That God is active in the world and we can join His work in this world, is one of the fundamental truths I am trying to instill in our youth group and my own children. Some of my youth group students have a hard time believing that God is active, that He is present. They struggle with what they cannot see, but apparantly we weren’t the only ones who struggled with living out our faith in a world hostile to the cross, the Corinthian correspondence addresses walking by faith and not by sight, Hebrews addresses the same thing when the writer writes, “faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Despite their vision problem, the writers of the Scripture constantly called the church to faith in Jesus. He is afterall, the central theme of the New Testament. He had changed the eleven, a group made up of fishermen, tax collectors, radicals, and just normal common folk. Not just after the resurrection were these men changed, but as they continued to preach and teach, this Jesus and His continuing presence through the person of the Spirit continued to shape them, change them, embolden them, push them, and guide them. As we call student disciples out of the world and into the adventure we call following Jesus, let us not forget to remind them of the continuing presence of God in this world. That the One who promised to be with us always, lives up to His name daily, “Immanuel.”

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About Jason Retherford

The random musings of a youth minister.
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11 Responses to

  1. JP Manzi says:

    ” believing that God is active, that He is present. ”

    Jason, just curious, looking to spin up some conversation. What do we mean when we say God is active? What, exactly, does that mean?

  2. jason says:

    JP,

    Thanks for reading and responding. I have struggled with this question too. But, here is how I answer it now…

    When I say that “God is active in this world and that He is present among us.” what I am saying or trying to communicate that God still works in our world today. That through the presence of the Holy Spirit living in His people, he is present, active in the sense that His people are created in Christ Jesus to do good works (Eph. 2:10), not saved by good works, but saved to do good in this world.

    I also mean, active in the sense that God answers prayer, responds to his people’s hurts and cries. Active in the same way we read about the Word of God being active in Hebrews 4, able to pierce bone and joint. Active, a real force in the believers’ life.

    I also believe that God is at present working to restore creation as well (Romans 8). So, I see God’s activity as part of God’s in-breaking kingdom rule in my life and around me.

    Hope this helps..

    What do you think?

  3. JP Manzi says:

    Test…test…..I responded but I do not see it, just want to see if this works.

  4. jason says:

    Jp,

    try again, i don’t know what’s wrong with the comments.

  5. JP Manzi says:

    Well that stinks, not sure what happened to my original post but lets see if I remember the gist of what I wrote.

    Jason,
    I agree with the majority of your response, but here is where I (personally) have a problem. I believe that for far too long the answers that we christians have given to this issue, which I am about to talk about, are frankly mute and troublesome….at least for me.

    You said,
    “I also mean, active in the sense that God answers prayer, responds to his people’s hurts and cries”

    Here is where I see a problem. Many will give God the glory for healing their mother of breast cancer but where was God for the V-Tech incident? In this, I can no longer sugarcoat the answer. There is a huge moral problem with a God who picks and chooses who to intervene with. A God who saves someone from cancer but CHOOSES to allow hurricane Katrina or allows a 3yr old little boy to die from a massive brain tumor. Yet we say God is Love.

    Now, I love God, and I believe that God defines and exemplifies love. It makes much more sense to believe that God is not a God of intervention at least in the sense of the examples provided above. I do believe the Holy Spirit works through the people as you stated but does not violate free-will or natural occurence. I hope I am not coming off as a deist but it makes no sense in traditional christian thinking to believe a God who loves us, picks and chooses who to save, or who to cure or who to work through. The panentheist view of God makes a bit more sense in answering the questions on evil.

    Saying “God works in mysterious ways” or “God hurts for those poor vicitims” does not have a leg to stand on anymore for me but they are the answers I provided for those who asked the “why” questions

    Thoughts?

  6. JP,

    You wrote, “Here is where I see a problem. Many will give God the glory for healing their mother of breast cancer but where was God for the V-Tech incident? In this, I can no longer sugarcoat the answer. There is a huge moral problem with a God who picks and chooses who to intervene with. A God who saves someone from cancer but CHOOSES to allow hurricane Katrina or allows a 3yr old little boy to die from a massive brain tumor. Yet we say God is Love.”

    JP, I am not an expert theologian and have been wrestling for nearly 10 years with the issue of theodicy, so here is my feeble attempt to respond here to your question.

    I think to separate God from suffering is intolerable and not an accurate portrayal of the Godhead. I know that tragedy strikes and that bad things happen to good people. It is awful. I do know that God doesn’t shy away from human suffering. God put on human flesh and died on a cross. God enters into the suffering of humanity by way of the cross and for me this gives me a little glimmer of hope when dealing with the problem of pain, suffering and evil in the world. I know that for many a crucifed God is ironic, pointless and stupid. But, JP, this entering into our pain through experiencing the tortue of the cross is what I see as the fulfillment of the notion that Jesus is “Immanuel.” For in the midst of our suffering and inexplicable pain, God has promised to be with us always. And in ways that are strange and mysterious to us, God is present in the horrible suffering of our world to bring healing.

