Is God Mean, Indulgent … Or What?


I’ve decided to declare a universal decree for the world. Are you ready for it?

Here it is: if you are 60 years old or more, you can repeat yourself and no one can say anything about it.

Today, I’m going to invoke my universal rule and repeat a statement that I read which comes from one of the darlings of the new atheists, Richard Dawkins. It’s already been in Coffee Stains once.

Dawkins in his book, God Delusion tries to mock God: “Such a bandwidth! God, who may not have a brain made of neurons, or a CPU made of silicon, but if he has the powers attributed to him he must have something far more elaborately and non-randomly constructed than the largest brain or the largest computer we know.”

You know, if you’re going to make fun of someone you’ve got to do better than that. God fills the universe but He’s there when the smallest baby screams, “hello,” to the world.

Mr. Dawkins, God is so much more than that.

What is God like anyway? We say, “all-powerful, everywhere present, all-knowing and eternal.” That’s a good start but it’s not enough. Imagine someone like that with the personality of Adolph Hitler. We’d be in big trouble.

So there’s something else about Him that’s vital to our well-being: He’s good, completely good.

I’m not sure we preachers clear things up for people either. Some read parts of the Bible and preach a scary God. It’s true we must fear (respect) the Lord, but He’s more than simply a far away God waiting to zap your slightest failing that some would have you believe in.

Others major on God’s mercy but the God they come up with is more like an over-year indulgent parent: “Now, you should stop that sweetheart or I’ll have to tell your dad and he might try to make you eat your green beans.”

Honestly, I’ve read so many opinions of God that I’m sometimes a bit confused. It’s impossible to reduce humans to one single characteristic and in a sense it’s the same with God. Continue reading

“God, Why Don’t You Reveal Yourself!”

Let’s pretend that you and I are out for a walk and we come across a blind fellow.

« Hey, how are you doing? » we say.

« Whoah. What is this? » he says out loud. I’m not sure you’re really there. I can’t see you. First of all, if you’re there, prove it. I kind of think you must be but I’m not sure.”

So, I turn to you and say, « Let’s prove to him that we exist. Give him a hundred dollars. » You frown as if to say, « Why don’t you give him a hundred dollars,” but since you’re rich you pull out your wallet and give it to him.

“Okay, this is good so how can I be sure you’re really there? I mean, this is money. I can tell by the feel and smell. But it may have been the results of billions of years of changes. It probably started out as a penny. Yeah, that’s certainly it. So if you’re there prove it.”

It’s funny, if you’re speaking with me, I don’t ask you to prove that you exist.
Yet, God is constantly called to task because He won’t “prove” that He exists.

We want Him to show up to sign autographs after the ball game. We want Him to flash a PowerPoint presentation on the side of Mount Kilamanjaro–something spectacular. Or what about if He just walks up to us and says, “Hey, I’m God. Want me to do a fantastic miracle to prove it?”

Why Doesn’t God Show Himself?
God has already shown Himself. He just won’t show Himself like we’re wanting Him to. There are reasons for that.

The first reason God doesn’t reveal Himself like we ask is that it would kill us. We’d all be crispy critters if this frail body had a full revelation of God. A small peep of God to Israel at Mount Sinai scared them to death. Moses glimpsed Him from behind and that was all he could take. God is bigger than the universe and as small as the smallest organelles or quarks. A full revelation of God would obliterate us.

If God limited the revelation of Himself to what we ask, we would limit God to what we know. If God shows up on the mountain, fuming, shaking, and burning, we’d all behave for a few days (think of the aftermath of September 11 when churches were full the next weekend). After a while, we’d go back to doing what we do when He’s not revealing Himself like that.

We want God to reveal Himself but could we comprehend a full revelation in this life? He would have to reduce Himself to much less that what He is. We’d reduce Him to an idol, or a man and worship that, but God surpasses that tiny idea. It’s like comparing the light of a match to the sun.

He doesn’t reveal Himself like that because He is so much more than that. This visible earth isn’t the only reality that exists. God inhabits everything and reigns in all.

He has revealed Himself to those who think. Look at His Creation. I’m sorry, but it seems incredibly unscientific to think that something so intricate resulted from the earth winning a cosmic lottery. And where did the earth come from anyway? And the cosmic lottery that we won, where did that cosmos come from?

Want to know God? We can understand His soul by looking into His creation. We see what He loves. For sure, even the creation has been corrupted by sin but God’s beauty is still there.

Anthony Flew was a notable atheist for most of his life. But, as he considered the “big bang” and realized there was a start to all this he began to believe in the existence of God. According to him, he simply followed the evidence where it led.

Continue reading

How To Enter God’s Presence With a New Attitude

Listen to this Coffee Stain:


One of these days my children will rise to the exalted rank of grandparent– and I’m going to laugh.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s great to be a grandpa. But, don’t think about it too deeply.

It seems to me that people exchange their grandparents for their own kids. Then they have to turn in their parents to get their grandchildren.

If you follow that logic too far, it’s not encouraging, because eventually you come out on the bad end of the deal. You’re going to get exchanged for a squalling baby somewhere down the line.

When they become grandparents my children are going to get to hear for the first time the name that their kids give to their newborn.  Ha, ha. No more Maudes and Mabels for the new generation. They’ve got names that shock you.

Then you get used to it and never think about it again. You even think the names are kind of cool (because the little guy or girl who wears that name is incredible beyond belief).

