Today’s question is this:
What do you think goes through God’s mind as He looks down on a singular man or woman that He has created and watches them progress through life from birth to death?
I would give two proof texts from scripture to consider while pondering an answer to this question. Both texts come from the book of Psalms.
When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have ordained; What is man that You take thought of him, And the son of man that You care for him? Psalms 8:3-4
You have searched me and known me.You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You understand my thought from afar. You scrutinize my path and my lying down, And are intimately acquainted with all my ways.Even before there is a word on my tongue, Behold, O LORD, You know it all. You have enclosed me behind and before, And laid Your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; It is too high, I cannot attain to it. Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there. Psalms 139:1-8
David was a thinker. In the first quote he seems to contemplate the absurdity of an immense, perfect God taking notice of what could seem insignificant in comparison. But then when we read his thoughts from the second quote, we see that he has reasoned that God has taken very close attention to the details of his life.
And so I reason 3ooo years removed from David’s musings, that this question is significantly answered or sought by each individual who contemplates their position in a world not their choosing under the watchful gaze of a God not fully realized. The sufferings, the blessings, the acts of life that we must entertain as we move from birth to the eventuality of death – what do these mean to the God who created us for those moments?
Recently I posted the following to Twitter:
Is the tension in earning salvation vs receiving it bourne from desire 2 invent a god based on how we feel? Is God a manifestation of piety?
I didn’t receive any feedback on that question… probably because I forgot to mention what I was eating or some menial task that I was carrying out at the time.
So for any of the astute readers who may still wander by here from time to time even though I haven’t been around for quite some time, here is your opportunity to astound future readers with your thoughts on my question.
Do we invent God from a sense of our own piety? Do we believe He exists when we feel ‘close’ to Him based on how well we are doing in earning His graces through our own religiosity? Does He cease to exist when we decide to control the ebb and flow of own lives irregardless of what we perceive would please Him?
Does God exist only for the Good Christian?
I can remember from my childhood, mornings where the fog was so thick that it seemed more real than the world that it hid. It wrapped cold and sulking tendrils around me so that I could no longer see the familiar landscape that was home to my family and I. My brothers could be mere feet from me and the only evidence that I would have of their existence was the softened and muted voices of their calling from the fog’s vast nothingness.
There are times when faith seems something akin to that. Faith is a struggling against a fog that limits the experience between the believer and God. The landscape of that kingdom we read about in the bible is hidden away and God’s voice seems muted and softened by the heavy folds of this misty existence.
As I am going through the Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer, I can see a similarity to that fog from my childhood memories and experiencing the reality of God. Here are some of Tozer’s words from chapter 4:
It was Canon Holmes, of India, who more than twentyfive years ago called attention to the inferential character of the average man’s faith in God. To most people God is an inference, not a reality. He is a deduction from evidence which they consider adequate; but He remains personally unknown to the individual. “He must be,” they say, “therefore we believe He is.” Others do not go even so far as this; they know of Him only by hearsay. They have never bothered to think the matter out for themselves, but have heard about Him from others, and have put belief in Him into the back of their minds along with the various odds and ends that make up their total creed. To many others God is but an ideal, another name for goodness, or beauty, or truth; or He is law, or life, or the creative impulse back of the phenomena of existence.
These notions about God are many and varied, but they who hold them have one thing in common: they do not know God in personal experience. The possibility of intimate acquaintance with Him has not entered their minds. While admitting His existence they do not think of Him as knowable in the sense that we know things or people.
Christians, to be sure, go further than this, at least in theory. Their creed requires them to believe in the personality of God, and they have been taught to pray, “Our Father, which art in heaven.” Now personality and fatherhood carry with them the idea of the possibility of personal acquaintance. This is admitted, I say, in theory, but for millions of Christians, nevertheless, God is no more real than He is to the non-Christian. They go through life trying to love an ideal and be loyal to a mere principle.
Over against all this cloudy vagueness stands the clear scriptural doctrine that God can be known in personal experience. A loving Personality dominates the Bible, walking among the trees of the garden and breathing fragrance over every scene. Always a living Person is present, speaking, pleading, loving, working, and manifesting Himself whenever and wherever His people have the receptivity necessary to receive the manifestation.
