How Our Perception of God is Formed Webinar


Transcript:

I appreciate that brother, Frank and Kaleb. Thanks for being here. Just even in your prayer, Brother Frank, it was laden with God perception, wasn’t it? Holy, heavenly, merciful. So when we talk about God perception, we can see how formative it is in us Okay. And how we communicate it, how we live within it, right?

I’d like to look at a passage that we’re very familiar with. In John 9, it says this, as Jesus passed by, He saw a man which was blind from his birth, and His disciples asked Him, saying, Master, who did sin? This man or his parents that he was born blind? And Jesus answered, neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents, but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.

And I think beautifully we see in this example an all too familiar scene where we have some, where we’re jumping to conclusions. Where we see something in life and we make some approximations, make some explanations about God and how God works. And in this example here we have the disciples who had in their mind that, okay, sin must mean illness such as blindness meant that God was judging in some way.

They knew that for sure. They just didn’t know if it was mom and dad or if it was himself, right? And then Jesus so lovingly just says, no, that’s not it at all. And He then launches in this beautiful chapter to really reveal Himself in a terrific way.

And we’d like to maybe use that as a foundation and example to say, God perception, who we perceive God to be, really, really makes a difference. And, I might go further to say Jesus really wants us to know the Father.

Scripture all points to Jesus. And, that’s where we get our perception of who God is, of who Jesus is. Both the Old and the New Testament speak of Jesus Christ and God’s love and mercy and grace and Scripture’s gotta be at the center of understanding who God is.

And Kaleb, as ministers, certainly that’s gotta woo us in a way, right. To present the Word of God as Frank shared. And its purposes, right? Yes, absolutely. And, one of the things in this Scripture that I think about that you alluded to, is that sometimes the God images, we’ll talk about, or perception is not necessarily readily apparent on the surface. In other words, the disciples asked the question that revealed the assumption underneath.

In the way they saw someone had to sin. It was either the parents or the individual, which revealed the assumption underneath that. And sometimes it’s that way as we interact, it’s not readily apparent where that distortion and perception is. And they had that perception because of the things that they had learned from the law. But it was an incomplete understanding. And Jesus opened their eyes and that purpose.

I think, Frank, that’s excellent. And in fact, that’s where we’re gonna go here. Part of what we’re gonna talk about tonight is source and where God image and perception comes from. And that’s important. So here’s really objectives we want to define what we mean by God perception. And, I think we know that somewhat by what’s even been presented so far. But what does it mean? Then we’ll look at why God perception matters. There’s a lot at stake with God perception.

Certainly in the story that we just read, there was a lot at stake. There was hope at stake. Imagine if the disciples were right. And if it was, this is just the punishment, there was gonna be no healing for it. Right? But Jesus said, oh, I’m so glad you’re wrong about this because I’d like to heal this man and to show God. So it matters. Number three, identify where God perception comes from. Identify where it comes from, that’s the source. And then understand how to correct a false God perception. Okay.

So let’s get right into it. We’re gonna look at what God perception looks like, and we’re gonna break it down into really two concepts that really come together. And I know, Brother Ted Witzig Jr. has spoken a fair amount on this and presented these two elements that come together with God perception. One is being the image or God image which there on the screen. We’re saying that’s the heart belief about how God feels towards them. And then the concept is our head knowledge. So I’d like you brothers to flesh this out a little bit. Help us see these two buckets.

One of the things that came to my mind as I thought about this, of concept and image is, a couple that I know really well, and the husband has this phenomenal understanding of Scripture and he has the head knowledge of God. The wife knows Scripture, but not at all like her husband does. But her image of God, God is faithful, God is trustworthy. Whenever a crisis hits, she is the even keel of the marriage. Because she just knows God’s in control. And even though the husband has all this biblical knowledge, when there’s a crisis, he really, God uses his wife to help keep him more on an even keel of knowing that yes, God is trustworthy. He will get us through this. But the husband is there helping the wife a lot of times grounding her in Scripture and verifying what she knows as her image and that the image of God. And it’s just beautiful to see those two working together and explains to me a lot how our concept and image need to merge and compliment each other. That’s a really good example.

Along those same lines is just, that concept is really, I work often with couples, and one of the things we work about is knowing each other. We talk about what does knowing mean, and as we think about the God concept, it’s knowing facts about God. It’s knowing Scripture, it’s knowing components about who He is. God is love. Right. God is faithful, but the image part is that relational piece of knowing intimately, like living experientially, experientially it’s life with Jesus. Right. Not just knowing about Jesus.

