Things God Wants To Know

But why?

Note Attention Road Sign Right Of Way Duplicate

How do you respond to motivation? Are you more inclined to do something if someone else wants you to? If the rules say you should? Or, like some of us, not at all no matter what?

Gretchen Rubin, in her book The Four Tendencies, divides people into categories depending on how they respond to motivation. Those who, like me, respond to inner motivation far more than anything from the outside, are called questioners. (You can even take the quiz here if you want.)

We ask “why” a lot. That’s the gist of the personality. If you can give us a good reason for doing something, we’re in. If not, we’re not terribly motivated. A good reason, mind you, is in the eye of the questioner.

So it’s not a surprise, I suppose, that I would be drawn to the questions in the Bible. A couple weeks ago, we talked about God’s first question. (Where are you?) It’s important, I believe, to look at the things God wants to know and ponder why. (I did say I asked “why” a lot.)

Questions God asks

God, presumably, does not ask rhetorical questions. He doesn’t need to ask questions at all. What doesn’t he already know? Can he ask a question he doesn’t know the answer to?

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“Omniscient” is one of those fifty-dollar theological words that means the ability, or even character trait, of knowing absolutely everything. (So go use that word now to impress people.) God has no need to ask us anything at all.

That’s why I find the fact that he does so intriguing.

Who is able to advise the Spirit of the Lord? Who knows enough to give him advice or teach him? Has the Lord ever needed anyone’s advice? Does he need instruction about what is good? Did someone teach him what is right or show him the path of justice? (Isaiah 40.13-14)

Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Who determined its dimensions and stretched out the surveying line? What supports its foundations, and who laid its cornerstone? Have you ever commanded the morning to appear and caused the dawn to rise in the east?

Do you know where the gates of death are located?  Where does light come from, and where does darkness go? Can you take each to its home? Can you direct the movement of the stars? Do you know the laws of the universe? Can you use them to regulate the earth? Can you shout to the clouds and make it rain? (Job 38)

So why would he ask us questions?

Well, why did I ask my students questions when I taught high school? Did I need to know the author of Pride and Prejudice? Was I ignorant of the psychology behind Javert’s issues? Could I not google the date of publication of War and Peace if I didn’t know? (No, in fact, I couldn’t. We didn’t have google. Or the interwebs. It was that long ago.)

As a parent, do I really have to walk into a room and ask “Who made this mess?”

No parent in the history of parents needs to ask that. We know.

But we do ask these things. We ask them for several reasons.

We want to see if others do know the answers they need to know. We want to give people a chance to confess to things they need to know (or things they did) before they have no choice. Maybe we want them to rethink an answer they’ve given or a belief they hold. Perhaps we want to prod action. Possibly, we just want a dialog.

God works in similar ways. He doesn’t need information or answers. So what’s left?

Maybe God also wants to:

  • Help us figure out the answers
  • Make us rethink some answer we thought we knew
  • Prod us into thinking about our answers
  • Give us information
  • Move us to action
  • Have a dialog with us.

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It’s a well known axiom of adult learning experts that asking questions helps people learn better. (That’s why I’ve taken to doing it a lot when I preach.) In their research, Julie Bugg and Mark McDaniel at Washington University in St. Louis (shout out to the alma mater!) set out to discover what kind of questions worked best. They determined that conceptual questions—those where you ask yourself or someone else questions that require putting ideas together rather than just knowing details—help us learn best.

So asking about motives of Javert would give my students a much better grasp of literature than asking the publication date of War and Peace. Truth.

What does this have to do with God?

It’s important because if God asks a question, we should probably pay attention.

If he’s wanting to dialog, we should be joy-filled at the prospect.

If he respects us enough to want us to figure things out on our own, we can be grateful. He made us in his image, which includes the ability to think things through.

If he speaks in questions so often, perhaps we should rethink our tendency to speak in proclamation more often than not. I love that Jesus often spoke in questions. Maybe being like Jesus should prod us to listen more, ask more questions, trust people more to be able to come to conclusions of their own. Perhaps being so sure we have wisdom to impart should give way to his method of helping people figure out wisdom and confession in their time and way.

If questions are such a vital part of God’s toolkit, maybe we could take a look at why. Next week, we’ll continue the journey that we started with God’s first question—Where are you?—with Jesus’ first question. What is it? You’ll find out next week.

Four Questions To Ask the Voices in (and outside of) Your Head

This summer, three of us girls had our own version of manic Mondays. It was the “last hurrah” of a mom and two daughters before the final one left the nest.

One of those took us on the train to downtown Chicago, always a good place to encounter the unexpected. While sitting down to rest, I noticed something odd about the two young men we had just passed. They left the corner they had been standing on to sit down about ten feet to our right. Then, one of them picked up his things, crossed before us, and sat down about ten feet to our left, nodding to his friend and looking over us.
Mom radar beats NORAD every time. Very quietly, I said to the girls, “We have to go. Now.” Without hesitation or question, they got up, and we stepped quickly to our destination. End of questionable scene.
I would like to say that in all their 18 and 22 years that has always been the response of my children. Instant, unquestioning obedience. I would also like to say that I am on the short list for the next Pulitzer Prize in Literature. There would be equal validity in both statements. So why the compliance then? Because they knew the serious mom voice. And they knew to follow it.


