Finally they came to Kansas City and I got to experience what I thought might never happen. When The Police first announced their tour more than a year ago Kansas City wasn’t on the list. We explored the idea of going to another city to hear them but it was going to be cost prohibitive. When they extended their tour Kansas City was on the list and the date went on the calendar.

The concert was really amazing. How three guys can make so much music is pretty unbelievable. During their final song (pre-encore) I was caught off guard, not with anything they did but by my own reaction. Recently I’ve been reading a lot about God’s love and grace and have sort of been living in a continual state of awe. Although I still don’t fully understand the richness and depth of God’s love for me, I have a much stronger grasp of it now than I did when I was younger. There really are some things good about getting older.

For some this may sound odd and for others it might border on sacrilegious, but as I stood in that arena with around 12,000 other people I quit hearing the voice of Sting and began hearing select lyrics as if they were coming from God. It was a unique worship experience.

Every breath you take
Every move you make
Every bond you break
Every step you take
Ill be watching you

To hear those words coming from God’s heart to my ears was powerful and humbling. There would have been a time in my life that putting those words in a God context would have meant He was maybe watching me to catch me doing something wrong. However, I’ve come to realize that’s not God and doesn’t accurately represent His character. He’s watching me through eyes of love. When I DO stumble along the way He changes His tune, but only slightly.

Oh, can’t you see
You belong to me
How my poor heart aches
With every breath you take

For me, life doesn’t get better than knowing I belong to Him and He loves me unconditionally. My devotion and love for God has moved beyond obligation and has become a response to His devotion and love for me. I wonder if anyone else in that arena had a similar experience?

Yesterday at work one of my employees casually commented about God not liking her very much right then, and that He was punishing her. She laughed a little after she said it and during her laughter I commented that I was quite certain that God liked her, and the current issues with her son and the other difficulties she’s dealing have nothing to do with God punishing her. “That’s not who God is,” I told her. To which she quickly said, “Oh He’s punishing me alright.”

I left the room wondering why she has such a distorted view of such a loving God. My understanding of God is so different from hers, and it’s a shame, no it’s more of a tragedy for anyone to see God through such a distorted lens. Viewing God in such a skewed fashion is like seeing Him upside down.

God is God. God is love. God is merciful and kind. God is truth. Life happens. Good stuff, bad stuff. In between stuff. God is neither a cosmic killjoy or a genie in a bottle. God is God!

Ever had an intimate moment behind the wheel? Mine happened just this week, and it sort of caught me off-guard. It was a Matt Redman song that I’ve not heard for a number of years called Intimacy. Combine that with The Prayers of the Saints which is the next song I listened to and it was sort of like a one, two punch. That moment made me miss leading worship. More than just leading it made me miss the crafting art. The part of planning that allows for intimate moments.

I’m not talking about manipulating people’s emotions. I’m talking about creating the space within a service for people to experience intimacy. Not in the forced or artificial way I’ve seen far too many times, but the genuine Holy Spirit kind of moment where you just “get out of the way” and allow the moment to flow. Yeah, I miss the art of crafting those opportunities, and in that intimate moment behind the wheel I knew I was ready to lead again. I knew it because I was visualizing how I would use those two songs and what I would pair with them and it was an energizing thing.

While all of this was going on I was hearing another Matt Redman song in my mind and spirit. That song speaks of the Father singing over me. The sound of that song didn’t come through my earbuds but I could hear it as if it were.

It was a little more than 15 years ago but I still remember it very clearly. I had a rather long commute to work those days, mostly freeway driving so I had plenty of time for processing thought. As I exited one freeway and merged onto another my thoughts led me to a fresh understanding of God’s love. I’m not sure why it had taken me so many years to come to this conclusion but I finally realized that God’s love was independent of my actions. It was a freeing day for me to know there was nothing I could do to make God love me any more than He already did, and nothing I could do to make Him love me any less.

It sounds simple enough on the surface, but in so many ways that fresh understanding set me free of some excess baggage, and opened the door to a new level in understanding the depth of God’s love. That was probably the beginning of what I’m now referring to as, Hoopless Christianity. I think it also contributed to many of the questions I’ve been exploring in more recent years: the largest of which has to do with God’s love and forgiveness.

The basic question is this: Is God’s love for us separate from His forgiveness? Can those two things be distinct? Can they be independent of each other or are they inextricably connected? That’s the heart of my most recent thinking. I feel like I’ve only begun this exploration but Id like to spend some time writing about this in the coming days and weeks. So, give me your thoughts so I can combine those with some of my own streams of conscious thinking. Are God’s love and forgiveness separate expressions?