And, I think it’s a little bit provocative there on the image there. It says a heart belief about how God feels towards them. Which I think is quite telling isn’t it? Because, I do see a rub in my own interaction, my own walk with Jesus as I know He’s merciful, for example. And I know He loves, mentally, I know He loves me, but it’s quite another thing to feel it or to believe it at a felt level. And I think that’s where that God image, which sounds like the wife in your situation, really was sound in that. And so the anxiety was able to dissipate in difficult moments because that felt reality, whereas the husband was holding onto these concepts.

That’s right. That’s exactly right.

Well, let’s continue then, and let’s look at now. Why does it matter? So I think we’re gonna use that as our foundation, that our God image is both image and concept coming together. What we know as facts, we can get right on a test. This is the way God is. And then another thing, image. This is the way I feel about Him. And this is what I really believe at a felt level. Why does it matter? So just a couple points here, brothers. It influences how a person, views the world, and sometimes we throw around this concept of worldview. Kaleb, help us understand what we mean by worldview or how one would view the world.

Sure. So as we think about worldview, it’s the lens through which we see the world. So how do we make sense of the world as we see it? How do we make sense of ourselves? As far as where did we come from? Did we just come from, is it just happenstance that we’re here? What’s the meaning of life? What’s the purpose for life? And, those are all aspects of us making sense out of things that happen in life and events that happen. And I’ve heard you use the word meaning makers, where humans are meaning makers, aren’t we? We make meaning out of the things that we see and experience and that worldview is gonna have a great deal and consequently our image of God, our perception of God is going to have a lot to do with how we make meaning out of life.

Yes. That’s an interesting thought of, it takes me back to my time I spent in Japan and when the Bible was first being translated into Japanese, there was a big debate among the translators, what, who to call God? Jesus they called, Jesusa, but for God what word should they use? Japanese had a word for God called Kamisama. But the problem with Kamisama is that in Japanese culture, God was in everything. God was in the tree, God was in the table. God was in the mountain. And it was not clear of who God is. And they were worried about when they translated it and put that word in the Bible, people would misunderstand God, have the wrong concept of it, because they had a different worldview.

So what happened is in the churches in Japan, throughout all churches, when they pray to God, they pile a lot of adjectives onto it, just as I began my prayer, loving, merciful, gracious to give a meaning to who this God is. That it’s not the God of the mountain or a Shinto God or a Buddhist God. But this is an all encompassing God of love, mercy, grace, omniscient, omnipotent, just all the descriptions to help change a worldview and a culture who has a very different view of seeing God.

I think that’s really fascinating, Frank, and now, I mean, we could, I don’t mean to get too abstract here, but we need language, don’t we? Yes. I’m not sure how to perceive anything without words behind it, you know? Certainly that concept part, and what you’re really speaking of is that exactly, and that you have to pile on word after word after word to bring a very robust meeting to a very infinitely robust Deity. Right? Yes. And so we can see pretty quickly here that there’s a lot to God perception. Even into our language. Makes me wonder what words we’re gonna learn in heaven. Don’t you think? Yes. Praise will look quite different.

Okay. So it affects our worldview. It influences how a person relates to God. I’m gonna use the next one, is very similar, influences how a person hears from God. This relationship between us and God. I mean, going back to that Japanese example, there was a lot at stake here on how this would be written in a way that the people would interact with this God.

You know, how a person influences or relates to God. It makes me think of who that person is. If they’re an analytical person, they’re going to tend to cut off the whole emotional component where a person who is very emotional will be looking for feelings. And, I just don’t feel God right now. And that becomes critical to them. The analytical is like, can they solve it in their mind? Push down the emotion. And, you approach it in a different way by how you see God based on your own experiences.

And, Matt, in this space of how a person relates to God or hears from God as ministers, certainly as we engage members that come, will often ask the question of, have you been praying about this? And the aspect of prayer. And when we think about those two components, God perception matters because it’s not just, have you been praying?

What is your perception or imagination of how God responds to that prayer? Now we’re starting to pull in the effect that God image, God perception, God concept has with a person. It’s now, I’m not just praying. So tell me, Matt, how is it that you feel like once you’ve prayed to God, He responds to you?

