WILD GOD ~ 9/25/09

I’ve heard it said that there are no right angles in nature. Other, perhaps, than the tail of the African warthog. But besides that—there are none. I’ll tell you what else there ‘isn’t’ in nature: flat ground. Just doesn’t exist. Okay, maybe the Bonneville salt flats in Utah, but seriously, that’s it. I know this because I have yet to sleep on a flat surface when camping in the wilderness. Oh, it may look flat. But trust me, it’s not. You either wake up with a headache because all the blood has pooled overnight in your brain, or your sleeping bag turns into a slow motion dirt toboggan, transporting you several excruciating yards downrange of where you planted yourself the night before. Oor— a large boulder appears under the small of your back in the middle of the night in an attempt to form you into the first right angle in nature. Bottom line: Nature is uncomfortable, because nature is WILD. 

The light was already beginning to fade at the end of the nine mile hike into the Trinity Alps. It was opening weekend of rifle season and Andrew Perry and I had finally decided on a camp site with an astonishing view of the peaks that had watched every burdened step of our journey. A soft breeze tugged at the scents clinging stubbornly to our still damp t-shirts. The heat of the day, having allied itself with the steepness of the alpine trails in an attempt to keep our advance at bay, now relinquished its hold on the land in favor of a creeping chill. Somewhere, in the deepening darkness of the tangled gulch below, a bird sounded a lonely cry that for all the world mimicked perfectly the jingle of some forsaken cell phone. And so it was, as Andrew and I sat on that high shale outcropping beneath a brackish-blue sky packed with points of light— light that appeared suspended on the ends of varying lengths of fishing line— that I suddenly felt extremely vulnerable before God. “It seems to me,” I found myself observing carefully to Andrew, “that when the environment gets wilder, God seems more wild as well.”  How wild is your God?

In one of the prayer seminars I teach we talk about the diminishing attention paid to the ‘Majestic Holiness’ of God. Proof of this is that many of you are, at this exact moment, wondering silently to yourselves what in the world that is! Do you remember the illustration a couple weeks back about being pulled by a rope towards the edge of the Grand Canyon? As one of three attempts to express what I feel when I think about the holiness of God, that example mentioned three feelings that are, though characteristic of an encounter with Majestic holiness, now sharply unfamiliar to many Christians today: 1)Awe 2)Fear 3)Dread. ‘What gives?’ You may be asking—‘I thought God was our friend!’ Oh, He is; but He’s the most loving kind, the kind that will tell you your fly is down, the kind that will tell you when you’re wrong, the kind that is willing to be misunderstood and disliked for the sake of your best interest. God is not a ‘yes man.’ He’s the kind of friend you can’t blackmail or bribe or strong-arm into going along with your mischief. He’s the kind of friend who’s desperately loyal but hopelessly unpredictable.

In The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, book one of the ‘Chronicles of Narnia’ by C.S.

Lewis, Aslan is described as an incredible lion who is King of Narnia and friend to the human children that have mysteriously found their way there. At one point, referencing Aslan, Mr. Tumnis says to little Lucy, “He’s not a tame lion.” “No,” responds Lucy with confidence, “but he’s good.” The Majestic Holiness of God is a reminder that God is not tame. He is not a caged lion, He is a wild one. He submits to no one and to nothing other than the limits He voluntarily places on Himself. But He is good. “God is threatening,” says R.C. Sproul, “and He threatens with Justice.” Sproul continues, ‘God always reserves the right to temper His threats of justice with mercy, but He never tampers with a promise of mercy by withdrawing it and replacing it with justice’ (summarized). We cannot expect God to stay within the boundaries of our understanding, but we can trust Him to operate within the parameters of His character, and at the underpinnings of His character can be found an unchanging and eternal goodness. God is not tame, but He is Good.

Nor, in one sense, is He ‘safe.’ I made this comment during one seminar and got a very upset response from an attendee. “What do you mean, ‘God is not safe?’” she asked with alarm. Tony Snow, the former Bush Press Secretary who eventually lost his battle with colon cancer in July of 2008 wrote this before he died—“Even though God doesn’t promise us tomorrow, he does promise us eternity—filled with life and love we cannot comprehend.” God is not ‘safe’ in the sense of being predictable. “[But,]” Secretary Snow continued— “no matter where we are, no matter what we do, no matter how bleak or frightening our prospects, each and every one of us, each and every day, lies in the same safe and impregnable place—in the hollow of God’s hand.” God is not safe in the sense of being predictable. But like the encounter at the Grand Canyon, He’s ‘safe’ in that His bottom-line motivation when dealing with His children is always Love. God is not safe, but He is Love.

