Pictures of God
It all depends on your perspective
I See God Through People
I saw God a month ago.
He was focused, yet vulnerable as he lay with his arms outstretched.
The goal? To save as many lives as possible.
He knew there would be a degree of discomfort and pain; but he knew that long before he arrived. In fact, he’d done this before.
So there he was with blood leaving his arms through a needle. What was the purpose?
I witnessed the gentleman at a blood donation center. Was this man God? By no means. But his actions were of God.
The consequences of sin revoked our privilege of seeing God. When God told Moses to lead the Israelites to the Promised Land, Moses had doubts. He knew God was with them, but he needed a confidence boost; he needed to see God. In response God said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you. . . . But you may not look directly at my face, for no one may see me and live” (Ex. 33:19, 20, NLT).*
We’ve all had Moses moments, when we need to see evidence of God. He can sometimes feel too distant to be an intimate God. But Scripture assures us that while we cannot see Him, we can find Him in expressions of love. Whether found in a smile shared between strangers or in a donated unit of blood, when we want to see God He makes Himself known.
We just need to make sure we don’t miss Him when He passes by.
* Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
Mylon Medley is an assistant producerfor Adventist News Network in Silver Spring, Maryland.
Seeing God Through Illness
My picture of God is one of everlasting love and tenderness. As a child I saw God as my protector and heavenly Father. As I’ve grown older, I’ve become closer to Him and have learned to lean on Him more fully.
About a decade ago I became ill with a rare disease for which there is no cure. It is difficult to treat and challenging to bear. To slow the progress of the disease, the doctors have now added chemotherapy to my treatment, which causes me great pain, nausea, and weakness. Despite these trials, I would not trade this experience. It has taught me the importance of trusting God and depending on Him for my every need. I’ve come to realize that I am truly and completely in His hands.
When my illness threatens to overwhelm me, with tearful pleas I go to the Lord in prayer, asking Him to strengthen me and to give me unfailing courage. I need Him to lift me up and carry me when I cannot stand. Sensing the Lord’s presence provides me with the trust and faith that I need, and I am overcome with gratitude and thankfulness to Him. He fills my heart and soul with peace.
I’ve learned that to stay close to God I must pray to Him continually, not just during periods of severe pain. Several times each day I say aloud, “I choose Jesus.” I want Him to hear me and to understand that my faith and trust are in Him.
I know my Lord will carry me through the storm, and I look forward to receiving that precious eternal healing at Jesus’ second coming.
Lori Romero writes from Silver Spring, Maryland.
Face to Face
At times I have been jealous of the disciples because they could touch, see, and listen to God when He became flesh. I can’t use my eyes or hands to have direct physical access to God.
In spite of this “blindness,” I experience His presence permeating everything around me. In fact, His closeness is such that in Him I live and move and have my being (Acts 17:28). I don’t see God’s face, but He sees mine and cares for every little detail of my life. I can’t hold God’s hands, but I can detect His presence, His actions, and His thoughts.
God is the Word (John 1:1), and I encounter Him every time I read a passage in the Bible. God is Spirit (John 4:24), and I experience His intangible presence every time I listen with my mind in silence and pray. God is the Creator (Gen. 1:1), and as a geologist, I have the privilege of admiring both the brilliance of His thoughts, expressed in the beautiful workings of our planet, and the power of His action, recorded in geological history.
There is so much I don’t know and understand yet about God, because I see Him through a mirror, dimly (1 Cor. 13:12). I look forward with anticipation (a mixture of holy fear and longing) to the time I will see my Father and Maker face to face.
Ronny Nalin, Ph.D., is an associate scientist at the Geoscience Research Institute of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists and lives with his wife, Elisa, and daughter, Gioia, in Mentone, California.
How I See God
I grew up being told I was a child of God, and to boldly come before His throne of grace. So I did.
My parents told me that I could do whatever God asked of me. Clinging to His promises in the Bible, I have spent my life pursuing His call. If I truly believe that I am His child, then my best witness is to serve for His glory. I carried God’s promise through my college education, master’s degree, and Ph.D. I grew to hear God’s still small voice in my life, and I followed it to the path of education, one my husband has also chosen.
I’m always astonished when I hear others criticizing me for not having children, not being “traditional,” speaking out against inequality and oppression, or boldly believing that God will bless me because I am doing His work and have asked for His blessing.
Because of what He said about His followers in the Bible, God does not look upon outward appearances. Rather, He sees the heart of service and uses it.
I came to Him an empty vessel, eager to serve. He filled me with purpose and treated me with the kind of equal love that I have come to recognize in a Savior who died for everyone. Therefore, when I see God, I see a God who believes in His children as equals—He saves both women and men alike, and joyfully blesses their work for His kingdom.
Bonnie McClean is a lecturer at Marquette Univeristy in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
The Journey of Trust
Does God like me? It’s the big question! It’s the belief that has the power to steer our whole life’s path. It has been the inspiration behind every song I have written.
I am usually taken to be a bit of a dreamer without a care in the world. The truth is, I have had some serious struggles with anxiety and depression that almost swallowed me up. I realize now that these were driven by fear of failing God, of disappointing Him, and that He would give up on me because of my inability to overcome my weaknesses.