And it starts to bring out that would I would be really showing my hand on my God image by answering that question. Yes, for sure. If you were to ask me, Matt, how do you feel God responds to your prayer? Right. And you can imagine that probably varies from person to person. Some might not feel like, I can’t even pray, or is this important enough to pray? Okay. It’s not nt enough. Right. That would be a difference. According to my God perception on whether He would care about this matter that I have or not. What level of specificity in my prayer would be part of it.

That’s interesting. And that really, not only relating to God, but relating to others influences how a person, parents, their children, this could really be expanded and how they treat their neighbors and how they treat their spouse and how they relate to business people. So not just narrowly parents and their children, but we do see this matters, our God perception matters in that.

It does. Can you give us an example, Frank? I think, well, I’ll go back to Japan. God is more authoritative, and so their lifestyle is more authoritative and more rigid in that. Here in the United States, we tend to be more permissive and tend to exercise grace and leniency more. And that can affect of how our perception of God and how we parent or how we interact with people.

A wise Christian man said that no religion rises above its conception of God. That’s interesting, right? Every religion has a god. And basically his observation is, is no religion will rise above its concept. So the concept of God is the ceiling of every religion. Whatever religion you’re talking about, find the deity. Yeah. Understand its elevation and you’ll know just how high the religion will rise. And I think that’s interesting to think about in terms of, and I know he goes on to say that the Christian perception of God is no higher. There’s no higher perception of God, so it’s important. That’s important. It affects a lot, really.

So let’s look at different God distortions, right? So here on the screen we’ve got, I don’t know, some six or seven different distortions. I’d like you brothers just to take one. Some of ’em have kind of got some clever names and maybe we can kind of piece together what they are. But just to say, these are twists to the true image, the true perception. So Kaleb, take one of those and just maybe put a little bit of example around it or.

Sure, so we’ll take the emotionally distant God. So as you think about if my God image is one that I sense or feel that God is emotionally distant, it is one that maybe He’s interested in being with me when I’m happy and joyful, but when I’m sad and afraid and when I experience anger. He is distant. He is absent. So when I’m in a good mood, when I’m happy He’s present with me. But when it comes to the negative experiences of pain and sadness, there’s a felt sense that He’s withdrawn from me, exactly.

Frank, which one? I’ll take the rug pulling God. I have a friend and actually two friends. One has chosen to follow God, the other has not, and these two people are close to each other, and the one who has chosen to follow God, he feels at times that he has experienced struggle after struggle after struggle while he watches his friend who is not following God, experience success after success after success. And for him, he just feels that God is, anytime something good happens to his life, God is yanking the rug out from underneath him and it’s failure again. And why does God have it out for him? And, it really made me think of needing to have this full understanding of God. And sometimes the Psalms bring that out and the struggles sometimes are misperceptions of like this rug pulling God.

And in Psalm 73 it says, my steps had well nigh slipped for I was envious at the foolish when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. So you have this man who is following God, but he’s watching the foolish, the wicked, and they’re prospering and he’s beginning to think, you know what this God thing, I don’t know if it’s worth it. I might as well be like the foolish. But it goes on to say, until I went into the sanctuary of God and then I understood their end, they that are far from thee shall perish. But it is good for me to draw near to God. I have put my trust in the Lord God. And that concept of, it doesn’t matter what’s happening out there, I just need to draw in near and enjoy Him and love Him for who He is. And you see the psalmist working through that struggle.

So many Psalms. Yeah. It seems like Psalms are a bit of the crucible of God concept, doesn’t it? And you just see the psalmist come face to face with an unsatisfactory concept and he takes it pen and paper and head on.

And I think part of that is just as you think about when do our distortions come out? Like when, for the disciples, when did it come out? There was suffering, there was pain. So, our God distortions don’t come out when life is going well. It comes out when there’s a wrestling, I think. There’s distress and suffering and pain. And we wrestle with this is what, you know, I read in the Bible, this is my experience. And that piece exposes at times, right? It does expose, all of us have distortions and there’s some moments of crisis.

Moments of crisis very often put faith to test and sometimes we rethink. Where we’re challenged to rethink. I need to rethink who I thought God was. Yes. So just to your point. Exactly. That distress, that crisis brings that, I want you brothers to speak to cuz you both spend time counseling. Just the importance to be somewhat aware of a person’s God image, God perception and why that matters in the counseling room.

