Does God Have Feelings?

Glowing Tube

Would it be possible to hurt God’s feelings? Can we make God happy or sad? At first, it seems like there should be a quick and obvious answer.

If God is emotionless, then he would seem like a heartless monster. But if he is emotional, then he may be unstable and fickle. So how should we think about this in light of Scripture and the Church’s teaching over the last 2000 years?  Continue reading

God Uses Normal People

God doesn’t need first-round draft picks. He uses completely ordinary, ho-hum, sinful people to accomplish his purposes.

You are not so incredible God thought, “I need him on my team” or “What would I do without her?” You don’t need to be great for God. He is great enough. What we need is faith to trust him.

The incredible thing about God’s kingdom is this: it’s a gift of grace. We are unworthy and undeserving, but we receive it anyway.

Consider Abraham and Moses. Their names probably bring up the idea of great men who had great faith… men who are not like you. But here’s the thing: they were totally normal guys who imperfectly trusted God. The Bible doesn’t tell their stories as if they’re spiritual-superstars. Their failures are listed in black and white because their story isn’t about them… it’s about a sovereign God who works through normal people.

walking-up-stairs Continue reading

If God is Sovereign, Why Should We Pray?

I was sitting on the steps of my college chapel, talking with one of the ministry leaders I served under. As I wrestled with new understandings about God’s sovereignty, I hit the wall in my prayer life.

“If God is sovereign, why should we pray? If God is in control, and if he will do what he sovereignly wills, why bother asking for anything?”

It’s a fair question. I don’t remember details about what I was told that day, but if I could go back and talk to myself, here are a few things I’d say.

prayer Continue reading

God is Not Fair

Fairness has become one of the gold-standards of American culture. Everyone is equal. For anyone to receive preference is akin to discrimination and will surely bring a lawsuit. In many ways, this is good and entirely appropriate for any free society.

Fairness doesn’t mean everyone gets the same thing. It means you get what you deserve. This is our default theology. For those of us who are more melancholy, we live with guilt and gloom we cannot escape, because we have a more negative view of ourselves and the world. Others have a go-get-’em mentality and always see the positive side of things, and they live with the expectation that since they’ve never been arrested they’re all-good in God’s eyes.

But there are some ways in which fairness is unhealthy. Because love isn’t fair: it prefers the beloved over and above all others. I think my kids are cuter than your kids are. I’m sorry, but I just do. And I assume you think your kids are cuter than mine. Because that’s what love does. It’s not fair, but it’s good.

God is love. And God is not fair. But he is good, and he is just.

justice Continue reading

Every Prayer is an Act of Submission

There is no such thing as a prayer that commands God and tells him what to do. Such an act is not prayer, but an attempt to take God’s throne.

Every prayer is an act of submission and trust, recognizing that we live under God’s authority and sovereignty. We pray because we know who is in control. And we pray because we know our own limits.

Prayer reminds us that we are not soverign. It is an act of humility and faith. Anyone who comes to God with pride may be call what they’re doing “prayer” but they have not really prayed… they have simply displayed their sinful arrogance and shown God and others who they believe is king.

God calls us to pray, and he acts in response to our prayer. This is a great mystery to be worked through and considered (and that is far beyond the scope of this blog post!).

Here’s my point: Yes, God calls you to pray and he answers prayer. But do not approach God as if you are the one with authority. Prayer is always an act of submission.

Theology isn’t the goal of faith, Love is

Evangelical Christians have a habit of being known more for what we believe theologically/ideologically than for how we live. And when those outside our camp think about how we live, “hypocrite” is the frequent accusation. I’m not here to debate whether or not that’s a fair accusation, but I’ve been challenged twice just today to remember the centrality of love for God in the Christian life.

I was rereading Revelation 2-3’s letters to the churches and was struck again by the Letter to the Ephesian Church. Here’s what immediately jumped out at me:

“I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first.” (vv.2b-4)

What Caught My Attention
As someone who named his blog “Living Theologically” I doubt I need to tell you that theological faithfulness is important to me. The name of this blog isn’t just an idea that I came up with, it really is a description of how I think, make decisions, observe what’s around me, even how I make jokes (or attempt to, at least). Accordingly, I naturally filter what I hear and read through a biblical and theological lens.

The Ephesian Church did the same thing, and yet they were rebuked because the did this at the expense of love. How often do I, and how often do we as thoughtful Evangelicals, think theologically in a way that separates doctrine from love?

No Division Necessary
Theological faithfulness and passionate love for God belong together. One without the other either leads to sterile faith or rootless faith. Scripture consistently affirms God’s passionate love for humanity. Why, then, do we who desire to know him thoroughly fail to show the kind of love towards him that we are trying to understand?!

As I/we continue to grow in our understanding of who God is and what He’s done and what He’s calling us towards, let us do so with our eyes firmly fixed on God Himself, not on our theology books or creeds. When we desire theological clarity more than we desire intimacy with Christ then we are in danger of forsaking our “first love.” As the A.W. Tozer quote above reminds us, “The Devil is a better theologian than any of us and is a devil still.”

The Heart of the Christian Faith is Love
The heart of Christianity is love: God’s love for us, our love for Him, and our love for each other. As the Apostle Paul concludes in the famous “love chapter,”

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.” (vv.1-3)

Theological precision is good, it’s something I am committed to – but love is better. I know from experience the coldness of theological faithfulness when one’s heart begins to harden towards God. I want a soft heart that is filled with wonder that God would love me. I want a discerning heart that would give someone a word of comfort and hope before I jump to correct their theology.

I don’t think I’m alone. I think there are many who hear the words to the Church in Ephesus and are convicted about forsaking their love for God in exchange for theological accuracy. Let’s not throw theology in the dumpster or say it’s not essential (it is, just read the words to the Church in Thyatira!), but let’s remember that Love is primary.

  • Do not let God’s love for you grow boring or theoretical
  • God is more than “a good idea” …  ask yourself whether or not you have affection for God
  • When God’s love for you (or your love for Him) begins to grow cold, you can assume that your love for other people has already iced over. You cannot love God without loving other people (1 John 4:20), so if you want to recover your love for God then send some “Thank You” cards, give to those in need (out of genuine love, not pity), and listen carefully to those around you (and refrain from being the “answer guy” who knows the solution to all their problems… just listen).

Note: I heard John Piper talk on the relationship between the heart and the head last year at a Gospel Coalition: New England conference. I haven’t read his book Think, but I know it dives into this topic more fully… if you hear nuances of what Piper writes about in this post it’s probably coming from the talks I heard last year. 

I’d love to hear from those of you out there who share this struggle with me, please add your insights in the comment section regarding the relationship between theological faithfulness and all-out love for God. I know I’m not alone…