Anthropomorphizing God

wilson-cast-awayThere are many dangerous things Christians like to do. One of them is to anthropomorphize God.

Anthropomorphize: (verb) to attribute human form or personality to things not human

And so often, in our quest to understand God’s nature and character, we compare him to us, even though the bible says very clearly in Numbers 23:19 that “God is not a man.”

Case in point: “God is your heavenly Father.” And the way we explain this is by saying things like, “So God is kind of like your dad” (or worse, “So God is kind of like you”).

Now, to be fair, we do say that God is better than our human dads. But still, we often start with ourselves. We tell people to look at their human parents, and then move the goodness bar a little higher, and eventually you’ll get to God.

But we have things entirely backwards. We were never supposed to anthropomorphize God. To say “He’s like us, only better” is to grossly understate how good and infinite and perfect He actually is.

We should never anthropomorphize God; rather, we should dei-pomorphize us.

Dei-pomorphize: (verb) to attribute Godly form or personality to things not God

When it comes to fatherhood, we shouldn’t say,

“Well, you’re a father, and you love your kids and provide for them and try your darndest to be fair and teach them how to live. Sure, you make mistakes, but all in all you’re pretty good. But God is better.”

We should say,

“God is perfect. He is holy. He never lies. He leads flawlessly. He always knows what to do. No weapon formed against His kids prospers. He supplies all of their needs. He teaches us all things. And He does all things well. He’s also your Heavenly Father. Therefore, earthly fathers, be more like the perfect Father.” (By the way, Matthew 5:48 says you can be perfect like the Father, so this isn’t an entirely ridiculous expectation.)

I mean, I am just a father. He is The Father. That means He’s the measuring rod, not me. When we anthropomorphize God, we allow ourselves to stay in the same place while bringing Him down to our level. But when we dei-pomorphize ourselves, we elevate God to the highest place while striving to get closer and closer to him.

And this works across the board. We are told tolove our wives as Christ loved the church.” When we use the love of Jesus as the standard in our marriage, we have no choice but to work harder, get better, and love greater.

We are told to live the characteristics of the Holy Spirit: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.” These aren’t merely human qualities; they are attributes that God Himself possesses, and that can only be lived by the power and strength of the Holy Spirit.

So fathers: be like God. After all, He is THE Father. Raise your kids like God would raise them.

Husbands: love your wives like Christ loves you. I know, I know. That’s a tall order, but hey, God told you to do it, which means it’s possible.

And Christians: every single day, let every single characteristic of God, be it love, patience, or peace, shine brightly and obviously through your life for the whole world to see.

That’s how we’ll change the world.

“…the Love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, who was given for us.” (Romans 5:5)


 

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Name It and Claim It

name it and claim itThere are Christians who believe that God answers prayers asked in faith, be it for salvation, healing, provision, or anything else.

I happen to be one of them.

This usually leads to my being labeled as a “name it and claim it” Christian (or “blab it and grab it”).

I’m not really sure how I should feel about this label. After all, it is meant pejoratively. And the bible never uses the phrase, “name it and claim it.”

But there are a number of phrases the bible does use, and I prefer to identify myself by those.

Here they are.

Some Guy: “Are you a ‘name it and claim it’ Christian?

My epic response: “No, I am a…

  1. You shall have whatsoever you say’ Christian (also known as a ‘Mark 11:23’ Christian)
  2. These signs shall follow them that believe’ Christian (also known as a ‘Mark 16:17’ Christian)
  3. Ask and you shall receive’ Christian (also known as a ‘Matthew 7:7’ Christian)
  4. Promises of God are Yes and Amen’ Christian (also known as a ‘2 Corinthians 1:20’ Christian)
  5. He is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that I ask according to the power in me’ Christian (also known as an ‘Ephesians 3:20’ Christian)
  6. God shall do as I have spoken’ Christian (also known as a ‘Numbers 14:28’ Christian)
  7. I have been redeemed from the curse’ Christian (also known as a ‘Galatians 3:13’ Christian)
  8. The Lord is my healer’ Christian (also known as a ‘Exodus 15:26’ Christian)
  9. He sent His Word and healed my disease’ Christian (also known as a ‘Psalm 107:20’ Christian)
  10. He has freely given us all things’ Christian (also known as a ‘Romans 8:32’ Christian)
  11. The prayer of faith shall save the sick’ Christian (also known as a ‘James 5:15’ Christian)
  12. God gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they are’ Christian (also known as a ‘Romans 4:17’ Christian)
  13. He has given us exceedingly great and precious promises’ Christian (also known as a ‘2 Peter 1:4’ Christian)
  14. I am a partaker of the divine nature’ Christian (also known as a ‘2 Peter 1:4’ Christian)
  15. Life and death are in the power of the tongue’ Christian (also known as a ‘Proverbs 18:21’ Christian)
  16. God shall supply all my need’ Christian (also known as a ‘Philippians 4:19’ Christian)
  17. Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons’ Christian (also known as a ‘Matthew 10:8’ or ‘Luke 10:9’ Christian)
  18. No weapon formed against me shall prosper’ Christian (also known as an ‘Isaiah 54:17’ Christian)
  19. Go in peace, thy faith has healed you’ Christian (also known as a ‘Matthew 9:22’ or ‘Mark 5:34’ or ‘Mark 10:52’ Christian)
  20. Nothing shall be impossible for you’ Christian (also known as a ‘Matthew 17:20’ Christian)