If I return to my childhood memories, I can recall that I never doubted that my home was still close by even though I could no longer see it through the fog. If I wanted to experience that reality I had only to wait for the fog to lift or I could make my way through the mist until I came into contact with the concrete steps that lead up to the front porch and then over the threshold of the living room door. It was far quicker to stumble through the shroud of mist than it was to wait for it to lift if I wanted the assurance that home was still there.
Is our Pursuit of God something like that? Are we stumbling through the fog in order to be more assured of His existence?
I wonder if we are sometimes standing in the fog just waiting around for it to lift in order that we can find some hope of His existence.
Maybe I question whether or not we believe in an inference more than a reality of God because there are times when the fog seems so much more real than He does. And our immobility is made of paralysis instead of expectancy. And so, Tozer’s words make me wonder if we (or I) are fully receptive to receive the manifestation of His existence.
If you are reading these words, I wonder if you will take some time and share your struggles with this concept or maybe even your triumphs of experiencing God. Are you searching through the fog or has it been lifted for you?
In times of devastation, catastrophe, plague, or pestilence, there is a question raised from humanity’s lips -“Why?” That question comes in many forms:
- If God exists, then why doesn’t He intervene?
- If God is loving, why does He punish the innocent?
- Why did God do this?
No one has the ultimate answer to those questions. Hopefully, we are not so arrogant to presume to know exactly how God is working through this circumstance. Those of us who believe in the character that God has portrayed about Himself in His Word, have faith that He is at work in many ways through each person who is somehow touched by this event.
- Some will know complete devastation
- Some will know the loss of family and friends
- Some will know a life forever changed by injury
- Some will lose trust in their fellow man
- Some will worry about what is going to happen next
And yet, there will be:
- Some who experience the love of a stranger
- Some who will be blessed
- Some who will be a blessing to someone else in their time of need
- Some who will see God for the first time
So many ways that people will impact or be impacted through this circumstance. And that is all that it is – a circumstance. I don’t mean to belittle the Haitian plight by no means. There is real hurt there. There is real loss there. There is a real NEED there. But still it is a circumstance… and God is bigger than any circumstance. In fact, I would surmise that circumstances are one of His tools to point us back to Himself.
The greatest need in Haiti right now is God. And whether you are in one of the camps that believes God orchestrated this event or that He allowed it or that He had nothing to do with it, it’s not something worth arguing about. Listening to the radio this morning I was surprised by the comments coming out from Pat Robertson, but I was equally surprised by the counter attack from those that responded to his comment.
People were getting caught up in the philosophy of the moment and forgot the reality. Haiti needs God because God is bigger than this circumstance. They need all of God… not just the parts we want to assign. What do I mean by that?
- Some want to assign God’s judgment to the situation
- Some want to see God’s love show up through the kindness of strangers
- Some want to see God’s providence at work following the aftermath
- Some want to see God’s grace at work in the lives impacted by this tragedy
I could go on but you get the point. And I am saying that we need all of God to be present there and that includes judgment, love, providence, grace and any of the other aspects of God that you would like to include.
But I would put this to the question – weren’t all those aspects at work in Haiti before AND during the earthquake? I don’t believe that God is a ‘Johnny-come-lately’ to the island of Haiti. I do believe that He can and will use this circumstance for His glory in more ways than we can enumerate.
God loves Haiti. Pray for the country, pray for the people, pray for the aid that is on the way. But also be kingdom bringers and donate, go if you can, contact the Red Cross and see if there is a way to help.
God is bigger than this circumstance. And if I were to lapse somewhat into philosophy or theology, I would say this – what we see in the physical concerning the devastation in Haiti cannot compare to the spiritual condition of much of the world. Maybe God wants us to understand that as well.
Haiti needs Him in more than one way.
They need all of God.
