How Big is Your God?
Tuesday, May 15, 2012
Not big enough. That’s the size of the picture most of us have when we use the word God. No matter what your god is – making money, acquiring status or power. You don’t have to have worked for J.P. Morgan Chase, to serve a god not big enough.
What do you think? Is your god big enough? The world financial markets are stunned for a moment by a two billion dollar trading loss, led by a London employee called the “London Whale”. The CEO of J.P. Morgan Chase says they were wrong and the mistakes were egregious, but doesn’t think his firm needs government regulation to keep it from happening again. Everybody has a god. Is the god of Wall Street or any other place real? How big is your God. My God is transcendent, beyond what we can comprehend, and yet we can know the unknowable God and know Him through Jesus.
I’m Charles Morris and welcome to Haven Today telling the great story that‘s all about Jesus on a program called, “How Big is Your God?” Please don’t leave.
Open- Our Great God- Fernando Ortega- From “Come Down O Love Divine”
This is why I appreciate the music of Fernando Ortega so much. His album Come Down O Love Divine is a musical expression of what my heart longs for at the beginning and end of each day ... a fresh personal encounter with the One whose yoke is easy and whose burden is light. Does that sound like something you could use in your life? For a gift to this listener-support ministry, I want to send you a copy of Come Down O Love Divine.
On the line with us again today from Albuquerque, New Mexico is Fernando Ortega. Fernando, I know that Jesus is the most important person in your life. How are you getting to know him better today than yesterday, or the day before?
FO: Wow, that’s a really good question. I would have to say that it seems like mostly through getting older and seeing my parents age and feeling age myself and having close relatives and close friends that have died in the last couple of years. It seems like there’s a more sober, I guess, my approach to God, and my approach to the scriptures and to my writing and my relationship with my wife and my family. I guess there’s a sober, a little bit more soberness to it. Margie and I, Margie’s my wife, we lost a really dear friend in February and that was in the middle of when I was writing this record. And then her funeral was the beginning of March and we flew out to be part of that. I mean we weren’t expecting to lose her, we thought she had the flu. She’s been a friend for years and years. and then it just went bad, I mean the whole thing and she spiraled down just within a matter of you know, 2 days and the next think you know we were standing at her grave side. And I think as hard as that funeral was, it was also one of the most uplifting and moving services, church services that we’d ever been a part of. There was a sense of God’s transcendence there and the sense that, of the reality of Heaven, even though the older I get the less clearly I can conceive of Heaven, of what the place is actually like. I know there’s, you know, places in throughout scripture that are, that you traditionally think of what Heaven is like, but at Linda’s funeral, beyond my comprehension and beyond the, it just seemed transcendent. And I guess that would be the defining thing for me that is happening to my relationship with Christ as I get older, is that sense of transcendence and a sense of impermanence here in the world. And I think that that was the impetus behind writing a lot of these songs. After Linda’s funeral it seemed like, like even the course of some of these songs that I was writing changed.