Go ahead Kaleb. So first it isn’t as we’ll talk about it, it isn’t always readily apparent. So we can’t go into, you know, assuming this, but why it’s important. So let’s, for example, say that, certainly as I’m counseling, I work with the distortion of abusive God at times when individuals have experienced trauma. And so what can happen is in that place, there is pain that comes out that’s felt in the room and sometimes that’s intense anger. Sometimes that’s intense anger towards God. And towards a God that I don’t know, meaning, I do know that God, the distortion the God that He is controlling and He puts his finger on you do what He says or He’s gonna crush you.

Now, why it’s important for me to understand that God image is there, is that I don’t become part of that and respond to that expression of intensity in a dismissive or an angry way. Otherwise, I continue to perpetuate the belief of an abusive God, and I don’t want that. I don’t want to communicate that. Part of this is receiving where this individual is at and understanding where is this flowing out of and how is it that God and Jesus would respond to this.

And so by that, what I hear you say, Kaleb, is we help do some unwinding of distortion by simply the way that we receive Him. Yes, I think so. By reception according to the truth of of God. Yes. That’s really important. And Frank, I’ve heard you speak to that same just as we were chatting before this. With good examples like that as well. But sometimes in our reaction, we further perpetuate the distortion. And we really need to listen to the person and hear them out, and understand where they’re coming from and why they are hurting.

It pretty easy too, I think, to assume people have the same God perception as we do. And that’s a miss too, isn’t it? In a situation like that. So you would say that it’s important when you do engage with a person and you’re starting to talk about a matter where God perception is at play, probably teasing out what their God perception is probably helpful. Yeah. Instead of assuming that their view of God is yours. Yes.

And I think it’s important with that, this goes back to the slide of God concept and God image. Is that we would all say that God is loving. And if you were to ask someone in that place, yes, I believe God is loving. What does love look like? Exactly. And I think being able to be aware that this isn’t about getting the right answer in knowing, this is the gut level response. And that’s sometimes what we get. And how do we get? So God is love, but how He dispenses that love and when He dispenses that love, and what manner He dispenses that love is all up for grabs. That’s interesting. Any others from this? We don’t need to go through the whole thing, I don’t think necessarily, but any others that you wanted to speak to?

Another one that I run into quite a bit is God of impossible expectations. And so that is a God that’s never satisfied. So a God that is constantly on the lookout for, oh, you didn’t get it right here. Oh, you didn’t do this well enough, or, you’re not good enough here. And it’s like this constant, you know, monitor of, or tabulation of checklist that you’re never gonna be enough no matter how hard or how long or how much time you put into studying the Word, prayer, whatever, it’s not gonna be enough. And so the felt sense is, He’s never pleased or He never accepts me or receives me. Which is deeply painful for some time.

And certainly perfectionism can be wrapped up into that. And there can be a sense that, for a while we feel well if we perform, but as soon as we feel like we haven’t met the standard, then shame and guilt and then there’s a feeling of distance and dissatisfaction with our Father. And, then obviously that affects relationally the engagement, with God.

And, it’s not a hard stretch to know where they’ve come. I think, I have experienced all of these at some level. Yeah. Because they all pivot on some sort of truth, right? I mean, you mentioned the God of expectations. And God certainly has the Scriptures are full of think no evil and pray without ceasing and all of these things. Right, which sound like a very high standard. So to come away with that God perception doesn’t mean you’re crazy. For sure.

I think another misperception that I see, and I think I see it increasingly so, is this idea that God is this cosmic buddy. And, just the idea that, you know, I am who I am and so I go out drinking every weekend. I know I really shouldn’t be doing that, but it’s okay. God forgives me and I just go on and there’s no concept of the power that Jesus gives us to overcome and that we don’t have to exist forever in our sins. But that cosmic buddy kind of allows a person to sit on the fence, have a relationship with God, but I do what I wanna do and so I do things that aren’t honoring to Him, but that’s okay because we’re buds, and not understanding that there is power in His resurrection.

I don’t know which one this actually, but I think another one that comes is understanding blessings. I think blessings can be difficult to understand. So, for example, my wife was just mentioning a loved one of ours and was on her Instagram feed and we know that they’re struggling through a matter and she was just reviewing, I’ve just been reviewing what in my life, you know, where’s there sin in my life? What am I doing wrong? What is she doing? She’s connecting her difficult situation with some sort of displeasure. God must be displeased otherwise He would give me this good gift that He has blessed others with. That blessing things cuz we all say that we’re blessed to have children, we’re blessed to have this home. We’re blessed to have a job. You see how that works? There’s a God perception here, isn’t there? And it’s hard to tease out. It is.