I haven’t posted in a while. Life has twists and turns and they take their impact on what can be accomplished in a day’s time. Tonight I am going to post some thoughts that I have had about the inability of humans to understand the concept of God’s holiness. I am not in bad company with my struggles to comprehend what that looks like. RC Sproul and AW Tozer are two men that I have turned to in my attempts to get a better grip of that concept and they have wrestled with that concept as well.
As creatures created by the Creator, we are left with but one perspective – that of fallible flesh grasping after the infallible.
We are used to describing things. I would say that it is a God-given call since He asked man (Adam) to name the animals. We naturally label things – we name them. The problem with our present abilities with describing things is that we contextualize our perceptions of the thing being described. Let me give you an example.
Imagine that you are walking down the street and you see a little girl eating an ice cream cone. A big, purple smile is painting her face as she eats the raspberry chip flavored delight that is in her hand.
It would be easy to describe the girl as being happy and that the happiness is a direct consequence of the ice cream. In the back of our mind, it wouldn’t be hard to imagine what would happen if the girl were to drop her ice cream on the ground. For the sake of the rest of my explanation on contextualization, let’s assume that we know the girl’s name is Susie.
Based on my hypothetical situation, I can propose the following issues with the human ability to understand God’s holiness.
- Qualify: We look for reasons why situations exist. With the Susie, we qualified her happiness by the presence of ice cream.
- Quantify: We expect that there are varying degrees to the state of things. Susie seemed to be extremely happy with the raspberry chip flavor, but would she have been as happy with vanilla?
- Transitional: We don’t expect things to stay the way they are. We understand that when the ice cream is gone, whether by accident or by consumption, that Susie’s happiness will dissipate. In the chance that it is an accidental loss, her transitional state may be extreme.
- Meaningless Labels: We accept and expect that some labels are non-descriptive. The girl’s name is Susie – a label that does not describe her. Its just a mechanism by which we can separate her from the girl next door.
No wonder it can be so hard to get our minds around the thought of God’s holiness… especially when it transcends our ability to contextualize.
God is holy. Period. His holiness does not have to be qualified. We don’t have to seek a reason behind His holiness.
His holiness doesn’t ramp up or down based on circumstances. It is an eternal, absolute state.
He cannot transition from holiness to some other aspect. In His love, He is holy. In His anger, He is holy. In His compassion, He is holy. And in His judgment, He is holy.
Finally, his holiness is not a meaningless label. We can’t limit Him by thinking of His holiness as a way to separate Him from the unholy gods. The most accepted definition of holy is Set Apart. And, He IS.
As I have studied this concept, I looked to the bible for insight and Exodus chapter 3 has lead me to believe that understanding the holiness of God is impossible without experiencing it. Read about Moses’ encounter with God through the burning bush and really look into what happens in those first 6 verses. Moses was 80 years old and well acquainted with the concepts of religion and God. but look for yourself at how he responded in verse 6 to the holiness of God.
The end of chapter 20 in Revelations details how the dead in Christ will one day stand before the Great White Throne in judgment. The books will be laid out and the details of the lives of those who lived a life apart from Christ will be used to pronounce a sentence that is hard to fathom.
I began the class I was teaching with this question:
Do you believe in a literal heaven and a literal hell as detailed in the bible?
There were about 20 adults in attendance and everyone of them said, “Yes”.
Chapter 21 of the same book begins with a description of the new heaven and earth that those alive in Christ will enter. I don’t think its an accident that those two different views are juxtaposed so closely together. As believers we can sit and daydream about what heaven will be like and know with a certainty that our expectations aren’t even a hint of the beauty and perfection that we will witness one day. We will be in the presence of God, the provider of everything Good. There will be no more sorrow, tears, or pain. We will have gained everything.
But before those set of verses that bring us such joy are those verses that detail how the souls of the lost will be cast into the lake of fire. We can’t soften it or philosophize it away. Eternal suffering instead of eternal joy awaits those who have rejected Christ. They will never experience anything good again…. EVER. They will spend eternity dying in the misery of knowing that they missed eternal joy. I believe that they will also dwell on the pain of standing before a righteous and holy God with no excuse for the sins committed in their lives. As much as we cannot fathom the perfection of heaven, I don’t believe we can fathom the complete and utter horror of standing before God in that moment knowing the wretchedness of our sins.