But names are kind of important, don’t you think? In other times (and even today in other cultures), people gave their children names because of personality, or to glorify God, or even to commemorate an event.

Shocking Names

In the Bible one man’s appellation meant, “fool,” and he lived up to his name. Jacob means, “supplanter,” and he spent a good part of his life trying to take Esau’s place.

One baby was born and his mama called him, “Icabod” which means “the glory is gone.”

Back in those days you didn’t want to be born when your mama or your daddy was in a bad mood.

I should have given my kids a name which means, “they got filthy rich and gave tons of money to their father.” Does anyone know what that would be in Hebrew?

Revelation of God

Often Bible names have tremendous significance. God reveals Himself by different names and each one reveals an aspect of his personality.

Here are some of the names God use to reveal Himself in the Old Testament:

El Shaddai (Lord God Almighty)

El Elyon (The Most High God)

Adonai (Lord, Master)

Yahweh (Lord, Jehovah)

Jehovah Nissi (The Lord My Banner)

Jehovah-Raah (The Lord My Shepherd)

Jehovah Rapha (The Lord That Heals)

Jehovah Shammah (The Lord Is There)

Jehovah Tsidkenu (The Lord Our Righteousness)

Jehovah Mekoddishkem (The Lord Who Sanctifies You)

El Olam (The Everlasting God)

Elohim (God)

Qanna (Jealous)

Jehovah Jireh (The Lord Will Provide)

Jehovah Shalom (The Lord Is Peace)

Jehovah Sabaoth (The Lord of Hosts)


All these names unveil an aspect of God’s personality and His relationship with us.

When God came to us to save us from our sins, He sent His Son Jesus, which means, “God saves.” He saved His people from their sins.

God gave Him the Name that is more important than all other names, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of

God the Father. (Phil. 2:9-11)

With all the revelation available as to the nature of God revealed in His Name, what did His Son Jesus call Him?

“So He said to them, “When you pray, say: Our Father in heaven …” (Lk. 11:2, NKJV).


In all the Old Testament, with all those wonderful revelations of the nature of God, He’s only referred to as “Father” 15 times.

In the four Gospels He’s referred to as “Father” 175 times! That was Jesus’ preferred name for Him.

But, it’s more than that. The word that Jesus would have used in Aramean was, “Abba” which means “dear father,” or “papa” or “daddy” I suppose. It’s the intimate name that a child called his father.

Some dispute this saying that we find instances in Greek where adults call their father, “Abba,” so it must simply mean “father.” I don’t know. I called my father, “Daddy,” when I was three years old and I called him, “Daddy” when I was 53 years old.

It was still a heart word. I didn’t call anyone else by that name.

The incredible thing is that when we come to God by faith in Jesus we are adopted into His family. We get to call Him by this familiar name: ‘Abba.’”

“This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?” God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children. And we know we are going to get what’s coming to us—an unbelievable inheritance! We go through exactly what Christ goes through. If we go through the hard times with him, then we’re certainly going to go through the good times with him! (Rom. 8:15-17, The Message)

“And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.” (NIV)

You can talk to Him exactly like a son or a daughter would speak to their father—a father who loves them more than anything else.

One Muslim lady did that and she had a wonderful revelation of the Lord Jesus. She said, “I dared to call Him, Father.”

You can, too. Stop a moment and think of what that means for your life. “Father! Papa! Abba!” Come into His presence. Speak to Him like you’d speak to the best papa that you could imagine.

Know He loves you and you can enter His presence with confidence. Run to your father.


I’d like to hear from you. Do you know why your parents gave you your name? Share the story with us. 

Hmmm …

“Carve your name on hearts, not tombstones. A legacy is etched into the minds of others and the stories they share about you.” ~ Shannon L. Alder

Have You Created a god In Your Own Image? (Are You Sure?)

If you want to see a strange, scary collection of statues just tour a museum and see how people have imagined their gods over the centuries. Weird.

But, as scary as some of those things are, you know what scares me as much? It’s some of the ideas that we have about God, the One True God. A false idea of God distorts our way of thinking about Him. One of the most famous books in the world tells about a man who loved God, but who honestly didn’t understand Him very deeply.

Job thought he had a case against God. “You’re not fair!” he seemed to be saying when the sky was falling on his head. He knew a lot about God and he and his friends filled up nearly a whole book of the Bible, saying things about God.

Most of what they said was true.

But, then one day, God revealed himself to Job and the man of God hit the dirt and squealed, “…”I’m convinced: You can do anything and everything. Nothing and no one can upset your plans. Continue reading

Did You See God?

He’s there. Look!

“No one knew it, but the fiddler standing against a bare wall outside the Metro in an indoor arcade at the top of the escalators was one of the finest classical musicians in the world, playing some of the most elegant music ever written on one of the most valuable violins ever made,” wrote Gene Weingarten in an article in the Washington Post.

The violinist was Joshua Bell who had filled the house at Boston’s Symphony Hall three nights before, where good seats went for $100 or more. He played this day on a violin handcrafted in 1713 by Antonio Stradivari, for which he was reported to have paid 3.5 million dollars.

Those people in the metro station were in for a treat! A free forty-five minute concert by one of the world’s greatest violinists on one of the finest instruments in the world.

Only no one knew it was Bell. He just stood there and played his heart out. That morning of the 1,070 people who hurried by, seven people stopped to take in the performance, at least for a minute. He got $32 for 45 minutes work. Continue reading