Paul E Heimbach
Professor Ken Bickel
19 September 1995

Challenge: Articulate Your Personal Concept of God

What do I believe about His Character?

God has inviolable standards, first, because He is perfect, and second, because He knows how we, and the rest of His universe works, and wants the best for us. This second statement also chalks up to His love. Because God, in His love, wants the best for us, however, He will only push us toward compliance as fast as we can go, knowing our backgrounds. (see below) I am also beginning to believe that God allows us the latitude to come to Him out of our love for Him, instead of simply moving as a Potter on unfeeling, incapable clay, (a thought which leads to lazy Christians.

Nor is God someone to be manipulated. The trend in American and less so world-wide is to treat God as a gigantic vending machine, or a kindly grandfather, peddling good fortune for a kindly (if occasional) act of charity. But because God looks at the motive for the need, and at the circumstances/merit of the need, rather than just the form of the request, when it is truly He who gives, we can be sure that we can use what we get. I fear there will be many financially blessed folks in the Church who find that their cars and houses are not necessarily from God. This also feeds into how I believe He responds to the unsaved. (see below)

What do I believe about His Abilities?

I have always been awed by the concept of the infinite. But to add to that the idea that my God is indeed infinite has increased my awe of him, for such an idea has many implications. I hold as inherent in infinity the idea of perfection. Being a mostly cerebral person, I tend to think much more about what God can and does do mentally, as opposed to what He does physically.

With this in mind, I realize that not only is God present, but He is present in a very detailed way. Not only does he have the desire to know me, but He has the capacity to do so as well. He can know anything about me, including my motivations for doing what I do. Knowing this helps me when I ask forgiveness, and when I can't understand why He doesn't deny me the things I ask for. He also knows what is best for me, which means He can make a better decision for my life than I can. Knowing this makes it easier for me to depend on Him, although it is something I've really taken home only recently. I have needed quite a bit recently, but only because I have moved to become more involved in His work. I have found Him using the most unlikely sources to both fill my needs, and to teach me some kind of lesson at the same time. But even His teaching is not a one-sided lecture or sermon. He is so willing to get involved in my life that He has ordained many people to speak just a few lines at a time, to get a message across. My notice of this has increased in the last six months or so.

 

What do I believe about His Personality?

I have come to believe over the past year or so, as I shuck away the legacy of an over-stern family, that God is quite a bit gentler than I was originally raised to believe. I still am awed, however, by the possibility of His finally tiring of my foolishness, and by the fact that there are things which God hates. What my perception in this area comes down to, then, is that while God has the capacity and the will to become quite angry, and to do immense damage to me or to others, He has the amazing forbearance not to do so. Rather, He is quite forgiving, and will not necessarily deny me something because I am a sinner.

I also believe, reasoning from the Jewish idea of covenant, and from the original state of the relationship between God and Adam, that He enjoys knowing us in a relationship, albeit the relationship of unequal partners. This idea impacts, or should impact, much of how I do my theology. I no longer pray a list to Him, but rather think, as I pray, because I realize more and more that I know too little to know what is good for me, or for the nation, or of methods for bringing about my desires. I no longer keep a list of reque[sts hanging around, or in my Bible, because I realize that He is always "walking in the Garden" with me. (So long as I keep myself clean enough, via requests for forgiveness) Rather, I pray for whatever comes to me, as it comes to me. I no longer can worship in a cold, sterile environment. Simply singing someone else's song is no longer good enough for Him. He has provided so much in my surroundings that is worthy of praise that I can praise Him, even for the ability to brush my teeth. And unlike a few years ago, I no longer believe that He is insulted by such behavior.

 

How does God look at and react to the Lost?

I no longer believe that God rules with an iron fist, as I used to believe. This change of belief has filtered over into my reaction to the lost, and to my estimation of His reactions. I also have seen how His spokesmen, especially in the Old Testament, have reacted. I have seen those prophets weep for the Lost. Granted they were the Jews, but images like white fields give me the further picture of a farmer, who does not detest His field, but is upset when he cannot bring what represents a good bit of work, to his barns.

With respect to their deeds, God looks at the trend in unbeliever's lives. If there is a genuine desire to move in His direction, toward His path, God will look with favor on them and on their activities, even if He has difficultly with their burden of unforgiven sin. But unlike many groups today, I don't think that God grabs folks by the shirt and drags them, kicking and screaming, into His Kingdom. The Bible notes that if no one accepts Him, the rocks and trees will worship Him. God would, I believe, just as easily and readily use circumstances

In summary, then, I am beginning to believe, from the evidence of the last four years, but especially of the last four months, that because of who God is, He weighs the theme of our lives, in which our devotion is more evident, more heavily than the details. This would add meaning to His balanced desire for justice and mercy. While He wishes to see our lives conform to His image and plan, He is willing to show mercy on the slips and falls which will occur along the way. It also tells us how to build our lives, as we prepare for the ministry: rather than trying to perfect many little details, made impossible by our sinful nature, let us allow God to guide our direction, and slowly craft the details.


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