The Good And The Bad News, Or This Ain’t No Game of Pin The Tail On The Donkey

I’m amazed I’m getting three posts up this week, in light of my emotional and now physical exhaustion. Though to be fair this post is largely inspired by a blog I read today, and I’m not the type to just re-post something I find interesting. So instead I’m going to remix it!

The good news is…. God is present with us. When Jesus came to earth he was here to join alongside of us in the world lying in shambles filled with despair. And though he left the earth, in a very strong sense he has never left and remains today, as the Holy Spirit inhabits his people.

The bad news is… God prefers to come disguised. He came as a poor baby to an unwed mother. It’d be easy for anyone to say “No – that’s not God!” It would not take much effort to write God off in this form and to reject him.

The bad news gets worse… and not only did God come in a way that was unrecognizable – but we can’t get too used to that image. God seems intent on never letting us believe we’ve got him figured out. Whenever we think we’ve arrived he totally switches it up so that we’re left at square one again. God seems to do everything he can so that we won’t make idols out of what we know about him.

You’d think if God wanted to be found, he’d stop being so elusive.

And so this is our fate for the rest of our faith journey – always on the hunt, always trying to build fences quickly enough to contain God, always having our structures shattered from the inside out – never comfortable, never settled, never finished.

I’m beginning to see why we’ve simplified evangelism to showing people how they’ve broken the Ten Commandments and then lead them down the Romans Road. The whole “you can never cling to God, you’ll never figure him out and he will always elude your grasp” is not a great sales technique. There are few laws of physics when it comes to God.

But we do have this – love. We know that God isn’t merely a fan of love – but that he is Love. So we’ve got that, and arguably little else.

But it’ll do.

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25 Responses to The Good And The Bad News, Or This Ain’t No Game of Pin The Tail On The Donkey

  1. Paul tells us that scripture is sufficient for every good work. I do believe that there is much to God that we don’t have a clue about. He told us enough, but not everything. The question is, do we trust even though we don’t know everything? Do we start making stuff up to fill in the gaps?

  2. You know, I’ve been a believer for almost 40 years, and I’ve never been comfortable with the whole Romans Road thing. For years I felt guilty about it. But the older I get, the more I realize that, just as God doesn’t fit in a box, we don’t all have to get into one either. The personality He gave me is one that prefers to accept people where they are, live my life in front of them in a way that hopefully pleases God and “When necessary, use words.” Others were given a personality that responds to Romans Road type evangelism, and for them, the Romans Road evangelizers are a perfect fit. I think we’re all different for a reason, but somehow only one way of sharing Christ became the predominantly accepted method.
    God IS elusive. He told us Himself, “My ways are higher than your ways.” Which still translates to me: “No matter what, just trust me.”

    • in sociology we studied how in the mid 1900’s we began to buy into a McDonald-ized version of life – meaning a very efficient and predictable model for doing things. McDonalds truly did revolutionize this way of thinking – they wanted you to go into any town and go into a McDonalds and know exactly what the experience would be like (once late at night in Switzerland I didn’t have the energy to decipher any menus so I went to McDonalds because I knew I could get exactly something in a short amount of time). I think this can help explain why the Romans Road technique took off. We like standardization, and this is not very compatible with God as a whole.

  3. Considering the struggles of my own faith journey – ha ha, notice how I kept that in there for you – have led me to an extreme frustration with the idea of “leading a sinner to Christ” through F.A.I.T.H. or the Romans Road or ABC or the Four Spiritual Laws or anything else that proposes that it’s “easy to become a Christian in the next 5 minutes”. I don’t mean that it never happens, or that conversion is a gray area, but rather that it’s impossible to boil everything down into a single moment of time and claim that AT THAT MOMENT a person can believe everything correctly and really understand what they are doing. God doesn’t “trick” people into becoming Christians and then force all the really hard stuff on them after he’s fooled ’em into “believing”. There’s much more to this “thing” than most people want to admit. I will admit that sometimes I over-think stuff, but I also maintain that sometimes people need to quit rattling off the party line and ask themselves if they really believe what they are saying.

    • I’ve never heard of F.A.I.T.H. – care to give a presentation?

      I end up going through phases of this – but it seems like its all a balance – it can’t be too simple and it can’t be too complex. I think you do raise something though – I think we make Christianity super simple and then people come to find a totally different beast when they get a little deeper. Die to yourself? Wait God isn’t always fully present, and sometimes we have “seasons of absence?”

      and thanks for the faith journey reference – this blog is making a difference! :p

      • I cut and pasted this from a guy’s blog, but since I know the “program”, I know that it’s not his original content, either, so I don’t feel bad, but I don’t have time or memory to dig it all up for myself….

        This is NOT an endorsement of this approach. It’s terribly fraught with problems, it comes across as gimmicky, and it leads to “marks” just agreeing to what you say in order to get your argumentative, scheming self off of their doorstep. The presentation actually starts with the statement “We’re doing a survey, and we’ve got one question we’d like to ask you – What do you believe it takes for a person to go to Heaven when they die?”

        What follows is the actual FAITH acronym description from the website –

        There are various other sites that deal with it. Lifeway basically claims it now.

        “The core of the course focuses on learning an easy gospel presentation, following the acronym F.A.I.T.H. In your personal opinion,
        What do you think it takes for a person to get to heaven and have eternal life?

        F Is for Forgiveness

        Everyone has sinned and needs God’s forgiveness.
        Romans 3:23 “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
        God’s forgiveness is in Jesus only.
        Ephesians 1:7 “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace.”

        A Is for Available

        God’s forgiveness is available for all.
        John 3:16 “God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.”
        God’s forgiveness is available but not automatic.
        Matthew 7:21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord!’ will enter the kingdom of heaven.”

        I Is for Impossible

        According to the Bible, it is impossible to get to heaven on our own.
        Ephesians 2:8-9 “By grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift—not from works, so that no one can boast.”
        So how can a sinful person have eternal life and enter heaven?

        T Is for Turn

        If you were going down the road and someone asked you to turn, what would he or she be asking you to do? (Change direction)
        Turn means repent. Turn away from sin and self.
        Luke 13:3 “Unless you repent, you will all perish as well!”
        Turn to Jesus alone as your Savior and Lord.
        John 14:6 “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”
        Here is the greatest news of all. Romans 10:9-10 “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. With the heart one believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth one confesses, resulting in salvation.”

        What happens if a person is willing to repent of their sins and confess Christ?

        H Is for Heaven

        Heaven is a place where we will live with God forever.
        John 14:3 “If I go away and prepare a place for you, I will come back and receive you to Myself, so that where I am you may be also.”
        Eternal life begins now with Jesus.
        John 10:10 “I have come that they may have life and have it in abundance.” H can also stand for how.

        How can a person have God’s forgiveness, eternal life, and heaven?

        Romans 10:13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. By trusting Jesus as your Saviour and Lord.”

      • that’s pretty corny. If I were a non-believer I’d find this approach totally un-compelling. Thanks for digging that up for me, I shall now avoid it!

  4. David says:

    I like remixes, here’s mine.

    The Good News is that salvation is through faith in God, nothing else! (not even theology, yay!) Real faith places a seal on our hearts and we have our ticket to heaven; the rest is an ongoing relationship in which we experience God more deeply. Religion causes us to consider our performance before God, never being quite sure if we’ve passed the test. We make up our own rules so that we can pass the test, or fit in, or get some temporary relief from the human condition.

    The Bad News: Folks think that God is elusive; that he is almost completely and utterly an unknowable mystery, when what he really wants is for us to learn to see and hear in the spiritual realms (that is THE knowledge of God). The sheep know his voice, and he speaks as often as they are willing to listen, and have need of his interaction. It requires engaging God in his terms, not ours.

    The Badder News: Religious styles and a culture in which human relationship is shallow, tends to be put on God like it’s his fault. I believe that if your god is not doing anything in your life, you are probably looking in the wrong place.

    The Saddest News we spend a lot of time debating the Kingdom of God, when it is simply at hand, and one of power. Jesus did not come to bless our plans, he came to change our eternal destiny, and the way we live our lives.

    The best news is that it can all change with faith, and a willingness to engage God on his terms in a personal way.

    How’s the job hunt going?

    • so far not much luck on the job hunt – submitted a few resumes and what not, but nothing thus far.

      You had a lot of great stuff in your comment, I actually need to do some chewing on it. So no critiques or hallelujahs quite yet….