We’ve been talking for several weeks now about identity. Who ar we? Who were we born to be? Today, let’s turn a corner and talk about a new question.

Why are we not being that?

Here’s a recap in case you’re joining the story now.

We are people created in God’s image to enact his character, cast his vision, and work under his authority to release His kingdom around us. Part of that character is absolute respect for his image in others and in ourselves.
But what makes that so hard to put into practice? Why do we wake up ready to “be all that we can be,” only to go to bed wondering what the heck we were?
(OK, full disclosure. I never wake up ready to be anything. It requires a full hour at least and one cup of Earl Grey before that is even thinkable. But some of you manage it. Kudos to you.)
Why don’t we hear the voice of our parent every day and instantly follow? What keeps us from hearing the voice of God and saying, I know that voice. I love that voice. I trust that voice. I’ll follow that voice? What about understanding our identity as images of God would take down our barriers to living out that identity with purpose and passion in this world?
Well first, I think we need to be able to recognize the voice.
Four years ago, we spent six weeks riding the rails of Europe. (Yes, we like trains. Trains are cool.) Usually, it was a blast. Sometimes, it was a confusing mess. You haven’t lived crazy until you’ve stood in the middle of a train station listening to speakers blare at you from five different directions, informing you of this destination, that track, those trains. Add to that scenario the fact that all the German I know I learned form Hogan’s Heroes reruns growing up, and you get the picture. Confusing. Easy to listen to the wrong thing and get on the wrong train headed for the wrong place. There are simply too many voices telling you where to go.
Same goes for life with God.

We listen to too many voices that tell us our identity.


I tell you the truth, anyone who sneaks over the wall of a sheepfold, rather than going through the gate, must surely be a thief and a robber! But the one who enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep recognize his voice and come to him. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. After he has gathered his own flock, he walks ahead of them, and they follow him because they know his voice. They won’t follow a stranger; they will run from him because they don’t know his voice.” (John 10.1-5)
What’s the first thing we get from Jesus’ words here? He’s plainly telling us—there are thieves. They’re out there. And they want you. They will sneak in and and they will look good, sound good, and try to confuse you completely. They don’t want you to know who you are. If you know who you are, you have power, and the thieves don’t like that. They prefer you powerless and willing to listen to anything. Jesus clearly warns–don’t be surprised when thieves try to steal who you are. It happens.
How do we know who is a thief and who is not? How do we know which voices to listen to?

There are a few questions we can use to make it easier.

  • Does this make sense? Really, would an intelligent person believe this? You are an intelligent person. I know you are, because only intelligent people read my blog 🙂
One of my pet peeves is when people post a story on Facebook and then preface it with, “I don’t know if this is true or not, but . . .” Um, if you don’t know, how about don’t post it until you do? Put it through the “does this make sense?” filter. And Snopes. Please.
But you, my friend, are smarter than that, and you know that if something looks too good to be true, it’s probably been photoshopped. Question everything that tries to tell you who you are or should be with a simple—Does this make sense to a sensible person? You’d be surprised at how many ideas that boots out right away.
  • Does it appeal to making me feel good? And the corollary–are they trying to sell me something? Thieves make their livelihood from our willingness to listen to them. Of course they tell a story we want to hear. Of course they appeal to our sense of well being, adventure, rebellion, power, happiness, whatever. How else will they convince us to empty our wallets into theirs? Sure, sometimes what people are selling is a good thing. (Um, I write books and speak for a living. I would prefer to sell some. Yeah. It’s kind of how that eating and heating the house thing works.) But think about the answer. What does this message appeal to and why?
  • Will it really be good for me? Like long-term good. Not short-term happy happy joy joy. Real, like “don’t text and drive is a pain when I want to communicate now but saves my life long-term” good.
  • Does the Bible agree? Why is this the most important question? Because this is the plan laid out by the only one in the entire universe who has never tried to sell us anything. In fact, it’s the word of the one who gave us everything instead, up to and including his own life.

Jesus says his own hear his voice. They can distinguish it. They know the good voice from the many, many competing ones. They will get on the right train because they are concentrating on the right destination.
Jesus said that He gathers his flock and leads them—that means he goes in front to see any danger, to clear a path, to lead to food and water and all kinds of nourishing things.
The thief’s purposeis to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.” (John 10.10)
Which voice do you want giving you an identity? The thief or the shepherd? Who are your thieves?

Fly Like an Eagle (and now you’re singing that song)

It takes a lot to get me out of the house in winter. I’m trying to renegotiate the basic human need for food so I can eliminate grocery store trips, but so far that hasn’t worked so well. I don’t like cold. Or snow. Or . . . you know, Amazon and PeaPod deliver . . . 


