God Is Like This

God Is Like This

God Is Like This

How does God make himself known? Our triune God, being infinite and everywhere-present, is invisible—and I’ve become more comfortable with this reality over the years. I think there were times when it used to trouble me, the question, Why doesn’t God show himself?

I think I must’ve been picturing God as a very big, stubbornly invisible human being. If he would just “appear,” I’d know he was real! Right?

Impossible Question

Sometimes my kids and I play a game we call “Impossible Questions.” We try to come up with questions that are impossible to give logically satisfying answers to—like “Why haven’t I stopped asking this question yet?” or “How many spoonfuls of muffin equal a song?” Deep stuff like that.

Why doesn’t God show himself? is kind of like an impossible question. How could the immense and infinite God “show himself?” What would that look like? If we were able to somehow “stand back” at a distance to take him in, so that we could say “Ah, there he is,” we could at that moment rest assured we’d gotten the wrong god (hence, one reason for the second commandment)! How could God’s infinite essence ever be contained in a field of vision? I am beginning to understand why God didn’t let Moses see all of his glory (Exodus 33:17–23).

But he did show Moses his glory, didn’t he? God does not show himself exhaustively; but he does reveal himself truly. The Scriptures testify that God condescends to make himself known in ways human beings can genuinely understand—understand not perfectly, but genuinely. This is one reason why forever will take forever: we will never finish comprehending God’s glory!

But in the meantime, God makes his invisible attributes known not by appearing in the sky—but through the sky itself (Psalm 8)! The sky—and all the rest of creation, of course. He reveals himself in the works of his hands; he reveals himself through his acts of providence and in particular through his acts of redemption; he reveals himself through words.

Lately I’ve been reflecting on this question—the question I asked at the beginning: How does God make himself known? If creation, providence, redemption, and speech are God’s media, what are his techniques? How does he use these media to reveal himself?

I’ve noticed one “technique” in particular I want to draw your attention to: God makes himself known through comparison and contrast.

Knowing God via Comparison

He does this all the time in Scripture. He is like a rock. He is like the sun. He is like a shepherd. Or is he? Probably we’ve got to put it the other way around, since he’s the original and everything else is derivative: Rocks are a little bit like him; the sun is a dim illustration of his glorious, dazzling purity; shepherds reflect God’s tender, tenacious care, in a way.

As inadequate as any one comparison is to capture God, he’s filled the world with such comparisons! And he loves to use them, apparently, as a look through Scripture shows: streams, fathers, warriors, winds, builders, singers, bread, kings—the list goes on. He has filled the world, filled history, with tiny illustrations of his glory and character, to which he can point and say “I’m like this!”

Our task—our privilege as creatures made like him as well, and designed for relationship with him—is to become practiced in letting his self-revelation in nature, in history, and in Scripture draw our hearts back to him (see Acts 17:24–27). The heavens don’t just testify to God in the way a person’s house bears the marks of an absent owner or a former builder; God is speaking to us now through these things. As Gerald Manley Hopkins puts it, “The world is charged with the grandeur of God.” God is making himself known NOW, in the things that he has made and in the way he sustains them (see Romans 1:18ff, for example).

Tragically, our souls, gutted by the ravages of sin’s infection, struggle to see, struggle to hear. Don’t want to see or hear, apart from his grace (see Eph 2:1–10). Hence our great need for God’s self-revelation in redemption.

Knowing God via Contrast

The nature of God’s relationship to creation and his way of speaking invites us to know him via contrast as well. This can apply, for example, to the very things he offers up as comparisons!

Because God is the Creator and all else is creature, everything to which he can point and say “this is like me” simultaneously possesses qualities that God (and we) can confidently say are not like him. So the rock in its enduring strength is like God; but it’s also not like God because, for one thing, it’s dead as a doornail and cares nothing for those whom it shelters. Hence we are invited, in considering that our God is a rock of refuge, to compare and contrast him with the object lesson the mountain fortress offers us: our loving, all-seeing God is like, but so much better than, any inanimate object, place, or possession on which we set our hope.

