October 23, 2012

"I'm Not the Guy You Think I Am." -God

"Unfortunately some of you have come away with the view that God is restrictive, and that He's got a long list of do's and don'ts that you must abide by."

If I could speak for Him, I think that’s one of the major things He would say to contemporary society here in the post-Christian West: "I'm not the guy you think I am." We've gotten very used to the God of the Bible, and as such, we lose more and more of our knowledge base of Him, because rumors, ideologies and cultural norms take precedent over our actual Biblical knowledge of Him. We as a collective tend to rely on secondary sources for our knowledge of God, and some of those sources may be pastors, theologians, and commentaries on the high end, or TV shows, movies and even one-line phrases on the low end.

As such, our mental picture of God is skewed more and more. And I saw this rear its head in an article on Investopedia: "Billionaires Who Don’t Mix Business With the Bible". The article cites Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Steve Jobs, and George Soros as well-off men who do not let religious doctrines influence their business practices. I suppose I should take issue with this, and indeed I do, but given their possible knowledge background of God and the ways they have perceived Him or been exposed to Him, I'd say there are definitely circumstances where I could completely understand where they come from. In some instances, I would entirely support their decision. In fact, I will go as far as to say that when someone does step forward as if representing God in their business practices, I'm very leery and VERY anxious about their public relations. I'm almost waiting for them to put their foot in their mouth and make Christians look bad either because of their lack of grace towards people they disagree with or displayed ignorance that plays into the stereotype that Christians are dumb and believe in a fairy tale book with a fairy tale God.

And I also recognize that Renewal Corporation may be the next contestant to step onto the forefront as a Christian company and runs all the same risks as the other Christian companies before it. And it sucks that the track record before us is at least on the surface quite dismal. But it's our hope to bridge some gaps and bring some clarity. It is not my purpose to convince you about the Gospel or debate with you on any particular points; convincing is not my job. My job is to present the case with a degree of clarity that enables you, the reader or consumer of our products, to sit and wrestle with it and come to some conclusions. Dialogue on the matter is welcome, but I am under no delusion that I will be able to convince someone who has decided not to be convinced. But I digress.

When Investopedia's article talks about the men who don't mix Bible and Business, I actually find that quite unfortunate, coming from my understanding of God. Mind you, I come from a Reformed background, and one of the things that resonates with me about Reformed theology is that it operates with a framework that God has something to say about every area of life, because He cares about us and wants us to succeed in life and hand over the earth to the next generation who can also succeed and build on top of our work. So He's not just a short-term planner. He has an eye for how our success impacts others around us, and the future generations to follow.

And so I feel that the billionaires listed in the article are actually doing a disservice to themselves and possibly to other people by NOT consulting God's wisdom on how to run their business. Given their levels of power and influence, the stroke of a pen could put thousands of people out of work and impact many thousands of families, millions and maybe billions of customers and partners, etc. That level of power enables one to extraordinarily benefit society or do unfathomable damage to it. So if I'm in that position, the wisdom of God is something that I need like oxygen. Godly wisdom is placed at a premium. This is not the kind of thing I want to be left to my own devices with. And so it is good to know that God has wisdom for each and every area of life.

But to them, it is actually a bother, a stumbling block, if you will. I get the feeling that they still don't know what to do with it, and to my estimation, you the reader, might not either. And I think that comes down to your current perception of God. Maybe you can relate to this:

Ten years ago, if you would have told me I was called to ministry, chances are I wouldn't have told you that you were crazy, but I would have at least cursed under my breath. Why? Because my perception of ministry was being cooped up in some rinky-dink church full of old people singing songs I don't like and preaching sermons that no one was there to listen to, all while doing the back-breaking work of tending to the flock, reaching out to the community, maintaining the finances and upkeep of the building, etc. No thanks.

Add to that the contrast of my dream to make video games. It's profitable, it's fun, I can use all of my talents and gifts towards this: I can market, I can write, I can strategize, I can direct. So needless to say, my perception of ministry and God led me to believe that if I gave God the wheel and told Him to take me wherever He wanted me, He would promptly swerve off the road and crash my life into a ditch. 

"And so he tells me he gave control of his car to a 2000-year-old man who's never driven before. Just on faith."

But God showed Himself to me, and did it in a way that challenged my notions of Him from growing up.

He showed me that I could make games that were top-quality and present the message of Christ through them, and do it in a way that doesn't inherently alienate people. He showed me I could direct, and market, and strategize and write for Him, and have fun and prosper and do ministry. I would be doing business-as-mission. And the games wouldn't just be some tool to exploit for God's purposes, but that the games themselves would contribute to the industry in real ways, because God created everything good and wants everything to be good. So the game industry was open game.

The implications of that meant I wouldn't be operating in conflict with my gifts and talents, but in conjunction with them, and that in doing so, I would be personally fulfilled, not malaise about seemingly throwing away my life. So by extension it shows me that God really cares about my life even more than I do. And because it became evident that He was always planning this, maybe He's got more inside knowledge I can tap into, and perhaps even transcend this world's way of doing things. And so I began to seek out knowledge and insight about Him. 

This does not sound nearly like the "restrictive" narrative we as a society have been fed about God and about faith. In all honesty, it seemed more and more like a "libertarian God" was at work, if I may. A God who wants us to be free to live our lives in service to Him. And so that your minds will be put at rest, I'll go even a step further: You don't have to run a Christian company to glorify God. You don't have to offer Christian or Biblical items or services in order to please God with your business. Don't get caught up in the tendency toward homogeneity. We have more than one way we can honor God in our work, whatever that may be. If you have a fast-food company, you can honor God by offering healthier, tasty food. Or if you make furniture, you could design them with the user's posture in mind. Notice, these are being done in certain ways already, through companies that aren't necessarily pursuing Christian goals. But their goal may be for the betterment of society. And this honors God. So do not feel compelled to have to pursue evangelistic ends in any and every business you can think of, but be thoughtful of ways in which you can honor God through whatever product or service you offer. And one way you can do that is by consulting Him for wisdom in that area.

We'll tie it all up with this: What you're really looking for in your life is understanding of your purpose and the meaning of your life. You look for insight in reputable sources, and make the best decision you can with the info that you have. Unfortunately some of you have come away with the view that God is restrictive, and that He's got a long list of do's and don'ts that you must abide by. In your inability or unwillingness to abide by those supposed rules, you abandon the topic entirely and do not see God or Scripture as a reliable source of info for how you go about business (and maybe even just life in general). But this inadequate view of God and His involvement in your life has hampered your search for understanding and insight; it has handicapped you. 

So my best recommendation, if this describes you, is to begin to ask yourself (or God directly) if you really understand who and what the God of the Bible is all about. And inquire if He has wisdom about the things you deal with in life, whether it's your business, or job, or church, or family. Ask if you really understand the full story or if there are critical parts you're still missing. 

Are you open to clarity about God and about your life? Then explore your faith.