One night as our little boy lay sleeping, his younger brother woke up him with a “burning” question, “do worms have ears?” The reply “dude, go back to sleep, it’s 3 in the morning.” We laughed for a long time when we heard it and then every time we read letters that remind us of this event. Can a worm hear us? Is there a God who hears us? Is there a heavenly entity that understands what we are feeling?
This webpage was created to start dialogue about rest and peace in our lives. I was reminded recently of a time in grad school when I was struggling to understand God and a good friend recommended reading the list of God’s attributes in a book by Millard Erickson. That list that I am going over on this webpage is originally created by him, although I have changed the content under the headings of that list. Over the years I have reflected back on that time and the ways God has revealed himself regarding each of these attributes. This week’s character attribute of the Greatness of God is that He has personality.
God is not a deaf and dumb idol that merely hears our prayers and never replies back. God replies, responds, communicates. God is unique among all other gods in that He tells us His name and identity when He speaks with Moses, “tell them I am that I am has sent you.” We read throughout the Old Testament the many names of God that describe His nature. Our God not only desires our friendship but gives us names so we can identify with and understand Him. That’s pretty amazing.
Matthew 11:35 tells us that Jesus wept or shed tears. I don’t really care if He cried for Lazarus or their unbelief or Mary’s faith. The point to me is that He had emotions which robots and other gods are incapable of having. The fact that He is moved by emotions at all is remarkable. Match that with His incredible mercy and that makes Him unique among all other gods, anywhere in history. I ran into someone recently that was not touched by another’s pain, was insulated against their feelings and closed off to the slightest thought of another’s suffering and it struck me that no matter how much this person said they knew about God, they clearly did not know the living Jesus of the Bible because He was moved by others insecurities, pains and griefs. Desperation does not give us intimacy with Jesus, because then it would be about our quest and not His greatness. It is His mercy and character that brings us into His realm and allows us to be touched with what touches His heart. Those who cannot empathize with others pain need to understand that He is deeply moved by what affects those who know and serve Him. In the end times the Bible states that the love of many will wax cold, in other words they will have dull and unsympathetic emotions. The word wax there means to grow or blow cold. They will say they love God but then show their hearts to be insulated, frozen and cold.
We see Jesus having another emotion, in the temple as He drove out the sellers and materialistic hawkers and charlatans. I do not believe He was hostile towards bird sellers or what was happening in the temple as much as He was angry at what was being prevented from happening – people praying and connecting with His Father. He was angry at what was NOT taking place. He was angry that they separated the children from their father with all their nonsense. Jesus is moved by emotion when He sees His children being used, manipulated, marginalized or pushed aside while the hawkers and sellers or religion take center stage. This real God is really concerned about who is prevented from coming near to His father and His anger displays to us that He was fully man, in all ways tempted like we are and true to His human form. It caused Him to take a stand against the injustice. We can personally trust this God because the foundation of His throne is Justice and He cannot remain silent – no matter the cost.
There are other theological handles that preachers have mentioned thru the ages but as I pondered on this God with personality I was reminded of a Christ that would search for a crazy little man up a tree even though everyone around Him was begging for His time We see His personality when He hangs out with the leper, the beggar, the bride and never tries to look like a leader or sound like a leader or even make a huge declaration from God. If anyone could gain applause from a big, “thus says the Lord” it would be this guy… but He doesn’t. Instead He says things like blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. He intentionally keeps His entourage small and just goes about loving the insignificant.
I encountered some things this week that made me very thankful for the leaders who teach and encourage me. I also encountered some people that made it very clear that they were more spiritual than the next guy and used shame and love as weapons. Their actions bruised my soul. I was tempted to let my heart grow cold but the more I pondered on the personality of this great God, I was reminded that Jesus weeps when we weep and it angers Him when the love of the saints grows cold or becomes a commercial. He is not distant from our tears, or our anger. That may be a good litmus test for fellowship as well. Do the people we hang around with see our tears, hear our hearts, and feel our anger? Are we aware of how God feels about the emotions of ours and others lives? If God has personality, i.e. emotions, feelings and character how does that touch us? Can we hold on to rigid theological belief systems while living out the feelings or lack of feelings that we see in the world?
If you can find time, watch the movie Inside Out. It’s a fascinating story that helps people understand emotions and the importance of all of the various ways we feel things. Being real means really feeling and those who know and love Jesus will know and feel mercy, compassion and loads of grace.
I’m thankful we don’t have to feed Jesus like a ceramic idol. I’m glad we don’t have to sacrifice our children to stay His anger. I’m glad God is not just a cosmic candy machine that dispenses blessings when all around us give us a thumbs up. If we really know this God, we will come to appreciate Him. If we appreciate Him we will understand who He is and how that relates to our relationships with others. We can choose phony slick salesmen relationships with our loved ones, awaiting their admiration and applause or we can cast that aside and feel pain, feel mercy, feel anger and feel grace. If God condescends to us with His character and personality don’t we at least owe Him to be or become real worshippers, real friends and have real relationships? I really think so.
What part of your personality has been hijacked by a lack of understanding of Gods? I pray for all of us that we can see God fully in His attributes and then model that understanding of personhood and identity not only for us to see in the mirror but for the world to see that mercy and real tears and real anger are not things to be avoided but embraced by a God who is more than enough. If our lives revolve around God and His personality, the rest will take their rightful place and emotions will blossom into character traits rather than human personality differences. Psalm 62: 10 says, “Trust in Him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to Him, for God is our refuge.” Trust and pour in this verse are both imperatives. If we trust that God has emotions and personality, we can also trust that He is not shaken by our feelings and emotions. Fake emotions will not produce real healing. Fantasy lives will not produce God results. Go to this living God today and pour out your heart. Trust in Him – at ALL times and when we pour out our real hearts to Him, He will be our refuge. A real God, a real refuge –with real results.