    I like the words of NT Wright:
    “…the incarnation and the cross means that the creator God is with us in the middle of the horror, sharing and bearing the pain and the burden. This, clearly, is why so many medieval churches — at a time of endless wars, incurable diseases, social ills, and so on — had (to us) quite graphic and gory pictures and statues of the crucifixion.

    The church has always found, not always explicitly in words but often through symbol and action, and supremely the Eucharist, that the God we know in Jesus Christ is not, as it were, the lofty C.E.O. of the Universe, ‘running’ the world as it were at a distance, but the God who is strangely present in the midst of the horror, taking its main weight on himself and working from within to bring healing and hope. “(http://newsweek.washingtonpost.com/onfaith/nicholas_t_wright/2007/04/god_with_us_grieving.html)

    I think there is realm of answers that we will never arrive at either. Job, a good a moral and upright man experienced more pain than any other human I know, and questioned the character of God. But, wasn’t given an answer to the “why?” So, in short, I don’t know why. I don’t think that Katrina or incidents like the Virgina Tech incident can be blamed on God. And yet at the same time, simply saying that our world is broken and sin is the root of the problem doesn’t seem to do this issue justice either.

    JP, I don’t think God violates our free will either, but to write that you don’t believe that God is not one to intervene is a dangerous slope I can’t bear to travel on again. Early on in my faith walk, I felt disconnected to God/ Christ and didn’t know how or if even he interacted or intervened in our world anymore. The problem of evil and suffering are just that, a theological issue that the church in its various forms has wrestled with for centuries. I do think God intervenes, in ways that aren’t always seen, but intervenes nonetheless. Katrina, cancer and school massacres are horrible incidents in our time. But, these incidents aren’t without stories of valor, beauty, love and hope. God is the author of such attributes and works through his children to do good in the face of such awful dread.

    I don’t know if this is the route you were looking for, or if I even have dealt with the issue, but I tried.

  7. JP Manzi says:

    I will be gone from the computer for a while but I quickly wanted to add that God does work and “intervene”, he works in all but not in the ways the church has taught. Again the moral issue of picking and choosing with whom he intervenes with.

    The questions and concerns I have are one of hypocricy. If he chooses to fix this evil over this one…why? God=Love, yet He allows some of his children to suffer. There is hypocricy in the statement that God loves us but allows those he chooses not to help to suffer but he cures the person with a suposed terminal illness. That is the underlying question I am having. Not with God, but with the churches understanding of the character of God.

    Thoughts?

    By the way, how is the 3 little girls thing working out? I have an “almost” 4 year old girl with another girl due in the next couple of weeks. Scary!

  8. jason says:

    JP,

    I think that is great that we are discussing this issue and the others that come up becaus of our conversation. I agree that there has been misdirection/ false teaching about why there is suffering for some, and healing for others and not all.

    I don’t know how to explain the suffering present in our world outside of the context of the brokenness that humanity lives with. Not all suffering of course is related the sinfulness of the suffering one. I think that the church has at times had an approach much like the Pharisees do in John 9, where they see the man born blind and assume that his blindness (suffering) is a product of his own or parent’s suffering. Jesus reply was sin wasn’t the issue, it was an issue of God’s glroy being revealed in him and those that witnessed this man’s healing. There is the nagging issue of pointing to man’s suffering as a product of sin.

    Could we just admit that we won’t or don’t have all the answers to all the questions that we ask.

    Whether God heals a terminal cancer patient or not, doesn’t mean he is less loving. Because they are hurricanes, tornados, etc., and other things that rip people’s lives apart, God isn’t any less loving because of disasters or death, illness. He is the one constant in this world, the one sure thing that we can rely on in those moments of utter grief.

    Jesus too dealt with a feeling of abandonement when we cried out from the cross, “my God, my God why have you forsaken me.” We can relate with the darkness, and the pain, but we miss the sunrise (cf. Mark 16:2). In other words we can get bogged down by all the pain and our questions that we forgot that there is Still hope, and good and life in this world.

    Earlier you mentioned a view of God, I would like to hear you explain more, you mentioned the pantheistic view of God. JP, elaborate more on that. I am interested to read your throughts.

    Blessings,

  9. JP Manzi says:

    Jason,

    Real quick, I only have a second here, I will be able to respond later tonight. I mentioned a panENtheistic view of God vice a pantheist view….big difference. More on that later brother.

  10. jason says:

    JP,

    Thanks for the clarification. I should have read the post in question a little better. Looking forward to reading more…

    Have a good day!

  11. JP Manzi says:

    Jason, I have not forgotten, things are soooo busy right now that I am not finding the alloted time to appropriately address these issues. Soon enough brother.

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