The last few days (and the next few) are the result of my notes from reading the book “Jesus is Better Than You Imagined” by Jonathan Merritt. These posts are my way of processing those thoughts and notes and also to tell the story of my experience with reading the book.
Chapter two begins with an encounter in nature, the author is singing a song on his back porch, the winds blow, trees shake and he knows that God is there with him. Now I understand how to a non-believer this could seem like simply imagination, but I have experienced similar things, sometimes you just know when you are experiencing the presence of God and not something of this world. Which again goes back to the whole, if we are wrong, we don’t want to know, because life is better this way.
The chapter goes on to ponder how much we miss, how God is there so often in the ordinary while we are busy looking for Him in the spectacular. The main point of the chapter though is to challenge you to remove the limits that you place on when, where, how and why you can experience God, particularly the manifest presence of God. Before I became a believer, or when I was a believer as a young child, the notion of God’s presence, of someone experiencing being with the invisible God was just lunacy to me. That was something for the wackos that they showed on tv, you know, the Americans 😉
I don’t suppose I really gave it much thought at the time, but it was very early into my “walk” that I began to experience the feeling of God’s presence. In fact it was part of what made me want to make that decision, it was part of what made God come alive to me. That, I suppose, is what it took for me to realize that this wasn’t just some religion, not just some “nice” people with a lot of rules and a “boring” way to live life. It seemed clear to me that what I felt, I’m not even going to try to explain it, but what I felt was oh so very real. If I, in all my brokenness, slightly pre-salvation, could experience God like this, how in the world could I say no?
Down the road as I was trying to figure out what it meant for me to be a Christian, these experiences grew to be somewhat faint memories. As I was sucked back into the world a couple of years down the road, they became things that happened, but wouldn’t happen again for me, one of the first limitations I placed on our limitless God. The funny thing is, I usually do not place limits directly on God, I am blessed with an unshakable faith, I truly believe that God can and will do all things.
My problem is placing the limits on me, placing the limits on what can be done with me for me or through me. When I place those limits on me, what I am doing as a consequence is placing limits on God, saying that He cannot do these things with me because I feel unworthy or insufficient. Ultimately that is the point, I am unworthy and insufficient, however my Father in heaven who loves me dearly can do all things. Fully believing in what He can do and fully understanding that He is with and within me is an ever evolving process.
Ephesians 3: 20 (Amplified Bible)
20 Now to Him Who, by (in consequence of) the [action of His] power that is at work within us, is able to [carry out His purpose and] do superabundantly, far over and above all that we [dare] ask or think [infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, hopes, or dreams]—
The limits that we place on God appear so much more when we look at Him through the regular western view point. We ignore the mysteries of God, we ignore the supernatural, the spiritual realm that cannot be explained with rational or logical thought. There was a time when I remember looking at eastern religions and cultures and wondering why it is that they are still able to live with mystique and mystery, yet if Christians do that we are considered weird.
I feel like western culture has a lot to answer for in this respect, regardless of the “enlightenment”. I feel like much more damage has been done in our culture to the mystery of God by televangelists and fraudulent spirit healers. Do I believe that God can and does still supernaturally heal disease? Absolutely. Do I think he will do it if you call in now and pledge $150 to the “bishop’s” new car fund? No, I don’t, He could, but He probably will not.
People today want an answer and an explanation for everything, with God sometimes there is no human explanation, sometimes you cannot rationalize why your parent or spouse got cancer, why the children were murdered in their classroom. Sometimes this broken world seems so broken that the notion that there is a living and loving God actively involved seems just a ridiculous concept. Yet, this is one of the very things that I love, not the pain and suffering, but that God is beyond explanation, beyond logic, beyond reason. Would you really want a God that you can get your head around? I wouldn’t. If I can figure God out, then He is not big enough to be what I believe He is.
Sometimes we look too much to the grandiose to see God, we are quick to celebrate His amazing grace in the life of the rapidly transformed former drug addict. Yet we frown at His apparent absence in great tragedies, yet much of the time we miss where He really was in the midst of His apparent absence. Where He was comforting, saving, changing and redeeming with an eternal, infinite, not finite, mindset.
We were designed to be in relation with God, to walk with Him at all times, not just in the big moments; so why do we think that god can only show up in enormous miraculous ways? Much more often, when we open our eyes and ears and mind, He shows up in the small things; a squirrel at the park, a song that you just love, help paying your bills, getting an unexpected hug. Sometimes we have to remember that our loving father is just that. When I seemingly randomly stumble upon a new artist or song that I love, is it really out of the question that God made that happen, saying “Chris, check this song out, I think you will really like it”? When someone receives help to get them through a tough situation, is it just nice people helping or is that the Jesus we see in the bible? If I would do these things for my daughter, how much more would our heavenly Father do that for me and for you?
One of the things I love most about God is that He is infinite, he is outside of time, he is 100% there, everywhere, all the time. This means that he can love me and give me 100% of His attention, yet at the same time He can love you and give you 100% of His attention. His love is perfect, there is nothing we can do to make Him love us anymore just as there is nothing we can do to make Him love us any less. He loves us 100% all of the time. What we have to do it to accept His love, to receive our position in His kingdom as His adopted children. As His perfect, indescribably wonderful love flows into us, we then let it flow out to affect the lives of those around us.
Ultimately the question of why we limit God all boils down to the question of do you trust Him? Sometimes trusting God’s provision or reason is just that, trust. It is like a marriage, you trust that it will always be there. Sure you work on it, but you (in a good marriage) don’t spend the days worrying about the end, there is such a thing as a healthy level of taking it for granted (for a lack of better words). This is trust
I will leave you today with my favorite quote from the book. “My limitless God loves breaking out of the prisons I construct for Him”.