The Real God–A review

The Real God: How He Longs for You to See Him

Chip Ingram

Baker, 2004 reprint 2016

God’s attributes have been the topic of much discussion and confusion. Ingram unwinds some of the issues by telling personal stories, defining terms, expanding on the details, and ending with suggestions for further development of our understanding of those attributes.

“This book is not intended to be exhaustive, but instead to be inspirational and practical. My aim is to engage the reader in a lifelong pursuit of knowing, seeing, and experiencing the Real God.”

To start this “pursuit,” Ingram unpacks the goodness, sovereignty, holiness, wisdom, justice, love, and faithfulness of God. He begins the book with three introductory chapters and ends with a look at how the reader’s view of God may have changed through the reading of the book.

Each chapter that unpacks an attribute, follows the same basic outline. It begins with a personal story, followed by a definition of the attribute. Ingram then unpacks that quality of God before closing with a personal encounter with that specific attribute. He then recommends the reader “come before God daily,” “do life in community weekly,” and be “on mission 24/7.” He provides practical steps in each case.

Ingram frequently refers to two of his favorite authors. Quotes from Tozer’s Knowledge of the Holy are used fifteen times in the book’s eleven chapters, and Packer’s Knowing God is used five times.

As is typical of Ingram’s writing, he is practical, easy to understand, and personal. Unlike some of his works, this particular book needs to be read with intention and at a slower pace to internalize the message that he seeks to communicate. A contemplative reading is well worth the effort and will reward the reader with a richer understanding of God.

If I had one beef, it was with the cover. I understand the symbolism of the color and the graphic, but found it didn’t fit the tone of the book. Really, a petty complaint for such a good book.

Baker was kind enough to provide me a copy of the book allowing me the freedom to “beef.”

What was Capernaum know for besides fishing?

capernaum-1st-century

Screenshot taken from the Glo Bible.

Capernaum was one of several major cities on the Sea of Galilee. It stood on the border between two jurisdictions thus making it a crossroads of commerce. It was here in Capernaum that we find Levi the tax collector who Jesus called to be his disciple. Levi would have had his tax stand on the road into the city, collecting taxes from all the commerce that traveled those roads.

Levi would have also collected taxes for the fish that were caught in the lake along with the  license fee needed for permission to fish. Not far south of Capernaum was an area called “seven springs” for the seven warm water springs that flowed out of the hill adjacent to the lake. It was in the area of these springs that fishing was usually successful due to the warm waters that the fish liked.

So, Capernaum was know for its fishing, but what else? The houses in the city were all made out of a black stone called basalt, which is hard volcanic rock. In the area of Jerusalem we find limestone that when used for building provides a very white appearance. In Capernaum the hard basaltic stone was also used to make grinding stones. These millstones were used to grind the grain produced throughout Israel and the surrounding areas. Thus, Capernaum was famous for its fishing and its millstones.

When Jesus spoke in Capernaum these words, “If anyones causes one of the little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around his neck” (Mark 9:42), he was referring to a famous Capernaum product and he was using an illustration that everyone would understand.

Understanding geography and geology helps to unlock the stories of the Bible.

I’m glad we went in the warmer weather!

theater-in-pisidian-antioch1When we were last in Turkey we visited Pisidian Antioch. You’ll remember it as a city that Paul visited during his various journeys. We saw it when it was green and warm. Meltem, our guide was just back there and it had snowed and took this picture of the theater. Glad we were there when we were. Clive would have been rather cold standing there in his stocking feet.

Why did Solomon build his fleet of ships at Ezio Geber?

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The remains of Herod’s swimming pool in his palace were Paul was imprisoned for two years.

When you visit Israel, one of the “mandatory” stops is at Caesarea Maritima on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. Why didn’t Solomon have his fleet of ships built there? It simply didn’t exist in Solomon’s time. Just north of the current site is Dor, one of the few harbors along the Israeli coast. It was not adequate for a fleet due to its exposure to the storms of the Mediterranean.
The Gulf of Aquaba, between the Sinai Peninsula and Saudi Arabia, is a deepwater gulf with facilities adequate for making and supporting a fleet of ships. It was there that Solomon built and launched his fleet that sailed with Phoenician sailors to exotic destinations and returned with great wealth for Solomon.
Caesarea Maritima was built by the megalomaniac Herod the Great during his reign as King of Israel. There is no record of Jesus ever visiting the city but we know that Paul was imprisoned there for two years in Herod’s palace. Herod was able to use technology that did not exist in Solomon’s time to build the great breakwaters that were needed to protect the ships from the Mediterranean storms. The specific technology he used was a type of cement that would set under water. After Herod’s time the technology was “lost” and only rediscovered almost a thousand years later.

What does geology have to do with Christmas?

Tradition says that because “there was no room in the inn” Jesus was born in a cave. Understanding the geology of Israel makes the location of the birth of Jesus more focused. In the north of Israel and the area of Nazareth, where Jesus spent his boyhood, it is unlikely to find caves, although there are some. The more common rock in the area is basalt, a volcanic type of rock that is hard and not easily worked.
In the area of Jerusalem and Bethlehem, which are only five miles apart, the type of rock is limestone which is easier to work and naturally forms caves as water erodes the softer rock. It is in one of these caves, that shepherds used as a sheepfold, that tradition says Jesus was born.
Today, if you visit the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem and you are willing to wait in line to descend into the grotto, you will see a star situated in a niche that is supposed to be the birthplace of Jesus. Whether or not is a matter of speculation.
Knowing the type of rock that exists in various places in Israel helps confirm the veracity of the biblical record.

Photo courtesy of Dr. Carl Rasmussen at http://www.HolyLandPhotos.org

grotto-in-the-church-of-the-nativity

Where Have All the Christians Gone?