  5. Good remix charlie. I like it (much better). Bernard has actually expressed a lot of my frustration. I came from a tradition that wouldn’t use the Roman Road or 4 Spiritual Laws or Evangelism Explosion because it did not include…are you ready?…baptism is necessary for salvation. Same song, different tune. I tire of “instant anything” as the way to God. Lets give ’em Jesus.

    • instant mashed potatoes are nothing like the real thing. Apply that onward.

      (though I will say when I was backpacking for 25 days straight I loved instant mashed potatoes – my favorite hiking meal by far)

      (and as for the presentations not including baptism, ugghh. It is all the same tune, except the listeners are getting fewer.)

  6. JamesBrett says:

    i love the “it’ll do” as a donkey reference. very well done.

    the thing is you could write your next blog post on how very “inelusive” God is through nature and good works and the like. [i’m assuming inelusive is indeed not a word?] and it could be just as true.

    • thanks sir! You seem to appreciate the tiny bit of humor I toss in (and for the record I’m a very light hearted person, I just haven’t figured out how to translate that digitally. Or would it be convert?)

      Inelusive – would that be alusive? Oh I dunno. And that is a great idea for a follow up post, I didn’t even think of that.

  7. Carla says:

    I think most of the time the good news is all from God, and the bad news is just things we humans mess up. It’s not that God prefers to come in disguise to trick us, He tries to change the way we think, and we grasp tightly to the worldly views we’ve grown accustomed to. Therefore we see it as a disguise because, like the Israelites, we expect a giant king with a big ol’ army and big shiny crown. Actually when I was a child I very much thought God looked like the priest at my Catholic school. White hair and a long flowing white robe, I added a beard and maybe some lightning bolts for sparkle, but you get the point. Our image of God is created by man-made religious ideas and culture, man-made patriarchy, and the Lord of the Rings. But we didn’t look closely to how He said He would come. I like the song Face of Christ by Chris Rice- have you heard it? It’s awesome.

    I’m rambling, but I’m going to continue. I don’t think God is elusive, I think we think He’s elusive. If we look for God, He will find us. Sometimes if we don’t look for Him, He still finds us. My husband was heavily involved in the occult for 10+ years and was a blood-pact Satanist. And yet, God found him and convinced him to surrender to Christ (just in time to meet His perfect Christian wife, Carla! 😉 ). He has some of the strongest faith of anyone I’ve ever met. If God could pull him from the literal clutches of Hell, I’m pretty sure He can make Himself known to just about anyone. Some of us just ask Him to stop knocking on our door, and He is ever so polite and obliges.

    I think I’m done rambling now. Thanks for thought-provoking topics!

    • thanks Carla for replying with thought-provoking stuff – even if it’s not in total agreement with me. I think your clarification is true – God doesn’t shake things up for the sake of it, but precisely because we make idols out of the images we do have.

      Rad story by the way – I love those!

  8. Larry Hughes says:

    The way I see it. God is not elusive. He is always besides us. Ok maybe an angel or Holy Spirit fills in for Him. Our own problem is we are the ones elusive, fail to seek out His grace, and listen for His voice. The good part is He knows when we are sincere of just following the regiment of prayer as a duty rather than honest dialogue.

    • I’m still not totally convinced God isn’t elusive (I’ve read too much Philip Yancey and the Psalms for the matter), but I would easily agree our eyes are either not open or are looking way off the mark – which does nothing to help the situation.

  9. theoldadam says:

    God in His fullness, is hidden. His general revelation is known, or CAN be seen by all…but God in His saving revelation is limited. Although it is there.

    He has decided to come to us in His Word (Christ Himself, preaching/teaching, the Bible), and in His Sacraments. He shows up in these things, for us, through faith.

    It may not be too sexy. And many poo poo this. But these are the ways God has decided to come to us.

    Thanks, Charlie!

  10. This is good, Charlie. Thank you for your blog. I sent the article by Frank Viola out to friends. They were blessed by that tremendously. I love Frank and his thoughts…very true to the nature of Christ in my opinion. The veil was rent in two, that’s all I know…no more walls after that of any kind keeping us from the God of this world and His never ending love and mercy for us.

    Oh, and this is runofthemill’s wife, Deb Paul. Keep writing, Charlie. You are helping a lot of hurting people.

  11. Su says:

    Interesting thoughts! I remember once being at a youth rally where the speaker’s topic was something along the lines of “God Doesn’t Make Sense”. I think it was the first time I had thought in that light… but it’s true. Just when I think I have God all figured out, he surprises me.

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