As I think through answers to my Board of Ordained Ministry papers, I'll be sharing them here as a permanent log of my thinking. I'm sure they will change as I am changed by God's Holy Spirit at work in me drawing and working me toward holiness. Please feel free to comment and question.
This first question is: Describe your personal experience of God and the understanding of God you derive from Biblical, theological, and historical sources.
This is the question I remember my kids asking me, albeit in in a simpler manner when they asked, “Hey dad, who is God?” In fact, it is a question it seems we are born to discover our own answer. As I told my kids they would have to answer it in their own terms, from their own experience. In my experience, I have come to know and hold to my understanding of God as Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer, one God existing in three unique and identifiable persons. Particularly, I like the way Thomas Oden has communicated the understanding of the Trinitarian God: "God is the uncreated source and end of all things; one; incomparably alive; insurmountable in presence, knowledge, and power; personal, eternal spirit, who in holy love freely creates, sustains, and governs all things." (Oden, The Living God: Systematic Theology, Vol. I. 31)
God as creator came alive for me at the birth of our first child. One day he didn't exist, then the next day, he did. Nine months later we were able to hold him and experience the joy of loving him. I explained to our kids that it's the same way with God as creator only he didn't need DNA and biology to create life. Simply one day nothing existed, then out of nothing, God creates in Genesis. I paraphrased Jurgen Moltman’s conversation of creation ex nihilio, when I told my kids that God pushed back the whole nothing and made room for creation.
It is in this understanding of creation that God is seen as the Father of creation throughout Scripture. God, as the father creating not out of a need for fulfillment, but rather out of a desire for others to experience joy and love displays the nature of God's love; an outward focused love. This love leads God to not stop with creation, but continue to make provisions for his creation. God’s perfect love is an outward force of which creation and provision results. As Jesus taught in Matthew 7, God cares for us, his children, with a loving interest that moves him to move toward us in both creation and our continual times of need.
I also know God as Redeemer. Redemption is an outflow of God's love. As I explain to my daughter, her mom and I may not always do what she would do, or what she might want or like, but she can trust that we are doing exactly what we believe she needs. We don't just provide for her, but sometimes we step in and do things for her, things that she can't do for herself. It gives us as parents the greatest joy to be able to provide something for her that she can't do for herself. That's very similar to what God has done in redeeming and reconciling humanity from the effects and results of sin through Jesus’s act of obedience to God’s will.
In his life, death, and resurrection, Jesus accomplished this redeeming work as an expression of God’s love. As Jesus taught his disciples in the Gospel of John, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father”, and as I have read and studied Jesus’s life, I have come to understand that a great - and arguably best - way to know and experience the love of God is through knowing and experiencing the redeeming work of Jesus. I have never felt more complete and loved than in experiencing “what sin divided, the cross connected; where sin brought strife, the cross brought peace, what sin destroyed, the cross repaired and restored” (Oden, The Word of Life: Systematic Theology, Volume II 347) While the redeeming work of Jesus has been done on the cross and my redemption came in a moment of faith, that’s not the end of my story of faith and understanding of God. In fact, it was the reconciliation I experienced with God that enabled me to strive beyond my perspective - toward seeing the other side, to leave the crowd, and strive for reconciliation due to the supernatural work of God’s Holy Spirit within me. (Heim, Saved from Sacrifice, 329) This task required an ability which I did not possess.
God has sustained me in this work. I understand God as my Sustainer the keeper and holder of all things natural and supernatural, eternal and temporal, spiritual and physical. God sustains both the faith of the faithful as well as the physical of all, even those who continue to rebel against God’s love. I find myself encouraged by God’s Spirit at work in me and in the world around me. As I explained to my kids, we know God is still working because gravity still works – God is holding our house and out faith in place.
Ultimately, I have experienced God as God has been explained throughout Christian history; God living out of and into relationship whose core motivation is love. Only God is God, and God is one; even though the attributes or characteristics through which we understand and experience God are attributed to individual persons of the Triune Godhead. Since the councils of the early church, we have attributed to God the Father the role of creator and provider of creation; to God the Son the roles of redeemer and reconciler of our lives and creation into relationship with God; and to God the Holy Spirit the sanctification and empowerment necessary for the created to reflect God’s glory and remain in relationship with God. While it is customary to attribute distinct qualities to the individual persons of the Godhead, in my understanding of the Trinity and the economy of God, each is involved in all.
 Referring to Mark Heim’s statement toward the close of his book Saved from Sacrifice. “The God who paid the cost of the cross was not the one who charged it. We are saved from sacrifice because God suffered it. To be reconciled with God is to recognize victims when we see them, to convert from the crowd that gathers around them, and to be reconciled with each other without them.”
 The Economy of God refers to the manner in which God, in his sovereignty, administers not only history, but also nature and the spirit realm. It involves the variety of activities God chooses to utilize which become resources through which desired ends are achieved. These resources which God is understood to be at work include individuals, groups, governments, angelic activity, natural events, as well as direct divine action. These divine actions would include those by God the father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
Follow along as Pastor Gary blogs on the ministry and life of our charge.