So there you have it. If you are tired of the stigma attached with ‘name it and claim it’ or ‘blab it and grab it,’ here are twenty alternatives you might prefer, straight from over twenty verses from the Law, the Prophets, the Gospels, and the Epistles.

Then after you’ve established that your stance is based on scripture, you could ask them if they are one of the following (not that I condone name-calling, but these seem apt to describe them):

  • Disbelieve it and don’t receive it’ Christian (Mark 6:5-6)
  • I am the Lord, but guess what? I’ve changed’ Christian (Malachi 3:6)
  • Jesus is the same yesterday, today, but definitely not tomorrow’ Christian (Hebrews 13:8)
  • Oh ye of little faith’ Christian (Matthew 8:26)
  • Jesus has come to steal, kill, and destroy you’ Christian (John 10:10)
  • Jesus healed most but not all, and certainly not you’ Christian (Matthew 8:16 and Acts 10:38)

Okay, okay, those latter six names probably won’t be helpful to the conversation. But regardless, it’s plain to see that “name it and claim it” isn’t nearly as far-fetched as some would make it sound.


 

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Three Things the Bible Says that Aren’t Actually True

three things the bible says that aren't actually trueSince I launched my website back in February, I’ve started reading different Christian blogs to get a feel for the lay of the land. And the thing I’ve discovered? By and large, if you want to attract a large following to your Christian blog, you basically have to reject the bible as truth and criticize orthodox Christianity.

That creates a bit of a problem for me, seeing as how, ya know, the bible is absolute truth.

But I think I found a loophole.

Here are three things the bible says that just aren’t true.

  1. There is no God.”

The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none who does good.” (Psalm 14:1)

Well there you have it. Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens and all those other angry atheists were right. And the source of their validation? The exact book they loathe and despise: the bible.

… or… maybe not.

We know the bible is absolutely true. Therefore, this verse records absolute truth. But to understand what is truly being said, this passage must be read in context.

The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’”

Psalm 14:1 isn’t saying there is no God. It’s saying that foolish people claim there is no God. This verse is accurately recording what a fool says, even though what the fool actually says is inaccurate.

So, this begs the question: how do we know if what’s being said is accurate?

It all comes down to context. For one, does the statement line up with the rest of scripture? And two, is the speaker a trustworthy and reliable source?

In this passage, the speaker is definitely not reliable. He is called “foolish” and “corrupt.” He clearly doesn’t know what he is talking about.

And his statement is definitely not in sync with the rest of scripture. The first words of the bible are, “In the beginning, God.” The bible doesn’t waste time proving God’s existence because it is so painfully obvious and self-evident.

“There is no God” is a false statement; “Fools say, ‘There is no God’” is a true statement.

Let’s see if we can find a few more “incorrect” passages.

  1. “Crucifixion will not happen to Jesus.”

From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day. Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, ‘Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!” (Matthew 16:22-23)

Moments after Peter identifies Jesus as the Messiah, Jesus tells His disciples He will soon be executed. Peter’s response? “This shall not happen to You!”

While Peter is fervent with his message, we know he was wrong. For one, Jesus calls him “satan” just one verse later. And since satan is the father of lies, Peter can’t be telling the truth.

Also, all four gospels end with Jesus’ crucifixion and subsequent resurrection.

“Crucifixion will not happen to Jesus” is a false statement; “Peter said, ‘Crucifixion will not happen to Jesus’” is a true statement.

And today’s final example of an “incorrect” bible passage?

  1. “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away.”

And [Job] said, ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.’” (Job 1:21)

This is a common one. You find it quoted in approximately 53.7% of worship songs, it often turns up in Sunday morning sermons, and it’s used to prove that God sometimes bring evil into our lives.

But it’s not true.