As I hiked and hunted in the Alps last weekend it became clear to me how much environment, culture and circumstance can affect our understanding of what God is like. When there are no sharp sticks of uncertainty poking into our backs, when there are level sidewalks of convenience for walking, when every surface in our homes and churches is padded and carpeted for maximum comfort, our view of God can become overly comfortable as well. It’s not until you’re lying in a sleeping bag with your feet uphill over an anthill while bears creep just outside your field of vision that you remember— God is not domesticated. And yet, even as in His wild unpredictability He works with sovereignty to guide and sanctify your life, He is Good, and He is Love. And He will bring you safely Home.

Surrounded By Grace,



I am a shameless copier of brilliant ideas. This is mainly due to a shortage of my own. I do, however, try to give credit where credit is due, and for that reason, I'd like to thank theoutpost-it follower Jon Vega (a.k.a. 'inkling777') and his own poetry blog (Drops of Ink) for being the inspiration behind a new blog venture of my own I've called "Tooling Words. " For a glimpse into a growing collection of poems and projects of mine from the past and present, check out   Also, for the sake of convenience, this link has been added to my list of "blogs I actually follow" on the right hand side of this blog page. Updates will appear there.


Surrounded By Grace,


The song I remember singing in high school youth group went something like this:

‘Holiness, holiness, is what I long for

Holiness, is what I need

Holiness, holiness, is what you want from me.”

But what was I singing about?

Holiness is another one of the attributes of God. His attributes are things that are true of Him and about Him, in every way and at all times. God is always Holy, has always been holy, and always will be holy. And not just God the ‘Holy’ Spirit— God the Father and God the Son are equally holy as well. God is holy when He expresses his wrath, and He is holy when He expresses His love. He is holy when he allows pain to enter our lives and holy when He allows us to experience times of prosperity. He cannot become less holy and He cannot become more Holy. God is either perfectly Holy or He is not Holy at all. Holiness defines all of God, all the time.

Holiness may define God, but I’m not sure I know how to define what holiness is in a helpful way. I might, however, be able to describe how I react to it. I believe I can describe the emotions I feel when I think about holiness, when I sing about holiness on Sundays or belt out the K-Love tunes in the car when nobody’s listening. And maybe somewhere in my response to God’s holiness, we can catch a glimpse of what it is I’m actually responding to

My response to God’s holiness is like watching the underdog sports team you love, somehow make it to the pinnacle of competition for their sport and then fall behind without a chance of recovery. It’s that feeling in the pit of your stomach, the ‘knowing’ that it’s all over, it’s you getting out of your chair to leave the stadium before the game has ended, only to hear an unbelievable roar from the crowd that remains, just as you reach your car. That feeling of elation mixed with disbelief mixed with joy you get when you stumble back into the stadium and witness an impossible comeback victory-- that is what I feel when I’m responding to the holiness of God.

My response to God’s holiness is like watching the life of a child about to end, and feeling completely heart-wrenched about it because you can’t do anything to reach the child as he struggles to hold onto a branch while a raging river tries to tear him free. And then you see someone else come, and they’re a stronger swimmer than you, or they’re better equipped to help than you, or more skilled, and somehow they’re able to save that child you were sure was doomed. That feeling of gratitude, humility, wonder and relief that you have towards that rescuer at that moment— that is what I feel when I’m responding to the holiness of God.

My response to God’s holiness is a lot like the scenario Pastor Bill lays out in one of our prayer seminars. It’s like standing at the edge of the Grand Canyon, and as you gaze out it’s a looong way down, scary far, and the feeling you have is one of awe. Sometimes this awe hits me like a wave during a sermon as I'm reminded of the glory of God. Other times it catches me off guard as I read a simple Scripture verse that unexpectedly expands my understanding of God so that, like Lucy from the Chronicles of Narnia, my Aslan suddenly seems SO MUCH BIGGER!-- Has He always been this big? 

And its you, looking down with a start to realize there’s one end of a rope tied around your ankle and the other end leading off over the edge of that grandly deep canyon. My response to God’s holiness is like the chill of fear that runs down your spine as the slack suddenly goes out of the rope and you feel yourself being tugged, then dragged by someone or something heavy on the other end, closer and closer to the abyss. In desperation, you risk a brief look over the edge in order to catch a glimpse of what crazy man is doing this to you, only to see… no one there!  My response to God’s holiness is like the sense of dread that floods into you at that moment when you realize you’re being dragged towards a certain fall by some mysterious, unseen, unknown force... Have you been there? Suddenly confronted with the fearful, raw Truth of who God is and you are not, what God requires and you can't hope to live up to? Have you felt with Isaiah the impossible dread of guilt in the presence of this holiness, knowing you deserve a sea of awfulness for daring to bring your sin into HIS presence?