Still, almost every winter I love to venture down to Starved Rock State Park with my family to hike the trails to see the frozen waterfalls. Usually, we manage to choose one of the coldest Saturdays of the winter. So you know I believe it’s worth it to see those frozen sheets of water. 

Another required stop is the bluff to watch the eagles. Soaring over the Illinois River, bald eagle pairs are a sight to make cold seem less relevant, somehow.

I started to imagine, while thinking about this topic of identity in God—what would it be like not to know you’re an eagle? What if an eagle thought it was a mole? What if it spent its days digging through the ground, eating beetle grubs, wondering all the time why it was so incredibly ineffective at this digging thing. Why did it hate the feel of dirt in its feathers so much? And why, oh why, were grubs so disgusting and unfilling? The eagle would feel like it was a failure. Like it had one job and it not only was no good at it, it didn’t even care.

Identity. Reprise.


That sounds like a lot of us. Last week, I talked about how being made in the image of God means that we should respect that image in others. We need to be about the business of seeing others as mirrors of ourselves, with their pluses, minuses, failures, and successes reflecting back our own. God included all people in his declaration that humans made in his image are very good. No exceptions.

But what if there is at least one person I don’t treat with that kind of respect? And what if that person is . . . me?

What if one of the reasons we have such a difficult time understanding and living out our true identity in God is that we do not believe we are eagles? We spend our time digging away at pointless things, crying out to God Why? Why do I feel like I can’t ever get better at this? Why is this so unfulfilling? Why am I not making any headway at all?

And God looks at us and says—Because you’re not a mole, you idiot. You were never meant to paw at the dirt. I made you to soar.

“For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” (Ephesians 2.10)

Eagles are some of God’s most incredible creations. But you? You are a masterpiece. Right up there with the Mona Lisa and the Pieta. God’s stunning creation. You should be hanging in a museum and having people gawk at you.


OK, maybe not. That wouldn’t even be very much fun, I’m guessing.

Be An Eagle


But what if I don’t feel like a masterpiece? At all? Well, the good news is it doesn’t matter how we feel. God called us one. His word is the rule. If He said it, it is fact. God called human creation very good. He called people in his image three times in Genesis 1. That’s significant, as we discussed in the first week of this topic. If He has declared it to be so, my feelings don’t change it one way or another. That’s excellent news for someone whose feelings of worth vary as much as the tide level in the Bay of Fundy.

However, it’s going to be hard for me to treat others with the respect of God’s image in them if I haven’t practiced treating myself the same way. If I sell myself short in a hundred tiny ways every day, I’m highly likely to do the same to others.

God wants me to stop selling myself short. He wants me to be an eagle. Maybe that’s going to be your hardest battle in 2015 when it comes to retaking your identity in Christ. Believe that you are an eagle. (This is starting to sound very Karate Kid. Whatever.)

We hear that we are to be God’s representative on earth and we think, I can’t do that. I’m not good enough. Holy enough. Smart enough. I’m not Mother Teresa or Billy Graham or that doctor in Africa on the cover of Time. I’m not even my pastor or youth pastor on a good day. They’re trained/educated/just plain born good. I’m not. I’ll leave that ambassador for God thing to them and go on digging around down here. It’s good enough. I’m not cut out for more.

God says—stop being a mole. Stop selling yourself short. The truth is, every time we choose to be less than an eagle, we disrespect the image He gave us. We choose to be a cheap postcard reprint of a Thomas Kincaid when we could be a Monet.

No one can figure out his or her God-given identity sitting an assembly line of identical knockoffs of the real thing.

Who Does God Say We Are?


Things God says about you if you have given your life to Him:

  • You’re his image—with all that includes. (Genesis 1.27)
  • He knew you before you were born and had a plan for you. (Jeremiah 1.5, Psalm 139)
  • You are a new creation—you can start over. (2 Corinthians 5.17)
  • You are chosen, and you belong to Him. (1 Peter 2.9)
  • You’re his child, and you will become more like him all the time. (1 John 3. 1-3)
  • You are his friend–trusted. (John 15.15)
  • You are wonderfully made. (Psalm 139.14)
  • You are reconciled, holy, and blameless. (Colossians 1.19-23)
  • You are fearless. (Romans 8.14-15)


That is just a short list.

We all have the choice to soar into those things or to ignore them and keep digging around in the ground.

–It takes stepping into that belief, knowing we might fall and get hurt but taking the chance anyway.

–It takes continuing those flying lessons, even after we tumble down because we lost sight of where we were meant to be. Like Dori said, Just keep swimming. Or flying. Same thing. Sort of.

–It takes looking at a situation and thinking about it not through lenses of fear but through a lens of “What would God’s image-person do here?”

–It takes looking at the thieves who try to steal your identity in Christ and saying, “You know what? I don’t think so. I’ve seen the list. I know who I am.”

Today, I choose to soar.