First of all, the text makes it clear that satan (not God) took Job’s stuff away. And in the final chapter of Job, the titular character repents for saying this, claiming he “uttered what [he] did not understand.”

Already it’s not looking good for this oft-quoted passage. Job admits he was wrong, and the story itself refutes Job’s claims.

And the final nail in the coffin? There isn’t a single example in the bible of God taking good things away from his righteous children.

God does plenty of giving (like here, here, here, and here), but you just can’t find a solid foundation for the idea that God takes away. The best argument is Job 1:21, which is easily dismantled when one considers the entirety of scripture (and even just the entirety of the Book of Job, or the entirety of chapter 1 for that matter).


 

So yeah, apparently there are a few passages of the bible that seem wrong when taken out of context. The bible is, among many other things, a history book, and it records the events of history with perfect accuracy.

But some of the people whose stories are recorded made mistakes (David’s extramarital escapades, Balaam’s greed, Job’s ignorance). And we do ourselves a disservice when we follow in their errors rather than learn from them.

The bible doesn’t teach that God gives and takes away.

Job taught that.

And Job was wrong.

Thinking-Guy

Rivers of Living Water (Pt. 2)

rivers 2((( click here to read part one. )))

[Next Sunday is Pentecost, the day that the Holy Spirit was given to the church. Christians around the world will spend the next week reflecting on this tremendous Gift as well as its implications for believers, and I felt it was only fitting to offer a few comments myself.]

“On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’

But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive…” (John 7:37-39)

One sentence in particular immediately grabbed my attention when I started researching rivers:

“Rivers are a part of the hydrological cycle.”

Most of us learned about the water cycle in elementary school:

Precipitation – condensed water vapor falls to the earth’s surface, mostly in the form of rain.

Runoff – the variety of ways by which water moves across the land as it flows into lakes, reservoirs, or the ocean.

Evaporation – the transformation of water from liquid to gas phases as it moves from bodies of water into the overlying atmosphere.

As we all know, the first step of the process is precipitation, where water falls to the earth. I’m reminded of the prophetic words of Zechariah:

Ask the Lord for rain in the time of the latter rain. The Lord will make flashing clouds; He will give them showers of rain, grass in the field for everyone.” (Zechariah 10:1)

…as well as the words of Pastor James:

Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain.” (James 5:7)

Of course, the bible isn’t merely talking about precipitation here. The rain we are asking God to shower down upon us is the Holy Spirit, in all His glory and power and awesomeness. We are told to pray for a move of the Spirit to sweep through our barren land and give us desperately needed revival.

We’ll skip step two for a moment, and move right along to Step Three of the water cycle, which is evaporation. Once the water has been collected in large bodies of water, it can finally make the journey from the earth to the heavens.

If that’s not a blatant metaphor for salvation, I don’t know what is. Throughout the bible, bodies of water are often mentioned symbolically to represent large groups of people. And once the rains of the Holy Spirit reach the people, multitudes will be swept into the Kingdom of Heaven.

And finally, what was that second step? What bridges the gap between the rain falling from the clouds and evaporating back into the sky? What brings the Holy Spirit to the people?

Rivers are pivotal to the entire process, acting as conduits to transport rainwater through the barren lands to the oceans and lakes, so it can return back into the heavens.

And you are pivotal to the salvation of everyone around you, acting as an ambassador of heaven who speaks life into this dying generation, so that the lost would be swept into God’s kingdom.

Never underestimate the calling on your life. Never forget the power of the Holy Spirit that flows through your hands and feet. Out of your heart flow rivers of living water. And without you, our world is headed for a drought.

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Rivers of Living Water (Pt. 1)

Rivers Part 1[Next Sunday is Pentecost, the day that the Holy Spirit was given to the church. Christians around the world will spend the next week reflecting on this tremendous Gift as well as its implications for believers, and I felt it was only fitting to offer a few comments myself.]

“On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’

But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive…” (John 7:37-39)

Rivers.

It’s an interesting metaphor, really.

My pastor began a series on the Holy Spirit yesterday morning. He read John 7, and as he talked about the “rivers of living water,” I was reminded of the three laws of geography my cousin taught me several years ago.

Law #1: I don’t actually remember the first law.

Law #2: Mountains want to be flat.

Law #3: Rivers want to be straight.

Rivers can tend to be quite windy, but over the course of time they gradually erode the surrounding land and straighten themselves out.

Basically, rivers shape the environment around them. They’re supposed to, anyway.

Think about that for a second. Rivers can carve their way through nature. They tear their way down mountains. They cut out valleys. They transform land, they transform cities, they transform societies, they transform the world.

And Jesus said when you allow the Holy Spirit to flow out of your life, it’s comparable to these world-changing rivers.