God has also built absolute contrasts into creation and time. We can know God better, for example, through the way he frames his own being as perfect holiness and truth in contrast to darkness. God is not like darkness; he is light. God is not like Satan. Heaven is not like hell. These contrasts are absolute. And God makes himself more clearly, more gloriously, known through orchestrating even evil itself to the great end of blessing his people forever with the fullest knowledge of all his goodness that we can endure.

Yet even these contrasts fail to exhaust the infinite character of God. “Showing” himself—via comparison and contrast—is necessary but not sufficient. We want, we need, him to speak to us, too.

Knowing God in Christ

So here’s one more impossible question, of a sort: how could the Son, being God, become man? Given all I’ve said, how could God both show himself and speak to us—through a human being we could see, touch, hug, sing with, cry with?

I don’t know.

I do know that Jesus is the ultimate self-revelation of the Father. God has spoken to us—speaks to us now, will speak to us forever—through this human King. He is the self-revelation of God, come down to us on a creaturely level, yet constantly displaying God to us (Hebrews 1:1–4).

In him the whole fullness of God dwells bodily (see the letter to the Colossians!)—and though we will never know him exhaustively, we who believe in Jesus behold by faith now, and one day by sight, God himself.

In Jesus, God makes himself known in the fullest way possible for a creature to comprehend. In his first coming, Christ displayed (and accomplished) what no other creature, comparison, or contrast could ever convey: God’s grace.

Jesus Christ, the living Savior crucified once for all to deliver us from sin’s curse, became part of the comparison/contrast painting itself, so that he can point to himself and say, “I’m like this.”

And in the gospel, wonder of wonders, we see Jesus—we hear his voice—beckoning us to come to him, and to know our God.

Friends, let us fix our eyes on Jesus, and never give up seeking deeper knowledge of him—deeper knowledge of our God. One day, we will see God in the sky. On the day of Christ’s return, every eye will see him. Come, Lord Jesus!

Don’t Forget They’re Dead

Don’t Forget They’re Dead

Don’t Forget They’re Dead

“I see dead people.”

It’s just a quote from a famous movie; it’s not a common phenomenon, and not, I trust, something any of us would like to experience—hallucinations of the walking dead. Creepy!

And yet, in a way, I ought to see more dead people. At least, I ought to see more people as dead. If you’re a born-again believer, you should too.

I base this on an inference from Ephesians 2: “We were dead in our trespasses and sins.” I infer that this means people who don’t yet know Jesus are dead right now in their trespasses and sins—and Christians should remember that!

When we forget it, I think, we’ll be less likely to talk to people about Jesus, and less likely to talk to Jesus about those people.

Why do we so often forget?

Christians believe that we have new life in Christ. We believe that before Christ saved us, we were walking corpses, spiritually. But when it comes to interacting with unbelievers, we can find it so natural to experience them as being…just like us. In many cases unbelievers can seem happier, friendlier, “livelier” than us weary saints. Simply put, they don’t seem dead! And that makes it harder, for me at least, to long for them to have life in Christ.

As I’ve thought about this, two analogies have helped me sort out my difficulties.


Analogy #1: Roadkill.

Driving across NJ’s Route 80 on Memorial Day led my family past more than 15 dead deer. I’m no expert, but I know what a living deer looks like, and these were definitely dead deer, no question about it. We all know pretty intuitively the difference between a living creature and roadkill. The fact of the matter is roadkill can’t do a thing except decompose. Dead animals cannot do what living animals are designed to do: they can’t hunt or hibernate, they can’t grow or reproduce, they can’t forage, frolic, sing or howl. They do nothing but rot.

Spiritually dead humans have bodies that are headed that direction too. We’re not biologically dead yet, but we’re on our way. We’re as good as dead: physically our fate is sealed. But here’s the key, and the thing that’s easy to forget: unlike animals, human life is not merely biological. We have souls. Souls that are designed for relationship with God, souls that make us capable of reverent worship and loving obedience.

That’s what’s dead. Our souls. We know a dead body when we see one: it’s not doing what living bodies are supposed to do! Do we know a dead soul when we see one?

If one definition of a dead animal is an organism that has ceased to perform any of the activities associated with biological life, then perhaps a good explanation of how unregenerated sinners are dead is that we are conceived and born, suckled and schooled, married and buried without ever performing any of the activities comprising spiritual life: We do not, and we cannot, glorify and enjoy God. At all. We’re dead.

