of the LORD is majestic.

O Love, How Deep

O Love, how deep, how broad, how high,

it fills the heart with ecstasy,

that God, the Son of God, should take

our mortal form for mortal’s sake.

For us he was baptized, and bore

his holy fast, and hungered sore;

for us temptation sharp he knew,

for us the tempter overthrew.

For us he prayed, for us he taught,

for us his daily works he wrought;

by words and signs and actions thus

still seeking not himself, but us.

For us to wicked men betrayed,

scourged, mocked, in purple arrayed,

he bore the shameful cross and death,

for us at length gave up his breath.

For us he rose from death again;

for us he went on high to reign;

for us he sent his Spirit here,

to guide, to strengthen, and to cheer.

To him whose boundless love has won

salvation for us through his Son,

to God the Father, glory be

both now and through eternity.

-Thomas Á Kempis (Germany/ c. 1380-1471) 

“How Much Hoodoo / Voodoo do you do?” Self-test

This man just prayed, "God, give me sign if I should get a dog?"

This man just prayed, "God, give me sign if I should get a dog?"

(Was the cat joke too obtuse?)

Has a bit of Hoodoo, folk magic, superstition, and general hooey nuzzled its way into your theology? Probably. We all fall prey to cultural influences that don’t have a solid base in the nature of Reality, (i.e. our Creator and Redeemer) Take this self-test to know if you’re mostly hoodoo-free, or if you could use an excorcism, a bath, a dose of Reality, or just a good swift kick in the pants. Oh, and please, enjoy yourself. It’s all supposed to be fun, good-natured, and thought-provoking in a helpful sort of way.

Hoodoo Self-test

Answer true or false, and add up your answers as you go.

1. Once in a while you straddle a broomstick, and hope it will magically fly. (Or you think about doing it.)

2. Hogwarts seems like the ideal boarding school, even if there does tend to be a lack of supervision.

3. Sometimes you make plans, and then think to ask God to bless what you are doing, with a sign, if possible, to see if it’s “his will.”

4. You’ve gotten hurt or sick and thought it could be a punishment from God, (however, you hold back not officially citing it as “bad juju.”)

5. You’ve fairly certain you’ve been hexed or cursed by someone at some point in your lifetime, maybe by someone who hated you, or a band of gypsies.

6. If you don’t pray in Jesus’ name, you think your prayer could be a dud.

7. When you need to, you put out a (proverbial) fleece, much in the style of Gideon, to get confirmation from God.

8. If God seems silent on a decision you need to make, you check for “closed and open doors,” and pray more zealously about it.

9. Not getting in private devotional/Bible reading time with God can correspond to a bad day, (or an odd string of bad luck, or even a loss of mojo.)

10. You suspect demonic activity is responsible for a lot of your temptations, mistakes, and influences.

 

*Scoring: Add up true scores in a column, and then false scores in another.

1-3 True answers means that like many people you have been somewhat influenced by hoodoo folk magic and folk theology. The upcoming series will be of great benefit to you. Hold off on the exorcism-for now. But, don’t get too cocky.

3-6 True answers means that you have a bit of a problem area with hoodoo. (See my other post to learn more about hoodoo vs. voodoo. It’s oh so real.) You probably don’t realize the extent you are being witchy with God. Don’t freak out, he won’t put a bad spell on you, but I’m sure he yearns for you to get to know him, more for who he is. It could be more complicated than the voodoo doll slippery slope approach that can creep up unawares. It could be very comforting for you too, to hear a few fresh ideas. Check back soon for posts in this series.

6-10 True answers mean you have a hoodoo issue. Return any capes, magic wands, voodoo dolls, potions, or caldrons you may have purchased. They will not serve you well. It’s quite likely that you are incorporating some superstitions into your worldview, theological foundation, and everyday life. But there is always hope! God wants your liberation, and the journey to freedom, with him. It will be so restful at the end. You won’t have to keep looking over your shoulder, so that will be nice too! Check back soon for many helpful ways to rid your perspective of faulty notions of God’s nature, character, and actions; and learn of his redemptive agency in his created  world.


If you are ready to grow, be open, and BRAVE, leave your score in the comment section. If not, please post something you’ve been thinking about throughout this time. Thank you!

*(This test is mildly amusing, but not real, in any scientific way, so please don’t be upset however your score may come out. The idea behind it is to prompt thought about your beliefs and spiritual actions against the gracious, loving, true nature of our Creator and Redeemer.)

A few thoughts about needing signs, from my Savior and mentor:

“Unless you people see miraculous signs and wonders,” Jesus told him, “you will never believe.” John 4:48  (Said despairingly of the Jews who rejected Jesus in Nazareth.) 

Matt. 12:38 Then some of the Pharisees and teachers of the law said to him, “Teacher, we want to see a miraculous sign from you.” 39He answered, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.

This is the greatest sign and revelation that God is God, he came in the flesh, died, was buried for 3 days, and was brought to life again, which was witnessed by many. He is trustworthy.

Vocation

The Spirit of Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me

to preach the good news to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners,

and recovery of sight for the blind,

to release the oppressed,

to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

-Lk. 4:18-19