In years of Sunday school, Johnny heard hundreds of Bible stories. Then he graduated to years of Bible studies. Eventually he went off to college, and concluded that God is dead.
How could this happen? What went wrong? How could Johnny’s church, known for its strong Bible teaching, produce a young man with such an ungodly conclusion?
Johnny heard all about the historical God. He heard about the One who lived, died, rose and ascended into Heaven. He heard about hundreds of years of God’s story, recorded in colorful detail in the Bible.
Then, 2,000 years ago, God’s story ended. To him, God is history.
Johnny is not alone. Millions tend to think of God in the past tense. They too heard the Bible stories. They heard how God acted in the past, how he did miraculous things, how he loved his people. Then his beautiful story came to an end. Apparently.
They don’t hear the stories of God’s continuing wondrous interactions with his people all around us.
Unknowingly, have we focused more on the Bible than its author? Have we so emphasized the history of the Bible that we’ve doused the idea that God is still alive, still at work, still desperately loving his imperfect creations–us?
Some preach that what ails our culture is primarily a lack of Bible knowledge. I’m not so sure. It’s not as much an academic problem as it is a relational problem. Too often people don’t think of God as a real living friend, companion, redeemer, and everyday miracle doer.
They hunger for a real, living, present-day God. We get a glimpse of this longing in the popularity of books such as the #1 best-seller “Heaven Is for Real,” the account of a sick little boy who reported a visit to Heaven. This week our Lifetree Cafe tested a filmed interview with the book’s author. Record numbers of people overflowed into every showing we offered. They were so eager to hear a present-day account of the real God. And they shared stories of their own “God sightings.”
Please don’t misunderstand. I’m not advocating less Bible reading. I love the Bible. My company publishes Bibles, for Heaven’s sake! I’m merely suggesting that every time we talk about God in the past tense, we also make room to talk about God in the present tense. Our children, youth, and adults need and hunger for a steady diet of God stories that continue today. They need and want to know that God is still in the God business.
We need to tell real-life stories of God at work today. And, especially, we need to devote time for our people to tell one another how God is actively at work in their lives. In this Internet age we see the influential power of consumer reviews. We’ll buy if our peers give a good report. In the church, it’s time to reconsider and re-energize what many called testimony time.
The scriptures have been around a long time. The ancients had the Word. But the Father knew his beloved people needed more. They needed to know he wasn’t just history. They needed to know he lives among them.
The Word became flesh.