God’s Not Loud


I always thought God was somewhere “out there.”

Loving us, sure. Patient, kind, creator, powerful.

But, out there.

I’m reading Teresa of Avila’s Interior Castle, along with some other contemplative authors who talk of God being “in here,” inside of us. Teresa says God dwells in the castle of our inner world.

Because I come from Baptist roots, I’m quite familiar with how awful humans are. We heard it regularly. And there is truth to that.

But Teresa says that the soul is far from odious, in fact it is beautiful. It’s where the universe-making, all-powerful god chooses to spend his time.

Which means we have free access to God any time we want.

It’s hard when beautiful Apple products are available to touch and notifications from Facebook and Instagram are pinging our ears and eyes. But I’m learning very slowly and failingly, that just sitting for 5 minutes a day and focusing on my breath and becoming aware of this Presence, changes things. Not drastically, not Damascus-road-like. But slowly. As Teilhard de Chardin says,

Above all, trust in the slow work of God.

Internet is not slow. Notifications are not slow. My driving is not slow.

But the work of God is often slow.

And God is not in the thunder, or the rain cloud, or the tornado, or the loudness, or the quickness, or the striving to get more followers or more likes or more more more more

God is in the whisper, and the silence. And we are invited into that place.

What Does Rob Bell’s Love Wins Reveal About Evangelicals?

Amidst all of the controversy surrounding Rob Bell and his book Love Wins, one thing has given me pause above everything else, and it involves the reactions from the Evangelical Christian world.

The release of this book is a good thing for Evangelicals, and here’s why:

Thousands of us are having our faith held under a light and exposed for what it is:


It has become apparent that what has been masking as faith, as Christianity, for some of us for a very long time, is revealing itself in Twitter updates and Facebook links for what it really is:

We’re actually quite a frightened group.

Our theological systems, constructed over the years with bricks of books from authors we agree with, is being tampered with; holes are being poked in our houses of theology; a strange wind is blowing in and we don’t know what to do, and so we react in the only way we know how: attack. Make fun. Look to friends who are saying the same thing for affirmation.

“Defend” God and the Bible.

Who is this weak God needing defenders?

Amidst all the Scripture that comes to mind throughout this ordeal, one has continued to press upon me.

The setting: a few men were preaching about God in a new way, and this angered the religious gatekeepers of the day, the ones who defined Orthodox theology. So much, in fact, that they wanted them killed (they’re preaching heresy, afterall!)

And then something amazing happened.

One of the religious teachers, a man named Gamaliel, stood up to reason with his Orthodox clan. He did not point to the Scriptures in this instance; he did not cite Bible verses to back up his argument. He did not try to defend God. He simply said this: Brothers, before you continue in your tirade against these new teachers, carefully consider this:

“Some time ago Theudas appeared, claiming to be somebody, and about four hundred men rallied to him. He was killed, all his followers were dispersed, and it all came to nothing.  After him, Judas the Galilean appeared in the days of the census and led a band of people in revolt. He too was killed, and all his followers were scattered. Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail.  But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you might even find yourselves fighting against God.”

This is calming wisdom.

Not, “These are heretics!” (Though they may be)

Not, “These people are misinterpreting the Bible!” (Though they may be)

Simply this: Leave them alone. If this is not of God, it will pass away soon enough. But if by chance it is of God, your efforts are in vain. In fact, you may soon find that you could even be fighting against God.

Are there religious gatekeepers–that group that defines what Orthodoxy is–in our day?

Saved But Not Whole

“What happens when it all becomes about some other life is we end up being very fractured, broken people. I began to discover that you could be a Christian in a nice Christian church and be saved and be singing all the right songs and actually be miserable. And to have anger and rage and people you haven’t forgiven. I discovered it’s possible to be a super-Christian and yet salvation hadn’t even begun to (be) a part of your life. It’s possible to lead a church and to be like a shell of a person. I want to be the kind of person who’s pursuing wholeness and allowing every single area of my life to let the light get shone in, and let God make peace where there wasn’t (peace) before.”  –Rob Bell

“Though today some Christians believe that Jesus came to enable us to escape this creation and live eternally in an otherworldly and heavenly dwelling, such an understanding of salvation would have been entirely foreign to Old Testament prophets, to first-century Jews — and to Jesus himself.  Salvation is not an escape from creational life into “spiritual” existence: it is the restoration of God’s rule over all of creation and all of human life.  Neither is salvation merely the restoration of a personal relationship with God, important as that is.  Salvation goes further: it is the restoration of the whole life of humankind and ultimately of the nonhuman creation as well.  This is the scope of biblical salvation.” —The Drama of Scripture

Piper, Keller, Witherington: God Seeks Own Glory?