I also don’t think we can fathom the hopelessness that hell will be.
Christ had this to say about believers:
“He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’ “
How many people that we claim friendship with or are family to, are walking the path that leads to eternal damnation? Their futures are on a collision course with fire and we have the ability to impact them because we contain ‘rivers of living water’.
Are our hearts broken before God for those we love? Or those we meet on a day-to-day basis? Truly, are we justly moved to action by a factual belief of what awaits those who will face God guilty in their own sins?
Here is the thing, our motivation is not about helping people escape the fires of hell, though that is a great blessing, nor is it about gaining the splendors of heaven. Revelations chapter 21 verse 7 says this:
He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.
Do we live like we believe that we hold rivers of living water that lead to an inheritance of all things? Do we reflect the joy that should envelop us when we consider that last phrase, ‘and I will be his God, and he shall be my son’?
We can offer everything, through Christ, to those who have nothing.
Yesterday’s post was a bit of a downer as far as how there are some silly rules restricting people who are differently-abled 🙂 (what a weird word). It also focused a bit too much on me so I wanted to write something today to celebrate mothers because my wife is one – a good one.
This past Sunday was Mother’s day so I changed up my lesson to have more of a theme in-line with the day. I taught from 1 Samuel chapters 1 & 2 which is the story about Hannah and the birth of Samuel. Here is the quick gist of what happened. Hannah had married Elkanah who was of the Levite lineage and she was unable to bear him children. At some point this became an issue and Elkanah married another wife by which he was able to have many children. This second wife took great pains to make life hard for Hannah because of her barrenness. Hannah finally reaches a point where she goes to the temple and just cries out to God. She is so troubled in her heart that her mouth moves but no words leave it and the priest, Eli, accuses her of being drunk. By the way, Eli had raised two sons that were wicked just to give you an idea of his character.
The name Hannah means woman of grace. She was amazing! Think about what she was bearing:
- Woman had been made to bear life. Adam called his wife Eve, the mother of all living, and chapter 4 of Genesis we can see where God helps Eve to deliver her first child which comes after the curse of the pain with childbearing. I bet Hannah was feeling just a bit denied by God because of her being barren.
- Her husband who should have had a deep understanding of the one woman to one man ratio and the stories of Abram/Sarai, Isaac/Rebekkah, Jacob/Rachel goes out and marries another woman and had children with her. I wonder how often Hannah felt overlooked by her husband.
- The new wife comes in and makes it a point to belittle Hannah. The bible says that this happened year after year. Ever felt ridiculed and put down like that?
- And finally when she turns to the church for solace, she is accused of being drunk. There she is pouring her heart out to God and the next thing she knows is that the preacher is giving her a sermon on what she is doing wrong – completely missing the mark.
We don’t read that she ever responded in a negative manner to all that had happened to her. Even when confronted by Eli who is part of the problem in the Jewish society of that day, she simply explains what she is doing instead of striking back. That IS a woman of grace.
When she had been praying to God she almost appears to be making a bargain with God because she says that if He will give her a child she will dedicate that child to His service. The difference is that she isn’t seeking benefit, she is seeking favor in order to honor God.
God does honor her with a child and she names him Samuel which means ‘asked of God’ or ‘heard of God’. Now I want you to picture this. In today’s society we have heard several stories where a surrogate mother, after carrying the child and finally birthing it, cannot bear to turn the child over to parents that want to protect and care for the child. Looking into the eyes of that child for the first time, touching, hearing, and smelling it is just too much for them to honor the commitment.
Hannah had to wait until the child was weaned before honoring her commitment to God. She attached to her child for three years before making that trip to see Eli to turn her little boy over to him. You or I will cry when our child goes off to a half day of kindergarten. She was letting go of her child forever. You need to go read the second chapter of 1 Samuel and listen to the words that Hannah sings after she has done this. Please don’t miss the fact that she was turning her child over to a man that had already raised two wicked sons.
Hannah was an amazing mother and an amazing woman of grace.