Lately I’ve been reading a lot about God’s love and grace which has stirred a lot of thought. In fact, some of the beliefs I’ve held throughout most of my life have changed rather dramatically. I’ve written in the past about our tendency to define God by our own personality or understanding of certain things. Similarly, we tend to impose our own sense of justice onto God and then expect God to dispense the same type of justice to people as we do. When someone wrongs us our first response is usually to get even, or to somehow make them pay for their wrong. Try suggesting otherwise and you’ll be called weak or cowardly. Try turning the other cheek and you’ll likely be accused of being non-confrontational, which for some reason has become an undesirable characteristic.

Why are so many of us more comfortable with a God who is quick to judge than with a God who is long-suffering? Why are we more comfortable with a God who uses a measuring stick, expecting our actions to fit a strict code of conduct, than with a God who loves us and gently leads us in spite of our actions? Why do so many Christians prefer a harsh God than a God of grace and mercy?

At the same time I would ask why so many Christians are in favor of the death penalty, or afraid of people whose views are different from theirs or perhaps are gay or lesbian? Why do we seem to be more comfortable with a harsh response than with one that is loving?

I can accept people who find it hard to extend their love and grace beyond the bounds of a small box, because we’re all just human and have our limitations. But it’s becoming increasingly difficult for me to accept them putting God in a box that is defined by their own human limitations. The somehow expect God to act as if He were human. He is God, and God is love! 

As I’ve shared my thinking with people they frequently comment about how weak that makes God look (again, putting God into a human context) and how they believe God is a God of wrath and justice, and they keep going from there. So, here’s my question: Which is the more powerful God, the one who conforms to human standards, lashing out at His creation whenever they screw up? Or is the more powerful God the one who allows love to surface above all, even when He’s angry and disappointed in His creation?

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!

That’s quite a mouthful — it’s the name of a class my son Ryan just completed this past weekend at the university he attends in Nampa ID. One of the books they used to guide them through this topic was, The Shaping of Things to Come, by Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch. Although I’ve not yet read the book, Ryan told me so much about it that I feel I’ve heard all of the good parts. He can get quite passionate about some topics, provided they push one of his hot buttons.

The main focus of the class, at least in simplistic form was the church getting away from being event-centric and taking the church to the streets. That means people getting involved in their communities, living out their faith daily and touching people with the love of Christ. Serving them, loving them and leaving the transformation up to God. In other words, being missional, at least in part is not having the agenda of getting people to come to the church event. 

This line of thinking has put my mind to work and raised a few questions. If the church you attend were to cancel the weekend service — the event we’ve come to refer to as “going to church” —  what would you do with this new-found “free time”? How would you serve God? Would the people you encounter throughout the week notice any kind of God-connection if you didn’t have church to talk about? Has “church” become your primary connection to God? I’m afraid the answer for most of us is yes.

While the event-centric church has been successful in the past I would suggest those days are numbered. I just have a hard time believing that God cares how many people show up for the weekly event. I think He’s far more interested in how we’re impacting the world we live in, and how we’re loving those around us. We don’t necessarily need another church or another event to be the church God has called us to be.

I’m not suggesting we do away with everything we know of as church, but I strongly believe it’s time to rethink how we do what we do. I’m not talking about a new style, a new time or some other formula. I’m talking about a new church. Have we strayed from where we need to be? What are your thoughts?