"There’s nothing worse than catatonic Christians standing still in a world of falling people." Godology is for those who crave to know more about God and why it matters. Think Knowing God meets Celebration of Discipline, for twenty-somethings. In each chapter, Christian George discloses a biblical reality about the nature of God, a spiritual discipline that connects us to Him, and a practical way to express our faith. Using humorous experiences and honest reflections, George grapples with real-life issues like purpose, despair, triumph, and tragedy. In an age when thinking about God can be academic and abstract, George invites you to really know God. But be warned: it will change everything.
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About the Author
CHRISTIAN GEORGE (M.A. Beeson Divinity School) is a writer, speaker, and author of five books: Godology; Sex, Sushi, and Salvation; Sacred Travels: Recovering the Ancient Practice of Pilgrimage; Jonathan Edwards: America¿s Genius; and Charles Spurgeon: Prince of Preachers. He and his wife, Rebecca, are currently living in Scotland where he is working on a Ph.D. in theology at the University of St. Andrews. You can visit him online at www.christiangeorge.org.
Read an Excerpt
Because Knowing God Changes Everything
By Christian George, Jim Vincent
Moody PublishersCopyright © 2009 Christian George
All rights reserved.
Mardi Gras and Icicles
* * *
God's Unity \'yoon-[??]-te\
So I'm standing on a parade route in New Orleans yelling my head off for beads. It's Mardi Gras and electricity zigzags through the air. The jazz is swinging, the floats are rolling, and I'm dancing like the world's about to end. To my regret, I catch a glimpse of a topless fat guy catching doubloons. On his belly is a bright red fleur de lis, the official emblem of New Orleans. The petals wiggle as if independent from his body. I wince—no wonder they call it "Fat Tuesday."
The next Sunday I stumble into church. A general boredom seems to hang over the congregation. As the music plays, I don't feel like getting my praise on. My hands won't clap. My feet won't dance. I try to squeal out a few notes, but my throat is hoarse. I face the truth: I'm all used up—just another dehydrated Christian sucked dry by the fangs of worldliness.
* * *
The Trinity is a mystery. No doubt about it. But this is what we know: God has forever existed in three persons—Father, Son, and Spirit. Before cities were constructed or worlds created, God hung out with Himself. He was His own party. Some say three's a crowd, but in this VIP club, the King, Prince, and Advocate General share a perfect blend of intimacy, community, and eternity.
How can God be one and three at the same time? Got me. Reminds me of the day at a thrift store when I stumbled upon a faded blue Bruce Lee T-shirt. Lee was really laying down the law with a flying dragon kick. The shirt didn't have any bloodstains, so I decided to try it on. As I stepped into the three-way mirror, a thousand kung fu kicks appeared in the distance. Each pane of glass reflected the images of the others. And I stood in awe, gazing at the Bruce Lee infinity.
I'm still trying to figure out how Bruce Lee jumped that high. But I've given up trying to figure out how God can be one and three at the same time. The English language can't articulate the unity of God. Though grammatically troubling, it's perfectly accurate to say that God are one and They is three. Like a three-way mirror, each person in the Godhead satellites the other—an eternal reflection—forever bright, forever burning, forever dressed in glory. Most families have some degree of dysfunction, but not God. In Him there is no distant stepfather, prodigal son, or absentee spirit.
Believe it or not, the word Trinity is actually not written in the Bible. But the Scriptures clearly teach the unity of God: "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one" (Deuteronomy 6:4). They also teach the diversity of God: "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" (Matthew 28:19). So we believe them both.
One of the few advantages of living in a postmodern era is that people don't need a cold scientific explanation to believe in the supernatural anymore. Modernism is behind us. In the eighteenth century the Age of Faith gave way to an Age of Reason. But now in the twenty-first century, we are entering into another great Age of Faith. Because of our emphasis on experience, relationships, and story, postmoderns are primed to accept a faith that is wrapped in God's story, clothed in personal experience, and built on a solid, personal relationship with Christ. Because we are living in an age of mystery, we can appreciate what we can't fully understand about God.
We are living in an age when we know that the more we know, the more we know that we don't know much at all. You know? And such knowledge makes us small again.
The fleur de lis that wiggled on the belly of the New Orleans doubloon catcher has a noble tradition. Throughout history, it has appeared on European coats of arms, flags, logos, and decorations. It's always been a symbol of the Trinity, each petal representing a person in the Godhead. Like the Irish three-leafed clover, symbols like these help us bend our brains around God's mysteries. Like a mind, God is intellect, memory, and will—one system, but three functions. Like water, God is fluid, steam, and icicle—one substance, but three textures. These pictures can be powerful, but eventually they melt down and cannot illustrate the infinite essence of God.