In 2002 at my Christian college I remember James MacDonald giving a sermon in which he quoted an Isaiah passage about how God seeks his own glory. In 2003 I read John Piper‘s book Desiring God and was convinced of it.

In 2008 I read Tim Keller‘s The Reason For God in which he talks about God being a trinity and the endless giving that takes place within this relationship. Keller then said something that shocked me:

“That is why God is infinitely happy, because there is an ‘other-orientation’ at the heart of his being, because he does not seek his own glory but the glory of others.”

–Tim Keller, The Reason For God pg.218

Tim Keller & John Piper are on the same page about almost everything; this seems like a pretty big thing, though.

Piper quotes some Bible verses to back up his opinion here.

New Testament scholar Ben Witherington seems to be more in line with Keller’s assertion. He says this on a blog post titled, “For God So Loved Himself? Is God a Narcissist?“:

“I am arguing Christ, the perfect image of God’s character, reveals that God’s character is essentially other directed self-sacrificial love. God loves people, not merely as means to his own ends, but as ends in themselves.”

Does God seeks his own glory or does he seek the glory of others?

Dallas Willard: Jesus’ Message Not Religious

“The strongest impression on my mind has always been the person and teachings of Jesus Christ… I’ve never moved away from the basic project of “knowing Him and making Him known.” This is not a particularly religious project; it’s a human need. It is out of love of my neighbor, as well as love of God that I feel the imperative to do this.

And I believe the way to do it is not by being especially religious in the sense that people would normally understand that, but by just being an honest, open, thoughtful human being living among other human beings, depending on the grace of God.”
— Dallas Willard (source)

Buechner on the Bible

“The Bible is not first of all a book of moral truth. I would call it instead a book of truth about the way life is. Those strange old scriptures present life as having been ordered in a certain way, with certain laws as inextricably built into it as the law of gravity is built into the physical universe. When Jesus says that whoever would save his life will lose it and whoever loses his life will save it, surely he is not making a statement about how, morally speaking, life ought to be. Rather, he is making a statement about how life is.” –Frederick Buechner

Thinking Through the Big Picture

I’ve been thinking through the big picture of the bible and wrote down some stuff from books that I’ve been reading, and also from Adam Ellis’ summary on these blogs. Ellis’ words are in bold.


We are the people of God, created in his image. That image is distorted by the Fall but is still there.

“God created people in his own image.” 1

“You made us only a little lower than God.” 2

“They will be masters over all of life.” 3

“God made human beings precisely in order to care for the earth. We were made to serve this purpose. It is built into our very being; it is our very design.” 4

“Humans were made to reflect God’s creative stewardship into the world.” 5

“To image God, then, human beings are charged not only with care for earth and animals (‘subduing’ what’s already there) but also with developing certain cultural possibilities (‘filling’ out what is only potentially there). 6



We live in God’s world which he created and loves. God loves creation simply because it exists. We believe that this world was created “good” (in the “loaded with potential” sense) and not perfect (in the “complete” sense). We believe that God created us and this world to live in harmony with each other and with him.

“The first act in the world’s drama is God’s act of creating and sustaining ‘all things visible and invisible’ out of a generous desire to enlarge the realm of being, to bestow life and goodness on others, and to assist others to flourish in the realm created for them.” 7

“God leads a very interesting life and is full of joy. Undoubtably he is the most joyous being in the universe…We pay a lot of money to get a tank with a few tropical fish in it…but God has seas full of them, which he constantly enjoys.” 8

“God loves creation. God celebrates creation. God even plays with his creation.” 9

“It was good…it was good…it was good…it was good.” 10


Human beings make an extremely destructive choice very early on in the narrative. That choice has far reaching consequences and knocks the entire creation project off course. The shalom, or harmony that is supposed to exist between God, people and creation is shattered. The world is not what God dreams for it to be, and all creation seems bent on moving in the opposite direction.

“The glory of God’s good creation has not been obliterated by the tragedy of the fall, but it has been deeply shadowed by it. The history of our race is, in large part, the interplay of this light and shadow.” 11


God does not give up on his dream for creation. He enacts a plan to bring about the “restoration of all things.” This plan involves covenanting with a cummunity of people to operate as agents of shalom in the midst of a broken world. God becomes a human being whose life, death and resurrection open the door for a renewed creation of shalom between a) God and human beings; b) human beings and other human beings; and c) human beings and creation. God calls a group of people to live in his reality now in the midst of a broken world. He calls us to partner with Him to make it more and more the place he always intended it to be. He promises that one day Jesus will return and that heaven and earth will be renewed. He insists that we will be resurrected so that we may enjoy the fulfillment of his promise and his dream for all creation.