And I think we face it from many angles. I’m thinking about just prosperity within our culture too and how it can feed comfort. And that somehow, comfort is being blessed. And I’m not saying that that’s where that came from, but I think there’s many messages that can flow into that and experiences that can feed that sometimes unaware. Good. Any others? Or we’ll move along?

So the other one was disinterested God. So, the disciples at several points, I think the children were coming up and, or they brought children up to heal them. And the disciples were gonna rebuke them. And Jesus says, no come unto me. And one of the things about a disinterest is God is again, this sense that he is not interested in the intimate details, the things that happen in your life. And even we think about kids, right? And there’s this sense that, what are kids? Kids matter. But, Jesus takes them. He says no, such is the kingdom of God. This is not a disinterested God. But it makes me wonder, the disciples.

It makes me think, Kaleb, and this actually is a good transition to our next slide where they come from. Because I can have a misperception, a distortion of a disinterested God, because I’m often disinterested. And I would guess the disciples were kind of disinterested in the children .He had great work to do. They were probably interested in other things and they were like, I can’t imagine He’d be interested in this, I mean, who is, I’m not. Sure. And so that isn’t that interesting that we look to ourselves and say, God must be like me. You know? So anyway, we need to get quickly on to some remedy here, but, so let’s look at the next.

Let’s look at some sources here. So you have in those same buckets there of God image, those heart matters, those felt things. And then in the God concept. So these are where a lot of these things come about. I see trauma and loss. I’m looking to you, Kaleb, wounding relationships. That’s your sweet spot. That’s what you work in a lot. So speak a little bit about how formative those experiences are in a person’s God image.

So, the early stages of development for us as individuals is really formative for understanding the world, understanding relationships, and I think this is true as parents that each of your parents, that oftentimes, what we do bears more weight than what we say. So what is said, so I can say, for example, God is loving, God is forgiving, but certainly, how is it that Dad and Mom respond to me? Do they respond in a way that’s forgiving and loving? They serve this God.

And so we think of trauma. And yeah, loss and abuse. There’s situations, for example, emotional, physical abuse where children learn that they need to become very small in order to not get hurt. Okay. So then that experience of a fatherly figure or a motherly figure, their primary attachments in development, as they grow then is formative in how they relate now to a God.

Which means if I’ve learned to become small so that I don’t displease and then this individual’s dissatisfied with me, and then either physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse happens that is formative in how they experience and relate to God. And again, they know God is loving, the God concept.

But the experience that’s been formative again, is what I thought of when you were saying that, going back to you talking about words and how many words are needed. All of those words have meaning. So this is a forgiving God, but what does forgiving mean? Well, this is why I understand forgiveness to mean. And he’s a loving God. But somehow I’ve constructed what loving means. And that might be an altogether different matter. And, Kaleb, you’re saying these elements here are going to be very influential in having the last say on what that means, forgiveness or love.

They speak pretty loud. Let’s not have them be the last one, they’re very strong. Yeah, for sure. And even wounding, so this happens sometimes, not just, we use the example of in childhood, and again, I think that’s very formative, we would say in relationally as individuals forming what relationship looks like, what is safe relationship, how do we respond in that way, but also when it can happen as adults.

There was an experience, a church member who has been working with an individual who decided to become part of the LGBTQ community, who grew up Catholic, who knew God as a loving God, but experienced rejection from her church community. And so as a result of that, this Christ that you say is loving, your people are not acting in loving ways.

She internalized that wounding. And now again, there’s other things going on there for her. I’m not saying that’s the sole reason, but then that influenced how she sees this God who’s loving. If that’s the God, then I don’t want serve that God. And it was forming questions she had, but she didn’t want to talk about the hurt. She wanted to talk about these cognitive questions. Because that’s difficult and painful, but again, I think it formed her perception, image experience of God. There was head knowledge teaching that happened.

Frank, I want you to speak a little bit, you’ve already brought up Japan and the culture and stuff but some of our God perception is really cultural. I would imagine that has got to play into how we add our numbers up and get our God perception. Simply because I’m white, middle class American, I’m sure it has a difference. If I was born in some other place and had a different culture, I might think differently about that.

Yes, living in Japan, understanding how they perceived God was a whole new learning experience for me. I couldn’t hardly wrap my mind around it that they integrated Buddhism and Shintoism and Christianity all together and this idea that in my mind, how can you be Buddhist and Shinto and Christian because we know that Christian is mutually exclusive.