But then, just as you are drowning in this sea of awe and fear and dread, you’re suddenly overwhelmed by an indescribable beauty and kindness and love that begins emanating out towards you from that unseen force... It is the holiness of God, tempered by His GRACE. You have experienced Isaiah's dread-- have you shared in his relief? "...your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for." 

All of those startling, fearful, dreadful, beautiful feelings— all of them added to the elation, gratitude, humility, wonder, awe and joyful disbelief— that is what I feel when I am responding to the holiness of God. He is foreign but familiar, fearful— but beautifully so, far away, and yet, within me…! And when you combine the sum of those ingredient responses and mix them, they produce a healthy dish of… worship.

My response to God’s holiness can be worship— being grateful for what He is, though I am not. Delighted that He can, when I cannot. Hope-filled that He will again, when I will not. Awed with what He gives though I give not. Humbled that He cares when I do not. He is greater than and separate from and beyond all of my limitations in every way at all times, and I’m thrilled to worship Him for it! I’m thrilled to worship God for His holiness that qualifies Him to save me, thrilled to worship God for His holiness that is summoned to sustain me, and thrilled to worship God for His holiness that is promised to live through me.

I am the LORD your God; consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy.” (Leviticus 11:44)

“Holiness, holiness, is what you want from me…”

More than anything, I am encouraged by the promise that the ‘holiness [God] wants from me’ is produced by GOD, in me. HE makes me holy! And I’m thrilled to worship Him for it.

Surrounded By Grace,


I ended my last post about the immutability of God by suggesting you ‘build your life on the Unchanging One.’ I’m thinking maybe that needs further illustration. Like… ‘how?’ How does one live beyond the reach of change? The bulk of that letter focused on what changes; this time I want to look more at the God who doesn’t.

When we say ‘God doesn’t change,’ we’re dealing with a quality that we know about because God has chosen to reveal it about Himself. This goes for everything else we know about God— we know what we know because He has revealed these things about Himself, these character traits, His attributes, in story after story over the course of recorded Scripture. These attributes include His holiness, His goodness, His faithfulness, His omnipresence, His omniscience, and on and on. God’s immutability, His ‘eternal permanence,’ is not only another of these revealed attributes, it is one that can be applied back onto other of His character traits as well. For instance, the fact that He is ‘Holy’ is an eternally permanent fact, that He is ‘good,’ an eternally permanent fact, that He is ‘faithful,’ also eternally permanent and not subject to change, and so on and so forth.  Meditating (thinking deeply) about the eternally permanent quality of God’s character traits can produce a rich yield of spiritual insight and encouragement— especially as we begin to realize the implications and applications of His personality extended towards us.

I want to facilitate this kind of 'realization' by stretching out an example I brought up last week. I talked about Solomon, his fame, wisdom and riches, and I made the comment that “The work of his hands has decayed, his great empire has fragmented, and his vast wisdom has died with him. I noted that, by the end of the book of 2 Kings, due to disobedience, we witness just about everything Solomon accomplished for God come to destruction. His great kingdom? Divided. His great wealth? Squandered and used to pay off foreign invaders. The great temple he spent years building for God? Stripped of its treasures and burned to the ground. More or less, the things Solomon did for God succumbed to the promised outcome of original sin, so that the story would end quite bleakly if it stopped there. But 2 Kings records something else as well…

Even while living out the consequences of this broken covenant centuries later, the ‘carrier’ of God’s promises regarding the line of King David experiences God’s provision. The very last paragraph of 2 Kings records how King Jehoiachin of Judah, royal descendant of David and symbolic representative for God’s people, even after living through a humiliating exile and decades of imprisonment in Babylon, suddenly finds himself remembered, preserved and honored in the presence of his captors. He's taken out of prison and allowed to eat at the king's table. He's 'spoken kindly to.' He's given financial security. He's permitted to live out the rest of his days with dignity. How? Why?-- Because God’s holy, good and faithful promises, originating in a holy, good and faithful God, remained unaffected by the sin-spawned decay of time as well as the sin-saturated unfaithfulness of His people. God is faithful, and His promises are not subject to change brought on by circumstances, the second law of thermodynamics or even human failure. The real story behind the Kings of Judah, the Old Testament and really, the entire Bible, is not what God’s people produced for God, but what God produces to sustain His people, and by extension, the integrity of His character.