“Oh little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie.” Today is neither little or still.

HolyLandPhotos' Blog

As usual, the airwaves and cable connections were filled with stories about Christmas in Bethlehem.  ”

In birthplace of Jesus, Christian population has dropped from 86% to 12%in the past 60 years, following trend across Middle East, except in Israel.
The Times of Israel

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Manger Square summer 2009. Note the “Peace Center” on the right (north) side of the image and the minaret of the Mosque on the west that towers over the square

Different people explain this phenomenon differently—not only for Bethlehem but for the whole Middle East and North Africa:

  1. Oppression from the Muslim majority.
  2. Oppression from the Israeli “occupation” [today, Bethlehem is under total Palestinian control]
  3. Christians have the economic means to emigrate.
  4. Some young adult Christians emigrate for better living conditions.
  5. Christians more easily integrate into western civilization.

The Times of Israel has a very interesting article entitled: “Christians worry ‘Silent Night’ may soon…

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When Christians Were Atheists

When I first heard the idea that early Christians were considered atheists, it took me a while to figure it out. Here’s a short explanation for the idea.

Larry Hurtado's Blog

Early Christians were atheists! At least, that’s how some people of the time viewed them in the earliest centuries, and it’s not difficult to see why. Most importantly, they refused to worship the traditional gods. But also, judged by Roman-era criteria, they didn’t even seem to practice a recognizable form of religion. In the crucial first couple of centuries at least, they had no shrines or temples, no altars or images, and no sacrificial rites or priesthood.[1]

Granted, early Christians were accused of various things. There were the wild claims that Christians engaged in cannibalism and sexual orgies, claims that circulated mainly among the rabble. More sophisticated critics, however, portrayed them as deeply subversive of the social, religious, and political structures of the Roman world. One of the other labels hurled against Christianity was that it was a superstitio, a Latin term that designated bad religion, the kind…

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Bethlehem and the birth of Jesus – Index of articles

Downtown Bethlehem can be a madhouse of vendors and people. The shepherd’s fields really set the mood. You will enjoy all the links in Ferrell’s blog.

Ferrell's Travel Blog

Bethlehem and the Birth of Jesus.  Our total number of posts has now grown to more than 1800 and this makes it difficult to locate a post you may need. This index is prepared to assist you in your study of the birth of Jesus in ancient Bethlehem. Most, if not all, of the posts include at least one photo illustrating the lesson.

Fountain at Franciscan Custody Shepherd’s Field near Bethlehem. Fountain at Franciscan Custody Shepherd’s Field near Bethlehem.

  • Jerome in Bethlehem. Jerome lived in Bethlehem for nearly 40 years. He translated ancient Hebrew and Greek manuscripts of the Bible into what we call the Latin Vulgate.
  • Bethlehem and Shrines. Discussion of the origin and value of shrines…

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Geography DOES matter!

“Geography: Who Cares?” was the title of a recent blog post at http://www.biblearchaeology.org. It’s a great question. One of books recommended by Clive, for those who have been to Israel, is Bargil Pixner’s book With Jesus through Galilee according to the Fifth Gospel. Pixner’s thesis is that an understanding of the land—geography—aids in an understanding of the gospels.

bethel_jericho_jerusalem_mapIt is believed that Cyril, the first Bishop of Jerusalem, used the phrase, “Geography is the fifth gospel.” Geography includes not only the lay of the land, topography, but also climate and geology.

So, who cares? I was reading through 1 Samuel the other day at Bunker Hill when the events of Saul’s inauguration as king by Samuel are recorded. It happened at Gilgal. It would be easy to skip over this detail but it is vitally important. Gilgal is in the Jordan valley just north of Jericho.

The writer of Samuel also notes that it was the wheat harvest.

The rain in Israel comes from the Mediterranean being driven inland by the prevailing winds. As the rainclouds move east off the sea they are forced upwards by the rising land. Jerusalem sits at approximately 2500 feet above sea level. Jericho is about 1300 feet below sea level and east of Jerusalem. By the time the clouds reach the crest of the hill country they have dropped their rain and have nothing left for the Jordan Valley and Gilgal.

May is the beginning of the wheat harvest as the rain stops for 5 months. With the warming weather and the dryness, the wheat is ready for harvest along with the spring fruits—green almonds, apricots, and plums.

Now how does this all fit together? It is May, the winter (latter) rains have stopped. It is Gilgal, a place where rain is a rarity, especially in May. Samuel says, “Now therefore stand still and see this great thing that the Lord will do before your eyes.” The result—“So Samuel called upon the Lord, and the Lord sent thunder and rain that day, and all the people greatly feared the Lord and Samuel.”

Davis, in his commentary on 1 Samuel, says, “Israel knew this was no mere thunder and rain…Every Israelite knew rain was extremely rare at this time, something like six inches of snow in Miami on Memorial Day. Not impossible, but so unheard of that it tends to make one think. Hence Yahweh got Israel’s attention.”

Geography does matter! God’s handiwork is beyond anything that mankind can do. He alone is the sovereign over the earth, the rain, and thunder. Knowing geography opens vistas into scripture that cause me to be amazed at an amazing God.

Time to CELEBRATE!

Tomorrow, November the 19th, is–get ready for it–World Toilet Day. I never knew that there was such a thing until this morning. How could something as humble as an outhouse be celebrated. Actually if you follow this link:

Celebrating World Toilet Day and the power of a pit latrine

Sanitation is a critical necessity in a world where many people are refugees or displaced. Disease and sickness are inevitable consequences of poor hygiene and sanitation. It’s amazing how important what we take for granted is.  I’m thankful that I can celebrate. Let’s pray for those who have so much less than us and those who seek to serve the most vulnerable.