You are Christian or, you can’t be other religions in that. And that’s a very hard concept to teach Japanese because it is not a conflict in their mind to embrace multiple gods. It’s perfectly normal. The Eastern mind, they exist in that kind of tension. It’s not a problem. Working with people who, this is just here in the states that are unchurched, have no concept of God or this vague concept of who God is.

I can remember one young person who was unchurched and started repenting and I gave her an exercise to work on of just finding out who God is in the Bible. And I can remember the next time she came to see me and her first statement was, do you know that God knows everything? He knows everything. Now, we have grown up with that concept. We’ve been taught that from our parents. God is all knowing. It’s not a new concept to us, but when somebody is unchurched, God is quite foreign to them and needing to teach some of those basic concepts that He’s all knowing and all powerful.

I appreciate that. That’s a great example, and I appreciate the example you gave from the Japanese mindset, how difficult that exclusivity is. But, maybe share an element that the Japanese culture brings about a perception an accurate perception is because they’re very corporate, they’re very communal. They’re very group minded oriented. They don’t struggle with the individuality that comes as a birthright for us. And we’re certain we believe God must operate that way too. So, anyway, there’s some things that would come easy and some things, but what have I adopted by way of. It just causes us pause, doesn’t it? It does.

So we have these sources here, God concept, and over here with the head certainly teaching, reading, reasoning. Frank, you’re a teacher by trade, and so I know I’ve had conversations from bantering teacher talk back to you, but, some is developmental as well. Yes. A young, let’s say 11 year old. An 11 year old is gonna be which is called a didactic stage. In classical education, we call it didactical, which means they are very white, you know, white and black. It is a time where you just chuck their mind full of facts.

Because that’s where they’re at and they’re not going to develop the ethereal things yet, those felt things. So I think there’s a little bit of a call too, even as we think about Sunday school and as we think about teaching, just kind of be aware of the age. I’m dealing with a 13 year old. It’s probably a good time to teach ’em the Bible and right and wrong and those types of things, understanding their limitations.

A child is quick to absorb that concept of right and wrong and God, and they love God, but as they enter their teenage years, they begin to see things from a different view. And it’s why all of a sudden barriers go up because they’re sorting through what I believed as a kid. Is this true now? Is it matching my experience? Yes. And they look at their friends, their peers. I mean, by the time I got to college, my senior year in college, I had a firm belief that all paths led to God. I always believed there was a God. But Christianity being mutually exclusive, absolutely not. It did not fit my college mind. And, you need to be prepared to work through that with kids as they develop in their different thoughts and ideas. Cuz they did develop God and God in His mercy helped me to see that yes, Christianity is mutually exclusive.

And that maybe is a good transition to the next slide as we talk about moving forward here. Is realizing that there is growth to this, isn’t there? It requires some patience and so correcting distorted God perceptions, a number of bullets here. Let’s start at the top there, let Scriptures inform your experiences and not the other way around. Which I think is insightful. Kaleb, what would you, help us?

So experience, we talked about this earlier, just the fact that our experiences speak loudly, and really as we think about believers in maturing in Christ, part of that call is moving in maturity more and more deeply and thinking and behaving and responding in a way Christ responded. And that is as we go through experiences and we look to Scripture as that kind of litmus test, to be able to inform our experiences versus our experiences that then look into Scripture and I think we need to be mindful though that again, with distorted, we all do this and we all can do this.

And particularly as ministers in working with individuals, I’ve experienced in the counseling room, I can pull up a Psalm that I think expresses the love of God and someone that has a God of impossible expectations pulls out one particular phrase or line that is not that. And so, I think just being aware that through those experiences, it can influence even as I go to Scripture. Which is why it’s a beautiful thing in community to be able to read Scripture together. And, to commune together about it. And so again, we do need to let Scriptures inform our experiences. Experiences speak louder in the sense of, in our body and our experiences, but allowing the Scripture to form that and make sense out of our experience.

Now, I think that’s even helpful to your illustration about the teenager. Really, that’s probably what they’re struggling with. They’re reading the Scriptures and imposing their experience on it. And maybe that’s an instructive help for us as parents and Sunday School teachers and otherwise know to help that Scripture inform their experience would be a good thing.

Yes. I can remember when I first started repenting and the first verse I memorized as a convert. And, it was 1 Corinthians 10:13, there hath no temptation taken you, but such as is common to man, but God is faithful who will not suffer that you be tempted above that you are able, but will with the temptation, make a way of escape that you may be able to bear it.

