Sunday, March 20, 2011

Who is God?

I have taken over leading youth group here in Los Anonos. For my first message, which I'll be giving next week, I feel impressed to talk about who God is. To start the conversation, I want to ask the question, what does God look like? I have been researching in the Bible and have found some great scripture that describe God (which I'll get to later). But as any good Calvin College student, I decided to take my quest to Google. I googled for images of "God". Interestingly enough, there were about 346,000,000 results. However I was very disappointed. Most of the pictures depicted God as an angry, old man. Many of the results weren't even pictures of God, but weird sayings, phrases, unrelated images of video game warriors.

Morgan Freeman did also come up on the search.
Totally expected that one ;)

So I decided to research a little further and google imaged "Holy Spirit". Here I got 6,800,000 results. Again, the majority of the images were doves, or doves descending on Jesus, with an occasional image of flames.
Just out of curiosity, I did a google image search of "Jesus". 94,200,000 results popped up. But here almost every image actually depicted Jesus. Not only did every picture embody a vivid image of the incarnate God, be he also gets to do some pretty amazing feats.

Jesus is the one who pulls Peter out of the water:

We have baby Jesus:

And Jesus with babies:

Jesus is the one pictured in the garden.

Jesus gets to arm wrestle the Devil:

And give us His approval:

He oversees surgery:

This painting is entitled "Jesus, Meek and Mild":

There are also the countless studembodiments of the passion, crucifiction, death, and resurrection of Jesus:

Yet he also shows up on fishsticks:

And apparently is even part of the NRA:

So even though "God" gets more results on google, it is really unfair in how He's depicted.
There are probably many reasons why Jesus is depicted so much more than God the Father...Spiritual reasons. Psychological reasons. Logisitcal and logical reasons. I am going to be pondering that for a while. Maybe we are most comfortable with the human side of God. Maybe it's because Jesus actually walked on earth and so we know he looked like a man...that's easier to draw and makes good, reliable art work. Plus there are stories about what he did and who he interacted with. Maybe we're afraid of being heretical in depicting what God looks like. Don't get me wrong, I'm in no way trying to down play Jesus or His depictions. I'm just trying to figure out why God the Father doesn't seem to be focused on as much, or "credited" as much. God is also described in the Bible. He did AMAZING things that are recounted in the Old AND New Testaments. The whole reason Jesus came was to reunite us with God, to breach the gap that was created in the garden so we could know God. Jesus came so we could experience the full trinity, right? So we could know the Father as well as the Son and Holy Spirit. While God is so much bigger than our imaginations can possibly capture, we should be able to grasp at least some idea of what God looks like. Technically, since we have seen Jesus, we have also seen God.

John 14: 7-11 says, "Jesus said to him, I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me. If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him." Philip said to Him, "Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us." Jesus sai to him, :Have I been so long with you, andyewt you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, 'Show us the Father'? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works. Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; otherwise believe because of the works themselves."

Let's also look at what other scripture verses say about what God looks like. 

Daniel 7:9-10:
9 “As I looked,
   “thrones were set in place,
   and the Ancient of Days took his seat.
His clothing was as white as snow;
   the hair of his head was white like wool.
His throne was flaming with fire,
   and its wheels were all ablaze.
10 A river of fire was flowing,
   coming out from before him.
Thousands upon thousands attended him;
   ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him.
The court was seated,
   and the books were opened.

Psalm 104:1-4:
 1 Praise the LORD, my soul.
   LORD my God, you are very great;
   you are clothed with splendor and majesty.
 2 The LORD wraps himself in light as with a garment;
   he stretches out the heavens like a tent
 3 and lays the beams of his upper chambers on their waters.
He makes the clouds his chariot
   and rides on the wings of the wind.
4 He makes winds his messengers,[a]
   flames of fire his servants.

Ezekiel 1:25-28:
25 Then there came a voice from above the vault over their heads as they stood with lowered wings. 26 Above the vault over their heads was what looked like a throne of lapis lazuli, and high above on the throne was a figure like that of a man. 27 I saw that from what appeared to be his waist up he looked like glowing metal, as if full of fire, and that from there down he looked like fire; and brilliant light surrounded him. 28 Like the appearance of a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the radiance around him. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. When I saw it, I fell facedown, and I heard the voice of one speaking.

Habakkuk 3:3:
God comes from Teman, and the Holy One from Mount Paran. His splendor covers the heaven, and the earth is full of His praise. His radiance is like the sunlight. He has rays flashing from His hand, and there is the hiding of His power.

The Bible also refers to God as a burning bush, a pillar of fire, the whisper of wind, a lamb, a lion, a warrior, a dancer, a singer, a lover and bridegroom, a loving Father, and so much more.

So why is it important to know what God looks like? Is it important?
For me it is. How can we recognize God in our daily lives if we have no idea what He looks like?
How can I ask Him deep, personal questions about my life
and expect answers if I don't know who I'm talking to?
If I don't know what His attributes are, I won't be able to recognize Him when I do see Him.
It would be like walking down the street past a famous person, like Bill Gates,
and completely ignoring him because you have no idea what he looks like.
An opportunity may be missed to have an amazing conversation, encounter, experience, or testimony
all because of the failure to recognize Him.
I guess it's kind of like if you've never seen a picture of the Queen of England.
You know she exists, and people talk about her, so you can get an idea of what she may look like.
We have the ability to research and find out what she looks like.
There are books written about her, pictures on the internet,
or one could even go to London and hope to get a glimpse of the real person at the palace.
It's the same with God.
No one has seen God, true, but if we know He exists.
We've heard other people talk about Him...a lot.
And we have the ability to research and find out a little bit about what He looks like.
There are books written about Him (He even wrote one of them),
there are pictures on the internet (although take them with a grain of salt),
or one could even pray and ask to see a glimpse of Him. He loves to show Himself to us.

These are just my ramblings on the subject.
It is something that has been on my mind the past few weeks.
I plan on pondering the subject even more in the coming weeks.
Any ponderings on the subject?

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