Welcome to our December edition. It is my most meaningful, yet challenging article. Before I begin, I want to make an underlining point. Just like I write throughout the year about landscaping to help us understand and see what our landscapes can be, so I write this article with the intent to help- as one friend would help another. With all of the di erent opinions about God, I will probably step on someone’s toes; however, that is not my intent.
My goal is to encourage people in their faith and/or present another perspective on commonly-held sayings that in uence our beliefs about God. Whether we believe in a God or not, these sayings are widely known and are spoken among us.
Last year, after writing “The God Mystery”, I received many positive comments and a few not-so-positive ones, which is to be expected. Last year’s article was presented as a one-sided dialogue, where I invited you into my thought processes on how a life of faith has impacted my life. I have always held to the belief that to help others, you must be willing to be transparent—to let others see your strengths and your weaknesses and to see how, through your belief system, you deal with the stresses of everyday life. By living out a faith that gives hope, we can in turn give that same hope to others. at was the main intent of last year’s article. I would encourage you to reread it. You will nd it under publications on our website.
This year’s article is a bit different. It is set more as an open dialogue. The answers I give are what I believe to be a few key statements to the sayings; however, I am not trying to answer every aspect of each saying. My intent is that you will come to your own conclusions after I introduce new and hopefully beneficial thoughts. With that as our introduction, let’s begin.
In the course of the year the topic of God comes up. Sometimes I can respond, other times a response is not appropriate. I would like to take this time, therefore, to discuss the top four of what I consider misused or misunderstood sayings.
“God would not give it to you if He felt you could not handle it.”
This is a great way to start hating God. For example, a child loses his or her mother, or a father dies of cancer, leaving the mother to be the sole provider, and when a well-meaning friend drops the above saying. Like an atom bomb, it blows up in your head. What are you supposed to say: “Well, thanks God, I guess I needed more stress in my life.” It is probably the most misused saying. How is it that God gets blamed for all the painful and diffcult situations in our lives? Many times our choices, or the choices of others, are the cause of bad things happening to us. Poor eating habits, excessive worry and/ or stress, substance abuse and/or an emotionally challenged past can take its toll on us. These and so many more choices/ circumstances set the stage for the course of our lives.
So where is God in all this? I can tell you with great certainty that He is not the one dropping the bombs on us. If you want a picture of God, think of Him as a lifeguard. Whether you acknowledge Him or not, whether you go to church or not, He is there; however, when you start to drown, when your own strength or your own ability comes to an end, or when you can no longer think your way out and you call out for His help, He is there. He responds to the heart that seeks Him. Like a father watching his mature kids, he does not interfere until they ask him—so is God. As long as you think you can do life without God, then do it. He will not interfere.
I personally have long learned that I don’t want to do life by myself anymore. I am teaching my granddaughter and grandson the concept of “both.” They are close in age: twenty-eight months and twenty-five months. They want to do everything by themselves. I say, “ this is too hard for you; let’s do it together.” And of course, they say, “No Grandpa, I do it.” So I let them until they say, “Grandpa, help.” I respond by saying, “Both is better” and together we finish the task at hand. That is my take on life. I could do life by myself, but definitely not with the same wisdom, love for people, joy and laughter that I currently have. I could do it, but why, when “both” is so much better.
Is this saying ever true? Depends upon our relationship to the Lord. If the next verse describes us then the saying is true, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not upon your own understanding and in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.” This is my all-time favorite go-to verse. It fits all of life’s situations for me. It is found in Proverbs 3:5-6. When you have made the choice to follow God, then God partners with you over the care of your life. As one pastor put it, “ the concerns of the sheep become those of the shepherd.”
“I am a good person.”
There is so much behind this saying and much depends on the context. If the context is an invitation to go to church and this is the reply, then we are saying, “I do not need to go to church, because I am a good person.” If we are in church, and the pastor gives an invitation to know God on a deeper level, and we decline, it means, “I do not feel the need to change.” Even deeper still, and underlining all of this, is the belief that because I am a good person God accepts me. There is a huge problem with this thinking. God is not about goodness. If you are good, your wife or husband appreciates it, your kids appreciate it, your coworkers and neighbors benefit from it, and maybe the driver of the car that you let in front of you appreciates it, but it does not do much for God. God has not called us to a life of “goodness” but to a life of “holiness.” Holiness is a state of being that is unattainable for man, just like righteousness is unattainable. Yet, this is what God seeks. We have a saying, “A miss is as good as a mile.” It does not matter how hard we try, holiness and righteousness are out of our reach. So, all the self-effort and all the diligence of following specific rules cannot make us more holy. However, in this life you will gain many points, and friends. Click here for Part 2.
“God helps those who help themselves.”
I was raised with this saying, and it has some truth in it. There is a verse in the scriptures that says, “He who does not work let him not eat.” In other words, work to provide for your needs and the needs
of others. Yet, this is not the same as our saying. The underlining basis for this saying, and where I have concern with it, is that it is a hiding place and an excuse for pride. I did it myself, and if perchance I need a little assistance, the Man upstairs is there to lend me a hand. However, it is I who built my castle—it was done by my own efforts. I earn the money I do because it is by my efforts, and so on. There is no acknowledgement that the very breath we breathe is a gift. It was He who formed life and gave us the ability to think and learn, etc. (This might offend those who believe in evolution—not my intent.) And, yes, by applying ourselves and by learning, we have gotten to where we are. However what about those who are just as capable, just as smart, but have not had the opportunity or parents who could afford college, etc. is attitude is narrow-minded and lacks gratitude, humility, and the acknowledgement of all those who helped us along the way. And, it lacks compassion for the less fortunate. The true saying is, “God helps those who seek His help.”
“There are many ways to interpret the Bible.”
As one who has studied the scriptures for most of his life, this statement is scary. It is as if to say, “God does not know how to talk.” He may mean this, or He may mean that. Who really knows? And, furthermore, man wrote the Bible. Take what you can from it and if it helps you, then good. Language, that which we use to communicate thoughts, desires and intentions has the means to be very specific and the languages the scriptures were written in
– Hebrew, Aramaic, and Koine Greek – are the languages that are much more specific than English. So I study the Bible in these languages to get the full intent of the verse. (I use study aides. I do not speak these languages.) And, in the study, I see not man’s hand but God’s hand as He overshadowed and moved man to communicate the truths He sought to say. To believe that God is not capable of preserving His Word ( The Bible) is to believe in a God who is very small. Therefore I find that God speaks very clearly, and through the study of the original languages, a translation and meaning is gained. What the Bible is open to is the application of the meaning. What one verse may mean to me could mean something different to you or help you in a completely different way. Much depends upon our background and current situation.
I often ask my wife after church what she received from the message. It normally is something different than what I gained from it. She is
a different person with a different set of needs and she hears things differently than me. We each come with our own set of “filters” when it comes to listening. Therefore application of the interpretation is where we vary, but the interpretation is of a single truth. God speaks clearly. He does not mix words and His overarching message is His love for humanity. His love for you and me and a passionate desire to be in relationship with us is the main message of the Bible and is what I will talk about on my website in Part II.
In conclusion, I want to thank you for reading our landscape articles throughout the year, but I especially appreciate you reading this article. I started out as a friend and I end as a friend. Hopefully I have been of help, though I am sure that some of my words may have been somewhat challenging. In either case, you know my heart. We are different enough to have different views, but we are similar enough in that we can respect each other’s points of view. As they say, “It is what makes the world go round.”
Have a Happy, but safe, New Year, and I invite you to read Part II.
Move Forward in His Grace