And I really needed that because I was battling my old college life with my new life in Christ. And the fourth bullet point talks about memorizing and meditating on this and let Scripture speak into us. But also taking that Scripture, and then for me, what was really important is the New Testament gives us principles to live by. The Old Testament, a lot of times you have stories that explain how to live by it. And so with that verse, comes to my mind the story of Joseph’s temptation. And how he fled from it. And yet even though he fled, there were consequences and he was put in jail. But God provided a way of escape. And the way of escape may not go as I think it will, but to know that God is still in control. And so as I hold onto that, when I memorize that verse and then pair it with a story, it helps build, moving it from my head knowledge into the heart.

And what you’ve illustrated so well with that particular Scripture, Frank, is how much God concept and God perception is in it. Oh, I didn’t realize, just in that one verse, it says He’s faithful. That verse tells us about the faithfulness of God. And it tells us a little bit how He’s faithful and that He’s near to temptation. And so anyway, there’s just a lot packed in. I think it’s a good illustration for us to recognize that all of Scripture is showing forth God, isn’t it?

Kaleb, understand the role emotions play. And knowing the limits. So I think we all have emotions. In fact, God has emotions and that’s part of the way God created us. And we would say emotions communicate information is a language back to the language and meaning. It is a way that we make sense out of life and even relate. When someone’s sad, we’re drawn towards that to provide comfort. But again, emotions are painful. They bring up body sensations that are not comfortable at all. And through that we can again develop meaning and make meaning out of that experience that I don’t want to go there or so.

So we need to understand emotions play a role, and they actually play a role relationally to draw us into relationship, not pull us away from relationship. And so understanding that, and I think you referenced Psalms earlier. Psalms is filled and packed with emotions, sadness and fear and joy and praise. And so I think understanding that emotions communicate a level of truth, but they’re not absolute truth. So when I feel like I’m not lovable. Does that mean that’s truth? And so recognizing this is a feeling I’m having. And I need to understand where that feeling comes from.

But I don’t see it as truth when I look at Scripture that’s able to, which requires a God concept as we’ve defined it, as head understanding these things are true about God. So there’s a really complementary relationship, our feeling it has with our head. And stewarding it. That’s what I hear you say, Kaleb, is you need to steward that, and you need to be able to separate it at some level to correct distortions. And this is really the area that God image comes from. And so it is the way that we connect, not just cognitively. We connect intellectually, but when we think about relating to each other, it’s emotions move that.

Well look at how many of these points really are connecting the head with the heart. The first bullet talks about experiences with the Scripture. It’s connecting those things. Second bullet talks about emotions, knowing their limits. The fourth bullet you’ve already talked about, memorizing, meditating, is personalizing it, taking it from the head to the heart. You said that. In the last one, taking time, sitting quietly, deliberately imagining God’s nurturing care. I want you to say a little bit more about that, Kaleb. What does that look like? How would. I’m sure you’ve coached people on that.

So one of the things that we oftentimes do in counseling is have individuals draw a picture, not draw a picture of what they believe about God, the head knowledge, but how they feel God, how they imagine God responds to them, or how they imagine God feels about them. And so then they draw out a picture which then communicates very clearly their God image at a gut level. So when we think about taking time to be still, images can be a very helpful thing, whether that’s using images from the Psalms or sometimes I will even have, we have a Jesus and the Lamb, where He’s holding a lamb. And, having individuals sit and imagine being the lamb, and again, being mindful and noticing, what that is like for them. That again, they start having a different experience with God and feeling that God has that Jesus the Good Shepherd for them.

Developing that image, I think, is really critical. And I know one of the things that I have just always done when I go to bed at night. There’s things that weigh on me. But I can let go of it. And one of the things that captures it, it’s an image, it’s from Psalm 131 and it says, Lord, my heart is not haughty nor mine eyes lofty. Neither do I exercise myself in great matters or in things too high for me. So, okay, things that are happening are beyond my understanding or control. But then he goes on to say, surely I have behaved and quieted myself as a child that is weaned of his mother. My soul is ever as a weened child. And we’re out in California this past week and watching my daughter-in-law hold our youngest grandson and just the calmness of being in the arms of his mom and the troubles of the world are gone. And just to quiet ourselves and have that image of a child, it doesn’t matter what’s happening out all around him, as long as he’s being held and God is there. Isaiah 41 has for I the Lord thy God will hold thy right hand saying unto thee, fear not I will help thee. The idea of God is there holding her hand. He’s guiding us through, and that image is just powerful for me.