I bet when Jesus invented rivers ages and ages ago, He knew He’d one day preach a sermon to a group of uneducated fishermen about the incredible power of the Holy Spirit. And He probably programmed things like erosion into them to demonstrate the sheer magnitude of His intentions for the Spirit-empowered church.

We are supposed to transform society. We are supposed to change culture. We are supposed to have an impact on the world as we know it. As Jesus said, we are supposed to disciple entire nations.

And Jesus told us exactly how to do it.

His disciples were filled with the Holy Ghost, and they allowed the violent torrents of the Spirit to flow out of their hearts and turn the world upside down.

And we have been commissioned to do the same exact thing.

So get going. Let God’s words pour from your lips. Let His power gush from your hands. Let His life flow from your very being. It’ll change the world. There’s no way it won’t.

[Your Turn: What are some other cool things we can learn about the awesome power of the Holy Spirit by talking about rivers?]

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Four Important Lessons Jesus Taught Us about Judgment


judgmental_bag_grants_passIf there is one word that the church doesn’t understand, it is the word “judgmental.”  Christians are terrified of this word, and the mere mention of it causes the average believer to crumble to the floor and play dead (much like an opossum).

Ironically, most of this stems from a terrible misunderstanding of Jesus’ teachings regarding judgment.  So let’s consider the story of the woman caught in adultery (from John 8) to glean four biblical lessons regarding judgment.

1.     Jesus called her behavior “sin”

Jesus didn’t shy away from questions regarding morality.  He clearly identified her adultery as “sin” in verse 11.  And He said it right to her face.  This wasn’t the only time he voiced His opinion regarding sin, either.  In Mark 7:20-23, Jesus gives a laundry list of sins (including lying, stealing, and homosexuality), which He says “defile a man.”

There is nothing wrong with calling sinful behavior “sinful.”  Jesus did it all the time.  You don’t get people saved by telling them they aren’t really sinning.  All that does is justify their belief that they aren’t desperately in need of a Savior.

Sin is sin.  And the reality of sin in our lives is what prompts us to find the One who can deliver us from our sin.

2.     Jesus told her to stop sinning

Most people stop reading the story at verse 10.  “And all of the mean, judgmental Pharisees left, and Jesus gave the woman a big hug and said, ‘It’s all going to be okay.’”

But what does Jesus say to her in verse 11?

“Neither do I condemn thee.  Go and continue living in sin.”

Nope.

“Go and try really hard not to sin.”

That’s not it, either.

“Go and read My latest book, Ten Ways to Overcome Sin.”

No, He told her to stop sinning.

“Go and sin no more.”

We often hear people say that Jesus spent much of His spare time with sinners.  That’s only a half truth.  He spent His time converting sinners into saints.  It was time deliberately spent, and while the people He congregated with usually started off as sinners, they soon left their life of sin to follow Jesus.

We hinder someone’s relationship with God when we allow them to continue living a life of habitual sin.  Let’s not forget it was sin that separated us from God in the first place.  Grace doesn’t free us from the consequences of our sin; it frees us from sin itself.

3.     Jesus didn’t condemn her for her sin

These are the words that most of us remember from the story, and we’d do well to remember them.  “Neither do I condemn you.”

Jesus draws a line in the sand between two words that the church thinks are synonymous.  Judgment and condemnation are different things.  Jesus clearly judged her sin.  He told her right to her face that she was sinning, but He didn’t chuck a rock at that face.  He told her the truth (in love, I might add), told her to stop, and then walked away.

I’m not someone’s executioner.  I’m just a guy who is filled with God’s life and knows God’s truth.  My responsibility is to make that truth known and make that life available.  Because the truth is, we all have sinned, and therefore deserve death.  But God graciously gave us His life instead.  Shouldn’t we do the same?

4.     Jesus gave her a way to stop sinning

The big difference between judgment and condemnation is your willingness to lead someone out of sin.

Matthew 7 is where we find the oft-quoted verse, “Judge not, lest you be judged.”  Jesus follows this up with a metaphor, saying,

“How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’ when you have a plank in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:4)

But then He says something we often overlook.

“First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

The point in this discourse isn’t, “Don’t judge another man’s sin.”  His point is, “You both have sin in your life.  Deal with your own sin, and then help your brother deal with his.”

And Jesus called this process, “judgment.”

The point of judgment isn’t to throw rocks at someone else.  The point of judgment is to get all of the planks, specks, and sins out of our lives, so we can effectively serve God.  And if the church was more willing to deal with sin rather than avoid it, we’d be a heck of a lot stronger than we are.