Ah, you might say, but we’re still worshippers, we still can desire good things, and love people. Surely we’re not totally dead spiritually, just sick!

Consider, in response, a second analogy:


Analogy #2: A Dead Car.

Imagine a wiry boy straight out of Jungle Book, raised by wolves, venturing from the trees into the outskirts of an Indian village. Across the dirt road he sees a creature he’s never seen before: a rusty, dusty pickup truck. After making sure it won’t bite him (it looks safely dead, but maybe it’s just sleeping!), he climbs inside. He fiddles with the buttons and the levers. There’s a key, and he discovers that it turns in its socket. click-click-click-click…. “THE INDIAN PRIME MINISTER ANNOUNCED TODAY A NEW INITIATIVE AIMED”—at the loud voice blaring from the speakers, Mowgli flings himself out of the truck, somersaults across the road and bounds up a tree. The beast is alive after all! The car is working!

Only…we know it’s not. There’s still some juice in the battery, for now. Enough to keep the radio going for a few days more, maybe. But if we could open up the hood, we’d see the engine troubles responsible for its recent abandonment. It’s dead.

See, cars are made for driving. A car that can’t drive may have some elements that still work. But if it is unable to perform its most essential function, we would be right to consider it dead, even though it’s not completely “broken” in every respect.

Can you see what I’m getting at? Human beings’ essential function—our “chief end” as the old catechisms have it—is to live in the awareness and service and worship of God, the Creator and Lord of the universe. It is this essential function that is dead in every human being—dead as a gutted car in a junkyard—apart from the saving work of Christ.

I hope that this is a challenge to you; it is to me. I can very easily be impressed by the fact that my neighbors have functioning radios and headlights and windshield wipers, if you will. They seem to be quite fine, some of them! It is only as I remember and reflect on the truth that they were created to know and love and worship and listen to and serve and sing to and live for God that the alarming state of their souls becomes apparent, that the sad absence of admiration for God or interest in the Bible or routines of worship or desire for wisdom or love of Christians begins click-click-clicking, and I get a whiff of the reality: they are dead and rotting, spiritually.

Recalling what people were created for helps me want to keep in mind that they are dead spiritually. This should serve as a motivation to see the gospel as something everyone around me needs. Sometimes I find it much more natural and comfortable to share the gospel with people who are obviously broken, obviously a mess, obviously in need of major spiritual renovation. But wait long enough and roadkill of the noblest variety is going to stink. Whether it’s a Lexus or a lemon, a car that won’t drive is dead, period.

I’m no mechanic, no veterinarian, no physician; but I do know a gospel-message and a God-man that give life to the dead. My prayer is that he will open our eyes to see the spiritual deadness of people more clearly, so we’ll cry out on their behalf to the God who gives life to the dead, and so that we’ll be emboldened to tell them about Christ—that “whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”


-Jordan Roberts

The Good Life

The Good Life

The Good Life

I sat next to a 16-year-old boy wearing a baggy T-Shirt that said “BLESSED” in gaudy lettering. The image on the shirt gave the sense: two hands pressed together in prayer, between them a long-stemmed rose and a stack of hundred-dollar bills.

Pleasure and prosperity—the “blessed” life. The good life. Is this all we need from God? Is it all we ask of God? Pleasure and prosperity—and power, perhaps—are the only goods the world has to offer. Sixteen-year-old, you’re still young—do you remember anything of your Maker? Lottery tickets and girlfriends won’t make up for the vertical rift.

Bootleg Blessing

What is the good life? That’s the question. Most answer it with pre-fabricated assumptions that fit their souls like a glove (or like a T-shirt). Our fallen hearts crave blessing without the Benefactor. The “world” is happy to supply the demand with bootleg blessings (and even so, most of us won’t hit it big in terms of the three P’s. But in America we have plenty of free T-shirts to go around).

In the world’s saner enclaves, pleasure and prosperity take the form of tightknit communities (incubators for healthier pleasures) and meaningful work (“prosperity” is relative). But even such wholesome “blessings” as these, limited as they are to the realm of sin and sinners, are two-dimensional. Like the graphic on the Tee.