Which is why, if the question is ‘what lasts?’ or, ‘how do we live a life beyond the reach of change,’ I believe the answer must revolve around receiving. The Christian life is more about receiving than it is about giving, because God always out-gives us! Yes, the Bible does tell us there are things we can do that please God and that will survive into eternity (1 Corinthians 3:11-13), but even these ‘gold, silver and precious stones’ are but a bi-product of something first received from God. Q: What lies beyond the reach of change? A: Who God is and what He is like, available to us and extended through us. If we stop defining our lives according to what we do or have done for God and instead begin defining our lives according to who He is and what He has done/promises to do in us, our restless hearts will finally find rest. 

Before you come into agreement with the devil today and get down on yourself for what you have or haven’t done for God, remember that any ‘doing’ must first spring from ‘receiving;’ you can’t give what you haven’t received. What have you received from God that has allowed you to know Him? What have you received from God that has allowed you to follow Him? What have you received from God that made it possible for you to eat yesterday, sleep last night and smile this morning? Even as you spent time with Him in His Word recently, what was it you received from Him? Dear Christian brother and sister, you are like a tree; you must receive nourishment before you can produce fruit— and where you put down roots will effect what you produce…

5Thus says the LORD: "Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the LORD.

6He is like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see any good come. He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land.

 7"Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD.
8 He is like a tree planted by water,
that sends out its roots by the stream,
and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green,
and is not anxious in the year of drought,
for it does not cease to bear fruit."  (Jeremiah 17)

What is this ‘fruit’ that seems so unaffected by the ravages of change? It is the fruit produced in the man or woman that ‘builds their life’ and ‘puts down roots’ into the soil nourished by Living Water. What is this ‘fruit’ that seems so unaffected by the ravages of change? This 22”…fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control…” (Galatians 5)


The most important question in your Christian life is not ‘what have I done for God,’ but ‘what have I received from God?’ Let that define you today and everyday, and you’ll find yourself supernaturally living beyond the reach of change.

Surrounded By Grace,



DISCLAIMER: I cannot verify the source or veracity of this story. It is a fun story that was passed on to me via email by a friend. I do, however, still value the validity of the argument made by the supposed main character. Enjoy, even if it is with a 'grain of salt...' 
ALSO: To see the awesome video of this, click here.

"The professor challenged his students with this question: 'Did God create everything that exists?'
A student bravely replied, 'Yes, he did!'

'God created everything?' The professor asked.
'Yes sir,' the student replied.

The professor answered, 'If God created everything, then God created evil, since evil exists, and according to the principal that our works define who we are, then God is evil.'

The student became quiet before such an answer. The professor, quite pleased with himself, boasted to the students that he had proven once more that the Christian faith was a myth.

Another student raised his hand and said, 'Can I ask you a question professor?'
'Of course,' replied the professor.
The student stood up and asked, 'Professor, does cold exist?'

'What kind of question is this? Of course it exists. Have you never been cold?' The students snickered at the young man's question.

The young man replied, 'In fact sir, cold does not exist. According to the laws of physics, what we consider cold is in reality the absence of heat. Every body or object is susceptible to study when it has or transmits energy, and heat is what makes a body or matter have or transmit energy. Absolute zero (-460 degrees F) is the total absence of heat; all matter becomes inert and incapable of reaction at that temperature. Cold does not exist. We have created this word to describe how we feel if we have no heat.'

The student continued, 'Professor, does darkness exist?'
The professor responded, 'Of course it does.'

The student replied, 'Once again you are wrong sir, darkness does not exist either. Darkness is in reality the absence of light. Light we can study, but not darkness. In fact we can use Newton's prism to break white light into many colors and study the various wavelengths of each color. You cannot measure darkness. A simple ray of light can break into a world of darkness and illuminate it. How can you know how dark a certain space is? You measure the amount of light present. Isn't this correct? Darkness is a term used by man to describe what happens when there is no light present.'

Finally the young man asked the professor, 'Sir, does evil exist?'

Now uncertain, the professor responded, 'Of course as I have already said. We see it every day. It is in the daily example of man's inhumanity to man. It is in the multitude of crime and violence everywhere in the world. These manifestations are nothing else but evil.'

To this the student replied, 'Evil does not exist sir, or at least it does not exist unto itself. Evil is simply the absence of God. It is just like darkness and cold, a word that man has created to describe the absence of God. God did not create evil. Evil is not like faith, or love that exist just as does light and heat. Evil is the result of what happens when man does not have God's love present in his heart. It's like the cold that comes when there is not heat or the darkness that comes when there is no light.'

The professor sat down.

The young man's name-- Albert Einstein."

*Grace induces faith & Grace is obligated to faith ~