Did you hear Fernando say that he has been more and more filled with the sense of God’s transcendence? His view of God has enlarged to the point that he knows that God is beyond knowing. That’s what transcendence means, God is beyond knowing. He’s too great for us to grasp. So let me ask you a question. How big is your God? Have you grasped how big he is? We need to supersize our understanding of God until he’s too big for us. We need to expand our thoughts of God to the point where we say, “I cannot grasp him. He’s too much for me.” That’s the point where worship really begins. When Paul was writing to the church in Corinth he knew they were impressed with their knowledge of God. They thought they had God down pat and that kind of attitude kills worship and does it every time. Listen to what he tells them in 1 Corinthians 8:2, “The person who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know.” Hear the difference? If we think we know God we don’t know him. We need to realize his transcendence that he’s beyond our capacity to comprehend. That’s when we’ll begin to know him as we ought to know him and worship him as he ought to be worshipped. God is overwhelming. We can’t contain him. His greatness extends beyond the reaches of our minds and he wants us to know him and worship him that very way, as the one who is beyond us. Listen to how he speaks about himself in Isaiah 40. You can hear him asking questions that are crafted and designed to break into our minds and expand our thoughts about him. Isaiah 40:6, “A voice says, ‘Cry out!’ And I said, ‘what shall I cry? All men are like grass and all their glory is like the flowers of the field. The grass withers and the flowers fall because the breath of the Lord falls on them. Surely the people are grass. The grass withers and the flowers fall but the word of our God stands forever. You who bring good tidings to Zion go up on a high mountain. You who bring good tidings to Jerusalem lift up your voice with a shout. Lift it up, don’t be afraid. Say to the towns of Judah, ‘Here is your God.’ See, the Sovereign Lord comes with power and his arm rules for him. See, his reward is with him and his recompense accompanies him. He tends his flock like a shepherd. He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart. He gently leads those that have young. Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand or with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens? Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket or weighed the mountains on the scales and the hills in a balance? Who has understood the mind of the Lord or instructed him as his counselor? Whom did the Lord consult to enlighten him and who taught him the right way? Who was it that taught him knowledge or showed him the path of understanding? Surely the nations are like a drop in a bucket. They are regarded as dust on the scales. He weighs the islands as though they were fine dust. Lebanon is not sufficient for altar fires nor its animals for burnt offerings. Before him all the nations are as nothing. They are regarded by him as worthless and less than nothing. To whom then will you compare God? What image will you compare him to? Do you not know? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood since the earth was founded? He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth and its people are like grasshoppers. He stretches out the heavens like a canopy and spreads them out like a tent to live in. He brings princes to naught and reduces the rulers of this world to nothing. No sooner are they planted, no sooner are they sown, no sooner do they take root I the ground than he blows on them and they wither and a whirlwind sweeps them away like chaff. To whom will you compare me? Or who is my equal?’ says the Holy One.” Isaiah 40:26 “Lift your eyes and look to the heavens. Who created all these? He who brings out the starry hosts one by one and calls them each by name, because of his great power and mighty strength not one of them is missing. Why do you say, O Jacob, and complain O Israel, ‘my way is hidden from the Lord, my cause is disregarded by my God.’? Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary and his understanding no one can fathom.” I hear two messages running through these verses that I just shared from Isaiah 40. First, God is telling us how great he is and second he’s telling us something great he’s going to do. First God is telling us how great he is. All through these verses God’s insisting that we enlarge our view of who he is. “To whom will you compare me?” He asks that question twice. Look around you at everything in the created universe, at everything you can possibly see, there’s nothing there that you can compare to God. You can’t say he’s as great as the mountains, as deep as the ocean, as wide as the reaches of the universe. He’s beyond them all because he created them all. All the nations are like grasshoppers. He controls everything that happens. When we begin to grasp who he’s telling us he is, you come away with a sense of awe. Our minds are expanded and we gain a whole new perspective, not just on life but on ourselves and the world and the meaning of life itself. That is a tremendous gift. Recently I was reading a paper written by a religion professor who said he would once have called himself a Christian but now he’s made a decision not to believe in God. Why, because there is too much evil in the world. God hasn’t lived up to his expectations. So he no longer believes in the existence of God. But he said he regrets this. He lists the things he knows he’s going to lose by this decision: mystery, ineffability, ecstasy, reunion, reconciliation. Well his solution was to become a Buddhist because he thinks this is a way he can keep the experience of transcendence without having to believe in a transcendent God. A