To the casual observer, theology can seem like a dense underbrush of spiky vines, meshed grasses, towering trees, stinging insects, and near lethal allergens. This is how the rain forest in the Amazon Rain Basin appears to me. I’ve not been there, but I spoke to a friend about it. She went to the Amazon to work on a medical boat, providing assistance to the poor villagers who live on the river. Apparently I was absolutely correct.
It’s a miracle that anyone survives living there.
Their average stinging insect is the size of a single engine plane. To be fair, the Chicago Suburbs has all the allergens, stinging insects and humidity of the Amazon, but far more traffic due to construction, and where they have trees, we have political corruption. But I digress.
The many things said about God in the Bible can seem like a tangled mess. He is given a thousand different names, and it’s hard to keep it all straight. I think this is why we all still know him simply as “God.” It’s a little easier to remember than “El Shaddia,” or “Jehovah Mekoddishkem.”
Easier to spell, too.
At first glance, theology can be a bit overwhelming. However, once you get to understand it better, you will see not a tangled mess, but a collection of intertwined pieces, like the fabrics of a blanket or the parts of a symphony, or, if you’re a nerd like me, the connections and inverse relationships of mass, size, ionization energy and metallic character across the periodic table of elements!
Oh… OK, I can see that you’re not a nerd like me.
How about, it’s like the differing moves of the players on a football field running the same play- working together in harmony to score a goal unit?
Maybe I better just get to it.
In our acronym “GOSPEL”, we start with G
“God made you to have a personal relationship with Him.” The easiest thing to do is start at the start and work our way up. The start is the beginning of the universe. The Bible’s first verse tells us that God made everything; “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Time, space, energy, matter, the laws of physics, the three primary colors, the seven-day week, and all thirty-one flavors of ice cream were his creations. The first thing God does is create, and it’s an amazing story resulting in an amazing universe.
At the end of the week, just before he invents the weekend, God makes the first two humans. Genesis 1:27 says, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.”
A lot of modern commentators (And by that I don’t necessarily mean people who have read Genesis themselves) talk as though God may have started the universe, but the appearance of mankind came as a shock. They picture him walking through the garden of Eden one day saying to the angels, “My, I have been gone a very long time. It’s 13.7 billion years if it’s been a day. But I like what the laws of natural selection have done with the place… Wait! What are THOSE things? They’re like monkeys but… taller!”
The bible tells us clearly that God not only intended to make us, but he made us special. God also intended us to be like Him in ways that monkeys, dolphins, and hamsters are not. This idea is a little foreign to our culture. In previous generations a married couple had children because they wanted to have a family, so they understood that God could have no needs yet desire to have children to love. Since the 1960’s people tend to have children for the same reason that they get parking tickets; “It’s a… a boy?!?!? But I just fed the meter! I gave it 75 cents not an hour ago! How did this happen?!?!”
There are several ways in which the Bible tells us about God. One way is his many names, all of which tell us something about his character and relationship to us. For instance, El Shaddai means “Lord God Almighty.” That’s the shiny nameplate on the BIG desk.
Jehovah Rapha means “The Lord That Heals.” That’s good news whether you’ve got a broken heart or just tried roller skates for the first time.
Jehovah Shalom means “The Lord Is Peace.” This makes sense for the creator of the weekend.
The name that really put Oprah off, according to her own personal testimony, is Qanna which means “Jealous.” At hearing this name, Oprah sorta switched sides and now bats for the other team, if you know what I mean. But she simply misunderstood the meaning because of the English form of this word. In English, Jealous is the girlfriend who throws a public temper tantrum and accuses you of cheating because a pretty girl just asked you the time. In our common usage, jealousy is usually based on selfishness or petty insecurity. However, when the word is used in the Hebrew it talks of God as a husband who desires a special and intimate relationship with his wife- one that no one shares. This is not based on insecurity but on a passionate desire for intimacy. Let’s face it, if you’re ok with your wife having boyfriends and lovers, you’re a pretty lousy husband. And an idiot.
God is like a Father because he made us, and we are made in his image. Our heavenly father loves us, provides for us, and teaches us right from wrong. God is more than just a father though. He is also like a husband. He wishes for an intimate, committed love from his people. He wants the other gods of the world to look at the left hand of our heart and say, “Oh, leave that one alone- she’s spoken for.”
The piece of the puzzle to grasp today is this: God made everything that is, including you. God made you on purpose, and he has no intention to keep his distance. As a charming talking tomato once said, “God made you special, and he loves you very much.”
Hopefully, that should take the sting out of the theological thicket.