We understand the Trinity as much as ants understand airplanes—it's way over our heads. We embrace the mystery of the Trinity because it has embraced us. Christ has taken note of our smallness, our gritty frailness, and He loves us three-dimensionally.
In God's global positioning system, our location is triangulated. Christians are drawn by the Father (John 6:44), saved by the Son (John 3:16), and sealed by the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:30). Nothing can scramble what God has secured.
Returning to Two Knees Pray
Because we are made in God's image, we have the ability to speak. Our tongues communicate what our minds originate. And though we are masters of chitchat, we crave connection, connection to each other, to the Internet, to information that affects our decisions, and ultimately to the God who spoke us into being.
Christianity is not about God making bad people good. It's about God making dead corpses live. And how do living creatures pray? Sometimes with words ... "Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep." Sometimes with sighs ... a tired "uhhggg" after a long day of work. But most of the time we pray with thoughts—at a stoplight, on a lunch break, beneath the weight bar during a workout. These are passing prayers—random requests—but God hears all of them. Why? Because God created us for conversation. He installed a modem inside every heart with a direct line to divinity. We have real-time access to His ear. And if we believe that God is truly with us, in every room, at every moment, prayer becomes less an activity and more an attitude. It's our meat and potatoes. It's the umbilical cord connecting us to Christ.
Babies spend a lot of time on their knees. They crawl, roll, and drool on themselves. But when babies grow older, they learn to stand up. They learn to walk, jog, and skip. They jump on trampolines and run through parks. But the taller we grow, the more we need to return to our two knees. We need to get on the ground again, to gape and tremble at God's greatness. The closer we stay to earth, the closer we are to heaven.
Are we too powerful to pray? Can we, like X-Men, swirl tornadoes, throw fire, and move bridges with our brains? Can we vanish on command or heal as quickly as we're hurt? Not so much! We need prayer like we need air. Human beings are made of mud and bones. We are a putty people who collapse when bullets pass our way.
Prayer is our power. It's our extension cord to the God who walks on water, withers fig trees, and tells rivers to do jumping jacks. Christ is the real superhero. He is the One who dueled with the Devil in the desert and changed the molecular structure of water into wine. He's the One who x-rayed hearts, hushed storms, and absorbed the evil of humanity. That's rather impressive! And if Christ had to pray, so must we. Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father" (John 14:12).
Before Jesus ascended into heaven, He promised to send down His Holy Spirit. It was a tag team of epic proportion. God exited and entered the ring on the same day. It's easy to ignore the role of the Holy Spirit and treat Him like the redheaded stepchild of the Trinity. But the Spirit has been given to us for a reason. He sends our prayers in the right direction. Like an antibiotic, He also defends us against the disease of worldliness. He is our teleprompter who feeds us words and our energy drink who pumps us up. But above all, the Holy Spirit points us to Jesus by putting flesh on our faith and bones on our Bibles.
When I was a kid I used to pray in pig Latin so the Devil couldn't decipher my words. It was a simple season of life, a season of Saturday morning cartoons and macaroni and cheese. I didn't know much back then, but I did assume that God could translate my six-year-old messages. After two years of pig Latin and a lot of weird looks in the cafeteria, I went back to praying in English. But every once in a while, just for fun, I'll begin the Lord's Prayer with "Our atherfay, who art in eavenhay ..."
The discipline of prayer is at the very heart of the Christian experience. No other practice so sucks us into the volcanic presence of God. Of course, it's simple to pray in Cabbage Patch land when everything is smiles and giggles. But life has a way of rotting beneath our feet. Beds of roses become beds of nails, and problems, like a troop of pesky vultures, pick our lives to pieces. What then? How can we pray when the bottom of the bucket becomes the roof above our heads? How can we pray when our managers fire us or our friends betray us?
In those miserable moments, we grunt our way to God. Flowery prayers drip like drool down our chins and we crawl to Christ, helpless and inarticulate. But Christians, like lilies, flourish in the shade. God tunes His ear to our frequency, and when no one else is listening, when all the world is deaf and absent, an antenna is aimed in our direction. Christ loves crude prayers more than crafted ones. And in our pain God touches us with His compassion.
What do we pray about? We often pray for ourselves: "Lord Jesus, Son of God, have mercy upon me, a sinner." We also pray for exams, comforts, cars, and job promotions. But insular prayers grow boring after a while. It's tiring always being the subject of the sentence. God doesn't want to be our footnote; He seeks to be our title. It's time to elevate God with prayers that revolve around His ability and His beauty. God should rightfully occupy the center of our prayers. Only then can we pray with St. Patrick, "I arise today through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity. Through belief in the threeness, through confession of the oneness of the Creator of creation."