In our saner moments we sense it’s threadbare. True blessing needs its origin outside the broken world. True blessing must minister to my soul’s needs, not my body’s appetites. This shirt covers a future corpse. But eternity cries out in the 16-year old’s heart to be acknowledged.

The Good Life 101

God knows about eternity. He alone is qualified to speak to it, and he does in Scripture. But his goal is not just to instruct our minds. He aims (amazing grace!) to give it to us. To give people eternal life. To give sinners the good life.

Before there were sinners—before the world was broken—God blessed us and spoke to us (Genesis 1:28). Even in a perfect world true blessing comes on God’s terms.

Much more then, after the fall, God must give the good life—and he also must describe it so we know it when we see it. It can be easy to miss. Before the new creation comes in glory, true blessing comes like treasure in jars of clay. Not all that’s gold glitters.

So it’s fitting that we look to the Psalms—that mixture of praise and lamentation, that collection from the kingly choirmaster shepherding us toward the Hallelujahs of 150—to learn to recognize the good life. In the bad world, the good life always looks like God changing us, not necessarily our circumstances. That is why the Psalms, particularly Book I (Psalms 1-41), do not just talk about “blessing” but describe the blessed person. Let’s take a look at how Book I describes this person in four key Psalms: 1, 2, 32, and 41.

Psalm 1: The Blessed Person Finds Life in God’s Revelation.

God’s grace is mediated through his redemptive word. The blessed person is the one who has been healed to hear his Maker’s voice again—and not only to hear, but to listen.

Psalm 2: The Blessed Person Takes Refuge in God’s Son.

The word and the Word are inseparable. God’s covenant speech issues from and commands our allegiance to our covenant Lord, God’s Son. The blessed life is not moralistic adherence to the word—it is the life wholly surrendered to the mercy and majesty of the Savior-King.

Psalm 32: The Blessed Person Seeks and Receives God’s Forgiveness.

Whoever lives by the truth, whoever comes to the Son, must grapple with the guilt they trail behind them—and the corruption within them. Psalm 1 could be confused for self-righteousness. Psalm 2 could be misinterpreted as nationalism. Psalm 32 puts the pieces together (as Paul does more fully in Romans 4). The righteous person of Psalm 1 is blessed with a life of righteousness, not because of it. The nations in Psalm 2 are invited to repent and join the Jewish Messiah. Righteousness is a gift that God gives the repentant offender, not a badge worn by the self-justifying. Blessing is blessing because it is unearned. (It’s no accident the word for “blessed” could also be rendered “happy.” He who has been forgiven much loves much.)

Psalm 41: The Blessed Person Manifests Mercy and Integrity.

God’s blessing not only counts righteous but makes holy. Those who remember the poor, who walk in integrity—who love God and love their neighbors—they truly are called “blessed in the land.” Ironically, the world often mistakes people of mercy and integrity as weak or naïve (meek is Christ’s word for them). But they are in fact those to whom the kingdom is given. They will inherit the land. Pleasure, prosperity and power will come to those who are pure in heart.

But first: They see God.

THE Blessed Person

The blessed person sees God as the blessed one (Ps 41:13), the supreme good, the “sumum bonum.” One day, face to face; for now, in the Christ of Scripture. The blessed person will see God because he has seen Christ.

The blessed person has seen Christ to be both the rightful recipient of infinite blessing and the gracious content of our blessing. Christ is The Blessed Person. And Christ is our blessing. In him we have the Word (Psalm 1). In him we have the King our refuge (Psalm 2). In him we have forgiveness (Psalm 32). In him we become holy (Psalm 41).

Future Blessing

This “blessedness” is not for this life only. Far from it! Resurrection life will put the lie to all this-worldly imposters to the good life (like roses and cash). But for now, true blessing transcends concerns about “standard of living.” Life in the Spirit might look like you renouncing all earthly possessions. At the very least the good life is one free from the love of money. Yet life in the Spirit ends not in poverty but in paradise.

And behold, I am coming soon. Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book. (Rev 22:7)

Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates. (Rev 22:4)

The book of Revelation brings the blessing of Genesis 1:28 full circle, describing the heavenly city-garden where God’s people will see his face. And it speaks in terms of the good life: “Blessed.”

Roses and stacks of cash will simply be part of the pavement in that place.