“The Christian life is a quest to recover our humanity.” 12

“You have stripped away the old self, with its ways, and have put on the new self, which is continually being renewed in fuller and fuller knowledge, closer and closer to the image of its Creator.” 13

“The principalities and powers that kept us in exile have been defeated; they need reminding of this, and we need reminding of it too, but it is a fact – if it isn’t, the cross was a failure.” 14


“Look, the home of God is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them.” 15

“The story of Scripture is the story of ‘Emmanuel’, for it describes how God progressively comes to live with us on our planet, at each appearance staying longer and in more permanent form.” 16

“Our destiny is an earthly one: a new earth, an earth redeemed and transfigured. An earth reunited with heaven, but an earth, nevertheless.” 17

“Scripture appears to teach not only that there shall be a new heaven and earth, but also that it shall be this earth, renewed. In Revelation 21 the city of God descends to us. We do not go to heaven; heaven comes to us.” 18


1 Genesis 1:27
2 Psalm 8:5
3 Genesis 1:26
4 Heaven is Not My Home by Paul Marshall pg. 18
5 The Challenge of Jesus by NT Wright pg. 184
6 Engaging God’s World by Cornelius Plantinga pg. 33
7 Plantinga pg. 44
8 The Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard pg. 62,63
9 Plantinga pg. 24
10 Genesis 1
11 Plantinga pg. 53
12 Heaven is a Place on Earth by Michael Wittmer pg. 83
13 Colossians 3:9-10
14 Wright pg. 185
15 Revelation 21:3
16 Wittmer pg. 205
17 Marshall pg. 11
18 Plantinga pg. 32

Are There More Universes?

“Go outside at night in the country, where the sky is very clear. Then look up. Each one of those tiny points in the sky is a flaming sun. We’re a tiny part of an enormous universe, which may be one of many universes. No one really knows for sure what’s out there. So we use our imagination. Imagination allows us to ask big questions — questions that scare us, and for which we don’t have easy answers.”
Madeleine L’Engle

I just read a blog post titled “Civilization Has Barely Begun” at the Desiring God blog. Randy Alcorn is quoted as saying,

“We should expect the social dynamics from Earth to carry over to the New Earth, except when they’re a product of our fallenness or when God reveals otherwise.”

I really enjoy hearing about the new earth, especially since it appears as if it’s going to be a carry-over from this earth. Just now as I was walking around the neighborhood thinking about the ramifications of civilization having only just begun, as I approached an apartment complex with the still-lit April sky behind and a lone budding tree on the side, a quick happy feeling surged through me. Like I said, pondering the infinite possibilities of a new earth gets me really excited.

This is pure speculation, but what if, after thousands of years on the new earth, the pocket-full-of-surprises Overlord reveals yet another mystery — the individual work that each of us started doing on earth and continued to do in the new earth was preparation for something even greater, which after being revealed to us we all tap our foreheads and say, “Of course! It had to be this way — it’s characteristic of His endlessly-giving and explosive creativity.” Our new job, He joyfully announces to the billions and billions of new earth inhabitants during the monthly whole-earth assembly over a speaker system designed by a team of engineers and sound professionals from 40 countries, is to be sent out to a new universe and help the creatures that He’s freshly made begin life in their worlds.

To each universe are dispatched a multi-cultural team of storytellers, engineers, accountants, politicians, teachers, garbage men, police, weather men, architects, comedians, streetsweepers, doctors, even lawyers, to help launch the beginnings of a fresh planet. Each individual joyfully offers their expertise. And who knows whether or not they’ll be able to travel back and forth from New-Earth to their respective planets and share stories over campfires, laughing and marveling at these strange and wonderful new creatures from other universes. Each night the New-Earth inhabitants dream mind-boggling dreams of new inventions and ideas to share with their friends and students many light-years away but somehow near enough to travel to in the morning.

And it all began (or did it?) on a small planet called Earth in the Milky Way galaxy in a small corner of one of the many universes the Overlord began to create.

Of course this is all speculation, but a guy can dream, right?

“Hints that ours is just one of many universes keep cropping up in all sorts of different theories–and in ways that can seem far stranger than fiction.