I like that. We just have a few minutes at the bottom of the hour and so Arlan, if you have a question, you wanna posit and you can feel free to do that. Yeah, I’d like to just bring this back. Really appreciate the discussion. But trying to put myself in the shoes of a minister in the church. And, what should I take away from this? A lot of good information and a lot of good thoughts to consider where God perception comes from and the impact. But more and more we see that the individuals do not have what we assume to be a complete God image, or that we ourselves might not have as complete of a God image that we should.

So, you know, there’s an aspect I hear of being willing to continually learn and to lean into that and to grow in our knowledge and our understanding, and then be aware of how we are teaching, whether that’s publicly, and then how we are having that relationship at a more individual counseling type level.

In general, brothers Frank and Kaleb, is there any counsel or any encouragement you would give to the ministers out there as they are thinking about the church and engaging with the church? How do we do that? How do we do that in a way that’s going to continually point towards a healthy God image and lead people further down that path? Any general thoughts or encouragements here as we, as we bring this to a close?

Well a couple thoughts come to mind, Arlan. So first is just I think for all of us to acknowledge that we have some level of distortion of our God image and we bring that with us. And I think that doesn’t feel comfortable. In fact, that’s quite scary and that’s uncomfortable. But I think also we need humility to acknowledge that and to be able to together continue to prayerfully consider the Scripture and to acknowledge and to be able to discuss together. And say what you shared here, help me understand that. And so I think the first thing is just starting with, there’s not a one of us, one day we will, as it says in Corinthians, we will be, we will know as we are known now. In a way that we’re known now that I think is gonna blow us, me away to know the depth that we’re known, but we just, we can right now. And so I think starting there initially is a helpful place to begin. And then I think recognizing. You know, even as a parent, one of the things that is, it’s not what I’m teaching so let me lemme back up.

It is what I teach you. I need to teach the truth. Absolutely. I don’t wanna minimize that, but I also wanna bring in what is my initial immediate response to my kids. And this can be also a church member and that communicates a bit about my perception at a gut level. I wouldn’t say that’s true up here, but it does expose some things about the way I perceive God, whether I am willing to embrace that or not. So that’s the other piece I guess that comes to mind and then just, as we minister with church members, is thinking about how do we pull in language about how do you imagine he’s responding? So not just about how’s it going with reading the Word, all these things that we probably all ask, but begin to pull in the relational component and things to think about that may pull out and expose perhaps misperceptions that help us.

That’s really helpful for me, Kaleb. That’s what I’ve taken away from tonight because I asked all those other questions. Do you, have you read, have you done this, like those types things? But I’ve never thought to ask about anything that would give way to a God concept which is so critical. That isn’t lined up with Scripture, and then it allows the redirection or the encouragement that says, what about the Scripture here? And what about what the Bible says here? Frank, any other thoughts?

One last thing, and I was gonna, I want to hear what Frank has to share and that is just an acknowledgement. As ministers, I think whether we like it or not, there is a perceived closeness to God that we bring just by meeting with individuals. And so that perception they have is going to be on us and how we respond just because of the role that we play within the church body.

One thought that comes to my mind as you were talking is when we’re working with an individual and listening to them, look for the grace of God at work in their life and embrace that and acknowledge that and point that out to them. Maybe some of the perceptions are totally wrong, but His grace is still there and they need to know that His grace is at work. And sometimes it’s just the mere fact that you’re here and sharing your struggle speaks of God’s grace at work because our flesh doesn’t like to admit that we have difficulties. And so constantly look for His grace at work and point it out when you see it.

I like that. That’s good. That’s helpful. Any last thoughts, brothers?

I think your third bullet point says it well though. Be patient. It takes time and it takes unlearning and relearning a God perception into a healthy way. It just takes time and it takes that loving relationship of community that we can walk that through together. Thanks for sharing and thanks for being with us tonight those of you that joined us.

This webinar walks through the impact which our perception of God can have on our lives and the lives of those we shepherd. Frank Sauder and Kaleb Beyer look at ways our view of God is formed both in image and concept as well as some common God misperceptions that can be held. We also consider strategies on how to teach and encourage a healthy, biblical understanding of God in the lives of our congregants.

PPT Handout