–Jordan Roberts

Image credit: aliexpress.com




Two Sundays ago, the message at BHOF was directed specifically toward young people:

“Remember your creator in the days of your youth” (Ecclesiastes 12:1).

The preacher in Ecclesiastes doesn’t call God “creator” anywhere else in the book.

One reason, I argued, that the preacher uses the term creator here is to send us back to Genesis 1:26-31 with this reminder: when we cultivate capacities we have uniquely as image-bearers of God, we reflect the God who said “Let us make man in our own image,” and he gets glory.

It’s this point I want to pick up on in this little post. What does Genesis 1 itself emphasize about God? Because what is emphasized about God in Genesis 1 is likely to be part of what’s being emphasized about us when it says we’re like him, made in his image—made to reflect him.

The Maker and His Reflection

So what things stand out most about God in this passage, showing us ways in which we are (to be) like him?

Here’s one: He’s a maker. He makes useful and beautiful things. He organizes his world in a way that makes life flourish. He plants and tends to a beautiful place in Eden. He makes humanity’s home. He is, if you will, a homemaker.

Well, maybe you already see my point. Young people, old people, in-between-people, I want to turn your attention to those who every day reflect God among us in an often underappreciated or unnoticed way: our homemakers.

These are the women who may not have the leisure to cultivate interests and capacities and delights that many of the rest of us do, because they are committed to working not at home, necessarily, but on the home.

Our broader culture doesn’t value this kind of work. A woman’s significance and identity is often presented as what she enjoys or accomplishes for herself and outside the home. But if Ecclesiastes and Genesis and Proverbs 31 (and the rest of the Bible) are right, homemaking is a noble and glorious calling.

Making It Home

So I want to send this shoutout to those among us who get God glory by embracing the difficult calling of homemaking: those who make useful and beautiful things like meals and grocery lists and kids’ routines. Who organize their family’s small world in a way that makes life flourish. Who tend to the weeds of laundry and dirty dishes, fending off chaos and maintaining order. Who make houses or apartments into warm, welcoming homes.

Don’t think I have a particular kind of home in mind. Maybe your house is messy. Maybe it’s bare. Maybe you need to fight against idolizing it or against being ashamed of it.

Maybe the edges of your routine are frayed or maybe it’s spiraling out of control.

Certainly you need Jesus’ help, and its obvious to everyone who knows you well. Welcome to the club.

But what I’m trying to say is more basic, more true-no-matter-what: if you, in a desire to honor God and bless your family, are serving as a homemaker, you are cultivating the capacity to reflect God as a maker. You may have had to give up on a dozen other aspirations and abilities in order to do it. And what I’m saying is, it’s not a waste. You reflect God among us in a way no one else does. You image the homemaking God of Genesis 1 in a unique and valuable way.

Thank you.

Glory be to God.

3 Things I Hate About COVID Church (or Why Every Sunday Is Like Christmas)

3 Things I Hate About COVID Church (or Why Every Sunday Is Like Christmas)

3 Things I Hate About COVID Church (or Why Every Sunday Is Like Christmas)

1. We have to sit in household clusters separated by at least 6 feet.

This fulfills our state’s COVID-safety requirements. But it also highlights one reason we shouldn’t normally sit so far from each other at church: We are family members, not audience members. If we’re simply audience members, then it makes sense to maintain a self-protective distance from others who happen to want to sing the same songs or listen to the same sermon. But we gather on Sundays as brothers and sisters—a blessedly uncomfortable reality! Since God’s grace has made me part of Christ’s household, I must intentionally move closer to my siblings in Christ, even if it means threatening their comfort and relinquishing mine.

Since God in his grace is forming Christ in his children, he plans to grow his family up together into living life as Jesus lived it—marked by commitment and compassion. In other words, sticking with and being for God’s family. Sundays afford us the opportunity to draw near to each other. And in that way God makes every Sunday like Christmas.

After all, Christmas is the anti-social-distancing holiday. The Christian celebration of Christmas centers on the  news that the Son drew near—and made himself vulnerable to all our diseases. He took on our infections so that we could be healed (Matt 8:17).