Many of my songs have come from times He met me in the midst of my struggles and failures with only understanding and compassion and unending love. Even though I became a mom just two years ago, God has been able to give me such beautiful insights into His true heart for me. My girls cannot know how much I love them. It’s crazy love. Whether or not they make mistakes in life has absolutely nothing to do with how I feel about them.
Realizing God’s love for me through my girls has given me a deeper rest in Him. It really is truth about who He is and how He feels about us that makes us free. We cannot be who we were created to be until we know how loved we are.
Melissa Otto is a singer, songwriter, and stay-at-home mom.
I See God as . . .My Father
Lisa Giebel Bjelland
After my daughter, Maddy, died, my soul literally felt as if it were on fire. The pain was so real. I remember entering our home for the first time without my beautiful daughter being alive; the deep sadness I felt was overwhelming.
I found that I could not stay inside. I had to be where I felt closest to God, so I had to be in the elements. It was February and cold. I remember walking outside with my arms reaching toward the sky, to be as close to God as possible, wanting Him to hold me, to comfort me, to talk to me, and bring her back to me.
Sometimes I wailed, letting the cold tears freeze on my cheeks. I stayed outside deep into the night and throughout the coming days. I was so drawn to extreme elements because I not only needed to talk to God—I had to feel His power, His beauty, His comfort, and His creation.
I believe that not only my soul was on fire, but His was as well. I believe my Father wept. He wept bitterly, longing for this pain to end.
As the old hymn goes: “It is well with my soul!” I cry every time it is sung in church now. I truly believe that my soul will not be well until I am in the arms of my Father. This world is not my home, and I hunger, as never before, for heaven.
Before Maddy’s death I thought of heaven and longed for it. Now it is implanted in my being. It is written in my soul. Grief has a way of changing you greatly. I’m thankful for that fire in my soul. It is my prayer that we all have a fire in our soul, so that soon we can be reunited with our Father, and me with my Maddy.
Lisa Giebel Bjelland is a trauma therapist. A mother of two, she faced her own trauma when her oldest daughter, Madison Baird, passed away in February, 2015. After Madison’s death, her friends created and used the hashtag #MaddyStrong to share what it means to live life with intention, spreading happiness wherever one goes, being a light in this dark world.
The Greatest Parent
Manoj and Arlene Paulson
As first-time parents, with a brand-new baby boy, we’ve begun reflecting more on God as our Creator. Even before we set out on this path of creating our baby, we spent a long time dreaming about our children’s future, the plans we have for raising them, even how to recruit them to our own side of the Redskins-Cowboys divide!
This reflection on our role as parents has given us a new appreciation of the Creation story, and a little better understanding of the care and planning that went into the creation of humanity—the hopes, dreams, and excitement God must have had going into it, and His disappointment after the Fall.
Pregnancy has forced us to evaluate our role as parents and confront our desire to control and protect our son from every bad thing that may happen. We are trying to learn from the greatest Parent that even though things may not go as planned, we must not allow our disappointment to affect our love for our son.
It is amazing to think how God can love us unconditionally no matter what decisions we make, good or bad. So as parents, we must remember that even when we don’t agree with our child’s decisions, we shouldn’t rush to judgment. If he decides it was a bad decision, we should be there to help him process. And if he believes it is the right decision, we should give him that freedom and understand.
Just like our Father.
Manoj and Arlene Paulson write from Kensington, Maryland. Their son, Jonah, will be two months old this month.
God is Family
I see God as an all-knowing traveling family.
I’ve grown up in an established family, a group of people I trust and depend on. But a family can’t be with you 24 hours of each day. Even a family may not realize everything I’m going through physically or emotionally.
That’s why I recognize God as an all-knowing traveling family. He travels with me everywhere I go. He knows how I feel, even if I don’t directly tell Him. Just like my family, God wants the best for me.
In certain instances in my life when I have lost, not turned in, or simply messed up on an assignment, I have seen teachers who usually show no mercy help me get back the points I lost. I know God is watching out for me when events like that happen.
Although I know each person in my family like the back of my hand, I don’t think I have reached a place where I relate to God in the same way. Over time, I hope to get to know God better, and build a stronger family bond with Him.
Janna Stewartson, 14 years old, is in eighth grade. She attends Sligo Adventist Church in Takoma Park, Maryland.
Who Is God?
Three passages of Scripture shape the core of my concept of God. In Exodus 34:7 we find our most explicit and concise presentation of God, as Moses relates God’s own description of Himself during his awesome experience on Mount Sinai. Our God describes His character as the compassionate, patient, tender-loving judge, who both forgives and sets all things right.
In John 14 we have a view of the unity of the Godhead in preparation for the sacrifice of the Son as the Savior for our sins and the preparation of a place for us to be with Him in heaven. When Philip asked to see the Father, the answer he received was the demonstration of the Father through the life of loving service of the Son and the promise of the continual presence of the Spirit to comfort, teach, guide, and enable obedience. The Three work together for our salvation just as they did for our creation.
The capstone text for me, Revelation 21:3-5, not only reveals the plans for all things being made new and the eradication of all tears, but, most important, announces the close relationship that God will have with us forever. This has always been His wish, and is His current invitation.
Our creation and our salvation were carefully orchestrated so that each of us, so I, can have a loving relationship with my awesome friend. God is my sovereign Lord, my parent, my sibling, and my friend in whom I can always trust.
John Reeve, Ph.D., teaches church history at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary, Andrews University.