The first credible suggestion that alternate universes might exist came in the early 1950s when a young physics graduate student named Hugh Everett was toying with some of the more bizarre implications of quantum mechanics. That theory, accepted by all serious physicists, says that the motions of atoms and subatomic particles can never be predicted with certainty; you can tell only where, say, an electron will probably be a millisecond from now. It could quite possibly end up somewhere else.”
–TIME Magazine article Will We Discover Another Universe?, April 10, 2000

Maybe one of these orphans from Mpumalanga, South Africa will be on your team:

photo courtesy desiringgod.org

Christians Wrong About Heaven says NT Wright in TIME


“Much of “traditional” Christianity gives the impression that God has these rather arbitrary rules about how you have to behave, and if you disobey them you go to hell, rather than to heaven. What the New Testament really says is God wants you to be a renewed human being helping him to renew his creation, and his resurrection was the opening bell. And when he returns to fulfil the plan, you won’t be going up there to him, he’ll be coming down here.”  
        —NT Wright, TIME Magazine (source)

Claudia Discovers God’s Variety

Claudia’s father came into her room early one Saturday morning.  “Wake up, sweetie,” he said softly, and only after standing by her bed for a few minutes, just watching his daughter sleep peacefully.  “I have a surprise for you.”

“Oh daddy, you ruined it.”

“I ruined what?”  He looked around the room, puzzled.  “What, what did I ruin?”

Claudia sat up and rubbed one eye with one hand and stretched the other arm up towards the ceiling.  She’s not used to getting up this early.  “You ruined my dream.  I was performing a beautiful ballet in front of a big room of people.  I was just about to do my final chasse and you woke me up.”  Claudia didn’t even seem to be talking to anyone in particular; she was sitting cross-legged on her bed now, staring off into the distance as she recounted her dream, apparently still lost in the whole thing.

A teasing smile came across her father’s face.  “I guess we’ll have to wait until tonight to find out if they liked it or not,” he said.  He always knew how to make his only daughter smile.

“Oh daddy,” she said.

“Get dressed.  I’ll meet you in the car in three minutes,” he said quickly, and left the room.

The drive was long – almost an hour – but they played “I Spy” on the way to their destination, which made the time pass quite quickly.

Claudia’s eyes lit up when the car entered a huge, tree-lined field.  Could it be?  It was!  “An orchard!” she exclaimed, beaming from ear to ear, leaning forward in her seat so she could get a better view.

“An orchard,” Claudia’s father said affirmingly.

Ever since Claudia heard her father tell the story of the giving tree, she has wanted so badly to visit an apple orchard.

They exited the car and stood for a moment at the beginning of a seemingly endless row of apple trees.  “I want to tell you a little about apples, Claudia.”

Claudia put her small hand inside her father’s much larger one and looked up at him.

“Take a look at all these trees.  On these trees, Claudia, there are not just red apples but green and yellow apples, and different shades of each.  And there are not just big apples but small apples, too, and not just sweet apples but tart apples as well, and some even have a combination of both.  And there are differing textures, too – some are really crispy while others are softer.  Do you know how many different kinds of apples there are, Claudia?”

“Well my favorite is Red Delicious.  That’s the kind mommy always gets.  She says they’re better than the sour yellow ones.”

“Red Delicious is one kind.  There are also Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, Breakey, Braeburn, Winesap, Rome Beauty, Norland, McIntosh, Jonathan, Vista Bella, Bolero, Fuji, Gala, Goodland, Honey Crisp, and that’s just the beginning.  There are hundreds.”


“Hundreds.  And that’s just the variety of apples!  Think about bananas and pears, grapes, kiwis, oranges, papayas, grapefruit, pineapples, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, gooseberries, tayberries, cranberries, cherries, mangoes, tangerines, watermelon, muskmelon, cantaloupe, peaches, plums, and nectarines, for starters.  And this is just fruit!  Think about all the different kinds of vegetables, as well!  And these are just foods, and foods are just one of the many things God has made.”

Claudia was just staring at her father, smiling.  She likes it when he talks about the physical world.  He gets lost in a world of his own, she often tells her mother.

“Why did he do it, daddy?  Why did God make all the different kinds of apples and oranges?”

“Y’know, I’m not exactly sure why, baby.  But he seems to be pretty enthusiastic about it all.  He said ‘It is good!’ and was satisfied with it, so when we taste and touch and smell it all, we can agree with him and say ‘It is good!’  It’s a beautiful thing to live in God’s world and imitate his own enthusiasm for it.”  He looked down at Claudia, who was just smiling up at him.

“Let’s go get some apples,” he said.

“Yay!” Claudia responded.  And they spent the whole day wandering through the orchard, picking apples.