I loved grad school:
the opportunity to read authors on a topic that (for me) was the most interesting topic in the world; the time both to strengthen basic skills and to learn new ones; a supervisor who was wonderfully ruthless in poking holes in everything I wrote, revealing hidden assumptions, faulty logic, etc.; the conversations over a pint with fellow grad students; the chance to delve into some of the more challenging and perplexing topics in my field, etc., etc.
For me grad school was all this and more. But one unexpected joy of grad school was this: teaching the Bible to my twin daughters. They were three years old when I started and seven when I finished. It was (and continues to be) a blast to try to communicate to them (and now to my 3-year-old son as well) the most important themes of the Bible.
I have found that, when I try to boil things down for them, I myself am deeply encouraged.
As examples, here are three big truths for little lambs. They’re all about God.
1. There’s no one like God (He is holy).
There are many trees, many dogs and cats, many dresses and bow, many kinds of cereals, cars, and airplanes. But there is only one God.
There’s no one like God in two ways. First, there is no one who can do the things that God can do: no one else can create stuff out of nothing (Creator); no one else can do whatever they want all the time (Sovereign); and no one else gets to say to every person, “I like you–please, stay!” or “I don’t like you–please, go away!” (Judge). Second, God is better at doing everything that we can do: he is faster, smarter, stronger, funnier, kinder, etc., than anyone else. There is no one scarier or sillier than God (humor was his idea). He is stronger than all bad men, even bad kings (like the pharaoh in Egypt). There is no one as patient, caring, or gentle as God is. There is no one who always, always, always keeps his promises like God and who always, always tells the truth…
There is no one like God.
The second two things about God are both about God’s “favorites.” We all have favorites: favorite colors, favorite foods, favorite games, animals, books, etc. There are certain things that God really loves to be and do.
2. God loves to say to everyone, “Here you go!”
That is, He loves to share. He likes to give gifts. And because He is really, really strong, He loves to give really big gifts–like oceans and jungles and elephants and mountains and lions, even planets and galaxies. Because he is so strong and because he likes to share so much, in our home we call God the “Strong Sharer.”
It’s rather incredible: we find it hard to share; we tend to like taking and keeping, but God is all about sharing and giving. Right from the beginning (Gen. 1) God uses his strength in a way that gives all humans a great place to live. Like a mom or dad who prepares a nursery for the little one to be born, God, the Strong Sharer, prepared the world for the arrival of someone who would bear his resemblance–by being a (lower case) strong sharer.
Importantly (and as every parent knows), when someone shares with you, there is an essential response: “Thank you!” Because God is such an amazing Sharer, if we whine and complain, that’s a really big problem. There’s a place for being sad, but not for being sour.
So God is a Strong Sharer: He loves to say, “Here you go!” And He wants us to be like him. And Jesus showed the world that it is best to be a sharer: even if you give your life away, God will give it back to you.
3. God loves to say, “I forgive you”!!
Not only does God loves to give; he loves to forgive. Again and again we see in Scripture that God loves to be friends with people who are either (or both) really broken or really mean. God tells Moses, “I am the LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, forgiving wickedness, rebellion, and sin.”
For us being merciful and forgiving others can be hard. Really hard. Like going to the dentist. But for God it’s like eating ice cream or chocolate. It comes naturally. In fact, one could make a very good case that God’s three favorite words in the entire world are “I forgive you!”
Jesus himself says, “There is more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 righteous persons who do not need to repent” (Luke 15.7).
In short, when we say, “I’m sorry” to God (and to others), God and all his angels are as excited as we are when it’s our birthday. That’s pretty cool.
So…there’s no one like God. He loves to say, “Here you go!” and “I forgive you!”
And at the cross these three come together in a powerful way:
In Romans 8 Paul writes that God is so incredibly “for us”–i.e., that he is so much on our side–that “He did not spare his own son but gave him up for us all”–a fact which leads Paul to ask: “how will God not also graciously give us all things?” At the cross God gave his only son for the world.
And then in Col. 2.13-14 Paul writes that God “forgave all of our sins by canceling the record of debt, having nailed it to the cross.”
And when we grasp that at the cross God has given us His Son and forgiven us our sin, we will say: “There’s no one like God!”