lot of people try to do the same thing. Oh, they may not describe it in such big words and they don’t realize though, in the process they become fools, as the Bible says. I don’t mean to be insulting, but a person is a fool if he or she fails to recognize the one who created them and sustains them and holds them accountable. We are fools as long as the transcendent God is a missing piece in our lives. All we have left, the edges, the background, and that’s not enough. Without the transcendent God as the centerpiece life becomes small and petty and meaningless and we become fools without understanding. Wisdom comes when we begin to realize the greatness of God and say, “Wow. I never knew. I had no idea. I’ve been such a fool.” I said I heard two messages though, running through these verses. First God telling us how great he is and second, he’s telling us something great he’s going to do. God is announcing great good news. He tells his messenger to, “Lift up your voice with a shout. Lift it up, don’t be afraid. Say to the towns of Judah, ‘Here is your God!’” Here is your God. God wanted his people to realize that the great transcendent “I AM” who’s beyond anything in his creation, that all the great nations are like so much dust on the scales, this same God is coming to them. He’s promised to do it. And when Jesus arrives on the scene, the promise is fulfilled. Incarnation, here is your God, God in the flesh, Emmanuel, God with us. I don’t think we begin to grasp the wonder of it until we grasp who God is. He’s so far beyond us, he’s unknowable, he takes our breaths away. We dare not approach him. Our mouths are shut tight. When we begin to grasp the transcendent greatness of God then the fact that he has come to us in his Son Jesus fills us with absolute wonder and that’s when we begin to worship. God asks Israel, “Why do you say, ‘My way is hidden from God’?” How can we say that today? Why do we think God isn’t interested in us, doesn’t know what’s going on in us, doesn’t care what happens to us? He has never had us out of his sight. All along he’s planned to do the unimaginable, the unthinkable, to be with us, to take on a human form and to be with us, to share himself with us in an intimacy and closeness that just flat out boggles my mind and I hope it does yours as well, to be a shepherd to us and carry us in his arms. It’s not just God’s transcendence that brings us to our knees in worship. It’s realizing that the transcendent God has come to us in Jesus. It gets even more amazing. Skip forward from Isaiah 40 to Isaiah 52 and you find God announcing good news again. Isaiah 52:7, “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, ‘Your God reigns!’ Listen! Your watchmen lift up their voices. Together they shout for joy. When the Lord returns to Zion they will see it with their own eyes.” Again, the good news is that God’s going to be with his people and they will see him with their own eyes. But in the very next chapter of Isaiah we see his servant taking on the sins of his people. He bears their grief and their sorrow. All their iniquity is laid on him and he takes their punishment. When Jesus comes God fulfills his promise. When the magnificent Son of God takes on our flesh he comes to die in our place so that we can be saved from death. So just how big is your God? Worship begins when we reach the threshold of our comprehension and know there’s nothing left to do but fall down on our knees.
Close- More Than Amazing- Lincoln Brewster- This is a new worship song (current radio single) from the album “Real Life” Integrity Music. I really like it. Note to Chad- If you have to cut the song, (I hope you don’t have to), do it on the last chorus where the song repeats itself. Try to include the very last line that says “You’re more than enough”.
Fernando turns the spotlight off himself and turns to God. And that’s where we all need to be if we’re going to see God’s transcendence and if we’re going to truly worship. One last thing about the great story, death. Fernando Ortega told us a while ago that as he’s grown older he’s become more sober. As he stood by the grave of that friend of he and Margie’s and saw her husband’s grief, Fernando was overwhelmed. Death takes us beyond what we can comprehend. Our grief feels infinite because we can’t plumb the depths of it. But Jesus has. When that sober, awesome realization floods our minds and hearts we know we can’t grasp it, it’s beyond us, all we can do is worship. The program is called, “How Big is Your God?” here on Haven Today.
Are you like me when you get to the end of your day? Usually, by 4:00 the calming presence of Christ that I enjoyed in my morning devotions feels far away. The stress and busyness has built to a frenetic pace, and the peace that passes understanding has given way to the tyranny of the urgent. By the time I get home I am desperate for peace and quiet ... I need a word from the Lord to sooth my heart.
This is why I appreciate the music of Fernando Ortega so much. His album Come Down O Love Divine is a musical expression of what my heart longs for each day ... a fresh personal encounter with the One whose yoke is easy and whose burden is light. Does that sound like something you could use in your life?
At Haven, we believe there is no greater need than to connect with Jesus on a daily basis. This is what we seek to do on the radio everyday and why, for a gift to the listener-support ministry of Haven Today, I want to send you a copy of Come Down O Love Divine.
Come Down, O Love Divine
For a gift of any amount
After 5 years Fernando Ortega teams up again with producer John Andrew Schreiner for his new album Come Down, O Love Divine.This lush album is complete with 14 songs and features a full choir ensemble to accompany Fernando's vocals and arrangements....
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