Thursday, April 07, 2005

Does God Abandon Us?

Speaking of views of God (below), one false view I often hear from believers is that they think God "abandoned" them during a time of crisis. What kind of god would do that? I can't think of anything more crushing than to be left hanging at your moment of greatest need. In reality, what's probably happened is that the person in crisis thinks God has abandoned them because they don't think God is pleased with them. They, in essence, cut God out of their life because they think they "deserved" it. They have judged themselves unworthy and expect God to do the same. But the truth is that God is there all the time - undoubtedly sad at His inability to help the person because they shut him out.

I mention this in case you are in that place right now. Maybe you are going through a hard time (divorce? failing health? financial stress?) and you are tempted to think that things aren't turning around because God has left the scene. Trust me, God hasn't abandoned you. He's never far away. He's always near and quick to take our hand.

The truth is, many of our troubles are simply consequences of a long series of life decisions. God isn't going to magically fix our mistakes or even the offenses done by others to us. Rather, he promises to be with us through the hard times. Remember, the promise is that he will never leave you or forsake you. He walks with you through the fire. He doesn't snatch you from it. Just because your problems don't disappear doesn't mean that God has abandoned you. But if you'll reach out for his hand, he'll grab it and show you how to walk through these hard times and come to a place of new beginnings.

The Impact of Your View of God

I attended a conference this week on forgiveness. One aspect of forgiveness is that people tend to forgive in direct correlation to their view of God. If they view God as kind, compassionate and forgiving they are much more likely to be the same toward others. Along those lines I've heard it said that every person develops into their image of God. If you think God is harsh and judgmental, odds are you too are a harsh and judgmental person.

It's always a bit confusing when I come across people who say that God is loving and forgiving yet they aren't that way themselves. There's a disconnect there that they don't even see. If they are honest about what they really believe about God, they'd admit that deep down they believe God is harsh and condemning. And that is why they are the same way. They are created in their image of God. Who they say God is is just a cover up for what they really believe. Until they discover this disconnect they are dooming themselves to being harsh and condemning themselves. It's too bad because they could be experiencing a totally different life - a joyfilled, peaceful life - but their view of God is shutting them off from that.

So, it's worth a look. If you find it hard to love and forgive others, check what you really believe about God. Ask him to reveal your heart and show you what's true. And then ask him to reveal his true self to you.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Going Deep with God

At Cedarbrook, we are passionate about helping people find God. We recognize that there are all kinds of obstacles that keep people away from God so we see it as our role to help clear the path for them.

We are also passionate about helping people to find emotional healing. Life can be pretty cruel. We not only want people to connect with God we want to help mend their wounds.

But what about those who are connected to God and healthy? What place do they have at Cedarbrook? They are the backbone of the church. They are the ones that serve those finding both God and healing. Without their dedication we could never reach new people the way we do.

There is a misperception in churches that "going deep with God" means that you can quote a lot of the Bible and pray for hours at a time. People expect their church to offer a lot of programs to help their members know more. But I think the truly deep things of God focus around serving others and allowing God to change your character. I'm not trying to put down Bible reading and prayer - just offer a balance. I think we've all known people who can quote the Bible flawlessly who don't seem to be very concerned about their own personal flaws.

If you are a part of Cedarbrook (or another church), I want to challenge you to consider how you can help build various aspects of the ministry so we can be even more effective at helping people connect with God. It's not about you learning more. It's about you helping others who know nothing about God. Help with the youth or the children, lead a small group, assist one of the helping ministries like Celebrate Recovery or Divorce Care, be the most welcoming greeter or usher, offer your technical talents, start new ministries that help the poor or single moms or simply invite your friends.

Our goal is to echo Jesus who said that he didn't come to be served but to serve and to give his life for many. You can't get any deeper than that.