Friday, September 12, 2014

Settling for a Pretty God

Part Three in the question—What Is the Church?

And Part Two on the topic—Do I Even Need To Go There?

(Because we love our parts. And subheadings.)

Some time last year, I read this book that opened with an explanation of Vincent Van Gogh's Starry Night. It's a beautiful piece of art. I have always loved its lines and swirls that make the sky into a living thing whose breeze you can feel and light you can see. But until I read the book (a great book on the church that I highly recommend), I did not know any of the history of Van Gogh or how much of his beliefs and experiences he poured into his work.

I could appreciate the work for my own personal enjoyment. But I could not comprehend it. Not in a way that changed my appreciation from “What a pretty painting” to “What a meaningful, soul-searing piece of work.” Before I was pleasantly acquainted with the painting. Now, I know and love it.

What, you are asking, has this got to do with going to church?


We cannot worship what we do not know.  [tweet this]

And we certainly cant have a relationship with someone we don't know.

When we choose to limit our comprehension of God to what we personally feel and see, we choose not to truly know him. We choose to keep our relationship with God on the level of “What a pretty painting” when he begs us to let him put his mark on our souls.

Maybe, that's what we really want anyway. To have a pretty belief but not one that alters our lives and hearts.

In the age of instant and abundant information, it's the common modern belief that we don't need teachers anymore. We can know whatever we need to know by googling it ourselves. Anything really necessary is attainable with a click. Why go to church to hear someone tell us what we can find out for ourselves?

You Have a Point

In fact, God himself says “Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach,” (Deuteronomy 30.11) and “God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us” Acts 17.27). 

Luke commends the people in Berea for not trusting all they heard in church and looking it up for themselves. “Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” Acts 17.11).

So we have it on good authority that authority should sometimes be questioned. God can be found by anyone. It's just that . . . what we call searching is so often settling for pretty thoughts about God. We are lazy searchers after God. [tweet this]

Church as a Portal

The reality is, church is where we learn about the one we say we worship. Maybe we learn imperfectly. Maybe we don't always agree. But it is our portal, the best we have, for transforming our knowledge of God from pretty thoughts to soul-searing truth.

It is where the accumulation of history, experience, and Scripture intersect. It is where generations before us found what they needed for living. The experience of those generations should not be discounted so lightly. What did they know about collective wisdom that we have forgotten?

We can worship anywhere. The Psalms certainly support that claim. But do we know what we're worshiping? Are we relating to a God we've made in our image? Where do we find our knowledge of the eternal?

Are we settling for a pretty God, when we could be searching for one that changes everything?

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