Francis Schaeffer said that Jesus gives the world the right to judge whether we are Christians by our observable love for each other. That means society can judge our relationship to God by our relationships to one another. A bold statement, indeed.
But it's a true one. God's canvas holds many colors—Baptist blue, Anglican red, Lutheran yellow, etc. Our commitment to love is the primer that supports our paint. Our commitment to stand together is the Velcro that binds us. Jesus said, "This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other" (John 13:35 MESSAGE). There are many divisions in our churches today, but we are learning that our community on earth can reflect God's community in heaven. Our unity mimics His unity. Love is the tripod upholding the Trinity, and it is the heartbeat of our existence. When it comes to Christian unity, without apology we proclaim, "In essentials, unity; in nonessentials, liberty; in all things, charity."
As our world gets smaller, our need for unity grows bigger. We do not live in isolation anymore. Technology has demolished our geographic barriers, and we are indeed existing in a global village. Even something as small as an iPod can revolutionize our sense of Christian togetherness. Just this morning I listened to a chanting community from France, a monastic Eucharist from Ireland, a prayer gathering from South Korea, and a healing service from Australia. And all before breakfast!
My generation, "the pilgrim generation," is naturally more ecumenical because we have a universal faith at our fingertips. We are the pilgrim generation because we are the traveling generation, the airport generation, moving more than any generation prior. International exposure has a way of putting things in perspective. We are discovering that other Christian traditions can transform our own. The universal church has something sacred to teach the local church. God is active in the lives of praying Christians across time and space. We are developing a kaleidoscopic Christianity that fights for unity in a world of great diversity.
It's become popular of late to reject the traditions of Christianity because the American church doesn't seem to be working. It's true that our prognosis doesn't look good. In fact, we are deathly ill. According to unChristian, by David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons, America is a country of sedated saints. Our churches are packed with people, but spiritual laziness is at an all-time high. Spurgeon once said that just because a church is big doesn't mean it's healthy. It could just mean it's swollen. Only the ice of the Holy Spirit can reduce our swelling. Only God can drain the fluids inflaming our faith.
The Asante people in Ghana, Africa, say, yey boe m pie ey, "let us kick prayer." Their image of prayer involves a pulling back for the purpose of letting go. They punt their prayers to God, reaching back in order to move forward, pulling to push. They reach back into their week, into their month, gathering their mistakes and faults to shoot into the presence of God. That's how the Asante people score.
A Reaction Against the Past
Among many Christians today, there is a reaction against the past. We feel that we must "recast" Christianity because it's gone out of style. It's become popular to abandon our Christian roots, our historic practices, and start more or less from scratch.
But let's reject our condition, not our tradition.
The Bible instructs us to honor our fathers and mothers (Exodus 20:12). By completely ignoring the faith passed down to us, we disrespect those who sacrificed their lives so we can know God in a real and relevant way. We don't need to recast our faith; we need to recover it. Paul raises a good question: "What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?" (1 Corinthians 4:7). God has accomplished great things throughout history. Simply leapfrogging back to the time of Jesus ignores what Jesus has been doing in the last two thousand years.
Our churches are dying, but we're not dead yet. We're in cardiac arrest. George Whitefield, the great revivalist who came to America, said, "The Christian world is in a deep sleep. Only a loud voice can awaken them out of it." Only Christ can revive us. Revival always begins in the heart. Only then does it travel to the home, church, nation, continent, and world.
A Bigger View of a Holy and Glorified God
We need a bigger view of God—God who is Father, Son, and Spirit. Sometimes we ask God to show us His glory. We sing it and think it. Sometimes we even pray for it. But what if God answered our prayers? What if God truly showed us His glory? Would it blind or vaporize us? Would our faces shrivel like raisins from our skulls?
Probably. God told Moses, "No one can see me and live" (Exodus 33:20). In the Old Testament, God's glory resided in the temple. Once a year the chief priest alone would walk into the holy of holies with a rope tied around his foot. If he had sinned or was too careless in his approach, the glory of God killed him. Then the people, realizing he had not returned, would pull him out by the cord. They would not consider entering that most holy place. One time, a guy named Uzzah reached out to stabilize the ark of the covenant and the glory of God electrocuted him to death (1 Chronicles 13:7–10). If we truly saw the high-voltage glory of God, it would certainly be the end of us.