A parting thought: As I’ve been exploring this general question I’ve had a growing sense of gratitude for God’s love and forgiveness. It’s a daily realization that I’ve been given a gift that is greater than I can imagine, and I’ve done nothing to deserve it. Let me hear from you!

This past Thursday I had a really great experience during my daily commute. I drive about 10 miles along surface streets to get to work in the morning, so depending on traffic it can take as long as 30 minutes. On this particular morning I wasn’t in the mood for the usual NPR so I pulled out my headphones and plugged them into my iPhone (please don’t send any comments about the dangers of driving with headphones) and launched my iPod. The song list was right where I’d left it a few days prior, which was in the G’s. 

The first song that played was David Crowder’s Glorious Day. Now it’s less than 30 seconds long but what a cool start — sort of an invocation. From there it was Glory in the Highest by Chris Tomlin, which just sort of continued where Crowder left off. Up next was the sounds of Steely Dan, singing Godwhacker. Quite a contrast to the previous two but what a great contrast it was. From there it was Tony Bennett singing the Good Life followed by Got To Get You Into My Life by Earth, Wind & Fire. How could you not like that? Then came my favorite song of the morning, Grace by Michael W. Smith. By the time I parked my car and walking to my office I was pretty much positioned for the day. 

Then on the way home I decided I should pick up right where I left off. Again, the title was Grace but this time it was U2. Different from Michael W. Smith but it’s still Grace. Then came Paul Simon singing Graceland, followed by John Mayer’s Gravity. As I pulled into the garage Paul Baloche was just ending A Greater Song. My entire commute was jammed with great music.

Now I could pontificate about how all of those songs had some sort of spiritual meaning for me, or how they spoke to my soul on a deep level. I could probably even tie them all together for you with some type of God metaphor. After all, God also begins with the letter G. But I’m not going to do that — even though much of it would be true. I’m just going to challenge you to turn on your iPod some day and pick a letter. Not an artist or an album, but a letter. Just let it play and see what happens. It’s like eating a potluck dinner at an old country church. Enjoy!

My older brother and I have been having an ongoing discussion in recent months about hell. The discussion centers on whether a loving God would actually send someone to hell. My brother maintains that God would not do that. It’s not like my brother is some kind of God-hating liberal with no understanding of Christianity. He is a somewhat conservative, Republican, Evangelical pastor who has come to this conclusion over several years. 

I don’t spend a lot of time on You Tube but occasionally I run across something that is just too “good” to ignore. I’m quite sure that some will be offended by watching this, and that’s ok. There’s some real truth to what is being said. Some of it has to do with hell, and some of it just has to do with the mixed messages we as Christians send to those around us when we say things like, Jesus Loves You!

My general feeling is that we’ve made Christianity much more confusing than God ever intended (we’ve done the same thing to church). We’ve somehow separated God’s love from His forgiveness, I’ll write more about that soon. For now, take a look at the video and let me know what you think. Hell, Yes? or No?

Just recently a friend and I were talking about God’s level of involvement in the ongoing affairs of the universe. A theologian he’d been talking with believes that God doesn’t know the future, nor is He the kind of “cosmic coordinator of universal events” that many people believe. For God to place Himself in that role strips human beings of the free will He created us with, and He’s unwilling to take away that freedom.

My friend’s view is more of the traditional belief that God is involved in the details of our lives. He believes that as a Christian, God has a plan for his life and his responsibility is to live his life according to that plan. God not only knows the future but He helps him get there. My friend can’t accept the view of the theologian because he thinks it puts God in a very small box. As he put it to me, “My God is bigger than that.”

That debate began an internal conversation for me about God’s knowledge, power and control. His vision into the future. His involvement in our daily lives and actions. Whether or not He has plans for us as individuals. I began to wonder which of these people’s “God box” was bigger, because I’m sure they each believe their view of God is larger than the other’s.

So what are your thoughts? Who has the bigger God, my friend or the theologian? Does God orchestrate every activity in the world; choosing the bad things that happen to some people and the good things that happen to others? Does He rain down difficulty on evil-doers while showering the saints with blessings? Does He take a more passive, hands-off role in the daily routine of our lives and allow the world to function according to what He placed in motion thousands of years ago?

What size box is your God in?