2. We have to wear masks and cover our faces.

For now, we’ve been wearing masks while we sing. We also wear them before and after each service. Masks are a tool designed to minimize risk to our individual bodies. But as with all tools, they have unintended consequences. These unintended consequences may have more of an impact on our overall health as a spiritual body than we realize…

Masks make it harder to understand each other. They make it harder to read emotions. They make it harder to show sympathy. They make it harder to know each other. In short, they make it harder to speak the truth in love…making the body grow so that it builds itself up in love (Eph 4:15–16).

Faces are important!

The importance of faces is not a bug in the system of human relationships. God designed faces as a dynamic metaphor for his self-revelation. It’s no accident that when God pours out favor and love on his people it is described as turning his face toward them and letting his face shine upon them. And it’s no accident that a face-covering of sorts remains for those who haven’t been unmasked by the love of Christ and brought into the knowing-and-being-known freedom of life in him (2 Cor 3:14).

We are being renewed in Christ to see respect, acceptance, and love in each other’s faces. Sundays afford us the opportunity to do that as a family. And so God makes every Sunday like Christmas.

After all, Christmas is the anti-masking holiday. For 33 blessed years, the God of the universe revealed his heart in human voice, body language—and facial expressions. The mystery of the ages was finally unveiled in the Word made Flesh. When Christians turn our faces toward each other, we are emblems of God’s incarnate affection and attention. One day we will see his face. For now, we see him reflected in each other’s (2 Cor 3:18).

3. We have members “Zooming in” who used to gather with us.

Members who are particularly vulnerable or who aren’t comfortable being in a group setting yet are watching our live services via Zoom. It’s not ideal, to say the least, though we’re grateful for the option. The danger is that we might end up staying home because it’s easier, not because we’re afraid to get sick.

Yes, you can privately take in the words of the sermon on the internet. It’s good to want to hear the sermon! But it’s not good to think that’s basically all there is to church on Sundays anyway, whether in person or online. That’d be sort of (only sort of) like thinking a Zoom call with the quarterback to learn the plays is the same thing as showing up at the game. The main thing—the miraculous thing—that God’s doing at church on Sundays includes the sermon but it also includes the context: Every Sunday the God of grace dynamically speaks and works in and through the gathered people of God by various means that cannot be separated.

Obviously God can work in and sustain you, beloved Christian, apart from church. He is God Almighty! But that doesn’t mean we should choose to seek him or prefer to serve him in isolation from the church his saving might has created. The dynamic ministry of life in the body of Christ—punctuated by the weekly gathering—is the ordinary yet amazing way he has ordained to glorify himself and manifest his kingdom on earth.

My prayer is that we can stop the Zooming soon. Sundays afford us the opportunity to be in the physical presence of fellow citizens in a microcosm of God’s new creation kingdom, as Christ addresses his people through the Word. And so God makes every Sunday like Christmas.

After all, Christmas is the anti-streaming holiday. In a sense, God had been “streaming” his saving word to his people for a couple centuries (through miraculous, angelic and prophetic media of varying clarity. There were some super HiDef appearances, for sure!). But  Christmas centers on the incredible news that the King made himself present in the flesh to establish once and for all his ongoing, unrestricted reign among his people. Though we are physically distanced from Christ now, he is Spiritually present in a real and special way when his gathered people—the temple-dwellingplace of the living God, the body of Christ—are physically gathered and engaged in corporate ministry and worship.

So—obviously we at BHOF haven’t taken an extreme stance. We still social distance and wear the masks and use the gift of Zoom, because we want to protect each other’s bodies from COVID.

But only if we are more concerned with protecting each other from temptation, from drifting, from unbelief, from isolation, from compromise, from praise-less-ness, will our body function healthily, to the glory of God.

Corporate worship is essential to healthy Christian living. We are not designed nor saved to thrive spiritually apart from the embodied gathering of God’s people. Technological communication is not a good substitute for physical presence. Which is why God sends his people—body and soul—into each other’s lives.

Christmas is about the incarnation. About God drawing near to us, about God knowing and making himself known to us, about God giving us himself in full embodied presence. Of course, the fullest gift was not just his birth but has come through his death and resurrection—the central focus of our Sunday gatherings! The best place to be reminded what Christmas means and made possible is to go to church every Sunday.

–Jordan Roberts