Glory shines, but it also bleeds. The disciples were astonished when Jesus refused to demolish the Roman army and establish a martial stronghold. Their interpretation of Old Testament prophecies predicted a Jewish military hero. They wanted an Alexander the Great or a mighty Roman ruler. To their surprise Christ was a pauper, not a prince. He rode on donkeys, not in chariots. Yet Christ would be a conqueror of much more than mere first-century Roman occupation. Jesus had His eye on a bigger target—a darker enemy. And glory, it turned out, had leaky veins.
* * *
I still can't erase the memory of that fat drunk guy shaking his belly. Those three petals haunt me, jiggling in the crevices of my cranium. But they also remind me that God has minted Himself to humanity. His signature is stamped to our guts. God is beautiful despite our ugliness. He is muscular despite our fat rolls. And one day Christ, the Lily of the Valley, will parade through paradise, and we will throw beads before His throne.
Until then, you and I can parade the Trinity everywhere we go because we are made in God's image. His breath is on our lips. His words are in our hands. And that is why Christians can stand together and serve together. As soccer unites the world, prayer unites God's people. We can play together and pray together because one day we will praise together—catching crowns on streets of gold.
"The fastest way to a man's heart is through Jack Bauer's gun."
—the musings of a die-hard fan of Fox-TV's 24
Excerpted from Godology by Christian George, Jim Vincent. Copyright © 2009 Christian George. Excerpted by permission of Moody Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Foreword by J. I. Packer
Introduction: Rakes for Shovels
1. Mardi Gras and Icicles: God's Unity
2. Jesus Ninja: God's Power
3. Sunsets and Dinosaurs: God's Creativity
4. Showing Some Skin: God's Vulnerability
5. Chocolate for the Soul: God's Holiness
6. Rhapsody in Red: God's Love
7. Jealous is My Name: God's Jealousy
8. Inbox (1): God's Wisdom
9. Cardboard Crosses: God's Patience
10. Feng Shui Faith: God's Mystery
11. G-Force: God's Eternality
What People are Saying About This
Christian George writes with snap, crackle, and pop, pours out images by the bucket-loads, and interweaves our contemporary context with sound Reformation, Puritan orthodoxy. Along the way he splashes spiritual advice from saints in every generation. This is rock-solid theology penetrated with the urgency and joy of spiritual discipline. Excellent food (an image often employed) for the soul.
-Tom J. Nettles, professor of historical theology, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Christian George is one of an emerging generation of young leaders who can speak in a language that young evangelicals will access. He does it from a solidly biblical base, and writes with power and clarity. In Godology he helps readers better understand God's transcendence as well as the tension between human freedom and divine sovereignty. His straight talk approach may rattle a few readers. But I welcome his continuing contributions to reaching the next generation of leaders.
-Chuck Colson, author, The Faith; founder, Prison Fellowship
Christian George has a beautiful way of drawing us into some of the most profound and nourishing mysteries of the Christian faith. He's funny. He's a lively and engaging writer and he's honestly hopeful that God is transforming our lives and the world. He woos us with wit, vulnerability, and passion into the gospel’s “swirling narrative of blood and forgiveness.”
-Debbie Blue, author, From Stone to Living Word
Christian George uses fresh, contemporary language to call Christians into a deeper relationship with God through countercultural spiritual disciplines. Heeding his words may be painful but will surely help us delight more in Jesus Christ and worry less about ourselves.
-Collin Hansen, author, Young, Restless, Reformed
Christian George's paragraphs are like a good clean mirror, showing us who we are. And finding out who we are is step one in the journey of becoming who we want to be. For some time I have been his friend. In more recent days I have been his professor. Lately I have been his mentee, and reading his books is like reading his life -- it has left me a debtor to his discipline, his walk of faith, and his candor.
-Calvin Miller, author, The Singer Trilogy
Christian George strings words together like a spider spins a web. It's easy to get caught up in what he's doing, and what he's doing is great -- simultaneously clearing away confusion and embracing the mystery of a God who is beyond us and yet with us. Godology is a created word -- much like each of us, I suppose -- that carries great weight.
-David Zimmerman, author, Deliver Us from Me-Ville
Godology is a trustworthy title for George's compendium on approaching God. Written in a readable, breezy style, the book will hold the attention of youth, and as a senior citizen I found it helpful (as a young-in-heart) in identifying with young people. I have longed and prayed for unity among believers in all God's people, and George has helped me make an unexpected step toward unity with all ages. All Christians, young and old, should read this book.
-T.W. Hunt, author, The Doctrine of Prayer and The Mind of Christ