10 Things You Should Know About the Presence of God

10 Things You Should Know About the Presence of God

1. God is immanent because he is transcendent.

The Lord is “God in the heavens above [transcendent] and on the earth beneath [immanent]” (Josh 2:11). But to understand God in full we must recognize that his drawing near to creation stems from his being distinct from creation. In other words, there is no deficiency in God that creation satisfies. The Lord doesn’t relate to this world because he lacks something within himself. No, God draws near out of the abundance of who he is.

God’s transcendence distinguishes him from the created order and puts things in their right perspective. God does not come to us needy and wanting, but rather he comes to “revive the spirit of the lowly and the heart of the contrite” (Isa 57:15). It is the holy and righteous One above who restores the broken and needy below.

Lest We Forget.

Lest We Forget.

In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law, and the elders mocked him. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! He’s the king of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” (Matthew 27:41-43, NIV)

Looming large over these words is a question. This question hovers over every section of Scripture, hangs over our heads every day, and especially on Good Friday.  

What does Babel have to do with Portland?

What does Babel have to do with Portland?

Innovation is at the heart of creativity.

Paint-by-number kits and cover bands typically don’t change the world.  Rather, these exist because we replicate what we love, because we can’t get enough of the original.

And we love the original because they are . . . well, original.  

This is why artists are in constant pursuit of the unique, the distinct, and the novel.  They seek to alter culture through brushstroke, pen, and arpeggios.  Creatives, by definition, set out to create, and, more often than not, set out to create one specific thing: a name for themselves...  

God & Suffering: A Prepositional Study (After)

God & Suffering: A Prepositional Study (After)

Suffering makes us covet. We are tired of the tears.  We long for a better world inoculated from the pain.  And God has made this possible through the suffering, death, and resurrection of his Son.  

This place we call home, then, is not our final home.  We are sojourners and exiles awaiting a better, heavenly city (1 Pet 2:11; Heb 11:13-16).  The world as we know it is not the way it was supposed to be and, in God’s unfathomable grace, this world will not be like this forever.  This place of suffering, shame, and shortcomings is but a dash on the timeline of eternity.

God & Suffering: A Prepositional Study (Through)

God & Suffering: A Prepositional Study (Through)

Suffering, for the Christian, takes on a new identity.  For one who has been delivered “from the domain of darkness and transferred . . . to the kingdom of his beloved Son” (Col 1:13), suffering often becomes a teacher, an instrument by which God prepares us for the world to come.  This is why the gospel puts every aspect of our lives under the discipleship of Christ.  We are to become like Christ in all things: in his resurrected life and also as we walk with him on his march to Golgotha (1 Pet 4:12; cf. 1 Pet 2:21).  Sharing in Christ’s sufferings is a very real part of the Christian life (Phil 3:10; Matt 16:24; cf. 10:38), no matter what the preacher with the glistening white smile and toll-free number tells you.  

God & Suffering: A Prepositional Study (In the Midst of)

God & Suffering: A Prepositional Study (In the Midst of)

Undergirding our trust is the fact that God is no stranger to suffering. Rather, God the Son knows suffering and the powers of evil and temptation far better than we do. Christ faced all of these but never capitulated to them. Where we give in, Christ held out. He overcame evil, sin, and temptation by fighting them for the duration of his life and winning through his suffering, death, and resurrection. 

Christ’s acquaintance with grief is at the very heart of the gospel. God the Son enters the world in all of its turmoil and catastrophe. He feels heat, cold, thirst, and hunger. He walks into the wilderness to come face to face with evil itself.  He teaches, heals, and ministers to an arrogant people marked by fists clutching stones rather than open palms reaching out for their Messiah. And all along, the Gospels wind slow and steady up the hill of despair where the divine Son will hang from a tree, covered in his own blood, suffering for the sins of sinners.  

God & Suffering: A Prepositional Study (Before & Over)

God & Suffering: A Prepositional Study (Before & Over)

We do not find pain and suffering in the first two chapters of our Bibles. All we have is God and the good world he speaks into existence. This tells us that there is but one God; he alone rules. God does not have to wrestle his authority from another. There is no deity or power equal in control and influence with whom he must square off in a cosmic battle for the ages.  Scripture makes clear that Yahweh is the one, true God who creates and rules with an authority that is his alone.  

Pain and suffering make their debut in the third chapter of our Bibles. They are introduced as a consequence of Adam and Eve’s divine usurpation experiment.  They tasted the fruit and found it laced with guilt, shame, and death.  Our post-Eden world makes this clear day in and day out: the tree of the knowledge of good and evil is still producing a lethal harvest for all the sons and daughters of Adam, you and me included...

God & Suffering: A Prepositional Study (Introduction)

God & Suffering: A Prepositional Study (Introduction)

Suffering makes our true theology known. When the whirlwind comes, nothing is sacred.  It exposes our real doctrine, the one that often lies beneath the bleached-whited veneer of our biblical jargon and Christian platitudes. Suffering demands our theology get real; it bullies us into reevaluating our assumptions about God and ourselves. 

No one knew this inner dissonance better than C.S. Lewis.  In his lofty academic treatise, The Problem of Pain, Lewis penned these well-worn words about suffering: