Ouch! Wow. That one has always been a tough one for me. How can we know what we don't know?
I was working with pastor Gary at a rehab center and a gentleman raised his hand at the first of the lecture.
Before I go further...a side note. These folks are there because their family or a judge has let them know that it is either this program, prison...or death. The recovering alcoholics and drug addicts normally sit quietly and listen to pastor Gary's lesson...or just get up and leave, but they rarely are in a mood to ask questions.
This guy asked Gary, in Spanish of course, "Who is God?" Gary, not one to stray too terribly far from course, gave a nice quick response adding that he will go into detail on that later, but this lesson would be about, What Is Hell?. So he continued with his lesson and after around 5 minutes, another hand went up. This time it was a gentleman on the front row.
His question was, "Si hay un Dios, puede ser un niño, o adulto, o una silla, verdad?"
in english: "If there is a God, He could be a any boy, or any adult or a chair, right?"
Gary tried not to lose composure and calmly replied, "No...He is the All Powerful, Almighty, Ever-present creator of Everything." I leaned forward, interested in what would happen next. The pastor looked over at me and said, "unless you have a different opinion, Luke?" I told him that I didn't have a different opinion, but, in my best Texas accent I responded, "Gary, if I may, I'm chompin' at the bit to add my two cents!" Gary could tell that I had something that was ready to burst out, and he 'gave me the reigns'.
I still don't know how it happens, but when I get passionate about speaking to someone on the topics of who we are and who God is, it is almost like the Spirit comes upon me and allows me to speak much more passionately and fluently that I normally can. So I stood up and put my arm on the front-row-guy's shoulder and began to speak to the group of around 20 people.
"I like this guy," I started, "you can just tell that he is intelligent! It is so very good to be intelligent isn't it? I lived my life on pure intelligent head-knowledge for years and years! Here's my question for you though, "What did your intelligence get you, sir?"
-"Who me?" He said.
-"Yes...you!" I answered.
-"Well...I don't really know?!"
-"I'll tell you then", and I continued, "Your intelligence got you a one-way ticket to this beautiful metal chair you are now so proudly seated in!"
He laughed, and so did most of the other guys. They know most of my background and that I'm a ragamuffin, a man who has learned that I have no worth outside of what my Father sees in me.
"God wants us to be intelligent, He gave us amazing brains, and wants us to turn them on and use them every day, more and more. "He also gave us this," I said, holding up a Spanish Bible. "This is more. This is what you tried to get with alcohol, drugs, women, theft, anger, fights, and whatever else you were using. This is more than all that. This is more than intelligence. This is how we know the answer to, 'Who is God?'" I pointed to the guy that asked the first question before Gary began his lesson. "You...who do you think God is?"
-"I think He is Lord" He quickly replied.
-"I think He is Almighty" another one said.
-"You tell us" said one in the back.
I opened the Bible to 1st John and read one of my favorite sentences in the whole Bible, "God is Love. Period. That's it. No 'and', no 'but', no 'unless' or 'except'...just a simple period. When I came into our program about 4 years ago, I had made myself like God. I had lived a life by my own rules, my own force, my own decisions, my own strength. I didn't need Him! And my bottom hit the same seats in the same rooms 1,000 miles north of here. So, 'Mr. Intelligent' sitting here in the front row...I can see what you're saying. When you begin to live your life on God's terms, your god can be a child, an adult, a chair. At first, the most important thing is that...it's not YOU! The hope, your hope, my hope, God's hope, is that this will grow. You should be reaching out to this Power that is bigger than you and learning more about it. My hope is that you learn that this Power is more than a chair, more than a boy, more than an adult, more than anything your eyes can see. He is the Almighty. He is the one that listens and answers prayers, the one that we pass time meditating about, and He is the one that this Book (holding up the Bible) is about. Your job is to allow Him to grow in you more and more and more and more every single day through prayer, meditation, and getting to know the Author of this Bible! You can, you should, and you must...if you ever want anything better than this chair in this room...you must!"
I looked over at Gary. "I'm sorry, but I'm passionate about this!" I said. "It's Great!" he replied.
"Look guys," I continued, "knowing about 'What is Hell' is important too, but you can't get into heaven just on fear of hell. I spent most of my life worshiping and praising the God of my father and mother. It looked good most of the time, and no-one would ever question it. But I was missing something. Something that has proven to be the key to every peaceful and truly enjoyable moment of my life; personal relationship with Him. That's what it's about. That's what He wants. That's what He longs for. That's why we are here!"
I thanked Gary for sharing so much time with me and he continued his lesson...which was a great one about why we should choose now, while we still have this chance to and before it's too late.
After the class, Gary pulled me aside and said he could see the Spirit move in that room, and he enjoyed 'getting out of the way'. I love that man dearly! He has spent the better part of 15 years pouring his heart out in those rooms too. If it only saves one soul, then it's worth it all.
All the intelligence in the world can't get you a personal relationship with the Creator of the Universe. This is our job. Our work is to know Him, to love Him, and to keep His commands. We are to be love, to love, as He loves and is love. And this Book of Love teaches us how.
"God, all of my 'wisdom' is foolishness before you. You are the all-knowing, all-powerful and all-present God. I want my life to honor you. I want to be a child that brings my Father joy. I want to be a better witness. Let me never forget your love, your Son, and your desire for obedient believers. Father, I lift up the other ragamuffins out there that love you and want to win others to you. Guard us, watch over us, protect us, and God, if it's your will, kick in a few more sparks between these rusty ol' brain cells!"